Economics and the mid-life crisis have much in common: Both dwell on foregone opportunities

C'est la vie; c'est la guerre; c'est la pomme de terre . . . . . . . . . . . . . email: jpalmer at uwo dot ca

. . . . . . . . . . .Richard Posner should be awarded the next Nobel Prize in Economics . . . . . . . . . . . .

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Western Separatism

For several decades I have been something of a western separatist even though I live in Ontario. What this really means is that I wouldn't blame the west (Alberta, actually) for wanting to separate from the rest of Canada.

These thoughts probably began when Canada's federal gubmnt brought in the National Energy Policy [NEP] of the 1970s, by means of which voters in the rest of Canada laid claim to Alberta's oil by clamping the lid on oil prices. Friends told me you could see the drilling rigs lined up on the highways to leave Alberta after the implemenation of the NEP -- it had a big effect on new drilling for over a decade.

But financial gain is not the only reason that many in Alberta wistfully consider separation. Link Byfield of the Calgary Sun summarizes the views of Leon Craig in this interesting piece.
Alberta, he says, should go it alone.

Almost overnight, we would become one of the most prosperous nations in the world.
But -- and this is his key point -- the main reason to secede is not because Albertans would have more money. Not that there's anything wrong with money.

More importantly, we would create a country that reflects our own political and social beliefs, values and traditions, and our understanding of the common good.

Canada, says Craig, has been so badly governed since the Trudeau era, it has doomed itself to a Third World, banana republic fate.

We will become -- are in fact becoming -- the Argentina of the 21st century.

Political corruption gets rewarded instead of punished, productivity slides, and the opportunistic politics of envy becomes the basis of our whole system of national government.

The only promising place left in Canada, he concludes, is Alberta.
What if Alberta were to separate? Would what is left of Canada become more left-wing and interventionist? Would the rest of us go along with the trend toward looking to Ottawa for solutions to problems?

Would Alberta also become more of a nanny state as its gubmnt struggled with how to distribute the largess from its oil resources? [For example, see The Emirates Economist for a multitude of stories on how the United Arab Emirates intervenes in the marketplace, in part to make its nationals better off but without allowing expatriates to share in the gains]. Would the Alberta gubmnt start providing more "free" health care, "free" education, "free" highways, "low-cost" housing, "low-cost" insurance, etc? If so, it would lose much of what Craig thinks has made it so successful up until now.

My guess is that if Alberta were to separate from the rest of Canada, the division of oil revenues would lead to gubmnt policies that would slowly destroy the rugged individualism that made Alberta the success story it has become.
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