Rob Ford and Canada's neoliberal agenda


See also Australia, a country with an AU$15-per-hour minimum wage (and a strong currency, so it’s not Monopoly-money numbers), which has two main media empires, one run by a mining magnate (sound familiar?) and the other is… NewsCorp. Their hard right turn in the last election matches the neo-liberal turn happening in parts of Scandanavia, where apparently people are bored with the prosperity brought about by functional welfare states.



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Umm, unicorn chaser or SOMETHING! to drive that photo down the page.


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Doesn’t make me shake my head at all.

That Churchill quote comes to mind: “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”


For anyone confused about what neoliberalism really is, please read these quotes from Tyler Cowen and Richard Posner.

First the more outrageous. Posner understands rape as an economic crime (neoliberalism perceives everything in terms of money, its the very foundation of neoliberal thought):

“The dichotomy between acquisitive crimes and crimes of passion is overstated. Acquisitive crimes bypass explicit markets; crimes of passion often bypass implicit markets – for example, in friendship, love, respect – that are the subject of a growing economic literature illustrated by Becker’s work on the family. Less obviously, crimes of passion often bypass explicit markets too. Id. at 1197”


“As with my earlier discussion of crimes of passion, it is important not to take too narrow a view of market alternatives. Supposing it to be true that some rapists would not get as much pleasure from consensual sex, it does not follow that there are no other avenues of satisfaction open to them. It may be that instead of furtively stalking women they can obtain satisfactions from productive activities, that is, activities in which other people are compensated and thus derive benefits. This is an additional reason to think that the total wealth of society would be increased if rape could be completely repressed at a reasonable cost.”

And here is Cowen, envisioning a future of Hunger Games potential:

“The rise of intelligent machines will spawn new ideologies along with the new economy it is creating. Think of it as a kind of digital social Darwinism, with clear winners and losers: Those with the talent and skills to work seamlessly with technology and compete in the global marketplace are increasingly rewarded, while those whose jobs can just as easily be done by foreigners, robots or a few thousand lines of code suffer accordingly.”

“We will move from a society based on the pretense that everyone is given a decent standard of living to one in which people are expected to fend for themselves. I imagine a world in which, say, 10 to 15 percent of the citizenry (or more, in due time) is extremely wealthy and has fantastically comfortable and stimulating lives, equivalent to those of current-day millionaires, albeit with better health care.”

“Much of the rest of the country will have stagnant or maybe even falling wages in dollar terms, but they will also have a lot more opportunities for cheap fun and cheap education. Many of these people will live quite well—especially those who have the discipline to benefit from all the free or nearly free services that modern technology makes available. Others will fall by the wayside.”

This is the philosophical underpinning of neoliberalism: that there are no such things as morality, ethics, justice. The only things that exist, that are real, are markets and money. All else is a mirage, and human relations and community can more readily and sensibly be understood if their true nature is teased out by sufficiently informed discussion. In fact, there is no such thing as human relations. As you can see from the Posner quote, human relations are market relations, most of us are just not insightful enough, or are too sentimental, to understand these basic facts.


Thank goodness neoliberalism hasn’t completely infected Québec, though the rise of Pierre Karl Péladeau as a PQ candidate is worrisome.

Mind you, my money is on the Liberals to win the election in a few days.

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Its a bit of a misconception to compare Ford directly to American or British conservatives. While the policies are roughly the same he actually has a much more interesting coalition which is probably why he first got such support from national politicians. The suburbs in Toronto are much like Paris’s where the majority of the residents are actually made up of the poor and immigrants. The people voting for him and making up his base of support aren’t just your stereotypical angry white middle class voters but actually much of the city’s non-white population as well. In many way’s he’s actually comparable to a politician like Marion Barry who first gained recognition as an activist in city politics and someone who would stand up against spoiled yuppies and gentrification.

Just to make it clear, I’m not saying he’s not a horrendous asshat. I just think the story is even more interesting than a lot of people realize.


Majority of residents in Scarborough are visible minorities - residents Etobicoke and North York are predominately white (50% or more, iirc) and there are plenty of rich neighbourhoods in these areas.

It would be nice if it was suburbs were sticking it to the downtown elites; as it is the suburbs have sent an elite to stick it to downtown.


If you want the full context, read An Economic Theory of the Criminal Law . Posner writes a great many things, and this essay presumably is his rejoinder (preemptive or not) to critics who would argue that it’s not useful to approach Law from the perspective of economics because economics somehow isn’t applicable to some areas of law.

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The way I remember it (and I lived inside the beltway for many years), he got his start with activism, but he was well out before gentrification became an issue in people’s minds.

(that’s Mayor Barry. Not sure what councilman Barry ever got up to. He probably refactored himself after he got out of the pokey as an anti-gentrification crusader)

But they are analogous in the fact that they are both lying, corrupt bastards.

(Edit: Oh, and the whole smoking crack thing…)


Your post reminds me of a recent conversation I had with my son who is in his first year of university and still full of wide-eyed idealism. It took me back to my own undergraduate studies and how much I enjoyed philosophy and ethics classes before the big, bad world of reality got hold of my dreams and aspirations.  He has no interest in pursuing any sort of business career and I don’t blame him one bit.

Having spent the last 25 years in the business world I see first hand everyday how it is completely overrun with morally questionable characters whose sole interest is in self promotion, pursuit of short-term profit and “winning” at whatever cost. Their only talent is the ability to be the biggest asshole in the room and not give two shits about it. It seems to be working because these people tend to get promoted and lauded.

My only dream now is to live long enough to see the current structure of capitalistic greed crash down upon itself and a new, meritocratic based system rise, phoenix-like from the rubble. If only for a brief time before the assholes again figure out way to exploit it.


Great podcast on extra-environmentalist currently with Canadian journalist Andrew Nikiforuk about how Canada is a new petro-state and the neo-libralist trappings this brings.

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But its NOT useful to approach rape from an economic perspective. It clouds the issues and makes it harder, not easier to understand what the actual crime, and its associated repercussions, are. If rape is an economic issue and is better understood through market analysis then why is it wrong in the first place? Since its not a financial transaction, why try to stuff it into that narrow frame? The answer to that is a (diseased) desire amongst neoliberals to reframe the world in a way that makes “sense” for their limited emotional capacities. There is so much more in the world and neoliberal economics is determined to eliminate everything they can’t control or “make sense” of.

Frankly, reducing violent crime to economic terms does an additional violence to the victims: the violence of reduction of emotional response to market terms. Not everything is about markets and money. Its simply not. In fact, I’d argue that most things that are important to us as humans are not about money and markets. Caring for each other, caring for the elderly, for children, protecting the vulnerable; these all have economic aspects to them (unfortunately), but not only are they not best understood through the “lens” of economics, but economics should be a secondary consideration when such matters are considered. The reason our nation has gone so far in the wrong direction these past 40 years has everything to do with this diseased mental framework that sees all problems in terms of cost and benefit. Its the corporate bottom line applied to everything in life. And to the extent that we don’t react in horror to this project is the extent to which we have already been programmed to accept its terms. Its terrifying frankly, and I don’t even think the Aspergers cases that promote this worldview will like what we end up with when their ideology finally triumphs en toto. It appears to be an ideology that makes sense of things, but when fully applied it will only create chaos. We are human beings, not bean counting machines. We direct our lives based on a complex set of sometimes contradictory moral premises (most of us anyway). We will never “figure it out” and even if we did, it wouldn’t look anything like this abortion of a philosophy called neoliberalism.


I hear you. I only wish you could get out of the corporate world. I did and its made all the difference (my wallet is suspiciously lighter ;). But more importantly, I no longer have to spend my days surrounded by self-promoters and ass-licking losers. The scum really does rise to the top in the corporate environment. And I find it ironic that those who keep promoting the corporate way as the answer to all of life’s ills don’t actually work in corporate environments. In short, guys like Cowen and Posner. I mean, if you’re gonna get misty-eyed and idealistic about something, is the corporate world really the thing you’d pick? Really? What a bunch of assholes.


I agree with what you’re saying, but, speaking as someone who actually is autistic, can you not conflate us with neoliberals? WE aren’t that bad, it’s not that we lack empathy, it’s that we just don’t always show it in expected ways.

Actually, my experience autistic people tend to be left-leaning politically because (being a small part of the population AND often unusual enough to stand out) we have at least a little bit of experience with discrimination (even moreso for autistic people whoa aren’t white, or heterosexual, or male).


Just to point out an error in this article. The author states that (in his first year in office, he [Stephen Harper] pulled Canada out of the Kyoto Accords). Stephen Harper was first elected in 2006. In 2007 his government stated that they couldn’t meet their commitments to the Kyoto Accord. It wasn’t until 2011 that they officially pulled out and reneged on Kyoto.

I still fail to see anything liberal about neoliberal.

Then again, I had trouble seeing much compassionate about compassionate conservativism, much moral about the moral majority, or much right about the right in general.


From an economic perspective:
Most of us would probably agree that rape is wrong, and refrain from doing so. If we desire sex, we engage in consensual transactions–hooking up, marriage, prostitution, etc. A market, if you will. Rapists bypass this market, and engage in non consensual transactions. This market bypass is frowned upon by society and persons found culpable of rape are subject to high penalties–various societies prescribe high fines, prison time, capital punishment. Applied in a consistent fashion, these penalties impose a cost, and if the cost is high enough, the amoral, but economically rational would-be rapist would refrain from asaulting others. And if the rapist nevertheless believes that the experience is worth it, then the cost society imposes may well be too low.

From wikipedia:

Economics is the social science that studies the behavior of individuals, groups, and organizations (called economic actors, players, or agents), when they manage or use scarce resources, which have alternative uses, to achieve desired ends

Life is a scarce resource . It’s too valuable to spend in prison.


Give a non-economic perspective.