Sunday, February 01, 2009

Reading Harper's masters thesis

Don Martin dug-up a copy of Stephen Harper's masters thesis from when he was an economics student at the University of Calgary. Certainly seems relevant, given how Harper and co. always like to remind us that he's an economist, so he totally knows what he's doing.

Here's a few excerpts:

Excerpts from Stephen Harper's 1991 master's degree thesis

"Minority governments show no particular tendency to fiscally irresponsible behaviour, contrary to some theoretical predictions."

"A general observation would be that, while there is no evidence of a 'chronic deficit' tendency in Canada historically, neither is it clear how such a problem is resolved once it occurs."

"The record indicates that particularly activist Keynesian policy has been rare in the postwar period. The results indicated that it should remain so."

I'd have no problem with him having changed his views over time -- that's perfectly natural and healthy -- except I don't believe he really has changed his views, his actions on the budget were entirely motivated by political survival, with the coalition of opposition parties holding his feet to the fire. I think the fact his heart isn't in it is borne-out by the fact he did such a crappy job of it. I think he still believes what he wrote in his thesis.

No, what I think his thesis and his actions now show is the gulf between the theoretical world of academia and the real world of the actual economy and of government. It's one thing to debate abstract policies in the ivory tower; in the real world, it's not so cut and dry.

Also, the media continue the race to ask anyone who ever met Harper if they're disappointed in him over the budget. As amused as I am, and pleased as a partisan, I can't help but wonder, is it a bit much? Not until they track down his Grade Five music teacher. After that, they should stop.

As an aside, while the reporters reading through everything Michael Ingnatieff ever wrote still have a lot of work ahead of them, I suspect that with Martin getting his masters thesis, those on the Harper beat are now done. At least until he gets that book on hockey written, that is.

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burlivespipe said...

Just as disappointing is the fact that the media hasn't even done a good job of attempting to connect some dots, like why would Harper have broken his fixed-election promise? Instead, they've let him scot-free state and repeat that the global economic crisis has taken everyone 'by surprise'... which either suggests the Canadian newspapers Harper reads weren't doing a very good job, or he lied. It's apparent to me that he wanted both to get in before the storm and also take one more kick at the lap-dog he'd groomed in Dion (I'm just using what he'd think), and wasn't completely successful at either. Seems to me, CON-followers should have had the message on Oct. 15th, that they had the dud and needed to dump him. Kinda like the Canucks and their troubles today...

Unknown said...

I just finished reading though Harper's thesis. It's actually an excellent piece of work. It's well-written, the technical analysis he describes is really well done, and his understanding of his topic seems to be really solid.

Most notably, it reads the way Harper speaks today. He certainly hasn't changed his thinking; moreover, I'd say his current approach to fiscal policy matches his perspective in this thesis. His management of our economic is very much that of the theoretician in practice.

The thesis evaluates in the Canadian context a theory about how politics determines economic cycles and tests it against historical data. He writes:

"There is evidently much ground here for further development of the tests, theories and models of the Canadian political economy. Since there is no reason to believe these matters are entirely deterministic, there may be room for political action as well."

It makes you wonder if his mission is to engage in this unspecified "political action."