JOBS FOR ALL: CAPITALISM ON TRIAL
Toronto, Methuen, c1984.
Toronto, Methuen, c1984.
Volume 12 Number 6
With unemployment in Canada at its highest point in fifty years, any book that promises everyone a job should be a best seller. If full employment is accepted as an economic goal, then our traditional economic policies are obviously not working satisfactorily. Anyone who comes up with a workable solution to this problem will become a national hero.
Paul Hellyer is widely known in Canada. He was a Liberal leadership candidate in 1968 and a Progressive Conservative leadership candidate in 1976. In between, he founded his own political party, Action Canada, whose objective was full employment with no inflation. Of more lasting importance, as defence minister in the government of Prime Minister Pearson, he presided over the unification of Canada's armed forces in 1965.
Jobs For All is a good introduction to the often confusing world of economics. Hellyer writes well. He provides a good summary of economic thought, with short analyses of the works of such men as Marx, Keynes, and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. He gives a brief history of the performance of Canada's economy and some reasons for the unemployment and inflation that have become entrenched in our society.
Does Paul Hellyer offer a solution to the heretofore insoluble problem of stagflation (unemployment with inflation)? Does he succeed where the greatest economic gurus of the age have failed? The answer is yes and no. Yes, he does have a solution, but it is not one that will be accepted.
Hellyer's solution is to freeze wages and prices for twelve months. He believes that this will destroy inflation. Once inflation is dead, he recommends an incomes policy to prevent the wage-price spiral from taking off again. To create the necessary jobs, he believes the unemployed should be put to work doing socially acceptable things like cleaning up polluted lakes, building transit systems and better health-care facilities.
The problem with Hellyer's argument is that people will not accept a wage freeze, even if logically it makes sense. Of course, the government can introduce one by legislation, but our politicians lack the determination to try something so unpopular. They want to be re-elected and therefore take the easiest course of action. This route does not include wage controls. Therefore, while Jobs For All is a pleasure to read and very informative, it is not likely to have much impact.
Thomas F. Chambers, Canadore College, North Bay, ON.
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