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W. Trimble

7th ed. Toronto, Copp Clark Pitman.
319pp, paperbound boards, $10.50.
ISBN 0-7730-4321-7.

Grades 12 and up.
Reviewed by Thomas F. Chambers.

Volume 12 Number 2
1984 March

Understanding the Canadian Economy is an uncomplicated book geared to the grade 12 school market. While this concept is admirable, it results in a text that tends to be boring, and I think, would turn off many students. There is not much to challenge imaginative young people about a subject that is of great significance to them.

The book raises a great many topical questions, but often fails to provide thorough answers. The question, "Which enterprises should be operated by government and which should be left to private industry?" for example, is too complicated to be dealt with satisfactorily in such a brief book. Answering it is beyond the comprehension of many students. It should be discussed, but in another format.

Understanding the Canadian Economy is attractively illustrated with numerous graphs and charts. Some of these are useful, others quite confusing. A diagram of the political spectrum, for example, places Canada's Social Credit party on the far right with capitalism. This may be true in theory, but the British Columbia Social Credit government has done some very un-capitalistic things such as the nationalization of B.C. Hydro. Such a diagram is impractical in today's political context, since all governments in Canada own industries.

Each chapter provides a brief summary, a few questions for discussion, and some suggested activities. There are also brief biographical sketches of some famous economists such as Adam Smith and J.M. Keynes. These are quite well done and should provoke good students into doing some further reading.

The basic weakness in the book is the lack of information. In his explanation of the uses of money, Trimble discusses money as a medium of exchange and a standard of value but ignores it as a store of value and a standard of payments.

In other areas, Trimble is misleading. When discussing inflation, he writes "many economists now think that a price economy such as ours can be kept at the full employment level only by continued gentle inflation." We have had in Canada, by our standards, both high unemployment and high inflation. The inflation did not help to significantly lower our unemployment, as Trimble suggests, though it is a popularly held view that high interest rates have helped put people out of work. The short analysis of inflation in the book illustrates the incompleteness of Trimble's approach. He mentions the quantity theory and war as the causes of inflation. There is no mention of higher wages, higher prices, nor the increased cost of resources. Surely some mention of the oil price shock of 1973 is warranted, since it is considered a major reason for Canada's inflation.

Other parts of the book are more useful. The discussion of foreign trade and the balance of payments is a good example. While brief, it is well done and easy to understand. The information on the manipulation of exchange rates and American investments in Canada is topical and interesting. It is also well-balanced and presents both sides of the American investment issue with references to the late Harry Johnson, FIRA, and the NEP.

There are too many problems with Understanding the Canadian Economy to make it a good text. There is some good material in it, but there are enough weaknesses to make it difficult for a teacher to use it without confusing students. Includes a bibliography and a glossary.

Thomas F. Chambers, Canadore College, North Bay, ON.
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