In the December 1929 issue of the left-wing periodical The Canadian Forum, Professor Frank H. Underhill heavily criticized the United States' approach to "private ownership propaganda" as compared to Canada's interest in "public ownership enterprises." He wrote the following statement: "One of the hopeful things about Canada is that we have not yet come to this complete despair about our politics, and that enterprises like the Ontario Hydro and the National Railways show that we are still capable of using our political machinery for constructive purposes." With no disrespect to the late socialist academic, this concept was never fully realized. A majority of Canadians seem to understand that private enterprise and capitalism are far better entities than crown corporations, and the motivating objectives are superior to the nanny state mentality. Trade liberalization, open borders, and the global exchange of money and ideas have greatly enriched our way of life as well as our wallets. As we push ahead with a free market economy and globalization¨the malicious attacks in Seattle and Quebec City notwithstanding¨sensible Canadians need to gain a more complete vision of our financial future. For instance, if one wants to prove that capitalism has been a benefit to our society, one needs to understand why other forms of social and economic organization could destroy our way of life. Some Canadians are fearful of the prospect of a global economy, and are curious to find out how our country can survive in the 21st century. And the technological boom in terms of dot.com companies and the information age has inspired as many individuals as it has confused.
Three recent business/economics books written by Canadians have attempted to provide some historical information and guidance in this regard. They are part of a growing movement which aims to prove that Canadians don't spend their lives in igloos eating back bacon (although the latter item is quite tasty on a kaiser, and goes down well with a beer and an Original Six game on Hockey Night in Canada, but I digress). The following three non-fiction titles are different from one another in terms of themes and emphasis on economic trends. But all are illuminating, thought- provoking, and well worth the price of purchase.
Reuven Brenner, The Financial Century: From Turmoils to Triumphs. (Stoddart Publishing Co., Limited, 214 pages, $32.95. ISBN: 0773732810).
Brenner, the Repap Chair in Economics at McGill University, has written one of the strongest business books of the year. The Financial Century examines the history and future of various economic trends, from globalization to higher education. Working on the premise that prosperity is the culmination of "matching talent with capital, and holding both sides accountable," Brenner aptly provides a connecting theme between democracy and markets. For example, while the advent of democracy will ensure a free vote in the former Soviet Union and other authoritarian countries, this means very little without effective financial competition. He also establishes a proper link between mobility and capital, since "the wealth that disappears in one country reappears in others." This helps to explain why older, immobile industries exemplified by the agrarian movement have started to fade away, and newer, mobile industries falling within the framework of technological revolution are constantly taking their place. Thus, the free market continues to expand, and the accumulation of wealth has reached different countries, including Mexico and Hong Kong. Capitalism's survival has always required a combination of radical approaches, intellectual thought, and innovation. Brenner has sounded off a wonderful and inspiring trumpet for the importance of the global economy and the future of our financial regime.
Sherry Cooper, Ride the Wave: Take Control in the Acceleration Age (Financial Times Prentice Hall, 308 pages, $36.95. ISBN: 0130622788)
Cooper is a Global Economic Strategist and Executive Vice-President of the Bank of Montreal Group of Companies. She is also a bi-weekly columnist for the National Post, able to take complex economic issues and break them down into small, manageable pieces of information. In her new book, Ride the Wave, Cooper discusses the turbulent economic times we will face this century, and offers strategies for survival in the global economy. The stock market has become wild and unpredictable, following an inconsistent pattern of wicked highs and lows. The volatility of certain dot.com Internet stocks and companies has forced the successful ventures to learn quick lessons from the large list of failures. But Cooper is optimistic, believing that technology "has altered the business world in a way that will never be undone." For Traditionalists, Boomers and Gen Xers to survive in the global economy, the important lesson to learn is that "power is in knowledge, in pushing your competitive advantage to its maximum and marketing it accordingly." To ride well the wave of financial success, people must immerse themselves in the New Economy and market their talents on a global scale. Additionally, Cooper correctly points out that our society must learn to handle money as well as earn it. Thus, we should learn to save for our retirement, live beneath our means, save a percentage of annual income, and diversify a portfolio between stocks and bonds. Cooper's financial advice for the future is solid, and so is her book as a whole.
Thomas Paul D'Aquino and David Stewart-Patterson, Northern Edge: How Canadians Can Triumph in the Global Economy (Stoddart Publishing Co. Limited, 363 pages, $37.95. ISBN: 0773732675).
Not surprisingly, there are economists and policy makers who believe in enhancing the public and not-for-profit sectors as well as the private sector. D'Aquino, President and Chief Executive of the Business Council on National Issues, and Stewart-Patterson, BCNI's Senior Vice-President of Policy and Communications, make this argument in their book, Northern Edge. They don't call for a system of "unbridled capitalism," or ask to "redesign Canada in neo-conservative terms," or to "create a carbon copy version of the United States." Rather, they look at ways to enhance more public sector investing in the areas of education and health care. The authors also call for tax reduction on investment and savings (rather than pushing pure tax cuts), for innovation, debt reduction, increased levels of immigration, and for trade liberalization, among other policies. Some themes in the book, such as reliance on government institutions and the need to create a caring society, are a bit too much to stomach at times. But for Canadians who desire free markets combined with dollops of compassion, this book should do the trick.