By William Henry Pope, March 1996
For the 1962 federal election the New Democrats of Calgary North wanted Bertrand Russell as their candidate in the hope of winning against the Minister of National Defence on the issue of the nuclear-armed Bomarc. While Lord Russell had better things to do, I didn’t. While I was thus losing my first election, the Créditistes were winning some twenty-five or so seats in Quebec with such simple and sensible slogans as “What is physically possible must be made financially possible.”
So, on returning to Ottawa, where I had been working since 1959, for the leaders of the CCF/NDP as executive assistant, I began studying economics. Early on, I was fortunate in having a professor who knew his Maynard Keynes but couldn’t teach it. Thus he had his students read aloud The General Theory by the hour. Ever since, I can find such good bits as these with ease: “…one can almost hope…the technique of bank rate will never be used again to protect the foreign balance in conditions in which it is likely to cause unemployment at home” (Keynes, John Maynard (1936). The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money (p. 339). London: MacMillan & Co. Ltd.).
Keynes looked forward to “the euthanasia of the rentier, and, consequently, the euthanasia of the cumulative oppressive power of the capitalist to exploit the scarcity-value of capital. Interest to-day rewards no genuine sacrifice…. The owner of capital can obtain interest because capital is scarce… there are no intrinsic reasons for the scarcity of capital” (Ibid., p. 376).
These ideas are not hard to grasp, though the thinking behind them does require somewhat more effort. Because this effort has not been forthcoming for more than thirty years, either from governors of the Bank of Canada or from officials of the Department of Finance, about a dozen of us formed the Cartier Circle in mid-1982 in the hope of influencing government policy in a direction more favourable to Canada. With not the slightest success.
Ten years ago, we expanded the Cartier Circle into the Committee on Monetary and Economic Reform (COMER), with about ten times as many members in Canada and the States. Our published comments on government economic policy – mailed free to every federal and provincial legislator – began as the quarterly COMER Comment in the summer of 1988, became a monthly in May, 1989, and adopted its present name, Economic Reform, in April, 1991.
In the summer of 1995, we decided to begin a series of short books – starting with this one – on aspects of economic policy in the hope of reaching a wider audience, always with the aim of bringing about, through public pressure, basic changes in Ottawa’s ruinous policies.
Between 1978 and 1990, I co-authored the first five Canadian editions of Campbell R. McConnell’s Economics, published by McGraw-Hill Ryerson. While setting out conventional economics, I also happily set about analyzing the errors of Ottawa’s economic policies – those of Finance and of the Bank.
When I retired early from twenty years of teaching economics at Ryerson, to give me more time to write, the publishers seem to have decided that going to a thoroughly non-controversial text was worth a try. Thus the 6th (1993) Canadian edition came out without my name on it and with, so far as I could see, not a controversial word left in it.
It is still an excellent text for first-year university and I would use it in preference to any other if I were still teaching undergraduates. (I declare my interest; because of my earlier work, I continue to get a share of the royalties.)
But alongside Economics 6th (1993) and 7th (1996) Canadian editions by McConnell/Brue/Barbiero, I would use All You MUST Know About Economics, for in it I have revived all my criticisms of Ottawa, sharpened by six more years of observing the unholy mess being made of my country. Moreover, this present book includes all the 1995 data for GDP, money supply, national debt, trade, balance of payments, foreign investment, and unemployment.
This is more than just a niche book for the 10% or 20% of professors dissatisfied with the lack of criticism of government policies in first-year texts. It is also a book for COMER-ites, for those who have been getting Economic Reform and wish to have a short, readable text that will be a useful backgrounder to the monthly 8-pager.
Finally, and most importantly, it is a book for the general public: it is only the general public, acting in concert and with informed knowledge, that will be able by their votes to force Ottawa away from its disastrous path.
I am grateful to William Krehm, publisher of Economic Reform and of this book, for having asked me to do it and then for having furnished me so liberally with suggestions – especially for Chapter 5, Money.
I am grateful to Professor John Hargrove Hotson, late executive director of COMER and editor-in-chief of Economic Reform, for his assistance, especially in chapter 4, “GDP and Fiscal Policy.” It is to his memory that this book and all the books in this series are dedicated.
William Henry Pope
Harry’s introduction is a helpful synopsis of COMER’s background, and a concise explanation of All You MUST Know About Economics.
The title, of course, stresses the valuable brevity of the book and the essential importance of its contents.