Restraining the Economy: Social Credit Economic Policies for B.C. in the Eighties
G.P. Wood was a lecturer at the Department of Political Science, St. Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, Nova Scotia.
This is a collection of articles written by “sensible” economists in response to what they see as the politicization of provincial government policy since 1983. The articles are organized in descending order of generality — from the history and contemporary context of the B.C. economy and the role of government, through fiscal policy, social services, education and labor, to industrial policy, megaprojects, and free-enterprise zones.
The organizing theme of the collection is that Social Credit policy does not make economic sense; it is mistaken, short-sighted, and inconsistent.
Fiscal policy is based on a misperception — that the crisis of the eighties is a structural crisis rather than a cyclical one. The restraint policies derived from this error have deepened the crisis, not eased it. Further, the restraint policy itself has been implemented inconsistently, increasing competition between workers, but not between business people, farmers, or professionals. Cuts in social welfare spending and in education provisions have sacrificed long-term growth and efficiency (through investments in “human capital”) for the sake of short-term goals. Finally, the megaprojects to which major resources have been allocated will not deliver significant long-term benefits.
Restraining the Economy is a comprehensive and sober guide to Social Credit policy from the perspective of mainstream economics. Its major strength, sober economic analysis, is also its major weakness in that it fails to inquire systematically into the possibility that Social Credit policy can best be understood as part of a broader political strategy and not as a series of economic mistakes. It does provide hope, however, at least in B.C., that the neo-conservatives’ capture of political power will not be matched in the groves of academe.