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UBC POLI 101 Canadian Politics


UBC POLI 101 Canadian Politics The State, its Legitimacy, and Democratic Values http://www.politics.ubc.ca/fcutler/teaching/POLI101 – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: UBC POLI 101 Canadian Politics

UBC POLI 101Canadian Politics
  • The State, its Legitimacy, and Democratic Values

The Question How Much Government do we Need?
  • Reasons to intervene in economic markets and
    social affairs
  • to increase total output by correcting market
  • to correct inefficiencies, especially from
    information inequalities (asymmetries) (e.g.
    consumers unable to test food, product safety,
    pay tuition immediately)
  • to encourage predictability, fairness
  • to make outcomes more equal (redistributive
    taxation and spending)
  • But much intervention reduces some freedom
  • the original impetus for democracy was freedom
    FROM government!
  • Without some redistribution, market outcomes
    might be so unequal that the poor/marginalized
    wont support the political community
  • But after a certain point, taxation and
    redistribution just reduces total output, making
    even the worst-off worse off
  • Govts must try to control the impulse to grow
    beyond what is necessary/desirable
  • bureaucracies are self-aggrandizing they want to
    maximize their influence
  • governments (politicians) can make promises based
    on borrowing money
  • parties want to expand their coalitions

How much have we got? Growth of the Canadian State
  • 19th Century liberal, night-watchman state
  • Collective social services (hospitals, education,
    support for indigent) delivered by
    churces/charities/local volunteers
  • but public education foretold the future
  • Great Depression realization that this was
  • industrialization caused social bonds to break
  • too much unemployment/poverty/misery to cope with
  • Keynesian economic theory state to smooth out
    market cycle by borrowing to keep consumption
    (demand) high
  • WWII and after Growth of the welfare state
  • programs, programs, programs (health, education,
    UI, pensions, etc.)
  • some service delivery (e.g. health) and some
    income-support (e.g. UI)
  • regulations on business and social relations
    (govt employment )
  • Federal govt involvement through shared-cost

What does the state do?
  • All governments raise and spend money
  • They generally occupy 1/3 to ½ of the economy
  • Canada ranks in the middle of OECD countries
  • Federal Government expenditure
  • Provincial Government Expenditure (example
  • And the state REGULATES all kinds of activity
  • All this is not just money and services.
  • It creates a set of relationships, social
  • e.g. unemployed, senior, low-income, student,
    public employee, etc
  • These affect how we deal with each other
  • think of relations with someone on EI vs. someone
    on welfare
  • It creates entrenched political interests and

Taxation Public Finance
  • Governments get money from taxation
  • income taxes (80 of federal revenue)
  • corporate taxes
  • sales taxes
  • succession taxes
  • sin taxes
  • Governments borrow (domestically and
  • Income taxes can be more or less progressive
  • i.e. rates of income tax increase as income

  • Government regulates activity for fairness,
    predictability, protection/safety,
    maintenance/promotion of values
  • What exactly does it do?
  • standards/procedures for entry/exit into an
    activity (e.g. broadcasting, midwifery, trucking,
    pest control)
  • sets prices (e.g. rent control, telephone, cable,
  • controls supply/output of products (marketing
    boards, e.g. milk)
  • sets profit margins for state-sanctioned
    monopolies (phone, hydro)
  • health and safety standards (e.g. workplace air
    quality, consumer products like baby gates, car
    tires, smoke detectors)
  • environment solves tragedy of the commons (e.g.
    pollution control)
  • subsidizes information to promote fairness (e.g.
    misleading ads)
  • cultural standards (e.g. Canadian content,
    language legislation)
  • Question is how much regulation is too much
  • we have regulation to correct market failure,
    plus much more

Borrowing, Debt, Expectations, and Cutbacks
  • Canadian governments have accumulated public debt
  • They wanted (depending on how you see it)
  • to spend more than they wanted to tax!
  • "deficit spending is a natural outgrowth of
    unrestrained democratic politics. Borrowing
    allows politicians to supply voters with
    immediate benefits without having to impose a
    parallel visible cost in the form of higher taxes
    or user charges" (Gwartney and Stroup, 1993,
  • to maintain consumer demand to stimulate the
  • to provide services for which the public didnt
    want to pay full price
  • to invest in all kinds of capital that would
    increase output later
  • or, they paid the price for poor economic
  • If your parents went to university, theyre still
    paying for tuition through the portion of tax
    that goes to service debt!
  • That spending created expecatations (even
  • Cuts painful for individuals politically costly
    for govts
  • shrinking spending on transfers to provs, EI,
    almost all programs
  • Also, deregulation, privatization,

The role of the state is a set of political
  • This role of the state dimension is the most
    important axis of political (party) competition
  • Left and Right are centrally defined by the role
    and scope of government involvement in society
    and economy
  • Issues
  • privatization in health care collective
    bargaining (doctors nurses)
  • student/govt balance in post-secondary education
  • environmental regulation (strictness,
    enforcement, just voluntary?)
  • public ownership of large enterprises (rail,
    hydro, air, petroleum, etc)
  • Publics thinking is more impressionistic less
    or more govt
  • Public gives the state latitude and expects

Democratic Values and State Legitimacy
  • Two Questions
  • Do Canadians hold values and practice behaviour
    consistent with the principles of liberal
  • Tolerance of political expression, dissent,
  • Tolerance of difference life-choices,
    backgrounds, cultures, etc.
  • If they dont, can the system deliver those
    values in practice?
  • Is it right for the state to try to instill those
    values in citizens?
  • To what degree do Canadians accept their system
    of government and the actual governments that
    hold power?
  • Do citizens accept the structures of their
  • Do they accept the things it does?
  • If they do, are they just dupes, or manipulated?
  • If they dont, should the system be changed?
    and can they change it to enhance its legitimacy?

Tolerance Civil Liberties
  • A liberal democracy is a system of law requiring
    citizens to
  • tolerate a range of political views and,
  • tolerate a range of lifestyles and life choices
    (cultures, practices, etc.)
  • Not only must the state respect civil liberties,
    but a culture of civil tolerance enhances
    democratic debate (Mill)
  • Canadians are committed to civil liberties in the
  • In practice, they balance them against other
  • we must crack down on crime, even if that means
    people lose their rights 57 agree
  • if the cabinet says there is a national
    emergency, and a majority in parliament agrees,
    it is all right to suspend the usual civil
    rights 53 agree
  • Do Canadians accept the right of those they
    disagree with to participate in public debate
    (expression, association, etc.)?
  • 1/3 say no to groups simply labelled extreme
  • 2/3 say no to their least-liked group
  • Rights arent absolute There is a politics of

Tolerance Minorities and Difference
  • Societies in which democracy emerged were
  • political equality denied on the basis of social
    / biological categories
  • Now, democracy is equated with acknowledgment of
    political equality of all persons within the
    political community
  • Progress
  • 1968 question homosexuals should be imprisoned
    32 agree
  • 1991 question homosexuals should not be
    employed as ___
  • sales people 22 agree Members of Parliament
    31 agree
  • 1989 question how would you feel if one of your
    children married someone from a different racial
    background 13 unhappy
  • But widespread discomfort with immigration,
    cultural differences
  • Double standards on language rights among
  • 60 think francophones leaving Quebec get kids
    school in French
  • 90 think anglophones going to Quebec should get
    school in Eng.

Legitimacy of the State
  • The consent of the governed is a fundamental
    tenet of democratic theory
  • a democratic political community encompasses
    individuals who agree that the decisions of one
    set of political authorities are legitimate and
    abide by the decisions and actions of the
  • compliance with government decisions actions is
    required to secure the benefits of collective
  • govt can devote attention to policy instead of
  • consent is strengthened by participation in a
    fair process (voting, etc.)
  • But there might be too much consent
  • some vigilance and skepticism is necessary to
    keep those in government from serving their own
    interests over the public interest
  • grudging consent along with feelings that the
    system is unresponsive frustrates democracys
    promise of progress through debate

Confidence and Trust in Government A Crisis?
  • All indicators of confidence and trust are
    falling everywhere!
  • Reasons
  • economic slowdown of post-war growth
  • related slowdown in government expansion
  • disenchanting events of the late-60s, early 70s
  • TV dominance negative, conflict, substance-less
  • shift to postmaterial values general decline of
  • breakdown of moral/value consensus
  • higher expectations/scrutiny of government,
    combined with media focus on finding fault
  • Consequences (we dont know)
  • non-participation (all the way to)
  • solidarity of the political community threatened
    so less govt?

Political Efficacy
  • Democratic citizens should have some feeling that
    their participation and input matters otherw
    ise, why get involved?
  • It too has been going DOWN
  • Lack of efficacy fundamentally deters political
  • May even deter any communication of preferences
  • Indicator of cracks in democracy itself?
  • or, it might start a process of reform naturally
  • More relevant is that some people feel like they
    can make a difference and that government listens
    to them and cares about them while others dont
    feel that way.
  • this suggests democratic equality could be
  • what other sorts of inequality (socio-economic
    status) is the real cause of the inequality in

A Happy Ending?
  • This all sounds pretty negative
  • But some have argued that we want
  • cynical, vigilant citizens
  • educated, competent and thus skeptical citizens
  • citizens free from irrational party loyalties,
    free to choose
  • large numbers who want improvements to the system
  • And there is a link between increasing education
    and the decline of deference that might be
    fuelling all this
  • Over the same period
  • corruption has decreased (Glen Clark example)
    while standards have increased
  • government is better managed, more efficient
  • many who provide the picture of negativity are
    still voting
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