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Pragmatism should be the dogma, not capitalism or socialism



There has always existed a tension between progressive (leftist/socialist) and conservative (rightist/capitalist) political thinking types.

Rightists are typically more in favour of pro-business policies while leftists are traditionally more concerned about the distribution of the wealth. Concerning civil liberties and rights, conservatives are nowadays closer to religious beliefs, while progressives are more in favour of individual freedoms.

The state of polarisation of the political debate today in some democracies  —  the only system in which there can be political debates  —  is heightened by the fact social media’s business model thrives on sensationalism. Thus making voices in the extremes sound louder. However, we must not forget that good policymaking, is the result of striking the right balance between pro business and wealth redistribution policies. Too much of one of the two and the system fails or is inefficient.

Examples of governments with comparatively good policy making track records are not rare. The most obvious one, although we seldom think about it in these terms is China. China’s state capitalism might not the most respectful of freedom of speech or human rights, but its policy making is extremely successful. Its mix of capitalist and socialist ideas has achieved steady and strong economic growth offering its citizens hope of a better future while eradicating poverty faster than any nation at any other point in history.

A key element in its success is the way the Chinese inserted themselves into the global market (capitalist) on their own terms, gradually, and making use of  very protectionist conditions (socialist). There are several examples of very well balanced mixes in democracies too: Germany, Scandinavia, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Canada. Not by coincidence all of these countries are fairing better amid the pandemic.

Unfortunately, plenty of governments do not manage to reach a good equilibrium. The US is a clear case of the balance tilting too much to the right. The most powerful and rich country in the world has a per capita GDP (PPP) of $65,000 but 60% of its population does not have $1000 on the side to pay for an emergency expense.

Trumpism and opioids

Trumpism is the result of a segment of the population living in despair. Its racist facet and gullibility to conspiracy theories make progressives (like myself) scorn and ridicule it. But that doesn’t remove the fact there is real suffering behind it. Many of Trumpland’s communities have been completely left behind, some even hooked on opioids with the government’s consent. Trumpism is the consequence of decades of a bad policy mix.

France, on the other hand, provides significantly better public services to its population (one in every 100 Americans is extremely poor compared to one in every 1000 French). But it currently suffers from the opposite, the balance tilting too much to the left.

Its considerable tax burden on companies, especially on social contributions, leads to a high unemployment rate. This is offset increasing social spending, which once again requires a raise in taxes. High unemployment in France hits stronger its immigrant communities and partly explains the surge in islamic radicalisation. Compared to Germany, France has a bloated and inefficient state that spends more in health and education but performs worse.

The developing world is a basketfull of bad mixes. Venezuela is the most exemplary case in recent history of how an economy can be destroyed by the excess of socialist policies. While its neighbour Colombia, where no left leaning presidential candidate has ever reached power (several were assassinated), continues to be one of the the most unequal countries in the world. A recent report by the OECD states it takes 11 generations for a Colombian family to escape from poverty.

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How Canadian churches are helping their communities cope with the wildfires



As wildfires burn across Canada, churches are finding ways to support their members and the broader community directly impacted by the crisis.

According to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre, as of June 13, there are 462 active fires across Canada – and 236 of them classified as out of control fires.

Whether it’s through phone calls or donations to community members, here’s how a few churches across Canada are handling active wildfires and the aftermath in their regions.

Westwood Hills, N.S.: St. Nicholas Anglican Church

In Nova Scotia, St. Nicholas Anglican Church and other churches in the area are collecting money for grocery cards to give to families impacted by the Tantallon wildfire. 

Right outside of Halifax, N.S., the Tantallon wildfire destroyed 151 homes. More than 16,000 people evacuated the area due to the fire.

The fire is now considered contained, but Tanya Moxley, the treasurer at St. Nicholas is organizing efforts to get grocery gift cards into the hands of impacted families.

As of June 12, four churches in the area – St. Nicholas, Parish of French Village, St Margaret of Scotland and St John the Evangelist – raised nearly $3,500. The money will be split for families’ groceries between five schools in the area impacted by the wildfire.

Moxley said she felt driven to raise this money after she heard the principal of her child’s school was using his own money to buy groceries for impacted families in their area.

“[For] most of those people who were evacuated, the power was off in their subdivision for three, four or five days,” she said. “Even though they went home and their house was still standing, the power was off and they lost all their groceries.”

Moxley said many people in the area are still “reeling” from the fires. She said the church has an important role to help community members during this time.

“We’re called to feed the hungry and clothe the naked and house the homeless and all that stuff, right? So this is it. This is like where the rubber hits the road.”

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Is it ever OK to steal from a grocery store?



Mythologized in the legend of Robin Hood and lyricized in Les Misérables, it’s a debate as old as time: is it ever permissible to steal food? And if so, under what conditions? Now, amid Canada’s affordability crisis, the dilemma has extended beyond theatrical debate and into grocery stores.

Although the idea that theft is wrong is both a legally enshrined and socially accepted norm, the price of groceries can also feel criminally high to some — industry data shows that grocery stores can lose between $2,000 and $5,000 a week on average from theft. According to Statistics Canada, most grocery item price increases surged by double digits between 2021 and 2022. To no one’s surprise, grocery store theft is reportedly on the rise as a result. And if recent coverage of the issue rings true, some Canadians don’t feel bad about shoplifting. But should they?

Kieran Oberman, an associate professor of philosophy at the London School of Economics and Political Science in the United Kingdom, coined the term “re-distributive theft” in his 2012 paper “Is Theft Wrong?” In simplest terms, redistributive theft is based on the idea that people with too little could ethically take from those who have too much.

“Everybody, when they think about it, accepts that theft is sometimes permissible if you make the case extreme enough,” Oberman tells me over Zoom. “The question is, when exactly is it permissible?”

Almost no one, Oberman argues, believes the current distribution of wealth across the world is just. We have an inkling that theft is bad, but that inequality is too. As more and more Canadians feel the pinch of inflation, grocery store heirs accumulate riches — Loblaw chair and president Galen Weston, for instance, received a 55 percent boost in compensation in 2022, taking in around $8.4 million for the year. Should someone struggling with rising prices feel guilty when they, say, “forget” to scan a bundle of zucchini?
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The homeless refugee crisis in Toronto illustrates Canada’s broken promises



UPDATE 07/18/2023: A coalition of groups arranged a bus to relocate refugees to temporarily stay at a North York church on Monday evening, according to CBC, CP24 and Toronto Star reports.

Canadians live in a time of threadbare morality. Nowhere is this more obvious than in Toronto’s entertainment district, where partygoers delight in spending disposable income while skirting refugees sleeping on sidewalks. The growing pile of luggage at the downtown corner of Peter and Richmond streets resembles the lost baggage section at Pearson airport but is the broken-hearted terminus at the centre of a cruel city.

At the crux of a refugee funding war between the municipal and federal governments are those who have fled persecution for the promise of Canada’s protection. Until June 1, asylum seekers used to arrive at the airport and be sent to Toronto’s Streets to Homes Referral Assessment Centre at 129 Peter St. in search of shelter beds. Now, Toronto’s overcrowded shelter system is closed to these newcomers, so they sleep on the street.

New mayor Olivia Chow pushed the federal government Wednesday for at least $160 million to cope with the surge of refugees in the shelter system. She rightly highlights that refugees are a federal responsibility. In response, the department of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada points to hundreds of millions in dollars already allocated to cities across Canada through the Interim Housing Assistance Program, while Ontario says it has given nearly $100 million to organizations that support refugees. But these efforts are simply not enough to deliver on Canada’s benevolent promise to the world’s most vulnerable.

The lack of federal generosity and finger-pointing by the city has orchestrated a moral crisis. It’s reminiscent of the crisis south of the border, where Texas governor Greg Abbott keeps bussing migrants to cities located in northern Democratic states. Without the necessary resources, information, and sometimes the language skills needed to navigate the bureaucratic mazes, those who fled turbulent homelands for Canada have become political pawns.

But Torontonians haven’t always been this callous.

In Ireland Park, at Lake Ontario’s edge, five statues of gaunt and grateful refugees gaze at their new home: Toronto circa 1847. These statues honour a time when Toronto, with a population of only 20,000 people, welcomed 38,500 famine-stricken migrants from Ireland. It paralleled the “Come From Away” event of 9/11 in Gander, N.L., where the population doubled overnight, and the people discovered there was indeed more than enough for all. It was a time when the city lived up to its moniker as “Toronto, The Good.”

Now, as a wealthy city of three million people, the city’s residents are tasked with supporting far fewer newcomers. Can we not recognize the absurdity in claiming scarcity?

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