Brian Lee Crowley

Globe and Mail columns

  • Donald Trump’s economic crankery August 7, 2015

    Donald Trump isn’t just a bombastic windbag. He’s an economic crank, most obviously in his claim that America has weakened itself by allowing manufacturing to go to China. He promises to make America great again by “beating” China and bring those jobs back. The only problem with that is that the jobs that have gone to China and elsewhere are not the great “value-added” jobs of economic mythology, but the low value-added assembly jobs that America has abandoned because, well, there are more valuable things for Americans to do and the unemployment rate today is 5.3 percent, or essentially full employment. Read the full analysis in my column for Economy Lab in today’s Globe and Mail (7th August, 2015).

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  • Data theft, cyber carjacking and EMPs: technology and its vulnerabilities August 6, 2015

    In my column for the July 24th edition of the Globe I ruminate on the vulnerabilities that technology creates to various forms of hacking, data theft and cyber attacks, lamenting our apparent determination not to take these threats as seriously as they deserve to be taken. Nobody took seriously the vulnerabilities of airport security before 9/11 either….

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  • The Great Game and the Greek crisis August 5, 2015

    In the so-called Great Game, in which Western powers seek through espionage as well as soft and hard power to counter the influence of disruptors and adversaries like Russia, Greece is now an important pawn. There is little question that Greece has repeatedly abused its obligations to repay its vast debts. But, as I ask in my July 10th column for the Globe’s ROB, in a world where Russia seeks actively and unashamedly to extend its power and influence, can Western powers really afford to close the door on its troubled ally?

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  • Papal deer in the headlights: Francis contradicts papal policy on human fertility August 5, 2015

    In my July 26th column for the ROB’s Economy Lab feature in the Globe I point out that in his recent encyclical on climate change Pope Francis wants to suck and blow at the same time. The pope was right to make protecting human life a goal, a goal moreover that is entirely consistent with traditional Catholic doctrine. The problem? Fossil fuel use has been an indispensable factor making it possible for the Earth to support its teeming billions….and alternative energy technologies are nowhere near ready to displace them.

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  • The sharing economy means the demise of urban transit June 16, 2015

    All the data show that there is no alternative to road transport for getting people around, including in the big cities. Indeed the share of people travelling exclusively by car is rising, not falling. Technological change, most notably the falling cost of discovering who has spare capacity to transport you in their car, plus the eventual arrival of driverless cars, will work a revolution in how we get around, as cabs and buses fade into history. My latest column for the Economy Lab feature of the ROB in the Globe.

    If you want further evidence of the trends I identified in this column, check out this piece published several weeks later by Reuters and the Post

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  • $15 minimum wage? Not if you want to help those that really need it. May 31, 2015

    Incoming Alberta Premier Rachel Notley has confirmed her partyt’s intention to raise the minimum wage in the province to $15/hr. Like many things this sounds good but in fact isn’t, especially if your objective is to help the most vulnerable workers (and potential workers) at the bottom of the wage scale. A $15/hr minimum wage is simply a government decree that anyone who cannot produce $15 worth of value with an hour of their labour will not work. Thanks for the help guys!

    Read my analysis in my latest column for the ROB’s Economy Lab feature in the Globe and Mail.

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  • Aboriginal Canada and development: Get the narrative right! May 18, 2015

    Is Aboriginal Canada, mired in poverty and poor education, nonetheless opposed in principle to doing anything to change their circumstances? You might be forgiven for thinking this if you read much of the commentary in the media surrounding the recent decision by one community to turn down over $1-billion in benefits from the proponents of an LNG facility on the west coast. But dig a little deeper and you quickly discover that in fact the reverse is closer to the truth and Aboriginal Canada is thoughtfully seizing many of the opportunities that natural resource development in particular is making available. They just want to make these decisions on their own terms. Read all about it in my latest column for the ROB’s Economy Lab feature in the Globe.

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  • Income splitting and tax fairness with a coda on flat taxes May 4, 2015

    Income splitting is often portrayed by its opponents as an inexplicable effort to give tax relief to the already wealthy at the expense of everyone else. I think that is an egregious mischaracterisation. The reason for income splitting is that it fixes a terrible unfairness in the tax system whereby similarly-situated (in terms of income) couples pay wildly varying amounts of income tax solely because of how the income is distributed between the spouses. This violates a basic principle of taxation that like should be treated alike. I explain the point in my latest piece for the Globe’s Economy Lab feature in the ROB.

    As one of my correspondents pointed out in response to the column, it can be true that income splitting is a correct response to an injustice in the tax system, and yet not be the right thing to choose to do at this moment if you have a spare $2bn or so kicking around at budget time. I absolutely agree. Governing is about choosing and it is perfectly fair to criticise the Tories for having chosen this over the many other things they could have spent the money on. It is still important, however, to lay out the rational case for income splitting and evaluate the policy choice on its merits….

    Also check out my Twitter feed for a discussion about why a flat tax would not resolve the issue of the interaction between individual taxation and household tax treatment that income splitting seeks to resolve.

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  • Whose afraid of balanced budget legislation? April 17, 2015

    In today’s Globe column I weigh in on the issue of whether balanced budget legislation is worth while or not. My view is that the history of parliamentary democracy is the slow groping attempt to submit arbitrary power to transparency and rules. But well-designed rules should not and need not be the death of the discretion politicians need in order to respond to events. So with respect to budget-making we need to get to work on designing the appropriate rules and that may take some time and experimentation. That’s a reason to get on with the job.

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  • Saving is spending: The One Percent, investment and innovation April 3, 2015

    MLI hosted a debate earlier this week about whether Canadians should worry about income inequality. One of the common economic fallacies that found its way into the debate was the idea that people low down the income scale spend all their income and therefore stimulate the economy, whereas the rich can only consume a part of their income and therefore the potential economic activity that cvould be generated by the unspent income is somehow vapourised.

    Au contraire!

    The excess not consumed must be invested. That’s why saving is a particularly useful and powerful sort of spending. In the hands of the One Percent such capital accumulation has driven many innovations in technology, space travel, corporate management and much much more. That’s pretty much the summary of the Globe column the debate inspired me to write for the ROB’s Economy Lab.

    Took the Occupy Movement et al about 5 minutes after the column appeared to launch a Twitter campaign accusing me of everything but eating babies (but then the day is young!). Just spell my name right, folks….

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Brian Lee Crowley
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