Innovation: re-thinking the role of the state

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Mariana Mazzucato’s new book The Entrepreneurial State: Debunking Public vs. Private Sector Myths, has created some buzz: her Ted Talk has been widely shared, and the book is being discussed by the Economist, the Financial Times, and in the Globe & Mail by the Broadbent Institute’s own Andrew Jackson.

The book goes a long way towards debunking myths about private sector innovation. There is a persistent view that private entrepreneurs are the lions of the economy, fearlessly setting new directions and taking risks. Mazzucato argues that the private sector is important, but should really be viewed as a pussycat, with the state more aptly described as the lion that takes risks and drives innovation. 

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Economy’s supposed slow recovery is really a ‘secular stagnation’

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In 1939, the United States and much of the world were still struggling to exit the Great Depression that had begun a decade earlier. In that context, Alvin Hansen – the prominent economist and disciple of John Maynard Keynes – famously argued before the American Economic Association that the underlying problem was not cyclical, but rather “secular stagnation.”

Mr. Hansen anticipated an extended period of sluggish growth and high unemployment, due to a structural shortage of demand compared with already existing productive capacity. Under such circumstances, there were few profitable investment opportunities for business, resulting in excess savings and idle resources.

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Rob Ford and the truth about privilege

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Renowned lawyer Clayton Ruby’s intervention into the Rob Ford spectacle got me thinking about the ways in which this civic mess has unfolded. Namely, it has brought into focus how privilege continues to be accrued unfairly to certain individuals and communities and not others in Canadian society.

Toronto Police Chief William Blair’s announcement concerning the recovery of the infamous video came just as a judge’s ruling on disclosure of the warrant became public. Some of what has been revealed in those documents is more damning than the reality of the video. The video vindicates the reporters and the Toronto Star in particular. However, the documents raise a whole other set of issues and concerns, ones that are bigger than Rob Ford and the specifics of his actions and represent a far more troubling, systemic scandal.

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Canada's dubious immigration priorities

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The Speech from the Throne has come and gone. Buried in the hoopla surrounding the demise of cable television bundling were some terrifically misleading claims about “progress” towards meeting Canada’s immigration priorities.

The government claimed victory in nearly halving its application backlog for permanent residency, and for eliminating entirely the backlog for economic migrants. Absent from mention in the speech was the mechanism by which the latter backlog was eliminated— a mechanism so egregious that the matter is before the Canadian courts for the second time. 

As it turns out, the means by which the government has accomplished this feat may be unconstitutional.

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