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Saturday, May 09, 2009

Why Canada needs a recession

A professor at the University of B.C. thinks that what would be best for Canada's environment is a "planned recession".

And he's quite serious.

Bill Rees, currently on sabbatical from UBC's School of Regional and Community Planning, was featured on the cover of a recent issue of the Vancouver Courier newspaper. The accompanying story  shares his views at some length that the Canadian urban economy as it is presently set up cannot save the environment, no matter what new technologies are introduced or how many boxes of materials are recycled.

Courier reporter Mark Hasiuk writes:

"Society hasn't faced the fact that the economy has to shrink," says Rees, in the rehearsed manner of a veteran lecturer. "We should be in a planned recession, not the full blown uncontrolled collapse as it is right now."

....We need a planned recession, he says. A cap on growth, fewer construction projects--not "greener" ones.

...He recommends immigration reduction to combat homegrown production and consumption, and warns of pending "societal collapse."

"Imagine a society with greater equity--at least sufficiency for all," he says. "Thirty-hour work weeks spreading the available work around. No forced unemployment, more leisure time, less pollution, greater regional independence from trade."

This is radical stuff, Rees admits. The concept of a planned recession contradicts the basic tenets of western capitalism, which values hard work, ambition and progress. Yet Rees's ideas are rooted in the conventional wisdom of environmentalism.

"We're consuming too much, consuming more renewable resources than natural systems are producing," he says, "and we're dumping more waste than natural systems can assimilate."

My more scientifically inclined readers can probably refute much of what Prof. Rees has to say. But I wonder why such "radical stuff" doesn't get the attention of politicans.

The Courier reporter notes that the professor's opinions "are rooted in the conventional wisdom of environmentalism." But when a professor advocates banning all privately owned cars from Canadian cities as a goal, libertarians and conservatives might want to take notice that our future politicians and city planners are being taught this in university.

As has been mentioned, in B.C., we are having a provincial election on Tuesday. Depending on the poll, B.C.'s Greens are hovering around 10 per cent of the vote.

I wonder how well the Greens would be doing if the parties of the right in B.C. did a better job of telling the electorate that the green mindset, if put into policy, would often be a heavy burden weighing down  B.C.'s voters. It would be more onerous than needing to take your mandatory "blue box" out to be collected with the garbage.

Hopefully the right will have good critiques of how "green" policies will affect the economy in time for other provincial and federal elections. While Prof. Rees has a right to his opinions, there is no need to let politicians, who might share his ideas, push on an open door.

Posted by Rick Hiebert on May 9, 2009 in Canadian Provincial Politics | Permalink


He sounds like a mouth-piece for the Green Party and Suzuki rolled into one. Both are anti-people - themselves excluded of course. Furthermore, he takes the approach that wealth is limited, and that if one takes more of the pie there is less for others. This old theory has never been proved and will never be, since it is incorrect.

That many of us are guilty of greed when it comes to wealth and consumption, I do not dispute. However, for an effective transformation to take place, it must be at the individual level and freely chosen. He however proposes nothing more than fascism in demanding that the state change people's behaviour. That has never worked in the long term.

Another problem is that students at all levels are being indoctrinated with this propaganda instead of being presented with facts and being taught critical thinking.

Posted by: Alain | 2009-05-09 8:04:53 PM

The reason ideas like those Bill Rees mentioned above get little play is that they run counter to human nature - not just western capitalism. Even in non capitalist societies humans always feel the need to work hard to survive and to push the envelope. We have not evolved to be the dominant species on this planet by being lethargic and accepting of our lot. We seek to better ourselves. That's what we do. Until people such as Mr. Rees convince people we can achieve these goals and save the planet we will continue down the same path we're on now.

Posted by: Allan Calder | 2009-05-09 9:10:05 PM

He's a socialist, ergo: Idiot.
Alain and Allan nailed it.

Posted by: JC | 2009-05-09 9:35:17 PM

Malthus said it better and earlier

Posted by: B | 2009-05-09 10:31:30 PM

We need a recession for different reasons.

Most importantly, we need it to kill off sick and obsolete companies and to "thin the herd". If only governments would keep their ****ing hands off these dying dinosaurs, we would make faster progress.

We need it to bring order to consumer debt and a negative savings rate which if allowed to persist will only make things worse.

We need it to burst the real estate and commercial real estate bubbles and bring sanity to pricing.

And we need it to create buying opportunities for smart people who can deploy resources more efficiently than idiot management previously in place.

Recessions are painful but a necessary element to maintaining a healthy economy.

And lastly, we need recessions to be thankful for what we have and for employees to be thankful for working for great companies (like mine!). A good recession every 5 years is essential.


Posted by: epsilon | 2009-05-09 10:54:24 PM

Epsi, I agree with much of the benefits you say will result from a recession. I think I have a great company too and hope my employees are as thankful as I am!

I am not so sure recessions are a natural business cycle though since they are usually created, or at least greatly magnified, by government intervention.

Opportunities are a natural part of business as demand declines in some area, or some company fails to be competitive in another area.

Posted by: TM | 2009-05-10 12:33:58 AM

Epsi those are good sentiments, but I think the root cause is government involvement in the first place. Not just in saving dying companies, but working as parasites on the healthy ones.

Posted by: JC | 2009-05-10 8:04:12 AM

Agree with all those above. Having spent nine years in municipal office, Rees, typifies far too much, the municipal planner mindset (probably taught most of them). He is obviously stuck in a seventies "limits to growth" time-warp. Local politicians are bombarded with green propaganda from many sources and since many go through the experience to further their ambitions in the provincial and federal levels, the current crop of NDP, Liberal, Green, and odd Conservative politicians reflect that "training".

As Ayn Rand said, and I paraphrase, that if you want to know what is wrong with society, look at what is taught at universities.

Posted by: John Chittick | 2009-05-10 11:45:34 AM

Sorry folks. I totally agree with the guy. We're growing way too fast, bringing in sub-standard workers, producing sub-standard products, approving sub-standard loans.

It would have been so simple to just raise interest rates, or slow down immigration, or stop issuing building permits for obviously flawed projects. Everyone just wanted to squeeze a few more drops of blood from a hemorrhaging economy.

Anyone over the age of 40 who didn't see this coming would quite likely disagree with this guy. Those of us who did see it coming have been saying pretty well what he said, word for word.

Posted by: dp | 2009-05-10 10:56:32 PM

Well dp, I understand your angle on this and it hadn't hit me that way. My wife and I are over 40 and we did see this coming. That's why we dumped every stock we owned and cashed out all rrsp's.
Its unlikely we'll participate in this system again any more than we are forced to. You see once you understand that the whole thing is a crap shoot, not based on market forces, but on the whims of international bankers, you tend to lose faith in the whole thing. And yes we are being de-industrialized and our culture and laws are being watered down so as to be unrecognizable.
Welcome to the "Brave New World". (of global communism?)

Posted by: JC | 2009-05-11 6:32:36 AM

Here's an idea. Stop printing so much money! That may slow consumption down. I, however, have a sinking feeling this fellow is trying to reduce consumption the "good ol communist" way.

Posted by: Charles | 2009-05-11 11:30:46 AM

The ‘progressives' and environmentalists seem to me to be practising an ancient religion.

However it's defined, paganism may come close, it is a form of worship that longs for a less complex time.

Could be generalizing, but seems to me it's the worship of creation without having to address the question of the creator.

Worship of rocks, trees, the planet and other inanimate objects in which human beings are cast in a role of a parasite that upsets the balance of creation.

In my understanding, there are reasons for this, which are directly tied to the deception about the nature of a loving creator.

Rocks and trees are less threatening, apparently, and Gaia is elevated to a level above human understanding.

Posted by: set you free | 2009-05-11 1:42:22 PM

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