Conservatives can increase chances by decreasing happiness

The antics of some Conservative leadership hopefuls are pathetic. Chris Alexander at a rally bobs his head in rhythm to the chants “lock her up” in reference to Premier Rachel Notley, tone deaf to the toxic implications; Kellie Leitch calls for immigrants to be tested for “Canadian Values” even though no such test exists and if it did, she would probably fail.

Huffington Post

Huffington Post

Trump-style populism into will not succeed because Canadians are not ripe for such politics –we need more inequality and the resultant unhappiness for this approach to work.

Inequality creates a sense of injustice and anger that manifests itself in a variety of ways. Jan-Emmanuel De Neve and Nattavudh Powdthavee researched the effects of inequality for the Harvard Business Review (January, 2016). They found that anger and stress increased in countries where the richest 1 per cent controlled the greatest share of wealth.

“In societies where the richest hold most of the country’s income, people were more likely to report feeling ‘stressed,’ ‘worried,’ or ‘angry’ on the day before the survey.”

Angry politicians appeal to angry voters. Trump’s anger is what propelled him into power; that’s why his racist and misogynistic views were largely overlooked. He was as mad as hell and wasn’t going to take it any more.

It’s not just anger that is affected. As anger went up, life satisfaction went down.

“We examined data from the Gallup World Poll and the World Top Incomes Database and found that the more income is concentrated in the hands of a few, the more likely individuals are to report lower levels of life satisfaction and more negative daily emotional experiences.”

Life satisfaction exacerbates unemployment. For every 1 per cent increase in the share of income of the top 1 per cent, unemployment rises by 1.4 per cent. There are a couple of factors involved –exporting jobs to areas of cheap labour increases profits; unhappy workers tend to be less productive, take longer sick leaves, and quit their jobs.

At the other end of the scale, greater wealth also creates unhappiness. Nobel laureates Daniel Kahneman and Angus Deaton calculated that day-to-day happiness peaks at an income of $75,000 a year, after which it plateaus. Inequality creates unhappiness at both ends of the wealth spectrum.

Canada is the sixth most happy country in the world according to the World Happiness Report behind the Scandinavian countries but ahead of the U.S. at thirteenth. Can you guess how these counties rank in equality? Right, the Scandinavian countries are the most equal followed by Canada and then the U.S.

Inequality is rising fastest in the U.S. where the top 1 per cent increased their wealth from 8 per cent of total wealth to 19 per cent in just thirty years (Scientific American, September, 2016).

Equality and satisfaction of life can be increased, and anger reduced, through fair taxes and benefits to the poor: like minimum wages, child care, job security, employment insurance, and an affordable education.

Conservative leadership hopefuls can increase their chances by increasing inequality and decreasing the happiness of Canadians by lowering taxes, increasing tuition, resisting wage hikes, and reducing job security.

Trudeau stands tall above the nostalgia surrounding the ’60s

I had been travelling outside of Canada for a year, and living in England when I first heard of the hippies.  There was lots of talk in 1966 about this new movement coming out of California.  Something was happening, that was for sure.  Young Londoners were strutting their stuff  in colourfully patched jeans and beads.  The Beatles were doing their part.

flower power

The optimism of the hippie movement was palpable.  There was a sense that if you just dropped out and turned on, a new social order could be established.  The hippies  were high on  human kindness and certain herbs.

We were cool. No reason to get uptight.  We were going solve the world’s problems through love and peace.  Flower power would prevail.  It was the dawning of the  age of Aquarius.

Back in Canada, the focus of the world was on Canada and Expo 67. When I arrived  in Montreal, the mood of the country was euphoric.  It was Canada’s one-hundredth birthday and it really did seem that the twentieth century belonged  to us.

When Prime Minister Trudeau was elected the following year, in 1968, his style matched the mood of the country.  He seemed to embody anti-establishment hippie ideals.  The flamboyant outfits, the irreverent attitude, the idealistic  talk of justice — it all fit into the new order.   Canada was a country where exciting, cool things were happening.

Trudeaumania swept the country.  It didn’t seem unusual at all that he was being greeted as a pop star.  The universe was unfolding as it should.  Trudeau was like no other politician.  He was an outsider who came to politics to claim the country for the Canadians.

The meeting of Trudeau with John Lennon and Yoko Ono in Montreal was a hippie summit.  When John and Yoko held their “bed-in” in a Montreal hotel and they  sang “give peace a chance” I thought, why not?  We had been giving war a chance for long enough.

But Trudeau was no hippie, as we saw during his implementation of the  War Measures Act in November, 1970.   Flowers thrown in front of the tanks that rumbled through Montreal would have been crushed.  The hippie was just one of Trudeau’s incarnations, along with the Gunslinger and the Philosopher King.   He governed with an iron hand and became what Canada needed most for those turbulent times.  — a forceful Prime Minister with a clear vision of Canada.

The problem with the hippie movement was that although it had fuzzy, warm intentions, there was no plan, no prominent  voice.  Unlike the beatniks, who had poet-leaders like Jack Kerouac, the hippie movement was leaderless.  Rock stars sang about hippie ideals but most of them burnt out quickly.

John Lennon sank into a drug stupor from which he would not awaken from for more than decade.  He re-emerged only to be shot to death by Mark Chapman, a former mental patient.  Other musicians who had inspired the hippies died from drug overdoses.  The hippie ideals of love, peace, and cosmic consciousness through chemicals, were soon replaced by the philistine rant of  sex, drugs and rock-and-roll.

The hippie movement was an example of what happens when earnest reformers try to eliminate too much social order. “When starting from zero, they jettison basic social practices and institutions, abandon common routines, and defy common sense, reason, conventional wisdom–and, sometimes, sanity itself”, says writer Christina Hoff Sommers.

The hippie movement was not a complete bust.  The spiritual children of the hippies are leading a movement so new that it has yet to be named.  They are raising new global consciousness with demonstrations against the World Trade Organization and World Bank.  Maybe the new counterculture will have learned from the self-destructive hippie movement.  Maybe they rise phoenix-like from the ashes of the old movement.

The euphoria of the late 1960’s didn’t last long, but for a while I naively thought that the ideals of brotherhood and peace could really change the world.  Now, in sad reflection, it all seems quaint and anachronistic.  History will prove Trudeau’s legacy to be much more durable — the man stands tall above the nostalgia.