Neo-liberalism: trickle-down, deregulating, deunionizing, globalizing free market privatization of government. When Stephen Harper was studying under the “Calgary school” in the 80’s, he became so enamored with the neo-liberalism of Austrian philosopher Friedrich von Hayek — guru to Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, the Chicago boys, the IMF, and the WTO — it formed the basis of his 1991 political economics thesis.
Why, wondered Harper at the time, did the conservative revolution of Thatcher and Reagan bypass Canada and what could be done about it? Happily, the Mont Pelerin Society — founded by Hayek and Milton Friedman of the Chicago School, and featuring Charles Koch CEO of Koch Industries as a board member — was there to help, founding and funding a plethora of free market think tanks in Canada via the corporate-funded neo-liberal prototype, the Institute of Economic Affairs in London UK.
The Charles Koch Foundation on their Fraser Institute grant funding page:
“Since its inception twenty-five years ago at a series of conferences hosted by Milton Friedman and Michael Walker [executive director of the Fraser Institute from its inception in 1974], the Economic Freedom of the World Index has been used as a reliable measure of economic freedom in countries around the world.”
As Donald Gutstein explains in Harperism: How Stephen Harper and his think tank colleagues have transformed Canada, this transformation was achieved through what Hayek called “professional second-hand dealers” — “newspaper columnists and editorial writers who parrot reports by neoliberal think tanks such as the Fraser Institute, Macdonald-Laurier Institute, Frontier Centre for Public Policy, Montreal Economic Institute, and Atlantic Institute for Market Studies.”
As it happens, the heads of all those think tanks he mentions . . .
- Michael Walker, founding Senior Fellow of the Fraser Institute;
- Brian Lee Crowley, founding President of Atlantic Institute for Market Studies [Atlantica!!!], and Managing Director of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute;
- Peter Holle, President of the Frontier Centre for Public Policy;
- Michel Kelly Gagnon, CEO of the Montreal Economic Institute
. . . are themselves all members of the Mont Pelerin Society. Funding to link think tanks, politicians, and journalists comes from corporations and U.S. donors, but also Canadian billionaires like Peter Munk of Barrick Gold and his Aurea Foundation. From DeSmogBlog:
The Aurea Foundation was founded by Peter Munk, the head of Barrick Gold, and is a major funder of a small but influential network of free-market think tanks in Canada, including: The Fraser Institute, the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, the Frontier Center for Public Policy, the Montreal Economic Institute and the MacDonald Laurier Institute.
Gosh, same bunch again. National Post columnist/CBC political analyst/Manning Centre for Democracy advisor Andrew Coyne is a director at Aurea Foundation, along with former National Post editor Ken Whyte and, up until he became Stephen Harper’s chief of staff, Nigel Wright. Hayek devotee, former advisor at the federal Department of Finance in 2007-8, and Coyne’s friend, Brian Lee Crowley of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute is also particularly ubiquitous in promedia. Crowley has written regular columns for the Ottawa Citizen and G&M (where he spent two years on the editorial board) expounding on subjects dear to Harper: Why all of Canada benefits from the tarsands, why we need more foreign investment, the benefits of two-tier healthcare and tankers off the westcoast, and why inequality is no biggie because poverty is a matter of character.
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty hosted a private fund-raising dinner for Macdonald-Laurier Institute, advising invited corporate executives that he was giving MLI his personal backing and “I hope you will consider doing the same.” Charlie Smith at the Georgia Straight interviewed Gutstein two days ago:
“Gutstein makes the case that neoliberalism is far more sinister than simply having a desire for smaller government. A central tenet of his new book is that Harper is undermining democracy by marshalling the power of government to create and enforce markets where they’ve never existed before.
“He’s gradually moving the country from one that’s based on democracy to one that’s based on the market, which means that the decisions are not made by our duly elected representatives through the laws that they pass and the regulations that they enact,” Gutstein says.”
You can buy Harperism directly from Lorimer Publishing. A book launch with expert panel on issues raised by the book and hosted by the author happens this evening, Wednesday October 8, 5:30 to 7:30pm at SFU Harbour Centre.