I seem to recall having written a book about this…

This paper by Jonathan Toubol (“The Hipster Effect: When Anticonformists all Look the Same”) has been getting a lot of play yesterday and today. Setting aside all the cutesy math, the basic dynamic driving his model is, as far as I can tell, exactly the one that Andrew Potter and I described in The Rebel Sell. What I find particularly interesting is the role that delay plays in his model, since Andrew and I also argued that delayed propagation of style was a major force sustaining counterculture, again for exactly the reason that Toubol represents. This was the basis of our contention that, because cable television, and subsequently internet, significantly reduced delay in propagation, counterculture was becoming more difficult to sustain.

On his website, Toubol points out that he was not trying to make a contribution to sociological theory. So I am not faulting him in observing that there is one crucial component of the phenomenon (“anticonformists all look the same”) that he fails to explain: Why are there only two states for the population types to switch back and forth between?… Continue reading

Grandeur et misère du système québécois de services de garde à l’enfance

Contribution invitée, par Luc Turgeon, professeur adjoint à l’École d’études politiques, Université d’Ottawa

La possible modulation des tarifs pour les services de garde en fonction du revenu familial suscite la gronde. Dimanche dernier, des milliers de Québécoises et de Québécois ont d’ailleurs manifesté à travers la province pour dénoncer ce scénario présentement à l’étude par le gouvernement libéral.

Journalistes et analystes ont également critiqué avec véhémence ce projet de modulation des frais de garde. Camil Bouchard, l’un des architectes de la politique familiale québécoise, a parlé de “déconstruction tranquille” du système québécois de services de garde éducatifs. La chroniqueuse Marie-Claude Lortie a quant à elle évoqué la fin de l’universalité du programme de garderies et déploré l’intervention du gouvernement libéral dans “un système qui fonctionne”.

Il y a de bonnes raisons de s’opposer à la modulation des tarifs. On peut, en particulier, se questionner sur l’impact politique d’une telle approche. Est-ce que les plus riches, par exemple, voudront continuer à payer plus d’impôts s’ils doivent contribuer davantage aux services de garde?Continue reading

Une pause–L’actualité

Je n’ai pas contribué depuis un certain temps à IDC. J’ai commencé à bloguer sur le site Internet de L’actualité. J’ai abordé jusqu’ici des questions comme la prière à l’hôtel de ville de Saguenay, le financement des écoles privées et le dernier livre de Jean-François Lisée. Je ne sais trop ce que l’avenir me réserve. IDC est un formidable laboratoire pancanadien d’éthique et de philosophie politique appliquées. L’actualité publie du contenu de grande qualité sur son site et est une référence incontournable pour ceux qui suivent les débats politiques québécois. Je pourrai y poursuivre ma lutte pour le changement graduel qui survient au moment opportun!Continue reading

Procurement remains an unsolved problem

Interesting article in the Toronto Star today about projected delays in the opening of the Spadina subway extension in Toronto. It all comes down to procurement – apparently they went with the lowest bidder, as the public sector is often obliged to do, and now they are “getting what they paid for.” This really is the same-old same-old story, of how the various constraints that we the people put on elected officials create enormous barriers to rational public spending. (The media, it should be noted, is in this case a huge part of the problem. Only last year, the Toronto Star and other local media were harassing the TTC over another contract they had signed. The objections were totally procedural, there was no reason whatsoever for thinking that the contract was not, substantively, in the public interest.)

Anyhow, turning to today’s article:

“If you really are concerned about the public interest and you are truly concerned about tax dollars, you don’t look for the lowest bid, you look for the most intelligent,” said Councillor Maria Augimeri, who still chairs the Toronto Transit Commission.

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National Daycare? I Feel Good!

Joe recently asked “How do we feel about a national daycare program?” Unlike Joe I am not ambivalent about the NDP proposal to create a national daycare program. Indeed to quote James Brown: “I feel good!” The opportunity to have children and raise a family is highly valued by most people. Similarly, the opportunity to have a satisfying job or rewarding career is valued by most people. It reasonable for the state to adopt policies aimed at ensuring that these opportunities are available to all citizens on a reasonably equal basis. Of course, today Canadians do not enjoy anything like equal access to these opportunities. ‘Fat cats’ like Joe and me have much better access to these opportunities than most Canadians. We have the resources that permit us to readily combine our career projects and our family projects. Lots of people find it much more difficult to combine work and family.… Continue reading

Le financement des écoles privées: le dilemme des progressistes

Le gouvernement libéral contemplerait l’idée de réduire de 50% le financement des écoles privées. Si on considère généralement que 60% du financement des écoles privées subventionnées est public, un rapport récent démontre que le financement public réel du système privé atteint dans certains cas 75%. Le financement de l’éducation primaire et secondaire est un terrain de jeu idéal pour la gauche et la droite. La gauche soutient généralement que le système d’éducation doit favoriser l’égalité réelle des chances et doit, par conséquent, être universel et unique (voir le billet de Ianik Marcil ici). Puisque les écoles privées subventionnées, principalement parce qu’elles attirent les meilleurs élèves et enseignants, offrent en moyenne un meilleur enseignement et encadrement, les jeunes qui les fréquentent partent avec une longueur d’avance par rapport à ceux qui fréquentent les écoles publiques. Un système à « deux vitesses » contribue ainsi à la production des inégalités. C’est pourquoi l’État devrait mettre un terme au financement public de l’école privée.… Continue reading

It’s that time of year

The goldenrod is blooming. Many people associate this with going back to school. And it is indeed that time of year.


Personally, whenever I see goldenrod I think of Thorstein Veblen. Specifically, The Theory of the Leisure Class, where he makes the following, fantastic observation:

By further habituation to an appreciative perception of the marks of expensiveness in goods, and by habitually identifying beauty with reputability, it comes about that a beautiful article which is not expensive is accounted not beautiful. In this way it has happened, for instance, that some beautiful flowers pass conventionally for offensive weeds; others that can be cultivated with relative ease are accepted and admired by the lower middle class, who can afford no more expensive luxuries of this kind; but these varieties are rejected as vulgar by those people who are better able to pay for expensive flowers and who are educated to a higher schedule of pecuniary beauty in the florist’s products; while still other flowers, of no greater intrinsic beauty than these, are cultivated at great cost and call out much admiration from flower-lovers whose tastes have been matured under the critical guidance of a polite environment.

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La revanche des petites nations?

Lots of eyes turning toward Scotland, with a keen interest in the outcome of the Sept. 18 independence referendum. Meanwhile, an excellent Paul Krugman column, focused on the issue of Scotland keeping the pound. Key point:

In short, everything that has happened in Europe since 2009 or so has demonstrated that sharing a currency without sharing a government is very dangerous. In economics jargon, fiscal and banking integration are essential elements of an optimum currency area…

I find it mind-boggling that Scotland would consider going down this path after all that has happened in the last few years. If Scottish voters really believe that it’s safe to become a country without a currency, they have been badly misled.

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Upcoming Heath AMA on Reddit

I’m going to be doing an “ask me anything” session this Tuesday, Sept. 9, from 1-3pm (EST) for the folks on the CanadaPolitics subreddit (http://www.reddit.com/r/CanadaPolitics).

For those of you who don’t follow it, CanadaPolitics offers an excellent “curated” overview of Canadian news from multiple sources, and is ruthlessly moderated in order to ensure the highest quality discussion. I check it at least once a day, and so I’m happy to be able to give something back to the community there.

Personally, I’m having difficulty believing that anyone is going to show up for this, so if you have a chance, save me some embarrassment and come ask a question!… Continue reading

The problem with criminal justice fees

This post by Alex Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution provides useful context for understanding events in Ferguson, Missouri: Ferguson and the Modern Debtor’s Prison.

Coincidentally, it also provides useful context for understanding the recent Ontario Court of Justice decision, striking down the Harper Government’s mandatory victim surcharges as unconstitutional. Justice David Paciocco’s judgment can be found here.… Continue reading