Novelty is a quality much prized in politics nowadays for reasons that I confess escape me. Pick up any government budget and you’ll be subjected to dozens of pages of boasting about the new things the administration has done. NDP, Liberal, Tory, it makes no difference. And when candidates are asked for ideas, what people generally mean, and what they generally get if they get anything, is proposals for policy innovation not a statement of timeless truths that should guide us out of the swamp and back to solid ground.
For instance Marc Garneau, who has been trying to gain traction in the federal Liberal leadership race by accusing Justin Trudeau of lacking specifics (with some justice), recently unveiled a major proposal: Force the CRTC to force Internet service providers “to ensure all Canadians have access to affordable high-speed Internet”. Which puts me in mind of Samuel Johnson’s old jibe that “Your manuscript is both good and original; but the parts that are good are not original, and the parts that are original are not good.”
To suggest that the Internet is useful is a good point. But hardly original. To imply that the phenomenal growth of the Internet, the profusion of devices like the iPad and the smartphone, either have been driven by government insistence on equality or would have worked out better, faster, if they had been is certainly unusual but hardly sound. And to suggest that today, when kids are about as familiar with the “pshsht pshsht boing boing” of the 14k modem as they are with the mechanical cash register sound at the start of the Pink Floyd song “Money” and take streaming of movies for granted, government really needs to boot the private sector in the rear end to get busy making this darn interweb thing work fast, is certainly original. But good? Hoo hah!
Or am I too hard on him? Is having government direct economic dynamism an idea as stale as it is bad?