The “Canadian Economy?”

Following my last post where I look at Statistic Canada’s analysis of intergenerational income in Canada without coming to any conclusions, today, I intend to make one specific point. That point also relates to a Statistics Canada post today on labour productivity in Canada.

The point I want to make has already been make frequently enough. Harold Innis, the pre-eminent political economist who worked at the University of Toronto and who died in 1952 and his mentor and predecessor, Thorstein Veblen, the even more pre-eminent economic historian who taught in various American universities and who died in 1929 both in their own ways decried the use of statistics on a purely national basis. The transnational nature of corporate power and control has been studied carefully by scores of scholars over the decades. See in particular the work of William Carroll at UVic and the network of scholars with whom he is associated worldwide. In my own dissertation (1981) I argued following Innis that the weather doesn’t stop at national borders, nor should statistical analysis.

In an age where corporations are spread all over the globe and where a head office may be in one country, research and development in a couple of others and commodity production in several others, how does it make sense to talk about the ‘Canadian’ economy? If StatsCan wants to get with the times it needs to begin to follow corporations in the various parts of their businesses wherever they happen to be. It’s telling that the former Canadian Manufacturers’ Association is now the Canadian Manufacturers’ and Exporters Association. With the massive reductions in value-added production in Canada over the past half century, the concept of ‘Canadian’ manufacturing is losing its relevance. This is even more true when we consider that the extractive industries in Canada, especially in the petroleum industries are 95% under foreign control.

There is no such thing as the Canadian economy. The sooner we accept that and change our patterns of gathering data the sooner we will get an accurate picture of the global reality of ‘the economy.’ Of course Statistics Canada is there to serve the Canadian government so it’s by it’s very nature political. Harold Innis warned decades ago that scholars should not let politicians lead them around by the nose. It seems like that’s exactly what has happened for a long time now and is still the driving force of data collection in StatsCan.

I deal with this topic in several posts. Check my archives for more.

4 thoughts on “The “Canadian Economy?”

  1. While I agree that the gathering of statistical data should be as comprehensive as possible, in this case, global, it is beyond the mandate, if not the capability of STATSCAN to do so. Politicians are elected within a sovereign territory by their fellow citizens. Their ability to affect global economic phenomena is extremely limited at best. They can however, aided by servile mass media, give the illusion that they are in control of elements within a “Canadian economy” and thereby benefit from the kudos when it does well [usually they blame someone or something when it goes negative]. And the average citizen themselves are not very knowledgeable or interested in the interconnectedness of global capitalism, only how they and theirs can prosper within it. Lambs to the slaughter?!


    1. Forgive me for being cynical, but voting has very little to do with political power or sovereignty. Dan Hinman-Smith had a bit of a debate about the nature of the nation and its origins. I argue that nations (as in nation-states rather than nationalities) arose because of the needs of industrial commodity production. There are exceptions, of course, but in Europe, modern countries with the bourgeoisie in control made it so that commodities and labour could be controlled and more available to capitalist producers in centralized locations in urban areas. The bourgeoisie is in charge no matter whether the masses vote or not. Lambs to the slaughter indeed!


    1. Posner’s approach here could be a way for Trump to prove that he is on the side of the working class. I’m wondering, however, about the legal distinction between investor and owner. I’m assuming that if I own 10% of Apple shares that I own 10% of the company. If I own 51% of the shares I also control the company. If that’s the case then the monopoly situation in the US is much more serious than I even imagined. The companies mentioned in this article, while extremely powerful, are not known to most Americans. After all, their names are not all over products on market shelves.


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