Harperism

How Stephen Harper and his think tank colleagues have transformed Canada

by Donald Gutstein

The thinkers and ideas that brough Reaganism and Thatcherism to Canada today

Margaret Thatcher transformed British political life forever. So did Ronald Reagan in the United States. Now Canada has experienced a similar, dramatic shift to a new kind of politics, which author Donald Gustein terms Harperism. Among its key tenets:

  • A weakened labour movement--and preferably the disappearance of unions--will contribute to Canada's economic prosperity
  • Cutting back government scientific research and data collection will improve public policy-making
  • Eliminating First Nations reserves by converting them to private property will improve conditions of life for aboriginal peoples
  • Inequality of incomes and wealth is a good thing--and Canada needs more of it

These and other essential elements of Harperism flow from neo-liberal economic theories propounded by the Austrian economist Friedrich von Hayek and his U.S. disciples. They inspired Thatcherism and Reaganism. Stephen Harper has taken this neo-liberalism much further in many key areas. As Donald Gutstein shows, Harper has successfully used a strategy of incremental change coupled with denial of the underlying neo-liberal analysis that explains these hard-to-understand measures.

The success of Harperism is no accident. Donald Gutstein documents the links between the politicians, think tanks, journalists, academics, and researchers who nurture and promote each other's neo-liberal ideas. They do so using funds provided by ultra-rich U.S. donors, by Canadian billionaires like Peter Munk, and by many big corporations--all of whom stand to gain from the ideas and policies the Harperites develop and push.

This book casts new light on the last ten years of Canadian politics. It documents the challenges that Harperism--with or without Stephen Harper--will continue to offer to the many Canadians who do not share this pro-market world view.

About the Author

DONALD GUTSTEIN has written four books on the links between large corporations, politics, and the media. His previous book, Not A Conspiracy Theory, is a history of the Fraser Institute and other think tanks. Gutstein writes for The Tyee, Georgia Straight, and rabble.ca. He is an adjunct professor in the School of Communication at Simon Fraser University and co-director of NewsWatch Canada, a media-monitoring project in the school. He lives in Vancouver.

Reviews

"What causes dramatic changes in political culture? Historic events, powerful leaders or breakthroughs in science and technology form the basis on many. But in the age of globalization, the internet and information overload, there are also more subtle and incremental ways to effect change. Harperism connects the dots by drawing a line between the free market philosophy espoused by Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman and the global phenomenon of conservative think tanks. Gutstein argues that the dotted line leads all the way to the change in political culture that encouraged nearly 40 percent of Canadians to vote for the most conservative prime minister in Canadian history."
Beth Haddon,, Literary Review of Canada
"Harperism has been published months ahead of what is quite possibly the most important federal election ever... [It is essential reading. Understanding its central thesis is important to every voter, including the mistaken 30+% who think they are supporting conservatism, not liberalism. And it should be mandatory reading for anyone planning to not cast their precious ballot. It offers scary motivation, indeed, for all Canadians to get to the polls this fall."
Bruce Mason,, Common Ground
"Engaging...Gutsteins most important observation for the future is that other countries that have endured comparable regimes the U.K. under Thatcher; the U.S. under Regan and Bush, Sr. did not see neoliberal policies reversed by the centrist administration that followed."
Dan Rowe,, Quill & Quire

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