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Why “Hard Heads, Soft Hearts”?

Canada is a wonderful country, and we’re incredibly lucky.

Yet it hasn’t been just luck. Our good fortune hasn’t happened by accident. Over the course of our history (mostly) good decisions have been made by a good many people, of all political stripes. Yet Canada can be and do so much more.

I’ve spent a lifetime interested in the policy issues affecting our country as well as the world around us. I have also been fascinated by how some policy decisions have made ours a better society, and how some have not. In more recent years, I’ve learned a great deal about why.

Most policies can only be implemented by legislative changes, which require politicians — and politics. I’ve learned first hand how politics can move good policies forward to achieve great social progress, but too often holds good ones back — and worse, results in bad decisions that take us backward.

What makes good policy? First, you need to want a more just society. If not, why bother? But then we must understand what we’re trying to improve, why it is the way it is (factual evidence and analysis), and what steps will have what consequences (more factual evidence and analysis). We need good policy that marries economic prosperity with social responsibility.

The next step requires politics. The best book I’ve read on the challenge of getting good policy through the political maze – and why too often we’ve failed — is the economist Allan Blinder’s Hard Heads, Soft Hearts – Tough-minded Economics For A Just Society (for which, with thanks to Prof. Blinder, this space is named). It was written over 20 years ago, but remains, brilliantly, the best book on how those who want a just society (we “soft hearts”) need to insist on objective, factual analysis in determining policy, and on making sometimes tough decisions in order to implement them — we need “hard heads”.

My hope is that by highlighting some of these issues, by spurring on debate about various policies — in a non-partisan, non-ideological way, insisting on objective evidence and analysis — we can help Canada achieve an even more prosperous and just society.


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