Points de vue simplistes Simple Minds


Points de vue simplistes Simple Minds
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Simple Minds
Points de vue simplistes
e are all vulnerable to what psychologist Ziva Kunda called “motivated reasoning.” We have views.
Sometimes we are strongly committed to them. And it’s easier to make evidence conform to our views than the other
way around. In a 1988 survey from the US, people who identified
as strong Democrats said inflation and unemployment —
the two big economic concerns of the era — had worsened
during the eight years of the Reagan administration. In
fact, they had greatly improved. In 1996, strong Republicans said the federal deficit had grown in the previous four
years, even though it had dramatically shrunk. Why were
these partisans so wrong? Because it depended on who was
occupying the White House. In 1988, Ronald Reagan was
finishing his second term. For a committed Democrat who
loathed Reagan, things just had to be worse. So they said
they were worse. In 1996, the president was Bill Clinton,
and it gave committed Republicans a migraine to think that
the deficit had declined on his watch. So they didn’t think
it. Problem solved.
I use these American examples because they are “neutral” for Canadians. But this is a human thing. It applies
every bit as much in our fair dominion. Consider the question “are Canadians doing better
or worse?” It is big, multifaceted and politically fraught.
Hence, it’s exactly the sort of question that invites motivated reasoning. And if you look at the narratives that have
dominated the popular media in the past few years —
simple stories of unmitigated decline and insecurity from
some, or rising prosperity from others — it’s hard not to
think that many people accepted the invitation. In this issue David Rothwell and Jennifer Robson give
serious consideration to that question and find there is no
simple tale to tell. Viewed through one lens — income —
the news is good, mostly. But look through another lens —
wealth — and the news is much bleaker. These complexities
cannot be lost if policy-makers are to respond effectively.
For me, the most heartening detail of Robson and
Rothwell’s article is the decline in poverty among seniors. It
was policy that did that — a policy that was implemented
and sustained by successive governments over decades.
Parties aren’t everything, even if partisans sometimes
think they are. n
ous pouvons tous céder à ce que la psychologue Ziva
Kunda appelait le « raisonnement motivé ». Nous avons
des convictions. Nous y tenons parfois mordicus. Et il nous est
plus facile d’adapter les faits à ces convictions que l’inverse.
Prenons cette enquête américaine de 1988. Selon des démocrates empressés, le chômage et l’inflation (les deux grands
enjeux de l’époque) avaient fortement augmenté pendant les
huit années de l’administration Reagan. En réalité, tous deux
avaient considérablement diminué. En 1996, des républicains
convaincus soutenaient pour leur part que le déficit s’était
creusé pendant les quatre années précédentes. Mais c’était tout
le contraire. Pourquoi une telle erreur d’appréciation chez ces
partisans ? Parce qu’ils ajustaient leur avis selon l’occupant
de la Maison-Blanche. Lorsque le second mandat de Ronald
­Reagan s’est achevé en 1988, les démocrates qui le détestaient
jugeaient que leur pays se portait plus mal que jamais. Et c’est
ce qu’ils ont martelé. En 1996, c’était Bill Clinton qui donnait
des maux de tête aux fervents républicains, incapables d’admettre que le déficit avait reculé sous sa présidence. Ils ont
donc nié les faits. Adieu migraines !
Ces exemples américains sembleront « neutres » aux
yeux des Canadiens. Mais ils relèvent de la nature humaine
et s’appliquent tout autant à notre bienveillant pays. Posons donc cette question : « La situation des Canadiens
s’est-elle améliorée ou détériorée ? » Le sujet est vaste, multiple
et politiquement chargé. Exactement le genre de question qui
appelle un raisonnement motivé. Face au discours des grands
médias ces dernières années — certains pointant l’insécurité et
un déclin inexorable, d’autres une prospérité croissante —, on
imagine aisément que beaucoup emprunteront cette voie. Dans leur article, David Rothwell et Jennifer Robson
étudient sérieusement cette question, sans lui trouver de
réponse toute faite. Envisagées sous l’angle des revenus, les
nouvelles sont plutôt bonnes. Mais elles s’assombrissent
quand on s’attarde au patrimoine des Canadiens. Une complexité que nos décideurs doivent prendre en compte pour
y répondre efficacement.
À mes yeux, l’aspect le plus encourageant de leur article
réside dans le recul de la pauvreté chez les aînés. Un progrès
attribuable à des politiques publiques adoptées et maintenues par tous les gouvernements des dernières décennies.
Les partis ne sont pas omnipotents, malgré les convictions de certains partisans. n
Mulroney on Canada’s failing foreign policy
Doob and Webster on post-Harper crime policy
IRPP.ORG | $7.95 | MAY-JUNE 2015 | MAI-JUIN 2015 | VOL. 36 | NO. 3
guest columnist
A conversation on the
new world of work
verything about how, when and where we work is currently undergoing a seismic shift. Disruptive technologies, automation, offshoring
and the death of the lockstep corporate career are having a ripple effect across the lives of Canadians.
We can now expect to work longer hours, retire later and function without
the certainty of a clear career path and the traditional benefits that came with an
“office” job. A 2013 joint report from the United Way and McMaster University
found that almost half the residents of southern Ontario are engaged in “precarious employment” or work in jobs that share some of the characteristics of precarious work. Across the border at the University of California, Berkeley, economist Robert Reich, a former labour secretary, predicts that by 2020 more than 40
percent of the US workforce will be made up of “contingent workers.”
Yes, this change is primarily about how Canadians earn a living both today
and in the years ahead. But it’s also challenging all the frameworks we have collectively come to take for granted for how our professional and personal lives will
It’s a shift that will impact home ownership, the decision to have children
and retirement. But it’s also about the element of chance in the daily structure of
our lives and expectations. A stable office life provided community, support networks, knowledge upgrades, daily structure and purpose. Odds are that for many
of us, the changes will be incredibly stressful and unnerving.
Over the next few months, I’ll regularly be interviewing policy actors from
many sectors about the following question: What ideas, changes, programs or
Reva Seth is the author of two nonfiction books and a speaker,
consultant and features writer. If you have a suggestion for
someone she should speak to, contact her on Twitter @RevaSeth.
guest columnist
suggestions do you have for helping the greatest number of
Canadians to positively navigate these uncertain times?
To kick it off, I’m talking to Rana Sarkar, who is senior
fellow at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global
Affairs, about his popular lecture “Whatever Happened to
My So-Called Career?” Rana has been giving updated versions of this talk regularly over the past 15 years at the London School of Economics, the Cass Business School and,
most recently, the Munk School. I first met Rana when I started talking to him at a party
about my own career questions. I married him seven dates
later and have been discussing this topic (and my own
issues) since then. Seth: So, I’m starting with you, not just for ease of
access, but because it was when I first heard the W
talk that I really became aware of just how narrow my
understanding of how a successful career would or should
happen really was. Where did the talk come from and
how would you sum up the main ideas? What do you want
people to take away from it?
Sarkar: It started as a way of providing context and hopefully some coping tools for the private anxieties we saw with
students by unpacking the “career of the career” and looking
at the “weirding of work,” given tech and social change. We looked at different frames for approaching work across
time, digging into older notions of “vocation” and “livelihood”
and how they are not the same. We also take on the idea of
a linear career (which was useful in the industrial age but
counterproductive today) and its powerful cultural overhang,
which often stokes up a lot of fear and guilt of not getting “on
track” or “measuring up,” which holds people and organizations back from developing the skills to be successful today. There is a dissonance between the existence of the social (and often parental!) expectation that one mitigate risk
by burrowing into something “safe” like a bureaucratic job,
and the fact this job might in the end be risky, given the
changed world people are coping with. We also saw in London between the 1990s recession and
the first dot-com, our students were torn between trying to
break into bureaucracies or global institutions, which were hiring shy, and what they saw around the corner in nimble startups, creative businesses and NGOs, which all worked in very
different and often more appealing tech and flex-enabled ways. The big take-away was you are not alone. This change is
structural and not personal, and if you understand the new
rules, build flexible skills and attitudes, manage “new” risks
and expectations (and your parents’!), the new world of work
can also be exciting. Giving yourself permission to experiment
and iterate is key. There are also lessons for firms and government — to become more nimble and not just push the burden
onto individuals during this economy-wide transition.
Seth: In terms of the current discussion on income
inequality, the shrinking middle class and the rise of precarious employment, what is the best career advice you
would give someone struggling to navigate this landscape?
Sarkar: The middle is no longer safe. A product of
economic transition is polarity. It’s going to take time for
policy or employers to adjust, so you can’t expect much
from them in the short term. In the meantime individuals, particularly those at risk
of being shunted to the bottom, should get informed on
what’s changing (the new rules of work) and what’s next. You should develop your own risk mitigation tools,
including financial literacy (your job and your livelihood
need not be the same thing); building a tribe of supporters;
mentors; and of, course, the relevant market skills: managing networks and learning how to learn more efficiently. Be wary of over-relying on the advice of those
well-meaning folks ahead of you, because the terrain has
shifted. The traditional middle classes are learning what
precarious workers have always known: having multiple
oars in the water isn’t a sign of being indecisive but a
form of insurance and learning. They say, “Don’t let your
schooling get in the way of your education, but also, don’t
let your day job get in the way of your career.” Seth: And what is the best policy nudge to help them?
And why?
Sarkar: Too much of our frame of public policy implicitly assumes a world of “standard” employment, much the
same way neoclassical economists assume “rational” behaviour: paycheque-based incentives, while many people don’t
get regular paycheque. We need to think beyond the firm
and move to incentives based on real behaviour. One aspect
of policy needs to help workers (outside or inside the firm)
manage their time and budget in more predictable ways.
This means better line, of sight into hours (for child-care
planning, for example) and schedules (for instance, to allow
for holidays for temp workers). We also need to restart the
conversation around a simplified income floor or guaranteed
annual income.
Seth: A critique of the current set-up is that the people
exploring policy solutions or programs are the tenured professors or full-benefit senior bureaucrats, the last bastion of
people sheltered from this economic shift. Do you think that’s
fair or true? And if so, what would you say to them? Sarkar: That’s likely true — it’s often difficult to feel
how fast other parts of the economy are moving (despite
reading a lot), but I expect it’s almost impossible to be
completely sheltered, as people learn a lot from their children and other family experiences. Part of this story is
also generational. I don’t think there are too many people
under 35, even in government towns, whose friends aren’t
on the front line of this economic shift. Seth: Based on where you see the trends shaping the
future of work, what are you going to encourage your
three boys to grow up and be?
Sarkar: Try many things in parallel, don’t treat your
job as your financial plan, and learn how to learn. Grow
friendships, be helpful and take on causes bigger than you. Use the transition to think big and think global. n