17 October 2006

On bullshit

American philosopher Harry Frankfurt (left) wrote a scholarly essay several years ago on the subject of bullshit. Frankfurt noted that while it was so prevalent in society no one seems to have spent any time trying to figure out what it is and what it appears to be increasing over time.
Bullshit is unavoidable whenever circumstances require someone to talk without knowing what he is talking about.
Amen Brother Harry.

For the record:

1. It has been claimed publicly that our oil and gas is not included in Equalization.

2. Of course it is, as the talk show maven admits on her own rant-pile blog, now she has had the chance to scramble around and look up the facts or clarify her remarks. This wouldn't be the first time she has stated something categorically and then acknowledged later that she knew the difference between what she said and what the facts were.

3. Offshore oil and gas is considered as a category all on its own. 100% of the amount is included in the Equalization calculation and is then offset by the Atlantic Accord and the January 2005 deal.

4. Oil and gas revenues in other provinces are assessed differently. One of the consequences of that approach is that the different rates of taxation or rental applied to those revenues is used to determine the national rate for the purposes of figuring out how much of a top-up provinces get.

5. To cut a long story short, this leads to one of the problems in the existing formula whereby a province that undertaxes its resources gets penalized in the calculation and the province that over taxes gets a perverse bonus. The Equalization entitlement is based not the actual rate but on the estimated national average rate. One of the more interesting recommendations of the O'Brien panel was that Equalization be calculated based on actual revenues, not estimates.

6. As for excluding 50% of hydro revenues - for example - as recommended by the O'Brien panel, we have an interesting suggestion worthy of thought. The approach would provide fairness and consistency across the country and eliminate as much as possible the patchwork of special deals that benefit one province but not another in essentially the same circumstance. Some of those adjustments, as in the 1982 change affecting Upper Churchill revenues, work to Newfoundland and Labrador's benefit. Under no circumstances should we dismiss out of hand a potential change that would accomplish the same purpose or that would level the playing field for all provinces.

7. One of the impacts of including all revenue sources for provinces is that it encourages provinces to be more responsible in their spending. On the face of it, there is no reason for any province to get the ability to earn revenue from any resource, spend the revenue and then receive transfers from Ottawa as well.

8. Newfoundland and Labrador remains one of the few if not the only jurisdictions with non-renewable resources that has not created some sort of fund to bank a portion of the revenue from resource exploitation for longer-term benefit. The province hasn't been in that situation because it has been shafted by some foreign exploiter. That's a convenient excuse used by some current and former provincial politicians to excuse their decisions. The current situation in this province just reflects the sort of attitude that Newfoundland and Labrador does not need to be self-reliant in the true sense of the word. We need to extort more cash from Canada either as reparations - in the case of the pseudo-nationalists and those in the province who regard us as being nothing more than dumb newfs - or, as in the case of Danny Williams, as some matter of inherent entitlement.

Ask not what you can do for your country, indeed.

No matter how you slice it, there is no question that Harry Frankfurt got it right:

One of the most salient aspects of our public discourse is the prevalence of bullshit.