Economics is a topic that sends many of us running out of the room for another cup of coffee. Knowing how money works, how money systems are structured, who controls them and how — that’s part of it. It’s also about “markets” — who produces what products, goods and services, in what parts of the world, and the systems that get those products from Point A to Point B — AHAH! CAUGHT YOU drifting away, wondering what’s on TV.
But there is one thing we, as people with disabilities and people who care about them, do know and care about: poverty. Who is poor and who is rich and why? What are the mechanisms that increase inequality vs. mechanisms that can work to decrease inequality? Economics can study that (which is not to say all economists prioritize it!). Of course there are also questions about how people who are disabled but NOT poor find their places within the overall system, and what is the nature of the oppression that they suffer? Because they too suffer from ableism, sexism, racism, etc.
Capitalism rules in our part of the world, and although theoretically, hard work and determination can bring money flowing in to everyone equally, we know that in practice, it doesn’t work that way. Under unregulated capitalism, where folks with money can grow it through investments and exploitation of workers, wealthy folks get wealthier, the state-sponsored safety net (if any) crumbles for lack of funds, and the poor, as they say, just get poorer.
Regulated capitalism recognizes some rules and limits, and the need to distribute wealth more equitably. But rule-writing is a political process, and enforcement of rules may be lax or variable according to who holds power at any given moment in the political sphere. People with disabilities, for example, have recognized rights under the human rights commissions of every province and territory as well as the federal system, but enforcement is weak and economic rights are considered “aspirational” rather than enforceable. (In other words, “in your dreams!”)
Communism rules in China and used to rule in Russia. Inequality in both places brewed under totalitarian leadership. Elite populations of both of those countries have more or less abandoned communism to experiment with the benefits of capital stolen from “collective ownership” and privatized, sowing seeds of oligarchy for the upper classes, while the concept of collectivity is still used to explain oppression to the general population.
Hannah Arendt, a philosopher referred to on the Philosophy page, had thoughts about economics as well. If you have 15 minutes, you might enjoy this video on The Banality of Evil, and how a failure in philosophy leads to a failure in economics as well, reducing Homo sapiens to homo economicus, or people who work to live, and live to work, with little engagement in politics or the moral life of their country.
And what does all of this have to do with Canada’s MAiD regime? Well, please have a look at this report from the Nova Scotia Advocate.
The Parliamentary Budget Office spells it out for us: “The projected gross reduction in health care costs amounts to $109.2 million while the cost of administering MAID is estimated at $22.3 million. Thus, the difference between the two represents a net reduction in cost of $86.9 million.” Oh, but those savings don’t explain our enthusiasm — certainly not!!
But here’s the CMA (back in 2017!) echoing the message: this is going to save our system a TON of money!! And that was just the first iteration (C-14 in 2016), not to mention C-7, then the C-7 expansion.
The Canadian Human Rights Commission declared that “MAID cannot be an answer to systemic inequality.” Social and economic rights are fundamental human rights, according to the United Nations. Canada is a signatory to this international law, as is every province and territory. You will find more on this in The Law Office.