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William Watson

Professor of economics at McGill University, editor of Policy Options published by the Institute for Research on Public Policy, columnist for the National Post and others, former editorial pages editor of the Ottawa Citizen, winner of the National Magazine Award Gold Medal for Humour, author of Globalization and the Meaning of Canadian Life (1998, University of Toronto Press)


[Adam] Smith wrote: "Consumption is the sole end and purpose of all production; and the interest of the producer ought to be attended to, only so far as it may be necessary for promoting that of the consumer. The maxim is so self-evident that it would be absurd to attempt to prove it. But in the mercantile system, the interest of the consumer is almost constantly sacrificed to that of the producer; and it seems to consider production, and not consumption, as the ultimate end and object of all industry and commerce." Has anyone ever written a better description of the philosophy that drives Canada's politico-cultural complex?

Jun. 23, 2001 - from "The culture of mercantilism", published in the National Post
When late-20th-century interventionists argue that big government and comprehensive social policies are part of Canadian tradition, they mainly betray their belief that Canadian tradition starts sometime in the 1960s. True, they may dip back to the 1880s to cite public financing of the Canadian Pacific Rail as justification for today's interventionist nostrums. But if, inconveniently, the first 75 years of Confederation were typified by general public approval for the idea that people should not become dependent on the state and instead be self-reliant, that part of the Canadian experience is quietly erased from our historical memory. In fact, though pre-Depression notions about social policy may or may not be worthy of emulation, they are inescapably part of our tradition.

Jul. 1999 - from "Canada's hidden history", published in The Next City Magazine
That true justice may not consist of treating absolutely everyone alike used to be widely understood. Now, discrimination is evil, pure and simple, and anyone carrying human DNA must have the same "rights" as anyone else with such DNA.

Feb. 15, 2000 - from "To Spank or Not to Spank", published in The Gazette, republished in Reader's Digest (April 2000)
[Commenting on the 1999 federal budget by Liberal Finance Minister Paul Martin, in which a projected $11.7 billion surplus evaporated in an orgy of spending] ... more than anything else [the budget] has cinched our finance minister's reputation for being as slick with the truth about money as Bill Clinton is with the truth about sex.

Feb. 26, 1999 - from a column in the National Post
... studies reveal that most child abusers start with spanking. Of course, most heroin users begin wth marijuana and most rapists have read Playboy, though the overwhelming majority of those who smoke marijuana or read Playboy do not suffer the above fates. The Criminal Code currently reads as follows: "Every schoolteacher, parent or person standing in the place of a parent is justified in using force by way of correction towards a pupil or child ... if the force does not exceed what is reasonable under the circumstances." That seems perfectly sensible. Let's leave the law as it is.

Feb. 15, 2000 - from "To Spank or Not to Spank", published in The Gazette, republished in Reader's Digest (April 2000)
Our 'social policy railway,' if that really is what holds us together, is a very recent construction.

Jul. 1999 - from "Canada's hidden history", published in The Next City Magazine