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Book excerpt: A Nation of Serfs?

From Chapter 9: Myth: Governments are not as corrupt as Enron Fact: Enron, meet Adscam

Mark Milke - September 7, 2006

The following is an excerpt from:





A Nation of Serfs?: How Canada's Political Culture Corrupts Canadian Values
by Mark Milke
272 pages , $26.99
Published by John Wiley & Sons, 2006


Chapter 9: Myth: Governments are not as corrupt as Enron Fact: Enron, meet Adscam

"If the headlines show us anything, it is that the greed and cooked books of the corporate world are no substitute for public services."
Jack Layton, speaking then as a candidate for federal New Democrat leader, on the Enron scandal, in 2002.

"The Auditor General is obviously dismayed to learn that Public Works and Government Services Canada agreed to pay fees and commissions to communications agencies for their services in transferring funds from one department or agency of the Government to another, with little in the way of work or services required other than the transmission of a cheque."
Auditor General Sheila Fraser, as cited by Justice John Gomery in
his report on the sponsorship program scandal, in 2005.

The politicians get lucky

If there was ever a case of a misplaced superiority complex, it came in the triumphal crowing over revelations of accounting shenanigans and fraud in the business world. Shortly after the Enron-WorldCom corporate scandals broke in the United States, Jack Layton, then running to become federal New Democratic Party leader, asserted that "the greed and cooked books of the corporate world are no substitute for public services."

Canadian Labour Congress president Ken Georgetti predicted the CEO scandals would revive the moribund labour movement. Some in the media also chirped in. In a column entitled "Activist government becomes relevant again," Ottawa Citizen columnist Susan Delacourt observed that "It is suddenly the job of the public sector to restore the confidence eroded by the private sector."

Closer observers noticed that the most that could be said about Western government since the 1980s, including Canada's, was that they finally stopped a few of the more glaring, unwise interventions from earlier decades--say, running airline, oil and telephone companies. Other than that, judging by the taxes, regulations and multiple other interventions, government activism never caught a flu, much less died; thus, a pronouncement about its glorious resurrection was unnecessary.

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