Staples Thesis Canada

More importantly, many of those “ifs” in the staples thesis narrative don’t fit the data.Or perhaps it’s better to say that they fit too many data points, and not just the resources sector.We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful.

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And if the profits from resource exports are captured by foreign investors, then commodity exporters would have very little to show for their natural wealth.

Such an economy would be caught in a “staples trap,” unable to export anything but resources, and unable to use resource export revenues to finance economic development.

This question — asked by Simon Fraser University’s Nancy Olewiler in the lead article of the latest issue of the Canadian Journal of Economics — is more controversial than it sounds.

Harold Innis may not be a household name today, but he was one of Canada’s most influential economists in the 1930s and 1940s, and he’s still honoured for his role in establishing many of the institutions supporting economic research in Canada.

There are many “ifs” in that paragraph, but these themes have resonated for decades in Canadian public policy debates.

They’ve also been used to make the case for encouraging manufacturing over resources. — these measures amount to little more than pork-barrel pandering to a populous province with an important manufacturing sector, that’s not what Innis had in mind.

Perhaps more to the point, Innis is credited with developing the “staples thesis” of economic development, a class of arguments warning of the dangers of relying on natural resource wealth — “staples” — as a driver of economic growth.

The fact that the staples thesis was never developed in a formal axiomatic framework — this is why it’s called a “thesis” instead of a theory — was not considered to be a fatal flaw in Innis’ time, and it continued as a basis for an active branch of Canadian scholarship after his death in 1952.

This won’t settle the debate, of course; the manufacturing sector continues to have a powerful hold on the imaginations of non-economists — and of politicians.

But it’s still a point worth remembering: even the best of us can get things wrong.


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