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History Table of Contents
1992 Summer Conference
Summer Conference 1992
Competitiveness and Social Justice: How Can Canada Have Both?

President’s Introductory Remarks

JOHN GIBSON, President, CIPA, 1990–1992

The purpose of Couchiching, these 61 years, has been to promote a non-partisan, unbiased exchange of ideas on the issue of the day so that each participant becomes better equipped to form his or her own opinion; hoping in the process to become a better informed citizen. In the cynical world of the 1990’s, such an exercise may seem trite and lacking in concrete purpose.

History, however, has shown us the consequences of lofty ideas left unchallenged. Our keynote speaker, who has written on the consequences of economic ideas, has often made reference to John Maynard Keynes in this light "Practical men", says Keynes "who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slave of some defunct economist."

This year’s conference theme Economic Competitiveness and Social Justice: How Can Canada Have Both? came to us from Ontario Premier, Bob Rae, who was a Guest of Honour at a Toronto reception we held last year to mark Couchiching’s 60th anniversary. It was the premier’s view that too often in mainstream discussion, competitiveness and social justice are treated as two separate debates.

While the "competitive-types" harp on about efficiency and productivity with little regard for social consequences, the social justice crowd are preoccupied with righting all the world’s wrongs without much consideration of who will pay. The notion was that Couchiching could provide a neutral platform for these viewpoints to be debated jointly; each side would be forced by the other to address those gaping omissions in their arguments over which they are rarely taken to task by their respective constituencies.

While we are grateful to the premier for the timeliness of his suggestion, you may be interested to know that Couchiching has been grappling with this theme, in various forms, for many decades

  • At our winter conference held in 1960, Couch posed the daunting question "Is business reshaping society?"
  • Twelve years later the pendulum had swung the other way, when in 1972 we defiantly considered "How much Government is enough?"
  • Yet another twelve years later in 1984, unsatisfied, and leaving nothing to chance, Couch pondered the somewhat schizophrenic theme, "What’s right? What’s left? What’s next? Free Enterprise and the State in Our Economic Future."

It is time to introduce our keynote speaker. We are most grateful to Professor John Kenneth Galbraith, who, despite imminent publishing deadlines, has made the journey to be with us at Couchiching this weekend.

It is astonishing to think that Mr. Galbraith has been active both formulating and criticizing public policy for five of the six decades that this Institution has existed. Canadian by birth, Professor Galbraith studied at the Ontario Agriculture College, the University of California and the University of Cambridge.

He entered public life during the Second World War, initially as Deputy Administrator of the United States war-time system of price control. In 1945, he was appointed Director of the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey, followed by other public offices in the State Department. In recognition of his service during this period President Truman awarded him the United States Medal of Freedom.

In 1952 and again in 1956, the professor served on the campaign staff of Adlai Stevenson and between 1956 and 1960 was Chairman of the Economic Advisory Committee for the advisory counsel of the Democratic Party. An early supporter of John F. Kennedy, he served on Kennedy’s 1 960 convention staff and as U.S. Ambassador to India from 1961 to 1963. In 1968, Professor Galbraith acted as Floor Manager at the Democratic Convention for Eugene McCarthy, whose name he helped put in nomination.

Most of us though will have come to know of our keynote speaker through the magic of his pen. Professor Galbraith has written some of the most widely read books in the history of economics including The Affluent Society, The New Industrial State, Economics and the Public Purpose all of which have been extensively translated. These publications brought into the mainstream a recognition of the linkage between economic policy and its social consequences – the core issue that this conference will discuss.

Professor Galbraith’s other publications are too numerous to mention here, but I draw your attention to his most recent work, released in the middle of this year, The Culture of Contentment which is a keen and striking appraisal of America’s current woes.

Currently, Professor Galbraith is the Paul M. Warburg Professor of Economics Emeritus at Harvard University where he has taught for most of his academic life.

Professor, Couchiching welcomes you....