What are the Think Tanks Thinking? (Sept.22)

by Terrance Hunsley

Here are some quick peaks at what some of the think tanks are thinking about:

Brookings Institution

Utilities for democracy: Why and how the algorithmic infrastructure of Facebook and Google must be regulated

Josh Simons and Dipayan Ghosh

We argue that Facebook and Google should be regulated as public utilities. Private powers who shape the fundamental terms of citizens’ common life should be held accountable to the public good. Online as well as offline, the infrastructure of the public sphere is a critical tool for communication and organization, political expression, and collective decisionmaking. By controlling how this infrastructure is designed and operated, Facebook and Google shape the content and character of our digital public sphere, concentrating not just economic power, but social and political power too. Leading American politicians from both sides of the aisle have begun to recognize this, whether Senator Elizabeth Warren or Representative David Cicilline, Senator Lindsey Graham or President Donald Trump.



The Fraser Institute (fraserinstitute.org )

…has costed four models for a Guaranteed Annual Income. The first three assume a continuation of the CERB amount of $24,000 per year for all residents between 18 and 64 years of age. The models are either universal taxable transfers, or are reduced when income reaches either $77, 580, or $50,000, per year. The fourth model sets the GAI at the level of the OAS, $7272, and reduces as the OAS is reduced, at $77,580. The costing does not assume any reduction in other program spending. They estimate costs from $464 billion down to $132 billion/year.  The costing does not estimate the revenue effects of the economic stimulus created.

For comparison, The Basic Income Canada Network  (BICN)

…recommended a model that paid $22000 to an individual and $31113 to a couple. In each case, the amount would be reduced by 40% for any income above that.  They project the cost at $134 billion, but propose  that the basic income will replace social assistance payments as well as the G/HST tax credit and several other tax credits. They also suggest tax changes to treat capital gains like regular income, and to increase marginal tax rates by about 2-6% at the upper income levels. With their changes considered, $136 billion is generated to pay for the program. Their report can be found at:



MacDonald Laurier Institute:


HARVEY SCHIPPER, in THE HILL TIMES, suggests that Canada could take a world lead in development of a health-based economy:

Canada should lead in the advancement of global responsiveness and availability of essential tests and treatments. We need to push further innovations at the public-private-government interface with respect to intellectual property, financing and risk mitigation of new treatments.

To play a leadership role, we must also modernize our health care. This includes finding a public-private balance that drives innovation in health and wellness delivery. That means incenting systems to innovate and rewarding them for it. Government could have a role in rewarding novel healthcare innovations that produce effective outcomes for patients. Doing this will make our system more resilient, flexible, innovative, and responsive.

Moreover, Canada could pioneer the establishment of an international consortium of like-minded countries to provide the scientific, industrial, and financial means to respond to the next pandemic. While no middle power can do it all, a collective can.



Social Europe: 

Trade unions need new strategies

by Asbjørn Wahl on 15th September 2020

After pointing out that unions in Europe have been reduced by half over the past forty years, and recommending fresh new thinking, he suggests more strikes and less social dialogue.  Hmmm, trade unions do need some fresh new thinking. 



Brookings Institution

How courageous schools partnering with local communities can overcome digital inequalities during COVID-19

Nicol Turner Lee

Leveraging high-speed broadband access, I present several ideas for ensuring all K-12 students can learn during a time of in-person schooling shutdowns and other uncertainties: transform vacant local establishments into classrooms and provide technology access through unused business equipment; enable Wi-Fi in federally assisted housing or in parked school buses; reconfigure digital parking lots into digital parks; and utilize local organizations to help solve local digital access challenges. Adoption of all or some these actions would help all students stay connected to learning, while ensuring that those from underserved communities do not fall further behind their more advantaged peers.



Conference Board of Canada

Andrew Bieler,  Trades and future of work:

Improving digital skills will be the most important factor in adapting Canada’s skilled trades to the future of work.

Generational differences between younger and older workers are slowing the shift.

Tradespeople will need seven core digital skills: technical, information management, digital communication, virtual collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving in digital environments.



E21 Manhattan Institute

Job markets in the US and Europe are surprisingly similar

By John Detrixhe & Dan Kopf

Wage subsidies for workers sent home on furlough amount to much the same as unemployment benefits. However, money tied to a specific employer may slow down needed market adjustments. (editor’s note: What about portable wage subsidies? In Canada this could be done with the Canada Workers’ Benefit.)



IPPR (ippr.org) The Institute for Progressive Policy Research,

… is emphasizing programs to prevent youth “NEET” (not in  education, employment or training) – on the basis that extended unemployment of youth results in long term social damage and associated costs to the government and society. The negative impacts are also more concentrated among low income or marginalized populations, and thereby increase inequality, both immediately and over the life course. They recommend expansion of apprenticeship subsidies, as well as a guarantee of a six-month fully subsidized “transitional job” for youth who are not ready for apprenticeship.


FEPS Foundation for European Progressive Studies 

…has coordinated with a group of other Progressive think tanks in Europe to develop a discussion paper for the future of the UN.  The subject is on the agenda of the General Assembly. The report,  “Renewing Multilateralism for the 21st Century” is available at the link below. An overall message is the need to recover what has become an uncoordinated and fragmented system of international cooperation. 



ANBOUND (Chinese consultancy think tank with research office in Malaysia)

In 2018, Barcelona became one of the world’s first-tier cities. In 2019, it ranked 11th among the world’s top 20 cities for sustainable competitiveness; in December of the same year, it ranked 43rd in the Global Top 500 Cities. Barcelona has never been short of glory in the urban competition. Renewal and regeneration seem to have been the city’s features, keeping it young and vibrant for more than 2,000 years. The city’s economy, labor force, and everything else are constantly growing, and the quality of the city remains the same. Barcelona’s secret to staying young is desirable. The main ingredient that keeps Barcelona this way is public space.

The article goes on to detail the stages of Barcelona’s renewal and development since 1976. The secret to economic competitiveness and tourist attraction was innovative combinations of housing, economic activity and green public space,  much of it in small zones.


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