Thursday, March 4, 2010

Politics: Harper's Thinking World Budget

TORONTO, ONTARIO - I've avoided weighing in on the personality of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in the Chinese meridian-based system that I like to use. I've actually long suspected that he was in the thinking world, but since Canada itself has a thinking-world personality, it could have just been a cultural overlay. I've been fooled about a number of people in that way. However, in light of the Conservative government's budget released today, I'm finally convinced that Harper must indeed be coming from the thinking world, though I still won't commit on a specific personality type within the world.

It's been clear since he came on the political scene in Canada that Harper's strength has been strategy, and not charisma. Some would say he completely lacks charisma. The attention placed on trying to create a more human image for Harper, notably the sweaters of the 2008 election campaign, underline this weakness. Yet, personality theory teaches us that the traits of the "balancing" type are in the "subconscious" of the a given type, and those traits can come out with effort when the individual is healthy. Harper's famous piano performance with Yo-Yo Ma of "With a Little Help from My Friends" demonstrated that he does have an emotional-world performance side that can come out, implying that he does reside in the balancing, thinking world.

The hallmark of the thinking world is that it thinks in terms of the future, often making decisions for the sake of a long-term vision that completely ignore contemporary reality or lessons from the past. While a case could be made that many political decisions Harper has made follow that pattern, seeming to have a tin ear to the opening days of a recession or to the historic importance of the arts in Quebec for example, never has the trend been more clear than in the present budget. Instead of spending money on programs (such as additional stimulus spending or Employment Insurance reform) to ensure that the country exits the recession, instead the bulk of the limited new spending in the budget is designed to grow high-technology businesses to create a stronger economy years down the road. While entrepreneurial students have plenty to be excited about in this focus, the currently-unemployed have something to be upset about. It's not hard to argue that this is the correct long-term strategy for Canada, but if the opposition parties are clever, they will be able to use this against Harper in the short term.

The thinking world is also known for being proactive, which means that sometimes they try to solve problems that don't even exist. Though there are a number of more crassly political possibilities for the move to remove gender-specific language from the national anthem, this could also reflect the proactive, thinking world view. Harper may have created a problem that actually did not exist and tried to solve it.

The good news for Stephen Harper is that the opposition leader, Michael Ignatieff, also seems to hail from the thinking world. The odds that Ignatieff will be able to focus on the present and poke holes in the budget based on the current conditions in a compelling manner seem long. That, in fact, may be part of what the future-looking Harper is counting on, just as much as he is counting on an improving economy.

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