Origins of the Term “Red Tory”

19 05 2017

A great deal has been written about Theresa May’s political philosophy, which combines a mixture of left-wing and right-wing ideas and which explicit repudiates the Thatcherite belief in individualism and the free market, which is now to be called “selfish individualism”. Searching for a label to describe this worldview, the media have found the term “Red Tory” (see here, here, and here). In a recent piece, the BBC’s Ben Wright credits  Phillip Blond with inventing the term in a 2008 article. The article became a book in 2010.  Blond,  a former lecturer in politics and theology, is the director of the thinktank ResPublica, which promotes a sort of collectivist conservative ideology.  The reality, as any long-term observer of Canadian politics will tell you, is that the term Red Tory is much older (see here, here, and here). Blond merely imported the term, which is of course a respectable intellectual innovation but not an act of pure creativity.

Readers: if any of you know when the term “Red Tory” first appeared in print, please contribute that information in the comments section.

Tworek on Cambridge Analytica

18 05 2017

Heidi Tworek of UBC has posted an excellent piece that puts the recent wave of hysteria about the role of Cambridge Analytica in swaying recent elections into historical perspective. She notes that fears of mass manipulation by new media are as old as mass media themselves. The advent of every new media technology provoked concerns about the contagious emotions and irrationality of the unwashed masses. Heidi writes:

Did “sinister” emotional manipulation by the data analytics company, Cambridge Analytica, decide the U.S. election? History suggests otherwise.

For over a century, there has been a recurrent theme of exaggerating and mythologizing the power of new communications technology to influence mass psychology. Take a deep breath and ensure that we don’t need to wait decades to debunk the new old fear of the manipulated masses.

Heidi has written a great piece, one that covers everything from the legendary War of the World’s broadcast to the rise of Big Data.

EDHEC Family Business Conference

12 05 2017


I just finished a fantastic two-day conference at EDHEC business school. I would like to thank the EDHEC Family Business Centre for organizing such a stimulating event  that included purely academic sessions, meetings with practitioners, and a behind-the-scenes tour of Les Galleries Lafayette.

I would particularly like to thank Prof. Fabian Bernhard for pointing me in the direction of an important paper that had previously escaped by attention. Kammerlander, N., Dessì, C., Bird, M., Floris, M., & Murru, A. (2015). The impact of shared stories on family firm innovation: A multicase study. Family Business Review, 28(4), 332-354.

How to Lose the Global War for Academic Talent: the Mismanagement of the Canada Research Chair Project

12 05 2017


In 2000, the Canadian government began investing resources in a project to attract top international researchers to Canadian universities. The Canadian Research Chair program essentially gives money to universities to allow them to induce promising and accomplished researchers to relocate to Canada. The creation of this program was motivated by a belief that Canadian universities were  losing talent to wealthier universities in other countries, chiefly the United States. The program may also have been inspired by the seminal 1997 book The War for Talent, although I don’t know whether McKinsey consultants actually played a role in its design (readers with insider knowledge are welcome to contribute in the comments section below). In any event, the creators of this program, who were in the centre-left Liberal government of the day, were aware that universities play a very important role in nurturing innovation and anchoring clusters. (Everyone knows that Stanford University played a crucial role in the rise of Silicon Valley). During the 1990s, there were complaints that Canadian universities were losing their top researchers to other countries and  that this loss of talent was ultimately going to undermine Canada’s capacity to raise the global research profile of its universities, engage in R&D,  and create entrepreneurial ecosystems. The Canada Research Chair project was thus a logical and targeted response to this perceived problem.  The CRC program has since been emulated by other countries, most notably by China’s famous Thousand Talents program, which provides big bucks to foreign researchers willing to move to Chinese universities.

More recently, a number of exogenous forces began to help Canada to compete more successfully in the global war for talent. In the wake of the UK’s vote to leave the EU, many foreign academics working in British universities have expressed the desire to leave the country. The people who are speaking of leaving include both researchers from continental Europe as well as British academics who fear that Brexit and the xenophobic policies associated with it, such as the plans to dramatically slash the number of international students the UK admits each year, will endanger the finances of their employers.  The need to capitalize on the narrow window of opportunity associated with Brexit by poaching top researchers from the UK has been discussed by the Presidents of the Universities of Toronto and Waterloo, two important hubs for innovation (see here). Then there is the Trump effect—US academics seeking to leave the country due to the election of a President who is xenophobic and, more importantly, is likely to cut budgets for science and technology. Canada’s current Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, is known throughout the world (unlike his immediate predecessors who had close to zero name recognition outside of Canada) and has helped to make Canada’s  place brand even better. (Shortly before the final round of the French presidential election, I heard some French people joke that if Le Pen wins, they would move to Quebec and live in Justin Trudeau’s house).  I’m currently at a conference at EDHEC Business School in France and can attest that Canada is today regarded as a very attractive employment destination by many European management academics. The Atlantic, a US magazine, just published an article on whether the Toronto-Waterloo corridor can ever become Silicon Valley North. As the article notes, there is tremendous interest in the potential of this innovation hub.

In an uncharacteristically swift move,  the Canadian government announced in early April that it was going to create 150 new endowed research chairs to bring the world’s best researchers to Canada.  The government selected the number 150 to refer to the 150th anniversary of the creation of Canadian state in 1867. The real reason for this sudden investment, I suspect is all of the factors discussed in the previous paragraph.

Let me quote from the press release:

The Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science, announced today at the University of Waterloo that the Government of Canada will invest $117.6 million over eight years for the new Canada 150 Research Chairs program. The program provides one-time funding in celebration of Canada’s 150th anniversary. It is designed to attract approximately 25 internationally esteemed researchers and Canadian expatriates who wish to relocate to Canada so they can further knowledge in the sciences, technology, health, engineering and the social sciences and humanities.

The Canada 150 Research Chairs program will be open to top-tier international scholars and researchers from across all disciplines, including Canadian expatriates.

The Government anticipates that the drive to recruit new chairs will take months, not years

The press release suggests that the Canadian government is going to act swiftly and boldly to take advantage of the situation. Indeed, reading the press release would cause one to think that it had been prepared by the government of Singapore, a nation characterised by a thoroughly modern and professional approach to policy implementation.

Now just a few weeks later, the Canadian government announced that the entire Canada Research Chair program may be scrapped unless universities agree to fulfil some sort of equity mandate by filling more of the positions thereby created with women and members of certain domestically-defined ethnic minority populations.  By calling this entire program into question, the Canadian government reduced the incentive to academics to invest time in applying for jobs under this scheme. This lack of policy coherence is astonishing to me. The ability of the Canadian government to disappoint through the shoddy implementation of policies never ceases to disappoint me.

Now if the Canadian government was truly serious about recruiting the best and the brightest to its universities, it would change the immigration laws so that Canadian academic job ads no longer contain the alienating and vaguely xenophobic words:

All qualified candidates are encouraged to apply, however, Canadian Citizens and Permanent Residents will be given priority. 

The policy represented by these words is ignored by most of the U15 universities anyway and all it does is to suggest that potential applicants that Canada is a place where factors other than professional competence are considered when hiring for academic jobs.


“Accounts with Interest:” An Interdisciplinary Research Project at Barclays Group Archives

11 05 2017


My co-author Margaret Procter will be presenting our paper at a conference at the Federal Reserve of Saint Louis (see picture above).  The theme of the conference is Innovative Solutions for Banks and Financial Archives. The title of our paper is “Accounts with Interest:” An Interdisciplinary Research Project at Barclays Group Archives.  The paper falls into the broad category of “the uses of the past” and considers how banks can make use of the historical information in their archives so as to better achieve their objectives. The project is designed to speak to the interest of scholars in strategy and archive science as well as practitioners.  Our co-authors are Maria Sienkiewicz of Barclays and Ian Jones, my excellent PhD student.


The conference in St Louis looks very interesting, as the other speakers include the renowned historian Harold James, leading economic historians such as Michael Bordo, Larry Neal, and Eugene N. White as well professional archivists from such organizations as the World Bank, the Bank of International Settlements.

The full programme is here.

Unfortunately, I can’t be at this event, as I’m at the 2017 Family Business Conference, which is running at EDHEC business school in Lille today and then in Paris tomorrow.


Ben Oliphant on Originalism and History

6 05 2017

Making the Canadian Constitution:  the Fathers of Confederation

Benjamin Oliphant  (@BenOliphantis a Vancouver-based lawyer and writer (see Google Scholar profile here), whose work focuses on constitutional, administrative, labour and employment law. He is also an adjunct professor at the UBC Allard School of Law. He has published a very interesting piece on Originalism, Beer, and Interprovincial Trade Barriers in Policy Options, a Canadian outlet.  His piece, which discusses the R. v. Comeau court case (see my blog posts about being the expert witness in this case here), talks about the competing schools of thought about how to interpret the text of written constitutions– “originalism” versus the “living tree approach”. This seemingly arcane issue was very relevant to this case, because while the text of the 1867 Canadian constitution clearly mandates that there should be free trade within the Canadian federation, Canadian courts have often interpreted this text in a fashion that authorizes the existence of internal trade barriers).  To lawyers of a certain school of thought, this mode of interpreting the constitution seems totally logical. To someone who has a PhD in history from a history department,  and was thus socialised to think about the past in a particular fashion, this conclusion seems totally bizarre– at odds which what the primary sources say.

There are many disciplines that involve studying the past- law, of course, but also political science, economic history, international relations, sociology, as well as what I call “history-department history.” Each of these disciplines has its own internal debates about methodology and but also a set of shared assumptions about how to think about the events in the past. I suppose as I’ve matured as a scholar, I’ve become more accepting of the use of these different disciplinary lenses for viewing the past. I’ve become far more methodologically tolerant, especially since I started teaching management. (In between teaching in a history department and working in a business school I had a brief spell teaching International Relations students).


Benjamin Oliphant



I’ve been asked a few times whether I’m an originalist. I was first asked that more than a decade ago.  I’ve always replied “No, I’m just a historian who knows a great deal about the making of the Canadian constitution and the business history of that era.” In fact, the first time I was asked this question by a lawyer, I wasn’t entirely certain what the term originalism meant.


My curiosity stimulated, I’ve since done some reading on what “originalism” means in US, Canadian, and Australian constitutional jurisprudence (see here, here, here, and here). The philosophy of originalism differs in subtle and important ways between these three countries and has evolved over time, as this recent piece by a US history-department historian named Jonathan Gienapp shows. Gienapp, who is a young man, appears to be a methodologically intolerant history-department historian, as he insists that originalist legal scholars have waged a decades-long war against the “methods of history” — by which he appears to me the ways of interpreting history that are derived from Leopold von Ranke and which have been taught in US graduate programmes since the 19th century.   Despite what Gienapp says, it seems to me that some forms of originalism, particularly what Gienapp calls Originalism 1.0, are indeed  consistent with the rules of evidence/modes of inquiry that are taught in graduate programmes in history in English-speaking countries.  Of course, these modes of inquiry aren’t the only legitimate way of approaching the past, as Gienapp’s colleague Dave Donaldson, the winner of the 2017 John Bates Clark Medal, would doubtless attest!

Anyway, Oliphant’s piece is interesting reading. If you are interested in the underlying issues, I would also check out the 2013 C.D. Howe’s Institute paper Beer, Barristers, and Butter— a great title by the way.


Arnold Kling on the Canadian Banking System

3 05 2017

Arnold Kling, a US libertarian economist and blogger, has posted some thoughts about the differences between the US and Canadian banking systems. His conclusions:


1. The best part of Canadian banking is their mortgage design.

2. The worst part of Canadian banking is the high concentration in large banks. As in Europe, this goes along with a very stunted equity market. Firms raise capital using debt, and they owe that debt to big banks. The U.S. system, with its much more prominent stock markets, is better.

3. The worst part of the U.S. financial system is the political power of trade associations and large banks. 

4. Over the last thirty years, we have seen a decline in the relative importance of the stock market in the U.S… Household wealth also has become more highly concentrated.

I’m not at all certain why Kling believes that the greater prominence of the US stock market is a good thing. Anyway, for readers interested in learning more about the comparative evolution of the banking systems of the two countries, I would recommend From Wall Street to Bay Street: The Origins and Evolution of American and Canadian Finance By Christopher Kobrak and Joe Martin



From the publisher’s blurb:
From Wall Street to Bay Street is the first book for a lay audience to tackle the similarities and differences between the financial systems of Canada and the United States. Christopher Kobrak and Joe Martin reveal the different paths each system has taken since the early nineteenth-century.

Joseph E. Martin is the Director of the Canadian Business and Financial History Initiative at the Rotman School of Management as well as President Emeritus of Canada’s History Society.

The late Christopher Kobrak was the Wilson/Currie Chair of Canadian Business and Financial History at the Rotman School of Management as well as a professor emeritus of finance at ESCP, Paris.

Amazon link is here.