An "Immodest Proposal" by Professor Thurow

April 1 st 1983

Prof. Lester Thurow of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, respected author of several books on economics, delivered a keynote speech at a policy conference of the Ontario Liberal Party in January. He pointed out that various schools of economic thought and economic policies all got stuck when it came to the hard reality of stagnating economies. While this is a world problem, Thurow advised his Canadian audience that rather than lament their difficulties, they should look for possibilities to exploit their advantages vis a vis the United States. Holding up Austria (in relation to Germany) as a model, Thurow said Canada should make itself more competitive than its giant neighbour to the south. "Canadians use the fact of living next to the US as more of an excuse than is valid. It is not an excuse for economic failure. It is guite right that Canada can't boom while the American economy sinks, but it is also guite right that you can do better, as opposed to worse, than the US economy."

Thurow also took aim at the problem of wage levels, pointing out that Canadian wages cannot go up faster than productivity. If they do, it means that some will benefit at the expense of others, or you will have inflation. The challenge is, said Thurow, to design "a set of institutions that delivers the bad news so that everybody feels he has been fairly treated." (Lester Thurow, "An Immodest Proposal for Canada", Canadian Business, April 1983, pp. 63-65.)


Harry Antonides came to Canada in 1948, initially working as a farm hand and railway labourer. After over a decade working in a chemical plant in Sarnia, Ontario, Harry joined the newly forming Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC) in 1962 as a field representative. By 1970 Harry became director of research and education. In 1974, he was a founding member of the Work Research Foundation (now Cardus) and publisher of their sole publication, Comment magazine. A prolific writer and dynamic speaker, Harry delivered lectures all over North America and published numerous articles, reviews, and essays. He is author of several books on Christianity, labour, and economics, including Multinationals and the Peacable Kingdom (1978) and Stones for Bread: The Social Gospel and its Contemporary Legacy (1985). Harry is retired and lives with his wife Janet in Willowdale, Ontario.