The ‘research’ the Fraser Institute produces is junk – have a happy Labour Day!

Posted on August 29, 2014, 1:50 am
7 mins

An unidentified Fraser Institute “fellow” explains to a couple of young Manning Centre interns how giving workers the right to bargain collectively stunts job growth, and also how dinosaurs and men walked the earth at the same time. Actual Fraser Institute employees may not appear or act exactly as illustrated. Below: Economist Andrew Jackson, who debunked a misleading Fraser Institute “study” on this topic in 2012.

While the conclusions of the Fraser Institute’s annual Labour Day attack on labour unions and the rights of working people to bargain collectively are predictably in tune with the market fundamentalist nostrums of the globalized corporations that bankroll its efforts, the group’s methodology appears to be shifting in an interesting way.

The so-called “institute” released a paper yesterday that asserts the more heavily the labour relations field is tilted in favour of corporate employers, the more “balanced” it is – an absolute inversion of reality.

This is no surprise because, no matter what the subject, Fraser Institute “research” always lines up precisely with the agenda of its corporate financiers.

However, in the past, the Fraser Institute at least has reported measurable facts accurately in the fine print even as it reached conclusions those facts could not support. Often, it cherry picked which numbers to count and, if that wouldn’t work, fell back on statistical sleight of hand and simply reported conclusions unsupported by the evidence.

Most of the time, this technique works pretty well since the journalists who receive the organization’s myriad press releases seldom bother to actually read the group’s reports or seek balancing commentary.

However, it has also resulted in some spectacular “own goals” by the $11-million-plus market-fundamentalist boiler room’s crack research team when someone has actually bothered to read through their “peer reviewed” efforts.

For example, in the Vancouver-based organization’s 2012 Labour Day report – which unsurprisingly reached virtually identical conclusions to this year’s effort – the statistics accurately reported in the back pages showed the opposite of the “conclusions” reached by the researchers.

This is a very common Fraser Phenomenon, often noted in the pages of this blog. Recently, to cite just one other example, a Fraser Institute report that concluded “Alberta’s finances are in worse shape than other energy-producing provinces and states” was based on hard numbers that in fact showed Alberta’s finances are in better shape than other energy-producing provinces and states.

Returning to the Labour Day argument, while the Fraser Institute claimed in 2012 that strong unions, fair minimum wages and plenty of public sector jobs undermined growth and productivity, the statistics cited in the same report showed that Canadian provinces that ranked near the top for economic performance also ranked near the “bottom,” in the Fraser Institute’s estimation, for labour market conditions.

U.S. “right to work” states, which have laws designed to make it difficult for unions to operate, did poorly by contrast according to the same broad economic measures – the opposite of the Fraser Institute’s misleading conclusions stated at the top of its press release.

So, this year, the Fraser Institute seems to have dealt with this chronic problem by simply eliminating the embarrassing data contained in their previous Labour Day releases on labour market performance entirely and moving directly to writing fiction.

The 2014 Labour Day report continues to have pretty charts with coloured bars and lots of numbers, but they don’t report on any metrics that are actually relevant to the paper’s two authors’ stated belief that laws making it hard for unions to operate produce higher living standards.

The reason, of course, is that if you actually dig out the hard numbers not found in this latest Fraser report, they show the opposite, just as economist Andrew Jackson illustrated with the numbers the Fraser Institute published in 2012.

So the “conclusions” of the 2014 Fraser Institute Labour Day paper are nothing more than the authors’ unsubstantiated opinions.

In other words, the Fraser Institute is now applying the methodology of “creation science” to the study of economics! The results, of course, are much the same.

The Fraser Institute’s holy, beneficent and all-powerful market, like the notion of “intelligent design,” is at base a religious view, although one that conveniently serves the economic interests of the “institute’s” financiers.

In its 2014 effort, the group rather cutely did create an index score for every jurisdiction in Canada and the United States (with a suitably scientific-seeming decimal point), said to indicate “the extent to which labour relations laws bring flexibility to the labour market while balancing the interests of employers, employees, and unions.”

But it produced no evidence to tie this to its claim – presented as if it were a conclusion – that such anti-union legislation results in a higher standard of living.

Unsurprisingly, states where employers have all the rights were quite subjectively declared to have done well, and provinces where the rights of working people are better protected, not so well.

Since any measure showing a relationship between these rights and economic performance is no longer noted, the potential for embarrassment is thereby eliminated.

According to the Fraser Institute’s claims, places like Newfoundland, Quebec, Manitoba and Saskatchewan are terrible places to live, work and do business, whereas jurisdictions like Arkansas, Mississippi, South Carolina and North Carolina are just peachy.

It’s tiresome to have to say this, but these points bear constant repetition: The Fraser Institute is not a serious research organization. The research it produces is junk. Its conclusions are fundamentally dishonest. And any newspaper editor who publishes its press releases without balance or reaction is a disgrace.

Have a happy Labour Day weekend.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

20 Comments to: The ‘research’ the Fraser Institute produces is junk – have a happy Labour Day!

  1. Joe

    August 29th, 2014

    Articles like this, if put into practice, would send corporate capital – and the jobs it creates – to other countries. The Fraser Institute, like Danielle Smith who used to work there, operates in the best interests of us all.

    Reply
    • Athabascan

      August 29th, 2014

      Who is us Joe?

      If you mean the one percenters, then you are right. As for the rest of us ninety-nine percenter mooching class, the Fraser Destitute is our enemy. The fact that Daneille Smith worked there is as unimpressive as knowing Alison Redford did some work for Nelson Mandela. It is irrelevant.

      The Fraser Destitute is a fascist collection of misguided souls whose sole purpose is to tout the corporatist agenda. They won’t stop their misinformation until all of us are enslaved like under-aged workers in Chinese factories.

      Unions seek to maintain and enhance the imbalance that is inherent in the employment relationship. They are doing the work that our spineless government should be taking on.

      Enjoy your Labour Day holiday brought to you by the Labour (union) movement. I’m still waiting for a Corporate Day statutory holiday sponsored by employers.

      Reply
    • pogo

      August 29th, 2014

      Ah the job creators with all that corporate capital lord love ’em. If only Norway hadn’t suckered for that socialist claptrap they wouldn’t have the burden of nearly a trillion dollars in the bank. Too bad they didn’t have a Ralph Klein or Danielle Smith to sell their controlling stake in their oil production to get them back on track for success!
      Obviously they don’t have a Fraser institute otherwise they’d be able to see things as clearly as you do.

      Reply
    • YYCDavid

      August 29th, 2014

      Sure the Fraser ‘Institute’ and Danielle Smith work in the best interests of ‘us all’, if by ‘us all’ you mean employers and corporate shareholders. Smith and the ‘Institute’ sure don’t work for those of us who work for those employers and shareholders though.

      Reply
    • Tom in Ontario

      August 29th, 2014

      Perhaps so. Quebec, they say, is one of those provinces that is stifling economic growth and even worse, a terrible place to live.

      But wait! The Institute operates an office, quelle horreur, on Rue Peel in Montreal. Why do they do that to loyal employees?

      Fraserites, abandon that backwater and head for the sunny US south, to a right to work state you say is doing the job right, like Mississippi. You’ll enjoy cavorting in the poorest state in the union, have all the guns you want, and be secure in the knowledge that almost every person executed by lethal injection is guilty as charged. Just be good boys and don’t cross the sheriff.

      And to think the Fraser Institute is a non political organization that enjoys CRA charity tax status.

      Reply
  2. jerrymacgp

    August 29th, 2014

    I wonder when big business, including that component that funds the Fraser Institute and its like, are going to figure out one fundamental aspect of a free market: business does better when workers are paid enough to buy the products and services business produces. Employees, who are the majority of us, are also consumers, and therefore customers. If they are paid a pittance, they will only buy the bare essentials of life, and often defer even those purchases; if they are paid a reasonable wage for a reasonable day’s work, they will buy more than just the essentials. Furthermore, if workers, who are also consumers, are working stupid long hours in order to earn a decent living, they will not have time to consume many of the products and services business produces.

    This is another take on the old Reaganomics line, “a rising tide lifts all boats”, but in this view the tide is the population of working people and their collective incomes, and how those collective incomes support the economy on which big business depends.

    By campaigning for a low-wage workforce and “right-to-work”, big business is shooting itself in the foot.

    Reply
  3. Paul Turnbull

    August 29th, 2014

    Joe: I’m impressed with the effort, thought and research you put into your response.

    Reply
  4. Anrold Archard

    August 29th, 2014

    Troll alert.

    Reply
  5. Peter

    August 29th, 2014

    I am still appalled that respectable news outlets report on Fraser Institute drivel. Surely there are thousands of MA students in Economics producing myriad papers with infinitely more value than the sponsor-server tripe that comes out of the FI. At the very least, there should be a strong disclaimer about the nature of FI with every article on a report and definitely with every specious opion that gets valuable space on the op-ed pages of Post Media.

    I am convinced that the “vision statement” of the Fraser Institute is “You provide the conclusions, we’ll cherry-pick some data to support it.”

    Reply
    • Chris

      September 2nd, 2014

      The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives is in the major Canadian media all the time. They are proudly and unabashedly left-wing. More points of view are better than less.

      Reply
  6. David Grant

    August 29th, 2014

    I personally take with a picture of salt the information that the Fraser Institute publishes. They really aren’t all that different than the US think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute(who the Iraq War of 2003 was just awesome), the Heritage Foundation, and the Cato Institute. These guys and gals think that the invisible hand of the market will make all problems vanish and everything will work out. What people don’t realize is that their thinking also lead to the financial crash of 2008, which Canada happily didn’t heed. At least at Cato there are some interesting critiques of military spending and the war on terror, something you never from the Fraser folks or at the other think tanks I mentioned. They also don’t believe in global warming and they also don’t believe in regulation. I agree with Dave that we should stop treating their work with respect and use it for more constructive things like using it to toilet train your pets!!!! Happy Labour Day!!!!

    Reply
    • pogo

      August 29th, 2014

      Thanks. I needed that!

      Reply
      • August 29th, 2014

        Call me P-for-Prissy, Pogo, but I don’t think I’m going to allow the “P” Word in reference to certain politicians.

        Reply
        • pogo

          August 31st, 2014

          Oh all right. But can I call ’em moral Destitutes?

          Reply
  7. Filostrato

    August 29th, 2014

    How do you make the economy and the country stronger by making most of the population poorer and more overworked? Concerned citizens want to know.

    And, for your viewing pleasure, a bit from Press Progress about the secret Gun Party (yeee-HAH!) invitation to certain MP’s from the Gun Nuts Association of Canada. Scroll down to see Rob Anders holding his body-part substitute in full view. Thank goodness some things are still concealed carry.

    Invite to the Aim for Idiocy Event

    Reply
  8. Adam

    August 30th, 2014

    Actually it is very relevant that Danielle Smith worked for the Fraser Destitute. It shows her true political views and what she’d do as Premier, as well as the underpinning behind her market fundamentalist ideology.

    We should all be scared.

    Reply
    • Athabascan

      August 31st, 2014

      Sorry, being informed that Danielle Smith worked for this group is still irrelevant, because it surprises no one. Moreover, in the context of the article that exposes the Fraser Destitute, it has no bearing. The article is not about Danielle Smith, it is about something else. Who worked there in the past does not add or subtract from the argument that the Fraser Destitute produces junk right-wing propaganda.

      Reply
      • Brian

        September 3rd, 2014

        Athamascan is wrong – it is relevant that she worked there, because it shows what she would do to this province as Premier – junk right wing perspective – just like the Fraser Institute.

        Reply

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