Every year has its ups and downs, of course. But there's something about New Year's that makes one naturally want to emphasize the positive. So here is my personal list of five positive economic developments from the year past -- both globally and right here at home -- that warmed this particular economist's left-wing heart in 2014.
1. Canadian dollar falls back toward purchasing power parity
The Scottish independence referendum offered Canadians lessons on democracy and nation.
1. Fully 87 per cent of eligible voters exercised their democratic franchise. Most impressively, 97 per cent of Scots registered to vote. Canadians turnout rates for federal elections have declined from the 80 per cent range to about 60 per cent. The Canadian permanent voter list inspires little confidence. Lower turnout rates equate with less democracy.
It was not to be. With an 87 per cent turnout, Scottish independence was rejected by 55 per cent of voters in the September 18 referendum.
Following vigorous debate and discussion throughout the country, the Yes campaign gained strength leading up to the vote, up 20 percentage points in support, but it still fell short of the No side.
Vote-counting from each of 32 local authorities (councils) went on through the night until the decisive result from Fife at 6 a.m. local time Friday. Early returns revealed No strength with a series of wins reported by locality. The capital, affluent Edinburgh, and the oil capital, Aberdeen, gave some 60 per cent votes to the No.
The land marked by the poet Robert Burns, the economist Adam Smith, and the reign of Mary Queen of Scots readies itself for a momentous referendum this Thursday. Some five million Scottish voters will decide: "Should Scotland be an independent country?"
The voting age has been lowered to 16; about 97 per cent of the population have registered to vote; a turnout as high as 90 per cent has been predicted; and aggregated polling suggests a close result. At least one in 10 voters is undecided.
"Should Scotland be an independent country?" This question will be put to the people of Scotland in a referendum September 18. With just over a month to go, the "No" side campaigning as Better Together, has the lead over Yes Scotland, polling above 55 per cent.
A simple majority vote will decide the outcome.
The Scottish National Party, founded in 1934, promotes the independence option along with the Scottish Green Party and the Socialist Party of Scotland. The Labour Party, the Conservatives, and the Liberal Democrats are opposed.
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Hannah Arendt decried a modern world of loneliness with people absorbed by work and consumption. Where was civic life, public space, the "venture into the public realm," participating with others in trust?
Arendt identified what has become a major problem for the European left: political apathy and indifference to civic duty, as revealed by voter turnouts of less than 50 per cent in the recent European parliament election.