It's so strange. The basic premise of free market fundamentalism that is the governing blueprint for both George Bush and Stephen Harper is shattering under the blow of a trillion-dollar U.S. taxpayer bailout.
Yet in the Canadian election it barely registers a blip.
But watch carefully, because as the turmoil continues, which it very likely will, things could start to change.
It's a Berlin Wall moment, only the shoe is on the other foot. Don't take my word for it. You can read about the death of capitalism as we know it on the front page of the Wall Street Journal these days.
Yes, as promised, free market deregulation helped the financial services industry soar. Their share of total American corporate profits rose from 10 per cent in the early 1980s to 40 per cent at its peak just last year. But red is the new black.
Deregulation ultimately failed the industry, the borrowers, the investors, the nation and the global economy. It's failure that's so serious and far-reaching that we're all likely to be paying the price in ways we never could have imagined, for a significant time ahead.
Just look what happened to the price of crude a few days ago.
Not such a success story after all, as it turns out. And who are the only ghostbusters able to bring the comatose financial services sector at the heart of the economy back into the land of the living? Big government. Huge government. Inconceivably gigantic government.
Will it work? Who will benefit? These are all mysteries. But one thing is dead certain. In moments of grave crisis, it will always be the tax money that takes the hit.
When times are tough, it turns out that what every free market needs is what we all need when we're sick or really down: a good strong state to back us up.
Wall Street's latest Black September proves nothin g if not that Republicans and Conservatives need to reconsider their love of government downsizing.
Any honest investment banker (there must be some) would have to admit that deregulation and tax cuts for the rich are out. Stiff regulation and big government spending are in.
There is lots to get angry about in all this. But there is one important thing we can say to money-managers, investors, Republicans and Conservatives in this hour of need that is absolutely objective and factual: surely it is time you guys stopped complaining about paying taxes.
In fact, dear Conservatives, how can I say this politely? Given what has happened in the last week, you are likely backing the wrong man.
You yourselves may actually need a professor more than a bully. Right now, it looks like the free market system can implode into an ironic caricature of itself, and Bay Street will still want the guy who has government finances teetering on the edge of deficit so he can say he saved you two big GST cents on a donut. But I think it was Abe Lincoln who promised that you can't fool all the people all the time.
For all of us non-Bay-Street types, the situation is dire. We will be the ones who pay. And more importantly, as the world's leading scientists agree, the disaster that has hit the financial sector is just a pale shadow of an even larger parallel crisis.
The way we relate to the environment right now is pretty much akin to an unregulated investment banking industry devising ever more complex instruments to hide its seriously toxic bad debt load.
The profits are high, and anyone who says there's a cost down the road is labelled as some kind of lunatic. But the longer we leave the debts to spiral into the stratosphere, out of control, the more costly it will be to save ourselves.
The next collapse, whenever it comes, will end that same as this one. Only government regulation and tax dollars will be of any use - either now or later, at a rate that's unimaginable.
Kudos to Jack Layton and Elizabeth May, who have worked for decades to build environmental awareness in our country. It is historic and, in some part, a testimony to their work that a leader of one of Canada major political brands won his place because he was willing to stake his political fortune on tackling the unfolding enviro crisis.
Stéphane Dion's great communication weakness is tragic for the now powerful eco-movement that made him look like he could be a winner at the Liberal convention eons ago. We deserve a political leader who, at next week's debate, could score at least a point or two against Harper on the economy in the midst of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.
Still, it's bad luck for Harper that he will face our nation when many of his basic precepts have been shredded by the crisis. And Dion won't be the only one he's up against. Harper will have to face off against the other leaders, too. Let's hope they are studying up.
But new movements must overcome. I believe that's how the song goes.
And Dion's great skill as a policy wonk deserves to be appreciated. When he unfolded his full platform this week, even Bay Street had to admit the policies were sound (while deriding him and the politics of selling a tax). Dion's elixir of carbon tax, green job stimulus and government spending are just what the doctor ordered for both economy and environment.
May and Layton may have this or that to add or subtract to the plans he's released, but they're all going down the same road. It's actually hard to say whose eco plan is best. It'll be a huge setback for our country and our environment if the first enviro leader of a governing party gets trounced, leaving both NDP and Greens even further on the margins. Only strategic voting can save us all. It's ironic that the strategic victory the grassroots can grab from Dion's inarticulate jaws of defeat is a Liberal-NDP minority government - the best of both worlds.
If we had to have this economic crisis, let's be glad that it happened during two election battles. It's raising issues that have dominated our public life for 20 years. It's time to pay the piper and change the tune.
I know it isn't easy, but we need to defeat Harper on October 14. Don't forget to check out VoteforEnvironment.ca to find out how. We can actually make this happen.