Great Moments in Sunk Cost
By David Henderson
The third book I finished on my vacation at my cottage in Canada is Trudeau Revealed by David Somerville, BMG Publishing, 1978. It’s surprisingly good, in that the author quotes extensively from Pierre Trudeau’s writings in the 1950s and 1960s, and lets the reader make his own conclusions. The one area where Somerville is off is in not totally understanding Joseph Schumpeter, who taught an undergrad course at Harvard that Trudeau took early in World War II. The quotes from Schumpeter about how socialism will prevail seem to be taken by Somerville as a wish from Schumpeter rather than a prediction.
Somerville expresses upset that the media let Trudeau off scot-free during the Trudeaumania of the late 1960s. I remember it well, as I had become a politically conscious person in 1968, when Trudeau became Prime Minister in April 1968 and then got a strong majority in the federal elections of 1968.
Trudeau was pretty clearly a socialist and he often called himself that. The media didn’t do a good job of reporting even that basic fact in the late 1960s. It reminded me of how the U.S. media failed to report much of Barack Obama’s thinking during the 2008 presidential election.
I didn’t find myself totally disagreeing with Trudeau, and particularly liked his views on NATO (he wanted to pull out) and nuclear war.
Here’s the excerpt on sunk cost that motivated my title for this post:
At the Liberal [Party] convention he [Trudeau] had attended January 13, 1961, [Lester B.] Pearson and the party had stated their opposition to the acquisition or use of nuclear weapons. In January the next year, and again on April 30, 1962, Pearson reiterated the same policy. It was re-stated yet again on November 14, 1962, when “the official program of the Liberty Party still remained, then, opposed to the presence of nuclear arms on Canadian soil”.
But on the morning of January 12, 1963, all that changed. Pearson argued that if the CF-104 jet fighters and Bomarc missiles weren’t given nuclear bombs and warheads, it would be a waste of $750 million.
“One is tempted to ask our Nobel Peace Prizewinner what would happen to peace if the U.S.A. and the Soviet Union shared this concern for money, and also refused to renounce the use of certain arms on the grounds that they had cost them a lot of cash…?”
The quote in the last paragraph is from Pierre Elliot Trudeau, “Pearson–Ou L’Abdication de L’Esprit, Cite Libre, April 1963.