B.C. author Calvin Helin is trying to sound the alarm on a state of "economic dependency” he claims is harmful to Canada’s aboriginal people and the rest of society.
His new book, The Economic Dependency Trap: Breaking Free to Self-Reliance, will be launched at an event in Richmond on Saturday (October 16). With the book, a follow-up to his best-selling Dances With Dependency: Out of Poverty Through Self-Reliance, Helin said he wants to empower individuals and governments to recognize the problem and find a solution.
"Economic dependency occurs whenever you become dependent on some other entity or some other person for your sustenance,” he told the Straight by phone. "And there are clear principles that guide how it works.”
In his new book, Helin, an aboriginal lawyer and entrepreneur, identifies three key types of dependency: government-to-citizen dependency, government-to-government dependency, and intra-family dependency.
As an example of government-to-citizen dependency, Helin points to welfare and social assistance programs. While he advocates for reform to such programs, he emphasizes that he doesn’t think they should be eliminated.
"I’m saying that in a wealthy society, if we truly remain wealthy, social assistance is warranted for people who are unemployable,” Helin said. "We shouldn’t have a welfare system that enables this ongoing dysfunction”¦and entraps entire populations, like aboriginal people and African-Americans in the U.S., into generations of ongoing poverty and misery.”
Helin also said intra-family dependency exists at a time when there are unprecedented levels of personal wealth and access to credit in western society.
As for government-to-government dependency, Helin said the equalization payments given to less-wealthy Canadian provinces are one example.
He said his book contains advice that can be used by governments and individuals to set themselves on a path toward economic self-reliance.
"My purpose is to try and help poor people. What I realized is that you can’t help people in the long run by giving them material things. You can help them in the short term, but in the long run, the only way you can help them is to give them knowledge to help themselves,” Helin said.
"First of all, I think ordinary people need to know how this works, to understand how all this stuff that seems really good on the surface is harming them,” he added. "And then governments need to understand how their actions can be tailored to making a real difference instead of continuing the status quo, which is just perpetuating the same thing.”