Wednesday, January 07, 2004

ED BROADBENT WATCH 2004

Today was my first class with the Hon. Prof. Edward Broadbent. For the next 14 weeks I'll be spending three hours every Wednesday in a seminar directed by the former NDP leader. If the timing works out, Prof. Broadbent will likely be gearing up for his re-election to the House of Commons just as class is winding down, in mid-April. So, for the next few months, on a semi-regular basis, I'll pass along whatever interesting tid-bits about the elder statesman that come up. These may range from the intellectual variety to the celebrity gossip variety.

Today's class began with thirty-plus students (and the class is capped at 30) crammed into an awful room in the Leacock building that was not designed to hold the numbers present nor to facilitate a seminar discussion. The room was a-buzz with discussion about our professor, but I've never seen a class, even a small one on the first day, come to attention so quickly as when Prof. Broadbent entered the room.

My first impression is that he is a friendly, charming and very intelligent man. He began, as most professors, by laying out his objecives for the course and giving an hour lecture on the broad course themes of 'rights, citizenship and democracy.' Unlike other professors however he would occasionally drop lines such as, "a friend of mine, who was at the time the prime minister of Norway...," or "being a member of Her Majesty's Privy Council has a few privelages...." I'm sure he was not saying these things to sound arrogant (and he did not) but because he knew the room was full of aspiring politicos who love to here this kind of stuff.

I can tell you that Prof. Broadbent seems to be somewhat still stuck in the twentieth century technologically. Apparently he only recently began using a personal computer and while he encouraged us to call him at home in Ottawa (I wont give out his number) he only reluctantly gave out his e-mail address which he had only recently begun to use as well.

In his lecture Prof. Broadbent discussed negative and positive rights. He is, not surprisingly, a strong proponent of positive rights of the economic, social and cultural variety. He discussed the realtionship of free market capitalism and democracy. While he pointed out that the development of market economies has often coincided with the development of a civil society and democratic institutions he does not believe the establishment of free markets innevitably leads to democratization. This is a position I believe I agree with, however, I will have to think it over some more as it is the topic for the first paper next week.

The sylibus is full of excellent reading from all sides of the political spectrum. It should be a very interesting semester.

Posted by Matthew @ 10:09 PM