Continuing problems in the Canadian economy have been the occasion of a partisan debate between nationalists and continentalists, both of whom claim the staples thesis to be the premise of their proposed solutions. As one of the principal progenitors of that premise Harold Innis contributed much to the roots of this debate and its present flowering cannot be understood apart from what he had to say.
This is an account of the Canadian problem as it was elaborated in the staples thesis of H.A. Innis. But it is more than that. In order to cope with the economics of a satellite country in the age of machine and post-machine industry, Innis found it necessary to fill in the empty boxes of neoclassical value theory and, at times, to make new ones when the standard theory provided insufficient room to contain the facts of the case. He went beyond price theory to come to grips with the unsolved problems of growth and to work out answers of his own. The result was a new kind of economics based, as was the economics of J.M. Keynes, on the assertion of a new ethical foundation. Unlike Keynes, Innis was concerned with the long run, for we can survive now only by understanding the coping with the long-run consequences of past policies; and, given the right policies now, the nation as a whole will live on. Innis and Keynes are like two sides of a coin in the new issue of value theory. We can flip that coin to see which policy will come up, or we can account for both sides in some sort of rational compromise. A New Theory of Value is a plea for a rational approach to the problem.