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Why is Chrystia Freeland leaving journalism to run for office?

August 16, 2013

By Ezra Klein

Chrystia Freeland. (Author’s photo.)

Chrystia Freeland. (Author’s photo.)

Until recently, Chrystia Freeland was managing director and editor for consumer news at Reuters. She was also a prolific author, including, most recently, of the excellent book Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else

But Freeland recently announced she’s leaving journalism to run for parliament as a member of Canada’s Liberal Party. On Thursday, I got the chance to ask her why.

Ezra Klein: So, why leave journalism to run for public office?

Chrystia Freeland: For me it was a very personal decision. It comes in two parts. The first is it comes out of my journalistic work. I’ve been writing a lot about the changes in the economy — namely, globalization and the technology revolution — for both the exciting possibilities they hold and their impact on income distribution. My conclusion is that we in industrialized Western societies are at a real watershed moment. It’s comparable to the peak of the industrial revolution. Our economy is changing really profoundly, and I don’t think our social and political institutions have kept up with that.

And look, I’m excited about these changes; I’m a capitalist red in tooth and claw. It’s important to embrace the power of innovation. But we’re seeing that there’s no guarantee that the fruits of even positive changes in the economy will be widely shared. In recent decades increases in productivity and wages have been decoupled. So now we’re seeing this surging inequality with people at the top doing really well and the middle class being hollowed out.

This became my preoccupation. I gave a lot of book talks, particularly in Canada, because I’m from Canada, and my book did best in Canada, and book talks are great…

EK: That’s a cheerful disposition. I’ve mostly heard authors say touring for books is horrible.

CF: Anybody who complains about it is either a hypocrite or an ingrate. You’re talking about something you love to audiences who care. What could be better than that? But so I’d do these talks and people would say: Okay, I’m sympathetic to your analysis. It rings true. But what will you do about it? What can I do about it? And I thought, yeah, that is the right question.

The second piece in my decision is I’m a very patriotic Canadian. I’ve worked outside Canada a lot but remained very connected to Canada. It meant a lot to me that … at Thompson Reuters I was working for a global Canadian company. And writing my book made me feel very Canadian because the combination of being very enthusiastic about capitalism and very concerned about the social implications is very central to the Canadian polity. Read more in the Washington Post.

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