| The dismal science|
Social Credit was an economic theory coined during the 1920s by one Major C.H. Douglas, who was an engineer. The tenets of Social Credit are vague but basically have to do with the notion that consumer power is the key to bringing about social and economic change, if only consumers would be fully vested in their economic power. The purchasing power of consumers thereby would act as a "monetary vote," and sees the economy as producers guided by and acting in service to a "democracy of consumers."
Despite the above description sounding like such consumer power movements as socially responsible investing (SRI) and consumer boycotts, Social Credit is not really related to those. Rather, it is a form of money crankery, positing complicated mathematical formulas purporting to compute the real cost of production, and such concepts as the "unearned increment of association" (money) collectively constituting the "cultural heritage."
A simplified version of Social Credit: capitalism is unable to produce enough "unearned increments of association" (again, money) to enable consumers to be fully vested in their economic power, so the solution is for the government to periodically pump extra money into the economy at regular intervals. How much money is to be determined by those pseudoscientific formulas.
Social Credit political parties were formed and successful, of all places, in Canada. It is the one country where the Social Credit Party became a major party, but only because of the Great Depression, which propelled the party into power in Alberta in 1935 during an era when all sorts of odd left-populist economic ideas were getting entirely too much attention from people desperate for economic relief. They became a major party in Canada's ever-shifting lineup of political parties and remained a force well into the 1970s, especially strong in Alberta, British Columbia, and (off and on given several splits between the French-speaking branch and the federal party) Quebec. However, in English Canada, the "SoCreds," as they were called, early on abandoned any semblance of the Social Credit ideology, and had become for all intents and purposes a generic conservative political party, with varying roles in different provinces. In Alberta, they were the government from 1935 to 1971 (Ernest Manning having purged the monetary cranks in 1948) and in British Columbia, from 1942 to 1991, with one brief interruption from 1971 to 1975. In Quebec, however, Social Credit retained much of its fidelity to the original Douglasite doctrine.
In 1980, the SoCreds' viability as a nationwide party collapsed and they lost all their seats in Parliament, which had all come from Quebec. They remained a minor force in provincial politics in Alberta and Quebec for several more years, and held majority governments in British Columbia until 1991. At the federal level, however, numerous marginal cranks (including Religious Right activists and worse) contested for the federal party leadership of an essentially defunct party with no representation in Parliament. In 1993 they made it official and were deregistered by Elections Canada. In 1996, the last elected SoCred in Canada, a member of the British Columbia legislature, lost his seat in a general election.
Social Credit also enjoyed a measure of political success in New Zealand, where the Social Credit Party secured up to 20% of the popular vote in general elections in the 1970's and early 1980's. However the first-past-the-post electoral system translated this into a maximum of 2 seats in the New Zealand Parliament.   The party subsequently renamed itself in the mid-1980's went through a series of name changes, amalgamations and splits with other small political groups such as Greens and New Labour in the Alliance, before re-emerging under the Social Credit banner. It currently exists as a fringe political movement with no significant political presence.