The DAILY DIGEST: INFORMATION and OPINION from ST. JOHN’S to VICTORIA.
TORONTO STAR - Ontario enters election season
TORONTO STAR - Campaign against poverty
TORONTO SUN - Okay, NOW we need a holiday
LONDON FREE PRESS - The hard, cold facts
WINNIPEG SUN - Is that all there is, Mr. Harper?
CALGARY HERALD - Happy New Year: In our fast-paced urban life, may we not lose our values
Canada Falling Off the News Radar
Major American news corps pull out their Canadian correspondents
Milton Friedman: Objective scientist first, free-market promoter second
The founder of the 'Chicago school' of economics reinvigorated the world's faith in capitalism.
John Kenneth Galbraith understood capitalism as lived - not as theorized
Don't discount the positive side of globalization
Leadership vacuum on world stage
Americas new allies
HEALTH CARE RELATED
Illusion of Control Affects Response to Adverse Situations
Three Orders of the Mind
What are psychology, parapsychology and psychiatry?
Critics urge special tax for overseas Canadians
POLITICS IN THE PROVINCES
Strange bedfellows in Quebec
McGuinty plans to target green vote
`Great Dismantler' puts ideology into action
Can Dion spur Liberal comeback?
Kingsley's resignation ill-timed, Tories say
New Year, New Leader, Last Chance?
Dion might be able to keep Canada alive and in the game.
Exactly what is 'physical activity'?
The Sleepy Subject of Canada’s Grain Exports Perks Up
Wheat from the chaff
World faces hottest year ever, as El Niño combines with global warming
The hottest postsecondary field? Intelligence
OPINION AND INFORMATION
The value of multiculturalism
Why cousin marriage matters in Iraq
Clan loyalty fixed by cousin marriage was always bound to undermine democracy in Iraq.
"Global Prevalence" map at www.consang.net .
# Les pm Stephen Harper et Jean Charest formulent leurs meilleurs voeux
La guerre en Afghanistan désignée nouvelle canadienne de l'année
Des allègements pour les parents de jeunes enfants
QUESTIONING THE QUESTION
Real quite correctly stated the following:
"To me, it is not the provenance of an idea that is important, but whether it makes sense in the determination of public policy."
Not the origin of public policy but whether the effects make sense is what is of importance.
Stratos' statement "Conservatives don't so much believe in smaller government as they do in appropriately-sized government and no more;
in terms of federal-provincial jurisdictions, Conservatives favour more the "original deal" struck in the British North American Act, as opposed to political practices that followed it;" is true for Conservatives supporting increased provincial autonomy - it does not speak for all Conservatives.
For some "The question for Canadians is whether or not Harper has a mandate to dismantle the federal government's capacity forever, or whether
they are willing to grant him such a mandate in the next election." http://www.thestar.com/opinion/article/166322
Real was kind in writing "As usual, an excellent question in your December 31st Daily Digest.".
Hopefully he can give the same approbation to this: WHICH IN YOUR OPINION MAKES MORE SENSE, DECISION MAKING POWERS BEING
MAINTAINED AT THE FEDERAL LEVEL OR FLOWING TO THE PROVINCIAL?
However well or poorly the phraseology above may be it is a gist of a question on which each of us must take a position.
A question: are the following characteristics those of traditional Canadian conservatives or in part U.S. imports?
You can clearly see the traditional conservative ? fiscally sound, committed to smaller government and the
division of federal and provincial responsibilities, and supportive of a strong and clear foreign and defence policy.
As usual, an excellent question in your December 31st Daily Digest.
First, it seems to me that Stanway's characterization of the Harper government's policy directions is bang on. It's the also clearest and most concise explanation of Harper's policy priorities.
As for whether this is a "traditional" Canadian Conservative approach to policy formulation, or, as you suggest, an American import, it appears to me to contain elements of the experience of both countries. For one thing, Canada has not always had the profligate tax-and-spend governments that the country has suffered under for the past half century. On the other hand, Canadian conservatives have traditionally been exponents of the tendency to centralize all power in Ottawa, beginning with John A. Macdonald. It was, after all, a Conservative government which created the money-sucking government monopoly now called Air Canada, and since privatized a few years ago. Moreover, Conservative governments since Confederation have been as prone to scandal as have the Liberals. If Conservative governments have been less involved in such scandals it could well be that the reason is that they have been shut out of government by the Liberals for most of the twentieth century.
Also, one must not forget that as an ideology conservatism is not limited to the U.S. In my view, the leader who most successfully adopted the kind of conservatism depicted by Stanway was not any American but rather Margaret Thatcher.
To me, it is not the provenance of an idea that is important, but whether it makes sense in the determination of public policy.
Traditional conservatives are NOT necessarily committed to “smaller” government. They would be committed to efficient and effective government, fiscally sound government. Smaller government can be more expensive than larger government because when a government downsizes and contracts out to the private sector the eventual cost is often much higher.
While a traditional conservative would be supportive of a strong and clear foreign and defence policy they would oppose an “offence” policy such as the concept of “preemptive war.” The idea that a country should use military force to intervene in other countries and overthrow regimes with which they disagree is not conservative. A traditional conservative seeks to work within existing institutions not overthrow them. More militaristic government is expensive government and if you include military personnel, often results in larger government.
This is another example of a westerner totally indoctrinated into U.S. conservative ideology.
It is interesting to note that R. B. Bennett was actually born in New Brunswick. He advocated progressive taxation, unemployment insurance, heath insurance, and major social reforms but both the Canadian elite and his Liberal opponents opposed his New Deal. In other words, Bennett proposed larger government during the depression funded by a progressive tax system, all things the new Conservatives tend to oppose.
Happy New Year to you and all those whom you hold dear. And many more years to DD to one and all ...
That being said: let's get down to business for 2007 ...
First, the issues identified above ....
Fiscal soundness. No politician, whether in Canada or the US, will ever openly support fiscal "unsoundness". Where politicians will differ, though, is on their emphasis on soundness at the expense of other issues, that is:
1. to what degree must the "fiscal soundness" of measures aimed at addressing a particular issue (e.g. unemployment, social supports, and many others) prevail over the desired results? This amounts to "how much are we willing to pay for full results, how much time are we willing to take to get to said results, are we willing to balance expenses against partial results, and (conceivably) are we willing to live with the issue without spending on it".
For the above, in Canada, the Conservative collective will tend to put more emphasis on fiscal soundness than will the Liberal one, though this says nothing about what a given individual Liberal or Conservative will emphasize. Think of two bell curves with much overlap but whose peaks are offset. The Conservative one would be higher up (but not by all that much) on the "fiscal soundness" scale whereas the Liberal one would be lower down. As for the NDP, it would be significantly further down the scale. But note that the scale we're talking about is based on socio-political values and objectives ... reality and modern values (aka "technocracy; professional attitudes", voter anxiety, "good sense", convenient social virtue, etc.) put a damper on the burning passions of each party's most ardent partisans.
So, for a given issue, we can think of Canada's main political parties as existing in different (but overlapping) parts of a continuum. Each Party's philosophy will emphasize different things. But calling a Party "right" and "left" in the traditional sense (that is aristocracy, "the rule of the best" as opposed to "the masses") has no meaning in modern politics. With this in mind, we can say that:
a. modern Canadian Conservatives emphasize "peace, order, and good government", with good government consisting of regulating commerce and society just enough to promote the collective welfare, with a view to palliating abuses and socially-unacceptable situations; Conservatives overall are NOT averse to regulation ... they just feel that they should apply it more sparingly, sensibly, and judiciously than Liberals do; Conservatives don't so much believe in smaller government as they do in appropriately-sized government and no more; in terms of federal-provincial jurisdictions, Conservatives favour more the "original deal" struck in the British North American Act, as opposed to political practices that followed it;
Conservative virtue and reward: greater strictness in their dealings, a greater sense of "virtuous identity", a more Stoic attitude towards national issues, and the virtuous pride that goes with it; their vice and punishment: unleavened discipline leading to voter resentment.
b. modern Liberals are pretty much like Conservatives except that the rigour of their views towards government aims and actions is more relaxed; they're more open to lobbying and "petitioning", as well as to accomodating the "needs" (often desires) and views of political constituencies (aka what Americans call "special interests"). Liberals are similar to Conservatives in that they favour appropriately-sized government; however, they're more relaxed on the "and no more". As concerns political jurisdictions, Liberals are more given to throwing their weight around, to the much greater annoyance of the provinces.
Liberal virtues and reward: a gentler touch in their dealings, a more Epicurean (that is, relaxed and accommodating) attitude towards national issues, and the "happy, good-guy" pride that goes with it; their vice: sloppiness in their dealings, Liberals being less demanding of good results, and a tendency to too-cozy relationships with fellow travelers; their punishment: finding themselves more and more out of step with evolving modern values.
c. (I hesitate to say) "modern" NDPers are leftovers of "people vs. privilege" ideology; to a large degree, they've failed to grow out of the pre-1980s social condition when big employers and big unions could fleece consumers and separate the spoils between themselves (case in point: GM; they built crap cars with quality and consistency being an annoying expense; lack of foreign competition, coupled with high economic growth in North America, meant that they could charge high prices for shoddy goods and buy off the unions by cutting them in on high profits; now, cars prices have gone down by 70-80% (!!!) in 1970 dollars, foreign competition is fierce, and all US cars manufacturers are on the ropes); the NDP is still stuck in the 1970s mindset of squealing for "workers" and "ordinary people" getting a cut of the action, while putting almost no emphasis on the means to achieving that, apart from spending government money to stimulate the economy and to insure individuals against all the vagaries of life.
When it comes to government size, it's hard to tell where the NDP stands since it seems to give little thought to it. One gets the impression that the NDP's underdeveloped sense of propriety amounts to "let's spend money on stuff and we'll figure out the details when we get to them". The same applies to its attitude to federal and provincial jurisdictions.
NDP virtue and reward: their attention to social issues and the voice of the weak, and the missionary pride of trying to make the world a better place; their vices: sanctimony and irresponsibility; their punishments: being ignored or being looked down upon, when not being laughed at with contempt.
And now, the US ...
The situation is completely different in the United States. There, individual Congressmen (especially in the House of Representatives, though Senators are no slouches) are out to maximize benefits for their own constituencies, party loyalties notwithstanding. Belonging to one party as opposed to another does have significance, since allegiance makes individual Congressmen benefit from local Party machines, volunteers, financing, etc., come election time. However, individual Congressmen have to keep their local Party members happy to ensure their supporting him come the time to nominate the Party's candidate for the next election (every two years for each Representative, can you believe it!). Some Congressmen (especially Senators) do stand to some degree "above it all" once they've achieved some seniority with in their Party, enough ascendance over their local members to ensure re-nomination, and the good fortune of representing a safe seat. That being said, an individual Congressman's loyalty to his Party is much weaker than is an individual MP's in Canada. Think of Congressmen as being political entrepreneurs where MPs are team players.
What all this adds up to is that a given congressman can be quite "conservative" American-style and be a Democrat, whereas a "liberal" might well be Republican. More than anything, a Congressman's "conservatism" or "liberality" will be in step with his constituency's, which is itself dual in nature: the Party members who live in his State (if he's a Senator) or district (if he's a Representative) can have a collective personality quite different quite different from those of the voters. But overall, "conservative" American politicians, whether Democrat or Republican, tend to come from "conservative" areas, whereas "liberal" politicians come from "liberal" areas.
That being said, US "conservative" thought tends to emphasize smaller government. family community virtue, self-help, and industry (in the sense of individual "industriousness"). This amounts to an optimistic view of human nature and affairs, in that properly motivating people will encourage them to take their lives in their own hands. And their doing so would be the driver to their welfare and prosperity. Canadian Conservatism is kind of like this, except that it's more low-key, less optimistic, and preachy/"spiritual"/missionary in nature.
US "liberal" thought emphasizes more government that "conservatives" wish for, and more governmental measures to deal with domestic social problems and inequalities. Whereas "conservatives" emphasize "good citizen" personal values more than "liberals" do, the latter emphasize freedom of thought and opinion. But in terms of government, "liberals" emphasize redistributive government action to address social problems and inequalities ("transfer from the rich to the poor") and they emphasize collective wealth and well-being through government correctives when things get out of hand. "Conservatives" tend to think in terms of "if you're not happy, do something about it by working harder, getting an education, whatever" whereas "liberals" tend to think in terms of "we've got to fix this and government should help us do it".
And as concerns fiscal soundness: US politicians are always out to ingratiate themselves with their electors. At one moment, "conservatives" will often emphasize "smaller government ... except for certain goodies I'd like to hand out to my supporters/constituents/campaign-contributors". And "liberals" will emphasize "more government measures ... except for certain goodies ...". Once a budget is set, both sides think of "goodies", wheeling-dealing, ideological squabbles, and (in some eminent cases) "the greater good". No wonder that US "conservatives" often have the upper hand in US politics ... they're just as ruthless as "liberals", and "starving the beast (government)" actually seems to be a good thing when one considers how sloppily US governments are run.
All that to say: it's far from straightforward to compare US attitudes to Canadian ones. Each country's completely different political system, customs, culture, and history leads to certain political philosophies meaning something completely different from the other's.
And also, pity the poor US politician: Representatives get elected every two years, during which they have to see off rivals for Party nomination, build or maintain campaign teams, raise money, and run for election. In brief, eacgh Representative is in election mode right from Day One of his most recent mandate. Senators run for election every six years but they're in the same bind in that they have to raise such prodigious sums for their campaigns. For Heaven's sake, John Glenn, ex-Senator for Ohio and first American astronaut to orbit the Earth in the 60s, complained of his hectic fundraising efforts ... he had to spend FIVE HOURS PER DAY on the phone, every day, for six years to raise funds for his next campaign. In the 90s, that meant his raising $22,000 per day non-stop for six years. Yikes!
So: US philosophy and rhetoric is for the US, Canadian philosophy and rhetoric is for Canada. And the twain shan't meet anytime soon.
Happy 2007, folks! And let's hope for a CPC majority in 2007!
Stephane Dion's riding, Montreal, QC
Monday, January 01, 2007
Daily Digest January 1, 2007
Joe Hueglin wrote: