Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Explaining my Politics

I had a conversation today with someone and they asked me why I was a Liberal.

My response is I am not a Liberal but I am a liberal.  More specifically, I am a pragmatist. Most of life is about solving problems and when it comes to solving problems you are better served to identify the problem and find a solution that fits it instead of attempting to fit the problem to a preconceived solution.

This is true of governments.  Their job is to come up with solutions to problems that will serve the greatest good.  How they actually do this does not matter.  So, for example, if a issue needs a more conservative approach to be resolved then that should be the approach they take.  The same is true if a problem would be best resolved by an approach that would be considered liberal or socialist.  

Looking at the political landscape in Canada today the only party that comes close to matching that requirement, federally, are the Liberals.  The same holds true for Ontario.  

The most likely alternative to the Liberals, in Canada and in Ontario, do not meet my requirements. They are much too dogmatic.  That is, they care more about adhering to their narrow ideology than solving real world problems that would serve the greatest good. 

I am of course referring to the Conservative Parties of Canada and Ontario.  They are a great representation of the decent into dogmatism that has become a feature of modern conservatism in the English speaking world.  In fact, I would go so far as to state that I believe the conservative movement, in its current form, is as great a threat to our freedom, lives and livelihood as Communism was during the Cold War.  Indeed, conservatism would be the greater threat as it has much more credibility than Communism ever did.

Some would consider that statement inflammatory but you just need to look at the problem solving approaches of the old Soviet Union and modern conservatism to see the parallels.

During Cold War the Soviet Union had a very difficult time producing enough food to feed its entire population.  For decades it had to buy surplus grain from Canada and the West despite the fact the area of land it had to produce grain and other foodstuffs almost equaled that of the Western world combined.  Really, looking at the amount of farmland they had the Soviet Union should have been able to feed itself and have a great deal left over to sell to the rest of the world.

So why could the Soviet Union not feed itself?  Simple, agricultural decisions that would usually be taken at the individual farm level were taken by a bureaucrat at a central location. Farmers in the Soviet Union were not allowed to think for themselves and to take decisions that were in the best interest of their farms.  They had to implement the decisions, about their individual farms, that were taken somewhere else, often in a place very far away from their farms.

The ideology of the old Communist Party of the Soviet Union was the primacy of central control of all aspects of the economy.  Factories and farms had to be centrally controlled from the centre because that is what Lenin and Trotsky said way back in 1917 and to stray from that ideal, even a little bit, was considered to be heresy.  So, the Soviet Union stuck to Communist dogma for decades and had to buy grain and other foodstuffs from the West, almost every year, in order to stave off famine.  It should be noted that the lack of ability to feed itself took up alot of the time of the Soviet leadership but they could never come up with a solution that would work and adhere to Communist dogma at the same time.  When they had to choose between the two options they chose to stick to dogma everytime, until Mr. Gobachev came along.

The irony is if they would have relaxed that control just a small amount they would have probably solved the problem.  The agriculture industry in the West is not a true free market by any sense of the word.  That sector is the most controlled and subsidized economic sector in the West.  However, individual farmers are allowed to make decisions regarding their own farms and that is the crucial difference.

So how does this relate to modern conservatism?  The parallels are evident.  The Harper government pursued a "tough on crime" agenda throughout its time despite the fact that there was increasing evidence to indicate that crime, violent crime in particular, was falling long before they came to power.

Mike Harris decided to deregulate the electricity industry in Ontario because modern conservatives firmly believe that any form of regulation is bad.  Every industry expert that did not work for the industry or the Harris government stated that deregulation would lead to higher prices but the Harris government believed otherwise and went ahead with it. It should be no surprise that high electricity prices are now a big issue in Ontario. 

I would also point out the deregulation of the Hog industry in Ontario which lead directly to the death of several people in Walkerton, Ontario.

Climate change is real and humans are contributing to it.  The evidence is clear.  Yet conservatives either deny that fact outright or they play down its potential impacts.  There might come a time when global warming and its resultant impacts on our climate will become an existential threat to the human species yet conservatives refuse to even acknowledge that there is a problem.

To place more importance on ideological purity than on evidence and fact will inevitably lead to disaster.  You can only ignore a problem or attempt to apply the wrong solution to it for so long before it becomes unmanageable.  When we do it as individuals it can lead to great personal hardship.  When governments do it they can do unspeakable harm to the people they represent and the society that they are morally and legally bound to protect.

Modern Conservative governments attempt to fit problems to reconceived solutions  They place ideological purity over finding the most effective solution. Liberal governments are generally more pragmatic.  They will usually weigh the evidence and facts before taking a decision on how to solve a problem.  That is why I am a liberal.


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