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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The 21st Century will belong to Canada

Authors Jason Clemens, Brian Lee Crowley, and Niels Veldhuis take inspiration from Wilfred Laurier and claim that the 21st century will be Canada’s century in their new book, The Canadian Century: Moving out of America's Shadow.

I’m looking forward to reading this book, if nothing else, because the authors seem to grasp something about Canadian history that most people miss:

Clemens said Laurier was a classical liberal who believed in small government and low taxes, and Canada followed his core beliefs for about 50 years.

"He was not only interested in policy, he was interested in an aspiration for this country," said Clemens.

"He was interested in lifting this country up into a leadership position, not only in North America but in the world. Laurier had great plans and great hopes for our country at the turn of the century. For a very long time, even right into the 1950s, we were essentially following Laurier's principles, in terms of government, in terms of policy, in terms of the role of government in our country. Then we go off course in the mid-1960s."

Did you know that the United States had a bigger government and larger welfare program than Canada before the 1960s? Did you know that every government expansion in Canada, excepting health care, has been inspired by American programs? All of you out there that are proud of Canada because we have a more ‘generous’ collectivist spirit should take note:

Nothing has made us more American than big government programs.

The core of the Canadian polity was once upon a time the ideals of liberty and individual responsibility. That core still exists deep down in our collective memory. We simply have to find it again.

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on March 23, 2010 | Permalink


If so many American ideas inspired Canada, then how did desegregation not hit Toronto? Why on earth would they separate white and non-white students in their schools? They need a civil rights movement.

Posted by: Zebulon Pike | 2010-03-23 6:48:38 AM

Hugh writes: "The core of the Canadian polity was once upon a time the ideals of liberty and individual responsibility. That core still exists deep down in our collective memory. We simply have to find it again."

It's not an issue of memory. It's an issue of morality. And, in part, it is not a case of finding a morality that we once had/shared, but of discovering and adopting a morality that most have arguably always opposed.

The most common moral code, now and in the past, is altruism. By "altruism", in this limited context, I mean: the belief that it is wrong to pursue your own happiness if, as a result, the needs of others are not supplied by you. In other words: the notion that taking care of the basic needs/survival of others comes before even thinking about using your time, effort and wealth solely to make yourself happy.

I contrast altruism with "rational egoism", which I herein define as: the belief that ones own life is ones highest value, that the pursuit of ones own happiness is ones highest/ultimate purpose, and that rational (hence honest, productive, just, purely consensual) means are the only acceptable means for pursuing happiness.

"Capitalism" refers to a system in which government's role is to ensure that all conduct between individuals is consensual; that a person's values are not obtained without his consent. Rand's short definition for it was "the separation of state and economics" (note: she did not mean the separation of state and trade - she wanted the state to use force to ensure all trades were consensual as between the people trading). Capitalism is devoid of welfare; of state-enforced thieving from earners, and spending on non-earners. However, capitalism has nothing at all to say about whether people set up private organizations for the purposes of such wealth redistribution.

Prior to the rise of the welfare state in Canada, there were still "moochers": non-earners or under-earners who expected earners to give them the money they needed to pay for the basics of their survival (or more). That's not a new development. Prior to the rise of the welfare state, religions and other private community organizations were the bodies that did the dirty deed of transferring wealth from the earners to the non-earners.

In the case of religions, virtually all of the preachers/rabbis etc. told their wealthier members that they had a moral duty to pay for the needy. If they didn't, they were shunned by their religious community; condemned for being "greedy" etc.. Meanwhile, the needy were praised for being more likely to enter the kingdom of heaven: their poverty, unproductiveness, and their alleged disinterest in material things were regarded as proof of their virtue. In contrast, those picking up the slack for them were told they were going to find it as harder to enter heaven than for a camel to pass through the eye of the needle: their productiveness, and attention to the production and accumulation of material wealth was proof of their villainy, their viciousness, and their moral inferiority; of their sinfulness; of their obligation to pay for their sins. And so the latter group, not wanting to be condemned and pushed out of their community - a community also of customers, upon which their material wealth could largely depend - gave, and gave generously.

But there was a problem with private charity. Those receiving charity felt they had been given something they did not deserve. They didn't like getting charity. They felt guilty; low; even perpetually fearful, knowing that the alms they received depended entirely upon the earners continuing to DECIDE to give. They wanted something that they deserved so they would not feel guilty or low. To alleviate their chronic fear and insecurity, they wanted some CERTAINTY that they would CONTINUE to receive the unearned.

Enter the welfare state, promising to lift the guilt off the shoulders of those receiving what they did not earn. With the absolute certainty that is ensured by the point of a gun and the threat of the cage, the state would take the money "from all" (i.e., from those who earn) and satisfy the needs of those who did not earn (or did not earn enough). And here was the magic hand-wave that made it preferable to private charities: the state made a legal assertion that implied a moral assertion, that the needy had a RIGHT to have their basic needs paid for. The switch from private to government-supplied loot allowed the recipients to tell themselves, and assert to others: "I don't owe you anything; this money is RIGHTFULLY MINE!; I have a RIGHT to it. Do not expect any THANKS from me, because you didn't give me anything I don't already have a RIGHT to!". The state, in short, gave the moocher a way to believe he didn't owe anyone anything, and to sleep at night knowing that the gravy train - being ensured with bullets and cages - would probably never end.

The rest is history. The churches shrank. The community organizations shrank. As the moochers needs were taken care of by the state, they saw no reason to join religious or other community organizations; organizations that, with dwindling membership, were themselves becoming demanding moochers (even demanding that the poor give what crumbs they could to ensure that the organization continued to exist). They lost their purpose. Some of the organizations are nearly gone: many religions, the Orange Order, etc. Taxes rose, and so did the voices of the moochers, as they became increasingly certain that none of the values they were receiving, at earners' expense, were anything other than debts rightly owing to non/under-earners.

The issue is moral. So long as people regard need as a value; so long as they consider need to be a thing that must be accepted as the only payment for the wealth earned by others; so long as most voters feel morally guilty about buying a widescreen TV because they know that they could have relieved another person's necessities with the money; so long as we condemn the productive for demanding something in exchange for what they've obtained by honest trade (whether the trade of labour or of property); so long as we fail to condemn - as evil - those who claim it is right for the government to use guns to take values from those who earned the values; the finding of memories will not loosen our captive fetters even a smidgen.

To the moocher who is reading this: Need is not a value. If you want a value, create one. If you want what you cannot create, create a value somebody else wants, and trade. If you want the government to steal for you: expect my full and utter moral condemnation and political opposition. You're evil, and I, for one, will never let you, or anyone else, ignore or forget it.

To the earner who is reading this: demand values in exchange for your values (remembering always that a person - a good person - is a value, and that to give to a good person is no wrong, if you are giving what is deserved, and if you are thereby preserving a person who is a value to you). If your fellow earner expects the government to use guns to give him an advantage, or to give his competitors a disadvantage: condemn your fellow earner as a looter; as a vicious person; as a villain. If you're earning, without mooching or looting, and pursuing - first and foremost - your own happiness by strictly rational (e.g., honest) means I will admire you, defend your conduct and name, and tell all that you are a righteous person of the highest virtue.

May we all do the same, each for the sake of his own happiness.

Posted by: Paul McKeever | 2010-03-23 3:09:18 PM

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