I was pondering Max Weber's assertion that bureaucracy is the height of human rationality. It occurred to me that bureaucracies place social relations on a machine-like, or mechanistic basis. As with the parts of a machine, the functions of a bureaucracy are divided and subdivided between different offices and departments. Each functionary carries out his or her work, indifferent to the work of other functionaries in other departments. The bureaucracy cannot, or should not, show feeling or favouritism toward anyone; it is simply a method of getting things done. It may be objected that bureaucracies, in the real world, far less efficient and far more dysfunctional, than are machines that run on inanimate power sources. But in the real world, too, few machines function at anywhere near maximal efficiency. Very frequently, they don=t function at all, or do their job very inefficiently. Again, though, they get their job done, just as most bureaucracies do, eventually. I
I have often thought, over the years, as to why I identify myself as `conservative', when I don=t particularly identify with many conservative beliefs. For example, I believe that "all things being equal" a child should be brought up in a two-parent family. Yet, all things are never really equal and sometimes it is better that quarrelling parents should divorce (I'm acquainted with a couple whose constant fighting is having a manifestly deleterious effect on at least one of their children). I'm dubious as to the assertions that welfare-programmes lead to family breakdown, broken communities and drug abuse. I think the `war on drugs' is about the stupidest thing that was ever conceived (at least some died-in-the-wool conservatives are with me here). I'm against the death penalty, partly for pragmatic reasons (namely, the impossibility of pardoning a wrongly convicted individual who has been put to death) but also for moral reasons (capital punishment is morally demeaning to a society C not the equivalent of cold-blooded murder, mind C but demeaning nonetheless). I'm also dubious as to the benefits of laissez-faire economics: yes, most of the economy should be in private hands; however, it is equally obvious to me that certain taken-for-granted industries and services (ie. modern medicine, and mass-schooling, not to mention industrial-engineering) would not exist without the subsidies provided by the state over the last century and more.
Yet, for all this, I can only turn my head away in disgust and disbelief at what the modern liberal-left has become. Pick any issue, and in my assessment, left parties and intellectuals are on the wrong side of justice, decency, logic, and just plain common sense.
Take the issue of terrorism. I supported the policies that George Bush the younger adopted after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and believed, as he and his officials did, that `terrorism' (it is Islamic-fascist terrorism) must be met with a military response. This is a policy decision. To me, it is self-evident that a criminal-justice approach to terror will not be effective. Others, however, disagree. That is their right. Others still (and not only on left) will state that the threat of terror is `exaggerated', proffering statements that `You are x times more likely to die from an automobile accident, than be killed by a terrorist.' I think such commentators miss the point, but again, it is an entirely legitimate point of view. What I find incomprehensible, however, is that much of the left has actively chummed-up with Muslims who, while not actively part of Osama Bin Laden's crusade, are advocates of terrorism against Jews and other Westerners nonetheless.
Recently, the Canadian journalist (and former union activist) Terry Glavan reported on a `fact-finding' mission to Afghanistan by the American left-wing group Code Pink. The latter have been prominent since at least 9/11, demanding that the U.S. military withdraw from Afghanistan (they were of course opposed to any plan to invade the country initially), and indeed, believe that the U.S. military should not be stationed anywhere in the world. According to Glavan, however, the Code Pink activists were surprised when most of the Afghani women they encountered were not in favour of an American withdrawal C for the good reason that if the Taliban fascists again take power, women and girls will again become the prisoners in their homes, as they were during the Taliban's rule up to October, 2001). Earlier, Glavan wrote, the Code Pink activists had gone on another fact-finding mission to the `occupied' territories of Palestine. They were there, of course, as guests of Hamas, the terrorist government of the Gaza strip whose charter promises not only to destroy Israel, but also, to kill Jews anywhere they can be found. In regard to social questions, Hamas may be slightly more moderate than the Taliban: perhaps homosexuals in a terrorist-led Palestinian state would not be killed, but merely locked up for long periods; women who were Apromiscuous@ may also escape execution in favour of long prison sentences. This is the movement that the `feminists' of Code Pink have chosen to give aid and succour to.
Even where the left has not actively courted alliance with known terrorists, they have sought common-cause with Muslim lobby groups that advocate social philosophies that these same leftists condemn when they are proposed by Christian lobbyists. The example of the Canadian New Democratic party, the socialist group in the federal Parliament, is illustrative. A few years ago, Parliament voted on the issue of same-sex marriage. Although the vote was designated as `free', that is, members could vote their conscience, the NDP leader, Jack Layton, whipped his caucus, such that his members were expected to vote in favour of legalizing same-sex marriage (for the record, I am against granting gays the same right to marry as straights, although I am otherwise stoutly opposed to discrimination against homosexuals - as with the stupid `don't ask, don't tell' policy of the U.S. military). One NDP MP chose to vote with her constituents, and her own conscience, and said `nay' on the issue. The response was quick and brutal: she was kicked out of the NDP caucus, her party membership was revoked, and in the nomination contest in the run up to the next federal election, party officials engineered her defeat at the riding level, such that she was not able to run in the poll.
But, in this very same general election, NDP leader Layton sought out a prominent Muslim activist to run in an Ottawa riding. This woman, who never appeared anywhere without a prominent head-veil, was revealed to be stoutly opposed to same-sex marriage. Rather than jettison her candidacy, however, Layton simply let it be known that the Muslim candidate, if required to vote on the issue of same-sex marriage, would be allowed to `vote her conscience.' The hypocrisy on display here is astounding. Layton declared war on one of his own MP's for breaking ranks with the party on the very same issue that another potential MP, would be allowed to break ranks on if she were elected office (the Muslim candidate went down to defeat; but alone among the many other NDP candidates who faced that situation, she was given a high-paying job the party headquarters in Ottawa).
Then there is the issue of terrorism generally. Soon after the attacks on New York city and Washington, D.C. that day over eight years ago, the left's explanation of the `root causes' of terrorism settled on the dogma that the attacks were motivated by `the divide between global rich and poor', the `35-year occupation of the West Bank and Gaza strip', and the `oppression of the Muslim world' by the United States (and what do you know? These are exactly the causes championed by the modern left!). These soon became conventional wisdom among the elites in politics, academia and the news media. All of this in spite of the lack of any evidence for any of them.
Is terrorism is the last refuge of the impoverished against the affluent, as asserted so many times by those on the left? Osama Bin Laden was not poor at all; he came from a very wealthy family, and even if the nineteen attackers were not as rich as he, they all came from the upper-middle class. They were, as a group, far richer than most of the 3,000 the terrorists wantonly murdered that day. This holds, too, for terrorists who carried out attacks subsequent to 9/11 (like the Jordanian doctor who, posing as an informant, killed several CIA agents, soldiers, and some reporters in Afghanistan recently, or the Nigerian `underwear' bomber, whose family is the richest in Africa).
Were they motivated by the so-called occupation of the Palestinian territories by Israel (the Israelis pulled out of the Gaza strip years ago, but apparently, are still `occupying' the territory somehow, at least according to the left)? There were no Palestinians involved in the Sept. 11 attacks, and no mention was made of this `occupation' in the initial communiques released to Al-Jazeera TV by Bin Laden (only subsequently, after Western leftists brought up the issue, did he include it in his list of `grievances' to justify the attacks).
Were the Sept. 11 terrorists motivated by the mistreatment by the United States of the Muslim world? The overthrow by the Iranian military, backed by Britain and the U.S., of a duly-elected prime minister of that country in 1953, resulting in the rule of the Shah, was often cited as an example of this U.S. `oppression', in the weeks and months after 9/11. Another was the support given by the U.S. to `corrupt oil monarchies' in the Middle East. This is, in itself, pretty thin gruel. There were no Iranians involved in the Sept. 11 attacks; again, Bin Laden never mentioned the overthrow in his `grievance' list; there is no expectation whatsoever that Islamic fascists such as Bin Laden and his operatives, would be compelled to kill thousands on behalf of a secular Iranian prime minister who was thrown out of office nearly half a century earlier.
As for the U.S. support of `corrupt oil monarchies' in the Middle East, this is a peculiar argument as well. All of these monarchies do, to a lesser or greater degree, uphold a very `fundamentalist' interpretation of Islam, that Wahhabists like Bin Laden find quite felicitous indeed. When in 1991, the U.S. repelled the Iraqi army from Kuwait, the Americans were obviously doing so to secure an vitally important commodity - crude oil. Incidentally, however, they were (aside from defending international law) ensuring the reinstatement of a regime that upheld a version of Islamic law that, while not as severe as that found in Saudi Arabia, was hardline by any other standard, from an invading state that was (as we were told ad infinitum in the run-up to the Iraqi war in 2003) a secular Arab regime that had itself suppressed political Islam for decades.
There is another thing also. The United States and other Western countries can be criticized for their support of illiberal, anti-democratic regimes such as Kuwait's and the Saudi Arabia's, sure. But the enemies of the U.S. and the West in the Middle East and nearby regions, are all far more illiberal and anti-democratic than any `corrupt oil monarchy' that counts itself as an ally of the Americans: thus, Libya, Iran, Hussein's Iraq, Assad's Syria, the Hamas- (and Fatah-)controlled Palestinian territories, Afghanistan during the rule of the Taliban (in this, they have much in common with all anti-American regimes, past and present: Castro's Cuba, Chavez's Venezuela, the Soviet Union and its eastern European satraps, Mao's China, and so on).
Is terrorism the only issue over which the modern left has lost its way? Far from it. Take the matter of freedom of speech. At one time, the left was a diehard opponent of censorship; conservatives, on the other hand, were hardly fast friends of liberal rights of speech. An episode of WKRP in Cincinnati, accurately dramatized the situation as of the late 1970s. In the segment, the station's manager, Mr. Carlson, is visited by the leader of a church-based `concerned citizens committee.' The actor who portrayed the latter character bore an uncanny resemble to the late Moral Majority head, the reverend Jerry Falwell, who was just then coming to prominence as a leader of the religious right. The `Falwell' character presents Mr. Carlson (played by Gordon Jump) with a list of songs he believes should be banned from the playlist, for containing crude or sexual language. The churchman issues an ultimatum: stop playing the songs, or else the members of his flock will stop patronizing the businesses that advertise on WKRP. Semi-reluctantly, Mr. Carlson agrees. Inevitably, the situation escalates. The `Falwell' preacher returns with yet more songs to be banned, with the boycott-threat intact.
Eventually, Mr. Carlson presents the churchman with the lyrics of Imagine, by John
Lennon. `Falwell' begins to read the lyrics, `Imagine there's no heaven...', and immediately trails off. Mr. Carlson asks him, `Is it on or off the banned list?' The preachers says, almost more in sorrow than in anger, that because the song preaches atheism, it must go on the list, too.
`Ok. But now,' Mr. Carlson replies, `you're not just trying to ban songs with bad words. It=s ideas you=re trying to ban.'
Although exaggerated for dramatic effect, this WKRP episode portrayed rightly just which end of the political spectrum had the least respect for traditional speech rights, thirty and more years ago: the right. It also showed how censorship inevitably results in escalation: the determination to ban some expression that `everyone' agrees shouldn't be articulated in public (words such as `shit' or `fuck', let's say), leads to the banning of other words, and even ideas, that only those in power believe should be banned.
I will return to this theme in moment. For now, I will say that the scenario offered by the WKRP episode became stale-dated within a very few years. Starting in the 1980s, the political left, in the United States and Canada, and no doubt, elsewhere, became less and less enamoured with the concept of free speech. If a similar scenario were being presented on a fictional TV programme today, it wouldn't be some Falwell-like preacher demanding censorship; it would instead be a university professor, an `anti-racism' activist or a grubby street protestor.
Or, what am I saying? In fact, Hollywood-Burbank script-writers would try to make it seem like the greatest threat to freedom of speech was from the religious right, even today. Just as, in any Hollywood movie or TV show produced during the millennium, only Christian `fundamentalists0' or neo-Nazis are terrorists, and Muslims are always perpetually the victims of hatred and violence on the part of whites. And what is true in fiction, is true of the news as well...
I first noticed this trend myself, when I began university during the late 1980s. In my first year as an undergraduate, the British historian David Irving was scheduled to give a talk at a convention centre nearby my alma mater, the University of Ottawa. Leftists on campus were up in arms about this. Signs went up around the university: `No free speech for Nazis.' I accept the judgement of a British court, handed down some years ago, that Irving is a Holocaust-denier. There is, however, no evidence whatsoever that Irving was or is a Nazi. In any case, I don't believe that Irving or any other Holocaust denier should face speech bans, or even worse, face charges for using their liberty of speech to convey reprehensible ideas. The activists were, however, undaunted. I recall the words of one young anti-Irving protestor, replying to claims from an interviewer, that she and her comrades were advocating censorship: `We're not advocating censorship,' she claimed. `We just want Irving to crawl back under the rock from which he came...'
Nice. These protestors were engaging the same sort of dehumanization of their opponents, as was carried out by gangs of Nazis on the streets of Weimar Germany. Since the late 1980s, `anti-racist' and other left-wing protestors have proven worthy successors of the Brownshirts. For more than twenty years, what had been isolated incidents wherein `anti-racists' and other left-wing protestors denied speech to truly reprehensible people, the situation escalated to the point, where by the early twentieth-first century, a presentation by the former prime minister of Israel was shut down by a mob of neo-Brownshirt thugs, hoisting the flag of Palestinian oppression. The American radical-turned-conservative David Horowitz must, when given talks on university campuses in his own country, attend with as much as a dozen private security folks, in order to prevent attacks on himself or the use of the Aheckler=s veto@ on the part of protesting Muslim and radical students. During a recent visit to a college campus where, in contravention of university rules, a Muslim student group had posted on a school web domain quotes from the Koran, in which the Prophet counselled his followers to `kill all the Jews.' After complaints, the page was taken down, but according to Horowitz, it reappeared soon after, at a different domain owned by the university, and remained there at least until Horowitz visited the university recently. His visit was, inevitably, occasion for protests against his very presence on campus, and again according to Horowitz, the student group that invited him was called into a private meeting by a top university official, who tried to `persuade' them to dis-invite Horowitz, claiming that his presence there was `divisive'. Apparently, to the university administration (supported by much of the faculty), a web page exhorting people to kill Jews, on a domain owned by the institution, is A-OK, but the appearance by an activist denouncing this kind of thing is 'divisive.'
On Canadian campuses, meanwhile, the latest group to be subject to repression on the part of activist student governors, are anti-abortion activists. At Carleton university in Ottawa, anti-abortion groups were recently de-funded by student administrators: it means that they will receive no funding from the compulsory fees levelled upon undergraduates at the behest of the student administrators, will have no space on campus to carry out their activities, be given no way to promote these activities through campus media. In effect, it is a ban on anti-abortion activism on the Carleton campuses. This is, of course, outrageous enough. Yet the reasoning employed to justify on the part of the student government, was quite marvellous. According to them, abortion-on-demand is a woman's `right' (there is no such `right' under Canadian law, but no matter). For anyone to suggest that abortion should be banned or restricted in any way, was thereby in violation of `women's rights.' The president of the student administration came up with an even bigger whopper. He claimed that, if he was not able to ban anti-abortion activists from campus, his own rights of free speech would be violated.
It is hard to fathom that anyone would justify censorship on these grounds, in public and with a straight face. Yet, they passed by mostly without comment from those who are always sniffing around for signs of repression coming from the conservative camp. It illustrates how the bounds of censorship are continually increased, once the principle of freedom of speech is thrown in the trash. These examples, sadly, are just a gob in the spittoon of repression that has enveloped university campuses over the last two decades, a regime enforced by left-wing student activists and protestors, assented to by similarly leftist administrators and faculty, and largely ignored by the news media. I call it neo-McCarthyism, the effort by leftists on campus to label anyone they don't like as `racist', `sexist', `homophobic', or whatever. Except Senator McCarthy, Roy Cohn and their anti-Communist (really, anti-liberal) minions had just a few years to wreak havoc upon campuses, and then mostly from without, and in the face of the hostility of faculty and administrators. The neo-McCarthyites have had a run of more than two decades, been welcomed on campus, and been subject to no `have-you-no-shame' denunciations by any official that I'm aware of. The truth of the matter is that, they have no shame (it's a bourgeois hang-up, I guess).
I've barely scratched the surface of either of these issues. In regard to censorship, I haven't even touched how government bodies charged with protecting human rights, have gone berserk in their efforts to suppress the human right of free speech, in favour of the `right' of certain people, and certain groups of people, not to be offended. And these are only two of the issues where the left has gone very wrong. But it is not only in the realm of social and cultural issues. What about their views about our governing institutions and so on?
The democratic left is always complaining about how insufficient are Western democratic institutions. For this reason, the NDP, the Canadian social democratic party, is avidly in favour of adopting some kind of `proportional representation' system in favour of single-riding plurality that exists in the present day, wherein a candidate that receives more votes than anyone else, wins representation in the legislature. This would mean that a party would receive the number of seats in Parliament in exact proportion to their total vote. I've written extensively on the many difficulties of proportional representation (a system which is, in fact, supported by some on the political right, as well). For one thing, if legislative seats are to be awarded based on the total proportion of the vote, rather than the actual number of votes counting in any electoral district, how is representation to be decided. Under `first-past-the-post', the member of Parliament (or any legislature) is she who has received the most votes in the riding. This is exactly what proportional representation seeks to abolish. 'P-R' would thus shift representation from the local level to insiders and place-sitters belonging to each of the contesting parties. Hardly an improvement in democracy.
Another problem with proportional representation (this list is hardly exhaustive) is that it enshrines political parties as semi-official entities. Parties are private entities: they may be regulated under laws other than what are employed for other types of association (ie., business firms, labour unions, charitable or other associations), but they are still associations of private individuals who come together under a common ideological interest, in order to compete with other, similarly motivated private entities, to form the government. But proportional-rep makes the party primary over its individual members, thereby rendering them as, essentially, para-governmental organizations. Again, I don't see this as being beneficial to democratic rule. Nor is another issue that is unique to P-R: that is, its empowerment of fringe parties. Under an electoral system wherein each party is awarded representation precisely in proportion to their total vote, parties with twelve or nine or five percent of the vote that are denied seats under first-past-the-post, get represented under P-R. Larger parties with the support of, say, four of ten voters, are never able to get a majority of seats. Thus, under proportional-rep, the two largest parties must, following a vote, bargain for the support of all the fringe parties, just to form a government. The bargaining power resides almost exclusively with the marginal parties. They will not, after all, be able to form a government themselves. Their clout rests in being the spoiler for the parties that are able to do so. For a party with a tenth or a twentieth of the vote to, essentially, control the agenda of competing party with almost half the votes counted, hardly seems very democratic.
This is germane to Canada's NDP: its support for proportional-representation is clearly motivated by self-interest. It has never received more than twenty percent of the total vote in any federal election (and more frequently, in elections since the turn of the 1990s, it got under ten percent). Under P-R, it would gain far more seats that they have ever received in any first-past-the-post election: they would become the permanent balance of power. Again, since the NDP has never had nearly enough votes to form a government, the two other main parties (the Liberals and the Conservatives) would be forced to bargain for the support of the third party, following each election. This would lead, in effect, to a permanent leftist government. The Liberals, a centrist-left party, would find it easier to bargain with the left-wing NDP than would the centre-right Conservative Party. In Canada, proportional representation would permanently disenfranchise the Conservative-party plurality. The votes of one fifth (or even a sixth) of the electorate would always count for more than the near-half who support the right-centre party.
It is hard not to conclude that it is this, not `electoral fairness', which has made demands for proportional-representation virtual dogma among social democratic parties like the NDP. This is especially evident when one moves beyond abstract debates, to how the left has responded to actual proposals for democratic reform.
The Conservative party of Canada, currently in government under prime minister
Stephen Harper, is actually less than seven years old. It was formed from the union of two conservative parties, the Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservative party of Canada. In the year 2000, a general election was called by the Liberal-party Prime Minister, Jean Chretien. At the time, Chretien was battling charges of corruption involving the sale of a Québec hotel and golf course in which he had part-ownership. In fact, the election-call seemed timed to shut down a Parliamentary committee that was looking into the corruption charges. When a reporter had the temerity to question Chretien about this, the Prime Minister of Canada manhandled the journalist, screaming `Get out of my way!' (Chretien had, a few years earlier, grabbed and choked a protestor who was similarly too pushy).
One might think that the scandal, and the behaviour of the prime minister in response it, would have dogged Jean Chretien throughout the campaign trail. News media love a scandal, don't they? Apparently, they do not; at least not in Canada, not when it involves one of `our guys' (ie. a Liberal prime minister). Instead, led by the state-owned CBC news, the fourth- and fifth-estates went after Stockwell Day, the former Alberta politician who had taken the leadership of the Canadian Alliance (and thereby, that of the official opposition) a few months earlier. Their pretext for doing so was a plank in the Alliance campaign platform which called for citizen-initiated referenda, such as exist in several U.S. states (and in Switzerland).
Apparently, allowing citizens the right to vote on any issue enough of them believed was important enough, was a threat to civilization itself. Reporters from the CBC and elsewhere dreamed up a scenario wherein a petition of 250,000 could result in a vote that would put restrictions in the current regime of abortion-on-demand (as has existed in Canada since a Supreme Court ruling in 1988). The news-media narrative then became, ACanadian Alliance threatens a women=s absolute right to abortion at any time in her pregnancy@ (and yes, I am exaggerating for effect). Day was repeatedly questioned about this totally phantom issue. A CBC comedy programme then piled on, setting up an online petition wherein it was demanded that a referendum to compel Stockwell Day to change his given name to `Doris.'
The elites in this country treated the latter stunt as a great example of wit. Meanwhile, the comedian most responsible for this `cleverness' went on CBC radio and declared citizen-initiated referenda a `stupid idea.' Left unstated were the really pertinent points about citizen-initiated referenda. First, any law, whether enacted by Parliament or by popular referendum, is subject to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. No matter if, hypothetically, a plebiscite declared all abortion illegal, the courts could (as they did in 1988) declare such a law as against the Charter, and thereby, invalid. Second, there is nothing to stop a group of pro-abortion activists from getting one quarter million signatures for a referendum to declare abortion completely legal and taxpayer-supported for all time. All this is aside from the fact that, at the time, there was no organized effort on the part of abortion opponents to have such a ballot; and public opinion surveys indicated that there was little support for an outright ban on abortion.
The whole episode showed, however, the contempt with which the modern left holds democracy. Were the pro-abortionists, in 2000, so fearful of direct citizen balloting, because they knew their positions were not popular C they need the courts to fulfill their agenda? That seems to be the case. There have been many legitimate criticisms against plebiscites or referenda. But I think citizen-initiated ballots are just dandy. They are used in Switzerland, as I said, and in fact they are used more frequently there than anywhere else. Anti-plebiscite people are always ready will examples of how, in referenda, the people made the Awrong@ choice (ie., the recent Swiss vote which banned minarets on Islamic temples). Do these critics ever believe the people make the right choice?
I would like to return here to the more general thrust of this discussion. I identify myself as a conservative, but that is only because I believe the nomenclature of ideology has become outdated and insufficient to describe what is really going on in Western political culture. Rather than dividing up politics between `liberals' and `conservatives', I think it is more useful, now, to say the biggest divide is between those who are liberal-democrats, and those who are statist-(or social-)democrats.
Before I explain this, I would like to take a slight detour into political terminology as it is employed in American politics. In the U.S., a `liberal' is someone to the left of the political spectrum. This does not mean, as is usually suggested, that the U.S. has no true left-wing. In fact, is simply a euphemism for `socialist' or `social-democrat.' Those who, in other Western countries, are called `liberal', are in the U.S. called `moderates' (the U.S. use of `conservative' conforms to that found elsewhere, at least in the English-speaking democracies).
This is to say that many or most American `liberals' are not liberal in any meaningful sense of the word: they are statists, who believe that the government, rather than civil society, or the collective of individual citizens voluntarily working in cooperation with each other, should have the lead role in society. This is the difference between statist- and liberal-democracy. I should caution that not all statist-democrats are on the left, or at least, they traditionally were not. Up until the 1970s, at least, many conservatives were quite keen to use the state in order to enforce what could be considered a generic Christian ethics: chiefly in regard to sexual morals (ie, bans on homosexuality, premarital and adulterous sex, severe limitations on divorce, abortion, contraception, etc.), but also bans or controls of behaviours thought sinful (mainly, the drinking of alcohol, but also the use of drugs such as cocaine, heroin and marijuana C though it must be strongly emphasized that Prohibition in the U.S. was a Progressive hobby-horse for decades before the Volstead amendment of 1919, which banned the consumption and sale of booze; and the Franklin Roosevelt government imposed the first restrictions upon marijuana).
As evidenced by Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority and other movements of the religious right, statist-democrats continue to exist on the right of the political spectrum (in part, the modern religious right arose in reaction to the loosening or revocation of the sexual-prohibition laws described above during the 1970s). What is also remarkable is how spectacularly unsuccessful these right-wing statist-democrats have been in imposing their agenda on anyone. Thus, abortion: still not banned. Homosexuality: this speaks for itself, but not only has the Christian right singularly failed in its attempt to re-marginalise homosexuals, the latter now have the right at least to enter into civil partnerships in most places, and the right to `marry' in some others. Porn: not banned and (since the advent of the Internet) has become nearly a mainstream area of entertainment. The list goes on. This is in marked contrast to the great success that social or statist-democrats have had in imposing their own agenda on everyone else (as with Apolitically correct@ speech codes; `employment-equity' or `affirmative action' - preferential hiring based on race and sex; the alteration of judicial and policing polices to suit the whim of left-wing activists). And again, in spite of the lack of success by conservative statist-democrats in imposing their polices on government, their very presence has been used as a cudgel by those on the left, including but limited to social- or statist-democrats, to bash more moderate and centrist conservatives with the charge of Atheocrat@ (invariably, those who scream about the Athreat of the religious right@ maintain a blissful ignorance about the real theocratic fascists in our midst, the Islamist radicals).
This, then, is the distinction between statist-democrats and liberal-democrats. The latter believe the heart of a polity resides in its civil society, the voluntary association of individual citizens, who are assumed to be rational and if not completely virtuous, then possessed of moral (and common) sense. Accordingly, liberal-democrats believe that laws and regulations are a necessary evil, a mechanism for ensuring that the actions of one individual or one group, do not infringe upon others, and that the law should be applied even-handedly to all persons and all groups. Statist-democrats believe, in broad form, the opposite of these things. Christian-right statists, on the one hand, view human beings as inevitably fallen and thus, cannot be expected to resist the temptation to sin, if private sexual and other practices were not strictly regulated by the state.
Social- or statist-democrats on the left, do not base their beliefs on the Bible or Christian theology. Instead, they see people as not essentially rational, and thus, not able to assess and regulate their own behaviour without the assistance of the state, which is thus given primary in society. As for Acivil society@, statist-democrats only recognize the contributions of individuals, when the latter belong to groups that would not exist without the subsidies provided by the state. The latter are usually really referred to as Anon-governmental organizations.@ But since most of them would not exist without the largesse of the government, they are really more accurately named `para-governmental organizations.' They exist only because of the state; but unlike government officials and agencies, they are completely beyond the control of the state and of the electorate. Para-governmental organizations can be relied upon to promote an ever-expanding state, and to criticize those liberal-democrats who wish to limit the power of government (and generally, their status as creatures of the state goes completely unmentioned in the news media).
It is important to remember, however - and their critics often do forget - is that statist-democrats are democrats. They are not Stalinist or Leninists in disguise (or at least, this is the case with statist-democrats in the Western world), who would impose a dictatorship of the proletariat at the first chance. Social- or statist-democrats believe that popular sovereignty (as opposed to say, violent revolution) should be the vehicle for the imposition of their agenda. When this agenda is met with defeat through a democratic mandate, statist-democrats accept (however begrudgingly and half-heartedly) the verdict of the people, and leave office. On the other hand, the attitudes held by social-democrats, when they do encounter electoral defeat, give a clue to their views of Athe masses.@ Rather than conceding that the electorate was not in agreement with what social-democrats believe, at least at the moment, statists believe that the voters have somehow been tricked or deceived by their opponents into voting for things that are against their interests. This was the thesis of What's the Matter with Kansas?, a 2004 book published by the American `liberal' (statist) Thomas Frank. It was the logic behind the statement made by Barak Obama, when he was running for the U.S. presidency in 2008, and he told a well-heeled San Francisco audience that the decline of traditional American industries in the heartland, was the reason so many working-class and rural whites became `bitter', making them `cling to their guns and religion.' This thinking reared its head, too, more recently, when Republican Scott Brown was elected to the Senate in Massachusetts in a special election, and at least some `liberal' commentators condemned the Massachusetts electorate of voting against their own interests (at least point of view made more sense than the instant dogma among the American left, that Scott Brown=s victory meant that the electorate was angered that Obama was not being statist enough for them).
As I said, not all statist-democrats are on the left (at least, this was the case traditionally). Conversely, not all of those on the political left are statists. But there is a definitive trend where those who would have in the recent past been considered liberal-democrats, are growing increasingly statist in orientation. No better example of this exists than the Liberal Democratic party of Great Britain (formed by the union of the once formidable British Liberal party, and the Labour-breakaway Social Democratic party), which far from being liberal-democratic, is in many ways more statist than the British Labour party. In Canada, the Liberal party has gone so far to the left that its previous leader felt comfortable enough, in November 2008, to attempt a coalition with the social-democratic party and secessionist Bloc Quebecois (also a social-democratic party), to turn the ruling Conservative party out of government, this just weeks after the Liberal leader, Stephane Dion, had specifically disavowed such an idea, but which he had entered secret negotiations about immediately following the October vote (the plan was abandoned in the face of popular outrage).
To restate: statist pols in Occidental democracies, are democrats (and not, say, closet Leninists). This doesn't mean there are not contradictions in the statist-democratic credo. For example, if people generally are not rational (and thus, need to be guided or - in the fashionable terminology - `nudged' to behave correctly), how is it that the people in government can be so rational not only to determine what is in their own best interest, but that of everyone else? Further, if the `little people' need a powerful state to protect them, what will protect the little people from a powerful state. Nevertheless, logical contradiction didn't stop any political movement before, and it won't stop statist-democrats now.
coming soon: part two of this essay