Sunday, February 1, 2009

Finding levers to move the world

In the sound and fury surrounding the CPC budget, many people are proclaiming the end of the Conservative movement in Canada. Some left wing commentators are expressing glee at the prospect, while ideological Conservatives are expressing disgust. The budget was a political response to the problem of remaining as a minority governing party in power during an economic crisis. While it is not "conservative", it did allow the CPC to retain political power, and provide stability during this difficult period, which is the role of a political party.

The bigger long term question for people espousing "Classical Liberal" values should be "what do we want to do with this power?" Objectivists, Libertarians, Reformers and Conservatives of various stripes have either never answered the question or done a poor job of selling the ideals of limited government, personal responsibility and the rights of freedom of speech, property ownership and Rule of Law. If "we" are really serious about achieving these goals (and most people who believe in the "Classical Liberal" philosophy agree on the ends, if not the means) , then focusing all our attention on the CPC and Ottawa is distracting us from the real problems.

Some of the commentators have noticed that we should be making our voices heard on talk shows and letters to the editor (especially on the on line versions of the newspapers, where you are far more likely to be published and read). Directing your attention to the culture wars, we also need to make our voices heard, both directly by commenting on the fare we are presented on radio, TV and other media, and applying pressure to support positive messages and eliminate negative messages through contacting advertisers and offering praise for sponsoring media that supports freedom of speech, property rights and the Rule of Law, and boycotting advertisers who sponsor media that supports "Progressive" tropes.

As well, "we" need to start focusing our electoral power on the other levels of government. City Councils have become havens for "Progressives", and their antics affecting ownership of property are as great a threat to freedom as the CHRC, indeed greater since property ownership is one of the few practical expressions of our political rights and freedoms. Joining local groups promoting responsible civic government is a good start. Some examples in Ontario include: the Windsor Association of Concerned Taxpayers (WeACT); the Forest City Institute; the Toronto Party and Eye on Ottawa. If you have a group, let us know. If you want to start a group, contact these people and ask for advice.

Provincial governments are next, since they have been given a carte blanche to extract tax monies from us through Federal equalization payments. Seeing your tax dollars go to provide a tax cut to taxpayers in a different province is hardly a recipie for delivering responsible local government or even a strong national federation. Success stories are rare, but the remarkable growth of Saskatchewan after the demise of their long standing NDP government and culture should be a beacon and example to us all. The provinces have a much larger selection of political parties as well; Ontario has a Libertarian, Capitalist and even a Reform party as alternatives to the Progressive Conservatives. Large scale support to those parties will cause the other parties to take notice and react (even if electoral success is denied the smaller parties).

Face it. Ottawa is only one piece of the puzzle, and indeed it isn't even the largest piece. If we want to move the social, cultural and political landscape to support the values of freedom of speech, property rights and the Rule of Law, then we need to become active in many other areas besides Federal politics.

Freedom is a self help project.

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