What is Canadian conservatism?

- January 2nd, 2012
John A Macdonald

Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada's longest serving Conservative prime minister

As I mentioned in yesterday’s blog post there has been plenty of chatter about whether Stephen Harper’s Conservative government is conservative enough.

Some, like Andrew Coyne, claim that this current crop of politicians with the C beside their name and the blue upon their ties long ago gave up any right to be called conservative at all. I would argue that there is more to conservatism that fiscal conservatism and pointed to several conservative achievements of this current government.

So what is conservatism, specifically Canadian conservatism?

In the United States Ronald Reagan described a conservative coalition as a three legged stool consisting of fiscal conservatives, defence conservatives and social conservatives. In Canada the conservative movement has been described as having three parts as well but, being Canadian, they are different from their American brethren.

In his 1996 Winds of Change speech, Stephen Harper outlined what he saw as the “three sisters” in a conservative coalition. Tom Flanagan described Harper’s plan in a post-election analysis.

The basic idea that Harper laid out at the Winds of Change conference was to reconstitute Brian Mulroney’s electoral coalition, which Harper analyzed in tripartite terms: populists in western Canada and rural Ontario (who then supported the Reform Party); traditional Tories in Ontario and Atlantic Canada (who were still voting PC); and francophone nationalists in Quebec (who were then voting for the Bloc Québécois [BQ]). Harper argued compellingly that all previous Conservative majorities in the 20th century, whether led by Mulroney, Diefenbaker, Bennett or Borden, had been constituted in this way. By implication, this tripartite electoral coalition was the only way to form a Conservative majority at the federal level in Canadian politics.

As Flanagan went on to point out the francophone nationalists did not turn out in this last election but voters belonging to ethnic minority communities did.

Now all of that may be well and good in describing a coalition but what does this coalition stand for?

In his 1993 essay, Ten Conservative Principles, the late Russell Kirk, editor of The Conservative Mind and The Portable Conservative Reader, declared that conservatism was difficult to pin down.

“Being neither a religion nor an ideology, the body of opinion termed conservatism possesses no Holy Writ and no Das Kapital to provide dogmata.”

–snip—

“The attitude we call conservatism is sustained by a body of sentiments, rather than by a system of ideological dogmata.”

So below are Kirk’s principles of conservatism.

  1. First, the conservative believes that there exists an enduring moral order.
  2. Second, the conservative adheres to custom, convention, and continuity.
  3. Third, conservatives believe in what may be called the principle of prescription.
  4. Fourth, conservatives are guided by their principle of prudence.
  5. Fifth, conservatives pay attention to the principle of variety.
  6. Sixth, conservatives are chastened by their principle of imperfectability.
  7. Seventh, conservatives are persuaded that freedom and property are closely linked.
  8. Eighth, conservatives uphold voluntary community, quite as they oppose involuntary collectivism.
  9. Ninth, the conservative perceives the need for prudent restraints upon power and upon human passions.
  10. Tenth, the thinking conservative understands that permanence and change must be recognized and reconciled in a vigorous society.

To this I would add from Rod Dreher’s Crunchy Con Manifesto, “Big business deserves as much skepticism as big government.”

None of this is particularly American or Canadian, it is simply conservative. In being conservative though it is also set aside from other political movements often associated with the right such as libertarianism. Libertarians may agree with conservatives on many things and both may vote for the Conservative Party but most libertarians I know would have trouble with the second part of principle 9.

So where do you sit? How do you view Canadian conservatism?

I’m not looking for electoral strategy or intricate policy proposals; I am looking for a discussion on what Canadian conservatism is and is not.

Leave your thoughts in the comments. Rude, belligerent or insulting comments will not appear.

 

Categories: Politics

Subscribe to the post

44 comments

  1. Dennis Krupski says:

    Big government begets big corporations which beget big unions which begets corporate slavery. We need to get rid of the red tape and let entrepreneurs do what they do best, create small and medium sized business that this country was built upon!

  2. Darin Gregory says:

    It’s nice to see the foundations of conservatism laid out so concisely and structured. Almost akin to a “clubs” house rules.

    I think the point I believe to be one of the strongest would actually be #9. I absolutely believe in freedom from overbearing government, oppression et cetera, but I also believe that there needs to be a balance between our rights and freedoms as individuals and the necessity to maintain order and civility within our society. I’m assuming I interpreted #9 at leat somewhat accurately…….hopefully it jibes with my opinion. The other point that stands out amongst the others is #1. Moral order. This is something that has been lost in society these days, from what I have seen. And as far as I am concerned, the political left (particularly the liberals) don’t seem to have much moral order within themselves at all. They seem to wallow in their “progressive sophistication” to the extent that they cheerfully release repeat sex offenders back into the streets in the names of “rehabilitaion” and “treatment” et cetera.

    Excellent blog entry Brian!

    Thanks for the opportunity to share my opinions :)

    Regards,
    Darin

  3. John Sherry says:

    I am disappointed that the “fiscal responsibility” has been lost..even now with a majority. The CPC can no longer lean on the minority gov’t crutch of fiscal irresponsibility. I am also concerned that the crime bill will do more harm than good. Look to the U.S…Texas as an example and the building of additional prisons and loss of reasonable priority for sentencing as a total fiscal and social loss. I carry a CPC card, maxed my donation and have over 170 signs here as I donated 200 hours to the last campaign. Many of us directors, volunteers and financial contributors wonder if we didn’t help elect a jail-lust-financial-goldman-sackers government here. Balance the budget and don’t be so stupid in packaging so much trash into a crime bill that could benefit our country. The people that actually put the CPC in office will not tolerate it. Mr. Harper, your antiquated approach to Marijuana prohibition is nothing short of gang violence sponsorship. I would like Stephen Harper over for a nice cut of beef with some ok wine for a one on one tune-up. I don’t like hanging my hat on his actions and neither do a number of his strongest supporters.

  4. Brian Oster says:

    Even though this article is not about Sr. John A. Macdonald I think that it is a great diservice to link Canadian conservatism to the Tory form of conservatism. Canadian Conservatism started when the reform party of Canada became the official opposition. We have a unique opportunity staring us right in the face, which is that we have a chance for the first time in history to have a bloodless revolution for liberty. The thing that we have to do is to abandon the whole Brittish Tory mentality we have to be Conservatives real Conservatives. Which means provincial rights, the protection of human life, the strict incarceration of Violent offenders even capital punnishment if foung guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. We have to be the type of people who will be their for our fellow Canadians and even for our American Friends in thier times of need. It has to make us physically ill to do something that jeapordizes our character. We can not just settle for someone simply because, well they are not Simone Bolivar. WE MUST expect our conservative govt to not only name themselves Conservative BUT to BE Conservative. They won on this concept they should govern in the same way! I say TRUE Canadian conservatism starts here and now we have to be civically minded and NOT be like the liberals of old, and by this I mean just because we are in power we can not say well provincial rights are not a big deal at this point. Well it is, provincial rights are imperative to our future we do not NEED another Bill C-68 being crammed down the throat of every tax payer ever again; but at the same time if provinces what to swim in irresponsibility, then they MUST do it alone until they have learned a lesson. We MUST give the right to defend ones person and property and it MUST be ingrained into the Constitution and if that means reopening it, then SO BE IT! While we are at it the WHOLE Canadian human rights code MUST be abolished for it is not a right to just have things. It is NOT a human right to force the tax payer to pay for your whims or hobbies. Now back to the whole tory mentality of conservatism we are not a caste society, if we want to be successful we MUST allow for the individual to flourish NOT the collective. The collective are just consumers which offer NOTHING but more problems. It is the individual who has the self interest to succeed in thier own desires which fuel success and income for others. So I guess that is my ideal of what Canadian Conservatism truely SHOULD be.

  5. Peter says:

    When we talk about what is and what isn’t conservatism we have to take into account that our elected officials are engaged in politics, not substance. I seriously doubt that any politician in Canada or anywhere else for that matter could survive by upholding principles that are like beauty, largely in the eyes of the beholder. If the Harper Government accomplishes anything, it does so to satisfy its voter base as a result of a carefully considered and crafted plan to achieve reelection in the next election.

    Conservative enough, or not? There is no way a Conservative politician can satisfy the nebulous standards interpreted by a host of sources. Reality and the next election cycle rules.

  6. Krysta Meekins says:

    I don’t believe that “conservative” can be defined by any rigid set of principles. I strongly self-identify as conservative, but my interpretation of those core values likely would differ greatly from my neighbour. In my quest to pin down and better label my belief-set, the term “paleo-conservative” seemed a best-fit. That is, I am a monarchist, strongly law-and-order, somewhat traditional, all while holding a firm belief in the need for prudent fiscal management and individual responsibility. A socially-liberal but fiscally-conservative Libertarian would probably also identify as “conservative”. It would be impossible for our Harper government to strictly adhere to “conservatism” because no such agreed-upon definition exists.

  7. Greg says:

    In the words of Thomas Jefferson: “A government with enough power to give you whatever you want, can also take everything away”

  8. Suzanne Lilly says:

    The only people I know who subscribe to these 10 principles are hardline republicans or islamists. Either I’m not conservative, or the list is seriously outdated. We ‘little c’s’ support decentralized government, free enterprise, fiscal prudence but we are also passionate peeps who believe social programs are critical to a civilized society. (But we would run the programs to help the needy not the troughers who run them)!

  9. Nick says:

    Here is waht I extrapolated from Brians blog this morning. I admit a little plagerism, but think I captured teh spirit of it.

    The Ten Commandments of Conservatism.

    1. An Enduring Moral Order. Right and wrong don’t change over time and certainly not at the wind of poltitical or social whim.

    2. Tradition, majority rules, and the necessity of linking one generationto the next, to supply and build on social cohesion and a sense of unity.

    3. Drawing from the wisdom of the great men of history, sitting on their shoulders as it where, to help chart the course ahead through the use of a time tested moral compass to keep us from repeating the mistakes of the past.

    4. Prudence, not just financially, but as a guiding prinicple in everything. To reflect and study an issue and to learn as much as possible about something before recommending or embarking on change, is far better than embarking on change and dealing with the consequences of the “unforseen” later.

    5. Variety. To live and let live as it where. To reject equalism except before the courts, is to ensure a vibrant social fabric that totalitarian systems can’t tolerate.

    6.Imperfectability. Since the conservative mind recognizes that man is irepparably flawed, any government or institution created by man will therefore be flawed as well, rendering impossible, paradise on earth.
    7. Freedom and property are closely linked. One supports the other, divorced from each other, both are hopelessly weakened. The more widespread the possession of private property is, the more stable and productive the commonwealth is.
    8. Voluntary community. By choosing to live within a group while maintinaing personal freedom and independance is considered a virtue. So is the rejection of state encouraged, or enforced, communalism.
    9. To accept and instill restrictions on political power and personal passions. “It feels good, therefore I want it” Is a terrible motto for ones personal life and is no better for government.
    10. To accept that while change is inevitable, it can be managed by the previous nine principles. Not all change is good, but not all change is bad either. It can be put to very good purpose for the betterment of all as long as this short list of virtues is used to shape how change will come.

  10. Joe Ganetakos says:

    Mr Lilley,

    Thank you for putting this together in such a concise manner, as Darin Gregory stated.

    I intend to share this with friends of mine. Thanks to Michael Butler for drawing attention to your page and site.

    Joe Ganetakos

  11. Bill Elder says:

    Brian when defining political labels it’s best to ignore the partisan politics of mainstream political organizations that form government. They defy political labeling because they do whatever it takes to seek power and retain it. Politics is about compromise – even the compromise of the political ideology you identify with. If you are looking for Canadian Conservatism or Liberalism or social democrats, you will have to look outside party lines to institutions and movements.

    I define Canadian conservatism by likeminded people to my own ideology – more pointedly, I can say the Fraser Institute embodies the ideology of the modern Conservative movement – fiscal conservatism, small government/individual rights libertarianism with a dollop of morally correct absoutism and democratic populist fervor.

    I’m probably a lot more libertarian in my views than the Fraser Institute which is far more libertarian than Harper’s “big tent” of red and blue nanny state Tories. I personally want the abolition of the nanny state and personal income taxing, but not before we have re-established true free market liaises fair capitalism and a demand economy run by consumers and producers not politicians and their protected corporate welfare crony cabals.

    As for Liberals, they became soviet styled socialist statists under PET and adopted a statist authoritarianism and venal power retention mechanisms. They are irrelevant today because if people want statist socialists they have the Dips, and everyone is tired of Liberal party corruption and manipulation. We see their constituency is comprised of “takers” not “makers” and fiscal reality dictates a government can no longer afford the lush patronage the liberals lavished on their elitist and special interest constituency. They will vanish incrementally if they don’t wake up to this and change back to classic liberal democrats. Of course this area of the political spectrum is now occupied by Harper’s big tent Tories.

    Sucks to be a Liberal these days.

  12. Peggie says:

    Darin has said it far better than I could. Govern with common sense – keep relligion out of government. Morals and Integrity go a long way – and for my sake – stop taxing the hell out of cigarettes and stop blaming smoking for all the countries woes.

  13. aka_pooch says:

    A Canadian Conservative understands that $1.16 billion is equal to One Thousand Million Dollars plus One Hundred Million Dollars plus Sixty Million Dollars (aka $1,160,000,000.00)

  14. Craig Williams says:

    Canadian Conservativsm is tainted, in every aspect, by the socialist media and the politicians of the past. We Conservatives have to hold fast to out principles, and use them to take back our culture and country. Have a Happy and Conservative New Year! After all, the two are inseparable.

  15. Marc Opie says:

    An enduring moral order:

    Kirk discusses the constancy of human nature, then goes on to say that the failure to recognize the existence of moral order has given rise to ‘hideous consequences’, by which I presume he means things like the rise of Nazism, and the killing by Leopold of half the Congolese population.

    So here’s my question – how is it possible to ascribe a constancy to human nature when it’s subject to the failure of observance of a moral order. Sounds to me like he really doesn’t believe in science, specifically the science of mental disorders. Rather than trying to understand why people behave as they do, he takes the simple route (and keep in mind here that I hadn’t even heard of him before today, so I’m really only characterizing the arguments he makes in the link you provided). He just labels it a failure to ‘do the right thing’. Lazy.

    He goes on to say that men and woman guided by a strong sense of ‘right and wrong’, will be a good society. What he really means is that men and woman guided by the SAME strong sense of ‘right and wrong’, will be a good society. The problem is figuring out what is wrong and what isn’t always trivial. I’ll restate his position in fewer words. “Things would work out if we could all get along”. This is meaningless intellectual masterbation. Great, we get it. He’s smart and he’s pretty good at putting together strings of loosely connected sentences and forming paragraphs, never subjecting any idea to scrutiny. I can to that too, as you are aware. The problem is that it’s meaningless. Here’s a more meaningful question: What’s better a 16% corporate tax rate or a 13.5% rate? Or, what’s better, cutting a consumption tax like the GST or cutting income taxes? Or, are there any beneficial effects to putting more people in jail? I’m betting Kirk establishes a set of axioms, draws all kinds of wonderful conclusions from them, but never bothers to think about whether or not they are ‘axiom-worthy’.

    Cheers

  16. louis says:

    It is a liberal-conservatism ideology

  17. Alain says:

    I take a somewhat different approach due to a couple of things: people and their ideas can never be perfectly pigeon-holed and the fact that politicians are followers rather than leaders. The biggest and most serious problem we face today regardless of the political party is creeping totalitarianism or fascism if you like. We as a people have mostly renounced the concept of personal responsibility and accountability preferring to expect, even demand, that the government (this includes all levels) be responsible for us and our lives. I do not include the normal role of government to be responsible for ensuring our safety and protection. Our most basic freedoms continue to bleed and die as a result of accepting more and more government involvement “for our own good”.

  18. Alain says:

    I should clarify the use of the term our safety, for I am not referring to laws, regulations and bans such as helmet laws et cetera. I mean being safe to conduct business freely, to live our lives free from threat, violence, theft or murder.

  19. Howard Baxter says:

    I like the way Nick has written it in his comment. Russell Kirk and Nick both recognize the primacy of his first statement. to whit “there needs to exist an enduring moral order”.

  20. C2 says:

    No offense, but all I’m seeing out there these days is a reply of the Bush era politics playing out in Canada.

    Now, apparently many Canadian conservatives would not want this… but they want the alternative of not retaining power less, it would seem.

  21. James Hickey says:

    I believe that all who comment on the question of to-days Conservatism should read Marci McDonald’s “The Armagedden Factor”. What a revelation as to where the real power is in to-day’s politics, American and now Canadian.John Diefenbaker and Brian Mulroney/Joe Clark and all former Conservative leaders no doubt would be shocked. IT IS NOT IN THE HANDS OF PURE POLITICIANS. OUR GOVERNMENT IS “TOTALLY” IN THE CONTROL OF RELIGION. Don’t scoff. Read the evidence. It’s scary, AND WORSE , TO MENTION IT IS TO BE SCOFFED AT. Jim

  22. Brian Lilley says:

    Thanks all for some great comments.
    Please share this post and keep the conversation going.
    James, that book is a farce and anyone who believes it true doesn’t have a clue about this government. The people mentioned in that book only wish they had sway.

  23. Sim says:

    I would say that the works of Freidrich Hayek do in fact represent a conservative “Das Kapital”. If you build it out from there, conservatism as a coherent ideology isn’t hard to define or pin down at all: it’s a natural consequence of being convinced by Hayek’s free-market concepts. Politically and practically, this concept of conservatism amounts to unwinding Keynesian institutions, values, and constructs, and constitutes an entirely different world-view.

  24. Arron Jeavons says:

    I think Canadian Conservatism means.

    1. Appreciation of tradition.
    2. Use of common sense.
    3. Fiscally responsibility
    4. Smaller government
    Most importantly……….5. Protection of one’s right to make personal choices.

  25. Marc Opie says:

    Brian

    You can’t simply say things like “that book is a farce and …”

    If that doesn’t violate your request for refrain from insults, then at the very least, it fails to make any case that the book is a farce.

    If you’re going to commit to freeing the board of insults, you should refrain from such comments.

  26. JD says:

    Thanks for the refreshing read (in the opinion of this U.S. immigrant to Canada (and Québec)).

    I would emphasize conservatism’s moral foundations and the qualities and possibilities made possible by them (family, industry, thrift, charity, and the duities and obligations of the individual citizen).

    Also, I must admit bafflement and consternation at how deeply-rooted and yet intellectually muddled are Canadian concepts of race, multiculturalism, and postcolonialism. It seems a lot of policy and culture here are based on priorities imported from Europe or the U.S., whereas Canada and Québec significantly (and what should be, happily) do not have colonial or slavery legacies with which to reckon.

    Even the “First Nations” concept I find suspect. Implicit in it is the concept that they’re not “best nations” – that would be the modern nation of Canada. N’est-ce pas?

  27. Brian Lilley says:

    Mr. Opie, my comment on Marci McDonald’s book being a farce is not an insult it is accurate. The book is riddled with error, insinuation and claims with no basis in fact.

    Earlier I was typing on a mobile and couldn’t leave links. Now that I can, here they are.

    http://ezralevant.com/2010/05/marci-mcdonald-just-makes-stuf.html

    http://ezralevant.com/2010/05/does-joseph-benami-wear-a-yarm.html

  28. Darin Gregory says:

    Regarding Opie’s statement:

    There IS a communal sense of ‘right and wrong’ within our society, contrary to what you’ve stated. Ever noticed how those who typically dispute that are the ones that feel it is okay to do things that MOST folks wouldn’t do or would consider to be morally wrong? An example would be the leftist desire to reduce the legal age of sexual consent to 14…..again…..after it was brought back up to 16 by our conservatives. Who in their right minds would want that, other than guys like Svend Robinson et al.? Another example is property rights and such. It seems clear that an average left-wing opinion about people who violate individuals’ private property rights is that they are virtually entitled to do their misdeeds on account of a “troubled youth”, or being “misguided” or “abused as a child” or any other excuse under the sun NOT to actually hold them accountable for their crimes. Same with sex offenders. “We all know” what is acceptable and what is not, and as a conservative I feel very proud of the fact that I have no quams about locking up a repeat offender and “throwing away the key” for the rest of his or her life…….yet so damn many liberals and NDP’ers seem to almost be tripping over themselves to release these offenders from prison.

    I could go on and on…….and on.

    There IS such a thing as common sense, and there IS such a thing as a common moral code of ethics and responsibility and there is nothing wrong with basing political policy on those standards of ethics and morallity. Do to otherwise is pure lunacy……

    Darin

  29. JamesD says:

    1) principal of Subsidiarity

    2) strict separation of fed/prov/muni powers
    And spending
    Ie. Feds out of healthcare; feds out
    Of silly 3 way fed/prov/muni spending projects

  30. Brian Oster says:

    I just LOVE how people get freaked out about politicians who have faith. Chretien and Trudeau were infact Catholics that built a Catholic GOVT funded school system. For some reason that is perfectly acceptable. DO not know why do not understand why, but there we have it. Then you have John Tory who, I guess, wanted to have faith based schooling not just for Catholics but for everyone. And I guess remove some of the stress from the public system and for some reason was cast as and evil dude. Why because he had the name Conservative infront of his name? So I guess it is only ok to have a faith if your a politician if you promise to be everything for everyone and not only that but you MUST fund these wishes in some way shape or form.

  31. Nick says:

    You should see what the Conservative Party of Canada Founding Principles have to say, before you start redefining the what Conservatism means in Canada. http://www.conservative.ca/party/founding_principles/

  32. Master Wooten says:

    “Canadian” conservatism. You mean conservatism in Canada. Yes we have (like other nationalities) put some of our own flavouring into conservatism however conservtaism like liberalism and social democracy have become global political ideologies, espcially in the western world. This means, conservatives, In Canada, the US, the UK, Japan, even in Italy, Spain, Jamaica and Mexico should be sounding off similar philosophical positions on issues relating to government and the economy, national defence and even on traditional social values.

    Conservative political parties world wide normally belong to an organization called Internation Democrat Union. There you’d see listed the Coservative Party of Canada along with the Republican party of the US and other political parties from different countries stating that they share similar values and wish to promote these shared values, such as free markets. These parties often cooperate with one another to these ends and even help each other plot election strategy. I’ve seen Republican party guests at meetings of the old Progressive Conservative party back in the late 1980s!

    Taking conservatism in focus again it is clear to most that the Reagan Thatcher alliance in the 1980s inspired (to lesser degrees) Brian Mulroney (Canada), Helmut Kohl (Germany), Ruud Lubbers(Netherlands) and other leaders, conservative by the stadards and political parties of their nations attempt to liberalize their economies and take stronger stances against communism.

    So our conservatism given the global social, political and economic environment we find ourselves in IS Canadian and YES it does resemble that which could be called conservatism when advocated and practiced elsewhere.

  33. Mark Little says:

    Well, the age old question of what is a Conservative. Well I would say a small c conservative is what most Canadians actually are, even if they don’t realize it. Small c conservatives have some Libertarian ideals of being left alone and wanting less government. Small c’s believe in fiscal prudence. They tolerate minority opinions that they don’t agree with, but they always feel the will of the majority must respected at some point. Small C’s don’t hate our past, our history and our British roots, and while not all are Monarchists, most if not all are not advocating a Republic. Small C conservatives want people to serve actual time for a crime. They want kids to be kids, and not be brainwashed into some ecofriendly world where no one loses. Small c conservatives believe in you earn your way, and there are winners and losers in society. They also believe in compassion for those legitimately hurting for no reason of their own. Small c’s also believe in limited government being the best; but that doesn’t mean our country’s armed forces are sent on missions with ancient and wore out equipment.

    Where Harper and the CPC falls into this? Well they resonate with most of those values but not all of them. Most Small c’s vote for the CPC but we are not always happy about it. The three legged stool has moral conservatives, small c conservatives (those who are not in denial voting liberal), now ethnic conservatives who carry the values of the other two.

  34. Sim says:

    This is pretty interesting. Judging from the comments, people are either not aware of the intellectual foundation of “new” conservatism (ie: Thatcher/Reagan era), or they don’t think it’s significant.

    When Thatcher took control of the Conservative party, first thing she did in caucus was hold up a copy of Hayek’s “Constitution of Liberty” and say: “THIS is what we believe”. Everything builds on Hayek’s free market principles. Everything. It doesn’t matter what John A. MacDonald thought of conservatism, nor does it matter what people “feel” conservatism is like: what it actually is, is a fairly rigorous set of mathematical and economic ideas that have particular social/political consequences, which we then experience as ideology.

    Why does Hayek matter more than your feeliings? Because if you’re a conservative who has never heard of Friedrich Hayek; never understood conservatism as being opposed to the postwar Keynesian Welfare State; never read any history of why Hayek was dusted off in the late 70s to solve economic gridlock…then you’re likely to help make counter-productive (from a conservative point of view) policy with your attitudes and voting patterns. A good example of conservatives creating illogical policy, is the reaction to SOPA.

    SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) – at first glance – seems like something a conservative should support. It’s about security; it helps rein in those lefty/tree-hugging liberals on the internet; supports law and order; protects jobs; supports a well established, profitable status quo – and even if you didn’t know the issues, the OPPONENTS of SOPA are mostly liberals (ie: Reddit and other internet communities – so on and so forth). But when you understand conservatism in terms of Hayek and free-market economics, then you know that SOPA is defending the Keynesian world view and a business model based upon Keynesian notions of art and identity. The logical conservative response – irrespective of what you may “feel” – is that SOPA should be defeated, because a free internet helps to dismantle the Welfare Estate more comprehensively than almost any other policy approach you could come up with. It does mean accepting a certain level of piracy and instability, but in the end, the instability comes in the service of creating a conservative-dominant world.

    I imagine that the truly radical nature of conservatism (radical in terms of the Welfare State) is not well understood by most people who think of themselves as conservative. Until that is properly embraced, conservatives-of-emotion will probably do more harm than good when it comes to the conservative agenda.

  35. Alain says:

    Sims is spot on, for if we followed and applied Hayek our most basic freedoms would not be taken away little by little.

  36. Master Wooten says:

    Yes Fredrich Hayek’s economic theories and adherence to them to varying degrees IS the consensus viewpoint as to what constitutes a conservative, atleast in the western world.

    Mind you Fredrich Hayek is the standard for what it means to be a conservative from an economic standpoint only. One MUST be careful to belive that Fredrich Hayek himself was a conservative. He in fact denied being a conservative himself.

    In 1960 he published an essay etitled “Why I am NOT a Conservative.”
    http://evans-experientialism.freewebspace.com/hayek.htm

  37. Sim says:

    @Alain – to be perfectly clear, my comments are meant to describe what conservatism is, and how people who think of themselves as “conservative” should understand policy. There’s nothing prescriptive in what I’ve said. I don’t say that Hayek’s concept of freedom is ultimately right or beneficial, as that is beyond the scope of this discussion: I’m merely pointing out that conservatism as we now know it does have particular historical and intellectual foundations. It isn’t merely a hodge-podge of crowd-sourced feelings and “sentiments” as Russel Kirk suggests (though of course, those are politically useful). Conservatism is much more profound, exact, and verifiable than that.

  38. Marc Opie says:

    I know you won’t be fond of this post, being one of several, but you brought up Jason Kenney. (Via your link to Levant’s article citing McDonald’s errors).

    It turns out, Kenney, in a stroke of intellectual genius, made the claim that the gay marriage law doesn’t discriminate against gay people, because gay people can get married to people of the opposite sex. What a joke.

    I think I’ll pass a law that says no one is allowed to wear corrective lenses, or get laser surgery. That means everyone, people who don’t need glasses, and people who.

    Yes, Jason Kenney hates gays, and he’s the parliamentary secretary to Harper.

  39. Master Wooten says:

    Sure Fredrich Hayek can be held up as the standard bearer for what it means to be a conservative from an economic sense, but that is only one part of the equasion. One must also note that Fredrich Hayek rejected the conservative label for himself. In 1960 he published an essay entitled “Why I am Not a Conservative.”
    http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig6/hayek1.html

  40. Geoff Meek says:

    Here is what I think about what conservativism is.

    In summary: Natural family, ancestors, common sense, customs, traditions, and reverence for the past.

    Conservative society is based on realism and common sense. Family and tradition are the structure. Advancement is by merit, not equality. Everybody finds a place in society by their individual talents.

    To the conservative, community comes first.

    The reason “conservatives” in canada are so defeated as a community, is that hardly anybody knows what conservative means anymore, there is no Standard that they can rally around.

    Some great quotes ….

    …the true conservative believes deeply that the individual is a product of a well-formed society, and not the reverse: a well-formed society creates and nurtures free and responsible individuals; individuals do not spring forth this way from whole cloth, and then create society.
    Gairdner, William D | The Trouble with Canada -Still | Page 150 | Key Porter 2010

    ….no single generation could possibly reinvent the accumulated wisdom of so many prior ones.
    Gairdner, William D | The War Against the Family | Page 32 | Stoddart 1992

    Our part is to patch and polish the old order of things, trying to discern the difference between a profound, slow, natural alteration and some infatuation of the hour. By and large, change is a process independent of conscious human endeavor.
    Kirk, Russell | The Conservative Mind | Page 40 | BN Publishing 2008

    For conservative thinkers believe that man is corrupt, that his appetites need restraint, and that the forces of custom, authority, law, and government, as well as moral discipline, are required to keep sin in check.
    Kirk, Russell | The Conservative Mind | Page 212 | BN Publishing 2008

    What is conservatism? Is it not adherence to the old and tired, against the new and untried?
    Lincoln, Abraham | Speech to Cooper Institute, NY | | 27 February 1860

    One of the things that built our civilization, and has contributed to every other great civilization, is reverence for the past. With it’s extinction comes the extinction of civilization itself: it loses all of its moorings.
    Warren, David | Ottawa Citizen columns | | Ottawa Citizen 11/15/2009

    In short, marriage, as it stands, is the societal institution that represents,
    symbolizes, and protects the inherently reproductive human relationships for the sake of the children born of such relationhips. Society needs such an institution and marriage is unique in this regard; there is no other alternative.
    Somerville, Margaret | Divorcing Marriage | Page 78 | Mcgill-Queens 2004

  41. Master Wooten says:

    Conservatism at the national level in this country evolves both with time and the position of the main conservative party(ies) as it relates to government and opposition status. This much is true.

    In the 1980s conservatism was a large tent movement which included soft Quebec nationalists who shared our common belief in respect for provincial rights, Atlantic (mainly Red) Tories, Ontario business conservatives, and western agrarian and social conservatives. Of these groups the dominent factions were the Quebec nationalists and the Ontario business conservatives, both of whom shared a common belief in socially progressive policies. Since we governed then, this meant that the conservative consensus was largely dictated by elites in Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal. This being the case, Canadian conservatism in the 1980s as expressed through the government of Brian Mulroney was margianally more of a free market and promounced a slightly more robust foreign policy than was/did its liberal counterpart with virtually every other area remaining the same.

    True the Reform and later Canadian Alliance parties representing the bulk of Canadian conservatism in the 1990s and early 2000s were different from the Mulroney Tories. For one it was based almost exclusively in western Canada where social and agrarian conservatives dominate. The party(ies) was/were new and out of power hence were in a position to experiment with, form and advocate new even bolder than usual public policy. Hence not only did the movement change between decades but so to did the attitudes of Canadian conservatives.

    A proper analysis of the new Conservative party (2003-) and the government(s) led by current Prime Minister Stephen Harper is didificult to gage and such efforts at current might not prove useful. First is the problem of his minority government status (2006-2011) which left little room for the government to do anything but try to survive. Second, we are at current only months into his majority mandate. A mandate that was given not to the PC, Reform, or Canadian Alliance parties but to the “new” Conservative party which combines all of the former. Furthmore, for the first time in modern Canadian political history, the governing consensus is based in Ontario minus its urban areas and western Canada. In this new landscape the west is no longer shouting “it wants in”, but rather is leading grace from the head of the dinner table! This phenomenon is so new, and irregular that before we define what Canadian conservatism is as a current federal governing philosophy, we should wait until atleast the first term of the May 2nd 2011 mandate is over. We need this time to evaluate all of the new legislative agenda, judicial and other civil service appointments, foreign affairs policies, relationships with the provinces even statements made by the various Minsters, MPs and spokespersons for this government.

  42. wilson says:

    Canadians have endured years of ‘progressives’ and their ‘experts’ telling us what Canadian values are, and defining Conservatives in unflattering terms.

    I would like to take exception to self defined Conservatives deciding who is CINO. Conservative In Name Only.
    How is calling someone (Harper) CINO any different than Liberals calling us unCanadian for not being Liberal?

  43. Master Wooten says:

    Wilson I agree with you. In this day and age where ideological battlelines have been drawn and where people wear their political “colours” on their sleeves, its safe to say that people who call themselves conservatives ARE for the most part conservative even if they are not as “right-wing” as you are for example.

    This brings me to the so called “Eleventh Commandment” as coined by Ronald Reagan in his 1966 campaign for Governor of California, “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.”

    Reagan then was talking about the fighting between east coast establishment liberal Republicans and western and southern conservative Republicans who tore into each other when the party selected Barry M. Goldwater (its first ideological conservative) in the post war era for president in the 1964 campaign.

    Fast forward to Canada, it is this kind of backbiting and non-adherence to the “Eleventh Commandment” which kept us divided as a movement throughout the 1990s and which subsequently kept the Liberals in power federally for 13 years! When we as conservatives don’t turn our differing shades into irreconsileable faultlines then we win massive, even historical majorities (reference 1958, 1984), when we unite behind a message we win big as well (1917, 1988, 2011).

    The fact is conservatives are not always going to agree on every single facet of public policy because public policy comprises a broad range of subjects. We will however mostly agree with one another when it comes to most issues on an across the board basis. The problem comes with the question of “what to do” when we do achieve government as we did in 1984 for example so as not to see our coalitions rupture as it did in 1993. It can be argued that at the federal level between 1984 and 1993 we primarily honoured certain segments of our movement to the exclusion of others, the result being the Reform party, the Bloc Quebecois and electoral defeat in 1993.

    Conservative governments must be cognisant to the fact that they are usually comprised of many differeing interests and therefore must satisfy them all so as not only to survive but to advance conservatism generally which is more complex a movement than many of us realise. Given the fairly unified and homogenous philosophy as represented in the current Conservative government, the task of representing the interests of most if not all conservatives should not be too difficult this time around. That being said, the PM and government must take care to ensure that all conservatives have reason to call this their government.

  44. Sim says:

    Re: Hayek’s “Why I am not a conservative” article…Hayek understands that his theories are radical in nature, and transformative in practice, so therefore he could not be “conservative” in the traditional sense. However, after 1980, he IS a conservative, because his work now defines what it is to be conservative, replacing the former notions of conservatism that he rejects.

    To limit Hayek’s significance to economics alone is to completely miss the point: all the cultural/political/societal values and nuances that make up conservative ideology are logical consequences of his economic theory. There really isn’t anything more to this. Keynesian economic theory led to the institutional framework and value-matrix we now refer to as the progressive Welfare State: Hayek’s theory directly and fundamentally contradicts Keynes, thereby producing a politics who’s sole end game is the dismantling of the Welfare State. That’s conservatism. People can ascribe all kinds of emotional sentiments to conservatism that they want: if they don’t account for Hayek in their definition, they are “voting drones” who serve the ends of conservatism without understanding it in any significant way.

Comments are closed.