Thursday, August 20, 2009

What's In A Label?

Nation, we've seen a great deal of discussion on the interwebs and in the fish-wrap lately about the usefulness of political labels. In light of the recent ramping up of partisan rhetoric ahead of the Calgary-Glenmore by-election, one of those labels in particular has got me wondering...

What, exactly, IS a "conservative"?

We're seeing a lot of supporters of Paul Hinman dismissing Diane Colley-Urquhart as a "phony conservative". Meanwhile, PC supporters seem determined to paint Hinman as a "scary social conservative". Wildrose Alliance officials, for their part, are quick to point out that their party is a "fiscally conservative, socially moderate party" - which might be news to those vocal few among their supporters who are so quick to cry "moderate is another word for liberal!!!".

Moderate. Liberal. Conservative. Progressive. Red Tory. Blue Tory. These labels are supposed to make it EASIER for the voters to figure out what these candidates and parties stand for?

The catalyst for this post, though, was a post I read (and commented on) over at The Alberta Altruist, entitled "Calgary Glenmore How Conservative Is It?". It's a good question, and one with a lot of levels... in order to be a "conservative riding", do the voters in Glenmore need to be fiscal and social conservatives both? Or can you be a fiscal hawk and social moderate and still be called conservative? How about a social conservative who's cut from the tax-and-spend cloth? The conservative "coin" as we understand it has 2 sides - do they both need to come up "blue" to call someone a "real conservative"? Does it, in fact, only have 2 sides? Why aren't there "environmental conservatives", since environment is neither purely social NOR purely economic?

And even if you have all the answers to the paragraph above, what does it MEAN to be a "conservative", anyhow?

The root word, of course, is "conserve".

Conserve, from the Latin "conservare" (to strongly keep watch, to strongly maintain) - modern usage "to save for later use"; "to protect an environment".

So, right off the bat, we see that a "conservative" is someone who wants to protect and maintain things... in order to maintain something, it must be previously established, so we're probably looking at "traditional values, historic social institutions, and the environment". Plus fiscal policy, which we'll tackle at the end.

Not all traditional values, mind you, are necessarily worth protecting - and a lot of them will see modern "conservative" politicians running as fast as possible in the other direction - such as the subjugation of women, slavery, and paedophilia. All of these were accepted - and, depending on which part of the world you're looking at - even encouraged at some point. However in this more enlightened age, nobody (and I mean NOBODY) with any credibility at ALL would even THINK of accepting or encouraging that sort of garbage. So... just because it's how they thought a hundred or a thousand years ago doesn't NECESSARILY make it a "traditional conservative value". There are no legitimate conservative federal or provincial political parties that I know of who are in favour of any of those 3 examples - and yes, that includes subjugation of women. Stephen Harper does NOT have a secret plan to take away your right to choose and chain you to a stove-top. Stop it.

The "traditional values" that make up the foundation of "social conservatism", then, seem to be the values that western liberal (eek! There's that WORD!) democracies share: Respect for the rule of law, the sanctity of the family unit, the defence of individual liberties, and the absolute rule of democracy. The devil, of course, is in the details. Respect for the rule of law and individual liberties were tossed aside in defence of the state in the latter years of the conservative G.W. Bush presidency. The sanctity of the family unit is all fine and good, but what if MY family unit has 2 husbands and no wife? Most would agree this is hardly the family unit that most self-described social conservatives have in mind.

The democracy thing is a bit of a sticking point, too... many conservatives in this country want to overhaul the Senate of Canada, to make it more equitable to their own regions... and yet, the parties of the left want things to stay as they are. In effect, the conservatives are pushing for change, while the liberals defend the status quo, and our current democratic parliamentary system. So is democracy a purely conservative value? Does being in favour of free votes or fixed election dates make one a conservative by default? I submit it doesn't... which is a point that Preston Manning tried to make repeatedly while he and his party, founded on the simple principle that our system needed to change to ensure democratic fairness, were demonized as "conservative neanderthals".

It's important to note here, too, that being unable or unwilling to call one's self a "social conservative" does NOT, in fact, mean that you are fundamentally OPPOSED to social order, families, individual rights and the democratic process. It's not an "all or nothing" deal, despite what some of the "true believers" would have you think.

Historic social institutions are an interesting kettle of fish, particularly in Canada. Most "conservatives" in western democracies are republican - meaning, they prefer that the final executive power in their system of government lay in the hands of a person or persons whom have been elected by the people over whom they are ruling. In Canada, though, a sizable number - I'd submit, the majority - of conservatives prefer that we maintain our connections to the British Crown. This is another of the "moving targets" in conservative thought... in the early 1800's, to be a "conservative" meant that in all likelihood you wished for the maintenance or re-establishment of the rule of a monarch in your nation - that monarchy being an historic social institution. In the time since, democratic ideals have replaced monarchism as the social institution in much of the western world - indeed, an American conservative would scoff at the idea that his monarchist friend from Ontario be considered "conservative".

So, conservatives from different parts of the world are not necessarily all the same in their defence of social institutions, because those institutions are different depending on where you go. A conservative in British Columbia would be appalled at the institutions a conservative in Saudi Arabia would defend. A conservative in Manitoba would be considered a far-left wing-nut in Minnesota. And Barack Obama's "neo-soviet liberal heath-care policies", in the hands of a Canadian politician, would be called "draconian neo-conservative anti-medicare hog-wash".

And medicare, by the way, is the perfect Canadian example of the moving target that is "historical social institutions"... Medicare has been in place now for 43 years. At some point in the not-so-distant future, defence of Medicare is going to suddenly find itself listed on some anonymous blogger's manifesto of "conservative virtues", because Medicare itself will be an historic social institution. Like the monarchy. Or hating the Toronto Maple Leafs. Or the metric system. Something we can all bond over, from coast to coast.

The other "social institutions" that conservatives will generally tend to defend include: The nuclear family, resource-based industries, small business and agriculture, national unity, free trade, provincial economic autonomy, and Judeo-Christian faith-based values.

Again, the refusal to support ALL of the above-listed initiatives and institutions does not automatically exclude someone from being a "true conservative"... a conservative who has considered the issue and has decided he can not support free trade is not a liberal - he's a conservative who is against free trade. There are Muslim, pagan, and even atheist conservatives. There are conservatives who are also environmentalists. Which brings me to my next conservative litmus test...

Conservative conservationists.

Nation, no matter how you slice it, no matter how you define a conservative by their social stances or their fiscal ones, there's one issue that all conservatives should, by their very nature, agree on: Preservation and responsible use of the environment. Conservatives should, in effect, be conservationists.

You're a fiscal conservative? Great. Explain to me why we don't cut all the trees down at once - we'd make more money that way in the imeediate short-term, right? Even if you're a hardcore fiscal conservative, you have to accept that the best conservationists we've got in this country - our ranchers, farmers and foresters - are also some of the most devout conservatives. You CAN be both... you can value the economy AND ensure a sustainable environment at the same time. You can exploit natural resources without destroying the environment - and, if you take good care of the land, water and air, you can exploit those resources AGAIN at next year's harvest. Money, as they say, cannot be eaten.

You're a social conservative? Fantastic. Explain to me how poisoning the environment for future generations is a good, traditional, conservative value. Conservatives, after all, want to ensure that their children are given the opportunity to grow, learn and thrive. They need a healthy place to live in order to do that. We can "exercise our dominion" over the land, and the beasts, without poisoning the land and wiping out all the beasts. Remember: We have not inherited the world from our forefathers - we have borrowed it from our children.

Conservatives in Europe have already embraced the Green cause, and made it their own. Keeping the land and water clean, reducing waste, saving money on clean-ups, ensuring a healthy environment for future generations - those are considered conservative ideals in Europe. Conservatives on this side of the pond shouldn't hesitate to follow the parade, just because they're afraid of angering their resource-company donors. Are the big oil and energy dollars going to go to the "tax big businesses into the ground" crowd on the other side of the political spectrum?

It doesn't matter whether you agree that climate change is a man-made, or man-exacerbated, phenomena. It doesn't even matter if you still steadfastly refuse to stop calling it "global warming", even though the rest of us stopped using the term 10 years ago, since some areas are seeing a dramatic drop in temperature rather than a rise (a drop is just as bad). Argue the science all you want. Taking care of the ONLY planet we have access to, just makes good, conservative sense. You don't kill the Golden Goose. You don't eat a fish that you found dead in the lake. You don't drink downstream of the herd - or of the tailing pond. You don't crap where you eat.

What's more common-sense, more conservative, than that?

The last conservative pillar, or sub-classification if you like, is the "fiscal conservative". Now, in these tough economic times (tm), EVERYONE likes to fashion themselves as a "fiscal conservative". What does this fiscal conservatism actually entail? Well, in a general sense, it means you "try your best not to waste the taxpayers' money". This can be achieved through minimizing the government's involvement in the ownership of corporations or privitizing existing government assets, promoting efficiency and minimizing waste, going into defecit only as a last resort (and paying back the money PRONTO), and lessening the corporate and personal tax burden as far as possible.

As I said, this "fiscal conservatism" is the one pillar that everyone from every remotely conservative corner of the politisphere is clinging deperately to these days, trying to convince the voter that they are the best choice to not take more than they need from each paycheque, or spend more than is necessary, in the current economic climate. Indeed, to an outsider it seems that even the Alberta Liberals are fashioning themselves as a "fiscally conservative" party, forcing Albertans to choose between 3 parties all claiming to be fiscally conservative.

Of course, in this scenario, the only party that can be attacked on its record is the one that has held power - and, since the world's economy has gone into what Montogmery Scott would call the "waste extraction unit", the same policies that 4 years ago would have been "fiscally conservative" are now decried as "reckless tax-and-spend liberalism". The alternative, taken in the name of seeming to be a committed fiscal conservative, would be to dramatically cut the public workforce, making an already bad economic situation worse (adding 10,000-or-more people to the ranks of the unemployed for the sake of not having people call you names is hardly a responsible solution to an economic crisis).

So, where does this leave us?

The problem with these labels is that we can bestow them on ourselves, other can bestow them on us as compliments or condemnations, and they can exclude us from the labels for the same reasons... "he's no neo-con" can be a compliment, while "she's not a real conservative" can be meant as a reason NOT to vote for someone. "I'm a fiscal conservative" is impossible to prove without a voting record, and "I'm a social conservative" could mean anything from "I think the government has no place in the bedrooms of the country" to "I think we should bus all the homosexuals to Massachuesetts".

So, since anyone can call anyone else anything they like (it's called "free speech" - I exercise it a lot - A LOT, according the future Mrs. Savage, and contrary to the loud imaginings of a very vocal minority, no HRC has ever come to my door with a roll of duct tape), and it's almost impossible to prove who is right and who is wrong about the labels, of what value ARE they, truly?

What does it MEAN when you say someone "isn't a true conservative"? They don't like free trade? They buy their gas at Petro-Canada? They read daveberta?

As I understand it, the accusation that a person isn't a "true conservative" comes from the old definition of a "conservative" as marching in lock-step with the 2 pillars of conservatism: Fiscal conservatism, and social conservatism. Someone who wanders, in fact or in the other person's imaginings, from either can't be a "true blue conservative".

Being a "conservative" isn't like being a Roman Catholic, though. If you stray from the dogma or the teachings of the movement, a bishop can't simply appear and excommunicate you. Supporters of another party can't kick your party out of the conservative club, and supporters of another candidate can't declare that you aren't a conservative simply because they disagree with you. Well, they CAN, and they DO, but it's about as legitimate as "my dad can beat up your dad".

I'd propose, though, that just as the simple "left-right" axis of my grade-school social studies class is no longer relevant to the realities of a 3-dimensional political world, so too must the over-simplification of the "conservative" label as "social and fiscal" go the way of the dodo.

To this one mind, the mind of the Enlightened Savage, a Canadian conservative is someone who finds themselves agreeing with most, but not neccessarily ALL, of the following:

  • Traditional values that make us a vibrant civilization should be respected and protected, including respect for the rule of law, respect for the sanctity of the family unit (however you define it), individual rights and freedoms so long as they don't infringe on the right of others to live in dignity, and the selection of our leaders through a transparent and fair democratic process.

  • Historic social institutions that add to our quality of life or our sense of identity and self, such as social welfare, public education, a healthy and sustainable agricultural sector, universally accessible healthcare and equality of opportunity (but not necessarily outcome) should be maintained and strengthened, while encouraging the citizens of Canada to participate in the economy as consumers, employees, and employers.

  • Responsible and sustainable economic development should be encouraged within the context of a clean and healthy environment. Recycling, limiting waste, promoting efficiency in consumption of fossil fuels and other resources, long-term planning, researching new energy and environmental technologies and protection of the water table should be priorities that effect not just our standard of living, but also our economy and our quality of life.

  • Government fiscal policies should provide for a strong public service infrastructure through which the above can be implemented. Taxes collected from the citizenry are not government funds, but rather the trust of the people, and must be treated as such. Waste must be limited, and efficiency promoted. No more tax than is necessary should be collected, and excess taxes should be returned to the taxpayers. Short-term deficits should only be entered into as a last resort, and debts should be cleared as soon as possible (not as soon as convenient - as soon as possible).

If THOSE 4 points above were how we ALL agreed "conservative" was going to be defined... then I think we'd all have a much better idea about someone's policies when they called themselves a "conservative".

So... that's what *I* consider the "anatomy of a conservative".

How about YOU?

(hint: post a comment)


Derrick Jacobson said...

Excellent post. Unfortunately every person out there will also have a different view on your points.
Take an easy one like rights and freedoms, many of us believe they are limited by the current legislation and further with Bill 44.
Social Institutions an easy argument 75 million to hog farmers, but can you imagine the outcry if this was given to the oil and gas service companies? Why not this is not BIG OIL. We are Alberta entrepreneurs (some like me who can't spell, but still made a decent living)
Responsible development, how do you argue this. They already tried a plan with limiting free enterprise and we lost thousands of jobs and billions of investment dollars. This is an important point, but we do not have the government knowledge in place to do this right now. As you see the market will correct itself as required from time to time.
Government fiscal policies. This one , well has been a joke for some time. We are a province fortunate enough to have had more income than most. Ample opportunity was there to make changes and acheive our best value for dollar. It was wasted, no real economic plans were set in motion, take all the rhetoric on healthcare. We spend a ridiculous amount per capita, yet have one of the worst health systems in Canada. A government to afraid to make necessary changes in fear of upsetting the vote will never better anything. The way we are now is not sustainable and there is no sign the current GOA has any fresh ideas. Instead of worrying about the fiscal side the are busy pumping through meaningless crap like Bill 44, which was controversial to begin with.
I agree on your definitions as this is what being conservative is, unfortunately we would disagree on whether the GOA has followed them. So for myself I do not consider them conservative. To a hardcore Liberal they would be ridiculously conservative. Of course we all would prefer our views not considered extreme no matter how you see it.
Like you said the interpretation will be left up to the voters in the end.

Enlightened Savage said...

Altruist: Thanks for your excellent comments. It's my hope that once we can start to agree on a definition of what a conservative IS, then we can look at parties and candidates and be able to make an educated determination.

Going back to your post on Glenmore, then... If we agree that being conservative means having the thoughts, beliefs and values I outlined in my post (rather than how it does or does not vote), do you think Glenmore IS, in fact, a conservative riding?

Derrick Jacobson said...

Rather than look at the Label. A question I would like you to ponder and answer is if the elected member was free to speak on behalf of the constituents, would you require labels or parties? Maybe you could have 82 government members with no labels working together to make better government? Far fetched I know, but isn't this really the way it should be? Every MLA is elected.

Enlightened Savage said...

100% agreed, there. In a perfect democracy, no parties are needed, and every voice is heard equally.

Alas, that's not the world we live and vote in. Yet.

Getting elected takes hard work and good ideas and a commitment to represent the voters. Anyone can bring those to the table. What it ALSO takes, though, is money. To advertise and get the message out to tens of thousands of people. Without parties to help with manpower and fundraising, the ability to convey a message would be the exclusive purview of the wealthy.

Put another way: What chance would Stephen Harper, economist, have against Paul Martin, shipping magnate, if each had to privately fund their campaigns? Would we see Jim Balsillie as Prime Minister? Or would our candidates go the way of our southern cousins, and all but hang a "for sale to the highest corporate or special interest bidder" sign on the door?

To make a difference in Edmonton, you have to first get elected by the people to get there. As long as money plays as big a role as it does currently in making that happen, we're stuck with the party system - and we'll just have to make the best of it.

Derrick Jacobson said...

This is true,my pipe dream for perfect democracy. The party system I am not sure is much better the biggest donations of money make the selection. Jim B. may not be prime minister but how much would it cost him to influence? No matter. There is no perfect system.
Back to the initial discussion on conservatism I gave my opinion on your four points, yes they are conservative. I would also say every political party would carry these values. The degree of how we interpret these rights is the difference. I hope you have some good feed back. I will plug a post tommorow to try and get more to come here and give feed back. I would also like to know the general interpretation

Anonymous said...

The Alberta Altruist is nothing but a Liberal or worse. How is it conservative to have the nanny state raising our children? It just shows the hypocrisy of the Wild Rose Alliance.

Also he should take an introductory political science class - there's party discipline in every party regardless of colour. Remember John Nunziata?

I don't like Stelmach either but Altruist should go back to high school social studies class.

Enlightened Savage said...

Anon: I admit I've only recently started reading Alberta Altruist's blog, but I don't recall seeing a statement in favour of the nanny state raising our children. Can you point me in the right direction, or clarify how you came to conclude he feels that way?

Derrick Jacobson said...

Anon 10:23
You figured me out. I am not sure what to label myself being I am worse than a Liberal. Why don't you give your highly educated impression of a conservative looks like thi is the comments asked for. In the meantime I will get started in social studies and a political science class. Moron.

Derrick Jacobson said...

BTW I do not speak for the Wildrose Party, I speak for myself the only association with the party is a supporter. Prior I was a hypocrite with the PC Party

Anonymous said...

On your blog just up there:

"the are busy pumping through meaningless crap like Bill 44"

On his own blog:

"Bill 44 is a joke, and later this summer you when the real reasons come to light you will see what I mean. I have had numerous face to face meeting with Rob on this, have you ... I will NEVER support bill 44."

Bill 44 is about parents' choice to raise their children, not the nanny state. Obvious that he supports this from above. Some conservative he is.

And I've had many meetings with Rob Anderson. I'm a constituent of his. He's a true conservative, not people in the Wild Rose Alliance who oppose this basic, no brainer legislation.

Anonymous said...

Also party discipline in any government or caucus is common in the British system. This isn't the United States where you're basically independent.

DJ Kelly said...

This is perhaps your greatest blog post ever. I agree 100% - both in your breakdown of what a conservative is, and in why these kinds of left-right labels can be so confusing.

We live in a strange society where our party names are the same as the left-right values they supposedly support. While this makes things easier on voters it also makes things exceedingly inflexible for those in charge. As a result we only end up with half a plan able to be implemented by a government.

Parties end up pigeon-holed.

Enlightened Savage said...

Okay, gang, I've posted all the comments submitted thus far - but this is the one and only warning.

PLEASE keep this discussion civil. I welcome attacks on someone's arguments - but attacking someone or their personal - and unknowable - motivations is absolutely, 100% verboten.

We can discuss policy and how to engage the voters and, shock of all shocks, the actual POINT of my post until we're blue in the face. But "you're an idiot"... "The WAP is full of morons" is exactly the kind of childish, partisan bull-crap that turns people off of civic engagement in the first place.

PLEASE stay and partake in a real conversation.

But remember... we only let adults vote. IF we're going to talk about this stuff, we have to be able to do so in an adult way.

Anonymous said...

There's very little difference between the federal and provincial parties - other than that the fringe element in the federal party works together and the same element in Alberta wants their own sandbox to play in. The wild rose sandbox.

Brian Dell said...

"individual rights and freedoms so long as they don't infringe on the right of others to live in dignity"

Ah, yes, the "right" to "live in dignity". This is why the Stelmach PCs can't entertain free speech or lower taxes. No one should be exposed to verbal indignities, and one can hardly "live in dignity" if the government is not increasing social spending by double digit rates!

Brian Dell said...

It's true that there is very little difference between the federal and provincial parties.

Besides the fact that neither party leader has ever described himself as "libertarian", there is the same cynical manipulation of social conservatives, the same hostility to informed analysis and expert advice, the same nonchalance with respect to spending discipline, the same rejection of fixed election dates, the same centralization of power in the leader's office, the same demagoguery with respect to carbon and sales taxes, the same poll chasing, the same inclination to side with union interests against taxpayers and international investors.

As Mike Brock wrote in March on the Western Standard, Harper's "treatment [of] classical liberals and libertarians - of which I consider myself - was nothing short of stunning. The condescension was literally dripping from his mouth. Was this his response to the disillusionment that libertarians across the country have had to his government and it’s policies of late? If it was, it did not build any bridges. Rather, it burnt them right down."

The parallel in Alberta is Ed Stelmach stuffing Bill 44 down the throats of libertarians. Danielle Smith does not support it. Jane Morgan does not support it. I do not support it. If we haven't been more vocal about the parental opt-out (which FURTHER EMPOWERS the over-empowered human rights commissions) it is because taking it on plays right into Stelmach's attempts to create a wedge issue.

Perhaps one day more federal Tories will join Andrew Coyne and stop drinking the Harper kool aid.

Anonymous said...

It would appear obvious by your post that no one can clarify what a conservative is, but only attack the points they disagree on for what they believe isn't. Good try at clarification on the label, unforunately no one has the political knowledge for such an undertaking. Too bad.

Brian Dell said...

If you want to ponder the question of whether one is a political conservative, you have to go all the way back to one's epistemological and metaphysical stances. One stance common to conservatives is skepticism of claims to neutral reasoning. That does not mean a conservative cannot believe that funding carbon capture out of the public purse (to take a policy endorsed by, say, Diane Colley-Urquhart) is not a high priority. But it DOES mean that due allowance is made for the possibility of an agenda behind claims of AGW, skepticism about whether proposed solutions to the problem will work, and consideration of the possibility that the cost of the solution will exceed the likely benefits.

I'm exhibiting the conservative temperament right now by suggesting that the E.S. intended to craft an account of conservatism that would conveniently include Ed Stelmach's PC party before he even got started. Conservatives look through claims of dispassionate reason to see the passion because they know that humans are fundamentally not dispassionate reasoners.

The prairie is open, the plain is broad, but there is a fog upon it. This business called life, just how to live it; just where this petty orb is headed, and why, these questions have clouded many judgments and confounded many minds. We must not rush in where greyer heads have paused. Go to the sage; consider what has been wrought in times past; heed the wisdom of the ages. We will advance, the will demands it, but only by pushing off from the solid ground that has already been scouted, off the foundations that have already been laid.

Enlightened Savage said...

Brian: I would argue that the definition that I ultimately settled on, which was subjective to me rather than meaning to be objective, applies evenly to both "right of centre" parties in Alberta... there are elements of my definition that don't apply to the PC's, elements that don't apply to the Wildrose Alliance, and elements that don't, in any formal way as yet, apply to either (Conservatives as conservationists).

I have passion - however, I control it. It does not control me. I'm kind of Vulcan that way. ;)

Bjorn said...

Mr. Savage (and others),
I think to a certain level that the level that one receives from others is actually more important that whatever "true" label is. Most Canadians would label Harper as "far right wing" and Obama as left of centre. In fact, of course, their public policy choices are nothing like that. Perhaps in private Harper is into all things Rush (not the band, but it would be awesome to picture him playing air-drums) but certainly not in public. Who knows what Obama actually believes in, but what he does in public was enough to get him elected President.

Unknown said...

It would appear that I am a little late coming to this posting but it intrigued me and I felt compelled to leave a comment.

I enjoy your breakdown of the anatomy of a conservative, ES, but I feel that most of those values would be espoused by members of all parties in Canada both the "left and right".

The traditional values are nothing that a socialist would want to disagree with, in fact, I think many Conservatives, and even conservatives, would disagree with your qualification of the family unit; while most socialists would applaud it.

Half of the historic institutions that you list that a conservative should support were created by socialists in an effort to "live otherwise", no socialist would say we should now take apart the institutions that we created, but more than a few Conservatives seem to feel that the institutions are ready for an overhaul and a trimming down.

Your third point on economic development with environmental consideration is something that leftists have been arguing for years; while, on the other side of the fence (or perhaps, to be more three dimensional, those in the penthouse corner offices) have been insisting that the free market will ensure the survival of our natural resources. I would love to believe this but I don't see the free market preserving much of anything.

Even the final point can be embraced by many leftists. I don't think anyone truly believes that taxes are government funds and of course they should be spent responsibly with less waste.

As you have stated earlier, the devil is in the details. More so in the final point than the three prior points. What one person sees as waste, another may see as leveling the playing field. Some people argue fervently and honestly that free post-secondary is necessary to ensure equality of opportunity; other people can argue just as fervently and honestly that this amounts to a huge waste. I would argue the degree of spending is what creates someone as a fiscal conservative not the belief that it must be spent responsibly.

One other point that I have a bit of contention with is the democratic bit. Historically, in all but Senate reform (which I believe only Liberals oppose), socialists have been calling for democratic reform to open the playing field and allow more peoples vote to have more effect but his has been opposed by both conservatives and liberals, who seem to view it as a threat to their chokehold on parliament hill. If conservatives should really defend democracy shouldn't they also argue for it's necessary evolution?

I like the direction of the post but it seems that the four points for the most part are feel good ideas that any rational person can get behind.

Seener Beaner said...

Just quickly as this post is now old... The NDP wants to abolish the Senate, not keep it the same. Liberals only want to keep it the same for their partisan purposes...

Don't get me started on Harper's latest appointments. What a frickin' hypocrite.

Unknown said...

By your definition of "conservative" I seem to be one... yet I find myself agreeing with the Liberal platform far more than the PC or WAP one.

One thing that seems to unite most "conservative" parties is the belief that the value of a service can be measured quantitatively. In some cases, this is just not true. It's nearly impossible to measure the value of a good teacher, or preventative medicine, or a work of art.

I'm not sure if you remember the scene in "Dead Poets Society" where the class rips out the intro to their poetry book... but it is a perfect illustration of my point. You can't "measure" the value of poetry, but you know it exists.