Friday, January 30, 2009

A Word To The Pragmatists From A "So-Called Conservative"

The right-wing blogosphere has witnessed a massive polarization over the question of the proper assessment of Stephen Harper's recent budget. In response to the dissent that many tories have shown over the complete capitulation of the right to the demands of the socialists, many bloggers are meeting dissent with condemnation.

The following entry, found at the Conservative Reporter's blog, provides an excellent example of this trend:

I don’t know about everyone else but I am getting very disgusted with all the so called conservatives who are giving the PM and this budget a hard time. It doesn’t have this, it has too much of that.

Wake up and smell the facts.

What do you think the coalition would have done. The media was on their side, they love iggy, he can do no wrong.

Give this budget a chance to get some results. It is a use it or lose it budget. There are strings attached.

As sorry as I am to 'disgust' you, I cannot help but take issue with the alleged factiness of your position.

The welfare state is built on the assumption of a constantly expanding population, a model which is currently in the process of breaking down in a big way. This means that, within the next however many years, the Baby Boomers will begin to retire and expect the next generation to pay off their debts. But the population has stopped expanding. Add to this the measly little $85 billion deficit that Harper has so bravely incurred to keep himself in the seat of power and we have what is referred to in crass circles as a 'serious fucking problem'.

We are condemning ourselves to financial crisis on a large scale with the short-term thinking that is evident in Harper's 'pragmatic' approach. The Prime Minister has the luxury to do this because he doesn't expect to remain in power long enough to catch the brunt of the long-term consequences. It is, in fact, the citizens of Canada at large who will have to deal with the implications of this budget. And those implications will be profoundly unpleasant.

The global economy's current state of crisis was caused by similar short-term thinking and left-wing economics. "Government intervention in the economy," exclaimed defenders of Bill Clinton who supported increases in subprime lending in the late 1990s, "is the safest bet. Capitalism is fine but it needs a little help from the government to stay on track." Today's defenders of the budget and the bailout economics that it represents assume, even if only implicitly, a similar kind of reasoning.

The root of this problem seems to be the way that many conservatives look at the very purpose of politics. We are told to stand by our Prime Minister while he sells us down the river because it's only temporary. Allow me to remind you that nothing about the government is ever 'just temporary'. Most programs that are touted as nonpermanent stick around for years after their intended sunset and those that do expire on time leave trails of consequences that reverberate for decades down the road. This is especially true of deficits.

Harper is playing clever politics with money that doesn't belong to him. I don't recognize Harper's right - nor anybody else's right - to a minute of my life or a cent of my money. I have supported the Prime Minister in the past because I believed that he had the good sense to fight for economic freedom. This was not an unreasonable belief to hold given the statements that he had made before becoming Prime Minister, particularly regarding the importance of property rights in a free society, the limited role of the government, and the deleterious effects of welfarism on the economy and the state's citizens. But, instead of living by his words, Harper has confirmed the old bromide that politics attracts the power-luster and repels the man of principle.

The budget's conservative defenders have gone out of their way to cite the pragmatic political sense of Harper's decision but they have conspicuously failed to mention or defend the pragmatic financial sense that all budgets should be expected to make. This is because, were they to take their support to its logical extension, they would find themselves defending Keynesianism. As little as many conservatives may know about the economy, they are aware of enough to recognize that this is a bad thing. (Don't believe me? Ask Henry Hazlitt: 'The Failure of the "New Economics": An Analysis of the Keynesian Fallacies' - PDF)

In a recent article, Andrew Coyne pronounced the Canadian conservative movement dead and I disagreed - to a certain extent, anyway. However, the conservative movement truly is dead if we fail to reclaim the principles that we once defended, foremost among them capitalism. Defending man's inalienable rights to life, liberty, and property and, accordingly, defending the only economic system that is consonant with those rights (i.e. capitalism), should be what makes a person 'conservative'; these are, in fact, the very principles that we ought to be focused on 'conserving'.

By cowing to the threats of the coalition, Harper has taken capitalism completely off the table as an option for Canada - there is nobody left in power to defend it. So, before sneeringly labeling all of those who reject Harper's pragmatism as "so-called conservatives", please ask yourself precisely what ideas you are effectively preserving in the process of defending the budget.

The answer to that question may surprise you.

Stumble Upon Toolbar