The Right Balance: Canadas Conservative Tradition

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The essence of Canadian conservatism: compromise and accommodation.

Competition ensures only that those arrangements are indeed non-coercive; exploitation exists in market economies, but only where competition does not. The result of this co-operative regime is not disorder but, as Hayek suggested, order—not in spite of the absence of coercion, but because of it. There are no black markets in a free market: there is no way around the market price, not because it is the law, but because it is not. Above it, no one will buy from you; below it, no one will sell to you. This is not how we are used to thinking of markets.

The market is generally both attacked and defended as what it is not: as the absence of government. Conservatives tend to make the case for markets in libertarian terms—the dynamism of free enterprise, unleashing the entrepreneur. This is the sort of argument likely to persuade those least in need of persuasion, i. To those who place a greater value on order, however, this line of reasoning is profoundly disturbing. To them, it sounds as if private greed has been allowed to take precedence over social responsibility. For their sake, then, it is important to stress how markets work—they do not just satisfy individual wants, but also temper them.

Markets, then, are not simply about the individual, nor are they all about freedom, in the sense of liberation from all restraint. They are, rather, social institutions, just as governments are—and both have a role to play. We assign individual title to them, indeed, for precisely that purpose: people who own things directly tend to care for them better.

When it comes to the productive use and exchange of those resources, moreover, owners are endowed with an important responsibility: to make a good or service that is of more societal value, based on the price that people are willing to pay for it, than it cost to create it—that is to say, to make a profit. The company that cannot perform this duty is forced to cease operations. And the people to whom we entrust the responsibility of enforcing that duty are consumers.

T he objective of conservatives, then, should not be to liberate business but to enslave it—to the consumer. That, after all, is the point: we produce things, not to give ourselves something to do, but so other people can consume them, and they do the same for us. What are subsidies to industry, or tariffs and quotas and other limits on competition, but attempts to spare producers from the judgment of consumers?

The producer interest seems to hold particular sway when the competition is from abroad. Why do consumers pay two and three times the market price for milk, cheese, eggs, and other foods? Not only because the domestic supply of these is strictly limited under federal and provincial agricultural policy, but also because competition from abroad is effectively banned, via tariffs as high as percent. Because foreign airlines are forbidden to fly point to point within Canada. Why are our cellphone rates and the management fees on our investments so exorbitant? Because these industries, too, are largely protected from outside competition.

Suppose the assumption that consumer interest should come first was entrenched in policy—not as something to be balanced or traded off against the producer interest, but in the sense that Smith implied: as the public interest, to which the producer interest should at all times be subordinate. Indeed, rightly considered, the consumer interest is the producer interest. That is, it is the interest of efficient producers—the kind consumers are likely to favour.

Canada Election: Conservative leader Andrew Scheer holds campaign event in Calgary

The conflicts are not so much between producers and consumers, but between efficient and inefficient producers. Through their choices in the marketplace, consumers winnow the former from the latter and so drive all producers toward greater efficiency. It is only through such relentless, competition-driven efforts to lower costs and increase productivity that advances in living standards become possible.

A decision, broadly advertised, that in all such matters the government would put consumers first would thus be something of a revolution. We can endlessly relitigate why this or that particular subsidy is a bad idea, or we can make a rule: the consumer is sovereign. We will not force people to pay for things with their taxes that they would not willingly pay for on their own. C onservatives have to learn to make the case that markets are social institutions in their own right.

Finding the right balance between the market and the government is not, as the pragmatist might have it, a matter of brokering some unsatisfying compromise in which neither is allowed to do very much. Rather, it involves letting each perform the task appropriate to it. That may sound self-evident, yet some of the worst policy failures stem from attempts to harness one or the other to purposes for which they were never intended.

This is particularly true when the issue is distributional fairness. Individuals are best positioned to judge what is best for them, which is why we allow the choices of consumers to decide what goods and services are produced. But what we consider to be a just distribution of wealth, how much one person should have versus another, is by nature a collective judgment. We use markets to coordinate individual choices in matters that belong properly to the individual. But collective judgments are best implemented by the state. It is a legitimate criticism of markets that they cannot be trusted to distribute income fairly.

And yet we are always trying to coax them into doing so, not through a system of taxation—taking from the rich to give to the poor—but by the back door, as it were, by regulating prices, legislating a mandatory wage, or otherwise gumming up market processes and hoping for the best. So we put a floor under wages and think this will solve poverty. Or we limit increases in rents, hoping that will put more people in affordable apartments. Sometimes we do away with prices altogether, always using the same justification: that it is the best way to benefit the disadvantaged.

The Return to Power

But the artificial suppression of prices is equally so. To the extent that prices are bent to distributional ends, they cannot serve their usual function of matching the supply of scarce resources to the demand. The resulting misallocation is not just inefficient—it is also unjust. The costs of inefficiency are not, as a rule, distributed fairly: they tend to be borne disproportionately by the poor and the marginalized, while the benefits accrue to the well-to-do.

The insiders, needless to say, do rather well out of this arrangement: they face that much less competition for whatever it is they are selling or buying. This kind of arbitrary reassignment of opportunities is especially invidious when one considers just who is most likely to be found in either group. It is not the rich, after all, whose labour is typically made surplus by minimum wages. Nor are they, as a rule, the ones unable to find an apartment, or a doctor, or any other commodity made scarce by price controls.

Whether or not resources are allocated by price, they must still be allocated. They have also understood the value of enterprise and humanity. And so Sir John A. Bennett embraced social relief and public broadcasting. Incidentally, the senator speaks well, if little, of the Prime Minister, with whom our loyalist has fallen out of favour.

No matter. Segal is undaunted in this erudite, instructive tour d'horizon of Conservative Canada. His co-religionists have been honourable and generous, he insists, inclined to do what's right rather than what's expedient. Without Tories, there would be no notwithstanding clause in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, he argues. As for the Liberals, they're condescending, centralizing, opportunistic, self-aggrandizing. Why, they even think they invented Canada!

Forgive Segal; he cannot help himself here. To his credit, though, he acknowledges where his own party has gone wrong. Conservatives, for example, were deaf to French Canada in the handling of the Riel Rebellion, the Manitoba Schools Question and, twice, over conscription. They have been inept in government, particularly the feverish John Diefenbaker and the earnest Joe Clark.


Segal, who lost the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party to Clark in , resents that Clark had the "hubris" in to dismiss the prospective leadership candidacy of Ontario premier William Davis as "regional. Among them is the esteemed Senator Pamela Wallin, whose encomium to Segal graces the book's cover. Segal retaliates with tributes in both the text and the acknowledgments.

It's a bit rich. Poor Clark, for his part, should not feel slighted; he should feel like a Liberal, who, with some exceptions, are bad, bad, bad. The worst are Mackenzie King and Pierre Trudeau. Louis St. Laurent, on the other hand, is "decent and accessible" and two pages later, having matured, is "courtly and decent. At times, you have to admire Segal for having devoted himself to a national party so saintly that it could not soil itself enough to get elected.

Or so unpersuasive that it rarely won the argument, which is why the Liberals governed Canada for so long. In a story that is sometimes self-congratulatory, Segal displays a triumphalism without triumph. Once in a while, Segal is either intemperate or inaccurate. The War Measures Act may have been "a fraud," but it did crush terrorism. Trudeau ranked among the best hopes for resuscitating the Liberals and leading them back into power.

A triumphant bout in the ring could help erode this perception, Trudeau figured.

Conservative Party of Canada - Wikipedia

Within seconds of the opening bell, Brazeau pinned Trudeau against the ropes with an onslaught of heavy jabs. But the Conservative senator soon exhausted himself.

Early in the second round, Trudeau seized on the opening, raining down blows on Brazeau. Less than a minute into the third round, as the Liberal MP continued to pummel his opponent, the referee halted the fight and declared Trudeau the winner. That victory was one of the first major triumphs in a branding campaign that helped to transform Trudeau from a politician widely derided as a lightweight into a global political superstar.

Two years after that, in , the Liberals made an unprecedented leap from third-party status to a majority government — and Trudeau became, like his father before him, the prime minister of Canada. Like Barack Obama, Trudeau seemed to understand better than other politicians how to adapt the old ideas of political marketeering to the new realities of social media. He was a master of the viral video clip or poignant photo that seemed to express the worthiness of his government and the virtue of his politics.

He became, as a flurry of academic research has put it, the first prime minister of the Instagram age. Trudeau has championed a vision of Canada as a nation friendly to allies, open to immigrants and just to its people. And yet, Trudeau was never exactly anti-populist: he cultivated an impression that he both serves the masses and is adored by them. The company is facing charges in connection with millions of dollars in bribes allegedly paid to officials in Libya, including members of the Gaddafi regime, between and How many other Canadian prime ministers can most non-Canadians even name, let alone call to mind an image of?

The Right Balance: Canadas Conservative Tradition The Right Balance: Canadas Conservative Tradition
The Right Balance: Canadas Conservative Tradition The Right Balance: Canadas Conservative Tradition
The Right Balance: Canadas Conservative Tradition The Right Balance: Canadas Conservative Tradition
The Right Balance: Canadas Conservative Tradition The Right Balance: Canadas Conservative Tradition
The Right Balance: Canadas Conservative Tradition The Right Balance: Canadas Conservative Tradition
The Right Balance: Canadas Conservative Tradition The Right Balance: Canadas Conservative Tradition

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