George Jonas's Oct.7th column on “Statism isn’t Liberalism” should be required reading for all Canadians, especially for those running for the Liberal party's leadership. As Daniel Patrick Moynihan once wrote, "Somehow liberals have been unable to acquire from life what conservatives seem to be endowed with at birth: namely, a healthy skepticism of the power of government to do good."
Too many of today's liberals, small-l or large-L, have no real understanding of liberalism. Politically, they engaged with the Liberal party because of its history of winning through the expediency of electoral pandering. With the election of the Harper government we have witnessed the most dramatic electoral shift in a generation. So the Liberals, or liberals, are left rudderless. They simply don't know what brought them here in the first place.
The raison d'etre of the Natural Governing Party was always to be all things to all people at all times at all costs. Just get the
votes. So now it's time for all good Liberals to go to re-education schools and learn what being liberal really means, because so much of the small-c conservatism of the Prime Minister manifests a far greater fidelity to the original principles of industrial liberalism than the Liberal party's obsession with statocratic engineering.
Industrial liberalism, both in its political and philosophical contexts, arose out of the aspirations of the newly emerging, and newly enfranchised, middle classes of the mid-19th century. Its members kept hitting a ceiling that was not so much glass as brick.
For many, the goals of industrial liberalism fit like a well-made suit. It was a philosophy of liberation from the economic domination of the monied elites represented by large-C conservatism, without replacing it with the philosophy touted by those arrogant social engineers represented by socialism. Liberalism was the political manifestation of the transcendent yearning for redemptive change in which the liberty of each citizen would be constrained only by the demands of equal liberty for another. Equality, not parity, as Mr. Jonas pointed out so well.
Over the past 13 years Canada's Liberals -- instead of remaining loyal to the principles of political inclusion and the expansion of economic opportunity --chose the politics of division and exclusion. They got caught up with power for power's sake, and to balance off the money they were spending to get corporate financial support and the votes of special interest groups, they tried to bamboozle Canadians by implementing nanny-state programs that intruded into every aspect of our lives. They kept saying it was for our own good. In truth, it was nothing more than fodder for flyers for the next election.
To have any future meaning in this nation, liberalism must find the courage to abandon the reckless economic and statocratic policies that it is now wedded to, and return to the liberating, un-statist philosophy that liberalism has been for most of the past century in most of the Western world.
© National Post 2006