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Thursday, November 25, 2004

Waste Not, Want Not 

I originally posted this elsewhere, but Mennonite Marc thought it was pretty good, and I respect that, so I'll repost it. It's entirely political, but political philosophy rather than anything more specific. It's pithy, and it's much more than two weeks late:

"People are going to have a drink and have a smoke and that's kind of the way life is going to be." -Stephen Harper

Harper's quote, however banal (he was asked some question about tobacco use in Canada) sums up one of the nicer points of better conservative political thought (and, I hope, better liberal political thought, though I search for examples with my lamp...): not everything in life is political, and not everything in life admits to a political solution, and a political solution should not be sought for everything in life.

"Political correctness," the old school version, was an attempt in part to make everything political. There was a politically correct view on which movies were good and bad, there was a politically correct view on which beverage was good or bad, and there was even a politically correct view on which car you should drive (think Volvo ownership as correlated to to political predilictions. That poor car...). Think of all this as Josef Stalin's contribution to the political discourse.

Conservatives and other right-wingers have been known to fall into this mental pit, but hopefully less often than not.

Colby Cosh:

Today few conventional politicians regard their mandate as limited in any respect, even if they're running for county ratcatcher. They are obliged to have an opinion on every subject (which generally causes them to possess uniformly stupid ones), and must be prepared to intervene in any area of human life according to the media-stoked collective whim of the moment. Harper is different. He does not believe it would be his job, as Prime Minister, to lash Canadians onward to a New Jerusalem of state childcare, equal incomes, fit bodies, and pure thoughts. When Paul Martin is asked about health care he sets about defining "Canadian values" for you, exactly as an archbishop might define "Catholic values" for a querulous parishioner. When Stephen Harper is asked about health care, he points out that our health-care systems are the responsibility of the provinces under the Constitution, and in logic. He doesn't insist that every province should conduct its affairs the same way, or every person possess the same habits.

I don't really believe the Liberal party wants every person to possess the same habits, and if you pressed Cosh on this point, I'm sure he'd say he overstated the case rather a lot. But I would say there is a general tendency for government (and governors) to over-reach, and that we live in a society that, as Cosh suggests, has a poor sense of subsidiarity. In general, stuff that needs to be done should be done at the lowest level of government possible, or better yet, not by government at all. To the extent that governments involve themselves in personal matters, both the government and the person tend to be worse off for it.

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