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November 30, 2008

Thoughts on the Economic Update

  1. Let's get this out of the way: I wouldn't have done it--at least not like that. If at all, I'd have amended the public funding mechanism by equalizing it among parties reaching a certain threshold of the popular vote (say 5%), and then lowering the per-vote amount of the subsidy. There are all sorts of things wrong with public funding of political parties, but the most egregious problem with the current system is that it deliberately rewards incumbency. It is, as a result, just as democratic as gerrymandering--which is to say, not really democratic at all.

  2. But let's be frank: as much as this whole brouhaha is about party funding, it's not really about party funding. It's about party funding in the sense that absent that provision, there wouldn't be a brouhaha--at least not a brouhaha that threatened to bring down the government and replace it with an unelected alternative. But I'd bet a fair amount of dough that if you polled folks as to whether they'd be in favor of cutting public funding of political parties, they'd say yes. So while there was outrage in the opposition benches, and there was outrage in the body politic, I don't think it was the same outrage.

    Rather, what apparently miffed so many people--including quite a few Tory voters, apparently--was the style, rather than the substance, of the update. It's not that folks were necessarily opposed to the cut; it's that--how many times have you read this since Thursday--it wasn't necessary now, of all times, and the fact that Harper chose to do it now, of all times, revealed a thoroughly unappealing character in the PM. In short: Harper was mean, and Canadians didn't like it.

  3. As an aside, it's hard to escape the feeling that "meanness" is an unpalatable characteristic only among some Canadian politicians. Consider: the most successful Liberal prime minister in recent history was a jerk, politically. He won three majorities. The most prominent Liberal voice in the Canadian blogosphere wrote a book called "Kicking Ass in Canadian Politics," and publicly mocked an opponent's religious faith on national television for political gain. He's now in the employ of the Liberal dauphin. Maybe these are appropriate political tactics; maybe they're not. But it's a bit rich for the opposition and the media--and anybody else, frankly--to say that "meanness" is a disqualifying characteristic in Stephen Harper.

  4. But fine--if we're entering a new era of sunshine and rainbows in Canadian politics, I'm all for it. The fact is, it was a jerk move, and Harper deserved to get called on it. But is meanness itself really enough enough to justify an unprecedented transfer in political power? After all, the act of meanness has been expunged from the update. The political process, broadly defined, has worked. Do we really need tot take the next, drastic step simply because Harper attempted the act in the first place?

  5. We're told, of course, that it's no longer about party funding--it's about stimulus. But does this wash? A thought experiment: if Harper had introduced an update with no stimulus but no political funding amendment, would the Opposition parties have (a) brought the government down and (b) asked to form a coalition government without an intervening election? It's a counterfactual, but I think there's a consensus answer, which must be: no way. Why? Because whether and to what degree the government provides stimulus to the economy is a policy choice, pure and simple; and the power to make policy choices is entrusted to a government by the people at election-time; and there was an election less than two months ago. And the Tories won. And that's what you win when you win an election: you win the right to make policy choices, good ones and bad ones. And if they're bad, the opposition can make a stink, and tell Canadians that they'd have made good policy choices, and then--next election time, whenever that is--Canadians can entrust the policy-choosing power to someone else.

    If the update had contained no stimulus but no funding amendment, the opposition wouldn't have dared to vote down the government, and they certainly wouldn't have asked to form a coalition, because their actions would have been seen for what they would have been: a ploy to seize power for the sake of having power, notwithstanding the results of the recent election.

    The only substantive difference between that and this--except for the meanness--is the funding amendment. And that's been withdrawn.

  6. Mind you, I don't think that a Grit-Dip-BQ coalition would be unconstitutional; I just think that to find its antecedent you'd have to look to Westminster in the nineteenth century. As a traditionalist that's fine by me; there are a lot of elements of nineteenth century parliamentarianism I'd like to revive, including a stronger division between government and backbench and greater (consequent) backbencher independence. But let's recognize that, if we go this route, we'll be reviving a long-dormant notion of parliamentary democracy.

  7. No, Ontario in the mid-eighties doesn't count.

  8. So say we do this: say we decide that the twentieth century is so, like, last season, and retro-Victorian democracy is where it's at. What's the end game for Prime Minister Dion/Iggy/Rae? He gets power--and that is, after all, the be-all and end-all for a not-insignificant number of Liberals, and in many ways the Holy Grail for the NDP. And what will they do? They'll spend, presumably. They'll borrow to do it. It'll ease the pain--it'll make the coming recession shallower than it would otherwise have been. But it'll also make it longer than it otherwise have been, and it sure won't make it go away. Then what? The constant leftist pressure from the NDP will be lessened somewhat by their knowledge that when the coalition fails, they get cast out for good. But the Bloc--they'll stay in just as long as they feel like it, just as long as goodies keep coming their way; but the moment the coalition falls, they'll be able to go home to their constituents and say: see? Stick with us. And Quebec will, no matter what happens in the ROC.

    And what happens in the ROC? Prime Minister Dion/Iggy/Rae comes before the Canadian people in the midst of a recession; he'll point to his deficit spending, but how much good will it do him when folks are still out of work? Will it matter that more people would have been out of work otherwise? After all, he said--whoever he is--that he was kicking the Tories out because their policies were wrong for the Canadian economy and the Canadian worker. Will Canadians really think that he represents the right?

    And if the economy is not fixed when the election comes--within three months, maybe four, maybe six--who will the Canadian people blame? The Tories, for being mean, and then repenting? Or the Grits, for taking offense, and then not fixing things?

    If you were Michael Ignatieff, would you bet your political future on that question?

Posted by David Mader at 09:34 PM | (0) | Back to Main

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Posted by David Mader at 10:20 AM | (0) | Back to Main

November 24, 2008

Post-Election Political Advice

From Dave Barry:
You know what I miss? I miss 1960. Not the part about my face turning overnight into the world's most productive zit farm. What I miss is the way the grown-ups acted about the Kennedy-Nixon race. Like the McCain-Obama race, that was a big historic deal that aroused strong feelings in the voters. This included my parents and their friends, who were fairly evenly divided, and very passionate. They'd have these major honking arguments at their cocktail parties. But unlike today, when people wear out their upper lips sneering at those who disagree with them, the 1960s grown-ups of my memory, whoever they voted for, continued to respect each other and remain good friends.

What was their secret? Gin. On any given Saturday night they consumed enough martinis to fuel an assault helicopter. But also they were capable of understanding a concept that we seem to have lost, which is that people who disagree with you politically are not necessarily evil or stupid. My parents and their friends took it for granted that most people were fundamentally decent and wanted the best for the country. So they argued by sincerely (if loudly) trying to persuade each other. They did not argue by calling each other names, which is pointless and childish, and which constitutes I would estimate 97 percent of what passes for political debate today.
[Via Instapundit]

Posted by David Mader at 03:58 PM | (0) | Back to Main

November 18, 2008

Unintentional Self-Parody Watch

Get ready for a lot more of this when Iggy's in charge.

Posted by David Mader at 05:52 PM | (0) | Back to Main

November 07, 2008

The Facts - 11/7/08

"No commentary; no analysis - just the facts."

The Facts are compiled from various media sources.

Posted by David Mader at 01:08 AM | (0) | Back to Main

November 06, 2008

The Facts - 11/6/08

"No commentary; no analysis - just the facts."

The Facts are compiled from various media sources.

Posted by David Mader at 12:07 AM | (0) | Back to Main

November 05, 2008

The Facts - 11/5/08

"No commentary; no analysis - just the facts."

The Facts are compiled from various media sources.

Posted by David Mader at 01:21 AM | (0) | Back to Main

November 04, 2008

The Facts - 11/4/08

"No commentary; no analysis - just the facts."

The Facts are compiled from various media sources.

Posted by David Mader at 12:03 AM | (0) | Back to Main

November 03, 2008

The Facts - 11/3/08

"No commentary; no analysis - just the facts."

The Facts are compiled from various media sources.

Posted by David Mader at 12:30 AM | (0) | Back to Main