The Canadian Red Ensign

The Canadian Red Ensign

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Tory and Globalization

As we have seen, the Tory, the classical conservative whose believes in a stable and secure social and civil order in which royal and ecclesiastical authority pursue their shared vocation to cooperate for the common good, accepts market capitalism with many reservations and qualifications, and rejects socialism with a few light reservations. The market, he insists, can only be the force for good that liberals maintain that it is, in the context of the secure civil order and a culture informed by a moral tradition that supplies the brakes on human avarice that the market itself does not contain. Completely unfettered, as the liberal believes it ought to be, market capitalism becomes an idol that enslaves man rather than a servant that works for his good and a force that dissolves the social and civil order and the moral tradition. To alleviate the misery that had been brought about by the transition from feudal, rural, agrarianism to modern, urban, industrialism and to protect against the threat of revolutionary socialism, Tories introduced modest social legislation with the goal of healing the rift between rich and poor and reuniting them into “one nation”. Social legislation, unfortunately, has the tendency to grow and expand into what today we call the welfare state, more accurately called the provider state, which is as deleterious to the social and civil order and the moral tradition as unfettered capitalism. It allows people to think of themselves as generous and charitable, not for cultivating the virtue of liberal magnanimity by the giving of what is their own, but for voting help to the needy out of what is their neighbours’. It does harm by contributing to illiteracy, illegitimacy, the absence of fathers, high rates of criminal activity and victimization, substance abuse, and multigenerational poverty and dependence, among the people it is designed to help. It hinders the reforming of the organic ties, relationships, and institutions that were uprooted by the advent of capitalism.

The provider state is also one aspect of the convergence of capitalism and socialism that has taken place over the last century. A little over a century ago, Hilaire Belloc predicted this convergence in a book entitled The Servile State. In the struggle between capitalism and socialism, Belloc argued, neither was destined to prevail over the other but both together were moving towards the creation of system in which the bulk of society would consist of a labour force that would work for the owners of capital in times of economic prosperity and be maintained by the state in times of economic hardship. What Belloc called “the servile state” is remarkably similar to what Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn called the provider state.

It is ironic, perhaps, that in the decades following World War II when capitalism and socialism were most at odds with each other, as their avatars in the United States and Soviet Union respectively, were locked in what James Burnham called a “struggle for the world” with each other, that it became most apparent that the two were converging in the way Belloc had predicted. That the two would ultimately converge, however, is not in itself ironic, despite the tendency of the advocates of each to represent the other as their polar opposite, for both are manifestations of modern thought. The liberal who believes in capitalism and the leftist who believes in socialism both alike think of man primarily as a producer, distributor, and consumer of material goods. Furthermore, both tend to see man on a universal scale rather than in the context of a rooted tradition. Most importantly, both conceive of human history, especially that of the modern age, as moving forward from a past of darkness and suffering to a future of happiness and light. They are both, in other words, progressive.

That which unites the liberal and the socialist, separates both from the Tory, who is not a progressive. Canada’s most distinguished Tory thinker, George Grant, explained how the modern concept of progress was a secular mutation and perversion of the Christian doctrine of the Kingdom of God. Christianity teaches that God acts through history, particularly through the events recorded in the Gospels, to accomplish man’s salvation, to be fully unveiled in the future Kingdom of God. Modern man, has retained this general idea of the shape of history, in which he has replaced the Kingdom of God with the Kingdom of Man, thus arriving at the concept of progress. (1) In his best known book Grant described this Kingdom of Man, the end to which the age of progress is moving, as a “universal and homogenous state”. While Marxists thought that theirs was the true vision of progress and condemned American capitalism as reactionary, Grant argued that the American liberal had the truer understanding of the nature of the future state, one in which man would be completely free to remake himself and his world according to his will and that American capitalism rather than socialism would prove to be the means whereby the universal state is to be achieved. (2) As a Tory, however, Grant took a sceptical view of that universal state, looking back to the wisdom of the ancients, who held that a universal state would be a state of tyranny.

In one sense, history has borne out his assessment that the universal state would be that of the liberal rather than the Marxist in that the side of capitalism certainly won the Cold War, ushering in a new era that has been thought of by many as a Pax Americana. In this era, countries that have retained the Communist creed, such as Red China, have introduced market reforms, so as not to repeat the economic collapse of the Soviet Union, and socialist parties in Western countries such as Roy Romanow’s NDP in Saskatchewan in the 1990s and Tony Blair’s “New Labour” in the United Kingdom have also embraced the market economy. This is only one side of the picture, however.

As socialism has embraced the market, seemingly being taken over from the inside by capitalism, liberal capitalism in turn has embraced key elements of socialism. In the second chapter of The Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, identified certain means whereby the industrial workers, having seized political power and become the ruling class, would wrest capital from the bourgeoisie and centralize it in the State and revolutionize the mode of production. They listed ten such measures as being “generally applicable” in “most advanced countries”. The second, fifth, sixth, and tenth of these have been implemented in all capitalist countries as have, to one degree or another, several of the others. (3) The capitalism that has conquered socialism from the inside, in other words, has itself been deeply penetrated by Marxism.

While Grant’s assertion that capitalism, rather than socialism, is the vehicle of progress must, therefore, be qualified by the recognition that the capitalism in question is one that has converged with socialism into the servile state predicted by Belloc, that it is moving us towards the “universal and homogenous state” is evident and indeed, is a fact celebrated by some of its advocates. (4) Nowhere is this more evident than in the phenomenon of globalization, the economic integration of the markets of the world, which phenomenon gives further testimony to how capitalism and socialism have converged in that among the main charges levelled against the corporations that profit from globalization is that these capitalist companies sell good manufactured in sweatshops in Communist China.

Globalization has been brought about through the means of free trade treaties negotiated between countries, both regionally as in the European Common Market and NAFTA, and on a global scale, such as in GATT. Free trade, in which tariffs and other protections of domestic markets are dropped to facilitate trade across national boundaries, has been a key element of liberal economics since Adam Smith and while the arguments for it from an economic point of view are not entirely lacking in merit, it has long been the element of free market economics of which the Tory has been most suspicious and for good reason, not least of which being that liberal advocacy of free trade being so often dressed up in utopian dreams of establishing a permanent world peace. While the Tory’s reasons for favouring specific protection policies may vary from age to age, and place to place, from the protection of a rural agrarian economy in the early nineteenth century Corn Laws in Britain to the protection of a developing manufacturing economy in the late nineteenth century economic nationalism of the Conservative Party in Canada, he accepts that the obvious truth of Ludwig von Mises’ argument that governments lack the ability to calculate what is best economically for everyone in their country individually, does not apply to their ability to determine what is best for their country collectively. It is in no country’s best interests to so integrate national markets that those who profit the most are companies and individuals with no patriotic loyalty or attachment.

There are, of course, many who make a big show about protesting against globalization every time there is a trade summit of some sort, but to the extent that they have any motive other than “it’s the cool thing to do” or “my teacher says I ought to”, it is much more like the envy that drives socialism than any patriotic objection to global integration. Indeed, their complaints against globalization are expressed in explicitly anti-patriotic language that depicts their own countries as villains and other people on the other side of the world as virtuous victims. The Tory recognizes that these are no true allies in the patriotic fight against globalization and the progressive universal state.

(1) George Grant, Philosophy in the Mass Age, (Toronto: Copp Clark Publishing, 1959), especially chapter four "History as Progress"
(2) Geroge Grant, Lament for a Nation, (Toronto: Carleton University Press, 1965, 1978, 1989 ).
(3) The second was “A heavy progressive or graduated income tax”, the fifth “Centralisation of credit in the hands of the state, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly”, the sixth “Centralisation of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the State” and the tenth “Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children’s factory labour in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production, &c, &c.” Three of these have been implemented in full. The means of communication and transport have been placed under strong state regulatory bodies rather than outright nationalized. To varying extents almost all of the others have been implemented as well.
(4) Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man, (New York: Free Press, 1992).

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Tory and Social Legislation

The Tory is the classical conservative in whose traditional view of society the common good can only be achieved through the alliance of royal and ecclesiastical authority. He accepts capitalism, the economy in which business is privately owned and operated and goods and services are bought and sold in an open market, with the qualifications that the market can only perform its function of converting self-interest into the common good, when set in the context of the social and civil order and of a moral and cultural tradition which supplies the brakes on our tendency to take the basic human appetite for acquisition to excess in the vice of Avarice that the market itself lacks. He rejects socialism, the utopian dream of achieving greater justice and happiness through the collective ownership of productive property, as something unfit for men as they actually are and which in practice could only increase injustice and misery and, worse, as being the sin of Envy trying to hide its ugly face behind the masks of charity and compassion.

The topic of socialism raises the question of social legislation, by which name we designate laws passed and programs operated by the state for the purpose of ameliorating the human condition by alleviating suffering and want. Today such legislation is usually regarded as falling under the province of socialism. Indeed, there are many people, who would think first of this, rather than collective ownership, when they hear the word socialism. Yet historically, it was Tories who introduced several key elements of social legislation. (1) Furthermore, they did so with the explicit motivation of combating socialism.

The most important figure in the history of Tory social legislation was Benjamin Disraeli, the Earl of Beaconsfield, who served under Queen Victoria as Prime Minister briefly in 1868, then again from 1874 to 1880. In the 1870s his government passed multiple reform acts aimed at improving the conditions of the lower and working classes, but more importantly he put forward a theoretical justification for these bills, grounded in Tory principles. Decades before he became Prime Minister he wrote the novel Sybil which illustrated his arguments. From the sixteenth century until his own, he argued, a series of factors including the confiscation of the church lands under Henry VIII, the enclosure of the commons, industrialization, and the growth of the cities, caused the lower classes to lose so much security and so many of their traditional rights as to make the rich and the poor in effect, “two nations”. The Tory must seek to re-integrate these into “one nation” that secures the rights of rich and poor alike, lest the latter become the followers of some demagogue or socialist bent on revolution. He appealed to the traditional Tory principle of noblesse oblige – that those in high social, political, and economic positions have duties to those in lower positions – to make his case.

In Disraeli’s “one nation conservatism” we see the fundamental difference between the Tory and socialist arguments for social legislation. The Tory and socialist both have additional motivations to pass social legislation apart from its internal purpose of alleviating human misery. These motivations are diametrically opposed to each other. The Tory introduced such legislation to unite the country. Socialism, however, wants to level the classes and create social, political, and economic equality. This is not a unifying doctrine, but a divisive doctrine, aimed at organizing the masses of “have nots” against the hated “haves” class. For socialism, social legislation is a weapon of aggression in its war against the “haves”.

Such radically different ends, at cross-purposes with each other, cannot help but produce differences in the nature and scope of the social legislation approved by the Tory and that advocated by the socialist.

The differences in nature are easier to illustrate than to explain. To give one example, the Tory has historically preferred unemployment insurance over outright handouts. Canadian Prime Minister R. B. Bennett, in a radio address defending the unemployment insurance legislation his government was proposing eighty years ago, said “If he [the workman] is able and willing to work, but can get no work, provision must be made for his security in a decent way. By this I do not mean the dole. The dole is a rotten thing. It is alike an insult to the worker and to those who profess to have control of our industrial system.“ (2) Unemployment insurance preserves the dignity of everybody involved in a way that relief handouts – the dole - do not.

The difference in scope is simple to explain. Socialism’s view of social legislation is expansive, with no internal boundaries or limitations on how far it can expand. This must necessarily be the case, because socialism has set an unattainable end, equality, as its goal. The Tory, on the other hand, is inclined to a minimalist view of social legislation. He sees that the realities of modern existence are such that it is necessary that there be some degree of public policy to guarantee that help is available to the aged, infirm, and those for whom no gainful employment can be found, but insists that we must strive to limit that policy to what is absolutely necessary. (3) He recognizes what the socialist does not, that social legislation taken too far, does more harm than it does good.

The socialist would say that theirs is the more charitable and generous approach. This, however, is nonsense. Social legislation is not about charity or generosity, virtues that can only be cultivated by individual persons, but about the security and stability of the social and civil order. “The supreme function of statesmanship”, Enoch Powell said, “is to provide against preventable evils.” (4) Unrest and revolution, due to misery and want, are the preventable evils that social legislation provides against.

In a different speech from that quoted in the previous paragraph, Enoch Powell explained how when given too large of a scope, social legislation can produce the very unrest it is supposed to prevent. He distinguished between two meanings of the phrase “welfare state” (5), which correspond to the Tory and socialist visions of social legislation. The first, he said, was that “the state is the agency by which the community discharges its responsibility to ensure a tolerable livelihood to all its members.” (6) The second is that “the state undertakes on behalf of its members the responsibility for meeting whatever needs of theirs it chooses to recognize.” Observing that there had been a rapid transition since WWII from the first to the second meaning, he remarked that:

The state which undertakes, and is accepted as undertaking, the obligation to meet the general needs of the citizens is particularly vulnerable to violent agitation, for one simple reason – the obligation it has accepted is by its nature unlimited. It follows that the material for dissatisfaction is likewise unlimited.

There are plenty of other evils attendant upon the growth of the welfare state from the basic security net envisioned by Disraeli and Bismarck into the Santa Claus state. Created by democratic assemblies, administered by arrogant bureaucrats, and paid for out of obscenely high taxes, the Provider State works against the end for which the ancients saw the state as being established, by discouraging rather than facilitating the cultivation of habits of virtue. “One of the worst effects of national welfare systems”, Dr. Thomas Fleming wrote, “is that they diminish our capacity and our desire to perform voluntary works of charity.” (7) Worse, they allow us to pride ourselves on our “charity” and “generosity”, not for giving alms to the poor out of our own pocket, but for voting them out of all of our neighbours’ pockets. Which is to say nothing of the deleterious effects that this kind of social legislation has been observed to have had on its recipients. (8)

Ultimately, social legislation, in its expansive, Provider State form, is a repudiation of the good principles upon which Tories like Disraeli stood when introducing their more modest version. These Tories hoped to redress evils that had been brought about by industrial capitalism having uprooted the organic relationships of pre-modern society. It is in our social nature to form such relationships, and to reform them should they be destroyed, but it is the nature of the socialist Provider State to impede the reforming of the organic relationships uprooted by liberal capitalism. Consider again how Powell defined the original meaning of the welfare state “the agency by which the community discharges its responsibility to ensure a tolerable livelihood to all its members.” In the pre-modern order, that agency was the church not the state, (9) and one of the obvious effects of the Provider State has been to reduce the influence of the church in society, not to restore it to its pre-modern place at the heart of the community, a restoration for which the Tory longs.

Unfortunately, it seems to be the nature of social legislation to expand into its socialist form (10), and so the Tory will be fighting an uphill battle as he strives to roll it back and contain it in the form where it does the most good and the least evil.

(1) “English socialists claim credit for the ‘heroic struggle’ against the evils of industrial production. They prefer to forget that the Factory Acts, the legalization of trade unions, even the welfare state, were either Conservative inventions, or made possible by conservative forces that had long been striving to bring such things into being.” Roger Scruton, The Meaning of Conservatism, Rev. 3rd Edition, (South Bend, Indiana: St. Augustine’s Press, 1980, 2002), p. 109.
(2) R. B. Bennett, January 4, 1935, the second address in The Premier Speaks to the People, (Ottawa: Dominion Conservative Headquarters, 1945)
(3) Anthony Burgess, the eccentric, High Tory, novelist, playwright, and composer who, commenting on his first visit to East Berlin in his memoirs remarked “If ever I wavered in my acceptance of Western capitalism, I had only to return to that grimness unenlivened by the gaudy posters of commercialism to wish to scuttle back to nudes and Mammon” described this as “minimal socialization” in an interview with John Cullinan that appeared in the Spring 1973 issue of The Paris Review.
(4) Enoch Powell, speaking in Birmingham, April 20th, 1968.
(5) Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn preferred the term “Provider State”, pointing out that “It should not be called the Welfare State for, after all, every state exists for the welfare of its citizens.” Leftism Revisited: From de Sade and Marx to Hitler and Pol Pot (Washington D. C.: Regnery Gateway, 1990), p. 28.
(6) Enoch Powell, speaking in Portadown, Amragh County, Northern Ireland, February 7, 1970.
(7) Thomas Fleming, The Morality of Everyday Life: Rediscovering an Ancient Alternative to the Liberal Tradition, (Columbia and London: The University of Missouri Press, 2004), p. 77.
(8) Charles Murray, Losing Ground: American Social Policy 1950-1980 (New York: Basic Books, 1984, 1994).
(9) “What we might now call welfare –food, clothing, shelter, medicine—was distributed by the Church to members of the local parish. The monasteries, on the other hand, gave emergency relief to strangers and beggars.” Thomas Fleming, op. cit., p. 78.
(10)“The trouble with state welfare is that it grows and grows, until the economy - which supports both forms of parasite, its beneficiaries and its bureaucrats – collapses.” Auberon Waugh, The Spectator, May 13, 1995.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Is Stephen Harper a Conservative?

Betrayed! Stephen Harper’s war on principled conservatism by Connie J. Fournier, Createspace, 2015, pp. 148.

On the feast of Epiphany in the first year of the new millennium, an online forum for the discussion of Canadian political issues from a conservative perspective was launched. Its founders had been Canadian members of Free Republic, a similar message board in the United States, and so naturally, called the new forum Free Dominion. The founders and administrators, Mark and Connie Fournier, gave it the tagline “the voice of principled conservatism.”

Principled conservatism meant a conservatism that consisted of ideas and principles, rather than mere loyalty to the party which calls itself conservative. At the time there were two such parties, the Progressive Conservative Party and the Canadian Alliance, which had been formed the previous year in the first stage of a merger between the Western populist Reform Party and the PCs. Stockwell Day was leader of the Alliance at the time but by the end of the year he had resigned and early in the following year Stephen Harper was elected the new leader. In the year after that, the merger between the two parties was complete, and Mr. Harper became leader of the Conservative Party of Canada. In that capacity he served as Leader of the Opposition, then Prime Minister in a minority government, and finally won a majority government in 2011.

This was a triumph for the Conservative Party, for sure, but was it a victory for principled conservatism? Connie Fournier, in her new self-published book, Betrayed! says no, and she has good reasons for saying so. Some of these are personal, pertaining to the persecution she, her husband, and the forum they have put so much devotion into have undergone at the hands of government agencies and employees, all during the Harper premiership. Due to the nature of these injustices she cannot tell her story in full. She cannot, for example, name Richard Warman as the man who is responsible for most of the abuses of the legal system that Free Dominion has faced since shortly after Stephen Harper became Prime Minister. What she does tell, however, is told because it perfectly illustrates how the present leadership of the Conservative Party has abandoned its principles.

When Connie – who I had the pleasure of meeting a couple of years ago when she accompanied her husband, a truck driver by profession, on a run that took them through Winnipeg – speaks of conservative principles, she means the principles that underlay the Thatcherite and Reaganite movements in the United Kingdom and United States respectively, and the Reform Party here in Canada. This set of principles was created by a fusion – to borrow Frank Meyer’s word – of classical conservative views on society and morality with classical liberal views about government and the freedom of the individual. I am more of an unmixed classical conservative – a High Tory – not because I disagree with the ideas of limited, accountable, government and personal liberty, but because I hold strongly to the classical conservative view that these things can only exist in the context of a stable and secure order of established, traditional, institutions. I bring this up to make the point that while what Connie and I would regard as conservative principles are different – in a complementary rather than a contradictory way, I hope – I find her argument that Stephen Harper has betrayed those principles to be compelling and illuminating.

She tells the story of Stephen Harper’s rise to the federal premiership, showing him to have been ruthless in his pursuit of power right from the beginning. From the curious way in which he won the leadership of the Canadian Alliance away from socially conservative Stockwell Day and the heartless way in which he confiscated the party nomination for Calgary Southwest from Ezra Levant to his stacking the party council with his yes men and negotiating the merger of the two parties against the wishes of both parties' memberships, she demonstrates how within his own party he showed the same contempt for the people who elected him as he later would as the country’s Prime Minister.

She takes us through the way he has sold out one segment of the conservative support base after another, starting with the social conservatives who have no one else to speak for them having been told that their views, which were once, and within living memory, the consensus in the land, are now unwelcome, by the other parties. Harper, knowing this, has been able to collect the votes of social conservatives while doing nothing to deserve them, a pattern established early in his leadership when he offered social conservatives, who had started a grassroots effort to put a ban on partial-birth abortion into the party platform, a discussion of same-sex marriage instead, which never materialized. Even gun owners, widely though of as having benefited from the Conservative government with the abolition of the long-gun registry, are among the betrayed, Connie shows.

The biggest betrayal, however, is of those who fought for freedom of speech against Section 13. Section 13 was part of the 1977 Canadian Human Rights Act. This Act, modelled on the American Civil Rights Act of 1964, proscribed discrimination on certain grounds (race, sex, religion, ethnicity, etc.) and in certain circumstances (employment, housing, etc.) even between private individuals. Section 13 declared it to be an act of discrimination to communicate via telephone, anything that was “likely to” expose someone to “hatred or contempt” on the basis of one of the prohibited grounds of discrimination. Around the turn of the millennium this was made even worse by the adding of subsection 2, which extended its application to all electronic communications including, of course, the internet. This law had, as it was intended to have, a chilling effect on public debate, adding the force of law to the creepy contemporary phenomenon known as political correctness, that protects left-wing social and cultural engineering with loud and hysterical accusations of “racism”, “sexism”. “homophobia”, or some other made-up pathology, against its critics.

In the late 2000s, the public spotlight finally fell upon this terrible law, when Muslim groups laid charges under it against well-known conservative figures Ezra Levant and Mark Steyn. Traditionalists and libertarians united against it, and, through the means of a private member’s bill, ultimately succeeded in having it repealed. This was without the help of the present leadership of the Conservative Party. The charges against Levant and Steyn were made about the time Harper became Prime Minister, and it was during the battle over Section 13 that ensued, that Free Dominion’s legal woes began.

The Canadian Human Rights Commission, having received a complaint about some material that controversial Christian evangelist Bill Whatcott had posted on Free Dominion, urged the complainant to charge the website as well. At the time the CHRC had already targeted Free Dominion, having previously set up a dummy account “jadewarr” on the forum, for purposes of spying or, possibly, entrapment. The charge against Free Dominion was withdrawn by the complainant, but the CHRC, its doings, and Section 13 became hot topics on the discussion board. Richard Warman, the human rights lawyer and former CHRC employee who was responsible for most of the complaints under Section 13, launched a myriad of lawsuits against his online critics, including the suits that have been so devastating to Free Dominion and the Fourniers.

It is not just that all of this took place on Stephen Harper’s watch, however. His government has introduced bill after bill after bill in attempts to monitor and control discussion on the internet. These include bills that would order ISPs to spy on their customers and hand information over to law enforcement agencies without warrants. The worst of them is Bill C-51, which the government rammed through the House of Commons and Senate earlier this year. In the name of fighting terrorism, this bill authorizes law enforcement agencies to spy on Canadians without warrants, share the information they gather with each other, and even engage in disruptive activity.

In light of all of this damning evidence, Connie calls principled conservatives to hold the Conservative Party and their leadership accountable. The party needs to know that conservative votes cannot just be taken for granted, and that their betrayal of conservative principles and trampling all over the privacy and freedom of Canadians will not be tolerated, let alone rewarded.

Every Canadian, especially those who believe in the principles of conservatism, ought to read this book before the upcoming election.

Friday, August 14, 2015

The Tory and Socialism

Whereas the neoconservative, a species of liberal, embraces market capitalism in its liberal formulation and on a global scale, the Tory, the classical conservative who upholds royal and ecclesiastical authority as established by prescription with a calling to work together for the common good, accepts business and commerce in their market setting as human goods, but insists that these, like human freedom in general, are made possible by the context of the social and civil order, especially in a cultural atmosphere informed by the classical and Christian tradition. The Tory recognizes what Dr. Thomas Fleming calls “the one essential insight of free-market economics” which is “that human beings are more efficient at providing for their own needs than any set of other people could possibly be, no matter how enlightened.” (1) He also recognizes that liberalism has a tendency to make an idol out of the market, thus making for man a master out of what is properly his servant, and that when men begin to serve the market rather than the other way around – when they make decisions, for example, based upon what is “good for the market” – that the market then begins to undermine and erode, the social, civil, moral, and cultural, context that it requires in order to be a force for human good.

In the nineteenth century a rival to liberal capitalism arose in the form of socialism and the rivalry between the two systems soon came to so dominate the field of economics that one could hardly express an economic thought except in terms of either capitalism or socialism. If the Tory’s attitude towards market capitalism is one of a heavily qualified acceptance, his attitude towards socialism is that of a lightly qualified rejection.

Socialism was born in response to the changes wrought and economic conditions brought about by the Industrial Revolution. While some might see this as suggesting an affinity between the socialist and the Tory, who sees industrialism as being at best a mixed-blessing, there is far greater affinity between the socialist and the liberal. The Tory wistfully weighs what we have gained through industrialism against what we have lost, whereas the socialist, a progressive like the liberal, looks only forward to an industrialism organized according to his ideals rather than those of the liberal.

The ideal that historically defined socialism, was that of the communal or societal, collective ownership of productive property – farms, mines, factories, etc. Early forms of socialism envisioned this on a small scale, in the communes proposed by Robert Owen, and the workers-association ownership of factories advocated by the anarchist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels envisioned it on a much larger scale, that of the national society and eventually the world.

This was not the first time this ideal had been raised. In Plato’s Republic, Socrates and his interlocutors engage in the thought experiment of devising an ideal city and collective ownership is proposed for the governors and guardians of the city. Closer in time to the actual rise of socialism, Thomas More depicted a fictional island society that practiced communal ownership and other absurdities, to which he gave the name Utopia, meaning "no place".

It is an ideal upon which history has passed severe judgement. Communal ownership has been tried on numerous occasions. The only times it has worked have been when practiced by a small community, such as a Hutterite colony, within a larger society in which private ownership is the norm. Otherwise it has generally been practiced for a short time then abandoned when the experiment proved a failure, as was the case with the Puritan colony at Plymouth Rock in the 1620s. When attempted on the scale of a large national society, the results have been universally disastrous, as the record of Communism in the twentieth century bears out.

The Tory accepts history’s judgement on the results of the socialist ideal but looks deeper and weighs its assumptions as well. The obvious assumption underlying the ideal of communal ownership, is that private ownership by individuals or families is unjust. This was explicitly stated by the early socialists, most notably by Proudhon who famously declared “Property is theft!” The condemnation of private ownership is, of course, the very basis of Marxism, which quickly beat out its rivals to become the most influential of socialist theories. Marx taught that private ownership generates misery, by dividing men into unequal classes of “haves” and “have nots”, the former of which oppress the latter who must sell their labour to live.

The Tory has no sympathy with this perspective. Injustice and misery, he says, are not due to private ownership of property, nor can they be eliminated through communal ownership, for the same reason – they are part of the human condition - and while we obviously have a duty to ameliorate that condition to the best of our limited ability, such amelioration is to be sought through the traditional institutions of the social and civil order. The Tory is inclined to explain this in terms of the Christian doctrine of Original Sin (2) – that man presently lives in exile from Paradise which he cannot regain through his own efforts, an exile in which sin and its consequences are always present – whether he accepts the doctrine literally or only figuratively.

This was the basis of Canadian Tory Stephen Leacock’s arguments against socialism. Leacock, while mostly remembered as a humourist, was a trained economist who taught political economy at McGill University for almost four decades. A stern critic of the liberal doctrine of laissez-faire, in his “The Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice”, (3) he rejected socialism as an acceptable alternative, declaring that “the attempt to establish it would hurl us over the abyss” and that “the frying pan is at least better than the fire.” He explains this judgement by the fact that socialism would require managers and workers alike to be angels rather than humans as they are, for placing complete control over the distribution of consumption goods in the hands of government managers can only lead to corruption on a much larger scale than already exists, and divorcing the workers’ share of that distribution from the concept of an exchange for labour can lead only to idleness, a problem which in turn can only be solved by force, leading to the conclusion that “socialism, in other words, is slavery.”

The Tory, in affirming that private ownership is not an injustice but a good that is essential to the social and civil order, accepts the wisdom of the ages represented in the classical and Christian traditions. At the same time Plato was speculating about collective ownership in The Republic, Aristophanes was demonstrating the absurdity of the idea in his play The Assemblywomen. In the Christian tradition, the Ten Commandments of the Old Testament contain two that protect property (4), and the Book of Acts, even in its description of the voluntary communal ownership of the early days of the Church in Jerusalem, places an affirmation of the rights of private ownership in the mouth of St. Peter as he condemns Ananias and Sapphira. (5)

Socialists and their sympathizers like to accuse businessmen of greed and to say that capitalism is driven by greed. Greed, in Christian moral theology, is Avarice, one of the Seven Deadly Sins. There is nothing inherently avaricious about business, or the market economy that facilitates it, however. The appetite for material acquisition is not itself Avarice, any more than the appetite for sex is Lust, or the appetite for food is Gluttony. These appetites are natural to mankind and humanity could not get along without them. They become their respective vices when taken to excess. The most that can be said against the market economy is that it contains no internal brakes on the appetite for acquisition to prevent it from becoming Avarice. These must be supplied by the cultural and moral traditions that the Tory sees as providing the necessary context for the market.

Lust, Gluttony, and Avarice are the three least of the Seven Deadly Sins, in the traditional ranking that we find in Dante’s Inferno and Purgatario. Far higher in that ranking is Invidia, or Envy, which is second only to Superbia, or Pride, with which it is associated. This is the sin of looking at those who have what you have not, and hating them for it, wishing to take it from them and ruin them, whether it benefits you or not. Envy is the very heart and soul and life-blood of socialism.

Even this, however, does not fully capture the Tory’s indictment of socialism, for it is not just that it embodies the second worst of the cardinal vices while accusing its rival of a lesser vice, and not entirely justly at that. In socialism, Envy hides its face behind the mask of Charity, the greatest of the Christian virtues, albeit in the debased contemporary sense of the word. Fortunately the mask frequently slips, and Envy can be recognized for what it is in the hate-filled rhetoric the socialist directs against business and businessmen.

This, then, is why the Tory must reject and condemn socialism, qualifying his rejection only by making it clear that we must not make the mistake of throwing out true charity and compassion, merely because socialism hides its envious face behind masks made in their image.

(1) Thomas Fleming, The Morality of Everyday Life (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2004), pp. 18-19. Fleming observes that this insight is not new with Adam Smith, but was noticed by Aristotle in ancient times.

(2) Anthony Burgess, in the second volume of his memoirs, explains that his being a “kind of Jacobite Tory, like John Dryden and Samuel Johnson” was due to the fact that “socialism was positivist and denied original sin.” You’ve Had Your Time: Being the Second Part of the Confessions of Anthony Burgess, (London: William Heinemann Ltd, 1990), p. 140.

(3) Stephen Leacock, “The Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice”, which can be found, among other places, in Alan Bowker, ed., The Social Criticism of Stephen Leacock, (Toronto and Buffalo: University of Toronto Press, 1973), pp. 71-145.

(4) Three if we go by the Roman Catholic way of numbering the commandments.

(5) Acts 5:4.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Tory and Capitalism

If you were to ask most people today whether conservatives believed in capitalism or not the answer you would receive would be yes. The neoconservatives, a species of liberal who regard liberal democracy, especially in its American form, as the crowning achievement of human civilization and wish to make it universal, through military force if necessary, would certainly agree. What about Tories, the foundation of whose classical conservatism is belief in the duty of royal and ecclesiastical authority, rooted in tradition and prescription, to work together for the common good of the society?

To answer this question, we must first answer another, namely, what do we mean by capitalism. This is not an easy question to answer because the word capitalism is used to denote the actual economic system that has become predominant in Western countries over the last two-and-a-half to three centuries, a theoretical system of economic organization, and an economic activity and, although it has become the habit of capitalism’s enemies and detractors to jump from one of these senses to another as if they were synonymous, they are not always in harmony with one another. The actual capitalism of history has never looked like quite like what theoretical capitalism looks like on paper, and to complicate matters further historical capitalism has not remained the same throughout history, looking very different at the beginning of the twenty-first century, than it did at the beginning of the nineteenth.

The word capitalist entered the English language in the eighteenth century with the basic meaning of someone who owns capital, in other words a property-owner or businessman. The word capitalism appeared later in the nineteenth century, at first simply meaning the condition of being a capitalist, of owning capital. By the end of the nineteenth century it had taken on its other senses through the influence of Karl Marx, although he himself used it sparingly.

The pre-Marx meaning of capitalism survives in its usage in reference to an economic activity. In this sense, capitalism is what the capitalist or businessman does. He owns productive property, which he either works himself or hires others to work for him, trades or sells the product, the profit of which, that is to say the difference between what he receives for the product and the expense of production, is his income to live off of, save, or reinvest.

Capitalism, in this sense of the word, has been around for as long as men have dwelt in towns and cities – since the dawn of civilization, in other words – and the Tory recognizes it to be an indispensable part of civilization and one which is a positive benefit to human life and society. While the Tory will condemn dishonest and dishonourable business practices, such as the cheating of customers and the underpaying and overburdening of workers, and the like, he cannot and will not join with those who condemn business, commerce, and the ownership of property as being immoral or unjust in and of themselves. Samuel Johnson, the most distinguished Tory of the eighteenth century, in his The Adventurer, No. 67 praised the booming trade of London for the way in which “by a thousand unheeded and evanescent kinds of business, are the multitudes of this city preserved from idleness, and consequently from want” (1) and is quoted by his friend and biographer James Boswell as having said that “'There are few ways in which a man can be more innocently employed than in getting money.”

The other meanings of capitalism can be traced to Karl Marx, who used it in the historical sense to denote the economic conditions brought about by the Industrial Revolution. That Marx, a progressive, atheist, revolutionary, who built his entire philosophy upon a visceral hatred of the civilization in which he flourished, in other words the embodiment of everything the Tory opposes, made himself the archenemy of capitalism, might be considered reason enough for the Tory to identify with capitalism were it not for the fact that the liberals reasoned that way first and attached the label capitalism to the system of economics they advocated. That system, however, the Tory can only endorse with many qualifications.

In 1776, Scottish moral philosopher Adam Smith published his treatise An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. That which Dr. Johnson spoke of admiringly in The Adventurer, the way commerce generates an abundance of goods through numerous and diverse specialized crafts and trades that allow each person to find profitable employment in his own particular niche, Smith subjected to in-depth analysis. From this analysis he concluded that the market – not any actual marketplace but the activity that goes on there, the exchange of goods and services through the medium of currency, considered in the abstract – is a self-regulating mechanism, in which the forces of supply and demand maintain equilibrium, which takes the self-interested actions of its participants and directs the outcome for the common good. He used this conclusion to argue against mercantalism, the government practice at the time of regulating and protecting trade so as to maximize the inflow of bullion, and in favour of a government policy of allowing the market to operate on its own.

This is the doctrine of economic liberalism and, after the publication of Karl Marx’s Das Kapital in the late nineteenth century, liberals began to refer to their theoretical system in which the market operates freely under a state that practices laissez-faire (2), as capitalism. Thus was born the ongoing debate between classical liberals who argue for capitalism, meaning the free market system, and the followers of Marx who argue against capitalism, meaning the post-Industrial Revolution Western economic system, with a sort of mutual agreement between the two to pretend not to notice that neither means quite the same thing that the other does by capitalism.

The Tory does not quite agree with either. The idea of the market as a self-regulating system that contains its own equilibrium is one that the Tory can accept, especially since it is so evidently true that even the socialists more or less accept it today, but not in its usual liberal formulation. The problem the Tory has with liberal economics is the same problem he has with liberalism in general – the false assumptions that the individual is prior to society and that society is an artificial construction of the individual, that freedom is the natural state of man outside of society rather than the natural state of man inside society and made possible by the social order, and that freedom involves man emancipating and following his passions and appetites rather than ruling over them.

The market, the Tory maintains, works the way liberal economists describe it, but only within the context of a stable and secure social and civil order, and especially one whose culture has been shaped and continues to be influenced by the classical and Christian moral traditions. In these traditions, patterns of moderate behaviour in which man rules over his appetites are praised as virtues, whereas habits of indulgence in the same appetites are condemned as vices. The basic appetites for sex, food, and material acquisition are not sinful or vicious in themselves, but when indulged in to excess and allowed to rule over a man, become the vices of lust, gluttony, and avarice, which are three of the Seven Deadly Sins, albeit the three least in the traditional ranking. Business is there for the production, distribution, and acquisition of material goods, and the market is there to facilitate business. Neither business nor the market are intrinsically avaricious, despite the claims of socialists whose entire system of thought, as we will see in our next essay about socialism, is built upon the greater sin of envy, but they require the restraints of the classical and Christian moral and cultural tradition to help men rule their appetite for acquisition and keep it from turning into avarice.

Without these moral and cultural restraints, the Tory insists, market capitalism becomes a force that erodes the very social and civil order that provides the context that allows the market to function. Capitalism, as it has played out in history, has frequently been that force, uprooting communities, dissolving traditions, and attacking the moral, social, and civil order and today, in its international, globalist, corporate form it is aggressively laying waste to what is left of the older traditions, as most recently evidenced by the way the large corporations intervened in the American courts against traditional marriage. Karl Marx saw the way in which capitalism uproots and dissolves the traditional order as something for which the bourgeoisie deserve praise. The Tory sees it as that for which capitalism most deserves condemnation.


(2) This literally translates as “let do”. The basic idea of laissez-faire is that of a “hands off approach”, in which the government lets business operate on its own.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

The Tory and Freedom

Democracy, which liberal and leftist alike consider to be the best form of government, is widely equated with freedom. As we have seen, however, democracy as conceived by the left is the pathway to totalitarianism, for when the distinction between governed and government is eliminated and the state is regarded as the voice of the people, it ceases to see the need for restrictions on the use of its power. Liberalism contained restraints on this tendency of democracy, in the form of protections of the rights of the individual, but as liberalism has moved away from its original individualism towards a realignment with the collectivist left over the course of the last century it has gradually ceased to be a roadblock to totalitarianism.

The Tory, the classical conservative who sees royal and ecclesiastical authority as being irrevocably called to cooperate for the common good of the whole society, accepts democracy, only as a part of a mixed government, under the monarchy and the upper house and deriving its legitimate authority from the same source as these institutions, tradition and prescription. He sees liberalism’s restraints on democracy as necessary and good, but insufficient, because only by making the power of democracy subordinate to the authority vested by prescription in monarchy and aristocracy – or in Canada, the substitute for aristocracy that is our Senate – in a mixed government, can democracy’s tendency to slide into demagoguery, mob rule, and totalitarianism be checked.

Liberalism, from its very beginning has claimed the freedom of the individual as its lodestar but as its ability to restrain democratic totalitarianism has waned it would seem to have lost its bearings and run adrift. As Tory journalist Sir Peregrine Worsthorne put it nine years ago “with remarkable rapidity, from being a doctrine designed to take government off the backs of the people, liberalism has become a doctrine designed to put it back again”. (1)

Toryism, by contrast with the neoconservatism of the last four decades which is actually a form of liberalism, does not march under the banner of freedom but seeks stability and continuity in order established in tradition. These, however, are not hostile to freedom, as liberalism so often has assumed they are, but are the very things which make freedom possible. The Tory, therefore, is, albeit in an indirect manner, the more consistent supporter of liberty.

In saying that freedom is made possible by a stable, order, established in tradition, the Tory expresses a different view of the nature of freedom, than that espoused by the liberal. The liberal sees freedom as the natural possession of man, but as belonging to him outside of society rather than inside society. This is because he regards man’s natural condition as being individual and society as an artificial construction of individuals. This concept of the individual as prior to society conflicts with what we know of actual individuals, however, who are born into social existence in their families, neighbourhoods, and nations. The Tory recognizes man’s social existence as his natural state, and the condition of an individual isolated from society, such as a hermit who has withdrawn into the desert, as being manifestly unnatural. Man possesses and enjoys freedom, he insists, in and through society, rather than outside of it.

Freedom, the Tory says, cannot exist outside of the context and boundaries of ordered society. While the liberal, who thinks of freedom in terms of the absence of context and boundary, finds this to be absurd, the folly of his position was well illustrated by G. K. Chesterton in the short story in which a professor who wrote a book about “the Psychology of Liberty” reveals himself to have gone dangerously mad by taking his doctrine to the extreme of “liberating” a goldfish from its bowl. (2)

Liberalism further mistakes the nature of freedom by conceiving of it as leading to the end of human happiness through the means of indulging human appetites. This element of liberal thought has grown stronger over the century in which liberalism has given up most of its ability to restrain the totalitarian impulse in democracy to protect the individual. Aldous Huxley saw this coming and in his Brave New World depicted a society in which everyone lives out a life that has been predetermined for him by the state but in which he is free to indulge his appetites for drugs and sex and encouraged by the state to do so.

This view of liberalism is a fundamental contradiction of the wisdom of the ancients and the teachings of Christianity the sources of the tradition to which the Tory looks for light. Plato and Aristotle taught that to achieve true happiness, man must form good habits of behaviour, virtues, in which he masters his appetites and passions – his internal desires and drives for such things as food, sex, wealth, and power – and keeps them in submission to his reason and will, for if he does not these will enslave him. Orthodox Christian theology teaches that man was given freedom in Creation, but lost it when he enslaved himself to sin in the Fall. God redeemed man – the literal meaning of redemption is the purchase for the purpose of emancipation of a slave – from slavery to sin, through the Incarnation, Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. In his restored freedom, man is no longer chained to the fallen, Adamic, nature that remains with him in this life, but is to walk in his freedom through faith.

There is a harmony between the classical and Christian teachings here. In both, true happiness is to be found in the mastery of internal forces that seek to master us - our natural appetites and passions in classical thought, our sinful flesh in the Christian. In both, an established institution exists to help us in this struggle - the state in the classical teaching of the ancients, the church in Christian theology. Both would see the unfettered indulgence of human desire as slavery rather than freedom. In classical thought virtue is the prerequisite for true freedom, which is part of happiness. In Christian thought freedom is the prerequisite for virtue, both in the sense that the redemption of Christ is necessary to free man from slavery to sin that he might be virtuous and that good behaviour is not virtuous unless it is freely chosen. If Huxley’s novel illustrates the classical point of view, the much misunderstood A Clockwork Orange by polymath, novelist, and High Tory Anthony Burgess, is an illustration of the Christian. (3) These are two ways of saying the same thing, that both freedom and virtue require the other, and that to pursue either separately and at the expense of the other is a road that leads to neither.

Freedom, therefore, is an absolutely essential part of the common good of society that the Tory sees as the end of royal and ecclesiastical authority and neither church nor state can assist man in the pursuit of virtue if they do not also seek to secure his liberty. The church proclaims the redemption of man from sin by Christ through her ministry of Word and Sacrament, so that people may follow righteousness through faith in the liberty Christ has purchased for them. Laws, Christianity teaches us, can help us recognize virtue by defining right and wrong, but are powerless to make us virtuous, (4) and so should be kept as few in number as is consistent with order and the common good. The laws of the state, rightly ordered, however, secure our lives and property. As the Tory’s patron saint, King Charles the Martyr, put it in his final speech before he was killed by the Puritans in 1649, the people’s “liberty and freedom consists in having of government those laws by which their life and their goods may be most their own.” (5) Thus, do church and state, in the traditional order of society, create the context in which freedom can flourish.


(2) “The Yellow Bird” from G. K. Chesterton’s The Poet and the Lunatics.

(3) In the novel, the state uses a form of brainwashing, “the Ludovico Method”, to reform the narrator Alex, a violent young hooligan, but the process does not make him good, it merely takes away his freedom. That it cannot make him good because it takes away his freedom is an objection raised by a priest who serves as chaplain, and in raising this objection, the priest vocalizes the entire point the author, who is falling back upon the Catholicism in which he was raised, is seeking to make.

(4) This is a major theme of St. Paul’s epistles to the Roman and Galatian churches.

(5) He wisely contrasted this with the people’s having a “share in government”, for democracy, by making the government and the people one, leads to the opposite of freedom, total control, for any and every law can be excused when it is a law the people make for themselves.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Tory and Democracy

As we have seen, Toryism, the classical conservatism that upholds traditional royal and ecclesiastical authority in their shared vocation of pursuing the common good, while largely synonymous with “the right” when right and left first took on political significance in the French Revolution, is more difficult to place on the twentieth century map that makes politics into a spectrum between individualism on the right and collectivism on the left. The Tory is both an individualist, albeit in a different sense than the classical liberal, and a collectivist, but in a different sense than the leftist. Tory individualism is about real individuals whose individuality makes them stand out from the crowd, rather than the abstract individual of liberal theory whose individuality is defined by what makes him like every other individual. Tory collectivism is about a plurality of collective institutions that is both horizontal – family, parish, neighborhood – and vertical – parish, diocese, ecclesiastical province – rather than the single collective, the people, represented by a single institution, the democratic state, of leftism. We have also seen that liberal individualism and leftist collectivism converge in the direction of modern mass society – an aggregation of individuals under the modern state.

Liberalism and leftism also converge in their belief that democracy is the best form of government. Liberalism and leftism are both progressive, accepting the view that history, especially that of the modern age, is moving forward in a linear line towards a better future in a universal state. Both would identify that universal state with democracy. The word democracy has different connotations to the liberal and to the leftist, however. Liberalism is a form of representative democracy, which means that the idea of filling public offices by popular election is an essential part of the meaning of democracy to the liberal. In the leftist ideal, democracy is the state in which the distinction between governed and government is eliminated, and the state is the voice of the will of the people. A one-party state, in which the party is seen as the true voice of the people, as in Nazi Germany (1) and every Communist country, while obviously not fitting the liberal meaning of democracy, is compatible with the leftist view of democracy.

Where does democracy fit in the Tory view of things?

The Tory, being a traditionalist and a royalist, does not share the liberal and leftist belief that democracy is the best form of government. That does not mean that the Tory rejects all forms of democracy. Democracy has a long pedigree, going back two and a half millennia, to ancient Athens. Democracy there was different from modern democracy. The assembly, which voted on all legislation, did not consist of elected representatives, but of the city’s adult, male, citizens, a form of direct democracy more practical in a city-state than in a larger polity. The greatest minds of democratic Athens did not consider it to be either ideal or the best possible form of government. Aristotle continued the discussion of constitutional forms that Plato had begun in The Republic and Laws in his The Constitution of Athens, Ethics, and Politics out of which discussion emerged the classic analysis of constitutions as falling into three basic forms – the rule of the one, the few, and the many – which can be either good or bad, depending upon whether those governing, rule for the common good of all, or merely for themselves. Neither Plato nor Aristotle though very highly of democracy, which, after all, was the system of government that had put Socrates to death and both used its name for the bad form of the rule of many. They saw these forms as unstable, creating a cycle in which one form goes bad, then is replaced by the next which goes bad in turn. Aristotle suggested, however, that a superior, stable, constitution might be possible by mixing all three in a single constitution.

Our parliamentary constitution of the United Kingdom and many Commonwealth countries such as Canada is an example of this kind of mixed constitution. Queen Elizabeth, presides over a parliament that consists of the House of Lords – or, here in Canada, the Senate – and the House of Commons, consisting of members elected by constituencies as their representatives. The Tory does not object to the democratic element of this mixture, the House of Commons. He insists, however, that the only true authority the House of Commons possesses, is to be regarded as being rooted in tradition and prescription, like that of the other two institutions, and not as being due to it being inherently more rational than the others, or deriving some greater legitimacy due to its being filled by popular election. (2)

This is because the Tory knows that authority is not something that flows upward from below. The only thing a politician gains by convincing the masses to support him, is power. Authority is the right to command, power is the ability to coerce, and in a civilized order authority must always take precedence over power, relying upon power to back it up only when necessary. The modern theory of democracy, however, sees authority as a fiction and power as the only reality of politics. While the power represented by the majority vote in a plebiscite may be preferable to the power represented by the armed force commanded by a military junta, the Tory knows that unless it is made subordinate to the authority conveyed by tradition and prescription, that is to say, stability and order that transcends the present being ancient and established, power of any sort is a destabilizing threat to civilization.

Proponents of modern democracy might argue that in a state where the government truly embodies the will of the people, the possibility of the government ruling for their own sake rather than that of the common good is eliminated because people and government are one. The reality is, however, that the more the government sees itself as the voice of the people, the less it sees the need for restrictions on the use of its power. After all, how could we possibly need limitations on what the people do to themselves? History bears this out for over the last three centuries as government has become more and more democratic there have been less and less areas of peoples’ lives that it has not felt free to regulate. Modern democratic theory is the pathway to totalitarianism.

The liberal form of modern democracy is more palatable to the Tory than the leftist form because liberalism hinders democracy’s development into totalitarianism by placing limits on what even a democratic government can do by insisting upon the rights of the individual. Liberalism, however, has gradually been losing this ability over the course of the last century as it has become more closely aligned with the left. Today, some of the worst abuses of the power of democracy are committed in the name of liberalism. Therefore the Tory is surely right in saying that liberalism is an insufficient check upon the dark side of democracy, and that the necessary balance can only come from the other two elements of classical mixed government represented in our parliamentary tradition.

If, the advocate of modern democracy argues that it is a uniquely fair form of government, incorporating the principles of majority rule and an equal vote for all, the Tory responds that whatever fairness might be, this is not justice. The idea that majority rule is the most fair way to make group decisions assumes that good people outnumber bad, educated people outnumber ignorant, and the wise outnumber the foolish, or that collectively the masses possess more virtue, knowledge, and wisdom than they do as individuals. These assumptions, especially the last, seem incredibly naive, yet if they are not true letting the majority decide is a recipe for disaster. Nor is the idea of one person, one vote, particularly sensible. It translates into the idea that the criminal should have as much say as the law-abiding citizen, that the illiterate man’s opinion is worth as much as that of the learned man, and the village idiot’s vote is equal to that of the wisest man in town. Votes, the ancients wisely decreed, should be weighed, and not just counted. With this ancient wisdom, the Tory concurs.

Paradoxically, there is a sense in which the Tory will say that modern democracy does not extend the vote far enough or take in a large enough democracy. For he recognizes that the organic whole of society includes generations not present to cast their vote, those that have passed away and those that are yet to be born. It is through tradition that their voices can be heard and their votes counted and weighed against those of the present and living generation. G. K. Chesterton called this the "democracy of the dead" and it is only this kind of democracy to which the Tory can give his unqualified support.

(1) National Socialism (Nazism) was not a party of the “far right” as left-liberals maintain. It, and its Führer, were anti-monarchist, anti-aristocratic, anti-clerical, populists, who preached an ideology that blended, as its name suggests, nationalism and socialism, both of which were leftist movements from the nineteenth century.

(2) As Enoch Powell remarked “Our whole constitution rests, uniquely in the world, upon what Burke called ‘prescription.’”

Sunday, August 2, 2015

The Tory and the Collective

In the twentieth century there were several attempts to define “left” and “right” in their political sense, as poles governing the political spectrum. Such attempts by their very nature were misleading as they required the reduction of complex political views to something so simple that it could be plotted on a chart. Thus the effort tended to be self-defeating, producing confusion where clarity was intended.

An example of these oversimplified spectrums was that of individualism v. collectivism with individualism being the right pole and collectivism being the left pole. As I pointed out in my last essay, my own political outlook of Toryism – the classical conservatism that upholds royal and ecclesiastical authority for the common good of the whole society – does not chart well on this spectrum because it is both individualist and collectivist, but individualist in a different sense than the classical liberal and collectivist in a different sense than the contemporary leftist. I then explained the difference between Tory individualism and classical liberal individualism. In this essay I intend to explain the difference between Tory collectivism and leftist collectivism.

Collectivism, in a general sense of the word, is a way of thinking in which the emphasis is placed on the group rather than the individual. In the context of economics it ordinarily suggests some form of socialism or communism, which is one of the reasons for the association between collectivism and the left. Toryism, however, can also be legitimately described as collectivist. When Naim Attallah asked Enoch Powell what it means to be a Tory in a 1998 interview, in his answer, the famous Tory statesman remarked that a Tory “reposes the ultimate authority in institutions – he is an example of collective man.” (1)

Note that Powell spoke of institutions – plural – rather than “an institution” – singular. In this, the most fundamental difference between Tory collectivism and leftist collectivism can be seen. The Tory believes in a plurality of collectives, each with its own sphere of influence, starting at the local level with examples such as the family, the local neighborhood, and the church parish. We could call this the horizontal plurality of collectives. The Tory also believes in a vertical plurality of collectives, which means that at the higher level of the national society he sees collectives of collectives, rather than merely collectives of individuals.

The Anglican Church, at one time known as the “Tory Party at prayer”, is a good illustration of what I mean. At the national level, in my country, you have the Anglican Church of Canada. Within that there are four ecclesiastical provinces. Each of these consists of several dioceses, which in turn are made up of multiple parishes. Each parish is a collective, within a collective, within a collective, within a collective – and you could extend the number of collectives further since the Anglican Church of Canada is part of the worldwide Anglican Communion, which in turn is part of the larger Christian Church.

When we enter the realm of politics, the Parliament that writes Her Majesty’s laws for us in Ottawa, writes them, for better or for worse, for the entire country of Canada, which includes ten provinces and three territories with governments of their own, which in turn consist of several cities, townships, and rural municipalities with local governments.

The Tory places a great deal of emphasis upon the importance of both the horizontal and the vertical plurality of collectives. Society, for him, is not and should not be a mere aggregation of equal individuals who just happen to live in the same place, at the same time, under the same government, but is a living thing, in which individuals and groups, join together in different ways and at different levels to form an organic whole.

Leftist collectivism is not like this. It is very much about a single collective, which it calls “the people”. This collective, has but a single institutional expression, that of the state. The Tory and the leftist both believe in an institution they call “the state.” Both would say that the state is the institution that passes laws for the common good of the society, but this is where the coincidence of their views of the state ends. The Tory holds to a classical view of the state, grounded in the thought of the ancients, whereas the lefist holds to a modern view of the state, that can be traced to the eighteenth century philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. The difference is sufficiently large to justify the assetion that the Tory and the leftist are talking about two different institutions.

The Tory sees the state as one of many institutions, albeit the highest in any given society, vested, as Enoch Powell said, with authority. More specifically, the Tory sees the highest authority in society (2) as vested in the royal sovereign, and the state as the institution (3) that excercises that authority. The left’s ideal, on the other hand, is the democratic state, an institution that is the voice of the people, expressing what Rousseau called their “volonté générale”. Such a state, is the embodiment of power rather than authority, a fact openly acknowledged by the left in their oft-heard slogan “power to the people”. The difference between authority and power is that authority is the right to command, whereas power is the strength to coerce. All government must have a degree of power backing its authority to ensure its stability but civilized government does not rely upon this power except in cases of necessity because the overuse of power undermines authority. In the left’s ideal state, where the people and government are one, power is everything, specifically the strength of the numbers which is the force of the mob.

The left, to reiterate, cares about one collective, the people, and one institution, the state, and its goal is to make the latter the full political expression of the voice and collective will of the former. Who do the left mean when they speak of the people?

In the early days of the left, when it was the party of revolution seeking to overthrow the ancient, classical, and Christian order, the people were the governed as opposed to the established authorities. In the nineteenth century, a specific political phenomenon known as nationalism sprung from the roots of Rousseau’s philosophy and the French Revolution. We don’t often think of nationalism as being leftist today, but it was recognizably so then, and in this stage of the left, the people were the nation, that is, an ethnic group defined by a common racial ancestry, language, religion, and other cultural markers. The leftist nationalists sought to overthrow the royal houses and the Catholic Church to establish the democratic nation-state, embodying the voice of their particular nation. In the twentieth century, the left moved on from the nation, and began to speak of the people in international terms and on a global scale. This evolution of leftist thought is quite in keeping with the left’s avowed progressivism, when we consider Canadian Tory philosopher George Grant’s description of progress as the movement of history towards a “universal and homogeneous state”.

Nineteenth century leftist nationalism, in its attempt to create democratic nation-states, was suspicious of the other collectives and other institutions that had claims on people’s loyalties and affections, and insisted that one’s loyalty to the nation-state be undivided and come before all other loyalties. Today this is what leftists insist upon such loyalty to all of humanity and perhaps to a future democratic world state that will embody the voice of this global scale people. It is here that the leftist collectivist and the liberal individualist approach each other, in their mutual distrust of the plurality of traditional, organic, collective institutions that share claims on our loyalties. From different starting points, the leftist and liberal arrive at mass society, the single large collective, first on a national scale now growing internationally to the global scale, that is an aggregate of equal, undifferentiated, individuals rather than a many-layered organism.

Nothing could be further from Tory collectivism than this.

(2) The authority of God is higher, but that is an authority that transcends society, rather than an authority within society.
(3) NB, that the state in the Tory view, is a collective institution, made up of several institutions of which the two Houses of Parliament, the various ministries, and the Courts are examples.