Friday, January 27, 2006

John Fund's Report on Canadian Elections

In the January 24th WSJ Political Diary, as part of his reporting on the Canadian election results, John Fund stated:
That said, Canada's election is a watershed. The Liberals have so dominated the country's politics that they were in office longer during the 20th Century than even the Communists in the Soviet Union. The country was in danger of becoming a permanent one-and-a-half party state. Having been chastened by the voters for their rampant corruption and insider dealing, the Liberals will now have a chance to clean up their act. For his part, Mr. Harper will end the gratuitous America-bashing of recent years and at least make a stab at more sensible economic policies. Grading on a Canadian curve, yesterday's result amounts to a welcome political revolution.
John’s commentary is probably intended to be light-hearted, and some of his observations have merit, but overall that paragraph reveals some serious problems with his thinking. First, to compare a voluntarily-elected government with the brutal, totalitarian regime in communist Russia erases all the vital distinctions, i.e. that the government in Canada is limited, that its electorate could have voted it out every four years, that the government didn’t use force to maintain its position, etc. -- to instead focus on an essentially perceptual level observation, i.e. how long the government was in power. Or to look at it another way: if we ever manage to elect a great government, should we vote it out after a few years, simply in the name of not having them in office for too long?

Also, there is no a priori reason to dismiss a one party state, much less a “one-and-a-half party state” (whatever that means), if that party respects rights and governs properly. Should we indict George Washington’s government simply because it was a “one party” government, or should we look at how the country was governed during his tenure and evaluate it on that basis?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Serious problems with his thinking?

How about reading with charity?

All he's doing with the Soviet remark is emphasizing the entrenched dominance of the Canadian left.

With the 1.5 remark he's probably making not a general but rather a context-specific point; he's assuming that the reader understands he's talking about current Canadian politics.

10:00 AM  
Blogger Amit Ghate said...

Thanks for the comments anonymous. I grant you that it is too strong to judge his thinking on the basis of one example, so I gladly retract that comment/conclusion. But I continue to think that it is a grave misjudgment ever to compare one of the most brutal dictatorships in the history of mankind to any generally rights-respecting government, no matter what the context. Any such comparison can only serve to trivialize the horrors of Soviet Russia (and even more so when the comment comes from a knowledgeable political analyst such as John Fund). And I think that similar reasoning holds when you see people compare modern American conservatives to the Nazi’s.

Also, if one were to take the overall Canadian context as you suggest, it would be important to consider that many of Canada’s provinces have frequently been ruled by parties other than the liberals – which makes the notion of a one-party, or one and a half party, state even less tenable:


2:35 PM  

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