Wednesday, May 18, 2005

The Reactionary Manifesto

I, Ectomorph has an interesting post up which reads something like a clarion call, or swan song, of modern conservatism. Ectomorph's manifesto ably synthesizes and distills various currents of conservative thought, but at the end of the day you can't make a silk purse out of an ideological sow's ear. Or, as the conservative might say instead, since our ancestors couldn't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, that gives us the right to ban, imprison, and put to the sword anyone who attempts to do so.

Ectomorph quotes a lament from Edmund Burke's 1790 pamphlet "Reflections on the Revolution in France", a veritable paean to aristocracy and feudalism:

All the pleasing illusions, which made power gentle and obedience liberal...are to be dissolved by this new conquering empire of light and reason.
Elsewhere in the same work, Burke bemoans:

Never, never more, shall we behold a generous loyalty to rank and sex, that proud submission, that dignified obedience, that subordination of the heart, which kept alive, even in servitude itself, the spirit of an exalted freedom...

On this scheme of things, a king is but a man; a queen is but a woman; a woman is but an animal; and an animal not of the highest order. . .
Burke's fear is that freedom is impossible under an egalitarian, democratic system because legislators, fearing for their jobs, will try to outbid each other for the affections of the voters, which will lead to more and more legislation, which is the antithesis of liberty. Burke is, of course, correct about this. But he wildy, no, pathologically overstates the merits of the old system. "Gentle" power? "Proud" submission? "Freedom" through servitude? Burke has managed to anticipate Orwell by a century and a half, but unfortunately without a trace of the latter's irony. How many millions of corpses, slain by kings and noblemen for the sake of "order," does it take before Burke can no longer with a straight face describe such manifestations of power as "gentle"?

I think that the basic problem with this philosophy is the characterization, which Ectomorph identifies but does not disagree with, of order, rank, and class as "organic" or natural. Material inequality may well be natural, but aristocracy? What exactly is natural about an organized state stealing its subjects' money to distribute to the people who the state arbitrarily decides to call Dukes, Earls, of Viscounts? I think that the Kirkians sees these artifical, coercively enforced group distinctions as natural because they fail to see that the very existence of the state itself, which is required to enforce them, is contrived and artificial. The fact that, absent any coercion at all, some people would possess more than others, does not excuse state intervention to define, order, maintain, and increase such inequality.

Kolnai is correct that there is an ineliminable gap between "is" and "ought." And when the revolutionary statist attempts to bridge that gap through force and coercion, that's not only immoral, it's also usually counterproductive. But at least the revolutionary tends to admit that he's using force as an agent of "change" (to bring about an "unnatural" result). The problem with the conservative is that he doesn't admit that his support for the use of the state to "maintain" or "conserve" the distinctions that happen to currently exist is equally coercive and artificial. Instead he pretends that his power is gentle, his order natural, his hydrogen bomb "organic." Here's a challenge to these conservatives: If order, rank, and hierarchy are natural, why not abolish government and let them continue to develop, naturally? I think the reason they don't do this is that it's much more likely that once we stop using coercive force (the state) to artificially maintain the divisions and power hierarchies of the past, "is" and "ought" will be, while certainly not united, far closer together than they are now. They could hardly be farther apart.

The most frustrating thing about Burke is that, in his youth, he realized all of this, and it was only later that he got onto the wrong track. In 1757 he wrote, anonymously, "A Vindication of Natural Society". He would later disown it and claim that it was satire, but Murray Rothbard strenuously disputes this, seeing that claim as politically motivated. In "Vindication," Burke denounces not only democracy, as he would continue to do, but also aristocracy and despotism, systems he would later sing the praises of. He writes:

My Antagonists have already done as much as I could desire. Parties in Religion and Politics make sufficient Discoveries concerning each other, to give a sober Man a proper Caution against them all. The Monarchic, Aristocratical, and Popular Partizans have been jointly laying their Axes to the Root of all Government, and have in their Turns proved each other absurd and inconvenient.
(Which was also Mencken's point years later when he wrote: "Under democracy, one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule – and both commonly succeed, and are right."). Burke continues:

In vain you tell me that Artificial Government is good, but that I fall out only with the Abuse. The Thing! the Thing itself is the Abuse! Observe, my Lord, I pray you, that grand Error upon which all artificial legislative Power is founded. It was observed, that Men had ungovernable Passions, which made it necessary to guard against the Violence they might offer to each other. They appointed Governors over them for this Reason; but a worse and more perplexing Difficulty arises, how to be defended against the Governors? Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?
Why did Burke go from being such a radical and eloquent spokesman for liberty and anarchy in 1757 to being an apologist for Reaction in 1790? Does it perhaps have something to do with the abbreviation "M.P."? I don't know the answer, but I do know that power tends to corrupt. And the Westminster system corrupts absolutely.

Postscript: I'd also like to know how, in light of their Burkeanism, 21st-century conservatives are able to justify the Jacobinist exportation of permanent revolution to the whole world through cluster bombs and napalm, or the complete subjugation of the individual to the interests of the total police state. But I guess that's a topic for another post.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Between Tonkin and a Hard Place

Paul Krugman has this to say in his latest column at Grey Lady dot com:

There has been notably little U.S. coverage of the "Downing Street memo" - actually the minutes of a British prime minister's meeting on July 23, 2002, during which officials reported on talks with the Bush administration about Iraq. But the memo, which was leaked to The Times of London during the British election campaign, confirms what apologists for the war have always denied: the Bush administration cooked up a case for a war it wanted.
It seems to me that the reason there's so little coverage of the memo might be that there's nobody around who still finds that even the slightest bit surprising. Everybody knows that Dick Cheney was in charge of the first Gulf War; we've been hearing Richard Perle and Donald Rumsfeld call for an invasion of Iraq since the Clinton era; etc. When Dubya appointed all these people to his inner circle everyone knew that they would be spending most of their time trying to find a reason, any reaon, to invade Iraq. The neocons were so obviously just going through the motions with the "WMD" pretext that it must have been a relief to them when, immediately after the fall of Saddam, they were able to ditch it and retroactively change the justification to spreading "democracy" or some such concept. Everybody knows the pretext for the war was manufactured by the government (as were the pretexts for Kosovo, Vietnam, WWI, etc.); but nevertheless, its supporters rewrite history to justify it, and as Krugman notes, even its opponents now want to "stay the course," in other words extend and increase it.

That's the most important difference between Iraq and Vietnam, which are otherwise strikingly similar as Krugman goes on to note. Public support for Vietnam pretty much disintegrated when the Pentagon papers were released in 1971, revealing that the war had been based upon a big honking lie. But today, even though everybody's known about the lies from almost the beginning, they still complacently continue to support the war. I don't really know why that is. Maybe it's the spectacular failure of the media in covering Iraq which allows people to see it as a distant, faraway struggle, and thus ignore it. In Vietnam, the horrors of war, both on soldiers and civilians, graphically intruded into people's living rooms every evening when they would much rather have been watching "Bonanza." But to today's television viewer, American deaths are no longer flag-draped coffins, they're just dull numbers, staying the steady course upwards, always upwards. Iraqi civilian deaths are not graphic images of napalmed children and entire villages face down in ditches, they're just... not even numbers, since the U.S. military doesn't count them. They might as well not exist. "Collateral" and "unintended" damage, those depraved and maniacal euphenisms of the Gulf and Kosovo wars, at least had the benefit of being so absurd that they drew attention to themselves every time they escaped from a general's lips. The generals have gotten wise to this, and now slaughter their civilian victims twice, first in deed, and then in discourse by refusing to even acknowledge their existence.

Given all this, it's hardly surprising that Iraq occupies a minor enough place in most people's consciousness that it can be just another trivial issue to support or oppose according to what "their" side of the sectarian, almost tribalistic ideological divide is supposed to think at any given time. That's what censorship, both of the clumsy official sort used in WWI and of today's more sophisticated "embedded" sort accomplishes: By dehumanizing the victims, it vastly weakens their potential emotional effect on, and therefore importance to, the voters. The political pressure that (eventually) forced Nixon to concede military defeat for the first time in American history was a wonderful thing, but it was not entirely a spontaneous, grass-roots eruption. It's a depressing thought, but if today's emaciated media had been reporting the news back then, the U.S. would probably still be in Vietnam.

Krugman continues:

So we need to get beyond the clichés - please, no more "pottery barn principles" or "staying the course." I'm not advocating an immediate pullout...
Come on, Paul, what was the point of writing a whole article denouncing this "stay the course" idiocy if you're in fact advocating... staying the course? The U.S. government doesn't need to "find" a way out of iraq, it's there right under its nose: Immediate withdrawal, followed by several thousand dollars in war reparations to every individual Iraqi (much more to those who were injured or lost family members), followed by a constitutional amendment permanently barring any deployment of the American military outside of the boundaries of the United States. (And hopefully within them as well.) This, not staying the course, is what those who opposed the war should now be advocating. The U.S. government should atone for its mass murder in Iraq by, at the very least, ceasing to murder people. Not by continuing and escalating the murder.

By the time Nixon came into office, everybody knew that the Vietnam war had to end. And most people wanted it to end immediately. But Nixon dragged it out several more years in order to achieve not just peace, which is what Americans were demanding of him, but peace "with honor." How many thousands of Americans, and hundreds of thousands of Southeast Asians, gave their lives in those excruciatingly drawn-out extra tag-on years, solely for the sake of the "honor" of an artificial collection of lines on a map, namely the "United States"? It's like the Kosovo war, which was fought to restore the "credibility" of NATO. Countries and alliances are not human beings; they're nothing more than large-scale criminal syndicates which legitimize themselves through manufactured ideology. The attempt to vest them with human characteristics like "honor" and "credibility" in order to fool people into supporting monstrosities like the bombing of Cambodia which they otherwise wouldn't is depraved. It's... dishonorable.

So I would ask all the opponents of the war who nevertheless insist that the U.S. "stay the course" rather than pull out immediately to give me a single good reason that doesn't involve anthromorphizing human qualities onto imaginary entities like states. No country's "honor," "credibility," "respect," or "self-esteem" is worth so much as a drop of the blood of a real-life human being.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Canarchy

For those who haven't been following it, Canada is currently embroiled in Adscam, perhaps its biggest political scandal since Tunagate broke 20 years ago. It's a very Canadian kind of scandal, which unlike the American ones is entirely devoid of hungry interns, Nicaraguan death squads, or even stylishly ugly post-war office buildings. Long story short, Parliament voted 153-150 for what the opposition is characterizing as a no confidence vote, and the government is characterizing as a routine procedural motion. If the former view is correct, the government must resign or hold an official confidence vote as soon as possible; if the latter is correct, it can wait as long as it wants (which is until next Thursday). The opposition Conservatives and Bloc Quebecois have essentially shut down the House of Commons in protest, demanding that the Liberals acknowledge that they lacks the moral (and arguably also legal) authority to govern.

This state of affairs has led the right wing of the Canadian blogosphere (of both the statist and the libertarian varieties) to wax uncharacteristically indignant. I, Ectomorph calls it: "a national constitutional crisis, in which the very legitimacy of the national government is being questioned..." Andrew Coyne is even blunter when he observes: "At present we have no government..."

Hold on a second there... what on earth is wrong with that? Taking Ectomorph's point first, everyone should be questioning the legitimacy of every government every day. If it's taken a dull accounting scandal and a recommended committee report amendment to arouse most Canadians' skepticism about their government, well, it's about time. As to Coyne's point, he's correct, and three cheers for it. This minority government has from the beginning been wonderfully feeble and powerless, and now it's reached the point where it can honestly be said that the government no longer so much as exists qua government. Canada is for all practical purposes not currently being ruled. Isn't that wonderful? Think of the possibilities afforded by this parliamentary "state of nature." Canadians could decide to reconstitute their system of government any way they choose, making it more democratic, fairer, more humane... Better yet, they could decide not to reconstitute their system of government, but rather experiment with a stateless system of individual, consensual self-rule. Unfortunately none of this is likely to happen. Rather, this Parliament will likely be replaced with something either exactly the same, or even worse (a majority government, or a Conservative minority government).

What the Westminster fetishists fail to grasp is that Paul Martin's government is now illegitimate not because 153 MP's say it is, a state of affairs which depends only upon the respective treatment schedules of Chuck Cadman and Darrel Stinson. No confidence votes, parliamentary convention, Parliament itself; that's all pageantry. It's artifice. The reason Paul Martin's government is illegitimate is that it's nonconsensual. Like every government around the world and throughout history, it has bestowed upon itself a monopoly on the legal use of force, in order to use that force against individual human beings who would much rather that it leave them alone. No government is anything more than a cabal of thieves and murderers which attempts to justify its plunder and slaughter by convincing people that it is acting as their agent, with their consent, doing their bidding, protecting them... Nonsense. Poppycock. Balderdash. Anyone who still believes blatant statist propaganda like "social contract" theory should read Lysander Spooner's 1870 treatise No Treason No. VI: The Constitution of no Authority (starts about 1/3 of the way down the page). Spooner brilliantly and completely demolishes the sloppy, casual collectivism inherent in fatuous notions like representative democracy being government by "consent." I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Anyway, despite this lengthy apologia for the current state of the Canadian Parliament, I hope that the reader (and I use the singular advisedly) won't get the impression that I have any particular partisan zeal for Team Valeri, or whatever it's calling itself this week. Those who were forced to listen to my tirades (which, pre-blogger, were quite audible) during the years that the media was bleating on incessantly about how Jean Chretien was "yesterday's man" who didn't "understand" "Quebec's" "needs," in contrast to the Knight-in-Shining-Earnscliffe-who-could-do-no-wrong, know that I've not historically held Paul Martin in particularly high esteem. But since the regic... I mean transfer of power, I've actually been pleasantly surprised by him. His speech in the House on same-sex marriage was admirable, and demonstrated a belated appreciation of the importance of individual rights and the Charter (where was that Paul Martin in 1990? But I digress...). In fact, the current government has, by my admittedly unorthodox standards, been one of the best in Canadian history, in that it's been one of the most ineffective, inane, and ridiculous in Canadian history. That government which spends so much time fighting off no-confidence motions that it has no time to actually govern, governs best. So basically, I agree with the blogging Tories that this Parliament lacks moral legitimacy and must dissolve. But where I disagree with them is that I don't think it should be replaced by a different Parliament, which would be equally illegitimate. It should be replaced by nothing. (Insert witty post title here.)

On an unrelated note, this will be my first post in a month not to mention David Blunk... Doh!

Saturday, May 07, 2005

The Strange Death of Illiberal England?

Well, looks like it was the best night for British liberalism since the Asquith era. The LibDems' 62 seats are the most they've won since 1923, and their 22% of the vote is the most they've got since the 1980's, when they were running as two separate parties (the Liberal-SDP alliance). This is all very encouraging, of course, and it's especially interesting to see where their gains were. The LibDems didn't do particularly well in their races against the Tories in rural southern seats, which could be bad news for them in the ones they still hold if the Tories do significantly better next time around. If the LibDems couldn't pick up significant numbers of sane, moderate Tory voters this time, when Michael Howard's campaign differed from the BNP's in style more than substance, how will they next time?

But the LibDems made up for the losses to the Tories by expanding upon their earlier anti-war by-election successes and picking up a number of previously rock-solid Labour seats in the cities. Hopefully they'll be able to keep that momentum going once Iraq has faded as an issue (and New Labour goes retro again). At least one North American libertarian hopes so too, with an election-eve LibDem endorsement that, incredibly, mentions the words "peace" only once and "Iraq" not at all. He quotes Charles Kennedy on his party's core values: "The first guiding principle is a mindset, I think—a gut philosophical instinct—to see society in terms of the individual, first and foremost, rather than the interests of the state." After almost a century in which such gut instincts have been relegated to the margins of British politics, it's great to see them finally re-entering mainstream discourse. Can you imagine a leader of the Canadian Liberals (or American Democrats) publicly admitting to holding such an unambiguously liberal philosophy? I guess power corrupts, and majority governments corrupt, like, majorly.

Anyway, out of the possible post-election scenarios, I would of course have preferred a Labour minority government ("hung parliament"), or failing that a Labour majority so tiny that it wouldn't have been able to do anything at all. Labour's 66-seat majority sounds pretty comfortable, but fortunately it seems as though enough of them have rebelled in the past on civil liberties-related issues that it's in fact very tight. (Of course, that's assuming that the Tories would also be voting against the illiberal measures, which strikes me as much less than self-evident.) Well, I guess having the continued existence of ancient English liberties depend on a combination of Tory opportunism and intra-Labour fratricide is less bad than having it depend on the personal whim of a charismatic autocrat and his hand-picked inner circle.

Speaking of which... in other election news, and at the risk of turning this blog into a one-horse show, David Blunkett is back in cabinet. Other fresh faces in Tony Blair's new government include Constitutional Affairs Minister Ann Coulter, Foreign Secretary David Horowitz, and Culture and Media Minister Laura Ingraham. Michelle Malkin will be joining the Tory shadow cabinet, following a two-month transitional period in which she'll be kept at a processing center on the Isles of Scilly being tested for tuberculosis.

In other election non-news, I, Ectomorph has an interesting couple of posts about the differences between the way election night is handled in Canada and the UK. Despite an almost uncanny ability to be wrong about virtually every political issue known to man, his blog is always worth a read.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

More Blunkett (Indulge Me)

David Blunkett is apparently at it again, this time speaking at a rally in Yorkshire with Tony Blair. As the Telegraph reports (scroll down):

David Blunkett last night accused those middle-class Labour supporters who were thinking of casting their vote in protest against the war in Iraq of "self-indulgence of the worst kind".

The former home secretary told a Labour rally in Huddersfield: "To those who are well off, to those who do not fear what might hit them on Friday, do not vote against us on Iraq because it would be self-indulgence of the worst order to abandon the British people to a Tory government."


What Blunkett is trying to do is make middle-class voters feel like they're being "greedy" by voting for some sort of abstract (airy-fairy?) "cause," to the detriment of the economic interests of poorer Britons. Well, there's nothing airy-fairy about the Iraq war. How exactly can is it self-indulgent to vote against a party because of its habit of going halfway around the world to murder thousands of real-life individual human beings and drop cluster bombs on sleeping babies?

Wouldn't it be just as easy (and more accurate) to say that it would be "self"-indulgent of Britons to base their vote on "their" own narrow economic interests rather than the lives of thousands of innocent "foreigners"? I've never quite understood the view, common among both left- and right-wing statists (when it's even possible to tell them apart), that we should be concerned about the poor who happen to have the same citizenship as us, but we can be indifferent (or worse) to the poor in other countries. Why limit human compassion to those who share the same "nationality" as you? Why should someone in Boston care about whether an "American" in San Diego earns $15 or $18 an hour, but not about whether a "Mexican" in Tijuana has enough food to keep his children from starving?

Anyway, I hope that my Blunkett bashing over the past couple days doesn't make it seem as though I have anything against him in particular. It's his party. Blunkett was in fact responsible for (by my count) one good thing, namely decriminalizing most marijuana possession. Of course, good things don't last very long with the neo-labes in charge, so now Blair has promised to reverse that decision and launched a desperate and ferocious attack on the LibDems' drug policy (treatment rather than incarceration for drug possession), calling such an idea "crackers." This is what's crackers, Tony.

Labour isn't a good government which just happens to be wrong on one issue (Iraq). They're wrong on everything. In the US, the former Trotskyites and social democrats who form today's neoconservative movement at least had the candor to formally switch parties (most of them around 1980) rather than continue under false pretenses. In the UK they stayed in the Labour Party, and made the (frighteningly easy) switch from the radically nationalizing left to the radically nationalist right behind everyone's backs. As I mentioned in my last post, perhaps the reason that switch is so easy to make is that both ideologies seem strikingly unconcerned with individual rights and dignity, which may seem like "abstract" notions to some people, but never to the people whose rights and dignity are being trampled upon.

Anyway, despite the fact that a person stands a far greater chance of being hit by a car on the way to the polling booth than of actually affecting the result in his riding... Vote. (If you want to.)


Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Liberalism; Rinkagate; Is Voting Rational? (Rambling Post Ahead)

I doubt that anyone in Britain is particularly suprised at the level of sectarianism evident in the Northern Ireland election campaign. Northern Ireland is a weird and primitive place: Parties are strictly built around ethnic loyalty, race-baiting rhetoric is not uncommon, the gorillas of violence and repression even pop into the room now and again. What probably is surprising though, especially to people in Northern Ireland, is that the British election is being fought in precisely the same way. Remember back in the good old days when Enoch Powell was demoted within Conservative ranks for giving his notorious Rivers of Blood Speech? Today, would it not be more likely for a Tory to be dropped from the shadow cabinet for not giving such a speech? The single-minded obsession with immigration, the naked appeal to racism (I know, I know, it's not racist to oppose immigration... but still): Even putting aside the cultural and economic suicide Britain would be committing by dropping to Howardite immigration levels (while its competitor nations don't), there's the strategic aspect. As Mark Steyn wondered, do they really think this stuff will get them more votes? I don't often lapse into new-world jingoism, but in North America it might be hard to imagine even Pat Buchanan so explicitly playing the nativist card during an election campaign. Isn't this stuff more likely to convince the saner Tories to either stay home or vote Repub... I mean Labour?

Speaking of which, Tony Blair is also running a Northern Irish campaign. Or rather, is running to turn the entire UK into Belfast circa a couple decades ago: A national security state with mandatory ID cards, soldiers with tanks "protecting" public buildings, checkpoints and searches, etc. Ideologically, it's quite revealing how quick and easy it is for social democrats to turn into raving neo-con maniacs. Perhaps it's because deep down, neither group has much time for weepy abstractions like the individual human being. Which makes one think: In Canada, the NDP has usually tended in opposition to be less bad on civil liberties than the Liberals have been in government. If the NDP were to form a government, though, how long would it be before Deputy Prime Minister Chow would be making statements like this?

Which leads me to my endorsement, which my loyal readers (Hi Mom) will no doubt not spit out their coffee in shock when they read. For me, elections are all about choosing the least bad option, and in this election, there's fortunately a major party which is more fully and unambiguously less bad than its ideological cousins across the pond ever dare to be. Perhaps that's only because it doesn't have to worry about forming a government, but still, could you imagine Paul Martin or John Kerry running on an explicitly pacifist and civil libertarian platform? I couldn't. The LibDem campaign has been an absolute joy to behold. In North America we tend to leave campaigns against things like identity cards to non-electoral groups like the ACLU, since no politician will touch them. And, with both Labour and the Tories seeming to admit that they would have gone to war in Iraq even if they had known that Saddam had no WMD's (why, then? just for a jolly good lark?), the Iraq issue was wide open for the LibDems, and they've seized it.

And Iraq has even gotten Jeremy Thorpe to come out of retirement and into the campaign. I have a huge amount of respect for the Thorpe, whose flamboyant yet very classy leadership of the Liberal Party in the sixties and seventies helped rebuild it into the serious third force it is today. His political career was ruined by Rinkagate, a scandal so mind-bogglingly complex (and lurid) that it somehow just had to happen in the staid, square Britain of the seventies (Rinka was a Great Dane, shot and killed by an assassin on a lonely West Country moor). I've been leafing through his memoirs recently, which show Thorpe not only to be a delightful and fascinating man, but also to have a great commitment to, and even more importantly understanding of, what liberalism really is. Not to be horrid, but some memoirists could perhaps stand to be reminded that liberalism means more than just "whatever I and the people loyal to me happen to believe at any given time." OK, that was horrid, but I guess my point is that Canadian politics could well have used more people of Thorpe's quality and stature.

Finally, one last point about the campaign: Strategic voting (the bugbear of third parties everywhere). I personally can never understand why anyone would ever vote "strategically." I can certainly understand advocating strategic voting: If you're in a two-way race, every hour spent knocking doors, every letter to the editor, every radio appearance can have a profound effect on the outcome if you're able to convince enough third-party voters to temporarily switch their allegiance to you, then tell all their friends about it, etc. But at the individual level it's not rational, and therefore not actually "strategic." A single vote has no more chance of changing the actual outcome of a competitive riding than it does of a non-competitive riding. Seats can certainly be won by a dozen votes, but I don't think they can realistically be won by a single vote. Every recount in such a scenario would produce different winners, making the result meaningless. (Help me out, blogosphere: Has there ever been a British or federal Canadian riding with a certified one-vote victory margin?) If you accept that proposition, then it stands to reason that it doesn't matter how you personally decide to vote, because it cannot affect the ultimate result, no matter how close your riding is. You might want to advocate strategic voting to all your friends, you might want to publish pamphlets urging mass nose-holding at the polls, but your actual behavior in the voting booth has no effect on anything, so you may as well vote for whoever you want.

Obviously, the same can be said for voting at all. The most rational electoral behavior for an individual is not to vote (if for no other reason than that the chance of one vote materially affecting the result is far, far smaller than the chance of being hit by a car on the way to the polling booth). But elections are the pageants of democratic states. Taking part in them makes people feel that the government is listening to them, and therefore allows them to feel that they have some kind of stake in it. The question of whether individuals should feel that governments are in some way an extension of "their" will rather than immoral cabals of thieves and murderers is another question, which will have to wait for one of my more characteristically cynical posts.

Anyway, to wind up this novella, I would say to any Brits out there: Vote early, vote often, vote LibDem, or don't vote at all. I don't care how you individually decide to vote since that can't make a difference, but I very much care how you collectively decide to vote. Paint the town yellow. Peace.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Audacious prediction

Here it is: This sponsorship stuff is a tempest in a teacup. Here's another one: The polls, whether correct or not, are not an accurate indication of what will actually happen on election day, whenever that may be. The Harper-led Tories won't gain more than 10 seats in Ontario, and the Liberals will definitely not fall below 17 seats in Quebec.

The predictions you're starting to read now about the Liberals suffering a Kim Campbell-sized meltdown, being shut out of Quebec, gettting less seats than the NDP, etc., are all just so much digital noise. We don't really know that much more about the program now than we did last June, and it's hard to imagine people's interest in Jean Breault remaining at fever pitch all the way through an election campaign. I guess it just all boils down to which talking points the media decides to saturate people with... uhh, I mean report, from now until election day. Prediction: Liberal minority government.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Am I too late?

Finally joining the blogging world in April, 2005 is sort of like buying one's first VCR in 1992. Nevertheless, we're still probably a year or two from the stage where non-bloggers will be seen as admirably nostalgic curmudgeons, the "better never than late" stage. So, here I is. I imagine that the blog will deal mostly with American and Canadian politics, law, culture, and urban issues. But we'll see how it develops.

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