Harper lays foundation for his legacy


Le Devoir’s Alec Castonguay has a great story today about Harper starting to lay the foundations of his legacy, a central pillar of which will be a new democracy-promotion agency. Its central mandate will be to smooth the transition to democracy in former dictatorships or authoritarian states by promoting the creation and flourishing of new political parties.

Minister for Democratic reform is said to be preparing to introduce a bill in January, having just received a report from a group of four people tasked with setting out the priorities of this new organization. The leader of the group was – get this – Tom Axworthy. It is to be a publicly-funded, non-partisan agency, and will look to foster democratic institutions in countries such as Haiti, Afghanistan, Cuba and Zimbabwe.

Not everyone in the demcoracy/Human Rights NGO community is happy. Why build another agency when there are a bunch, already functioning, that could simply be expanded? And will the money for this agency just cannibalize pre-existing budgets?

Filed under:

Harper lays foundation for his legacy

  1. Why build another agency when there are a bunch, already functioning, that could simply be expanded? And will the money for this agency just cannibalize pre-existing budgets?

    Bureaucrats unhappy a goal they can't argue with undermines their own empire-building! Film at 11!

  2. So the guy who is undermining democracy here thinks he can promote democracy over there. Somebody should tell Harper that Mugabe already knows how to withhold information, smear his political rivals, lie and dissemble, fearmonger, strip away rights and create a police state.

  3. Lemme guess, these new political parties they promote will all espouse an aggressive brand of unfettered free market capitalism…and they'll all have buddies in the west who will graciously give up their time to help them on their way (for a small fee of course)

  4. Gadzooks! Axworthy? Giving even more money to Trudeau minions to build bureaucracy in order to promote democracy? Harper has completely lost the plot.

    I have just finished De Soto's The Mystery of Capital and he makes compelling argument that property rights for everyone is key to fostering democracy. If Harper wants to help democracy flourish he would focus on making it extremely easy for poor people to buy property because right now it is virtually impossible for most of the world to own property even though they have money.

  5. His new agency could start by helping to create new political parties in
    the U.S.

  6. Are you advocating distributism?

    Personally, I think that distributism is the way to go (the problem is not too many capitalists, but too few) but I generally thought nobody gave it any credence in this day and age.

    Well, besides Muhummad Yunis, who has shown probably the most concrete example of how distributism can work.

  7. I'm with Robert on this one. He should start here, beginning with his secrecy problem. There's more to democracy than elections.

  8. "Are you advocating distributism?"

    Maybe. I did not know what distributism was and just had a quick look at definition on wiki. I would have to know details but enabling poor people to own property should be the goal. It is incredible how difficult it is for most people to buy property – country after country makes buying property as difficult as possible. One example, I think it was Egypt, was that there were something like 49 stages to buying property, involving 22 different agencies and it all takes 16 years to finalize deal.

    Not enough capitalists is exactly right. Only a few people flourished financially in democracies/capitalist countries in 1800s because of property laws. Most western nations vastly simplified their property rights in late 1800s, early 1900s, and wealth was quickly distributed on a fairer basis. Our homes have more uses than somewhere to live.

    And thanks for the Yunis tip. I had heard of his org over the years but never really looked into it.

  9. See, and this is what so often makes it so difficult to legitimately criticize Harper and his government.

    Every so often someone idiotically compares him to somebody like Robert Mugabe.

  10. Yes, Indeed!

  11. But he did get Parliament shut down to avoid losing a vote of confidence …

  12. What a legacy: spreading the tradition of cartoonishly partisan politics to bitterly-divided, unstable new democracies.

  13. Steve can't work with the "bunch, already functioning" of agencies as they are, how did he phrase it again in Thunder Bay, oh yes, a bunch of left-wing minority interest groups.

  14. Sarcasm is difficult to detect, when wholly indistinguishable from the things one habitually says and apparently expects to be taken seriously.

  15. Property rights are the ONLY foundation to freedom. The most important piece of property you own is your body, or in common speach your "person".

    Sadly our legal system has perverted the meaning of that word. If you look in our laws you will see person, as defined in Law "includes corporations". Black's Law dictionary defines "includes". Unlike the common definition where the word means adding, in law it means "that which is named". In other words person ONLY means corporation. You probably did not realize that your S.I.N. is a corporate number, like a numbered company.

    If you feel that your rights to do as you will with your property are being steam rollered, you're right. Through you "corporate identity" you are subject to "statute law", which in the anglo saxon commonlaw tradition humans were exempt from. In fact, "The law shall harm no man" is an axiom of the common law. Of course I could be wrong, but does everything seem somewhat "twisted " to you? Could it be this fundamental?

    There is no

  16. Well, distributism was advocated by G.K. Chesterton as a basic philosophy of economic governence that was a middle way between the "get out of the way" ethos of libertarian capitalism, and the centralization of the means of production proposed by the socialists.

    The key plank is the idea that everyone should own some amount of property, and that largely economic policy should do its best to encourage people to derive their income from a business they own, rather than having a small capitalist property class and a large wage-earning labour class. Nor would he have approved of collectivism and a welfare state.

    Of course, the key trick is figuring out how to maintain the stability of a middle-class small business society in a free market without it all aggregating towards either the government or the wealthy. Largely you would have to regulate the market to ensure that economies of scale don't have an overwhelming advantage, and I imagine you'd need less paternalism than you have now because it requires a large corporate bureacracy to satisfy the paperwork demands of the regulations imposed by the government.

  17. We couldn't afford it.

  18. I wonder if Harper's democracy-promotion agency will be coming to promote democracy in Harper's dictatorial Canada.

  19. "economic governence that was a middle way"

    I get twitchy when there is talk of a 'third way' between capitalism and socialism because, to me, that is fascism.

    "encourage people to derive their income from a business they own"

    Other than promoting marriage/babies, I don't believe government should be in business of 'encouraging' anything. If people just want to live in their homes and go to their 9-5 job, that is fine with me. If they want to use their homes as leverage to start business, or use it to invest capital in other peoples businesses, that is also fine with me. Make it as easy as possible for people to buy property and they will start to care a great deal about their neighbourhood. It is virtuous circle that leads to stable nations.

  20. You don't take anyone who disagrees with you seriously, so really, who cares?

    I don't think it was sarcasm. It was hyperbole.

  21. This is a cakewalk for Harper. All the agency has to do is promote the opposite of what Harper has done.

  22. A lot of making distributism work would also not be unduly promoting government interference in the market.

    It isn't as if corporate interests became so large and important under their own initiative after all. Government policy played a large role, including government policy that was designed to fight the power of corporations which only had the effect of making it impossible for small business to work in certain sectors. The way taxes are structured, the subsidization of materials and energy, and outright giving lump sums of money to certain interests to "create jobs" and "ensure economic stability" also played a role as well.

  23. Potter asks why?

    Because the existing agencies in Canada have accomplished almost nothing other than to take government money for the last twenty years. Nothing.

    This initiative began a few years ago with a group of expat Canadians who work for two organizations that really do a good job at this, NDI and the Republican Institute. They argued that so many Cdns are already doing this for NDI that there should be a Cdn version of this. I participated in some of the early "stakeholder" meetings about this and the usual suspects like Canadem and Rights and Democracy instantly started whining:

    a) This sort of thing is not needed.
    b) The host nations don't wont it.
    b) Besides we're already doing it very well.
    c) But we need more money because we can't do it very well.

    It was ridiculous. I stopped participating because it was the usual lazy Cdn NGOs whining that they aren't getting enough money from the Cdn govt. Meanwhile, overseas, the organizations that are doing great work in this regard are getting more and more Cdn staff.

    That's why.

  24. Sure I do. Just, not Robert, which probably has something to do with his shouty, bullying tone and longstanding blogospheric reputation for inanity.

    Anyway, yes, of course it's hyperbole, and there's probably a lesson there for our upstanding progressive friends: if you accuse conservatives of being torturing, rights-abusing, minority-hating, anti-democratic thugs on a regular basis, jokes that mildly exaggerate those talking points are less likely to be noticed as attempts at humour.

  25. One other point – the original idea was cooked up and promoted around town by a former NDP politician and a former Liberal politician. Since then it's been embraced by all parties (even the Bloc) and is one of the rare (only?) example of cross floor cooperation in the house.

  26. Rights & Democracy isn't an NGO – it's an arms-length creation of Canada's Parliament whose mandate is democracy promotion. Which makes me wonder what yet another government agency devoted to democracy promotion would do differently, exactly. If its critics think R&D has gone astray somewhere, what would prevent this new agency from simply replicating its mistakes? And why should taxpayers pay for two such agencies?

  27. It is to be a publicly-funded

    Given his dedication to transparency and accountability, I think I'll donate elsewhere

  28. It is to be a publicly-funded

    Given his track record with transparency and accountability, I think I'll donate elsewhere

  29. You are right. They shouldn't. They should shut down the ones that aren't working. But political reality always steps in. This was true for the Liberals and it's true for the Tories.

    R&D can't be killed because every opposition party would be shouting "Govt destroys rights and they destroy democracy!" The Pearson Peacekeeping Centre (another total disaster which has done nothing but run deficits and host conferences) can't be killed because the opposition would shout "Govt killing Pearson's legacy!"

    The number of quasi-government agencies that continue to limp along, doing nothing but always managing to defend their funding, is a very long one. So governments shrug and do the expedient thing, they try to create something new that might work this time. Which is why the list keeps getting longer….

  30. How is a political system in any way a middle way between two economic systems?

  31. wow you're tiresome.

  32. Yes, by all means, teach those (we hope) emerging democracies how to write ten percenters

  33. After the 3 Opps vote on it, we will see…….

  34. Man.. all the easy jokes have been made already, so I'll just leave it with a quote from Ghandi in hopes that someone from the PMO's office occasionally buzzes through here:

    "Be the change that you want to see in the world"

  35. I am also against big business and big government walking hand in hand to a better future. I have no idea how to achieve my goal but I would not allow businesses to become Big Business. They should not be allowed to get too big, to big too fail kind of scenario.

  36. Because fascism is much more than a political system. Fascists do not want to own the means of production but they certainly want to control them.

  37. "tiresome" – le mot juste!

    lefties are becoming more insufferable by the day.

    win an election, fruitcakes, and then do what you please.

  38. I've always thought if we could come up with ways to tax economies of scale, we could do a lot to prevent the formation of undeserved monopolies, and better allow competition and the free market to take care of a lot of the problems we see in unfettered capitalism — specifically taht of Big Business, as you say.

    Unfortunately, I have no clue how to go about doing that.

    • Unfortunately, taxing economies of scale would run afoul of WTO, NAFTA, etc, which are pretty much founded on the belief that free trade should be allowed to encourage "competitive advantage" to develop. IMHO, economies of scale are a competitive advantage of larger markets.

  39. Interesting. Perhaps he'll start with Canada.

  40. Facism is about controlling everything (hence the symbolism of power inherent the fasces), not about setting specific market conditions.

  41. Distributism isn't any less of a poltiical system than Libertarianism or Socialism, but they would all impact fundamentally how a market works (or doesn't as you prefer).

  42. Yep. That's pretty much why distributism never got off the ground. Economy of scale and pooling resources are pretty much why government power or big business generally exert their will much better than smaller independent units of production.

  43. Agreed.

    Fascists use means of production to control people and business. Business mostly remains in private hands but they are expected to follow instructions from government. There is no market like we think of it in West.

  44. I not totally sure. We only saw fascism in action for 20 years (in Italy) or 12 years (in Germany), of which 6 were full-on war economies. I'd say that in fascism the government exerts (total) control of business only insofar as it needs business to drive its political agenda — very much so in wartime, not necessarily that much otherwise. I mean, Fiat was still making cars, unfettered by government, until the outbreak of war. Also, I'm not sure that big business grasped to what extent it would be commandeered by the fascists. I fear that fascism could allow a good deal of independent business activity and still stay afloat — look at China.

  45. Yep, because NGOs are *totally* staffed by overfunded, empire-minded bureaucrats.

  46. "and then do what you please"

    That's a fundamental misunderstanding about parliamentary democracy you're advertising there Mike. It isn't about picking a temporary dictator to"do what you please" it's about electing representatives who will uphold the institution of parliament and be accountable to its laws and the constitution, not winning all the stuff for your side, and getting to have all the say.

    Or is that just another loonie left idea about constitutions and laws and stuff?

  47. Interesting. Perhaps he'll start with Canada.

  48. This strikes me as one of those exercises where everyone starts on something totally new except that its exactly the same as what already exists, except that we don't like the way it turned out.

    Like when anti-globalization activists complain about our corporate controlled dictatorship and advocate a proportionally representative democratic body (hey, we could call it "Parliament").

    What will make this any different other than the people involved from existing agencies?

  49. So….Harper wishes to help establish democracies in authoritarian states; the only way to legitimately encourage/protect democracy in such conditions involves a committment to protect such naescent institutions and individuals from reactionary forces within. Which implies a military/policing committment: authoritarian regimes, after all, aren't simply going to allow this to occur. Sounds familiar, in an Afghan sort of way? But wait: isn't Stevie boy promising to unilaterally pull out in a couple of years? Promotion without protection=empty legacy.

Sign in to comment.