Dismantling civil society - Macleans.ca

Dismantling civil society


Alex Himelfarb considers the budget.

But what is clear even now is that these cuts imply a different view of our shared citizenship, of what ties us together as Canadians across language and region and community. They offer us what I have called elsewhere “bargain basement citizenship”. The new deal, the contract, seems to be that less will be asked of us – less taxes, no mandatory long census, no requirement to register firearms – and less will be provided in services and entitlements. Take, for example, the pick-and-choose approach the government has adopted in standing up for Canadian citizens abroad facing the threat of capital punishment. Part of the progressive state that Solberg wants “smashed” is the notion of shared citizenship that came with these national programs. While that state was being built, Canadians had new reason to engage in national politics and a vibrant civil society developed around this. And this strong civic society, engaged citizens and non-governmental organizations, changed and enriched our understanding of democracy, always pressing for improvements, giving voice to the powerless, and demanding collective action on new and emerging challenges. Is this too to be smashed?

See previously: Checking Jim Flaherty’s math


Dismantling civil society

  1. Federal government takes plenty of money each year to provide for downtrodden and other needy people but an astonishing amount of money is transferred instead to public services’ salaries and pensions. 

    Did Himelfarb ever work in private sector and actually contribute to society or has he spent his life as a parasite (bureaucrat) and only taken other people’s $$$?  Different levels of government take about 50% of our annual annual wealth, and use that $$$ to pay lavish salaries and pensions to people like Himelfarb so he can complain about how everyone is inadequate except himself, of course.  

    Services might be being cut but the cost of government still increases – we are paying more money for fewer services – and that’s because people like Himelfarb are very expensive to keep in their dotage.

    •  Germans used to use the term “parasites” a lot too. Not so much any more.

  2. But as long as Our Leader keeps spouting the free market rhetoric
    much can be forgiven.

  3. I’ve often wondered why influential Liberals/PCs and yes dippers from this era of civil society building are not shouting from the roof tops, decrying Harper’s political vandalism? Instead i can’t shake the image of a fairly compliant, complacent group of political and civil actors largely gone mute, standing helplessly by while their life’s works is ransacked by barbarians.

    Unfair probably. I even think i know why it’s happening. The very liberal impulse to build such a society neccessitates as part of its ethos a fair hearing, civillity, respect for the law and an opportunity for the other side to have its say and way if they can attain power. Fair enough, probably nothing to be done, but i can’t help but wonder if it isn’t a sort of liberal mutual suicide pact we are passively watching unroll before our eyes.

    • Some of them are. They get pooh-poohed for calling everything a scandal, their concerns discounted as extremist left-wing rhetoric, and the bulk of the public who at this point has had no experience with life without the presence of a strong civil society, simply take it fore-granted. The idea that it could go away simply doesn’t occur so somebody saying that attacks on it are a problem must be a loon.

      We’ve been sold the line that a government is a business. That it needs to be run like one, and that it needs to act like one. This is, of course, false, but it is a terribly appealing view to hold because it destroys the idea that we may need to put something above our own personal wants and needs.  To fight against that is to make people feel uncomfortable, and making people feel uncomfortable is a good way to get somebody else elected.

      • Yeah, and it’s remarkable to the degree that so called liberal friendly media and columnists go along with this in the name of balance or fair comment or give the other guy some credit, or any other number of self defeating, gutless bromides.

  4. Strange how Himelfarb failed to notice the drop in voter participation “while that state was being built, Canadians had new reason to engage in national politics and a vibrant civil society developed around this”

    This guy is completely detached from reality.  Firstly, the demise of the long-gun registry does not remove the requirement to register firearms. 

    Secondly, none of what he says actually happened.  Canada was just as unified before the “progressive” state, perhaps even more so.  Canada fought in two world wars, and was always one of the strongest and most unified countries in the world.  Since the progressive state we’ve nearly had the country split in two (twice), voter participation has declined, civic engagement has declined, and we’ve had blowhards like Himelfarb whine about who-knows-what incessantly as they try to get their greasy hands on everybody’s tax dollars for their favourite pet projects.

      Conscription crisis 1917

      Winnipeg riots 1919

      October crisis 1970

      Yup, we were strong and united before the evil charter alright. LOL

      •  I can’t really see any of those being prevented by the Charter though.   If the government ever needs to conscript it is going to have a conscription crisis, the Winnipeg riots had their own paralell in sports and anti-globilization riots since the Charter was created, and there is nothing in the Charter I can see that would prevent the government from enacting the War Measures Act.  

        Maybe I’m wrong about the last one though.

        •  Oop, I’m following two different stories and got them confused.  My bad.

          I guess I can salvage it by pointing out the progressive state wouldn’t prevent any of these things either.

          •  No, it’s just that we weren’t ‘more united’ before the evil scf sees in a ‘progressive’ society

    • “…and we’ve had blowhards like Himelfarb whine about who-knows-what incessantly as they try to get their greasy hands on everybody’s tax dollars for their favourite pet ”

      Couldn’t have said it better. Couldn’t have made Himelfarbs point more trenchantly. Let’s see, he was an educated man[still is] who helped to run the bureaucracy for one or two PMs in order to merely whine about everything and get his greasy hands on everyone’s tax dollars for his pet projects.

      If our civil society ever does collapse it will be left to deep thinkers  like you to write its epitaph.

      We could try a counterfactual for fun. Had there been no progressive influence on the state it would not be unreasonable to speculate that folks like you that think everything was hunky dory pre charter, pre sixties social revolution, might have attempted to erase the 49th long ago and join in with the joyous manifest destiny of our cousins to the south, purely for reasons of commerce of course.

      • Wow, you wrote a lot of words while saying absolutely nothing other than bizarre paranoia. It appears to be completely unrelated to anything I said or anything Himelfarb said.

        • It appears his confusion and random off-subject thoughts were caused by the conflict he must feel in trying to defend that bitter piece of misplaced nostalgia that Himelfarb wrote.

          Actually Himelfarb seems to just as confused and bizarre in his piece. Witness that reference to Greece near the end. I don`t think he has a clue what the real problems are there.

          • Unquestionably. He appears to think Greece was not “progressive” enough, a place where the private sector has been nearly eradicated.

        • no, i just quoted you.

          • ummm, yeah, whatever you say.

  5.  But surely you all must admit that the public service must constantly be
    fought, restrained, and held up the utmost scrutiny in order to prevent
    them from becoming our aristocrats.

    I found these cuts to be a little partisan, but also fairly minor.   The
    government has still increased in size and scope since the beginning of
    Harper’s minority win   Is there no time when the public service can be fought and cut at all without it being considered an attack on the civil society?

    What is the end game?  How much power and resources does one have to give up to those who supposedly know better before it is considered an appropriate amount?   I don’t want to live in Somalia, but I don’t want to live in Denmark either.

    •  It ain’t the public sector we have to constantly keep in check lest they become an aristocracy, m’boy.

      •  Of course we do.  The wealthy as well, but the public service even more so.   Corporations can ruin my business, or outspend me in political influence. 

        But only the public service can rob me of my liberty and my life.   Anything that the coporate world can do in those spheres, they can only do with the cooperation of the public service.

        •  Absolutely none of this makes sense.

          • If you’ve never been on the wrong end of the bureacracy (because I’ve generally found that the Left never makes laws that unduly regulate, hassle or persecute themselves) you’ll just have to trust me that bureaucrats are not always selfless philosopher kings.

            But when the bureacrats are generally immune from discipline or dismissal, earn more than their equivalent position in the private sector, and have very little scrutiny applied to their work… what are they if they are not our aristocracy?    Also, how do you think the average citizen fares when he is on the wrong side of one of these aristocrats?

            Corporations will be fine.  They can summon up the resources and bureaucrats of their own to meet them on a level playing field.  But largely the average citizen of business owner (assets of 2 million or less) can be really screwed over.   The modern untouchability of public servants also doesn’t help with corruption either.  

        • Corporations can do anything that the public service can do, and have less oversight on them doing it.

          How? Hint: Food costs money.

          Other hints: KBR Jones, Maple Listeria

          • I won’t disagree with that entirely, but who is more likely to ruin your life?   Social services, or Wal-Mart?

            Last time I checked, Wal-Mart for all its corporate evil has never held literal witch trials and accused innocent parents of satanic ritual abuse.  People had their lives ruined and a person spent time in prison for it.  The amusing part?  Not a single head rolled over the entire affair in Martinsville, SK.

            So yes, the public service does need to be fought and kept from being too powerful.

          • Long-term? Probably Wal-Mart. Talk to those who live in Nowata, Oklahoma.. oh wait.. you can’t.. because it basically doesn’t exist anymore.

            And whereas those on Public Service are ultimately responsible to me as the voter, the owners of Wal-Mart are responsible to none but their shareholders.

          • They should be, I’ll grant you.

            The fact that nobody was punished for this, shows that they aren’t.

          •  Also, see the 60’s swoop, and a whole lot of other First Nations communities that social services has destroyed along with the Department of Indian Affairs.   Wal-Mart could never compete with that level of evil.

  6. Frankly, I’m shocked that the idea that the civil service must be fought and kept in check is a controversial idea.

    • That’s because you’re coming at it from the point of view that there’s already something desperately wrong in it. There isn’t.

      Should it be monitored? Absolutely.
      But fought?  Having to “fight” the civil service implies we don’t have power over them.  We do. The fact that there might be occasional failures in the system to hold them accountable to that power do nothing to alter the basic features of it.

      •  By that logic we have power over corporations as well.   We could nationalize them tomorrow if we wanted to.  We could certainly seize their property or suspend their ability to trade here.

        But you would never object to the idea that corporations must be fought.   Why is that?   Why is it so controversial that we have to cut or even clean house among the bureacracy once and awhile?   Why is it controversial that the bureacracy must be watched carefully with a suspicious eye?   Why is it controversial that we have to demand better from the public service because the standards are higher?

        •  Also, the fact that people in the public service for malice and incompetence aren’t held accountable isn’t an occassional problem, it is a persistant one.   Especially if you are poor or disenfranchised like the First Nations or to a lesser extent rural populations.

        • We could, (and to be honest, I advocate that we should be doing that more) but that would be an extraordinary use of the system. Controlling public servants is the exact and express purpose of the political system.

          None of those last questions are controversial. Again.. it’s the notion that we have to *fight* the public service. That’s a word with a different meaning than control.

          •  Again though, you don’t object to using the word “fight” to describe opposition to corporations.   There is nothing for that disparity except your ideological blinders, where you think that the public service is made up of morally and intellectually superior people that only have our bests interests at heart.

            It just isn’t always so though.  Especially when they only think that they have people’s interests at heart and end up destroying them instead.  Then they cover up the deed or try to protect the guilty, and they largely have the power to succeed.

          • Don’t put your words in my mouth, they taste like the arse you pulled them from.

            I make no assertion about what the public service is or isn’t. I make assertions about our level of control over the public service, which is *vastly* more detailed and complete than it is over corporations.

            We do not fight with the public service, as there is no possibility that we shall lose if we’re looking for a certain goal. The same is not true with corporations.

          • I can’t believe you think that we can always win against the power of the bureaucracy.   Where do you think the phrase “you can’t fight city hall” comes from?   What do you think has been the experience of the First Nations?

            The larger the public service gets, the more power they have over us.  If I ever need to defend myself against unjust charges brought about by some department of the public service or other they can devote far more man hours and resources into destroying me than I can do for defending myself.  That is just a fact.

            But you think somehow that bureaucrats are a tame thing that can’t possibly threaten anyone, even though bureaucrats have done abuses that would never be tolerated by a corporate entity in this country, and have suffered very little consequences for it.

  7. There is so much lefty bull$hit in Himelfarb`s rant, but I will point out one statement he makes that exemplifies the increasing disconnect that professional parasites like him now have with the rational thought process of Canadians.
    He bemoans the fact that our government has ” a pick and choose approach to Canadian citizens abroad facing capital punishment “.

    Recently PM Harper has asked the totalitarian regime in Iran to spare the life of Hamid Shall, an Iranian Canadian since the 1979 Iranian Revolution, who was arrested in Iran while visiting his family.  The Iranian government charged him with being a traitor. The main evidence they had was an e-mail he sent to his brother in Iran. His brother recently died in prison. Hamid is scheduled to be executed soon.

    Ronald Smith is a Canadian who has admitted and was tried and convicted in Montana for the cold-blooded killing of two Native Americans thirty years ago. He is still on death row. PM Harper has refused to ask the American Government for leniency for Smith despite pressure from Liberals and NDP.

    Those two examples, and the phony whining of the likes of Himelfarb, are all you need to know about the state of mind of those pathetic lefties who do not understand that Canadians want our leaders to exercise rational and careful judgement when dealing with a democracy like USA when it exercises it`s judgement on a convicted killer like Smith as opposed to a regime like Iran which chooses to kill a man for sending an e-mail.

    •  Eh it all depends on whether you consider human life sacred or not.   If human life is sacred from conception to natural death, then you should intervene on all cases where one of our citizens is being executed.   If not, well then that opens a whole other can of worms.