Populism, tea parties, constitutions, climate change - Macleans.ca

Populism, tea parties, constitutions, climate change


Does the U.S. face a period of indiscriminate populism in its political life? New York Times columnist David Brooks thinks so:

Every single idea associated with the educated class has grown more unpopular over the past year. The educated class believes in global warming, so public skepticism about global warming is on the rise. The educated class supports abortion rights, so public opinion is shifting against them. The educated class supports gun control, so opposition to gun control is mounting.

…The tea party movement is a large, fractious confederation of Americans who are defined by what they are against. They are against the concentrated power of the educated class. They believe big government, big business, big media and the affluent professionals are merging to form self-serving oligarchy — with bloated government, unsustainable deficits, high taxes and intrusive regulation.

When I got to end of the column I said to myself, “Okay, so Brooks thinks the financial crisis has created a general crisis in social authority.” But look closely: Brooks doesn’t actually mention the financial crisis or the recession at all. He provides a prediction without a shred of diagnosis. He doesn’t, technically, get beyond mentioning a “sour mood” in pinpointing the reasons for populist reaction.

I don’t know that his story holds up. Is opposition to abortion stronger in the United States now than it was in, say, 1982? There are a lot of evangelical Tea Partiers, but what appears to make the Tea Partiers different from the old Moral Majority is precisely the lack of shared religious premises. The premise is, “Get off our backs.” The movement is an instinctual, angry resistance to political engineering by centralized, distant authority, whether it’s the engineering of communities, individuals, or small businesses.

To a first approximation it looks libertarian. It’s actually subsidiarist: it’s against big central authority because it is big and central, not because it’s authority. Procedurally, a lot of libertarians are practical subsidiarists on the grounds that this is the best way of broadly guaranteeing liberty. Small local authorities have natural limits to their power (they can’t become totalitarian), they can be shamed by comparison to immediate neighbours, and they are easier to vote against with one’s feet. But subsidiarism should not be confused with libertarianism or classical liberalism. They are, to some degree, orthogonal quantities.

And in some ways they are inherently in tension with one another. In the U.S. context (and in ours), some federal interventions, Roe v. Wade being an obvious example, are designed to protect the individual from her community. The essential comic heart of all American politics, beating loudly in the breasts of every Tea Partier, is that the U.S. Constitution is the big, centralized, dumb, unconditional, non-local authority to end all such authorities—a personal guarantee, to every living soul from sea to sea, of liberal republican government whether he likes it or not. The Constitution is often considered to have the stamp of divinity upon it, and is spoken of that way even by people who may not literally believe such a thing; and every party cites the Constitution (leaning on its spirit or its letter, as the occasion requires) against every other, just as opposition parties in monarchies used to argue that the king needed “rescuing” from his evil advisors.

(Don’t snicker too loudly, by the way: Canada shall end up that way before too long. We have already seen our Charter of Rights dissociated from the modest, limited intentions of its framers, some of whom are still alive, and cited against them. The document is acquiring a nimbus of divinity before our eyes.)

Anyway, what was I talking about? Right, David Brooks. He raises the interesting possibility, though tacitly, that the economic train wreck of 2008-09 may have helped promote or dignify climate-change doubt. Politicians and policymakers, listening carefully to the best advice of a consensus of accredited experts and considering the implications, led us headlong into a bramble of bad mortgages and crazy debt-commoditization instruments over the objections of a few commonsensical skeptics. But don’t worry: when it comes to the climate, those same educated people are really really sure they’re right!

There are all kinds of reasons laymen should beware of making a connection like this, but some certainly are. To the degree that the anthropogenic global warming hypothesis is a product of “hard science”, that science does not deserve to be compared to macroeconomics, where first principles are still poorly confirmed and subject to wide disagreement. “Hard science” is, in general, the most successful intellectual project in the history of the species. On the other hand, there’s hard and then there’s hard. AGW actually involves a chain of propositions ranging on the “hardness” scale from stainless steel to porridge, it can only be as strong at most as the weakest of those propositions, and any practical policy recommendation concerning AGW inherently involves another layer of goopy softness. There is also the problem that the “hard science” reaches us largely through summaries and reports concocted, and perhaps distorted (consciously or otherwise), by the politicians and policymakers at the front line of the process.

The science-media-politics network (I sound like a Tea Partier calling it that, I guess) deserves trust: it has helped bring us out of a world of hookworm, typhoid, and killer smogs. It also had us eating trans-fatty margarine instead of butter in the name of health for 20 years, waiting in terror for a North American heterosexually-transmitted AIDS epidemic that never turned up, and gulping Vioxx like candy. In other words, what we have is a good old-fashioned Hegelian dialectic: we forget very easily how much “expert” scientific knowledge invisibly enhances every hour of our lives, and yet “experts” working at the margins of established knowledge do sometimes grow overconfident and execute pratfalls. This, I guess, brings us only as far as where Andrew Coyne already started out.


Populism, tea parties, constitutions, climate change

  1. For every academic, economic or political sacred cow that is being foisted on us today there is a counter and generaly more rigorous alternative available that by any rational standard better accounts for the facts extant than the consensus opinion held by the "educated class".

    I refuse to be relegated to the fringes because I reasonably believe that "the emperor has no clothes". I also refuse to be pigeon-holed as a "crank" because I fail to buy into a false dichotomy between the "status quo" and incremental change back to personal freedom

  2. You know Colby, I think if you were to read a tract from a priest around the time of Martin Luther it would sound a lot like this. To paraphrase, "just because we live well (better than you) and occasionaly burn the wrong folks as heretics, and hold a belief that our is leader is divinely infalible (and we only do his bidding) you misunderstand that what you consider common sense is really just populist angst, grounded in neither faith nor science".

    You strike me as the last guy that would consider Falstaff's "discretion is the better part of valour" as superior to Prince Hal's principled belief in doing the right thing. Have you become a Keyensian? Do you pay your Visa with your wife or girlfriend's (or children's or grandchildren's) Mastercard? (cont in reply)


  3. Colby, I don't know how you got from David Brooks to finally laying out your position on climate science, but I'm glad you scratched that itch. Now, where on the spectrum of evidence and probability and surmise do you think the state is entitled or compelled to enact policy measures? Should we do nothing in case the scientists are wrong?


    Would that this become the main theme of some sort of movement in alleged freedom-loving countries of the world.

    • "Would that this become the main theme of some sort of movement in alleged freedom-loving countries of the world. "

      I'd prefer "SHUT THE HELL UP!"

    • GET OFF OUR BACKS!…..yes, and then what? A problem free world right?

      • Government spending in Canada has grown in the vicinity of 10% a year for a long time. A bit less some years.

        That means the amount doubles every, 8-10 years.

        I can say categorically that I was better off 10 years ago when they spent half as much. My specialist could make the health system work for his patients, I paid less taxes and could afford a house.

        I can actually say the same of 20 years ago.

        Progress is not automatic. The scientific theory is that everyone is wrong most of the time until proven otherwise.

        It could be argued that this crisis stems from an attempt at solving a problem.


  5. "Perhaps one of the most important accomplishments of my administration has been minding my own business." Calvin Coolidge

    Can you imagine a PM or President saying/thinking anything like that anymore? I can't. I dream of the day when that kind of attitude returns but I am not holding my breath, that's for certain.

  6. I think it is important to pay attention to the strength AND length of the inferential chain involved in the claims for a particular policy intervention. In my view, saying "We need a carbon tax" is not very much like saying "We need to start handing out polio vaccine" or "We should teach Darwinian evolution in biology classes". In the former instance, the chain is longer and therefore (this is an important "therefore") inherently much more tenuous.

    • Okay, but sometimes it's an emergency. Human progress can probably withstand another decade or two or three of localized outbreaks of creationism. The climate might be just as resilient, but it might not.

      Where leaders establish their legacies of success or failure is when the "inferential chain" is all too short, but they act–or decline to act–anyway. I happen to suspect that the risk from climate change is less than the current zeitgeist would suggest, but I'm the sort of guy who wears a seatbelt and buys insurance.

      • What the hell does 'localized outbreaks of creationism' mean? What exactly do you think will happen if everybody believed in creationism?

        • Provided creationist belief remains compartmentalized from fields of scientific inquiry and serious political discourse, nothing much will happen if a minority embraces it. If "everyone" believes in creationism to the extent that, e.g., we stop teaching Darwinian evolution in biology class–in contravention of Cosh's First Rule of Inferential Chains of Epistemological Certitude (don't break them, no, no-oooo)–then sooner or later we start to lose the practical benefits of science and reason.

          "Localized outbreaks" are no biggie as long as they're confined to a few testy posts in blog forums.

  7. "When I got to end of the column I said to myself, “Okay, so Brooks thinks the financial crisis has created a general crisis in social authority.” But look closely: Brooks doesn't actually mention the financial crisis or the recession at all."

    How do you know this? Maybe Brooks doesn't think it so that's why he does not write it. I read American conservative websites and there was deep disappointment with Bush but many held their noses and put up with him. And now Obama is Bush on steroids and economic cons and independents, at least, have had enough.

    I would argue that it was Bush admin running massive deficits during boom years that formed the basis for tea party supporters.

    "Earnestness is stupidity sent to college" PJ O'Rourke

    I went to university so I know of what I speak. I think there are far too many middle class kids going to university to get useless degrees and government feels compelled to employ these people so we get huge bureaucracies as make work jobs for dim middle class kids who can't make it in the real world.

    People who go to university also tend to think they know best. Whatever happened to the belief that everyone is free to pursue their unalienable rights of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness?


    • People who go to university also tend to think they know best.

      Anyone else notice a slight over-representation of graduate degree academics in any of our national party's leadership profiles? The PM is piker with only an MA, but at least it is from a real perspective of the "dismal science". Dion, Layton and Iggy are all cut from the same cloth and differ only in the degree of preposterousness they advocate for. I wonder if any of them ever actually worked for a living? Ditto in spades for every DM and ADM.

      How could a national government with a different view ever encounter problems? :)

  8. I meant to add this to my previous comment but forgot – I don't know if it's just because I am getting older and wistful for times past or if there has actually been a change but it seems experts are now more convinced of their genius than they use to be. There use to be an attitude that if you weren't certain of something, than you didn't do it. Now it seems if there is no certainty you plow ahead regardless and fix consequences later.

    • I agree with your sentiments as far it applies to the professional and the scientific class. Once people hold that PhD or other graduate or professional degree in their hands, they feel it has granted them the condition of certitude about everything they do. Wisdom and humility are two qualities that seem to have fallen by the wayside.

      • That's a bit too generalized I think. I know of several who are quite humble and open to keep learning.

        • So do I. It was meant to be a general statement, not a blanket statement.

  9. There are two parts of Brook's article that I find interesting. The first is the part C.C. quotes about the 'educated class'. The second is this paragraph :

    "Moreover, the tea party movement has passion. Think back on the recent decades of American history — the way the hippies defined the 1960s; the feminists, the 1970s…. American history is often driven by passionate outsiders who force themselves into the center of American life."

    Passionate outsiders, the the 'educated' class (The New Establishment). Those two ideas should be more closely linked together because the latter produced the former.

    The 'educated' class is now dominated by the hippies and feminists. Their ideas have been transmitted to every area of life since the 60's and 70's – journalism, politics, parenting, education, environment, social justice, political correctness, etc. Over the decades all of these institutions are now associated with the ideas behind flower power. They have become a growing and annoying presence in the lives of ordinary people. They have strayed too far from center and the institutions will not regain respect until they more closely reflect a balanced political position.

    The flower power establishment also has a definite bias against (contempt for ?) whites, the middle class, suburban and rural people, private business, free markets and those that are educated but not 'top tier' educated. All people and entities that are independent, self-sufficient and outside of the Ivy League are treated like crap and used solely as revenue for The Establishment's pet projects. The Tea Party movement taps into the frustration of the groups who have been intentionally marginalized and fleeced for decades. Labelling them as populist or anti-intellectual will be no more effective in silencing them than attacking them as racists or neanderthals. Even libertarian isn't quite accurate because they seem to cut across the political spectrum. The "get off our backs" comment is the most accurate I've seen. The Tea Partiers are the necessary reaction needed to balance the excess of progressive policies. They will force their way into the center of American life until this is achieved.

    • As long as the Palins of this world are your vangard i'm with the hippies…if i do actually have to make a choice between merely annoying and loony and the ludicrous and certifiable.

      • Or better yet, kcm, you could attempt to go beyond the personalities you despise and explore the ideas behind the Tea Party movement. Smaller government and reducing the debt burden on future generations are certainly worth a second look. Hippies only offer more and bigger policies that have helped no one but government and government workers.

  10. The chain is long only if you view a carbon tax's sole purpose as being to combat global warming.

  11. Go watch an epsiode of Allin the Family. Meathead's rants sounded pretty definitive and Archie came across as a sour grape. I can't recall specifics now, but I do remember thinking a few years ago about the show and how Meathead, who was the personification of all that was good and progressive, advocated a number of ideas that have since been proven to be disasterous and that Archie's reactionary dismissals actually ended up sounding right, in hindsight.

    Please don't take this as a 'proof' that ALL of Meathead's ideas were wrong; just some. Or that reactionary dismissal was always right; just ssometimes. What I take from it is that we need to be more sophisticated in our consumption of new ideas and developments. We need to leave ideological preconceptions behind and learn to evaluate questions more rationally than we have so far proven to be capable of.

  12. I'll take your word on Catholic canons. As to crank, it is a word that is now applied as label to any who insist on the application of objective (ie non-IP, non-financial) criteria to inherently objectively discernable "facts". As to idealogical/theological rigor, in my view it now fed from the same tit as corporate science (medical, meteorlogical, archaeological, astronomical, or economic) with the same perverse results.

    The decay we observe, has long been hinted at. The erosion of our culture and relative prosperity is not an unintended consequence of "social policy" as advocated by academia. It is the inevitable result of the very policies pursued (as recommended by eggheads) for the past 50 years

    • Whether you like it or not [ and i often don't] it's a simple fact that someone has to wield power, someone has to govern. You're railing [ IMHO] against the human condition…there's no conspiracy here, no plot by the egg heads. You forget that for every theory wonk out there there's someone prepared to disent. We live in an imperfect world and the struggle to make it better is all we have…there's no magic solution, no golden past…hopefully there's a golden future.

      • I will believe that when all economic thinking centers come out with a statement something like :

        'Samuelson is dead, so we can say this. He was an idiot, wrong in every way, and we are sorry'


      • Why is it a “simple fact” that someone has to wield power/govern, and why is it a part of the so-called “human condition”? You merely assert this point without laying out any rational argument for why this is so.

  13. When AC wrote and published his column the other day (last link above) on Climategate (411 comments and counting) I was sitting back and watching what colby might write on this topic, as it appeared to me to be one of his more consistent themes. Nada. Now I can see why. He was looking for a hook (as they apparently say in the media) of his own. David Brooks provided it.

    So, when GeoffM above states: "Colby, I don't know how you got from David Brooks to finally laying out your position on climate science", I do. It was a ruse.

    As it turns out, I happened to be watching PBS Newshour last night where Jim Leherer discussed the week's events with Mark Shields and David Brooks, a regular feature. Have a look here. Go to 8:50 and watch David Brooks respond to a simple question about two US Democratic Senators that were not planning to run again. While discounting the specific question, Brooks seized the opportunity to launch into his diatribe, mentioning Global Warming, essentially repeating the column that Colby linked to above.

    Note the response of both Leherer and Shields after Brooks finishes regurgitating his column at 10:10.
    SHIELDS: …"I was going to talk about Chris Dodd and Byron Dorgan two senators"
    LEHERER: "What did I ask?"

    Now, I'm not positive if he also saw this newscast last night, prompting him to dig up Brooks's now five day old column, in order to keep the Climategate debate going. But if I was a conservative/libertarian/wildrose blogger (it's tough to keep track of the difference these days on this topic in particular), this seems to be a valiant effort.

    Now I'll depart for discussion of the pros and cons of global warming to the usual suspects, and its facilitator.

  14. Whatever happened to the belief that everyone is free to pursue their unalienable rights of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness?

    It still exists. It's just that you refuse to believe your unalienable rights of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness frequently interfere with my unalienable rights of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness and vice versa. Since this is inevitable in a crowded, complex world we need government and its institutions in order to sort out whose unalienable rights take precedence.

  15. Heh, not what I was referring to. There are effects of a carbon tax completely aside from the potential effect it would have on global temperature. Some of these are environmental, some of them societal or related to health, many of them are economical.

    I'm sure I've made my position on the science of global warming quite clear, but my support for a carbon tax has more to do with those other factors than it does AGW, though that's undoubtably a part of it.

  16. "It's just that you refuse to believe your unalienable rights of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness frequently interfere with my unalienable rights of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness and vice versa."

    I refuse to believe it because it is bollocks. I have inalienable right, as does everyone else, to pursue my happiness. There is no inalienable right to achieve it, which means my rights and your rights do not clash.

    The problems come when people, mostly people on the left, decide their happiness is being in charge of everyone else because they know best.

  17. Interesting. I have not watched All In Family for years so I don't recall specifics but it sounds about right, to me.

    I agreed with many things that progressives thought were problems back in the 1960s/70s but I fundamentally disagree with how we went about fixing them. Too many progs/libs think the changes we have gone through since 1970, say, are unalloyed good and are not willing to listen to other opinions about how destructive some changes have been.

  18. As if on cue, National Review's newest Uncommon Knowledge interview is of Thomas Sowell on his book Intellectuals and Society! (Link) The interesting, and maybe solitary, counterpoint on the benefits of very local concentrations of power has been George Will. I catch up on months of his columns every once in a while and there's usually something about abuses of power at the county or municipal level… it seems to me that the provincial level is best to balance out very local political rackets and distant federal governance where special interests rule. The monkey wrench in that conclusion is how powerful teacher's unions are at the state/provincial level which has led me to wonder if a national candidate in the US could successfully overcome that with a campaign promise of vouchers for descendants of slaves or for anyone under a certain income level.

  19. This whole piece is written in good sentences, and it makes several complex points. Complex points!!! You're just asking to be targeted as an elitist if you do that, Mr. Cosh. You're holding up a big sign saying, "I'm capable of more than animal appetites, Nyah Nyah Nyah" — and you expect the teabaggers will take it lying down! Well, they won't! They've had enough of your "grammar" and your "analysis" and if they can just somehow fulfill the logic of their righteous anger, you'll be shot!

  20. Sorry I don’t think it’s all that complicated. The Tea Party movement is based on the fear that someone else is going to do to them what their country has historically done to others — take all their stuff by force.

    • "The Tea Party movement is based on the fear that someone else is going to do to them what their country has historically done to others"

      If this is true, what's your explanation for no Tea Party movement in Canada, UK and a few other European nations because we all have a common history of colonialism and destruction.

  21. "Anyway, what was I talking about?"

    Damned if I know. All y'all suffer from ADHD, it appears.

  22. "There is also the problem that the “hard science” reaches us largely through summaries and reports concocted, and perhaps distorted (consciously or otherwise), by the politicians and policymakers at the front line of the process."

    Regardless of whether one is a denier or a warmist, this is errant nonsense. Most of the hard science does reach us through the political communication, but through news media (for most people) or through actual research publications. But it does serve as an example of a chain of propositions being only as strong as its weakest link.

  23. Sound bites and slogans – such is the current state of political discussion and marketing. There has been convergence since the 60s era of Mad Men..

    Note the final "good sentence" in this week's edition of CBC Radio's The Age of Persuasion.

    Season 4: “Buzz”

    Posted by Age of Persuasion on January 07 at 03:38 PM

    Airs on Radio One:
    Saturday 9 January, 2010 10am
    Monday 11 January 2010 11:30am

    Just as positive buzz can launch a brand into the stratosphere- negative buzz can sink it lower than whale doo-doo. This week Terry explores the ways buzz shapes popular sentiment, while making- and breaking- major brands. He'll chronicle the rise and fall of TV as a source of buzz, and how it has given way to the new kingmakers of marketing- online communities. He'll also explore the ancient art of the “shill”- and how it's finding new life on the Internet.


  24. @Jolyon — so everyone the disagrees with you is a "progressive" or "on the left" ?

  25. Bang on Dot. Too much obsessive-compulsive myth-making going on here.

  26. "then how do you explain Stephen Harper?"

    I am not sure what you are asking me but I would argue Harper/Cons are governing from the left. I can think of very little that Cons have done that can be considered right wing.

  27. "In the U.S. context (and in ours), some federal interventions, Roe v. Wade being an obvious example, are designed to protect the individual from her community. "

    The individual mother, maybe. The individual baby/fetus, not so much.

    Pardon the interruption.

  28. I was going to point that out as well but did not want to start abortion debate. Roe v Wade was designed to protect community from the individual.

    Progressives are all about killing the weak – hence their support for State abortion and euthanasia – to improve society.

    • Joylon I don't often agree with but you usually stay away from ridiculous hyperbole like "progressives are all about killing the weak." Sheesh. Let's see, how 'bout we match that with, I don't know, a blanket "conservatives are only motivated by hate." Easy peasy!

    • As opposed to conservatives, who didn't kill anyone powerless in Iraq, right? And have never executed a retarded or innocent person.

      "Progressives are all about killing the weak" Give your head a shake.

  29. One couldn't get more elitist than Brooks.

    That he mischaracterizes the Tea Party movement should surprise no one.

    An honest analysis would require him to engage in some very gut wrenching introspection – something elitists like Brooks are incapable of.

    • Unlike you who is always ruthlessly questioning his prejudices.

  30. I refuse to believe it because it is bollocks.

    So you wouldn't mind if I trespass on or destroy your property in pursuit of my happiness?

  31. European countries have mostly withdrawn to their original territory, even though they still exert economic influence in soem of their former colonies, while the US is a recidivist colonizer, still implementing Manifest Destiny, and still actively holding territory it considers "strategically important."

    Canada, unlike the US has never tried to organize a movement to annex any part of the US or Alaska. We haven't invaded Central America repeatedly and cut a canal through the middle of it. We don't blockade any small countries that pissed us off in the 1950's. We don't own or control any islands in the South Pacific so we can have naval and army bases. We didn't equip and fund the first 9/11 to violently remove the electred leader of Chile …

    What Canada has in common is the colonization of indigenous territory, and the closest thing we have to the Tea Party is the disorganized movement to extinguish aboriginal rights. Go to the comments section of any Globe story about First Nations demanding the return of their property and you'll be able to follow a Tea Party level of "debate."

  32. I did not think it was necessary to include caveat that we are free to pursue our happiness as long as it does not include murder, theft, rape and a few other serious crimes. I should have known better.

  33. Wow, what a lot of words to say, "I agree"

  34. "Don't snicker too loudly, by the way: Canada shall end up that way before too long. We have already seen our Charter of Rights dissociated from the modest, limited intentions of its framers, some of whom are still alive, and cited against them. The document is acquiring a nimbus of divinity before our eyes.)"

    In a column that provides pretty good context, it is somewhat lacking here. I'm not qualified to pass judgement on whether judges have userped parliament [ my personal view is pols are relieved they have] but let's be clear. Our history pre-charter has some rather bad patches…in other words there was no golden era of wise, balanced governance by the peoples reps. Perhaps the best that could be said is that they were us to a fault…warts and all. But i concur…the charter shouldn't become an article of faith…perhaps we need a charter of obligations and responsibilities. I believe Trudeau supported this view in later life…i have no idea if it has practical application.

  35. Why is "crank" in quotes? Also, papal infallibility wasn't dogma until 1870, and if you leave it aside, your answer to Luther isn't actually all that bad.

  36. The legal system is just the one of many government institutions that arbitrate whose unalienable rights take precedence. But I'll agree that was an easy one. So how about environmental agencies. Do you believe your unalienable rights include interfering with my unalienable right to exist in a clean environment?

  37. There was a survey, I think by MacLeans a little while back that pointed out that far less Con MPs than Libs or NDP have any kind of post-secondary education. Carrying this argument further helps to explain Harper's tight control of his minions, since he knows best I guess.

  38. To make such a ridiculous argument would be on a par with suggesting we've got a problem-free world with the state ON all our backs.

    • I'm not making that arguement…merely pointing out that too many people hold on to an unlikely hope… getting the govt off our backs is no panacea…the converse is obviously not true.

  39. In the immortal words of Joe Stalin, "the useful idiots" (academics) will undermine from within. I suspect you are quite young kcm (relatively). The theories (or the ideaology behind them) being advocated for today are not new and flow from a world view and a theory of governance first embraced whole heartedly by Bismark. The sad truth is that robbing Peter to pay Paul because he has unfulfilled needs has been the refuge of scoundrels for at least 150 years. The divergence of the English model and sysytem of governance from the continental system brought Canada freedom and prosperity, while Europe languished in squallor. Like socialist theory everywhere, the application of the ideal only ever drags the successful down to the level of the loser and the only standards by which success can measured is how to use "government" to hobble your competitors and/or give faux assistance with taxpayer dollars to your cause.

    God knows I have concerns with many of the policies of the government I support, however at least they embrace a reality consistant with what my 53 years of observations have validated. But they want to govern with a majority and perforce must bring forth legislation that will not alienate 416, 604 sensibilities.

  40. "So how about environmental agencies."

    Depends. As always, the devil is in the details. I don't believe companies have an inalienable right to dump toxic chemicals into rivers or the like, however, the environment would be much cleaner than it is now if there were more property rights for people in Canada and the world. People take care of things they own.

    Why such extreme examples? I am not against some government regulations, they are necessary for certain, but we have gone way beyond sense or reason.

    How many hundreds of people do we employ to make sure no one produces unpasteurized milk or cheese?

  41. People take care of things they own.

    On what planet does this happen. It's certainly not this one.

    How many hundreds of people do we employ to make sure no one produces unpasteurized milk or cheese?

    Hundreds? On what planet do you live on. It's certainly not this one.

  42. So you think it's a problem that Conservative MPs are more of a representative sample of canada than the other party's MPs? My now deceased father in law was a welder by trade, but there was nothing he could not fix. He understood how things actualy worked, he didn't rely on theories. You certainly can get an "education" at University, you just can't get wisdom. Wisdom is spawned from the real necessities of surviving, not from milking the system like a post-modern MBA

  43. Agreed. But the chain is still pretty long even if you're just talking about the proposition "Anthropogenic global warming exists and is harmful enough to require remedial action." Basically, most of the words in that sentence implicitly refer to some implicit assertion that has a probabilistic uncertainty attached to it, and uncertainty compounds the way interest does.

  44. That's not what I was inferring peter. I was looking for an explanation on why Harper can be so controlling. Perhaps he thinks the initials he was able to put after his name on everything he wrote prior to his PMship gave him a superiority complex.

  45. How on earth can write on this topic and not mention the decades of manipulation of these people? Nixon and Reagan's Southern Strategy specifically targeted the racial fears of low-educated white voters, and has nurtured those fears of the "other" for nearly 40 years.

    Now those same people are subjected to a relentless barrage of lies, distortions and crazy conspiracy theories. From visible sources (Fox News, Sarah Palin, James Inhofe) to under-the-radar stuff (blogs, direct mailings, forwarded email) there's something to stoke everybody's fears. Is it any wonder these people are showing up at town halls with guns, screaming incoherencies? This isn't Libertarianism or any shadow of a coherent movement, it's a whole lot of people terrified by change they neither control nor understand, ginned up on bullsh*t by out-of-power right wingers.

    The anti-global warming "movement" is being stoked through the same channels, using the same tactics, targeting the same low-education people.

    My god, it's as though you watched a cage full of monkeys flinging feces and stroked your chin and tried to discern their motivations, goals and philosophy.

    • The 1.what trillion deficit is just in their imagination.

      The US Treasury and Fed didn't have anything to do with shoveling somewhere around 12 trillion into the banks. Nope.

      The guy running the IRS should be forgiven for not paying his taxes.


      Everybody should just think nice thoughts. Everything is under control, in good hands.


  46. The sad truth is that "the media" is somewhat over prone to pounce on the statements of MP's personal views as indicative of "government policy". Even worse the media is involved in game of gotcha at all times. Serious consideration is rarely given to any alternative other than a polarized parochial view. Canada is junior player that is able to punch over its weight because we rarely hang our allies (even when they are wrong and it is difficult to support them). When you represent an office like Prime Minister, you wear the errors of your underlings, look at all the troubles Mr. Harper had trying to get Preston to be more pragmatic, look at the Stockwell Day leadership fallout…look at the overwhelmingly negative crap written about where the PM is taking Canada. I respect his idea that if he is to hang because of an error that error be his.

    All things considered, can you not respect what the man has achieved, against all odds? Do you consider it possible that he may be one of the sharpest guys on the Hill…ever? All he has ever done is work hard for a vision he holds dear…and if you have read any of his writing he has been pretty consistant over the last twenty or so years.

  47. My god, it's as though you watched a cage full of monkeys flinging feces and stroked your chin and tried to discern their motivations, goals and philosophy.

    Can't resist…kinda like QP from the government's point of view?:) BTW you are so out of touch with the philosophy behind the tea parties I can only assume you've gained your insights from CNNNBCCBSABC…and CBC. I have had the great pleasure of working with many Okies (since you slag Inhofe) and more fiercly independant bunch you are unlikely to meet. They like to brag that they are the buckle of the bible belt and I assure you that virtually everything you possess of value is a result of the hard work and deep faith of the people like them who just work hard and get on with it.

  48. See this post by Charles Murray: http://blog.american.com/?p=4259. Short version: political self-identification data collected by the General Social Survey in 1973-2008 shows that over that period, all segments of the white American population moved from center to slightly right, except "Intellectual Upper", which moved from center to sharply left. One suspects there have been similar changes in Canada and Europe.

    Meanwhile, political authority has shifted to unelected bodies like the EU Commission and the courts. The "educated elite" prefers to bypass the strictures of democracy. So what if a majority of the people disagree with them? They're just "monkeys flinging feces". (TJCook, thanks very much for exemplifying elite arrogance and presumption.)

    As CC noted, that elite has been spectactularly right about many things – and also spectacularly wrong. "Freudian psychology", anyone? Corbusier's "Radiant CIty"?) As Orwell famously noted, "There are some things only an intellectual could believe. No ordinary man could be such a fool."

    The modern elite is diverse in background, but increasingly uniform in thought. It is also increasingly separate from the rest of society, and regards itself (not without some reason) as the true repository of knowledge and wisdom. This is leading to its empowerment as as self-appointed and unaccountable ruling class. That will lead to ruinous corruption (there never was such a ruling class that didn't glut itself in rent-seeking and graft) and to disastrous policy mistakes (when all the elite agree, and the masses are stifled, it will be easy to march over a cliff).

    • "This is leading to its empowerment as as self-appointed and unaccountable ruling class. That will lead to ruinous corruption (there never was such a ruling class that didn't glut itself in rent-seeking and graft) and to disastrous policy mistakes (when all the elite agree, and the masses are stifled, it will be easy to march over a cliff). "

      Given the eight years of neo-con "rule" your post is highly ironic…at least in part. If you're going to quote Orwell you might want to remember context…Orwell never self-identified with the right despite his brutally honest criticism of the left, for whic many hated him. While he had much to say in criticism of intellectuals this quote is in no way a wholesale endorsement of the ordinary man as the font of all wisdom…

      The EU commission and the courts may be unelected but they are still selected and chosen by elected representatives, and consequently part of our democratic fabric.

    • Well said Rich.

  49. @Jolyon — then how do you explain Stephen Harper? He's not "on the left" last time I looked.

  50. I wasn't being entirely serious. First off many hippies [ whatever that means] are still living outside the system as best they can, many of them are no more fond of govt interference than you are…basically i find your hippies are running our lives ridiculous…if that were really true the power of corporations would have been limited long ago…in fact many so called hippies have merely conformed.
    If the teabaggers are simply interested in smaller govt and lower public debt i would have little or no problem with them…somehow i doubt it?

  51. Heh – I do agree re: QP

    I have nothing against Okies, I've liked every one I've met. But I'm afraid they're terribly poorly-served by their elected representatives, particularly the odious Inhofe.

    I don't watch tv news, ever. No CNNNBCABCCBC. I notice you left out Fox – do you recommend their coverage?

    Perhaps you could articulate the philosophy of the Tea Partiers for me. Get me in touch – what's their vision? What do they want? Colby already listed what they hate, we don't need another manifesto *against* things. Please – enlighten me.

    By the way, where were all these angry white people throughout this decade? What changed at the end of 2008 that made them come packin' and screamin'?

    • They want the members of the elected government government to respect the oath they swear to the Constitution. Almost without exception they can read. They read the actual document and take the Bill of rights seriously. They fully recognize that the revolution which brought their nation into existance and the moral principles upon which it was founded are based on a clear understanding of the ways of bureacracy and the nature of the State to grow and the controling nature of "money power" over a nation.

      The whole tea party movement (and I have friends who are baggers) seeks a simpler more lawful government, with lawful being plain language interpretation of the document on which ALL "legal authority" is based…The Constitution.

      Sadly, the whores of K St. are likely to co-opt the movement, or at least the brand to try and discredit the genuine anger around 60% of the Yanks feel against the the "authority apparatus" in the US.

      ps Bush was a dead duck in 06 and seeing guys like Reid ,Pelosi and Owebama in charge has scared the crap out of the non NY/LA/Boston/Chicago crowd

      • That's just a big pile of motherhood statements – everybody believes that respecting the Constitution and the Bill of Rights is core to American society. Did you not hear the 8 years of screaming from the Left as Bush suspended habeas corpus? If the Tea Partiers are all about accountable government and respect for the Constitution, then where were they during Bush's years?

        Honestly, the Left could have used the support of all these people who love the Constitution so much.

        So – there's no unique or coherent philosophy here, no vision, nothing new. The Tea Party movement is a massive primal scream from scared white voters.

        • You really need to follow the work of Republican congressman Ron Paul a little more closely. As to the Bush years…I think if you read a little more from sites like Lew Rockwell and its parent site Mises.org you will gain a greater appreciation of what the principled (libertarian) view from the right is…but that is the philosophy, not the politics. I don't think there will ever be a successful party that fails to play politics and it is just a nasty business. There are not many choir boys occupying the power seat in any liberal democracy. getting there is brutal, and staying there is worse. But like Churchill mused, it is the worst kind of government in the world, except all the rest.

          If you look to any regime in history that stated they were going to make everyone equal, without exception they become totalitarian states.

          The human condition is a test. From the time of the American revolution the money interests and monopolists have agressively played every card they have and we are now arguably far further from freedom than the yanks in 1776 (and more accurately 1913), or from confederation in our case.

          • Thanks, I'm familiar with Ron Paul, and I don't have any pollyanna ideas about any politician of any stripe.

            Back to the topic at hand – you haven't articulated any unique philosophy espoused by the Tea Partiers. They don't have a monopoly on respect for the Constitution, the rule of law, the Bill of Rights, freedom, democracy, lower taxes, love of country or loving their mothers. Everybody likes these things – you have not described anything meaningful.

            Again: you can't claim that these people are driven by a political philosophy when they were silent through the Bush years and only rose up when a black Democrat was elected.

            I say again: they're a cage full of monkeys, flinging feces. Good, honest, poorly-educated, gullible, scared, white monkeys flinging feces at some vague "other" that they perceive to be a threat.

  52. Very interesting. Has the financial crisis created an emotional scar that it will influence all manner of politics and ideology for years to come?

    Balancing day-to-day finances is the reason most people work, is a great source of stress, and not having enough money is perhaps the greatest barrier to most people's dreams.

    When the government bailed out the financial sector many people felt a personal sense of revulsion. It seemed as though the finance system, which seemingly creates trillions of dollars out of thin air, was mocking the everyday financial struggles of families and individuals.

    After eight years of Bush, the latter part of which he became wildly unpopular, this is the new government's (Obama's) main "success". In that context is it surprising that people are widely disenchanted with the "establishment"?

    Maybe it isn't libertarianism but contrarianism? In declining times, a collective re-evaluation of established wisdom might not be a bad thing.

  53. I stand by my characterization. Cosh was unable to articulate what drives this crowd – I'm waiting for someone, anyone, to explain the Tea Partiers in any coherent fashion.

    I'm such an arrogant elite – surely you can put me in my place by clearly explaining the Tea Partier phenomenon.

    By the way – pretty rich for a conservative such as yourself to claim that we elites "prefer to bypass the strictures of democracy." This while Canada's conservative flag bearer has closed our system of government to prevent an investigation into his policies.

    • The Tea Partiers are the paranoid, frantic conservative answer to paranoid, frantic liberals who equate proroguing Parliament with "closing our system of government".

      • Yeah, they really go all out citing Bagehot. Real clear parallel there.

        • That's a tricky question to which no Grade 10 answer is proper. Parliament is certainly supreme in our constitution, however, if that's what you're driving at.

          • Quite! And I'd say "The Government derives its legitimacy from Parliament" is the comprehensible by any Grade 10.

            The Crown has now dismissed Parliament because it didn't like what Parliament was doing. Is that not Stuart behaviour? And, if so, has the Crown not been traduced by its advisors?

          • "The Government derives its legitimacy from Parliament" is a different proposition from "Parliament is supreme". You can logic-chop all you like, but everybody agrees that the Crown possesses the power to prorogue and convene Parliaments on the advice of the Prime Minister; the issue here is that the hidden motives of the PM are being subjected to microscopic scrutiny which, mysteriously, past Prime Ministers never received from the amateur Bagehots who are now appearing out of nowhere, lush Bagehot beards hastily spirit-gummed to their faces. This is partly legitimate because of Harper's longtime wheezing about reform. Partly it is, to paraphrase Borges, holding one's opponents to the standard of Christ while following the canons of Zarathustra.

          • The support of the House was never in doubt, not for a single split second, when Chretien tried the same stunt, because he had a majority.

            Let me get this straight. Because I can't produce photographic evidence of my having set myself on fire on the steps of Parliament back in whenever it was (2003?) that Chretien prorogued sneakily, neither I nor anybody on God's green earth has a right to defend the supremacy of Parliament?!

            And, FYI, "the Government derives its legitimacy from Parliament" is the immediate and unavoidable corollary of "Parliament is supreme." Unless we're arguing sophistically, perish oh perish the thought.

          • I'd believe you on your say so.


          • I appreciate that.

          • Because I can't produce photographic evidence of my having set myself on fire on the steps of Parliament back in whenever it was (2003?) that Chretien prorogued sneakily

            Oh, come on, Jack. Your drunken dive into the Centennial Flame shortly after the bars in Hull closed at 3AM wasn't supposed to ever be mentioned again. You asked us to destroy the film, remember? Oh, right, you probably don't remember…

          • "…the issue here is that the hidden motives of the PM are being subjected to microscopic scrutiny which, mysteriously, past Prime Ministers never received …"

            Yeesh CC that's the kind of point i expect from Biff, not you. So the Harper prorogues and say, Chretien's are synonomous? As jack says Chretien never was in danger of losing the Confidence of the house…this has no bearing on the ethics of Chretien merely the legitimacy. Where were the con critics at the time …perhaps you should ask Harper…i believe he did have something to say – then!

        • I would have answered: Tetley's.

      • Perhaps TJCook used a technically incorrect choice of words to describe the proroguing of Parliament. However it is not paranoid and frantic to be disgusted with Harper's (technically legal I know) blatant attempt to run from accountability.

      • Coyne's a parnoid frantic liberal…who knew.:)

      • Fair enough – I overstated. But you see the point I was making, right?

        Members of the Right have a tendency to blather on and on about freedom and the Constitution, but are strangely silent when THEIR guy suspends habeas corpus, conducts unlawful wiretaps of American citizens or suspend Parliament to interfere with a parliamentary investigation.

        Nobody's perfect, everybody makes excuses for the home team, but the endless loudmouthed swaggering about being "real" Americans/Canadians who love Freedom and Democracy… well, it makes the hypocrisy pretty dificult to ignore.

  54. The science-media-politics network deserves trust

    I agree and disagree. No doubt the network has done much good and will continue to do so. At the same time, for every success there have been a million failures. That's why it's been such a success, there is no trust involved, everyone has a chance to promote their ideas and the winners are determined by rigorous debate and evidence. There is no "trust" involved.

    The most successful scientist of the 20th century did his work working in a patent office as a clerk, he was not part of the scientific establishment at all when he made his discoveries.

    The people peddling the global warming fraud are no more deserving of trust than my neighbour. It's all about the evidence. So far, AGW is big on theory and a complete failure in the realm of empirical evidence and falsifiable predictions. That is why there is so much doubt, because there is so much reason for it.

    • Could be that Mr Pete Morans (of St Louis?) is simply holding up a signed poster that encourages us all to "Get A Brain".

    • That photo has been a familiar sight since long before the Tea Parties. Welcome to the Internet, enjoy your stay.

      • Thanks, I've been on the internet for 20 years.

        It was an illustration of the target demographic for the Tea Parties, it doesn't matter whether that moran was at an actual Tea Party gathering.


  55. This is not about common sense; it is about control. This Congress does not let details and public opinion stand in their way. They want Socialism-Communism; that is what must be disarmed. There is a better way than Socialism and Capitalism, yet it enriches the people and has all working for the benefit of all without government oppression. God warns against debt, interest, insurance, seeking riches and honors, pride and covetousness. He has true freedom and independence. We can turn to a garden paradise lifestyle instead of the employment lifestyle that caused the world problems.

    The only reason the Climate Change idea is still alive is that poor nations think they will get money from rich nations. That is another lying bribe to get nations to sign away their authority and give the UN entity control over their nations. That is an illusion that will disappear with details.

    Continued next post
    Marie Devine
    God has solutions to world problems we created by ignoring His wisdom.

  56. Brooks' premise fails on a single point: there is no evidence that the class he speaks of is any less "educated" than the one he identifies with. Because they disagree he concludes they simply cannot be as smart as he.

    Which indicates he's either intellecutally lazy, dishonest, or both – and ought not to be bothered with in the first place.

  57. How did we get to this point? A point where the best the new new right can offer intellectually is perhaps George Will? After all, this is a movement whose beliefs come straight from Adam Smith, Lord Acton, John Stuart Mill, Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman – among others. To me it reflects that libertarians won (insofar as they could have) the last 30-odd years (or at least the 1979-2001 stretch). Their values are now reflexively expressed by the same working class that should be their natural foes. The tea party movement is a counter-revolutionary movement directed against an emboldened new new left. Why do we assume that revolutions must come from below – they can just as easily be perpetrated by the top (eg. the science-media-politics nexus).

  58. We are making jobs just for the sake of making jobs, seeking riches while destroying ourselves. The only sustainable and reasonable solution is to "retire." We can turn to a garden paradise lifestyle with trees, plants and pets that provide fresh food around us. That solves "climate change" and pollution, disease, energy crisis, war, immigration, financial crises, and social problems at the same time. Any other solution causes other problems, takes away our freedoms and is not even a good delay.

    God warned against nations joining for protection and prosperity in Psalms 1 and 2, II Chronicles 16:7-12; and 20:35-37. It is counter-productive and opens a nation up to deceptions, corruption, abuses and delays.


    See Taking Back Our Nation at http://www.divine-way.com as an example of how to pull out of our corrupted lifestyles.

    Marie Devine
    God has solutions to world problems we created by ignoring His wisdom.

  59. So – just reread these comments – nobody has managed to express the political philosophy, vision or motivations of the Tea Partiers. Nobody has addressed the influence of the rightwing noise machine on these gullible people. Nobody has addressed the racism, xenophobia and fear that bubbles under the surface of the movement. And nobody has addressed the fact that the disinformation about global warming has spread in the same manner, through the same channels, as the Obama birth certificate rumour, Sarah Palin's death panels lie, etc.

    I say yet again: the Tea Partiers are not a coherent political movement. I don't doubt that what they feel is genuine or that their motivations are all for the best. But overall it's just a giant primal scream from scared white voters.

  60. "Small local authorities have natural limits to their power (they can't become totalitarian)…"

    Have you read Stephen King's Under the Dome ? Think The Simpsons Movie meets Lord of the Flies

  61. What I wonder about is the basic validity (or lack thereof) of Brooks' starting assumptions there. As I understand it, he's asserting that there's a difference (and presumably a measurable and significant one) between the views of the "educated class" and "everyone else" with respect to 3 key issues, namely global warming, abortion and gun control. But is that actually true? I mean, do we have, for instance, any reliable polling or other data which shows a correlation between income level and peoples' views on these issues?

    • Orson Bean: see my earlier comment on what Charles Murray has found in the General Social Survey data.. The distinction is not just income, it is income and occupation. The "intellectual upper" segment which has moved left works in occupations such as education, law, and mass media.

      There is very obviously a difference between the "educated elite" (plus the rest of the ruling class) and the general populace on immigration, both in the U.S. and Europe. Also, obviously, on same-sex marriage.