Jim Taylor's Columns - 'Soft Edges' and 'Sharp Edges'

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Published on Sunday, October 13, 2019

Old political labels don’t stick anymore

Today is Thanksgiving Sunday. It’s also just nine days away from a federal election. One of the things I’m thankful for is that Canada is not mired in the political lunacy in the U.S.

            So far, about the only thing the various Canadian parties and candidates have been able to agree about is that the other side has more flaws than they do.

            I suspect that if our ballots had a “None of the above” box, we’d elect a non-government with a huge majority, made up of members who didn’t get elected.

            In today’s elections, traditional labels don’t work. In a leaders’ debate this week, the Greens came across as more conservative than the Conservatives -- at least the Greens are trying to conserve something. The Conservatives are less interested in conserving anything than in not doing whatever the Liberals have promised to do Maxime Bernier accused Conservative leader Andrew Scheer of being a closet Liberal. The supposedly socialist NDP isn’t threatening to nationalize anything. Justin Trudeau, on the other hand, has already nationalized a pipeline.


What they oppose…

            Today, it would seem, a conservative is not necessarily a Conservative, let alone a Progressive Conservative. And a Liberal is not necessarily liberal, especially out here in B.C.

            Somewhere in the last few months, someone offered a distinction between liberals and conservatives that appealed to me. 

            Please don’t quote dictionary definitions at me. As Humpty-Dumpty declared, in Lewis Carroll’s brilliant Alice Through the Looking Glass, a word “means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.”

            So here’s the definition I like -- liberals and conservatives are identified by what they’re opposed to.

            Small-c conservatives see big government as the enemy. Government interferes with their inalienable right to do whatever they want with their property -- which includes their land, their wives, their children, their money. They don’t like being told what they can do, or can’t do, by bureaucrats living on the taxpayer trough.

            The ideal society, they believe, would be free of government intervention. People would be responsible for their own actions.

            In theory, that is. In practice, when conservatives govern, they don’t reduce government. At least, not much. They divert tax resources to different areas. To more rigorous law enforcement, for example. To bailing out banks, or carmakers, considered too big to fail. And to the military. Currently, I read, the U.S. government uses 20% of its total budget to pay for its war equipment and personnel -- all tax funded.


Big corporations

            Small-l liberals, on the other hand, focus on big corporations as the enemy. With good reason.

            Big Tobacco ignored health warnings about cigarettes. Big Oil gagged its own scientists’ research about greenhouse gases. Big Pharma marketed addictive drugs. Big Chemical promoted fertilizers that deplete soil, and herbicides now proven to be carcinogens. Big Steel continued to do business with Hitler’s Germany even after World War II started.

            Most recently, corporations such as Juul encouraged smokers to switch to vaping, ostensibly as a means of breaking the tobacco habit. And then deliberately developed fancy flavours to lure susceptible youth into sucking toxic chemicals into their lungs.

            Size is not the only factor affecting corporate culpability. I argue that the divide is not between big and small, but between individual and group ownership. The corporation was invented as a means for individual owners to evade personal responsibility.

            If you own a business, and it fails, you’re liable for any debts. If you own a small business, the community you live and work in will hold personally accountable for your business’s behaviour.

            But if a corporation crashes, individual owners -- called shareholders -- can hide behind limited liability. A few senior executives may be punished. Shareholders may lose their investment. But the corporation itself -- although legally considered a “person” -- can’t be jailed for its crime. No corporate “person” has ever drunk a glass of wine, danced the macarena, or kissed a lover. Because it’s a legal fiction, an imaginary entity.


Imaginary entities

            But then, so is government. Conservatives may be opposed to government, in principle. But if elected, they have never declined to become a government themselves.

            And although small-l liberals may consider corporations an enemy that must be controlled and regulated, when push comes to shove, the Liberal party protects corporations --  SNC-Lavalin, for example.

            So I argue that the traditional labels don’t mean anything anymore. Ignore them. Make up your own labels. Use any words you want.

            Figure out what your candidates and parties stand against. Then vote accordingly.


Copyright © 2019 by Jim Taylor. Non-profit use in congregations and study groups encouraged; links from other blogs welcomed; all other rights reserved.

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Although there was no column sent out last weekend – all I did was send some of your comments from the previous week -- I did receive a few letters this week related to the Canadian election.


Joan Janzen: “I note that women are not being addressed at all by any party. The big unspoken fact is that 2.5 women per week (in Canada alone) are killed by men.

            “The other major issue is that provincial human rights codes -- Bill C-16 as well as the Charter of Rights -- are all being misinterpreted with only the two newest categories of protected classes: 'gender identity' and 'gender expression' being allowed to have their lawful rights. There is no legal definition of these unprovable characteristics.

            “I'm a jack Mennonite so I have to state that I'm not religious but that radical feminists like myself are well aware that the notion that there is no such thing as female or male is wreaking havoc on both women and men, and especially very young people.”


And Eduard Hiebert asked me to put in a last-minute plug for transferable voting. Transferable voting is not available this election, of course. But apparently you can apply the principle, to see how it might make a difference to the official results.

            Here’s what Eduard asked for: “Please visit www.newsherenow.com scroll a few lines down, enter your postal code and select your voting district. Then on the vote123* ballot, rank as many of the candidates as you wish beginning with your most preferred candidate.

            “Help grow the pie by inviting your neighbours, friends and relatives far and wide to also participate in this consensus building exercise.

            “On election day with these updated poll results, we all can make much better use of our existing highly restrictive single-x-mark ballot and together elect better candidates.”

            Eduard explained, “Our single-x-mark ballot system is extremely vulnerable to vote-splitting. Our electoral system falsely elevates the candidate with ‘most votes’ as if having received ‘most of the votes’. None of our political parties in their leadership elections tolerate such antidemocratic results. In years past they used runoff elections. But in recent times they avoid the cost and delay of runoff elections by using a vote123 ballot. Their Vote123 counting method achieves exactly the same results as a runoff.

            “Through a Vote123 pre-election poll in each of our voting districts we can identify the one and only candidate that actually is the consensus preferred candidate.”






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                       You can now access current columns and seven years of archives at http://quixotic.ca

                       I write a second column each Wednesday, called Soft Edges, which deals somewhat more gently with issues of life and faith. To sign up for Soft Edges, write to me directly at the address above, or send a blank e-mail to softedges-subscribe@lists.quixotic.ca

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To use the links in this section, you’ll have to insert the necessary symbols. (This is to circumvent filters that think some of these  links are spam.)

                       Ralph Milton’s latest project is a kind of Festival of Faith, a retelling of key biblical stories by skilled storytellers like Linnea Good and Donald Schmidt, designed to get people talking about their own faith experience. It’s a series of videos available on YouTube. I suggest you start with his introductory section: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7u6qRclYAa8

                       Ralph’s “Sing Hallelujah” -- the world’s first video hymnal -- is still available. It consists of 100 popular hymns, both new and old, on five DVDs that can be played using a standard DVD player and TV screen, for use in congregations who lack skilled musicians to play piano or organ. The website for this project has closed but you can continue to order the DVDs by writing info@woodlake,com

                       Wayne Irwin's “Churchweb Canada,” is an inexpensive service for any congregation wanting to develop a web presence, with free consultation. http://wwwDOTchurchwebcanadaDOTca. He set up my webpage, and he doesn’t charge enough.

                       I recommend Isabel Gibson’s thoughtful and well-written blog, wwwDOTtraditionaliconoclastDOTcom. She also runs beautiful pictures.

                       Tom Watson writes a weekly blog called “The View from Grandpa Tom’s Balcony” -- ruminations on various subjects, and feedback from Tom’s readers. Write him at tomwatsoATgmailDOTcom (NB that’s “watso” not “watson”)



                       The late Alva Wood’s collection of satiric and sometimes wildly funny columns about a mythical village’s misadventures now have an archive (don’t ask how this happened) on my website: http://quixotic.ca/Alva-Wood-Archive. Feel free to browse all 550 columns.




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Author: Jim Taylor

Categories: Sharp Edges

Tags: politics, parties, labels, election



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