Review: How to Understand Classical Liberalism is Conservatism
by Andria Spindel
I find myself frequently among friends and colleagues who share my puzzlement about perceived shifts in the philosophy, policies, and actions of our federal political parties. This questioning is not limited to Canadian party politics, but is also reflected in major shifts on a global level, particularly in Europe. The Communists remain the Communists in places like China, North Korea and Cuba, the Dictators remain the Dictators in most Arab countries, many African countries, and in questionable electoral systems such as in Turkey, Russia, Zimbabwe so those don’t rouse questions of subtle shifts in political philosophy.
What is raising questions for which the former PM of Canada, Stephen Harper, provides lucid, detailed, meaningful answers is the notable formation or renewal of what many call Populist parties, Daniel Pipes calls Civilizationist parties, and the Left deems “fascist” as they drum beat to suggest an impending danger? Whether these new right-leaning parties can justly be labelled as alt-right, antisemitic, racist, or extreme nationalist is a very important question and must be asked and answered, but not by uninformed rhetoric. To suggest the Canadian Conservative party is extremist, by any measure, would be ludicrous, but I have actually heard that accusation verbalized in an interview on national radio, and I wish I’d written a reference note to myself, for future reflection-right now.
Harper provides historical, economic, political analysis in very understandable language on the shift from Center Left to Leftist and Center Right to Rightist and argues that conscious analysis, decisions, actions, re-analysis, evidence-based policy setting and great flexibility must be the methodology used by Conservative leadership in governance. Discontent with elitist leadership seems to be an almost universal response in Western democracies to the long term left-liberal political institutions including governments. Harper introduces the concept of Anywheres who are Globalists who are comfortable working, living, relating from anywhere to anywhere, and the Somewheres who prefer to work, live, relate locally. Specific skills, education, backgrounds, attitudes, contribute to whether one is an Anywhere or a Somewhere. The latter folks are feeling the former don’t care about them, their well being, job opportunities, life styles and life choices; thus creating a societal divide which is playing out in the political realm.
Other dichotomies that Harper enunciates that help elucidate what’s happening globally include that between “walls and doors,” “nationalism” and “alienism,” and importantly, Harper never claims any absolutes. Walls and doors describes the problem of massive human migration occurring worldwide today, and notes the Anywheres want to eliminate “walls”, support open, unlimited immigration for Canada, ignore that which is illegal, unjustly leaving legal migrants to languish waiting for their application to be considered, and willingly accept people who may have little to offer the country, may not wish to assimilate and even abhor our culture and values. The very appeal of a liberal, free, equal opportunity country that’s welcomes all people, may prove the source of the seed of our own destruction, though Harper says it much more softly. He urges rules based, legal processes for immigration, numbers for which we have absorption capacity, requirements of citizenship in terms of terms of residency, oaths of allegiance and condemnation, in law, of “barbaric cultural practices” clearly defined.
At the same time, but not in paradox, Harper points out that Conservatives do support immigration, defined doors through which millions have already passed, and over time, millions more will be welcome. It must be orderly, planned, sensitive, supportive, and those persecuted minorities, should be given a degree of priority, while others should come on a merit based economic needs basis, that is what does the Canadian economy need? Immigration should not lead top discrimination against Canadians!
Governments have the responsibility, above all else, to protect their citizens, the protect their borders, the support and sustain the culture of its populace. For Anywheres Canada has no specific values or culture. Saying that is a travesty in my mind, a denial of what most people actually value in this country—and as defined in our own Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Nationalism used to mean “patriotism,” service to one’s country, being proud of being a Canadian (or citizen of any other country which has given one a culture, history, language, faith, community, customs etc), this does not mean uniformity, does not mean new cultures and customers wont be introduced, but it does mean they old wont be vacated, the new wont be dominant, the intolerant wont be tolerated. If people arrive from a culture that does not respect women, does not tolerate homosexuality, does not know of our Judeo-Christian heritage, it is incumbent on the newcomer to adapt, not the other way around. Accommodation must have its limits. Conservatives understand this. A “Sovereign” nation is not a dirty word to the true conservative, but a point of pride, and must be balanced against Globalization which is also a fact, a necessity for successful economic growth and sustainability, for healthy markets, diverse economies, positive trade.