The Canadian Red Ensign

The Canadian Red Ensign

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Disagreeing with Dalton about Discrimination

Dalton Camp was a descendant of United Empire Loyalists and the son of a preacher. He was born in New Brunswick but spent most of his formative years in the United States, returning to Canada for summer vacations. He ran a successful advertising agency but is most remembered for his roles in Canadian politics, both as a strategist and unsuccessful candidate for the old Conservative Party and as a commentator in the media. Despite his association with the Conservative Party, more often than not his views were ones with which I vehemently disagreed. There were exceptions, of course. He was a supporter of the monarchy and a Canadian nationalist, who opposed free trade, continentalism and globalism. In these areas I agreed with him and occasionally he would take a stand I could applaud. When Prime Minister Chretien went to China in 1994, for example, to negotiate a trade deal, he wrote an excellent column ridiculing the Prime Minister weak stand against the Communist power’s abuse of its own citizens. Most of the time however, I found his views to be wrongheaded, arrogant, and repugnant. The first part of Whose Country Is This Anyway?, a collection of his columns that was published as a book in 1995 (1), is devoted to advancing the idea that running a large national deficit isn’t really a big deal after all but if you don’t like it you should happily agree to pay more taxes for if you prefer the other option, of cutting spending, that means that you are heartless and selfish. Camp called himself a Red Tory, but he was so in the worst possible meaning of the term, i.e., someone who promoted the ideas of the American progressive left from within the Canadian Conservative Party by pretending that these ideas were what made Canada historically distinct from the United States. The best possible meaning of the term Red Tory is the original meaning, i.e., someone like George Grant. The contrast between Grant and Camp could hardly be greater. Grant is most widely remembered for a jeremiad he penned in 1965, lamenting the downfall of the Diefenbaker government which he saw as the end of the Canadian national project. A couple of years later, Camp was responsible for ousting Diefenbaker from the leadership of the Conservative Party. Grant was a socially conservative pro-life activist, who opposed abortion-on-demand and euthanasia. Camp, despite his paternal heritage, ridiculed opposition to abortion as being American and far right, and displayed the kind of intellectual contempt for “fundamentalists” that Grant expressed indignation at in his final collection of essays, Technology and Justice. (2)

Perhaps you are wondering why, twelve years after his death, I am now wasting so many words on a man who is now mostly forgotten. It is because, while recently perusing the columns in his aforementioned book, I was struck by the way in which recent events have demonstrated just how out to lunch one of those columns was. Over the past several months, American states such as Kansas and Arizona, have introduced legislation for the protection of religious liberty. This legislation is designed to protect business owners from discrimination lawsuits brought by same-sex couples. The perceived need for such protection is due to the increasing number of American states that have enacted same-sex “marriage” legislation and the American Supreme Court’s decision last summer to strike down the provision in the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act prohibiting such “marriages” from being recognized at the federal level. It appears inevitable that same-sex “marriage” will become universally available in the United States and the freedom of religion laws introduced in Kansas and Arizona were drafted with an eye to a future in which a same-sex couple asks a Christian photographer, baker, caterer, or florist to participate in a gay wedding and then sues if that Christian refuses to do something against the historical and traditional teachings of his faith. The response of the progressive left, to this attempt to protect those who dissent from the ideology of the new Revolution, was to trot out the corpse of their Civil Rights era foe “Jim Crow” and take shots at him.

That the day would come, when American states felt it necessary to pass laws protecting Christians from being forced to participate in events that go against the ancient teachings of their faith and these laws would be condemned as violating somebody else’s “rights” would have been virtually unthinkable twenty years ago. At the time, our Parliament here in Canada was considering a bill, one of several introduced by Svend Robinson, NDP representative of Burnaby, British Columbia, over the years, that would add sexual orientation to the list of prohibited bases for discrimination, in the Canadian Human Rights Act. This time around the bill had a lot of support in the Liberal government of Jean Chretien, who assured everybody that if enacted, such a bill would not threaten the freedom of religious Canadians because such was already protected by the law. By the end of the ‘90s, it would be apparent to those who were paying attention, just how empty this promise of Chretien’s was. In 1996, Scott Brockie, a Christian who owned a printshop in Ontario, was charged with discrimination before the provincial Human Rights Commission for refusing to print stationary for the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives. The Charter protection of freedom of religion failed to protect Brockie whom the courts consistently ruled against. Cases of this nature were springing up all over Canada during the ‘90s, even before sexual orientation was added to the Canadian Human Rights Act and before the Liberal government enacted same-sex “marriage” legislation early in the new millennium.

Twenty years ago, not everyone in the Liberal Party supported the ideology of the Revolution. Roseanne Skoke, who had been elected to represent the riding of Central Nova in Nova Scotia in 1993, declared her opposition to adding sexual orientation to the Canadian Human Rights Act. In a column, presumably originally published in the ultra-left wing Toronto Star on September 30, 1994, (3) Dalton Camp, the Canadian left’s favourite “conservative”, rebuked this member of the left-leaning centrist party, for being too right-wing.

Camp noted that Skoke’s view is “contrary to the legislative intentions of the Liberal government” and that therefore Chretien, asked to comment, took the position that in a free country, Skoke had the right to express her own opinion, an unusually liberal opinion from the leader of Canada’s Liberal Party who had served in the Liberal government which introduced all sorts of restrictions on freedom of speech back in the 1970s. He also remarked that it was “reassuring” that Chretien’s “endorsement of free speech” contained the implicit possibility that “he may have disagreed with Skoke’s opinion”. Then he encapsulated his objection to Skoke’s position by writing:

Skoke’s premise is that homosexuals are demanding “special rights” in seeking protection against discrimination in the human rights act. She is wrong and apparently wilfully so.

Actually, it is Camp who was wrong. Allow me to explain how.

There are rights which all Canadians possess. All Canadians, for example, have the right to be represented by a lawyer when charged with a criminal offense. Suppose that were not the case. Suppose, homosexuals were routinely denied access to counsel when charged with crimes, then a bill that changed that, that extended the right to counsel to homosexuals, would not be granting homosexuals “special rights” and homosexuals would not be demanding “special rights” in lobbying for such a bill but just the same rights that everyone else in the country has. There would, of course, be nothing wrong with such a demand.

The right to protection against discrimination is not such a right. The Canadian Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination under certain circumstances and based upon certain grounds. The grounds are defined in Section 3 (1) of the Act which currently reads as follows:

For all purposes of this Act, the prohibited grounds of discrimination are race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, disability and conviction for an offence for which a pardon has been granted or in respect of which a record suspension has been ordered.

This means that the Act protects you from discrimination if you are discriminated against on the basis of your skin colour but that it does not protect you from discrimination if you are discriminated against on the basis that you smell funny. Furthermore, while the Act is written in such a way that it sounds like it protects you against racial discrimination regardless of what your race actually is, that is not how the Act actually works. The way this law actually works, you are protected against discrimination on the basis of race, if you are any race but Caucasian, you are protected against discrimination on the grounds of colour if you are any colour but white, you are protected against discrimination on the grounds of sex if you are a woman, etc. This is not spelled out in the Act itself – although it is in Section 15 (2) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms – but it is obvious in how the Human Rights Commissions and the courts interpret the Act. While progressives may deny that this legislation grants special protection to some rather than protection to all, they affirm it in the justifications they offer for this kind of legislation. “It is needed to protect vulnerable minorities” is the refrain we usually hear from progressives when the need for this kind of legislation is questioned.

It is one thing to say that citizens of a country have the right to protection against discrimination on the part of their government in the administration of law and justice. This would simply be another way of asserting the concept that has been present in the Great Tradition since ancient times in the depiction of justice as wearing a blindfold. This kind of protection is not provided by anti-discrimination laws, like the Canadian Human Rights Act, which forbid private citizens from discriminating in their everyday affairs and business but by non-discriminatory policy on the part of the government. Anti-discrimination laws, like the American Civil Rights Act of 1964 which is the template for all anti-discrimination law elsewhere, and the Canadian Human Rights Act of 1977, actually work against the ideal that government should be fair and non-discriminatory in the administration of law and justice to all of its citizens. Everywhere these laws have been passed they have been used by non-whites against whites, by non-Christians against Christians, by women against men, and now by homosexuals against those who hold to traditional faiths that from ancient times have affirmed that man is made for woman, and woman for man. These laws by their very nature work against the good of the whole of society, by turning class against class, race against race, sex against sex, they work against harmony, unity, and the good.

The idea that the passing of this kind of anti-discriminatory legislation in the late twentieth century represents a major leap towards moral enlightenment on the part of Western mankind is an idea that has led to a major decay in our ability to conduct moral reasoning. Many people now think of discrimination in simplistic terms – it is always bad. To discriminate, however, means to treat people differently on the basis of a distinction made. It could mean, to refuse to employ a man because he is black. It could also mean to award higher marks to a student who gets more answers correct on a test than to one who gets more answers wrong. We might qualify the idea that discrimination is always bad by saying that discrimination on the basis of race is always bad. This is more correct than the original idea but even it is too simplistic. Racial discrimination might mean the actual mistreatment of people on the basis of their race. It might also refer, however, to the way a shopkeeper in a bad neighborhood, where people from one race commit the vast majority of the crimes, stays extra alert and keeps his finger near the alarm when a youth who belongs to that race enters his shop after dark. Unfair as this may be to the youth if he is a law-abiding young man of good character, it would be unjust to condemn the shopkeeper for allowing the realities of the neighborhood in which he lives to influence his prudence and caution.

“The issue”, Dalton Camp wrote, “is whether to make it unlawful to discriminate against people because of their sexual orientation”. Let us also consider the question of whether it is moral or immoral to discriminate against people because of their sexual orientation.

Are we talking about the factory owner who refuses to hire a man to sweep his floor because he is gay? Or are we talking about the Christian baker who refuses to bake a cake for the celebration of a “wedding” between two women? Or are we talking about the young man who chooses to date a young woman instead of a young man?

If we were merely talking about the first example, I would still oppose legislation that makes this kind of discrimination unlawful, although I would also say that the discrimination in this case is the least morally justifiable of these examples. If we include the second example, however, that of the Christian baker, we are dealing with something that is completely different. For the Christian baker to bake a cake celebrating a Sapphic wedding would require the baker to participate in an event that violates the teachings of his faith. It would be immoral of him to do so. Any law that required him to do so would be immoral. Yet a law that makes it unlawful to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation would do precisely that.

As for the third example, perhaps you do not think it belongs with the other two but I disagree. As the late Lawrence Auster pointed out a couple of years ago, the logic of the movement to prohibit discrimination against gays and lesbians leads inevitably to the requirement that people agree to date members of their own sex. If you do not think it will ever go that far, look at how far we have gone already. Dalton Camp, when he penned his arrogant dismissal of Roseanne Skoke’s opposition to the inclusion of sexual orientation in the Canadian Human Rights Act, probably had no idea that twenty years later American states would be contemplating legislation to protect the religious freedom of Christians who would otherwise face discrimination lawsuits for refusing to violate their faith.

Unfortunately, such legislation, even if it passed, and was not struck down by some arrogant court, would just be a Band-Aid solution. Anti-discrimination law is, for the reasons I have explained above, bad law, and it is always better to get rid of bad laws than to keep piling up more laws on top of them, to make up for the damage they have done. Anti-discrimination legislation needs to go. That means, for us here in Canada, that the Canadian Human Rights Act in its entirety must be revoked. The sooner it goes, the better, I say.

(1) Dalton Camp, Whose Country Is This Anyway? (Vancouver/Toronto: Douglas & McIntyre, 1995)

(2) “There are loyal Christians (called by their critics ‘fundamentalists’) who generally say that ‘technology’ is not a paradigm of knowledge but a set of instruments – inventions which come from scientific discoveries. As a whole, they do not much reflect on the ontological implications of the modern paradigm. They therefore live with certainty in the modern. Such people often make crude mistakes in theory; but who does not? Nothing fills me with greater aesthetic annoyance than the scorn which has been heaped on such people by clever journalists and ‘intellectuals’ (whatever that word may mean).” - George Grant, “Faith and the Multiversity”, in Technology and Justice (Toronto: House of Anansi, 1986).

(3) The column is found on pages 193-195 of Whose Country Is This Anyway? where it appears under the title “Is It Okay for Skokes?” The book dates the column to September 30, 1994. Most of the material in this book comes from Camp’s Toronto Star column. A search of the internet for this column brings up several references to it, mostly in comments on Kate McMillan’s “Small Dead Animals” blog, under the title “Skoke-ing the Fires of Anti-Gay Sentiment.” These indicate the Star as the place of origin, with the date of October 2, 1994.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Tory Economics Part Two

In Tory Economics: Part One we saw that neither capitalism, the economic system of laissez-faire advocated by classical liberalism since the eighteenth century, nor socialism, the economic system of collective property ownership/management advocated by radicals since the nineteenth century, adequately represents the economic views of the Tory, the classical conservative who is the modern spokesman for pre-modern, pre-liberal, ideas and institutions, such as monarchy, aristocracy, the Church and the classical and Christian tradition with its vision of the good of the whole. We saw that in the twentieth century, liberalism abandoned laissez faire for Keynesian economic interventionism and the welfare state, which was perceived as a move towards socialism, prompting liberals of the older type, now called libertarians, to form an alliance with conservatives against the alliance between the socialists and the new type liberals. This led to the widespread confusion of conservatism with capitalism and of liberalism with socialism. We also saw, how in reaction against this confusion of conservatism with the older type of liberalism, some classical conservatives began to argue that true conservatism was closer to socialism, an argument called Red Toryism here in Canada, and we saw how that reasoning was a classic example of the enemy of my enemy fallacy, whether arrived at honestly and with good intentions by George Grant or though the alternate route taken by Dalton Camp.

In this essay we will look at the economic principles that arise out of the Tory position and will examine four alternative economic theories that are more compatible with the conservative project of preserving the best ideas and institutions that have been accumulating in our collective tradition since the most ancient times than either pure free market capitalism or socialism.

Note the significance of the word “pure” before free market capitalism. Each of these economic theories – economic nationalism, distributism, agrarianism, and economic humanism – is, as we will see, itself a modified version of free market economics, a voice dissenting against the mainstream of liberalism from within. In a very real sense this could even be said of socialism, the economic theory of which was built in the nineteenth century upon the foundation laid by the liberal classical economists of the eighteenth. There is an explanation for this. It was the classical liberals who pioneered the science of economics, if it can truly be thought of as a science, that laid the foundation and established the framework of economic theory, and all subsequent systematic thinking about economics has built upon their work in one way or another.

What is today called capitalism, the classical economic theory that men individually pursuing their own material self-interest in a voluntarily contractual marketplace will be led by the “invisible hand” of market forces to serve the public good by serving their own and so the best economic policy on the part of government is a hands off or laissez-faire policy, is the first economic system of its type. It is the first attempt at a comprehensive blueprint, drawn up according to modern, rational, principles, for the managing of the production and distribution of a nation’s material wealth. What the Tories defended, in response to the Whigs’ introduction of this system, was a set of arrangements that had evolved in a very different manner. Nobody had sat down, thought about the best way to organize a country economically, and come up with these arrangements. It would have been impossible to arrive at these arrangements in that way, they could only have come about as feudal agrarian nations gradually adapted to the reality of the growing bourgeois mercantile trade. Liberals and other progressives maintain that this made the Tory position weak and indefensible. The rational mind can surely come up with a system superior to any set of arrangements that are the outcome of the gradual evolution of history and tradition they maintain. The Tory position, however, is one of deep skepticism towards precisely this claim. The Tory believes that modern, progressive man has greatly overestimated the amount of positive change that can be devised and effected by the rational mind and greatly underestimated the importance of tradition which contains a self-correcting mechanism that over long periods of time operates in a way that is not dissimilar to how liberals say the “invisible hand” of the free market is supposed to work. (1) From this we derive our first Tory economic principle, that economic arrangements that have gradually evolved over long periods of time are more trustworthy and to be preferred, over the products of the rational mind’s attempt to draw up a technical schematic for a newer, better, more efficient economic system.

This principle bears something of the appearance of being a non-individualist argument for liberalism’s doctrine of laissez-faire. A rationalist design for a new and improved economic system must be imposed over an existing economic order from the top down and our first principle clearly says the government should not do this but let the existing arrangements be. Is this an illustration of what Dr. Johnson meant when he said “A wise Tory and a wise Whig, I believe, will agree. Their principles are the same, though their modes of thinking are different”?

While the answer is not a clear-cut “no” it is rather more nuanced than a plain “yes.”

The evolution of economic arrangements over time in a civil, ordered, society will involve the passing of laws, the levying of taxes, and various government projects of one sort or another, laudable and lamentable. These are all part of what governments do in their role of overseeing and administering the affairs of a civil society. For the process of natural, economic evolution to end up in a liberal laissez-faire system it would have to have occurred in the absence of government, which, whatever anarchists may claim to the contrary, is not the natural condition of man.

There is a significant implication in this last statement. If natural, economic, evolution could only give us liberal laissez-faire if it occurred in an unnatural state of anarchy, then actual liberal capitalism did not arise through the practice of the policy it preaches. This is confirmed by history. The industrial capitalism of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was not the result of the English government suddenly becoming enlightened by the publication of Adam Smith’s book and adopting laissez-faire policies. Smith’s book came out at the end of over two centuries of aggressive state action taken by Parliamentary Whigs representing the rising new urban merchant-manufacturing class against feudal-agrarian arrangements. These actions, such as the Acts of Enclosure that privatized the commons, were designed to break the feudal security of agrarian workers, uproot them, and drive them from the farms and villages and into dependence upon the new factories in large cities such as Manchester. (2) Liberalism’s promotion of the doctrine of laissez-faire resembles the way in which certain merchants, after having made their fortunes off of the transport and sale of slaves, began to preach the abolition of slavery.

Ironically, therefore, the Tory principle of preferring natural evolution to rational planning would seem to promote a policy of laissez-faire towards traditional economic arrangements, with the understanding that those traditional arrangements include certain state actions, whereas the liberal doctrine of laissez-faire required massive state intervention into those economic arrangements.

One of the oldest rivals to the classical liberal economic doctrine of laissez-faire is economic nationalism. Classical liberals frequently equate economic nationalism with mercantilism but while there are similarities between the two they should not be confused. Mercantilism, depending upon how you look at it, was either the last phase of the pre-industrial economy or the first phase of capitalism. It was the policy of European governments, in the age of discovery, exploration, and increasing international trade, before the industrial revolution and the development of mass production, of managing their country’s trade balance with the goal of always running a surplus, i.e., exporting more than they imported. The idea behind mercantilism was that by running a constant trade surplus, goods would keep going out, currency in the form of precious metals would keep coming in, and the country would keep getting richer and richer.

Economic nationalism is not mercantilism. Whereas mercantilism was a form of pre-industrial economy, economic nationalism, like the liberal classical economics of Adam Smith, is a theory about the development of an industrial economy. Smith argued that an industrial economy would be best served by a domestic laissez-faire policy and by international free trade. Economic nationalism is basically the idea that a country’s government should protect its developing industries with tariffs and use tax revenues to build and maintain such industry supporting infrastructure as roads, railroads, and canals.

To the historian it may seem odd to argue that economic nationalism is more Tory-friendly than Smith’s economic liberalism. In the first major free trade argument in the late seventeenth century, it was the Tories who argued for free trade with France and the Whigs who argued against it. This had more to do with politics and religion than economics, with the Tories supporting James II in his desire for closer ties with Catholic France and the Puritan Whigs aghast at the suggestion, but at least one of the Tory free traders, Sir Dudley North, made the case in economic terms. (3) Apart from this early debate, the Tories were historically protectionists but the protection they favoured was agricultural protection. The first economic nationalists were Whigs, before Adam Smith’s ideas became liberal orthodoxy, and the first elaborate economic nationalist system to be developed was that developed by American republicans after the revolution. This was the “American system” of Alexander Hamilton and Henry Clay. The major nineteenth century theorist of economic nationalism, the German liberal Friedrich List was largely inspired by the Hamilton-Clay American System which he encountered while living in exile in the United States from 1825-1830.

Although historically economic nationalism is liberal in origin, having been first proposed by English Whigs, developed by American republicans, and systematically expounded by a German liberal, it came to be accepted by Tories or conservatives as an alternative that is preferable to laissez-faire. Thus List’s treatise (4) inspired the economic policy of Prussia’s traditionalist, aristocratic, and royalist “Iron Chancellor”, Otto von Bismarck, in the unified Germany. List’s theories were also the theoretical basis of the “National Policy” of Canada’s first Prime Minister, Sir. John A. MacDonald, and remained part of the Conservative Party’s platform until Brian Mulroney became a free trader in the 1980s. In the United States the Republican Party was built upon the Hamilton-Clay system and it too remained on the Republican Party platform until the Reagan era. (5)

We do not have to look far to see what in economic nationalism would be appealing to a traditional Tory. The Tory believes in the pre-modern idea that society is an organic and corporate whole, and that as such its good is greater and higher than the accumulated goods of each of its individual members. The liberal doctrine of laissez-faire, in which each individual looks out for his own interests and the forces of the free market work like an “invisible hand” to bring about the greater good of the society, does not acknowledge this. The liberal doctrine is not entirely wrong – remember that the Tory does not simply assert the contrary of whatever the liberal says. When it comes to our individual goods, the liberal doctrine is largely correct. You are better qualified to know what is best for you, and I am better qualified to know what is best for me, than any government could possibly be qualified to know what is individually best for you, me, and everyone else in society. The larger the society over which the government rules and the further removed the government is from those it governs, the more true this is. There are exceptions to this, of course, such as those with some sort of mental disability that hinders them from being competent judges in their own affairs, but for most people it is true that they are better judges of their own affairs than government could be. Therefore, as far as the individual goods of a society’s members go, the arguments for the free market are sound. The good of the society as a whole, however, is more than just the sum of these individual goods and is exactly what government exists to look out for. In economic nationalism, government looks out for the national good, whereas individuals look out for their own good in the market as in liberal capitalism. This balance between the national and individual good is in keeping with traditional Tory views.

This then is our second Tory economic principle, that the good of the nation as a whole, is more than the sum of the goods of its individual members. .

As liberal capitalism has progressed it has developed beyond an economy of small, family shops and businesses into an economy of large corporations. In the twentieth century the idea of free trade became more popular. Classical liberals continued to believe in it, but the newer kind of progressive liberal who abandoned domestic laissez-faire for Keynesian interventionism and the welfare state was also a free trader. Thus, in the United States, the transition from the high tariff, economic nationalism that the Republican Party had introduced in the nineteenth century to free trade, was largely overseen by the same liberal Democrats – FDR, JFK, and LBJ – who constructed America’s welfare state. Later in the twentieth century, the Conservative Parties of Canada and the United Kingdom and the Republican Party in the United States, converted to free trade as well. This nigh-universal acceptance of free trade dogma coincided with various regional and global free trade agreements. Regionally, Canada and the United States signed a Free Trade agreement, then brought Mexico in on NAFTA, and negotiated with Latin America for the FTAA, while the nations of Europe dropped their trade boundaries to form the Common Market. Globally, free traders had been working towards the integration of the world’s markets since the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade of 1947 which eventually led to the establishment of the World Trade Organization in 1995. Laissez-faire purists will argue – correctly – that these agreements are not true “free trade” in the Smith-Ricardo-Cobden sense, but the difference is not relevant to the point I am making. These agreements have established, as true free trade would, markets that transcend national boundaries and therefore favour the creation and growth of corporations that transcend national boundaries and have no national loyalties. Advocates of free trade, the regional integration of markets, and globalism argue that this promotes the economic good of all nations involved and especially to the consumer who benefits from lower prices because of it. This is questionable, but even if it demonstrably the case that globalism is economically beneficial to each country involved it can hardly be said to be to the overall good of any country that it is part of an international economic system that promotes the growth of companies that transcend national boundaries, have no national loyalties, and answer to no national laws. This sort of economic integration promotes on the one hand, the cultural and social dissolution of the communities and societies involved, and on the other their cultural, social, and ultimately political integration into a new, international order. Observe the way the economic integration of Europe has led to the rise of the European Parliament and the European Courts of Justice and Human Rights and the continental attack upon the local traditions and national identities of each of the European Union’s member states. Apart from economic theory, one of the main reasons the Conservative Party in Canada traditionally supported MacDonald’s National Policy was to combat continentalism, this economically fuelled pull towards continental social, cultural, and political integration. One does not have to sympathize with the crude and generally ignorant anti-Americanism of the Left to see that the triumph of continentalism, whether it is economically justifiable or not, is harmful to the greater good of our country and that the same is true on a much larger scale of globalization.

Our third Tory economic principle, therefore, is that the economic good, whether of the nation or its individual members, does not outweigh the cultural, social, and political good of the nation.

Capitalism had not developed into anything remotely close to globalism yet, when a couple of English writers, who politically were dissident Liberals but religiously were conservative, traditionalist Roman Catholics, began to speak out against the direction in which they believed capitalism was headed, i.e., towards the swallowing up of the small business owner by the large company, the concentration of property in the hands of a small number of capitalists, and an agreement between those capitalists and the state whereby the bulk of the population would become an industrial labour force that would be maintained by the state during periods when the factories could not provide full employment. Socialism had been around for almost a century at the time but these writers were not socialists, being influenced by social teaching of their church which condemned socialism and its attack on private property even more vehemently than it condemned capitalism. “The problem with capitalism”, G. K. Chesterton wrote “is that there are too few capitalists”.

Chesterton, who wrote everything from mysteries and spy novels to serious and light verse to literary criticism and Christian apologetics, was one of the writers in question. His friend Hilaire Belloc who wrote poetry and historical biography and ran for office as a Liberal was the other. After Chesterton converted from Anglicanism to Roman Catholicism in 1922 and became an advocate with Belloc for a modified liberal economic system that incorporated Catholic social teaching their mutual friend and enemy, Irish playwright and Fabian socialist George Bernard Shaw dubbed them the “Chesterbelloc.”

The term for the system of economics they promoted, which is probably best explained in Chesterton’s Outline of Sanity, (6) is distributism. Late in the nineteenth century, Pope Leo XIII had issued an encyclical entitled Rerum Novarum, in response to the ”spirit of revolutionary change” that had been “disturbing the nations of the world” and which had “passed beyond the sphere of politics and made its influence felt in the cognate sphere of practical economics”. (7) In the encyclical the Pope opposed this spirit of revolution and condemned the socialists who “working on the poor man's envy of the rich, are striving to do away with private property, and contend that individual possessions should become the common property of all, to be administered by the State or by municipal bodies” in no uncertain terms. “They are”, the Pope wrote, “moreover, emphatically unjust, for they would rob the lawful possessor, distort the functions of the State, and create utter confusion in the community.” (8) This condemnation was not an endorsement of liberal capitalism. The Pope also condemned the conditions that had given birth to revolution and socialism and called for “some opportune remedy” to be found “for the misery and wretchedness pressing so unjustly on the majority of the working class” which he attributed to the abolition of “the ancient workingmen's guilds”, leaving a vacuum in which the working man was “surrendered, isolated and helpless, to the hardheartedness of employers and the greed of unchecked competition.” The encyclical defends the private ownership of property against socialism, which strikes “at the interests of every wage-earner” by seeking to “deprive him of the liberty of disposing of his wages, and thereby of all hope and possibility of increasing his resources and of bettering his condition in life” but laments that “the hiring of labour and the conduct of trade are concentrated in the hands of comparatively few” and calls for changes whereby the conditions of the working classes improve are improved and it becomes easier for them to save their wages and become property owners themselves.

It is from this teaching, that faithful Catholics like Chesterton and Belloc derived their idea of distributism, which is basically the idea that property, rather than being owned collectively by society through the state as in socialism, or privately by a small class of capitalists, ought to be privately owned but that private ownership should be widely distributed throughout the largest number of people in society. What the distributists were basically advocating was a large middle class of small property owners. Here again it may seem strange, regardless of the origins of the idea in Roman Catholic teachings, to suggest that distributism is closer to the views of the Tory than orthodox liberalism. The Tory Party that supported the House of Stuart against the Puritans in the seventeenth century, drew its support from the titled nobility, landed gentry, Anglican clergy, and the country peasants. It was the Puritans who sought support among the middle classes, particularly the merchant trading classes. Later, in the nineteenth century, it was Robert Peel the heterodox Tory leader who championed liberal policies to attract the middle class vote, whereas Benjamin Disraeli, the more orthodox Tory leader, sought to attract the vote of the lower, working classes. (9) Nevertheless, it should be remembered that between those two centuries was the century of Dr. Samuel Johnson, the son of a middle class bookseller and a man of impeccably orthodox High Tory views. Tories have always believed in hierarchy and in society’s need for aristocratic leadership, but they also believe in the maintaining the stability and security of the social and civil order, and it has been recognized as wisdom since the days of Aristotle (10) that a society is most stable when the middle class is the largest. Much depends, of course, upon what is meant by “middle class”, a term that has become so flexible as to be almost meaningless. A rising commercial class that threatens the civil order in its avarice will meet with Tory opposition as it did in the seventeenth century, whereas a settled bourgeois class of civilly responsible property owners as the bedrock of a secure social and civil order will meet with Tory approval and support.

Our fourth Tory economic principle, therefore, is that economic policy must support the stability and security of the social and civil order. Related to this principle and also derived from the preceding discussion are our fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth Tory economic principles which are respect and support for the private ownership of property, support for the leadership of an aristocratic class (11), support for a secure, stable, and large middle class of bourgeois small property owners, and support for the rights and well-being of the labouring classes. (12)

In the same period in which Chesterton and Belloc were promoting distributism in England, several American writers were promoting a related concept in the United States. A group of poets, essays, and novelists who had met at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee in the early 1920s founded a journal called The Fugitive which ran for about three years and earned them the label “The Fugitives”. The leaders of this group later became the core of a group of writers who called themselves “The Twelve Southerners.” The most distinguished members of this group were poet and critic Allen Tate, (13) poet, historian and essayist Donald Davidson, novelist and poet Robert Penn Warren, novelist and playwright Andrew Nelson Lytle and literary critic John Crowe Ransom. They came together in 1930 to publish an anthology of essays entitled I’ll Take My Stand. (14) It was an eclectic collection but it had the general theme that just as how in the American internecine conflict of 1861-1865 and the following Reconstruction period the industrial, Puritan, North had invaded, sacked, and conquered the traditional, agrarian, South, destroying forever her old way of life so modern industrialism as a whole was invading and destroying the way of life of small town, rural, America. There was enough similarity between their ideas and those of the distributists that a sequel of sorts, entitled Who Owns America? (15), was later published that included contributions from many of the original twelve and from some English distributist writers.

The Southern Agrarians were not primarily defending an economic system so much as a way of life. They argued that a rural way of life, based upon agriculture, was healthy for families and communities, and promoted religion, virtue, and respect for tradition. All of this they saw threatened by modern technological progress, industrialization, and urbanization. This was an unmistakably conservative point of view. One of their students was Richard M. Weaver, who became an English teacher at the University of Chicago, and who launched a revival of conservative thought in North America with the publication of his book Ideas Have Consequences in 1948, which traced the development of modern thought and the decay of classical and Christian civilization from the nominalism of William of Occam in the fourteenth century to the development of the atomic bomb in the twentieth.

Today, the most widely known spokesman for their views is Wendell Berry of Kentucky, an acclaimed essayist, poet, and novelist who lives out his agrarian philosophy by farming his homestead in as close to the old ways as is still possible. In his essays he defends localism against globalism, small farms and businesses against mega-corporations, and traditional ways against modern ways, reminding us of our basic human need for a way of life that listens to and is in harmony with the natural rhythms of life. In his novels, which tell the stories of the Coulters, Catletts, Feltners, Beechums and Wheelers of Port Williams, Kentucky he provides a portrait of the old way of life whose passing away he chronicles as a testimony to the fact that modern man has paid a price for the advantages that come with technological and industrial advancement and that what has been lost may very well have been worth more than what has been gained. Andy Catlett, a recurring character and often narrator of these novels, speaks with the voice of his creator when he says:

Increasingly over the last maybe forty years, the thought has come to me that the old world in which our people lived by the work of their hands, close to weather and earth, plants and animals, was the true world; and that the new world of cheap energy and ever cheaper money, honored greed, and dreams of liberation from every restraint, is mostly theater. This new world seems a jumble of scenery and proper never quite believable, an economy of fantasies and moods, in which it is hard to remember either the timely world of nature or the eternal world of the prophets and poets. And I fear, I believe I know, that the doom of the older world I knew as a boy will finally afflict the new one that has replaced it. (16)

The English Tories of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, fought for a rural, agrarian, lifestyle against the encroaching urbanism and industrialism of modernity. The agrarian lifestyle they fought for was one rooted in feudalism, the lifestyle of squire and peasant. This was different kind of agrarian lifestyle from that of the small, family farm, lifestyle promoted by Wendell Berry although Berry’s antecedents, the Twelve Southerners, had looked for their inspiration to the antebellum South, the culture and civilization of which was one of the closest to feudalism that North America has ever seen. Nevertheless, in modernity, with its vision of progress, its materialistic worldview, its drive to dominate nature with technology and to emancipate the human will from traditional constraints, the agrarianism of the traditional English High Tory and that of the Southern Agrarian have a common enemy, and it is not surprising that the critique of modernity in the writings of Canada’s premier Tory philosopher George Grant and that in the writings of America’s agrarian sage Wendell Berry, often echo one another.

What can we glean by way of principle from this? The major agrarian insight is that rural life, the life of the farm and small town, is in many ways more conducive to the cultivation of virtue, to the practice of religion, to raising a family, to neighborliness and community, and to the good life in general, than the hurly-burly of modern city life. This does not mean that cities are an evil. In ancient times Plato identified the reason cities are organized and built as the promotion of the greater good of the whole. It seems paradoxical that the life of the country is better suited to fulfilling the raison d'être of the city than the life of the city, but it is best to think of the country and the city as symbiotic, each needing the other. Our ninth Tory economic principle is that no economic policy, whether it be capitalist or socialism, can be properly regarded as good which promotes the expansion of the city at the expense of the life of the country.

In 1973 a book came out that was met with support on both the left and right from those dissatisfied with capitalism, socialism, and the way the two had become increasingly indistinguishable from each other. This book, written by a German born, British economist who had studied under Keynes, garnered insights from the Buddhists in Burma, and then converted to Roman Catholicism and become an acolyte of the distributism of Chesterton and Belloc, was E. F. Schumacher’s Small is Beautiful. (17) Schumacher blasted modern, large-scale economies, as being unsustainable systems of production that would rapidly deplete natural resources and called for the development of new types of technology, more appropriate for use in decentralized, local economies. The subtitle of his book was “a study of economics as if people mattered” a title that hints at that of a work that appeared thirteen years previously, by another German born economist influenced by the distributists. That book was A Humane Economy (18) by Wilhelm Röpke. Röpke’s “economic humanism” is the fourth and final economic theory that we will be discussing in this essay.

Like Schumacher, Röpke was born in Germany and also like Schumacher, had fled Germany at the rise of the Third Reich. He later returned to help Germany rebuild its economy after the war, although he ultimately settled in Switzerland. Whereas Schumacher had learned economics from John Maynard Keynes, the father of the progressive liberal idea of kickstarting the economy with low interest rates and government spending, Röpke was a disciple of the Austrian School of economics. The Austrian School of economics was a school of laissez-faire liberalism that had started in the late nineteenth century with Carl Menger as a response to Marxism. Its most important theorist was Röpke’s mentor and contemporary, Ludwig von Mises, and its best known exponent was Friedrich A. Hayek. Like his Austrian colleagues Röpke was a life-long defender of the free market and private enterprise but in less absolute terms. The difference is perhaps best illustrated in an anecdote that Russell Kirk liked to share about how a couple of years after the end of World War II, Mises had come to visit Röpke in Geneva, and Röpke had shown him the garden plots that the city had allocated to citizens during the war for growing their own vegetables, a practice that had been extended due to its popularity. Mises’ response was to shake his head and say “A very inefficient way of producing foodstuffs”, to which Röpke rejoined “But perhaps a very efficient way of producing human happiness.” (19)

It was Russell Kirk who suggested the title A Humane Economy to Röpke, for a book which offers a free market critique of Keynesianism and the welfare state in the context of a larger critique of mass society. This critique expands upon themes that Röpke had addressed in earlier works, like The Social Crisis of Our Time, in which he had identified trends within the liberalism of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, towards proleterization, i.e., the process whereby “a considerable part of the world’s population has been pushed into a sociological and anthropological position which characterized by economic and social dependence, a rootless, tenemented life, where men are strangers to nature and overwhelmed by the dreariness of work” (20) and the “cult of the colossal” (21) that had led to the rise of the totalitarian systems that were threatening Europe and the world at the time, such as National Socialism and Communism.

There are five chapters in A Humane Economy, the first of which is a re-appraisal of what he had written in The Social Crisis of Our Time. The second is an extensive critique of mass society, defined by the condition of omnipresent crowdedness, as people live together in mass dwellings (apartments, condominiums, etc.), move from place to place en masse (traffic), work in mass factories and office buildings, and spend their leisure time in mass activities. These conditions are obviously the result of a growth in world population, Röpke notes, and while the West may have escaped the more obvious Malthusian consequences of exponential population growth through economic expansion, the proleterization of the bulk of the population and the expansion of welfarism and inflationary Keynesian policies, make this an unsustainable solution in the long run. The fourth chapter gives a more in depth explanation of why welfarism, which destroys the character of those who pay for it and those who receive it alike and inflationary spending do more harm than good. Even if, however, the combination of economic expansion and population growth could be kept up long term, however, why would we want to go further in the direction of mass society? “What happens” Röpke asked, “to the things which cannot be produced or expressed in monetary terms and bought but which are the ultimate conditions of man’s happiness and of the fullness and dignity of his life?” (22)

Expanding upon that question, Röpke wrote:

Is it not, we may modestly ask, part of the standard of living that people should feel well and happy and should not lack what Burke calls the “unbought graces of life”—nature, privacy, beauty, dignity, birds and woods and fields and flowers, repose and true leisure, as distinct from that break in the rush which is called “spare time” and has to be filled by some hectic activity? All these are things, in fact, of which man is progressively deprived at startling speed by a mass society constantly swollen by new human floods. (23)

The answer, of course, is yes, Burke’s “unbought graces” are part of the standard of living, and not an insignificant part at that.

Röpke continued to detail the negative consequences of mass society in cultural decay (24), the breakdown of community and the social fabric, and the spread of boredom which he saw as the “product and curse of mass society” (25), a loss of interest in life in a society whose human members are treated as cogs in a machine.

Mass society, in other words, while it may come with an increase in the availability of consumer goods, also brings with it a scarcity of other goods that are fundamental to the good life and which meet deep and essential needs in human nature.

It is significant that Röpke places his critique of mass society in the chapter immediately preceding the two chapters that deal with economics proper, for this illustrates the thesis of the book that is hinted at in its subtitled “The Social Framework of the Free Market”. Early in the third chapter on the “conditions and limits of the market”, Röpke notes the market’s advocates:

in so far as they are at all intellectually fastidious, have always recognized that the sphere of the market, of competition, of the system where supply and demand move prices and thereby govern production, may be regarded and defended only as part of a wider general order encompassing ethics, law, the natural conditions of life and happiness, the state, politics, and power. (26)

The forces that govern the market cannot govern society, Röpke went on to say. He identified an “occupational disease of the mind” of the professional economist that he called social rationalism, the tendency to identify the market with the whole of society. “Social rationalism”, he wrote:

misleads us into imagining that the market economy is no more than an “economic technique” that is applicable in any kind of society and in any kind of spiritual and social climate. (27)

This reasoning, however, if applied by socialists or Communists, can be made to make the market serve a totalitarian system. Against the social rationalist, Röpke asserts that the market economy is not universally applicable, that it “has a bourgeois foundation” (28), and that only in the proper spiritual, moral, cultural, social, and political framework can it possibly function properly. This framework, as Röpke describes it, is remarkably similar to framework that Chesterton and Belloc derived from Roman Catholic social doctrine, and Röpke, a Protestant, acknowledges his debt to the distributists and to the Roman Catholic Church.

Röpke’s economic humanism, then, combines the liberal concept of the free market and private property and the neo-liberal critique of Keynesian spending and the welfare state, with the distributism vision of small property ownership in a social and moral order influenced by orthodox Christianity. The market, in economic humanism, functions the way it functions in any other version of liberal economics, but it does not define the rest of society, it itself is ruled by the limits of the larger order.

From Röpke’s theory, we derive our tenth and final Tory economic principle, which paraphrases what our Lord had to say about the Sabbath day. That principle is simply this: the market is made for man, and not man for the market.

(1) See Michael Oakeshott, “Rationalism in Politics”, The Cambridge Journal, Vol I, 1947 and Roger Scruton, The Meaning of Conservatism (South Bend, IN: St. Augustine’s Press: 1980).

(2) See Anthony M. Ludovici, A Defence of Aristocracy: A Text Book for Tories (London: Constable & Company Ltd., 1915, 1933), particularly the second through fourth chapters, pp. 31-164.

(3) Albeit in a pamphlet, Discourses Upon Trade, that was published anonymously after his death in 1691.

(4) Georg Friedrich List, National System of Political Economy (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1856).

(5) It is wrong, of course, to simply say that the Republican Party is the conservative Party of the United States, although many make that error. The Republicans, historically, were the successors to the Whigs after that party dissolved in 1860. Furthermore, in the nineteenth century the most conservative region in the United States was the antebellum South, a rural society where religion was more traditional (Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran) and less influenced by Puritanism, with an agrarian economy and a traditional class system topped by a landed aristocracy and a culture with an almost feudal code of manners and chivalry. Ironically, this society voted for the Democrats, then as now a liberal party, although the liberalism of the time was classical Jeffersonian liberalism. The Republican Party set out to destroy this society in the war of 1861-1865 and in the Reconstruction period that immediately followed. Nevertheless, the political and economic positions of the Republican Party, like those of the Federalist Party to which Alexander Hamilton had belonged, were closer to the traditional views of the Tory Party than the views of the Democratic Party and its antecedents were, keeping in mind that on one fundamental plank in the Tory Party platform, i.e., royalism, no American party is Tory.

(6) G. K. Chesterton, The Outline of Sanity (New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1927).

(7) Pope Leo XIII, Rerum Novarum, “Rights and Duties of Capital and Labour” , 1891,

(8) Ibid.

(9) Peter Viereck, Conservative Thinkers From John Adams To Winston Churchill (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 1956, 2005 ), p. 43. Viereck writes “The Disraeli solution was to combine both ends against the middle: to ally rural landlords and urban workers against the commercial middle class.” This greatly exaggerates, I think, the extent to which Disraeli’s policies were anti-middle class.

(10) Aristotle, Politics, Book IV, Part XI. “Thus it is manifest that the best political community is formed by citizens of the middle class, and that those states are likely to be well-administered in which the middle class is large, and stronger if possible than both the other classes, or at any rate than either singly; for the addition of the middle class turns the scale, and prevents either of the extremes from being dominant.” (Benjamin Jowett translation). A somewhat related piece of wisdom can be found in Holy Scriptures in Proverbs 30:8-9.

(11) One way or another, whether we like it or not, we will be led by an elite or ruling class. This cannot be avoided. See Robert Michels, Political Parties: A Sociological Study of the Oligarchical Tendencies of Modern Democracy (New York: Collier Books, 1962), a translation by Eden and Cedar Paul from the original 1911 German edition. Since we must have an elite, it is better to have an aristocracy than an oligarchy, in Aristotle’s use of these terms. An aristocracy in the sense of a class of old families whose wealth is land and who may or may not have inherited titles and senate seats is not necessarily identical to Aristotle’s use of the word aristocracy to describe a ruling class that governs with the public good in mind, but a ruling class whose wealth is tied to the land is more likely to be public spirited than a ruling class whose wealth is based upon commerce, and both are more likely to be public spirited than a class that derives its power, position, and wealth from the management of transnational companies with no loyalty to any particular country. Obviously, a landed, feudal aristocracy cannot be created from scratch but that is not what I am suggesting in this priciple. The principle is that the economy should support an elite that will see its fortunes tied up with those of its country and therefore cultivate a spirit of public mindedness and not an elite that sees its fortunes as tied to a new, global, order.

(12) Labouring classes here refer to any classes who depend upon wages received in exchange for manual labour for their living.

(13) He was the United States’ Poet Laureate for 1943-1944.

(14) The Twelve Southerners, I’ll Take My Stand: The South and the Agrarian Tradition (Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 1930, 1978).

(15) Herbert Agar, Allen Tate, ed., Who Owns America? A New Declaration of Independence (Wilmington, Delaware: Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 1936, 1999). Agar was not one of the twelve, or even a southerner for that matter, but was a northern distributist who supported their ideas.

(16) Wendell Berry, Andy Catlett: Early Travels (Emeryville, CA: Shoemaker & Hoard, 2006), p. 93.

(17) E. F. Schumacher, Small is Beautiful: A Study of Economics as if People Mattered (London: Blond & Briggs, 1973).

(18) Wilhelm Röpke A Human Economy: The Social Framework of the Free Market (Wilmington, Delaware: ISI Books, 1998, original edition, Chicago: Henry Regnery Company, 1960).

(19) Among other places, Kirk tells this story in his foreward to Röpke’s The Social Crisis of Our Time (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 1992, a translation of a work originally published in Switzerland in 1942). It can be found on pages viii and ix.

(20) Ibid, p. 14.

(21) Ibid., p. 62.

(22) A Human Economy, p. 48.

(23) Ibid, p. 49.

(24) His evidence that mass society produces cultural decline is more than anecdotal, of course, but he illustrates his point well by contrasting an educated student who was ignorant of the myth of Daedalus and Icarus with the Greek owner of a used bookstore in Istanbul, that he had overheard reading and discussing the Odyssey with his young daughter. “These two experiences, juxtaposed” he writes “illustrate the meaning of discontinuity and continuity in cultural tradition.” Ibid, p. 60.

(25) Ibid, p. 80.

(26) Ibid., pp. 90-91.

(27) Ibid, p. 93.

(28) Ibid., p. 98.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Tory Economics: Part One

“Are you a Calvinist or an Arminian?”

This is a question that theological students in the colleges and seminaries of North American evangelical Protestantism are fond of asking of one another. There is an assumption underlying the question that if one is an evangelical or even a Christian one must be either one or the other. This assumption is foolish for many reasons. When the Western Christian tradition split in the Reformation, the Protestant side itself divided into several traditions. Dutch theologian Jacob Arminius, (1560-1609), was himself a theologian in the Reformed tradition that had been established by John Calvin (1509-1564) and his followers. Arminianism, in other words, is historically a dissenting opinion within Calvinism. While the controversy between mainstream Calvinism and Arminianism over predestination and free-will affected the way these matters were discussed in other Protestant traditions, neither Lutheranism, the oldest and least radical of the Protestant traditions, nor the Anabaptists, the most radical of the Protestant traditions, could be accurately described as either Calvinist or Arminian. Furthermore, the beliefs of the majority of North American evangelicals probably line up with neither the Arminian Articles of Remonstrance of 1610 nor the Calvinist canons of the Synod of Dort (1618-1619). There are those serious Calvinists and Arminians who insist that if you do not belong to their camp you must belong to the other but I cannot think of any better response to the absurdity of such a view than that given by fundamentalist educator Bob Jones Jr. who wrote:

Because a man refuses to believe in the doctrine of limited atonement, it does not follow that he believes that it is possible for a Christian to lose his salvation. This is as stupid and illogical as saying that a Jew who buys meat from a Protestant butcher believes in the infallibility of the pope. (1)

A similar sort of false dichotomy can be found in the discussion of political economics where it is widely assumed that if one does not support capitalism he must therefore support socialism and vice versa. This false dichotomy is particularly problematic for conservatives. Capitalism is liberalism expressed in economic terms. Indeed, economic liberalism is the more precise term for the theory of laissez-faire or free market economics. It was socialist philosopher Karl Marx who coined the word capitalism as a term of abuse for the industrial economic system that he wished to see overthrown and replaced by socialism in a revolution of the workers. If economics is a contest between capitalism and socialism then when the conservative approaches economics he must find himself faced with the unpalatable choice between liberalism and socialism.

Just as the theological discussion of predestination and free will is not limited to the two options of Calvinism and Arminianism, neither is the discussion of political economics limited to the options of capitalism and socialism. In “Tory Economics: Part Two”, we will look at a number of alternatives to capitalism and socialism that are more compatible with conservative views than either capitalism or socialism and will attempt to identify the most basic Tory economic principles. We will not attempt to draw up a “Tory economic system” and the first Tory economic principle will be that the very idea of an economic system is incompatible with Tory views. For the rest of this essay, we will attempt to clear up certain types of confusion regarding the relationship of conservatism to liberalism, capitalism and socialism.

“I thought conservatives were capitalists and liberals were socialists” some of you might be saying. While this idea is widespread in North America it does not reflect the historic meaning of either conservatism or liberalism. It reflects, rather, the way both conservatism and liberalism have changed in post-World War II North America, neither change being for the better.

Historically, liberalism is a system of thought, influenced by Renaissance humanism and “Enlightenment” rationalism that developed in Britain in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries dominated the English-speaking world in the nineteenth century, and became more or less universal throughout Western civilization in the twentieth century. Politically, liberalism is a faith in democratic elections and legislative assemblies, constitutional and legal protections of rights and freedoms, and the maximum freedom for the individual citizen in all walks of life that is consistent with the minimum rule of law needed to maintain civil order. Economically, it is a belief in legal protections for private property and contracts and in the ability of the free market to effect a just distribution of goods and services. Philosophically it is a belief that man is basically good and that he is by nature, first and foremost an individual.

Historically and traditionally, the Tories or conservatives were those who at first defended the older, pre-modern, pre-liberal, order of church and state from the challenge of liberalism and later, once liberalism had developed, spread, and triumphed, continued to defend the traditions, ideas and institutions that survived from the pre-liberal order against liberal absolutism. Tories do not merely negate what the Whig or liberal affirms and assert the exact opposite. If we did that we would be truly deserving of liberal J. S. Mill’s description of us as the “Stupid Party”. Philosophically, the Tory reminds modern man that knowledge, wisdom and truth did not begin at the Renaissance or the “Enlightenment” and calls upon modern man to heed the entire tradition containing the best of what has been thought and said since the most ancient time. In response to the liberal belief in the goodness of man the Tory says yes, man was made good in the image of God, but goes on to say that the image of God was marred in the Fall and that man is now tainted with Original Sin. In response to the liberal doctrine of the primacy of the individual, the Tory does not deny man’s individuality, but observes that man is born into his family, community, society, and nation, his membership in which must be balanced with his individuality. The Tory asserts the organic nature of community and society, against the contractual theory preferred by liberals, and insists upon the classical and medieval Christian idea that the good of the whole of society, for which laws are written and governments established, is more than just the aggregate of the individual goods of society’s individual members. The Tory defends the importance of faith, not just a private spirituality that means whatever a person wants it to mean, but religion as an organized, institution. Politically, the Tory does not reject the elected legislative assembly but speaks out on behalf of the other two ancient elements of parliamentary government, the upper house and especially the hereditary monarchy, insisting that the principles that these, however imperfectly, embody and represent, are needed to check and balance the principle of democracy. Where the Tory stands economically is what we are seeking to determine in this essay and its sequel.

In the twentieth century liberals, especially North American liberals, moved away from their eighteenth and nineteenth century ideas of maximum freedom and minimal government, especially in the economy, and accepted the idea of a larger, more active, economic role for government. In part this was due to their having seen governments successfully organize their economies to support the ends of war during World War I. They asked themselves why government, if it can coordinate the economy towards wartime goals, cannot do the same in peacetime to achieve positive social goals. The Great Depression came in the 1930s, providing them with the opportunity to experiment with that idea and in 1936, John Maynard Keynes provided them with a theory upon which to work in his The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money. Keynes argued that to combat unemployment and the Depression, government needed to lower interest rates, inflate the money supply, and spend, spend, spend. As liberals abandoned the theory of Adam Smith for that of Lord Keynes they also developed various programs for the purpose of alleviating the effects of the Depression. As the twentieth century unfolded these would grow and expand into a more comprehensive attempt at finding a solution to poverty and other social ills through the means of government programs.

This overall shift in liberal thinking was seen by many as a move away from capitalism towards socialism although it would probably be more accurate to say, as many did (2), that both liberalism and socialism were converging towards something new that was neither capitalist nor socialist but in some ways a combination of both and in others something different altogether. Whichever way we look at it, this is the reason that liberalism is now widely equated with socialism. Liberals who did not approve of the direction liberalism took in the twentieth century and who still articulated the older ideas of eighteenth and nineteenth century classical liberalism, now called libertarians, formed an alliance with classical conservatives or traditionalists, against the new left-liberalism. One unfortunate consequence of this alliance was that the meaning of conservatism came to be watered down. For many, the older meaning of conservatism, the attempt to challenge the narrow, modern, ideology of liberalism with a vision of the good drawn from the older, broader, pre-modern, classical and Christian tradition and to preserve worthy ideas and institutions from the older tradition into the modern era, was lost and “conservative” came to mean little more than the attempt to conserve the older form of liberalism against the innovations of the new. Needless to say, for those who think of conservatism in such terms, conservatives are supporters of capitalism.

There are those, odd as it may seem, who would suggest that true conservatism is closer to socialism than to capitalism. Here in Canada this view is called Red Toryism. Red Tory is often used as a term of opprobrium on the right against people who are “Conservative” in their party affiliation but whose views are indistinguishable from those of the NDP and the left-wing of the Liberal Party. This is not how the term was originally used and it is not how I am using it here. The original meaning of the term, which is still usually its meaning when self-applied, referred to those who identify with the older, more authentic, classical Tory conservatism but who conclude that because this conservatism opposed classical liberalism that there is much common ground between conservatism and socialism which also opposes classical liberalism, and that therefore conservatism and socialism are closer to each other, than either is to liberalism.

The first thing that needs to be pointed out in response to this reasoning is that it is like arguing that King Charles I and his supporters had more in common with the Levellers than they did with Oliver Cromwell, (3) or that Dr. Johnson, the eighteenth century Tory who wrote against the rebellion of the American colonies, would have supported the French Revolution had he lived to see it, because it had been condemned by Edmund Burke who had earlier supported the American rebels. Moreover, while the Red Tories are right to criticize the trend within twentieth century conservatism towards ignoring the older, broader, tradition of classical conservatives and merely seeking to conserve the earlier, nineteenth century version of liberalism, this criticism loses its edge somewhat when those making it seem to be proposing that conservatives align themselves with something that is closer to the later, twentieth century version of liberalism.

There is an interesting observation, that is sort of related to the last point that I wish to make here. In Canada, traditional Tory conservatism historically opposed continentalism, i.e., the move towards economic, social, and cultural integration with the United States historically championed by the Liberal Party. Some Red Tories often linked this element of traditional Canadian conservatism, with which I am in sympathy, with a defense of our bloated welfare state. Ironically, in doing so, they not infrequently defended as “Canadian” taxes and government programs that we had actually borrowed from the Americans. The income tax, for example, is a Marxist concept that was adopted by the United States, long before Canada followed her example. (4) The United States introduced central banking twenty years before we followed suit in Canada. When our Prime Minister R. B. Bennett introduced a battery of subsidies, regulations, and social programs aimed at combating the Depression in 1935, he was consciously following the example of American President FDR. Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s exponential expansion of the welfare state into what he called “The Just Society” was patterned after Lyndon B. Johnson’s expansion of the American “New Deal” into the “Great Society”. Despite all of this, Dalton Camp, after describing our social security system as “confirmation of a social contract between Canadians and their federal government” and acknowledging that “Most of that contract has been proposed, endorsed and enacted in my lifetime” went on to say “I believe these measures have defined the country”. (5)

Although it is common to think of capitalism and socialism as polar opposites, actually capitalist liberalism and socialism are closer to each other than either is to conservatism. Both are products of the Modern Age. Both have a progressive view of history. The liberal, even if he is thought of as a neoconservative like Japanese-American political scientist Francis Fukuyama, holds to what Sir Herbert Butterfield called the Whig interpretation of history, in which the ideas and institutions of democratic capitalism are thought of as the final achievement of history and the past is dismissed except as it is seen as leading up to democratic capitalism in the present. The most influential school of socialist thought, that of Karl Marx, taught that history was moving, through a series of revolutions by oppressed “have not” classes against oppressor “have” classes, to a future state of communism. Both are forms of economism, the idea that everything in society can be reduced to the economic, that the “real” explanation of any given social phenomenon is the economic explanation, and that man is best understood as homo oeconomicus, i.e., a rational being whose primary motivation to act is the acquisition of material goods. (6) Both were built upon a contract theory of society – liberalism upon that of John Locke, socialism upon that of Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

These areas of similarity between liberalism and socialism are far greater than the areas in which conservatism and socialism are supposed to agree. Benjamin Disraeli, who was Conservative leader and Prime Minister of Great Britain in the Victorian era, condemned the effects of industrial capitalism upon the poor in his novel Sybil and when in power introduced a number of social reforms aimed at alleviating the conditions of the industrial working classes. He drew upon traditional Tory principles, such as the feudal concept of noblesse oblige, to support these actions. None of this reflected any affinity with socialism and its ideas on Disraeli’s part. Disraeli saw socialism as a dangerous threat to the civil and social order and introduced these reforms to strengthen that civil and social order against socialism. The same can be said of similar reforms introduced by Prussian conservative Otto von Bismarck in the new Germany. In Canada, traditional conservatism was heavily influenced by this “One Nation” interpretation of the Tory tradition but Sir John A. MacDonald, R. B. Bennett, and John G. Diefenbaker, would not have been pleased with the suggestion that their programs had any similarity to socialism. (7) Stephen Leacock, remembered mostly as a humourist today, was also a political scientist, economist, and traditional Canadian Tory. While he wrote a lengthy critique of laissez-faire capitalism, subjected aspects of capitalism to satire in his Arcadian Adventures with the Idle Rich, and supported social welfare programs in his The Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice, he was opposed to socialism. In The Unsolved Riddle he analyzed socialism and concluded that while it put forward a “beautiful dream” it “wouldn’t work” and that attempts to make it work would simply amount to slavery. Clearly it is a misreading of these traditional conservatives to say that because of their criticisms of liberal individualism and industrial capitalism and their support for various government programs designed to alleviate the conditions of the poor that they were closer to socialism.

One important Canadian conservative who did see socialism as an ally against liberalism was George Grant. Grant was undoubtedly the most important thinker in the history of Canadian conservatism. An Anglican Christian, Platonist philosopher, and Canadian nationalist who taught in the political science and religion departments of Dalhousie and McMaster Universities, throughout his career Grant drew from the best thoughts of modern thinkers such as Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche, and Heidegger a critique of the Modern Age, its concept of progress, and of liberalism, that called modern men back to the wisdom of the ancients. In the book for which he is most remembered, Lament For a Nation, Grant argued that Marx was “not purely a philosopher of the age of progress” and that he was “rooted in the teleological philosophy that pre-dates the age of progress” because he had a concept of the good that imposed limits on human freedom and that therefore Marxists “fail to understand the modern age when they assume that socialism is a more progressive form of organization than state capitalism”. (8) All of this is mere wishful thinking on the part of a conservative, who correctly seeing capitalism as the instrument of modern progress, naively sought an ally in capitalism’s primary modern opponent. Grant went on to ask:

Yet what is socialism, if it is not the use of the government to restrain greed in the name of social good? In actual practice, socialism has always had to advocate inhibition in this respect. In doing so, was it not appealing to the conservative idea of social order against the liberal idea of freedom? (9)

The answer to the first question is that socialism is the theory that the private ownership of productive property (farmland, mines, factories, etc.) is the cause of social, political, and economic inequality which is itself the root cause of most if not all social evils and that the good of society would be better served if productive property were collectively owned. Some forms of socialism, such as that of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon the nineteenth century French anarchist, do not involve the government at all! The answer to the second question, one so obvious that it is astonishing that it eluded a man of Grant’s intelligence, is that while conservatives believe in social order, not all theories of social order are conservative. (10)

To understand further, why their mutual disagreement with capitalism does not draw the Tory and the socialist together, it is important that we understand what the traditional Tory objections to capitalism were. Here is the Tory case against capitalism:

Capitalism shifts a country’s economy away from agriculture to manufacturing. This in turn causes the country’s population to migrate from rural areas to urban centres. This leads to all the problems associated with urban sprawl. Worse, by uprooting a large part of the population, which is itself a bad thing because people need roots, need a sense of connection and loyalty to place and people, it harms families and communities. Since in order to function it requires goods to be constantly produced and sold in large quantities, it promotes the production of consumer goods over enduring goods, which encourages both waste and the sacrifice of quality craftsmanship in the name of quantity. By encouraging constant consumption, it teaches people to make the acquisition of material wealth a higher priority in their lives, which promotes the habit of avarice that is traditionally considered one of the Seven Deadly Sins. Capitalism shifts power away from elites whose wealth is inherited and whose capital is fixed and immovable towards elites of the self-made whose capital is fluid. This undermines the sense of noblesse oblige and public spirit among the governing classes. Capitalism also has a bad effect upon the middle classes as their aspirations to upward mobility become less tied to the acquisition of manners, culture, and civil responsibility and come to rest almost solely upon the acquisition of wealth. Meanwhile, it leads to the growth of the proletariat class of industrial labourers creating the conditions which socialist demagogues exploit in their crusade against the civil and social order.

From all of this it ought to be clear that the Tory case against socialism does not bring the Tory and the socialist together. Much of what the Tory objected to in capitalism, the socialist praised. Marx and Engels wrote that the bourgeoisie, i.e., the urban capitalist class:

wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations. It has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his “natural superiors”, and has left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous “cash payment”. It has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervour, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation. It has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the numberless indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom — Free Trade. (11)

If this sounds at all similar to the Tory criticism of capitalism that I outlined above it needs to be recognized that Marx wrote the quoted words, not as criticism but as praise.

In the sequel to this essay, we will look at economic nationalism, distributism, agrarianism, and what Wilhelm Röpke called economic humanism and will show that each of these is closer to the conservative view of economics than either capitalism or socialism as those terms are ordinarily understood.

(1) Bob Jones, Cornbread and Caviar (Greenville, S. C.: Bob Jones University Press, 1985), p. 187.

(2) Hilaire Belloc predicted that this would occur in his The Servile State (London & Edin burgh: T. N. Foulis, 1912). Thirty years later, James Burnham argued that a social transformation was occurring simultaneously in liberal North America, the fascist countries, and the Soviet Union, bringing about a system that was neither capitalist nor socialist but dominated by a new class of technocratic managers in The Managerial Revolution(New York: John Day, 1941).

(3) This is not just true by way of analogy. The Royalists or Cavaliers who fought for King Charles were the original Tories or Conservatives. The Puritan leaders of the New Model Army who established Oliver Cromwell as the Lord Protector were the progenitors of the Whigs or Liberals. The Levellers were an extreme egalitarian and democratic faction within the Puritan ranks. These are forerunners of the socialists.

(4) The income tax was first introduced in the United States in 1861. This was repealed in 1872 but in 1913 the Americans reintroduced the income tax with the sixteenth Amendment and have had it ever since. Canada introduced its income tax in 1917. Like the initial American income tax, which was introduced to raise funds for their internecine war, the Canadian income tax was introduced as a temporary measure to raise war funds, in our case for World War I. Unlike the United States, we never rescinded the tax. It is also worth noting, that for most of the twentieth century the American income tax system was far more socialist than Canada’s. From World War II until Reagan, their highest margin was taxed at 70% or over, and for two decades in that period, over 90%

(5) Dalton Camp, Whose Country Is This Anyway?, (Vancouver/Toronto: Douglas & McIntyre, 1995) p. 38. The idea Camp puts forward here, that our social programs define us as a country, is a widespread notion. It is neither a true nor a conservative one. Note the significance of Camp’s acknowledgement that the social network he was describing was mostly set up in his own lifetime. He was born in 1920, over half a century after Confederation. This, combined with the facts pointed out in the text of the essay about how in much of this we actually followed the example set by the Americans, makes nonsense of his claim that it defines us as a country, by which, of course, he means as distinct from the United States, as the whole tenor of the column, and indeed the entire book, makes clear. The conservative answer to the question of what defines us as a country may be found in these words of Prime Minister Diefenbaker addressed to the United Nations on September 26, 1960 in response to an arrogant anti-Western speech by Soviet dictator Nikita Khrushchev “We were the first country which evolved by constitutional processes from colonial status to independence without severing family connections”. John G. Diefenbaker, One Canada: Memoirs of the Right Honourable John G. Diefenbaker, Volume II: The Years of Achievement 1956-1962 (Toronto: MacMillan of Canada, 1976), p. 133. The most complete explanation of the Tory answer to what defines Canada as a nation can be found in Diefenbaker’s Those Things We Treasure (Toronto: MacMillan of Canada, 1972). Dalton Camp was the one who was personally responsible for ousting Diefenbaker from the leadership of the Conservative Party in 1967.

(6) “Economic conservatives' and libertarians' free market, liberals' welfare state and Keynesianism, and radicals' socialism and communism all presuppose that the good life is one of gratification through consumption.” – John Attarian, “Economism and the National Prospect, Part One”, The Social Contract, Volume 10, No. 2, Winter 1999-2000.

(7) R. B. Bennett’s introduction of a moderate version of FDR’s “New Deal” towards the end of his premiership was clearly done with the Disraeli-Bismarckian goal of robbing socialism of its steam. Unlike FDR, who showed a naïve attitude towards Soviet Communism throughout his entire administration, Bennett loathed both Communism and socialism, between which he saw little difference, and for better or worse, invoked Section 98 of the Criminal Code against left-wing labour agitation. Diefenbaker, while a champion of the downtrodden, and a supporter of a generous social safety net in the Disraeli tradition, and a Canadian nationalist opposed to continentalism, was also a defender of free enterprise against the socialism of Tommy Douglas’s NDP and a strong anti-Communist Cold Warrior. See chapter five of Those Things we Treasure.

(8) George Grant, Lament For a Nation: The Defeat of Canadian Nationalism (Ottawa: Carleton University Press, 1965, 1989), pp. 56, 58.

(9) Ibid. p. 59.

(10) University of Toronto professor Gad Horowitz in an article entitled “Conservatism, Liberalism, and Socialism in Canada: An Interpretation” that appeared in the Canadian Journal of Economics and Political Science in May 1966, defined socialism as “an ideology that combines the corporate-organic-collectivist ideas of toryism with the rationalist-egalitarian ideas of liberalism.” This definition of socialism was clearly influenced by Grant, repeating the same basic mistake of equating the conservative and socialist views of the common good and the social order. It was Horowitz who had coined the term “Red Tory” in an article reviewing Lament for a Nation that had appeared in the May 1965 issue of Canadian Dimension. Grant disliked the term and did not use it to refer to himself, as William Christian explained in George Grant: A Biography (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1993), p. 266. Others did adopt the term “Red Tory” as a self-description. Of these, a Red Tory of the highest caliber of Toryism is Professor Ron Dart of the University of the Fraser Valley in Abbotsford, B. C. Dart is an Anglican and Canadian Tory very much in the tradition of Leacock and Grant. While he asserts that which I have argued against in the text of this essay, i.e., that Tories and socialists have much in common, nevertheless in his account of the dialogue between Grant and Horowitz, he remarks that “the tory notion of the commonweal is not the same as the socialist notion of the collective” in The Red Tory Tradition: Ancient Roots, New Routes – a Series of Essays by Ron Dart (Dewdney B. C.: Synaxis Press, 1999), p. 46.

(11) Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Manifesto of the Communist Party, 1848, Chapter One: “Bourgeois and Proletarians”.