North Western Winds

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Human Nature

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Kirk’s six points, part six

Sixth, conservatives are chastened by their principle of imperfectability. Human nature suffers irredeemably from certain faults… Man being imperfect, no perfect social order can ever be created. Because of human restlessness, mankind would grow rebellious under any utopian domination, and would break out once more in violent discontent – or else expire of boredom. To aim for utopia is to end in disaster, the conservative says: we are not made for perfect things. All that we reasonably may expect is a tolerably ordered, just, and free society, in which some evils, maladjustments, and suffering continue to lurk. By proper attention to prudent reform, we may preserve and improve this tolerable order. But if the old institutional and moral safeguards of a nation are forgotten, then the anarchic impulses of man break loose…

Kirk winds down his six points by reminding his readers that they are not dogmas, but descriptions. He adds that if one wants to boil conservatism down to a single sentence, it ought to be that “for the conservative, politics is the art of the possible, not the ideal.”

Does this mean that conservatives have no principles? Kirk follows Edmund Burke and makes a distinction between “abstraction” or a priori ideas, divorced from a nation’s history and particular necessities, and “principle,” which he describes as sound general ideas derived from knowledge of human nature and the past. He hastens to add that principles need to be tempered by prudence because “particular circumstances vary infinitely” and should take precedence over “universal notions drawn up in some study.”

In Canada, our Federal government is of quite a different view than Kirk or Burke, and seems overly enthralled with universals – even (perhaps especially) in areas that are not part of its jurisdiction, such as health care and education. Now it seems set to step into daycare. The pattern seems to always be the same. First, it offers up money in return for which the Provinces, who do have jurisdiction in these areas, must agree to comply with what are called “national standards.” What happens, however, is that the money is quickly cut back but the “national standards” last forever. In fact, as with most regulation, it tends to grow, becoming more complex and burdensome as the years go by.

I would describe the money as a fishhook through which the provinces foolishly become enslaved to the ideology of the Liberal oligarchy, because that is what the “national standards” are. Not that long ago – before 1950, say – the Federal government respected the different traditions of the various provinces. Health and education were run by each province as they saw fit. Religious schools and hospitals were common, ensuring that there was a diversity of approach to the issues. If someone did not like the service, that person could seek help elsewhere, in another school or hospital, or in another province. Now, there is no escape when these unified “national” systems break down and there is a tremendous amount of hand wringing over what the “national standards” ought to be. Rather than being unifying, this experience is divisive.

Circumstances really do vary infinitely and our system can’t cope with this reality. In truth, it wasn’t intended to. It’s about power, not service. The solution offered is always to bump up the expense factor in a lame effort to please everyone. But not everyone wants everything. They want what they want when they want it. That is a simple rule of business that government will never be able to accommodate due to structural reasons. Most often those clamoring for the gold star package are those who see themselves giving those services, not those who will get them. Our large and cumbersome services are ripe for the virus of unionism, further putting the Canadian people under the foot of bureaucracy and coffee house metaphysicians.

A culture that recognizes these human tendencies to power and aggrandizement would take steps to ensure that power is divided rather than concentrated. That is what the founders of this country did, and that is what we have undone. If anyone has Tolkien’s ring of power, it is the Liberal Party. “One ring to rule them all, one ring to find them, one ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.”

How ironic that the ring is our own money given back to us, with a hefty carrying charge taken off the top. There is more irony in that resistance to a properly Canadian division of power is so easily dismissed as “American.” The charge of Americanism is due to a lack of understanding our own history, so we just reach for the closest temporal approximation. The concentration of power is, I think, due to a not so latent materialism and a denial of human nature. We clamour for the dollars because we think that more of the right things will make us a better people. We don’t recognize the threat of concentrated power and we confuse health and education with moral virtue. Both errors arise from thinking that there is no such thing as sin, only material want. The final irony is that our errors cumulate in more material want, as our dollars get burnt up in the wasteful scheming of men who put political power ahead of public service.


Written by Curt

February 11, 2005 at 10:54 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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