Preston Manning shows his collectivist colours

In “The downside of up”

yet another champion of conservatism shows how intellectually bankrupt conservatism is. This time it is former Reform Party leader Preston Manning.

Manning”s thesis is that the lesson we should take from the recent economic downturn is that free markets don”t work. He says the smaller government of the last few decades resulted from carrying the pro-market principles he once espoused too far. In his own words, “Not until the recent financial meltdown and economic downturn did we come to realize that there are limits to the application of this ideology.” He now advocates an increased role for government saying that “both law and freedom have essential roles to play in achieving a better economic paradigm.”

Now take a careful look at that last statement. The phrase “both law and freedom” discloses the depth of Manning”s treachery. There was a time, when it was politically savvy for conservatives to acknowledge that the function of the law was to preserve individual freedom. Manning”s juxtaposition of “law” and “freedom” necessarily implies (a) that the law can and should have another objective, and (b) that this objective must involve the restriction of freedom.

Gee Mr. Manning, where do we sign up to help with your gentle crusade against the excesses of freedom? Excesses like wealth, prosperity, personal liberty, and social harmony far exceeding that of any of the civilizations you claim to take your lessons from. Just what our world needs, another person calling for more and bigger government. Thanks so, so much.

The economic and technical advances of the last decades occurred against a backdrop of governments which generally opted to keep their hands in their own pockets than in the pockets of their citizens. The philosophy of freedom which conservatives said they believed in actually worked. Even the recent downturn is evidence not of markets failing but of how markets can self-correct. Left alone the market would have disposed of failed businesses and even industries, redirecting capital into those which actually produced the goods and services people actually want.

But conservatives must be the most loathsome invertebrate species on the planet. Having won all the battles they still conceded the war. They are not potential allies of libertarians but a dangerous distraction from a philosophically consistent defence of freedom. I would prefer to contend with an avowedly socialist government. Freedom would be better served by the more open and honest display of collectivist errors then the subtle treachery of woolly wolves such as Harper and Manning.

I used to believe Preston Manning was the greatest Prime Minister Canada never had. Now I see that he would have proved Stephen Harper”s equal in disappointing those of us who truly appreciate the power of the sovereign individual to create the wealth prerequisite to the welfare of every person in our society. Platitudes such as this,

“Now is the time — when the economic slowdown is creating new opportunities as well as hardships — for those of us who are pro-government and those of us who are pro-market to recognize each in the other the necessary complements to our own one-sidedness.”

are just a coward”s way of couching the betrayal of principle in emotionally-laden mush. Saying, “can”t we all just be friends” to those philosophically opposed to freedom is simple surrender. To conservative traitors those of us who still believe individual freedom is worth fighting for say: we don”t need you, we don”t want you and frankly, we can”t stand you.

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