Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Bernier's bad bet

Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press

Maxime Bernier is taking a gamble. He believes that there is a large, disenfranchised voting bloc in Canada on which he can capitalise to form a new party that, he says, will focus on smaller, constitutional government that respects taxpayers and opposes economic favouritism—though he's spent more time in the news for culture warring.

His gamble seems to be that the anti-immigration and anti-political correctness crowds to whom he's been throwing bones will (a) make up a part, but not the basis, of his political coalition, and (b) be willing to make concessions on these issues to support a core mission of smaller, constitutionally restrained government.

Unfortunately for Bernier, if he's sincere that this is his goal he's made his gamble based on an out-of-date understanding of politics in Western countries. The political climate in which this was likely to succeed—the one in which Bernier has spent his political career—is changing.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Closing borders is only the last step

Image result for stephen miller public domain photoStephen Miller's uncle has a personal and moving public appeal to his nephew in Politico.

The story he tells, of his grandfather, will remind many of us of the stories we proudly tell of our ancestors coming to Canada or the U.S. with nothing and building a life through hard work.

Sunday, August 05, 2018

The wrong kind of anti-democratic

Who are "the people" and how do they make their needs known to their representatives?

Ontario's Progressive Conservative government has announced that it will cut the size of Toronto's city council almost in half.

This odd decision (mid-election, it's an expensive one) creates an opportunity to address an interesting quirk about Ontario's right-of-centre party. Sometimes people will say something along the lines of, "LOL!! Progressive Conservative? Sounds like an oxymoron to me!"

A better understanding of early 20th-century politics, progressivism, and conservatism can show us why it's not. It also helps us explore why the Ontario PCs might support smaller municipal councils and why doing so might be a mistake.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Diversity in social movements

The diversity of movements and organisations shapes them.

This might sound trite, but it also creates a barrier to more diverse movements. This 2011 Daily Kos article is one of my favourite things on the Internet. (I know. The headline. Persevere.) It's a consultant's story about trying to help feminist groups become more racially diverse.

This isn't necessarily about racism or sexism or classism or anythingelseism. It's more about a kind of Hayekian concept of privilege. We don't know what's in other peoples' heads, so we miss stuff when we don't interact with or listen to each other.

Treating the Daily Kos article as a case study gives some insight into the barriers to diversity and shows us why diversifying can lead to pushback.

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Don't cheer for gridlock

In The Meaning of Democracy and the Vulnerabilities of Democracies: A Response to Tocqueville's Challenge, Vincent Ostrom argues that a democratic society must be a self-governing society. Not just one that's designed the right way.

By explaining why people need to be able to use persuasion and work together to solve their problems to keep democracy healthy, Ostrom gives us a useful way to think about a common concern: gridlock. Libertarians often cheer for gridlock. We shouldn't. And not just because it's tone deaf.

Monday, February 05, 2018

Minding my monsters

Sarah Skwire has a great note about dealing with hard stuff on her Facebook page.
I was talking to a friend today about the struggle it is to do things when the things you have to get done are really unpleasant and scary--like managing the details of a divorce, or researching your husband’s cancer diagnosis, or whatever particular horror lurks in your own closet of nightmares. 
I’m not talking about motivating yourself to deal with a pile of boring stuff. That’s a different problem. 
This is about having a giant scary monster in a box that you HAVE to open and deal with before you can do whatever good stuff comes after it. And you have to deal with the monster while maintaining your job and your life and your responsibilities. It’s really hard. 

Friday, February 02, 2018

Sweet talk and self-governance

We haven't heard as much lately about panic over falling faith in democracy, but questions about the proper scope of democracy and what we mean by "democracy" are still relevant. Is democracy popping a ballot in a box, or does it include our conversations and what we do as communities?

Vincent Ostrom asks this question in The Meaning of Democracy and the Vulnerabilities of Democracies: A Response to Tocqueville's Challenge, and urges us to recognise a seldom-discussed danger to democracy. We often hear that we need to do more than just vote—we need to vote well. But, says Ostrom, we also need to be able to persuade each other—to use what Deirdre McCloskey calls "sweet talk". Sweet talk is how we get people to act together when we can't force them to. But we have to persuade well, the right way—building buy-in and consensus. The wrong kind of persuasion might be as dangerous as the wrong kind of voting. "Rhetoric pursued as an art of manipulation can be a trap contributing to the vulnerability of democratic societies." (xiii)

Monday, January 29, 2018

So long

Over at Revealed Preferences, my co-blogger Adam writes a farewell to Kellie Leitch, who announced last week that she will not seek re-election, but instead return to private life and practice.
It may be that Leitch never really shared the sentiments that she attempted to ride into 24 Sussex, but whatever was in her heart she chose to make those issues her political trademark. It was heartening to see her finish a distant sixth in the leadership campaign, with less than 8% of the overall vote. Leitch’s departure from public life allows her to return to her medical practice as a pediatric orthopedic surgeon, where she will do more good in a day than she ever could have in a lifetime of politics. And hopefully, her defeat means that we will not see the likes of the campaign that she ran again any time soon."
Read the whole thing here.

I grappled with my frustration with Leitch at this blog and with the help of commenters here and here. Like Adam, I can't say I'm sad to see her go.

Two philosophies defended

Larry’s discussion of the different conceptions of capitalism and stateless society in his tribute to Ursula K. Le Guin reminded me of the discussions of capitalism and utopia in G.A. Cohen’s Why Not Socialism? and Jason Brennan’s Why Not Capitalism?

Cohen’s tiny book is a classic and an ambitious one. Though it barely clears 80 pages, it sets out to make the case that the utopia that we should wish for—even strive for—is a socialist one. As Brennan points out in his 99-page response, for many years Cohen’s opponents granted his claim that socialism doesn’t and can’t work, but if it could, and if we were good enough, it’s the morally best system to embrace.

Brennan makes it clear—more clear than Cohen does—that this is all Cohen argues for. He grants that the “design problem” of coming up with a workable economic system to replace capitalism might be one that we can’t overcome. All Cohen asks is that we want to overcome it, that we want to do better than capitalism. But this is ground that Brennan refuses to cede.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Libertarianism: The Jaworski definition

Several years ago, Peter Jaworski sketched out a definition of libertarianism that I've since come to think of as the only workable definition. I'm reposting it from Facebook.

The definition was fleshed out in response to (yet another) debate—this time involving Stephan Kinsella, but replayed many times between many people—about who "counts" as a libertarian.

The old accusation was that someone who doesn't base their morality on the non-aggression principle can't be a true or at least not truly committed libertarian. This accusation is bound to rile up some anarchist consequentialist, but more importantly, purges from libertarianism figures as important as Hayek, Mises, and Friedman. Today there are others who would like to disqualify from libertarianism those who worry about such distasteful goals as pursuing economic nationalism or those with more mainstream views on border controls and immigration. I wouldn't say that these people are part of the same political project as I am, but (alas) I don't think their underlying reasons for smaller government disqualify them from the label.

This is the strength of Jaworski's definition: it moves libertarianism away from purity tests and purges and instead allows for a sort of pluralism within libertarianism and accommodates the many different and even disparate missions that libertarians pursue.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Heartache and bad cinnamon rolls

I wish that everyone who is upset about the overreactions (they exist!) to #metoo could understand what it's like to read this and feel your heart ache:
Last night, I made cinnamon rolls. I’m not a huge fan of cinnamon rolls, per se, but this recipe was included in Mario Batali’s sexual misconduct apology letter, and so I feel compelled to make them. Batali is not the first powerful man to request forgiveness for “inappropriate actions” towards his coworkers and employees. He is not the most high profile, and he is ostensibly not even the worst offender. But he is the only one who included a recipe.
[...]
I find myself fluctuating between apathy and anger as I try to follow Batali’s recipe, which is sparse on details. The base of the rolls is pizza dough – Batali notes that you can either buy it, or use his recipe to make your own.
I make my own, because I’m a woman, and for us there are no fucking shortcuts.
We spend 25 years working our asses off to be the most qualified Presidential candidate in U.S. history and we get beaten out by a sexual deviant who likely needs to call the front desk for help when he’s trying to order pornos in his hotel room.
Donald Trump is President, so I’m making the goddamn dough by scratch.
(Please, by all means, read the whole thing.)