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$21.95 hardcover · 224 pages
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The theme of The Great Divide is that the populations of the democratic world, from Boston to Berlin, Vancouver to Venice, are becoming increasingly divided from within, due to a growing ideological incompatibility between modern liberalism and conservatism. This is partly due to a complex mutation in the concept of liberal democracy itself, and the resulting divide is now so wide that those holding to either philosophy on a whole range of topics: on democracy, on reason, on abortion, on human nature, on homosexuality and gay marriage, on freedom, on the role of courts … and much more, can barely speak with each other without outrage (the favorite emotional response from all sides). Clearly, civil conversation at the surface has been failing -- and that could mean democracy is failing.

This book is an effort to deepen the conversation. It is written for the non-specialist, and aims to reveal the less obvious underlying ideological forces and misconceptions that cause the conflict and outrage at the surface -- not with any expectation the clash of values will evaporate, but rather that a deeper understanding will generate a more intelligent and civil conversation.

As an aid to understanding, the book contains a handful of Tables directly comparing modern liberal and conservative views across a range of fundamental moral and political “issues” so that curious readers can answer the book’s main question: “Where Do You Stand?” An interesting result in testing this exercise has been the number of people who find they “think” one way, but “live” another.    

 

Good Reading
Essays (37)
Friday
Nov182016

A Quick Note on Global Warming

I just sent this brief note to a fellow who blames mankind for global warming, and asked him to refute all or any of it. No reply, as yet ...
* we are now living in an inter-glacial age
* the planet has been warming and cooling for eons
* the medieval warming lasted about 200 years, and was far warmer than today, even though that was a pre-industrial age
* no one can say for sure whether a rise in CO2 produces warming, or natural warming produces a rise in CO2
* CO2 is a friendly gas and more of it is welcome. People confuse it with Carbon Monoxide (CO). More CO2 produces more crop growth, and hence more food.
* the polar cap has always advanced and receded due to many natural factors not man made, such as warmer ocean currents
* there is no imaginable cause that could melt the polar ice cap, which has an average annual temperature of -26C, nor the antarctic ice cap, which has an annual average temperature of -51C.
* if all the ice that is floating at the polar cap were to melt, sea levels would not rise one centimeter (see: Archimedes Principle)
* natural factors that seriously affect earth's climate include increases‎ or decreases in solar radiation
‎* solar radiation may be the cause of global warming, if in fact there is any. A clue? - there has been recession of the ice caps on Mars, where there are no people and no CO2, but Mars is exposed to solar radi
* ‎even the IPCC says the global temperature has risen a little less than 1 degree C in a century. A century! Even if accurate, which is debatable, what this would signify is an incredible stability in global temperature over the past 100 years
* instruments used for measuring temperature are not reliable, as too many of them are surrounded now by asphalt urban "heat islands, and so scientists have to "adjust" for this artificially-induced warming in their models. The adjustment made is ... a crap shoot. 
* America and Canada and most of Europe are peppered with measuring devices, but there are huge areas of earth - millions of square miles of land and ocean - including millions of square miles in northern Canada - which are not. Another crap shoot. 
* no one can explain why the upper atmosphere seems to have been cooling, not warming
  Oh... one more point. Volcanoes are bad news. Mt Pinatubo alone put more greenhouse gasses into our atmosphere than did the entire industrial revolution

 

Thursday
Oct272016

The Folly of "PPP"

 

What follows is my contribution to a recent email discussion of "free speech" with a handful of close friends.

 It began with one of our group deploring the fact that Professor Jordan Peterson, who teaches psychology at the University of Toronto, is currently under fire for refusing to bend to "ppp" - "personal pronoun pressure" - from students and other faculty members at that lost institution.

There are many benighted folk at U of T who believe that when addressing another, the personal pronoun used to demarcate their gender must conform to the will of the addressee. These people apparently believe that human gender is not determined by God, human biology, procreative function, society, custom, or by anything other than one's own personal Will, to which they expect society to conform. A boy on campus who for some personal reason fancies himself to be a girl on Monday, may legitimately demand to be addressed as "she", but if sh/he changes hi/ser mind on Tuesday, may then as adamantly demand that we all revert to "he", as previously. It's a new form of speech control.

So I wrote what follows ...

***********************************************************

 

I admire the stout and rational defiance of Professor Peterson in the face of such leftist PC vitriol. 

However, the truth is that university campuses have always been bastions of correctness, and have been attempting to control what people say and think for millennia. There is an extensive and bracing list of a wide range of different book-burning events on Wikipedia's website, here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_book-burning_incidents

So, sadly, it is not true that the universities of the West have been bastions of "free speech." They have been bastions of qualified free speech. And this is still the case. So it seems the question is always - which group, or ideological belief system; in the name of what definable set of values - is speech to be qualified? 

‎Seems to me that our widely-accepted definition of "free speech" until rather recently was qualified as follows: barring libel and slander, you can say anything you want that does not offend public standards of decency, morality, or common religious belief, is not treasonous, and does not incite violence. I think that what supported those commonsensical prohibitions were three widely-held beliefs: 


1) A belief that what Burke called the "social freedoms" (as allowed by the common bonds and common sense of the community) were prior in importance even to many, if not all, individual rights and freedoms.

2) Accordingly, there was a widespread belief that "democratic sovereignty" should be about the common will of the whole society (about what is good for all, not just for me as an individual). In other words, in a mature and self-conscious democracy, we are expected to discern the public good, and to choose this, even if it means our individual good may not improve. Mature adults were expected to subordinate their personal desires for the good of all. In this light, democracy was held to be far more than a mere aggregate of votes (a tally of what is good for me, and for millions of other self-centered individuals). It sought a higher vision of the good of all, whether I agree with it or not. In the past, everyone allowed a vote in a democracy was expected immediately to start thinking about the good of all, and to subordinate their own Will to that ideal. 

‎3) Finally, these two beliefs resulted in a third: a belief that human life and society is to be understood as indelibly rooted in natural human biology (for sexual and family life, and child-rearing); and in natural law (for all moral concerns). Accordingly, that the Good was to be determined according to what came to be called "natural law" which may defined as "A command of right reason, that follows nature for the common good." So, a command, not just a personal urge of the moment; of right reason, not wrong reasoning; and that is rooted in human biological nature aiming at the common good - not just my personal good.

             This has all been upended with incredible speed by what I describe (in The Great Divide) as "the triumph of Will over Nature". And so, alas, we have now come to believe that the Will of the individual is sovereign even (according to many intellectuals and judges) over the Will of the community, and most definitely, over the Will of nature, so to speak. Hence, an abortion right is defined as an individual woman's right, not in terms of the rights of society or the community as a whole, or by the natural-law idea that all life is naturally good and therefore to be protected, but rather, merely by the Mother's will to kill her own baby for her own convenience. Human gender is said to be defined by individual Will, rather than by one's natural biology, the idea being that individuals should not be slaves to nature; and marriage is now about "any two people" willing to marry, regardless of their natural biological genders, and so on ...

               So the three beliefs above, have been upended, as follows:

1) Our traditional moral and social freedom (freedom to will what is good for all, even if not good for ourselves), has been replaced with the primacy of individual Will and freedom. Society and traditional morality have thus been upended. We now have "the world turned upside down" - a phrase heard in the seventeenth century when Cromwell's Army, close to revolt, voted in the idea that the soldiers should henceforth be giving orders to the Generals! ... an idea that quickly descended into chaos. 

2) Democratic "sovereignty" (the Will for a public, or corporate good (meaning, of the whole body of the people) that transcends any individual good) is now redefined as a mere aggregate of individual wills, held to be prior in importance to any prior common social or moral standard.

3) What was always considered biologically, sexually, and pro-creatively natural, has been replaced in importance ‎by the strange idea that individual Will must be sovereign even over the dictates of one's own natural biology and gender. So we now have so-called transgender rights, gay rights, abortion rights, and personal pronoun rights - all dictated by individual Will rather than according to any public moral standard).

I believe that this baleful trend of modernity - the root source of which lies in what I have called libertarian-socialism, which you can see spelled out in The Great Divide - has been aggressively dissolving the bonds of civil society. But historically it has been the strength of our social bonds that alone has served as a barrier to the invasions of state power. And so, with increasing speed, we have been been feeding ourselves into the hands of the state ("first individuate, the better to manipulate")

Monday
Oct032016

Trump Or Clinton: Will It Be Personalities, Or Policies?

        It will not be possible in November for Americans to elect a "good" President of high character. Both candidates are unlikeable and tainted with very shady, if not illegal behaviour; and both are cut-throat and tough as nails. If I had to shake hands with either one I would count my fingers afterward.

         But America is not faced with a choice between two different personalities. It is faced with a choice between two radically opposed worldviews, and the incompatible policies necessary for their realization. For almost a century, with only feeble reversals along the way, America has been mutating into a big government, high-tax, high-debt regime that has turned what was once the freest, lowest-taxed, least-regulated nation in the world into a top-heavy, socialist-style democracy in all but name. And that has meant that America is now living in open contradiction with its own founding principles, because socialism can only work with lots of top-down control, and democracy with lots of bottom up liberty. President Reagan was the last national symbol of the battered bottom-up trend, just as President Obama is the symbol the top-down trend - of the all-providing Nanny-state. Clinton and Trump are the living expressions of these two starkly-opposed historical forces in the sense that if there had never been Obama - Hillary is just his administrative reflection, ideologically committed to consolidating his dream - we would never have gotten Trump.

          From this perspective, Donald Trump is clearly a revolutionary. He is the first man in history to run for President under the name of a major political party whose top brass and house-intellectuals he has almost completely alienated. This alone is simply incredible. Against all odds, using his own money, and floating high on a tide of astonished media mavens, the man has done an end-run around every political-scientist, pundit, and pollster - even around his own party - and is sprinting alone for the Oval Office.        

        Whether he gets there or not, one thing is for sure: what we are witnessing is a wholly unique and highly-creative one-man assault by a successful, crafty, arrogant, and wealthy SOB, who remains beyond the power or punishment of America's disapproving political elites. There is a lot to dislike in such an apparently distasteful man. But that he is a force of nature cannot be doubted. That is what is upsetting his enemies and delighting his fans. Like him or not, he is first a super success, then a super failure; a man who falls then rises by his own bootstraps, flipping everyone the finger on the way; then he's a big-shot, big-mouth TV star with a make-believe hair-style; then he decides he wants to run for President without any party support, using only his own money. My son says okay, but he's just not a good man. I reply: what is the connection between being a good man, and being a good leader? Many great leaders, like many of the world's most influential brainers and culture-heroes, have been terrible people.

            Trump's first brilliant move was to unite two seemingly-unconnected protest movements at one stroke. He is a billionaire (okay, maybe just a multi-multi-millionaire) and so, one would think, should be a target of the one-percent protesters against the rich. But it's the opposite, because the envy-oriented anti-rich mobs are not really angry at the rich. Not the honest, hard-working rich. They would like to be rich themselves some day. What they are angry at is the Wall Street brand of rich: the arrogant, high-living, stock-market hustlers, bankers, and investment manipulators, making millions on margins, currency fluctuations, and stock flipping. Screwing around with numbers, and screwing the country and the ordinary worker in the process. In other words, the smart-ass rich who don't do anything that working people can possibly recognize as real work. These folks are wild about Trump because he's the opposite. He actually works. He puts up huge buildings, on time, and fully-leased - work you can see. And for this, he hires thousands of people just like them. So he's got their vote.

           The other protest movement he has united is the coast-to-coast anti-Big-Government movement. Millions of Americans and small business owners are finally, desperately, eager to get the suffocating Big-Government foot off their necks. They want to be free again. The total government debt of a nation is always a good, if rough indicator of the real presence of government in the lives of citizens. When Obama came to power, America had about eight trillion dollars in total government debt accumulated over the previous 270 years. Almost three centuries! that was bad enough, and a huge drag on the national economy. But after the eight years of Obama's Presidency the national debt-load is closing in fast on twenty trillion (not counting additional, unfunded government liabilities, which are unimaginably massive).

            So crass, inelegant, swagger-rich Donald Trump, haranguing, shouting, and repeating his basic solutions, over and over, rides into town with promises he has all but forced  upon the Republican party, to lower taxes on corporations and hard-working individuals, to create more real jobs via investment (not by "creating" them via expensive tax-funded programs), to kill unfair trade deals, and to slash top-heavy bureaucracy and red tape. He also wants to snuff out (and defund) the anti-industry global-warming hoax, to get all that shale oil out of the ground to halt dependency on Arabian oil forever, to halt illegal immigrants coming to America to steal jobs, to give students vouchers for choice in education - and even ... to get rid of our Canadian marketing boards. Perhaps most stunning of all, morally and constitutionally, in that order: he wants to stop the wholesale slaughter of abortion, and to appoint strict constitutionalists to the Supreme Court. For this reasons, he's got the anti-government vote, too. His success, simply in imagining he could unite these two protest movements and restore America to at least some of its own inspired founding principles, could be enough to sweep him into power and launch America on its most sustained period of productivity in recent history. 

Tuesday
Jul122016

The Radical Camel's Nose is Under the Conservative Tent!

 

       This is a clarion call regarding Canada's deVeber Institute for Bioethics and Social Research - an organization that has been busy since 1982 defending the sanctity of human life from conception, critiquing sex-ed programs, and which most recently has launched a powerful attack against the legalization of killing human beings under the rubric of "assisted suicide" and "euthanasia". (Few understand as yet that this latter term is properly defined as the active killing of another human being, and not, as so many wrongly assume, simply letting them die). They have done a lot of noble work.

       So a few months ago, I was pleased to be invited by one of their Board members to speak at the Institute's Annual Symposium on July 15th. My topic was to be "Medical Ethics, or Medical Evil? How We Got Here." I was excited about the opportunity to explain exactly how, over recent decades, we have mutated from a people who once staunchly supported the sanctity of human life, into a people who now righteously promote the killing of human life both in the womb (abortion), and outside the womb (euthanasia).  It would have been my pleasure to explain the lockstep chain of ideological, political, and moral (or rather, amoral) conclusions that have brought us to where we are today. These are not well understood, but they continue to carry us all like a silent ideological tsunami to a very uncertain future.

          At any rate, a month after I was invited and an initial notice and a poster had been sent out by deVeber, I learned that the Institute's co-Chair, who was surely aware that I was the author of the bestselling book The War Against the Family,  made it known to her Board that she didn't want me saying anything about homosexuality or gay marriage at the conference.

          Well, it was simply astonishing to see this tip of the PC iceberg appearing within what is normally such a conservative, if not openly Catholic organization. So I told my Board-member friend that I should be called personally to be told why my speech must be censored. The co-Chair made the call - an act I admired. But then she proceeded to exert herself in a meandering exercise of intellectual flatulence. Her main point seemed to be that she wanted to protect the Institute from criticism because they were working so well with government (from whom, I assume, they were already receiving, or intended to receive, funding). In short, she was clearly squirming in discomfort at the thought of me speaking my mind freely.

            I, in turn, made it known that although it was never my intent to dwell on the topic of so-called homosexual marriage, I did intend to explain in passing how the gay rights movement has been a textbook example of the handful of steps required to undermine the core morality of any traditional society. And I would have explained that what most clearly marks the end-game of this undermining process is public acceptance of the "forbidding of thought" (as the Germans, who should know, described it). It is this final step that demonizes even the most rational of dissenters by promoting the use of slur-terms such as "homophobic," or redefines the unborn child as mere "property", or even as an internal "enemy" of the liberated woman.  In other words (I had to spell it out), she and the Institute were now choosing to become handmaids to the dangerous process of closing open minds. I also warned that as things are now proceeding on the topic of euthanasia, she would soon see that all those who forbid "choice" in having oneself killed by a licenced agent-physician of the State - among them herself, and myself - would soon be ‎labelled a "euthophobe" (or some such hate-engendering adjective). But these warnings were to no avail, and we ended our conversation in limbo. 

        However, I now felt quite compromised, and as a responsible freethinker (I do not support irresponsible speech, such as the promotion of treason), I was irritated that anyone felt they should be able to dictate what I am allowed to say in a public speech. ‎Then, I discovered that the Institute's Board actually launched itself into a vote on whether or not I should be disinvited, labouring, apparently, under the illusion that voting on something can make it right. Of course, public acceptance of the notion that a vote can decide the course of a sound morality, was one of the very steps I had wanted to expose! It is also a reason  why I dislike the word "ethics" (as distinct from "moral"), because "ethics" most often has to do with making sure all parties to a crisis end up equally happy (or equally unhappy). It implies a deal-making process that may, but does not necessarily, involve moral judgement. In other words, it is possible to have an ethical decision (such as deciding that citizens must have an equal right to be killed by a physician) that is profoundly immoral.

      At any rate, there are some indignities to which no self-respecting person should submit, and putting one's own head on the block of snivelling Lilliputian opinion is one of them. So I withdrew of my own accord from what was now a poisonous situation. But as the aggrieved and inconvenienced party, I also asked myself if I had any feelings of bitterness or revenge over this minor personal slight? But I find none, and in speaking out now, I have no wish to harm the Institute. I feel only sadness that such a fine organization has engaged in such an act of self-mutilation. I could have kept quiet; and might that have been a more gentlemanly thing to do? I decided not. Rather, I concluded that if I failed to speak about such a shameless forbidding of thought, my own silence would aid, abet, and conceal the Institute's hypocrisy in holding a conference, in which only politically-correct conferring will be allowed.

Wednesday
Jun152016

The Role of a Senate, Democracy, and "Filtration"

This is a response to a column in the National Post, June 9th., about democracy and the Senate of Canada. But the underlying argument could as well apply to the proper role of a Senate, as originally conceived, in any democracy.

The Post did not print it.

**************

June 10, 2016

Letters Editor, The National Post

            Andrew Coyne complains that the Canadian system is "something less than a democracy" because our Senators "can overrule the elected representatives of millions of citizens" ("Senators should recall their place," June 9th). 

           But he is certainly aware that Canada's Constitution - even more so than the American one of the century prior - was designed by our Founding Fathers to ensure that Canada would always be "something less than a democracy."  They considered this to be the saving grace of the Constitution they so elegantly designed for us.

           That is because the Founders of both nations, notwithstanding the considerable differences between them, had in common a justifiable fear of what Jefferson called "elective despotism." Accordingly, the operative word in those days was "filtration":  there must be some permanent procedural means to filter and refine the democratic will of the people, thus to block elective despotism. There would be three levels of filtration.

            First, as to the laws: The people should never be allowed to vote on the laws directly, because most are too busy living to grasp the complex underlying issues and principles at hand.  Instead, they should only be allowed to vote for their political representatives, whose job it would be to filter and refine the opinion of the public  before making the laws.

            Second, as to the House of Commons: Because the will of the People, even when already filtered and expressed in law by representatives, is subject to emotional and partisan excess, and hence to the bullying of minorities, it must be further filtered by a body permanently beyond the democratic will of the people. That is the purpose of the "sober second thought" of an unelected Senate.  Our Senate has never failed us because of this ideal. It has only failed us because our standard of high character is so low we have placed some failures in it - people whose behaviour should not tarnish the noble purpose of the institution itself, which is to protect us from elective despotism.

            Third, as to the regions of Canada: The will of the Senate itself must be still further filtered by a constitutionally-fixed balancing of regional powers designed to  prevent a democratic crushing of the smaller regions by the larger.

           In Canada, what Mr. Coyne calls "the principle that must be upheld before all others," has never been democracy, as he insists, or liberty, but rather, a constitutional liberty that protects us against the unconstrained follies of democracy

Thursday
Apr142016

What Does It Mean To Be A Conservative?

 

This is a slightly-edited transcript of a brief speech I gave to the Conservative Party of Canada, in Oshawa Ontario, January 31, 2016.

**********************

              People often ask me:  "What it has felt like to be a conservative thinker and writer, for the past thirty years?"

               I reply: "I feel like a man who has been standing on a rock, in a leftward drifting sea.

               In the misty distance, there is a ship drifting to the left. And the voices on the deck are saying:

             'Look! Look! - there's a man out there ... drifting to the right!' "

               That image should resonate with everyone in this room, because you all know very well that any individual or group styling themselves "conservative" today is facing the same problem when it comes to voting: what should I do about moral and political drift? Do I change my principles, or change my party?

                It was the fine conservative thinker Russell Kirk, who wrote: “The conservative…will not surrender to the contagion of mass-opinion or the temptations of…power… [I]f he hopes to conserve anything at all, he must make his stand unflinchingly.”

               Which means each of you - and your party as a whole - must decide whether you want to be on the rock, or on the ship.

                This morning, I want to talk a little about how the true conservative differs; fundamentally; heart and soul; from all the other political species on offer - especially from the modern liberal, who must be distinguished from the classical liberal, as follows.

               The classical liberal was an anti-statist, who had a heartfelt desire to get all citizens to the same starting line. That is mostly why so many of them came to Canada and America. But the modern liberal has given up on that, and is now mostly concerned to get everyone to the same finish line. And he is willing to use massive tax-funded state power to do it.

                 My recently published book, The Great Divide: Why Conservatives and Liberals Will Never, Ever Agree, is a full treatment of this topic, of which I can only offer a brief sample this morning. If you are really and truly interested in where you stand - as compared to a modern liberal - on any of the 14 topics covered, such as: Freedom; Democracy; Morality; Reason; Equality; Religion - and on the three main moral questions of our time - abortion, homosexuality, and euthanasia - you will find 14 Tables in the book allowing you to evaluate your personal level of conservatism, or modern liberalism. In a sense, the book is my attempt to explain what most of us don't see.

           Imagine a man walking along a road on a nice quiet day. Suddenly, he feels a tremor. Then he sees a huge ugly gash open in the road, right before his eyes, and he watches, terrified, as the rubble starts falling from the buildings. Immediately, he thinks: "it's an earthquake!"

            But, of course, what he sees is not the earthquake. It's the consequences of the earthquake. The real earthquake is invisible, in the grinding, tectonic forces way beneath the ground. Seismologists can "see" them with their instruments. But we can't.  My point is that  the ideological, moral, and political forces that drive policies on the surface of our life, are hard to see. My book is one citizen's attempt to give you an instrument that makes them visible.

             So today I want to speak a little about just a few of those forces, because in the end, they are the underlying forces that steer the policies and the parties at the surface: which is to say - that drive them together, or drive them apart. In the case of conservatism - of conserving what is good in society - they separate the  conservatives who want to stay on the conservative rock, from those who would rather jump onto the drifting ship.

            Let me speak a little now about freedom, human nature, the role of the state, the true nature of civil society, and finally, about those three watershed moral issues.

                                                             ~

            Historically, the most enduring topic dividing conservatives and liberals, is the question of individual freedom (or, what Americans often call liberty). There are hundreds of essays and discussion topics on my website. And one of them is called "Six Kinds of Freedom" - which I have edited and reproduced in the book. It surprises me to see that of the many thousands of downloads from this site every year - whether from the Phillipines, France, Australia, China, or ... Canada - about half are of this one single essay. It seems that people everywhere are interested in the meaning of freedom.

         I argue that for the modern liberal, freedom is perceived as some kind of innate quality that is inherent in all human beings as a right, and the operative word that currently signals the emotional invocation of this right, is: "choice." In our time, this has become a near-talismanic word, assumed to have the power to displace all social and moral custom, manners, traditions, and even to change or trash time-honoured laws the people have held dear for centuries. Indeed, the word "moral", and the word "choice",  are now conflated in the public mind, and we are close to believing that whatever someone freely chooses (such as what gender they want to be), makes their choice morally acceptable. Through this hyper-individualist process of exerting one's Will, morality is no longer conceived as a public good, but a private one.

          But the conservative, who loves freedom too, sees it not as an inherent right, but as a qualified, legally-limited, and hard-won historical and political achievement of the ages, that must of course be defended for the good it may do - but also guarded against for the damage it may do to the social and moral fabric of the people. The great Edmund Burke said something very important about freedom that supplies the entire conservative warning.

          He said: "Liberty, when men act in groups, is power." He meant that a simple peek into history will immediately show that people tend to hold the flag of liberty high, even when - especially when - perpetrating their atrocities. So for the conservative, freedom is always a qualified good; it is an instrument, like a shovel. You can dig a useful hole with it; or beat a man to death with it. So beware when liberals (and libertarians) begin their rant about individual freedom to justify whatever change, or perversion, elimination of the good they may be seeking. The conservative - the fellow standing on the rock - if he is really a conservative, will insist that the freedom of the people as a whole: the sum of all their human relations, institutions, enduring customs, traditions, and manners, must have priority over individual freedom. Or else ... where is the common good? Where is our democracy of the whole people? The pie produces the slices, the slices do not produce the pie.

              Which is only  to say that all true conservative thinkers, past and present, while very supportive of a core of qualified and restrained individual freedoms, are just as concerned about "social freedom." By this term, they do not at all mean any figment of government, or the state - entities rooted in a monopoly on power.

       Rather, what they are referring to is the authority of all the freely-created and inherited traditions, customs, and moral rights and obligations of society itself - (often called "civil society") to restrain, to direct, to coax, to shame - yes, I said it out loud: to shame! - but also to reward, and to encourage all free individuals by its myriad approvals, conscious and unconscious, to behave as free, but also as civil, and responsible human beings. In this brief paragraph I have pointed to one of the core reasons that conservatives are always wary of liberals carrying the banner of reason to make human society conform to their vision of the good. Namely, the plain fact that so much of all human action throughout the ages is not driven by reason, but rather, by emotions, passions, instincts, and unconscious forces of which we are quite often unaware. 

           But let's go back to the central role of civil society. While for the modern liberal, civil society is just the aggregate outcome of a reasoned contract freely-entered (or exited), and either sustained, or revoked, by freely-choosing individuals (the slices of the social pie); this is not so for the conservative. For this person, society is no contract made by self-important individuals claiming rights, who happen to be here today. It is, rather, an historical and organic achievement, a whole compact of all prior ages, that we inherit as a gift from millions of thoughtful predecessors, many of whom died creating it. Most importantly - and this surely reinforces the term "priority" - it is only such a free and thriving civil society that can possibly produce free, thriving, and responsible individuals, and (quite contrary to the liberal view) not the other way around. The pie comes first.

          To employ another image, "civil society", for the conservative, is like a horse pulling the cart of civilization along, stopping frequently to load it up with the free and responsible individuals it creates as it moves through history. The sickness of modern liberalism, is that it separates the cart from the horse - thinking only of the individuals in the cart, not of what makes the whole thing go forward - then shoots the horse!

        If you really think about it, the conservative notion of an organic society - not an aggregate, but a composite that is far more than the sum of its parts, the whole pie rather than just a bunch of isolated slices - is just what we used to call "democracy."  But what happened to it? Well, the letter W, and the Letter M, are the same. You can just flip the first letter upside-down and say that although democracy used to be about We; it is now about Me.  This up-ending of democracy - I call it "hyperdemocracy" - is the notion that democratic legitimacy, or sovereignty, is inherent in individuals, rather than in the whole people. It is an idea that happens to be sharply echoed in the three most important moral issues of our time, which I will get to in a moment. 

                                                   ~

         But first, let me touch briefly on another fundamental ideological divide between the liberal and the conservative over the concept of human nature. As it happens, the modern liberal tends to be unhappy with life as it is, a malcontent, and therefore a social and moral renovator who urgently wants to change human society to please himself. But you can't radically change human society if human nature is essentially unchangeable. So to enable radical change, this person is forced to take the view that human nature is malleable. Otherwise radical change would be impossible. And once he believes this (despite all the lessons of history, and of human evil, to the contrary), he soon believes the best way to change human nature is to perfect human society by perfecting all government, no matter the cost. 

          But the conservative disagrees profoundly. Human nature is more or less fixed, and flawed, and all human beings are obscurely inaccessible to any full and complete understanding by the blunt instrument of mere reason. So they cannot be perfected by any policy on earth, and therefore no government, or state, can ever be perfected. It follows that we should not be using the coercive bully powers of the state to force change according to some fanciful and impossible notion of a perfect society never before seen in all of human history.        

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           Now, let us address briefly the three most important and incendiary social issues of our time - homosexuality, abortion, and euthanasia - all of which hinge on the underlying and opposing liberal vs. conservative notions I have mentioned. These are so incendiary that there is not much hope of rational discussion, because of what the Germans, who should know, call denkverboten, or "the forbidding of thought," which is now, shamefully, like an intellectual sickness that has infected all the democracies. I can only touch on this now, but you will find the full liberal vs. conservative story on these three moral watershed issues, in my book.   

            To begin with the first: over the last thirty years, as some pundit has said, homosexuality has drifted from the love that dare not speak its name, to the love that won't shut up! And many, but not all conservatives, have been cowed by this trend. For the true conservative, however, from Aristotle to our day, "the family" is that eternal triangle of a married mother and father living together with their dependent children. So you can stay on the conservative rock by accepting  homosexuality as a private love, and acknowledge all the standard citizen rights for such people. But no special privileges. For the state simply has no business - none whatsoever - involving itself in love or marriage, or privileging these private passions in any way, except for one thing: the potential of ordinary marriage to produce and nurture future citizens. Any human arrangement that doesn't have this potential, may carry on as it wishes, but it should not be privileged for doing so. So If you have become part of the large wave of public opinion that has been aggressively normalizing homosexuality for children, altering schoolbooks, and editing TV shows to brainwash them to the effect that homosexuality is normal, or if you agree that  fatherless or motherless homes should be legitimized by the state as a matter of policy and applauded, then you have already left the rock and jumped onto the ship.

             Abortion is another watershed issue. For the liberal, it is again a matter of individual freedom and choice for all those slices, and to hell with the pie. The unborn child is considered a woman's private property, a material thing that is not considered a human being until it is born alive, so she may do with it as she freely wishes. But for the conservative, the unborn child is alive from conception; and the logic says that if it is alive, it must be a human life; it cannot be a pelican, or a giraffe. And if that is so, then we all have a duty to conserve it.  In other words, as a matter of social freedom, the right and freedom of society as an organic entity to protect and conserve the lives of its own unborn citizens, must take priority over the choices of individuals concerned only for themselves. That is another conservative rock you can stand on, or jump off.

            Euthanasia is the most recent, and most pressing moral issue now before conservatives. And here, let it be said, no one is advocating suffering, or the artificial prolongation of an agonizing life. However, most people simply have not done the work to understand that while assisted suicide - helping someone to kill themselves - may seem like an act of great sympathy (that is - may seem so, once you have gotten out of the way the money-hungry relatives, the macabre doctors with a Christ complex, the crooked lawyers, and the cash-strapped welfare state hoping to save health dollars) - it is a very different thing from euthanasia. For no matter how you try, you cannot escape the truth that euthanasia does not mean letting someone die, or helping them kill themselves; it means making them die; which is to say, killing them - whether by suffocating them, injecting them, or stuffing deadly pills down their throat that they cannot administer to themselves. And the moment such actions are legalized, we transform ourselves and the entire medical profession, from a civilization rooted in an ethic of life, to one rooted in an ethic of death. In a welfare state such as our own, where all expenses come from the same pot, if  you don't want to someone to kill you when you are old, make sure you check into a private care facility. At least, they have a vested interest in keeping you alive. But even then ... be sure to ask the nurse to drink some of the orange juice first!

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               I imagine that throughout your deliberations today there will be many occasions when the rock and the ship will loom before you, and I wish you full and hearty discussion, on all heads.

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A Speech given to the Conservative Party of Canada, Saturday, January 31, 2016,

by William D. Gairdner