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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)
Wednesday
Mar082017

Is "the Economy" a Good Reason for Immigration?

More on the immigration question from The Trouble With Canada ...Still! (2010)

          Many argue that because we have an aging society, a changing ratio of retirees to workers, and falling fertility rates, we need lots of immigrants or the economy will eventually go into a tailspin. This argument seems plausible - at first- because without sufficient bodies who will buy the food, rent the offices and retail spaces, buy the diapers, and so on? The prospect of a rapidly falling population is scary, and the looming demographic winter seems real. Canada’s own Annual Report on Immigration notes that immigration will be “a key source of workforce growth in the future.” But bad thinking has produced what looks like a false assumption.

           Canada’s first serious study of this question was carried out in 1985 by The Macdonald Royal Commission on “The Economic Union and Development Prospects for Canada.” Its conclusion was that “immigration did not contribute to economic growth, but in fact caused a decline in per capita income and real wages in Canada.”[1]

          In July of 2009, the C.D. Howe Institute warned: “for Canadians to expect more, younger immigrants to counteract the effects of low past fertility on workforce growth and aging would be a serious mistake.”[2] The Institute’s sophisticated projections told us that “only improbably huge increases” in “net” immigration rates (after subtracting all those who return home) of “more than 2.5 times” recent rates (600-700,000 new immigrants per year) have any chance to “offset” the consequences of lower past fertility.

           Even when “age filters” favouring much younger immigrants were plugged into the projections, they showed the need for a future Canadian population ranging between 60 and 200 million people before the current aging and falling fertility factors were neutralized. Projections relying on immigration flows to improve the economy tended “to produce explosive population growth, with ludicrous terminal numbers….” In the year 2050 Canada would need 7 million immigrants.

           The conclusion of that study was that better and faster results could be achieved by raising the age of retirement from 65 to 70, boosting natural fertility rates from the current 1.5 children per women to 2.1, and increasing productivity (real output per worker) by 1 per cent. The authors also cited a major 2004 study of the European situation by the RAND corporation. It concluded that “immigration could do little to mitigate the challenges created by low fertility in the European Union” because, as in the numerous Canadian studies cited, “the momentum of the resident population largely overwhelms immigration’s influence.” More sobering: the United Nations Population Division has concluded that for Europe to rebalance its own demographic mixture to avoid eventual collapse it would require over 700 million immigrants by 2050 - more than the present population of the whole of Europe! [3]

          In his survey of Canadian immigration research, Martin Collacott has pointed out that “the government’s own research” indicates that immigration plays a minor role in boosting the economy. “Overall economic performance of newcomers ... has fallen below that of earlier immigrants and people born in Canada. A major reason for this is the priority given to family-class immigrants,” none of whom is required to bring any marketable skills to Canada, nor to speak either official language.[4] Underlining the problem of immigrant illiteracy, Frank McKenna of the TD Bank Financial Group said that the immigrant illiteracy issue is “sort of like boiling a frog, it's not … something that would alarm people, because it's not all that evident; we just gradually become poorer as a nation as a result of this loss of potential.”[5] Adding to the complexity is the fact that immigrants to Canada increasingly are coming from areas such as Asia where English and French are not native tongues (up to 40% of Canada’s new immigrants speak neither English nor French). The concern is that the economic wellbeing of newcomers has been deteriorating over the past twenty-five years, with unemployment and poverty levels significantly higher among immigrants than among Canadian-born citizens.

           In sum, too many immigrants arrive with no skills, no common language with which to engage with their host country, and immediately demand free social, medical, dental, and unemployment benefits. This phenomenon is all but international now and is causing some panic in many established welfare States because, as European analyst Martin Paldam found, “the traditions of protection of the weak cause adverse selection of immigrants, so that most are unskilled.” However, welfare States, he warns, only survive if they stand on an implicit compact: we all give, in order, if necessary, to receive. People will accept high levels of taxation if they believe recipients of welfare are like themselves: if they “have made the same effort to be self-supporting and will not take advantage.” However, “if values become extremely diverse in a diversified population, then it becomes difficult to sustain the legitimacy of a risk-pooling welfare State.”[6] In plainer words, if you set your country up to attract freeloaders – they will come.

          George Borjas of Harvard University (himself an immigrant) and perhaps the world’s most acknowledged authority on this question, echoes the findings of other major studies done since the mid-1980s by mainstream economists in Canada, the USA, Australia, and the UK: the only significant economic impact of immigration is to reduce the wages of native workers.[7] 

           In 2007 a Statistics Canada study, “Chronic Low Income, and Low Income Dynamics Among Recent Immigrants” revealed that notwithstanding the emphasis on education in the “skilled worker” category of immigrants, “their earnings in relation to native Canadians were significantly lower and continue to deteriorate.”[8] Professor Alan Green of Queen’s University has stated categorically that “the current political posture of using immigrants to solve economic problems is no longer valid.”[9] 

          To conclude: a recent study by economist Herbert Grubel of Simon Fraser University revealed that the 2.5 million immigrants who came to Canada between 1990 and 2002 received $18.3 billion more in government services and benefits in the year 2002 alone than they paid in taxes for that year! Grubel stated that this amount was more than the federal government contributed to health care in 2000-2001, and more than twice what it spent on defence.

          And finally – let us bash the “Bigger is Better” myth. A bigger economy is not necessarily a stronger one. China, for example, has a huge economy because it has more than a billion people. But in per capita earnings it is around 100th in the world - whereas Canada is in the top ten. As long as a strong economy of any size continues to produce sufficient numbers of babies to maintain viable age-to-dependency ratios (ratio of born to dying, and workers to retirees), a country will remain stable. Small but strong stable economies such as those of Switzerland, Finland, the Netherlands, Austria, Singapore, and Hong Kong, do not have to be big. Neither does Canada.

 


[1] From an article by James Bissett, former Ambassador and Executive Director of the Canadian Immigration Service,  “The Current State of Canadian Immigration Policy,” p.6, 2008

[2] Robin Banerjee and William B.P. Robson, “Faster, Younger, Richer?: The Fond Hope and Sobering Reality of Immigration’s Impact on Canada’s Demographic and Economic Future,” C.D. Howe Institute Commentary, no. 291, July, 2009.

[3] See Christopher Caldwell, Reflection on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam, and the West (New York: Doubleday, 2009), p.47.

[4] Martin Collacott, “Canada’s Immigration Policy: The Need for Major Reform,” in Public Policy Sources, The Fraser Institute, No. 64, 2003. 

[5]He is referring to the story of how if you drop a frog into a pan of boiling water, it will immediately leap out. But if you start with cold water and gradually raise the temperature, the frog will sit until it dies (National Post, Sept. 28, 2009).

[6] Martin Paldam, cited in Herbert Grubel, “Immigration and the Welfare State in Canada: Growing Conflicts, Constructive Solutions” Public Policy Sources No. 84 (Vancouver: The Fraser Institute, September 2005), p.24ff.

[7] See George Borjas, Heaven’s Gate: Immigration Policy and the American Economy (Princeton University Press, paperback, 2001).

[8]  James Bissett, “The Current State of Canadian Immigration Policy,” p.7, 2008. From Statistics Canada Catalogue No. 11F009MIE – 2007198.

[9] Cited in Herbert Grubel, ed., The Effects of Mass Immigration on Canadian Living Standards and Society (Vancouver: The Fraser Institute, 2009), p. 9.

Sunday
Mar052017

A Warming Message form an Old Friend

I just received a phone call my first true friend, who lives in Port Hope, and whom I met on my first day as a new-boy at boarding school at age 10.
In my graduating year, about 17 yrs old, I had begun training quite intensely for track and field, and he wanted to join me.
In the spring, one of our many workouts, was to run 15 x  the length of the 110yd football field as fast as we could manage. From time to time, over the years, we have both recalled fondly the many occasions on which, bending over and panting so hard trying to recover with just one more length to do, we would look at each other and without words, agree that we could do one more, though our legs were screaming with lactic acid by that time. There was a lifelong bond created in those moments.
In his call today, he told me that on this Feb 6th, in bitter cold, he had gone out on his forested property to walk his dog, leaving his sweet wife, who has been disabled with Multiple Sclerosis for fifteen years now, inside. 
Probably about the time he was turning around, and unknown to him, his poor wife took a bad fall down the last of the stairs to the kitchen, and in great pain, with some broken ribs, and bleeding head, but still conscious, she managed to get to the phone to call 911.
At about that same moment, now facing the bitter wind and whipping snow, My friend turned ... slipped on some ice, and fell very hard, breaking his leg very badly, just below the hip joint.
But, he's a gritty guy, and in shock and pain, and with no idea how he would manage, he began crawling toward the house, which he saw in the distance, about ... 110 yards away!
He said that with dog-leash in hand still, and on his elbows and his other knee, he dragged himself and his broken leg back to the house. But when he finally crawled thru the door and lay flat on his back and exhausted in the kitchen, he saw his dear wife all bloodied at the bottom of the stairs ...
Just then, the ambulance showed up to quite a scene, and carted both of them off to the hospital!
I asked Roger how in hell he managed to drag himself back home with (as it turned out) such a bad compound fracture of the hip and leg.
"Willy," he said, "You remember those interval runs we used to do at school, just hammering so hard, until the last one? Well, that is all I thought about: You can make it! I kept telling myself, over and over."
Some things don't change. After all these years, what I heard on the phone was the same cheerful voice as I heard 60 years ago on that green field!
Quite a fellow!
Husband and wife are both recovering well.

 

Saturday
Mar042017

Immigration and Democracy

             In the beginning, when Trudeau’s government turned toward multiculturalism as yet another Statist innovation, the question: Does it matter, or not, where immigrants come from? gave a sense of the tension between Canada’s smug elite opinion and the popular wisdom for which the former felt only scorn. The American situation was not much different, as evidenced in “Elite vs. Public Opinion,” a press release issued December 2002 by the U.S. Center for Immigration Studies[1] that spoke with some alarm of the “enormous gap” between American elites and the public on immigration. Sixty percent of the American public found their present levels of immigration (which proportionally are one-third of the Canadian level) “a critical threat to the vital interests of the United States.” But only fourteen per cent of the nation’s leadership – well-off, opinion-setters – agreed: a gap of 46%. Much of this difference had to do with working people being anxious about their jobs, whereas educated people are less vulnerable to immigrant job-seekers. Nevertheless, the analysis made it clear that politicians get their opinions on immigration policy from elites, not from ordinary people.

            This truth constitutes a sharp challenge to whatever democratic foundation may exist in Western nations, for given that any kind of immigration is either going to maintain, strengthen, or weaken a nation’s identifiable deep-culture profile – its historical identity (a reality distinct from race identity) - there are reasonable questions we ought to be asking. Such as: Do we want to maintain our national deep-culture profile (as described above), or change it? If we say change is okay, then we have to ask: What kind of change? And - Should we accept random change imposed externally by foreigners demanding a “right” to come to Canada? Or should we manage the direction of change ourselves, insisting that immigration to Canada is not a right, but a privilege to be controlled only by Canadians? If, having decided the latter, we want to manage future change ourselves, then we have to ask: Who in Canada – elites or the people – should make the decision to change, and in what direction?

            Clearly, any decision about the future cultural profile of Canada may turn out to be a good or a bad one, regardless of who makes it. However, I submit that on decisions of such importance that have the potential to alter the ethno-cultural fabric of an entire nation –especially in any nation with a meaningful degree of democracy - it is the people who ought to decide on their own future cultural profile, for better or worse. In other words, all nations have the right to defend themselves against demographic capture, or (if you prefer) against passive ethnic or cultural take-over. Either elected representatives should affirm what the ethos and fabric of society is to become after extensive and sincere consultation with all the people, or – my preference – after the same in-depth process, a question of such importance ought to be put directly to the people in a referendum, and subject to a special majority of, say, two-thirds.  Alas, by now, the entire subject of immigration has become so politicized, the average Canadian so frightened of expressing an honest opinion (such are only whispered), and our lop-sided-leftist media so ready to pounce with charges of bigotry (whereas they themselves ought to be charged with anti-Canadianism), that reasonable dialogue does seem impossible. This attests to the attitude-control powers of governments and elites, and the intellectual infantilization of the nation. But it does not reflect the appropriate responsibility and self-direction of a free people.

 


[1] The report was based on a national poll performed by the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations, May to July 2002. 

Thursday
Mar022017

On the Silliness of "Safe Spaces"

Visitors will enjoy this clip of Van Jones in discussion about "Safe Spaces" at the University of Chicago. My comments follow it

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zms3EqGbFOk&t=23s

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

    In this brief and passionately expressed clip, Van Jones makes the time-honoured distinction between disagreeable words (which are non-physical acts), and disagreeable or abusive physical actions used against people with whom you may disagree.

               He was reinforcing the old jingle we learned as kids: "sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me." 

               However, the modern liberal dispensation has exerted itself to dissolve this important distinction, and with devices such as Human Rights Tribunals and anti-hate legislation, has blurred it completely, and has thus opened the door, once again, to the presence of thought-police in the ostensibly freedom-loving nations of the West. This signals an enormous historical shift in the political ideology of such nations, though for now it remains well-camouflaged by the language of ... rights and freedom.

               Anyone who has lived under an intentionally totalitarian system is quite familiar with how the loss of the words/actions distinction is the first signal that some power-group -- in our case the liberal left - has already gained control over the levers of public speech, and is already using the blurring of the important distinction between words, sticks, and stones - to argue that a word IS a stick or a stone. Inevitably, as night follows day, they then authorize themselves to argue that a word is an act of hate, intimidation, or violence, and use laws and punishments to stamp out resistance to their preferred progressive ideology. This conversion of words into stones, concepts into things, is already penetrating beyond the mouth and into the mind. The next target is thought control. There are legions of intellectual-sanitation officers already arguing that each one of us is a living engine of "micro-aggression."  Social damage is done every time we open our mouths. So, just a pitter-patter of deadly little dogmas away -- is thought-control and compulsory national re-education programs for all the people.

                Amidst the people themselves? There begins a moral and intellectual life of silence, or at the least, of inauthentic and dishonest social interactions with others who, it is feared,  may be policing them to judge if what they thought were just words are maybe, possibly, sticks and stones, and who seek to shut them up and punish accordingly.    

               I think Van Jones, an articulate leftist, came out in support of maintaining the words/actions distinction because his deepest instincts correctly informed him that otherwise, no one, left or right, is safe.

Wednesday
Mar012017

A Paradox: Deep Culture Must Always Be Illiberal

 

            For thousands of years, rulers, kingdoms, and States – governments large and small - have understood very well how human social-bonding works (affiliation to the maximum number of common cultural denominators). So they have strived to ensure their people share a common deep culture, and have struggled against all threats to the unity this produces. They have understood that you can enjoy lots of ethnic diversity within an existing deep cultural unity, but you cannot derive cultural unity from diversity. That’s why for most nations in history, assimilation has been the key to unity: get newcomers to forget their old ways, and adopt the new host culture.

          Arguably, the Roman Empire was the first, most successful, and most ethnically-diverse State in history. But it lasted so long mainly because it insisted on conformity to common linguistic, legal, political, and religious standards and symbols. You used Latin in all official discourse and documents (some Greek for high culture), if a citizen, you obeyed and were protected equally by Roman law, you shared common political rights in all Roman provinces, you worshiped whatever gods you wanted, but if you attacked the Gods of Rome you would be crucified. Above all, the rule was, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”

          I am arguing that the most central logical and historical reality without which there can never be a “people” is the sense of inclusiveness that arises from bonding to the same deep culture, and this inclusiveness is necessarily and by definition also exclusive: you are either for us, or against us (and our culture), an insider or an outsider. That is what creates the bonds and privileges of membership in any social group. This is simply a fact of human history, the way the world has always worked, and this natural process of inclusion/exclusion is the only thing that produces social bonding in any group. Whether in sport teams, families, churches, or nations, all human social bonding – which is a universal cultural phenomenon - demands sacrifice to group ideals, subordination to group authority, commitment to group purposes, and then, and only then, members get group privileges. 

         For a very long time Canada offered its deep culture to all immigrants, and expected the social-bonding explained above to take place. In effect, the private property rights, rule of law, individual freedom, our many legal and political rights, and much more, comprised a real-world, practical, universalizing culture that worked very well to assimilate and unify foreigners. The trouble with almost all the modern democracies is that in embracing multiculturalism as an official policy – the absurd idea that differences unite - they have been turning their backs on what really unites: their own deep-culture inheritance (however filtered or enriched by other skin-deep cultural experiences of other peoples).

            In addition to these distortions of value and truth, these trivializations of deep culture, perhaps the most insidious effect of “diversity” is that it is no diversity at all. It has produced a strict and unrelenting, extremely narrow-minded and very radical anti-Western orthodoxy of a kind rarely seen before. The diversity in question is in fact a diversity of the like-minded, and the like-minded are primarily radical secular leftists of a bitterly anti-Western type operating in lock-step attitudinal conformity who employ all the techniques of modern Statism to shut down opposing views via what author Camille Paglia, herself a leftist, has called a “fascism of the left.” Another astute critic from the left who saw this scam long ago, was Christopher Lasch, who said that “in practice, diversity turns out to legitimize a new dogmatism in which rival minorities take shelter behind a set of beliefs impervious to rational discussion.”[1]

          So much is this true that one of the newly-rarefied meanings of “racism” includes a charge of failure to recognize racial differences, special racial identities, and the unique “perspectives’ of racial minorities (in the unique sensibilities of which you may be genetically-barred from sharing, due to your different race). Toronto already has one all-black school (a school especially for whites would be considered racially discriminatory). And authorities are now discussing the need for “all-aboriginal” schools.  There is nothing “diverse” about all this. It is our new orthodoxy.

 

 


[1] Cited in Robert Martin, The Most Dangerous Branch: How the Supreme Court of Canada Has Undermined Our Law and Our Democracy (Montreal-Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2003), p.20. 

Tuesday
Feb282017

White Guilt, Self-Loathing, and the Therapeutic State

This is a continuation of free-thinking about the condition of western culture, and what Paul Gottfried, below, in a book of that name, calls The Menace of Multiculturalism.

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

            Most dominant cultures do not end up in self-hate. They fight hard to maintain the authority and control that flow from their deep culture. That is what Rome did for a thousand years. One of the very large questions that historians will soon be trying to answer during what appears to be the clear and present decline of Western civilization, is "Why did the West turn against itself?" One plausible explanations is so-called “White guilt.”

            In an interesting treatment, author Paul Gottfried argues that we have recently traveled from the managerial Welfare State of the first half of the twentieth-century, to the behaviour-and-attitude-controlling Therapeutic State of the present. This may be seen as a secular expression of our earlier Christian-based search for purity of soul and atonement for original sin. Due to the pervasive psychological weight of the latter, some have described all Christian societies as “a guilt culture” (in contrast to the frequent description of Islamic societies as a “blame culture”).  

            The process began with the Protestant Reformation in the early Sixteenth  century. People often think the Reformation was a cry for release from religious authority and control. But it was the opposite. It was a puritanical protest against religious laxity and corruption. People began turning their backs on Church authority, because it wasn't strict enough! Too corrupt. They began turning away from their church-mediated relationship with God, and yearning for an individual relationship with god and for spiritual salvation.

              But  No sooner was this right won, than a call went out for individual political rights, too. In that sense, modern democracy has been recognized by many historians as “a child of the Reformation.”  For a as soon as it was realized that protestant religious fragmentation was producing a multiplicity of sects, a call for toleration arose, and it was not long before the right to an individual relationship with God was translated into an individual right to vote. People began to hear the phrase: "The voice of the people is the voice of God." Hmmm.

              Then over time, as Western society became more secular and religion weakened, the emphasis began to fall on various human-rights crusades. Our present stage of attitude control and “political correctness” is enabled by an increasingly therapeutic State complete with purity-of-behaviour and re-education courses, sensitivity-adjustment units such as Human Rights Commissions (which seek to control, purge, and punish even internal attitudes or impure private thought and speech), and a politicized judiciary that sees its role as the purification of democracy (see chapter Fifteen of The Trouble With Canada ... Still! for actual statements from Canadian judges to this effect).

                 In short, almost overnight the notion of sin as spiritual bad attitude, gave way to political and cultural insensitivity as bad attitude. The ancient search for religious purity and salvation slowly gave way to a yearning for psychic and even bodily purity, for “a mind cleansed of pathological thoughts.” Accompanying all this, we increasingly see an almost fanatical modern emphasis on bodily health, on pure “organic” foods, along with strident calls for environmental-recycling behaviour in all citizens! In no small way, the world-wide concern for cleaning up the garbage in the streets has replaced the prior need to clean up the garbage in the soul. 

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