Related to my previous post on equality, given the light of the recent elections in Toronto, and the hostility towards the newly elected conservative leaning mayor, I feel I am somewhat a minority as a moderate.
Canada historically has been fairly liberal compared to the United States, their country was formed by a group of government officials at a table, Confederacy, establishing the beginnings. In contrast, the US was established through a war of freedom and independence. Naturally, it is not surprising that Americans tend to be more conservative and right leaning in their views towards freedom and equality. Canada is contrasted as a capitalist-socialist country. I use the term socialist as the definition of socialism is an ideology that the government should provide utilities, social welfare, and own enterprises that compete on the market. This is all true for Canada, especially the last one (ie. Petro Canada, LCBO, etc). So for me to say that liberals are socialist, that’s because they generally are.
At my college, the University of Toronto, being an academic university in a left leaning city, it is not surprising that the majority of my colleagues are liberal. And why not, college students have the most to gain from liberal policies. Most don’t work and don’t pay any taxes, and are progressive, wanting to help everyone.
I used to be a liberal as well. But gradually, the impact of my internship and economics and exposure to American politics have left me to be a political moderate, or in Canada, a ‘conservative’. The reasons are fairly simple to me, but may not be to many of my colleagues. Younger people tend to be more progressive. Yes, liberal policies sound good on the outside. It sounds good to be able to help everyone, to make everyone more equal, to support progressive causes, to have the government supply services, improve roads + transportation + public goods + healthcare, to have the rich give to the poor. That all sounds good right? The Democratic party is so forward thinking to take care of everyone and support equality.
Then I looked a bit deeper into things. The more power you give to government, the more authority they will have over you, and the less freedom you have. The more you try to make everyone equal, the more it tends towards communism. The more you let government supply, the less you let business and private enterprise supply. And private businesses tend to be more efficient than government. Remember the government doesn’t have to make profit and because of this, they have no incentive to serve the people whereas businesses do in order to gain revenue. And of course, higher taxes to pay for these new services and expansion of government. Remember that when you tax high income individuals, you are taxing the economically most productive workers in the economy, and taking their hard earned money away to give to poor people who presumably have more incentive to be lazy and unproductive because of this redistribution of wealth. I would rather have private enterprise supply those services, and have the government do less, cut spending, cut taxes, and keep the inequality gap the way it is. It may sound like I’m being bigoted and selfish, but when I think of the idyllic time of the 1950s, a great prosperous time, it was mostly conservative policies and atmosphere that worked the way it should.
And so, the new mayor Rob Ford takes office, and I hope that Toronto should become more conservative if he enacts his policies, as I know politicians often lie and deceive. Most of my colleagues are disgusted at his election, as they should be as liberals, but as for me, I don’t have a problem with it, I just want to implore more people to realize the long term implications of their ‘progressive’ views, what it entails and that Mr Ford fulfills his promises.
To further expand on what I’ve said before about the role of government in society, there’s always a tradeoff in the role of government. I personally believe that the government should only provide services that the majority of people would want. For example, defense, healthcare, and education are common public goods that the government provides because most people want them. At the same time, people also have the choice of going with a private good instead (except in the case of defense). Medicare competes with private health insurance, though it only benefits a segment of people (people over 65). Private universities provide a higher quality education at a higher cost than public universities.
On the other hand, too little government means that inequality and corruption will abound. A good example is the United States during the late 1800s – early 1900s, where people like J.P Morgan and John Rockefeller amassed huge sums of wealth, while poor people were literally dirt poor. You think today’s inequality is bad? Back when there was no social security and safety net, the top 1% earned about a million times more than the average worker. J.P Morgan was so powerful that his wealth and influence could actually be measured as a percentage of the US GDP, he had a sizable influence during President Roosevelt’s administration, and he single handedly saved the US financial system from collapse during the Panic of 1907. In this era, huge monopolies such as US Steel and Standard Oil existed, basically causing widespread corruption in all levels of the government and private enterprise. In the absence of government intervention, this kind of corruption and inequity will be tremendous. This is what pure capitalism with no government intervention would have looked like. What we see in the USA right now is reformed capitalism, or capitalism with post-FDR social reforms in place, to mitigate this kind of greed and inequality (though it still exists).
The main thing is that if you want the government to provide you a service, then the majority must agree, the service must also be provided to everyone, and the cost comes from taxpayer’s pockets. On the other hand, if the majority disagrees, and if that service is one that benefits you more than others, then it is efficient to have a private company provide you that service. Consider the example of getting your driveway paved. Suppose the government raises taxes in order to provide a service to everyone of getting their driveway paved whenever they want. Clearly, some people are better off than others because some people have bigger driveways, get their driveways dirtier more often, etc. In other words, it’s not efficient for the government to provide this service. It’s better off to do it yourself or to hire a private company to do it for you, at your own extra cost.
Ted Sorenson once said that “The difference between Republicans and Democrats have always been that the former cares more about property, and the latter cares more about people”. I would extend that to say that the difference between liberals and conservatives is that liberals believe more in social welfare at the cost of higher taxes, and conservatives believe more in individual responsibilities at their own personal cost.