Think back to your grade school days. You may have been the nerdy, freckled, bucktoothed, frail, asthmatic, and spectacled little guy with the Power Rangers backpack and taped-up glasses. You knew to stay away from the porcine, over-alled, buzzcut, ham-fisted brute who demanded your lunch money as tribute for not getting swirlied. To many Conservatives, this is the picture they wish to paint of the relationship between government and the people. Those like Gerry Nicholls say the government is – literally – a bully.
Their ideology can be boiled down to simply as “Less government means more freedom”. But if this held true, so should the apex of this ideology. If less government means more freedom, it naturally follows that the least government means the most freedom. The least government is no government: anarchy. According to this ideology, anarchy provides the most freedom. This certainly may be true, but is it a desirable situation for society?
The problem with this ideology is that it provides no distinction between good government and bad government. All government is bad because it restricts freedom, they say. A recent piece on NetNewsLedger by Gerry Nicholls excoriates laws, rules, regulations, and restrictions. These laws, rules, regulations, and restrictions are the bedrock of our society. We depend greatly on these to have a functional society. If all laws are bad, should we have the freedom to kill, steal, and rape others at will?
Of course not and nobody in their right mind would think we should have the freedom to kill, rape, and steal. So there must be a point where Conservatives stop and say “This level of government is desirable”. The problem is that I have never actually seen ANY Conservative make the distinction that a certain level of government is acceptable. This is probably for the reason that Conservatives probably individually disagree greatly on what level of government is acceptable (and would probably call anyone who disagreed with them Socialist-Communist-Maoist-Castroist-Marxist-Leftist FIBERALS!!!, if personal experience is anything to go by).
Gerry unabashedly says all these laws, rules, regulations and restrictions restrict our freedom. Gerry doesn’t make a distinction between good laws and bad ones. He just baldly claims they all restrict freedom and are therefore bad. Not only that, but by making these laws, the government is “bullying” us. Think about how our military would function if soldiers didn’t have to follow the chain of command. Think about how our society would function if criminals weren’t punished because Gerry and other Conservatives think all laws are bad. Think about how polluted our environment would be if companies could pollute at will because there were no regulations or enforcement governing them. Think about the quality of your food and water if there were no inspectors or standards filtering out bad product from reaching your consumption. Think about the substandard education we’d have if we didn’t have a provincial curriculum that all schools have to adhere to.
We wouldn’t have any society at all. Inversely, he says those on the opposite side on the spectrum to his views must believe in “big government” and must carry a belief that all government is good. I consider myself on the opposite end of the spectrum of Gerry. I do not hold a belief in “big government” and anyone claiming I do is merely trying to score a cheap political point by telling lies. The same goes for most left-wingers, I imagine.
My ideology does not dictate the more government we have, the better off we are. My ideology dictates that we should have an appropriate sized government to meet the needs of our people. These needs include defence, education, healthcare, infrastructure, housing, food, water, and basic human rights. You may argue that it is “big government”, but I don’t like “big government” for big government’s sake. Don’t get me wrong here. There is definitely waste, corruption, and a lack of transparency in government. We could do with having a more efficient and democratic system. But that doesn’t mean by a long shot that all government is bad nor does it mean that all government is good.
It’s irrational to declare something as big, complex, and dynamic as government as inherently good or bad. We can only judge a government by what it says and does and judge those words and actions individually. What I would like to see is Conservatives coming out and declaring what level of government they would be satisfied with. In other words, if you’re a Conservative and if you were Prime Minister of Canada today, what would be on the chopping block? Would you fire the meat and water inspectors? Would you fire the teachers and cops? Would you tell the military to pack it in and head home? Would you reduce our democratic representation in Toronto and Ottawa? Is your answer at odds with your belief that “smaller government is always better government”? Are you also a social conservative?
This ideology is also at odds with social conservatism. Social conservatism relies on heavy legislation that curtails the freedoms and civil liberties of certain groups (especially minorities) for the sake of “tradition”. Someone who legitimately and honestly held the view that all laws are bad would disagree with the Harper Government building more prisons, wanting to restrict abortion, euthanasia, and same-sex marriage. It would disagree with the laws against drug use as well as drug trafficking. Social conservatism requires all this legislation and if legislation is inherently evil, apparently, so must be social conservatism.
I sometimes wonder that perhaps the Prime Minister always muses that all government is bad because he’s so bad at it.