Third Way is Socialism’s New Bandwagon

Ilana Mercer, February 3, 2000

The abrupt departure of Alberta New Democrat leader Pam Barrett, which leaves the minuscule Alberta New Democratic caucus desperately seeking a leader, is an NDP political evisceration for which British Columbian residents should be longing. Instead, as the New Democratic Party of BC gears up to choose a head honcho to lead it into the next elections, most pundits and editorialists continue to masticate aimlessly on episodes of corruption, lies and mismanagement. But they fail to connect the ideological dots: the NDP’s flop is rooted in its coercive socialist ideology; an ideology which all BC candidates share. Short of instituting a command economy, British Columbia’s NDP emissaries have pursued singularly a regime of collectivism, taxation and regulation, all of which has hobbled the economy, diminished the personal freedoms of residents, and made Alberta a desirable destination.

On the world stage, socialism has reinvented itself successfully and has surfaced in the guise of the vaunted Third Way whose main apparatchiks are the Clintons, the pair from Cool Britannia and the German Chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder. Proponents of this option claim it is more than “opinion poll-driven platitudes”—it offers a path of “substantive policy prescriptions” situated between the “old left” and the “New Right”. With Third Way pragmatism surfacing in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, federal NDP leader Alexa McDonough has followed her provincial brethren and the Chretien Liberals with a platform of balanced budgets, tax relief, even offering an olive splinter to small business.

Third Way politicians, PM Jean Chretien’s Liberals included, dispense the right doses of corporatism and compassion, but cannot quite conceal what the Fraser Institute’s Patrick Basham calls “the ghost of George Orwell lurking in the Machiavellian shadows”. The policies of the world’s main Third Way players are those of self-righteous meddlers, who, to quote Tony Blair, believe that “freedom requires strong government.” Third Way affinity to competitive markets amounts to cozying up to and bailing out big business, but saying no to allowing consumers via the market to determine the viability of business. In their choice of where they sink public money, argues Basham in a recent paper, Third Way politicos ignore that when “money is targeted at firms and industries that government rather than the market deems deserving, much of it will be wasted”.

As do Third Way politicians refuse to concede that tax cuts increase government revenue. Both British Columbia’s by-gone finance minister Joy MacPhail, and the federal minister of finance Paul Martin flout this economic shibboleth, and with it the wisdom of Canadian Nobel Laureate Robert Mundell, for whom “taxes are the arterial sclerosis of the economy”. These modernized social democrats will never consider that privatization of the public sector will cut waste and increase efficiency, because they believe that bureaucrats—absent the market’s system of incentives and deterrents—are propelled by some noblesse oblige.

Perhaps their greatest blight is so-called “communitarian philosophy”. Said Tony Blair: “We need the active hand of government to refurbish culture and to reconstruct everyday civility”, to which First Lady Hillary Clinton purrs, “It Takes a Village.” Canadian communitarians, like cultural capo Sheila Copps or health vigilante Allan Rock, weigh in with their brand efforts to mold the community. “This impulse,” writes Kenneth Minogue in the January 14, 2000 the Times Literary Supplement, “now focuses on social issues like sex, drugs, education, culture and the other areas where a beneficent government aims to help what they patronizingly call “ordinary people” by a bit of subsidy here, a few regulations there.”

Further social shaping takes place through an emphasis on equality of outcomes instead of equality of opportunity: Here the pathos of historical injustice serves to motivate for preferential treatment for designated groups. For the politics of the Grits and the NDP are the politics of special interests. The Chretien Liberals, like other purveyors of Third-Way politics, have let the classical liberal ideal of equality under the law fall by the way. Their compulsion to enforce a single vision of life extends comfortably to the support of pluralism, so long as it’s a pluralism of approved groups, ideas and orientations.

The Third Way is socialism’s new bandwagon upon which fit quite comfortably the Clintons, the Blairs, the Grits and the NDP parties that litter Canadian politics. Hovering above, of course, is the spirit of John Maynard Keynes, the economist who provided the justification for big government and big deficits. While the Alberta party is driven to oblivion, BC’s NDP front-runners don’t even need to roll in Third Way manure. They are parading proudly on an old-guard socialist plank and few in BC are the wiser.

©2000 By Ilana Mercer
The Calgary Herald
February 3

CATEGORIES: Business, Canada, Capitalism, Economy, Political Theory, Socialism