Tuesday, December 28, 2010

How the Man From Mars Would See Canadian Democracy

British Columbia has a rich history of producing cantankerous old men, gruff and outspoken.  One of today's classics is Rafe Mair, former lawyer, Social Credit cabinet minister, radio talk show host and now senior columnist for The Tyee.

In Monday's Tyee, Mair admitted he's a Liberal in a country that has forgotten what that is supposed to mean.  He then explains how the MFM - or Man From Mars - would see Canada and our democracy.   Here are a few examples:

A visiting Man from Mars would see a talk shop with the semblance of popular control but would observe that it was an illusion. The only person with less impact on decision making than opposition backbenchers are those on the government benches. He would see a Canadian system which since 1873 has only seen one government, federal or provincial, fall when it had a majority -- and that before party discipline had taken hold. The notion of "responsible" government, where a majority government is actually subject to the parliament is a hoax in the same class as a belief in Santa Claus.

...Our Man from Mars would look at how we run our business affairs and would be struck by the way large pools of capital form themselves into corporations that can't be controlled. How would we expect them to be controlled when the people who want nice comfy laws finance the governing party which makes up the rules?

...MFM would see that when corporations are held to account by some government or hearing or another that the fix is in. He would note the British Columbia environmental public hearings and stifle a guffaw as he sees how the government and the corporation are in partnership to stifle any questions that go to the root of the matter by calling them out of order. He would no doubt see that the only difference between China and Canada in this regard is the Canada holds hearings that don't matter and China simply doesn't hold meetings.

Our Man from Mars would see that labour unions, once a strong factor in the business community,  ...are largely unable to do much more than unions in the old Soviet Union could do. The private sector's principal source of labour now comes from cheap labour in foreign countries where the workers are worse off than a coal miner in 19th century England, so that local workers are happy to have any job whatever the pay and conditions.

MFM would see how the law prevents citizens to protest by permitting corporations to turn a common law action into a criminal act of " contempt" and throw the protesters in jail.

 And finally, and fittingly, Mair turns his attention to the weeds in his own backyard - press freedom in a nation that has tolerated the corporatization of its final bastion of democratic freedom.

Freedom of the press is, or rather was, the bulwark against oppression. It is called the " fourth estate"   because in the 18th century Edmund Burke saw the press as the proper force against abuse by the three " estates"   of government, the House of Commons, The House of Lords, and the Clergy.

To maintain this freedom has not been easy, and now it has all but disappeared, because the newspapers, TV and radio are controlled by big business which defends itself and the government that supports it by censorship in two ways: owners only hire publishers and editors that permit the official " truth"   to be uttered, and journalists who want to survive self-censor in order to keep their jobs.

A good example is in British Columbia.

From 1991-2001 the NDP government was rigorously held to account by media outlets. One columnist almost alone exposed a huge government debacle over some expensive and unsuitable ferries. This was scarcely the only issue where the government's feet were held firmly to the fire.

From 2001-1010 a " corporation"   party, the Liberals, have been given a free ride by the media with only this paper and one or two other " outside"  outlets providing free speech where writers like me and many better ones can write what they want subject only to the laws of defamation.

You Liberals may think that Mair is a raving socialist, not one of your own kind.  In fact, he's the real Liberal, not the modern party and its leaders and supporters who have meekly yielded to the convenience and benefits of corporatism.  And Mair is dead right on the demise of  press freedom from the scourges of concentration of ownership and cross-ownership, the keys to corporate control that stifles voices and filters opinion.

Corporatism has run absolutely amok in the US and, once again, while we lag well behind we're trending in the same direction but you'll never hear the very word "corporatism" crossing the lips of today's political leadership.   What we see instead is a society degraded by their betrayals, its cohesion eroded and rent by the powerful elixir of lies and wedge politics.   Does it not tell you Liberals In Name Only (LINOs) something that, in a country so badly in need of reform on so many fronts, your leadership offers up meaningless pap about arts funding or daycare?

If you think I'm making this up, go back to the roster of speakers at Iggy's "thinkers' conference" and find out how many of those supposed thinkers were CEO's and management consultants.   Just go through the list, tally them up, and then draw your own conclusions.

I think I agree with Mair that being a Liberal today is best served by keeping the party itself at arm's length where you'll find the MFM view.


crf said...

He's right.
Remember David Bond: Sun columnist and former HSBC (British Columbia) chief economist. Fairly right wing, he repeatedly denounced the policies of the provincial NDP and was critical of the federal Liberals too.

But before the election of Gordon Campbell, he repeatedly criticized Gary Farell Collins' and Campbell's claim that the tax cuts they were promising would not increase the deficit, and would pay for themselves.

And when the deficit increased during the Liberal's first budget, he memorably gloated:

"I could be tempted to say 'I told you so,' but I
shouldn't. After all, Mr. Collins, who was saying there wouldn't be
any deficit, is a certified flight instructor and all I've got is a
PhD in economics"

And for saying not nice things about the economic competency of the Liberals, he was fired by HSBC from his consulting job (undoubtedly after pressure was applied on the company to stay in the BC Liberal party good books), and soon no longer had a newspaper column.

All for telling the world through a newspaper column the academically uncontroversial truth: that tax cuts do not pay for themselves.

Pseudz said...

This puts some BC specifics to a theme which can be found in Chris Hedges 'Death of the Liberal Class'.

Beat the drum slowly - - but keep beating.