September 09, 2015

Our leaders need to answer one simple question: What is a Conservative?

Tim BallRebel Columnist

Voltaire said, “If you wish to converse with me define your terms.” Often people argue only to discover that they agree but are confused by slightly different definitions of basic terms. 

Similarly, people use terms incorrectly or without knowledge of their meaning. It was enlightening and disturbing, but not surprising, when Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Chair of the Democratic National Committee, could not answer Chris Matthews' question: “What is the difference between a Democrat and a socialist?”

The blurring partly reflects the growing awareness of individuality and diversity in all segments of society. Nowhere is this truer than in politics and yet nowhere is it more important. Yes, there are political shades, but there is a central philosophy essential to any definable political party. Voters need to know the basic beliefs of candidates when they vote.

In the past when Canadians were asked to identify politicians they admire they invariably list NDP leaders. Among them was J.S. Woodsworth, a pioneer in the social democratic movement and founder of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF,) the forerunner to the NDP. Others included Ed Broadbent, but most respected of all was T. C. (Tommy) Douglas, who was voted the greatest Canadian in a nationwide poll of over one million people.

The problem is none of them ever led a party to power. This seems like a contradiction, but it is logical and identifies an important tenet for all politicians, especially conservatives. All clearly knew and enunciated with clarity their political philosophy.

People respect that, but it also means they are not likely to vote for them because a majority of Canadians are small “c” conservatives. Combine that with the growing awareness of individuality and small groups and you have the need for a well-defined conservatism.

There is evidence of the failure to enunciate a clear understanding of conservative principles in many western nations. The tendency is to think it necessary to move to the political center to win an election.

Harper did it twice. In his first two elections, polls showed a conservative majority, but he shifted to the center resulting in lost votes and a minority government.  Often these conservatives fail to follow through with conservative principles after their election, as the US Republicans demonstrate.

Here is a brief list of principles a conservative must stand for, based on a British list. Conservatives stand:

  • - for the family and the individual;
  • - against the state and bureaucracy;
  • - against monopolies and cartels;
  • - for people and against collectives.

A conservative must resist the temptation to expect the state to behave as a nanny, and strive for recognition for citizens.

Herbert Spencer (1820 - 1903) summed up the last point when he wrote,

The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly is to fill the world with fools.

The challenge is that these are not the principles most think of when thinking of a conservative.

It is essential that people know clearly and concisely a person’s political principles. Only then can they can make a clear, informed, decision and elect people who are more likely to do what they promise. Despite this, there will always be a percentage that prefers government running their lives.


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commented 2015-09-12 03:01:05 -0400
The leftists and the media have already defined for us what conservative means. Conservative means bigotry, screwing the poor, abusing the world for profit, and invading other countries. In other words, you need to be stupid to be a conservative.
commented 2015-09-11 17:13:05 -0400
“Many people are perplexed as to how Canada, the U.S. and the Western world in general has experienced such a dramatic decline in our freedoms and morality over the last 50 years or so. I would suggest that the primary cause is the overwhelming influence of cultural Marxism…”

Maybe, RON VOSS. But I think there’s something else in the mix – maybe it’s the big bang that is responsible for the cultural Marxism. There’s an old story that makes the rounds of military colleges that when the Spartans were at the height of their power they sent a delegation to the Oracle at Delphi and with no small amount of conceit demanded: “Can anything harm Sparta?” The answer (which probably didn’t have much effect on their considerable egos) was short and to the point: “Yes, luxury.” The danger with luxury is that it is invariably attended by its handmaidens: self-interest, complacency, cowardice, and an appalling lack of curiosity about the important things… soft living begets soft heads.
commented 2015-09-11 04:20:51 -0400
An enlightening and fascinating discussion. A thank you to Mr. Tim Ball and all other participants in this discussion. As the election approaches, and for those among us, with our heads screwed down tight, who want to, once again, elect a Conservative government, it is imperative that we truly understand what it is that we expect from a Conservative government. Who is it that we want to elect? What do they claim to represent? What in fact are they prepared to deliver and to what extent are we prepared to go to hold their feet to the fire if they are elected. They should work for us, not the other way around.
commented 2015-09-10 22:59:13 -0400
John Stuart Mill said that Law only directs men in instances that their actions physically affect the lives of others. In essence, this is the “golden rule”, to do no harm to others or their property, unless in defense or in the partaking of justice (for physical wrongs one has done to another).

This is in contrast to Patrick Devlin who said that the State has a “right” (over men, not bestowed by God) to uphold rules to shape it’s moral vision of society.

Patrick Devlin’s assumes all wish to participate in what the State views as their “society”… Forcibly includes you in the “collective” and issues forceful consequences for refusing to adhere to arbitrarily drafted man-made “law”.

John Stuard Mill says that a man is free to do as he pleases, contract with any other consensually, insofar as his actions do not cause clear-cut physical injury/harm to another or their property.

Patrick Devlin = Statist, Legal Positivist

John Stuart Mill = Conservative Libertarian, Champion of Natual Law
commented 2015-09-10 22:18:33 -0400
There are collectives, essentially families, willing associations, and then the “liberal” doublespeak “collectives”.

The “liberal” type of “collective” seeks to assert that children do not belong to their parents, they belong to the State, as do the parents themselves.

Conservatives reject this view, they say, “hands off my family Statists, being that all are equal under God, you have ZERO authority to tell us we belong to you, unless we wish to belong to you”.

So conservatives can be about collectives in that they respect the sanctity of the family unit, but are more-so about Rights of the Individual. Family ends up being a big conservative issue, only because the left so dilligently seeks to destroy the family unit.
commented 2015-09-10 22:01:59 -0400
The trouble with Legal Positivism is that it works much like “democracy”, essentially MOB RULE. Whereas, in a Repulbic, your Rights are not defined by the whims of others where no clear and concise injury can result from your actions.

This election and it’s aftermath is a perfect example of Democracy (MOB RULE). Harper will win, likely to be followed by the formation of a far-left coalition. Conservatives will sing the praises of “democracy” and “progressive conservatism” until they’re shown the true fruit of its tyranny. It’s potential to not only grant pre-existing rights, but attempt to take them away.

Another serious flaw with Legal Positivism is that it invites men, who are equal under God, to make rules over others, based on the idea that if “society” wills those rules to exist, they are valid. But what if society protests those rules made by men? Legal Positivism itself would deem those rules no longer valid would it not? That’s when folks figure out that those who wrote an unjust rule are not truly concerned with what “society” wants. That these legal positivists are drunk on power, lust for a status above the equality of men under God, and will often do so for their own gain.

How else can we explain things the public dislike but remain “legal”??? Everything from liquor monopolies to bans on capital punishment… If you ask the average Ontarian whether they’d want to buy from Bob’s Discount Beer Depot or see Paul Bernardo executed, the legal positivists that currently run the show would not want you to see the poll results. They’ll say, “that’s not the way things work in a democracy”. So equality under God is out-dated according to these people. The importance of the will of the People is “not the way things work”, despite their legal positivism being entirely based on it.

I am naturally suspicious of those who talk of what is “legal” or what is “democratic”, regardless of what political persuasion they claim to be of.
commented 2015-09-10 21:45:52 -0400
Good post by Tim – great comments from all. Love to see this kind of discourse here – gives me hope as it it is hard to find elsewhere.
commented 2015-09-10 21:29:42 -0400
Legal Positivism, is the continental runoff of Immanuel Kant’s basic metaphysic: “Live only by that maxim by which you could will that it should become universal.” Yes, he was German, and yes, he was a poor author. The problem with such a view is two-fold. first, it posits that there are only two ways in which a person could act; either the right way, or the wrong way. Second, is that it claims that humans may have omniscience to know what is universally true.

Constitutionalism, or what Trudeau introduced with our Charter of rights and freedoms, took our country from the Aristotelian notion that actions are right or wrong based on the virtue of those actions, to the less British and more continental legalistic framework we see today.

This article by Tim Ball is well written and poignant, if inconsistent. Tim Ball posits conservatives are for the family and the individual, and yet somehow against collectives. By definition a family is a collective, so therefore conservatives cannot be ‘for’ what they are ‘against’. Besides which, defining oneself by what one is ‘against’ is a sure way appeal to the angry, embittered, and hateful amongst us. That is a sure way to lose credibility in popular circles.

Rather, conservatives see the law as a means to promote virtue and punish vice. Virtue is not whether something measures precisely to an exact number, but whether an action or object results in a desirable outcome or serves its purpose. This way of viewing the world requires judgement, the kind only present in humans, and dominant among many, many mothers. And it is this way of thinking that must be reintroduced to our young and old so that they will know how best to coordinate their own lives.
commented 2015-09-10 16:48:58 -0400
The bureaucratic statists that go around busting little kids for having a lemonade stand… The only reasoning for their anti-Liberty, anti-free market, anti-conservative actions is:

“The lemonade COULD BE tainted or MIGHT BE made in unsanitary conditions”.

And that right there is how these statists roll.

Instead of laying a charge for having tainted lemonade, they lay one because it COULD possibly be tainted. If you confront them about who the lemonade selling child’s victim is, they go off into hokey statements about “the collective” (which proves what side of the political spectrum they’re on)… They say:

“Well I don’t want to live in the type of society where people just (insert victimless “crime” they’re trying to discourage here)."

The drug “laws” are based on hypothetical, Legal Positivist jurisprudence. As are the firearms “laws”. None of this is Law, that is Natural Law.

That is the distinction. The Left, those who are openly left-wing, and those who disguise it, believe THEY have the authority to tell others what is and isn’t acceptable… In the absence of any real victim (often their victim is “society”) or accuser. They’ll go so far as to actually victimize the people they don’t agree with, in an effort to snuff our that person’s victimless actions they disapprove of.
commented 2015-09-10 15:02:55 -0400
To pick up on what RICHARD VANDERLUBBE wrote, a lesson from history. The nineteenth-century century French statesman, historian and social philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859) is famous for his portrait of 19th-century America and his philosophic insights on why the American society flourished — and also where it might go wrong. The brutal French Revolution with its post-Enlightenment, humanist bent had not delivered all that it had promised. Instead of installing a free government, they instituted a series of tyrannies, guillotining thousands. Alexis de Tocqueville, whose own grandfather and aunt were victims of the guillotine, traveled to America in 1831 to study the young democracy and discover the reasons for the incredible success of this new nation. He published his observations of American society in his classic two-volume work, Democracy in America. He was especially impressed by America’s moral and religious character and how that contributed to its freedom and prosperity. Morality is simply having the character to do what you should do instead of what you have the freedom to do. Freedom is not the permission to do what you like. It’s the power to do what you ought.
Related to that perception, here are some salient excerpts from de Tocqueville’s work:
- In France I had almost always seen the spirit of religion and the spirit of freedom marching in opposite directions. But in America I found they were intimately united and that they reigned in common over the same country.
- The safeguard of morality is religion, and morality is the best security of law as well as the surest pledge of freedom.
- I am inclined to believe that if faith be wanting in (a man) he must be subject; and if he believe, he must be free.
- America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.
commented 2015-09-10 14:54:02 -0400
What is a conservative? One who believes in personal responsibility, and takes charge of that responsibility. He does not rely on the “state”, he does not subscribe to popular jargon (everybody’s a victim! It’s not your fault!), and he takes care of his own.

I do not need government to protect me. I do not need government to provide for me. I resent government interference in the forms of telling me what I may or may not do. If I break a law, I pay the penalty, in whichever form it takes. I look out for my fellow man — I support local organizations that assist the infirm, the street people, the stressed-out. I don’t ask for government to fund them, I fund them. I pay the barest minimum taxes possible — I can invest it better than the government can. (If “the church” can survive on 10%, why can’t the government?) I don’t need police to tell me it’s too dangerous to protect mine and my possessions — that’s my risk to take!

A conservative is personally responsible, and does not subscribe to the popular ideology of fear.
commented 2015-09-10 13:55:21 -0400
LIBERTY RODENT, observed, “There are not many Canadians who understand conservatism and of the conservatives among us, many are just as progressive as any statist”. I would like to focus on why is it that “many are just as progressive as any statist.”.
Many people are perplexed as to how Canada, the U.S. and the Western world in general has experienced such a dramatic decline in our freedoms and morality over the last 50 years or so. I would suggest that the primary cause is the overwhelming influence of cultural Marxism (‘progressivism’ or ‘political correctness’) whereby the mission for socialism is to be achieved not by revolution, but, rather by evolution. That is, by capturing the culture through what Marxist theoretician and politician Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937) called “the long march through the institutions”, that is, taking over the institutions of power and influence, such as the judiciary, education, the media (like the CBC, etc.), politics, and the churches. I have found this thought-provoking documentary, “Agenda – Grinding America Down”, very helpful in putting the pieces of the puzzle together, spelling out in detail how cultural Marxism has worked its way through the culture. Available for viewing on YouTube (with Italian subtitles):
You may be inclined to dismiss it as just another conspiracy theory, but watch it, consider what is presented, and then decide.
commented 2015-09-10 12:42:13 -0400
Perhaps the main principle which defines a Conservative (and classical Liberal) is that our Rights do NOT come from men, and we will not tolerate having them taken away by men. Some believe those Natural Rights were bestowed by God, as I believe, others believe they just inherently exist because it is primary to comfort and satisfaction in life.

Natural Law has been distorted and perverted by Statists, those who CLAIM to be “liberals” or “conservatives”, but are in reality merely authoritarians. The problem I see, regardless of political affiliation, is the concept of Legal Positivism being pushed as “the Law”. This is a huge factor in the erosion of Liberty in this country… Charging and imprisoning people not for what they’ve done, but what they COULD HAVE done…Hypothetical speculation.

Case in point, “Conservatives” such as John Tory, mayor of Toronto having Uber drivers ticketed, telling them: “You’re operating outside the law… You COULD BE a rapist or criminal, how would we know without licensing you?”

What Tory and his Ontario “Conservative” pals call “the law” is nothing more than Legal Positivist, anti-free-choice LEGISLATION. I don’t care what is “legal” or “illegal”, it was LEGAL for “Liberals” to engage in Indian cultural genocide in their “schools”. It was “legal” for “Conservatives” to fund “Syrian rebels” with our tax dollars.

Notice the glaring identifier that Tory subscribes to the Legal Positivism… “You COULD BE”…

“Could’ve”, “Might’ve”, “Should’ve” sums up these BAR members approach to “the Law” arbitrary, predatory, and anything but conservative in nature.
commented 2015-09-10 11:34:12 -0400
Hopefully people will soon come to realize when they choose a government that thinks for you – you lose your freedom, without freedom and choice, learning and love – what is the point of living? PM Harper is the closest to those principles we have, maybe in the future Consevatives will find a candidate who matches all of those qualifications! I am not a statesman or a big celebrity, just a Canadian citizen, getting close to senior with a family – but I can tell you we are going to lose much of our freedoms and choices by voting Mulcair or Trudeau! I don’t see them as wise men – they are not acting responsibily about their rash haste to bring Refugees into Canada without a serious vetting – look at what is happening in France, Germany, Sweden – why would it be any different for Canada if we don’t use precaution? Do you want to lose control of your home and country? Do you want to risk your loved ones being injured or even worse? The only reason the NDP and Liberals are exploiting this world wide problem is because the Main Stream Media Press have got the pot boiling, have made this a major news story and Mulcair and Trudeau are jumping on the herd instinct to be popular to gain votes! They have demonstrated that votes are more important to them than Canadian citizens’ well being and safety! Remember we found out during the Macleans’ debate that Mulcair wanted to be frivolous with Canadian taxpayers’ money and pay for Greece’s debt! Do you remember PM Stephen Harper telling on him? While it is good to be generous, believe me it is much easier to be that way on other people’s money! But the kicker is and shows that he is soft and easily persuaded to part with Canadian funds – do you think that is a good quality in a leader? No the truth is Thomas Mulcair is not ready yet either! Neither Mulcair or Trudeau are men that I would hire to have control of the store!
commented 2015-09-10 11:13:58 -0400
Good Comment Jamie. There are not many Canadians who understand conservatism and of the conservatives among us, many are just as progressive as any statist. Most Canadians support the sacred cows CPP and health care and will do so until the money eventually runs out. Too many Canadians are of the opinion government is the only solution to all that ails us.
Therefore governments, at all levels, grow and grow as does the bureaucracy, taxes, waste and inefficiency. Indeed, all of us are at the trough of government in one form or another and there is hardly an influential voice or a critical mass out there to get us off this crazy train.
commented 2015-09-10 09:29:56 -0400
So simple, but so true! However, as we transfer more workers from the payors (private sector jobs) to government jobs and/or welfare, no matter how conservative they are at heart, they become dependent of the political masters…like pets!
commented 2015-09-10 08:56:49 -0400
…because a majority of Canadians are small “c” conservatives.
I see no evidence of that whatsoever. As a matter of fact I’ll go further and say that an increasingly diminishing minority of Canadians are small “c” conservatives. Conservatism has strayed almost as far from its lower-case roots as statist Liberalism has migrated from the small government/individual liberty espoused by classical liberalism.

Even in rural and small-town Canada, I see no great concern that our traditions of property rights and free expression, which are the very footings of our society, are being continually eroded away by governments of all stripes. And though a lot of the rot can be ascribed to indifference (often just a cover word for laziness, ignorance, cowardice, etc.), there is ample evidence that a hell of a lot of Canadians who vote Blue are, when it comes to scrambling for a government tit, as greedy and unconcerned about the ultimate outcome as their socialist brethren. And so, I guess my last line pretty well sums up what all too often is an apt descriptor for large “C” Conservatives: little pink piglets who will vote for a blue tit (double entendre intended).

In Ontario, there are only a handful of true conservatives on federal and provincial benches: Randy Hillier, Scott Reid, and Monte McNaughton come readily to mind. There may be a few more, but not many. The rest of us have three options: staying home in disgust, voting for a Libertarian candidate (who all too often seems only to be concerned about legalizing grass), or holding our noses and controlling the retching while casting our votes for the “Conservative” candidate – in the (vain) hope that the downward spiral might be arrested.
commented 2015-09-10 00:12:22 -0400
To bad there is no edit function. I would have put () around “based on the British list above”.
commented 2015-09-10 00:09:42 -0400
What is a conservative? Well I would say I am based on the British list above. I am for, families and entrepreneurs, for freedom and truth, for competition and fairness, for human rights and Democracy.
commented 2015-09-09 22:52:52 -0400
Conservative regarding Law means not imprisoning or arresting folks when there is no injury to an individual or their property. It also means allowing folks to defend themselves and their property.

It is not “conservative” to reward a piece of trash like Julian Fantino with a cabinet position, a man who has arrested folks for flying the national flag in Caledonia or trying to go to their own homes.
commented 2015-09-09 20:06:36 -0400
Conservatives in today’s terms = lower taxes, smaller government and laws that are enforced.

The liberals/socialists/marxists/communists/progressives/fascists/nazis/national socialists = the opposite.

Isn’t it interesting that from the doldrums of kings and queens in Europe came the socialists/ liberals/ marxists/ communists/ progressives/ fascists/nazis/national socialists.

Collectivism instead of a monarchy/dictatorship, when really nothing has changed.
commented 2015-09-09 18:41:25 -0400
Again, brilliant post. Thanks, Tim.