Take The Red Pill

After the Canadian election a week ago, many people found it to have been a $600 million IQ test that Canadians failed. For now, they permit railing against the Liberal Party of Canada, so begin. At the same time, you think that through, decide if it is any different from what would happen if someone else won.

Do we still have a democracy with choices and priorities, or is it all one game with different colours on the players?

Maybe Canada is like a professional sports league. One league with several jerseys. By observation, except for the People’s Party of Canada (PPC), all the parties are neo-liberal. Their intents and methods are common to all. There are no “old” liberals.

“For the people” is an old-fashioned liberal idea.

There are several differences between “old” liberalism and “new” liberalism. Have you made the distinction? Many think the label “liberal” means “for the people.” It no longer has that meaning.

Neo-liberalism is very different from classical liberalism. It relies on remote, powerful, and intrusive governments – like the kings and nobles of old. We know best. Do as we tell you.

Many people still feel connected to the label. Few notice the contents in the jar are not what the label implies. You’d stop buying E.D. Smith or Heinz if they did it.

Let’s unpack the ideas of liberalism.

The principal differences are:

  1. Neo-liberals believe the government is the method of achieving change, while classical liberals believe in letting people make their own decisions and thus arrive at a consensus. The old approach enhances innovation and growth. New and different is welcome. Neo-liberals don’t trust the people to get the correct answer. They seek the perfected and permanent solution. Soon. Patience is not allowed.
  2. Neo-liberals are willing to use the law to force changes they believe are essential. Classical liberals can prove their ideas and don’t need coercion. They accept the better and dismiss weaker or unaffordable concepts.
  3. Classical liberals reacted to the monarchy. They, sometimes violently, opposed rule by the few. Their vision was anti-government and pro-people. Neo-liberalism arose early in the 20th century and was attached to the idea of spreading democracy versus communism around the world. The notion of duty to be involved in foreign places arose. The concept of scientific thought and the idea of “knowing right” came into vogue. Except in the STEM world, the idea of “knowing right” has grown immensely in academia. Ironically, neoliberalism requires a nearly omnipotent central government and acceptance of settled science. Both all-powerful governments and settled knowledge oppose the core of classical liberalism. Liberals today have not mentioned to the people they had changed the ingredients behind the label.
  4.  Classical liberals respected others. When an idea came along that improved life, they readily adopted it and improved it over time. Neo-liberals tend to pick a winner and hide or suppress competitive approaches. Holding on to failing initiatives is commonplace. The idea of an “elite” insider is a neo-liberal concept. I doubt they promoted it in the beginning but are content to accept it.
  5.  Classical liberalism was far more racist. Small countries tended to be ingrown. Xenophobia was ordinary but given up when the world became functionally connected.
  6. Neo-liberals added value to the extent they reduced racism. Diversity has value, but only when the differences are accepted and add to the common good. Differences preserved are problematic. Promoting difference is antithetical to advancement. Small differentiated ghettoes lead nowhere.

The questions

  1. Does a Liberal voter notice that “liberal” no longer means for the people and reduced government power?
  2. Would a Conservative voter notice that the party favours big government and control of the people?
  3. Do the party labels have meaning? Is there a difference between the political version of Liberal and Conservative ideology?
  4. Is there clear evidence that any politician would prefer less power?
  5. Do people wish to be less taxed and less regulated?
  6. Would politicians let that happen?
  7. The thorny question neither politicians nor voters address. “Do they add value, or has the government and its bureaucracy denied growth to the people they claim to serve.”

What could happen?

The labels are like a team jersey. It is okay to be a Toronto Maple Leaf fan and detest the Montreal Canadiens, but it makes no difference to anything significant. Peter Drucker has observed this fact. “Infighting is intense when the stakes are small.”

There is no fundamental difference in the platforms of the leading parties in Canada. They fight over budgets and timing and the right to decide, and little else. Political power is the goal, and they all hold that goal foremost.

Drucker also noted, “There is nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency something that should not be done at all.” 

Good governance will only appear when the primary choices are around what we want to accomplished, rather than how we do it, and who will decide.

Changes will only happen when there is a way to choose, and that will only happen when we can contrast the party visions. Until then, the fans will cheer and cast aspersions on the others. Lots of noise and no substance. Just like pro sports.

The problem is “Cognitive Dissonance.”

People are uncomfortable when cherished beliefs and new evidence conflict. When this happens, and it often does, people struggle to sustain their views in the face of the new evidence. Could a lifelong voter for any of the parties give up their beliefs to vote for someone else?

“Faced with changing one’s mind, or proving that there is no need to do so, most people get busy on the proof” John K. Galbraith.

The condition is “cognitive dissonance.” That deep, unpleasant feeling we get when a core belief is proven wrong. It is tough to overcome, and the proof of original rightness follows a familiar path.

“Data Mining” Pay attention to the “data” part. Data is quite often not accurate or complete and rarely directly connected to knowledge. It makes people feel better. Even a one-off anecdote can satisfactorily confirm a challenged belief.

What is confirmation bias?

So long as the parties fight over trivia, cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias will drive their fans.

“Confirmation bias is the tendency to search for, interpret, favour, and recall information in a way that confirms or supports one’s prior beliefs or values. People display this bias when they select information that supports their views, ignoring contrary information, or when they interpret ambiguous evidence as supporting their existing attitudes. The effect is strongest for desired outcomes, for emotionally charged issues, and for deeply entrenched beliefs. Confirmation bias cannot be eliminated entirely, but it can be managed, for example, by education and training in critical thinking skills.” – Wikipedia {emphasis added}

Any voter who believes The Liberal Party, The Canadian Conservative Party, The New Democratic Party, The Green Party, or the Bloc Quebecois is for the people and opposed to a bigger, more intrusive government is a victim of cognitive dissonance followed by confirmation bias. They should take a step back before voting again and decide they willingly choose that the government rule them. If that were a question on the ballot, “Do you wish to be ruled?” would many choose “yes.”

How do the political parties do it?

Good governments address intellect. A controlling government must manage emotions.

Neo-liberalism began in the early 20th century. In 1918, newspaper columnist H.L. Mencken saw through it.

“Civilization, in fact, grows more and more maudlin and hysterical. Especially under democracy, it tends to degenerate into a mere combat of crazes. The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.”

“Imaginary hobgoblins” and a government “leading us to safety” is the strategy of the day. Society-wide persuasion is a well-developed skill today. Given the influence of corporate media and social media, you would not need to cheat conventionally to win. You could do it by manipulating people using the information found in the databases at YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and Google. I bet they could vote on your behalf and at least 95% of the time cast your vote as you would have.

Could they promote voting to only those who share the “right” ideas? Could they discourage voting among the rest? I have not decided if it is paranoid to believe they could and do or naive to believe they could and do not. That they could is unquestionable. I think our future depends in large part on the answer you get from that discussion.

What it means

Five of the parties, Liberal, Conservative, NDP, Bloc, and Green, got 15.5 million of the 16.5 million votes cast. There is no fundamental difference among them except the Bloc has interests confined to Quebec. The Bloc’s interest, while not national, parallels the others ideologically. We can say 94% of voters have neo-liberal tendencies.

If you think liberty and laissez-faire matter more than this form of unity, you have a formidable task to change the way of the world. You would need to change the mind of about a third of the potential voters to have a chance at forming the government. More to form a majority.

Is that difficult? You bet! Let’s hear Mark Twain on the subject.”

“It is easier to fool someone than it is to convince them they have been fooled.”

Suffice it to say, the change will not be quick, and it may not be possible.

The takeaway

Voting and political activity are much like cheering for your favourite hockey team. Without meaning but, to the participants, important.

If people rely on media presentations to make crucial decisions, they will find just one variety – whatever the media promotes today. It would help if you looked far afield to discover more.

We have abandoned critical thinking.

Democracy may exist in name only. 

I need to think about that. As it stands,

  1. You don’t vote for policies and priorities; it’s all the same, regardless of party.
  2. You are merely voting for who decides.
  3. “If voting mattered, they wouldn’t let us do it.” – Mark Twain.
  4. People claim to value individuality and liberty but have given up essential values for “a mess of pottage.” It is an old approach.

Governing is now less about benefiting the people and more about making rules and regulations. The cynical view is that politicians and the bureaucracy don’t care about any particular idea or action as long as it is mandatory or prohibited.

Libertarianism is a vast leap of faith for most people and to be avoided until left with no other option. We may well be there now.

Fair and just each create word arguments only. Neither has objective substance. More depth is needed to change minds. Assuming reason is involved at all.

In respect to lost liberty, perhaps we should invoke the principal value of pessimism. You will be proven right or pleasantly surprised. Let’s hope for the latter.

The optimist view. There is a possibility. I noticed fewer than 60% of the eligible voters voted. There are nearly 11,000,000 votes not cast. Could the apathetic, discouraged, or those intelligent enough to notice there is no viable alternative hold the key to minimizing governments and optimizing liberty? Maybe in time. Begin locally.

Think it through in terms of what benefits you and your family most—freedom or declining government largesse.

The Matrix. – Morpheus and Neo discuss truth.

Take the red pill.

I help people have more retirement income and larger, more liquid estates.

Call in Canada 705-927-4770, or email don@moneyfyi.com 

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