Friday, March 05, 2010

Huh. So Now Social Engineering Is Bad

Dobbin: Social engineering only illegitimate if it's from the right

Writing in an essay published on the ideologically-parochial, Murray Dobbin articulates a few more of his "Stephen Harper the anti-democrat" arguments.

Among some of the points raised in the essay, Dobbin decries what he calls "right wing social engineering":
"One of the most popular concepts on the political right over the years has been the notion of 'social engineering.' The phrase is intended to describe a process by which liberals and the left 'engineer' society - that is, set out to remake it -- by implementing government programs, intervening in the economy, and redistributing wealth so that there is a measure of economic equality (in a system defined by inequality). The implication is that these changes were undemocratic -- imposed by politicians, intellectuals and bureaucrats."
The problem for Dobbin is that in many cases such programs were indeed imposed by politicians. A prime case-in-point is that of Pierre Elliott Trudeau's wage and prize freeze. Trudeau had mocked that policy when it was proposed by then-Conservative leader Robert Stanfield. He then promptly implemented a policy he had essentially promised not to -- after being elected on the back of a rejection of it.

A more recent example is that of Stephane Dion's ill-fated coalition -- an idea that Dobbin had floated well in advance of Dion's attempt. Dion had explicitly rejected the notion of a coalition government when it was floated by NDP leader Jack Layton, only to be thoroughly rebuffed by the Canadian public.

Dobbin's made it clear that he in no way disapproves with left-wing bait-and-switch politics. But when conservatives get elected on the platforms they run on, it suddenly becomes underhanded social engineering:
"Yet rightwing social engineering is exactly what Stephen Harper intends to do, and has already done in many ways. We are now a far more militarized culture than when he came to office four years ago -- with an aggressive 'war-fighting' military. Our foreign policy is now in lock-step with the US This has never been debated in Parliament nor has the Conservative Party actually run on such policies. In spite of the fact of widespread support for new social programs like universal child care and Pharmacare, such programs are ruled out by the Harper government. While his minority government status has so far prevented an assault on Medicare and the Canada Health Act, Harper is on record as supporting increased privatization and two-tier Medicare."
Of course, Dobbin may have been disappointed to learn that Canadians supported increases in military spending not only well in advance of Harper becoming Prime Minister, but also well in advance of Harper becoming the Leader of the Opposition.

Foreign policy typically isn't debated in Parliament, unless it requires the ratification of a treaty, a declaration of war, or supply legislation. Canadian foreign policy is decided by the Prime Minister of cabinet, and has been this way since Canada won the right to decide its own foreign policy.

If this represents an assault on democracy, it was launched well before Harper became Prime Minister. As with other things, details that were once simply accepted details of Canadian politics have suddenly become intolerable to Dobbin under Harper's governance.
"This is true social engineering if by that term we mean the illegitimate remaking of Canadian society and governance. When all the social programs and activist government programs that the prime minister objects to were implemented there was widespread public support for them. Governments were responding to social movements demanding these things: unemployment insurance, Medicare, subsidized university education, Family Allowances, public pensions, old age security. These programs were not imposed by a cabal of liberal and socialist intellectuals and bureaucrats -- they were rooted in the expressed values of Canadians."
This, frankly, is an assertion that will be quickly accepted by Dobbin's far-left base, but it doesn't actually pass the laugh test.

There's a broad gulf of difference between widespread public support and the demands by a limited number of groups for certain privileges in the eyes of the Canadian state.

This argument runs particularly thin when one considers the sheer number of "civil society organizations" created by the Trudeau government through funding doled out by Canada's Secretary of State.

Canadians have very rarely been given the opportunity to render judgement on institutions such as the Status of Women Canada, which tended to focus its efforts on funding a great deal of activism. Naturally, many groups were favoured to their ideological nature, while others were excluded for theirs.

The Court Challenges program became typically troublesome when activist groups began using it to legislate through Canada's courts of law -- all too often the Supreme Court.

This broad collection of activities represented the embedding of a chosen ideology within what Barry Cooper aptly termed the embedded state.

After Harper changed the mandate of the Status of Women to provide real services for women in the community, and dismantled the court challenges progam (though he has yet to replace it with a more suitable program), Canadians had the opportunity to reflect on that during a General Election.

They returned him with a stronger mandate to govern, although the Liberal Party, NDP and Bloc Quebecois attempted to usurp it at Dobbin's urging.

But a Dobbin essay just wouldn't be a Dobbin essay without a foray into complete fiction:
"Harper's determination to remake Canada in the image of unregulated capitalism is illegitimate because it aims at dismantling what decades of democratic engagement has created. It is even more outrageous given the fact this fundamental shift is being undertaken by a government which received support from less 23 per cent of the eligible voters in Canada. Canadians have not changed their minds about these programs and values - if anything support has been reinforced by the perceived threats to these gains. These things are the fruits of democracy -- its ultimate litmus test. Harper's plan to rid the country of this legitimate evolution of social and economic change is true social engineering, and profoundly anti-democratic."
If Stephen Harper had any "determination to remake Canada in the image of unregulated capitalism", one would expect that, at some point, Harper would be moving to do away with the regulation, as opposed to exporting the Canadian model to the rest of the world. Harper has already announced his plans to promote Canada's financial regulation system to the rest of the world when Canada hosts the G8 Summit later in 2010.

But then one remembers that this is a Murray Dobbin essay -- one in which the desire to spread ideological panic takes the driver's seat, logic rides as a passenger, and the corpse of fact is stuffed away in the trunk.

It's a world in which Canadians supported a broad variety of ideological programs because Dobbin said so, Stephen Harper plans to deregulate Canada's economy despite never taking any steps to do so, and in which social engineering is bad -- but only now that he wants to accuse the other guys of doing it.

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