Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
October 30, 2000
Right wing with a social conscience
Injustice is endemic to socialist bureaucracies
SPECIAL TO THE WCR
Politically, I am an unabashed, unapologetic right-winger, substantially to the right of Stockwell Day and the Canadian Alliance on most issues.
The knee-jerk liberal-left response to that statement will usually include accusations of being uncaring and indifferent to the plight of the poor, disadvantaged, and downtrodden.
However, in my case at least that innuendo is unfounded. I care deeply about the categories cited above. In fact, by the criterion of the low income cut off, I have been a member of one of them for all but a couple of years of my adult life.
So, why am I right wing? There's no simple, one-sentence answer, but a partial explanation is that I have a strong commitment to reality, believe in level-playing-field fairness, and have an affinity to things that work, none of which are satisfied by liberal left, pie-in-the-sky idealism.
A case in point is Canada's tatterdemalion hodgepodge of social welfare systems and programs. Recently, fellow Nova Scotian columnist Ralph Surette, an unusually intelligent leftist whose views I frequently (although not always) disagree with, but whom I highly respect, wrote about a woman acquaintance whose modestly prosperous middle class life was ruined after she was crippled by a car accident 11 years ago.
This person managed to pay for medical and living expenses for 10 years by mortgaging her home. When that resource ran out, she was encouraged by the provincial government to seek a Canada Pension Plan disability pension, which she did, discovering too late that the CPP provides no medical benefits, and provincial social assistance would no longer cover these expenses now that she was off provincial welfare.
At 56, she is left crippled, broke and with nowhere to turn.
There are many others like her, says Surette - mostly older people, sick and/or disabled, never likely employable again, being pushed off welfare and onto the CPP, losing their Pharmacare and other medical benefits, left twisting slowly in the wind.
Meanwhile, we have the Chretien Liberal government enhancing its mutual prostitution pact with the chronically seasonally unemployed (many of whom earn middle-class incomes or better during the months that they work), by agreeing to undo the modest 1996 reforms made to the EI system.
Socialism is demonstrably not working when the government worries more about not "clawing back" EI handouts to people making more than $39,000 per year (a figure I have never hit in my life working year round), while people in desperate need like Ralph Surette's friend go begging, literally.
That sort of egregious injustice, endemic to socialist bureaucracies in virtually every aspect of endeavour, turns my stomach, especially combined with typical left liberal self-righteousness.
Where Surette and I part company sharply, is that he blames the social injustice being suffered by his friend on things like tax cuts and fighting deficits, while I blame them on the inherently flawed and unworkability of socialism as it invariably plays out in the real world.
Liberals and leftists seem oblivious to the fact that not fighting deficits will inevitably result in runaway inflation and a collapse of the economy, and cling to a naive mythological notion that there are untapped resources of "rich" individuals and corporations out there to be taxed.
Right-wingers with a social conscience believe the opposite - that creating wealth comes before redistributing it - but we also recognize that rising tides of economic prosperity do not and should not be expected to erase economic disparity. However, even poor people in our capitalist economy are generally better off than all but the most wealthy in Third World socialist economies.
Objective distinctions of effort, intelligence, talent, capability and industriousness make an ideal of equal results through income distribution unjust. One way to parse the left-right philosophical dialectic is that the former believe in economic equality of results while the latter believe in equality of opportunity.
To attack the problem sensibly, given a finite amount of money available for social welfare, it makes little sense to be handing out the lion's share to people who are already relatively well off (like a significant proportion of seasonal EI recipients), while the genuinely needy like Surette's friend fall through the cracks.
Better to abolish all federal and provincial welfare programs, including EI, and replace them with a modest guaranteed annual income paid to everyone. Anything you make over and above that baseline amount would be yours to keep, subject to taxation of course. Most of the welfare bureaucracies could be abolished, with attendant cost savings.
I'm no actuary, but I expect this would ultimately be no more expensive than the present mess, and perhaps even cheaper.
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