A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the majority discovers it can vote itself largess out of the public treasury. After that, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits with the result the democracy collapses because of the loose fiscal policy ensuing, always to be followed by a dictatorship, then a monarchy.
~Alexander Fraser Tytler
Tytler wrote that quote over 200 years ago (yes I understand that some dispute the quote origins). I am still trying to remain optimistic in viewing that quotation as being a warning rather than an immutable prophecy. It certainly is startlingly accurate in it’s application to the current trend among modern democracies.
Ayn Rand painted a world in Atlas Shrugged where weasels and parasites had brought the world’s productive to their knees through punitive and envious policy (always cloaked in the words “fair” and “equal”). The parallels that can be drawn between Atlas Shrugged and many modern governments, industries and actions are almost discomfortingly common and accurate. Look at how our government continues to bail out Air Canada & give them preferential regulatory treatment while essentially punishing upstarts such as Westjet for their daring to be profitable and productive. Now look at it as if it were a railway and change the names of the players; you essentially are seeing Atlas Shrugged being played out.
The sense of entitlement that we see growing in developed societies is disturbing. We saw thousands of kids damaging and squatting in parks around the world essentially protesting nothing aside from a feeling that the world owes them something that they apparently are not getting. Look right now to the thousands of whining students in Quebec who while enjoying some of the most subsidized education in the entire world feel that they should riotously protest for more fruits from the labors of others.
In Greece the government finally went totally broke. Austerity was not a consideration for Greece, it was a necessity. Despite this stark and apparently self-evident reality, thousands of union-led Greeks poured into the streets and rioted demanding money and entitlements that simply did not exist. Despite their demands being about as realistic as asking that the moon be moved closer to the earth for a better view, these people preferred to delude themselves into thinking that their government could somehow produce resources from nothing if only the collective temper-tantrum of the citizens was loud enough.
Even the Socialist government of Greece realized that providing the entitlements was simply impossible. Cuts were tabled and austerity measures came into play. Due to that, the people of Greece elected a government who simply promised the impossible and have ensured their total economic collapse will be coming soon.
France was sucked in with the entitlement siren song in last week’s elections as well as they elected a government that promised to tax the “rich” at 75% while reducing the retirement age to 60. Yes the idiotic electorate has essentially put the last nail in their economic coffin as the productive are doubtless already fleeing and I am sorry folks but early retirement is not what is going to aid a country already mired in massive debt. I wish I could say that only the French would think that the solution to deep debt was to work less but I am afraid that this trend is happening all over.
The collision course with an unsustainable debt was deferred by the Obama government last year but the trend has not changed. The debt is growing at catastrophic levels and eventually it will have to come to a hard end.
In Alberta we are only better by degree. Despite rallying resource prices we are still mired in deficit and will be into true debt soon if the Redford government comes through with even half of the promises that were made. Sadly, making unsustainable promises is an effective electoral tactic as we most recently observed. There was more to the Redford win than simply mass spending promises but that was indeed a large part of it. The electorate simply voted for whoever promised the most goodies and Redford promised in the billions. Nobody wanted to really bother themselves with thinking of how we will actually pay for all that excess.
The temptation remains to spend one’s way into power and for parties it certainly is hard to resist when looking at the success of such strategies. The Wildrose Party will be working and maturing in the next four years and I hope that the party continues to strive to be fiscally responsible despite the temptation to try to outspend the government. The temptation to centralize power in a grassroots party is strong too and we are seeing such attempts well under way in the Wildrose Party as some see the membership as a hindrance rather than a resource.
The quotation at the beginning of this posting does not need to be a prophecy. The Wildrose Party can be the voice of reason who can keep Alberta from sinking even more deeply into the unsustainable defict trap. People are making excuses and justifications for borrowing all over the place. To be blunt, they are baffling with bullshit. We simply can’t spend more than we take in. All we are doing is putting off the inevitable financial crash so that the next generation is forced to pay the price.
The membership of the Wildrose Party must be vigilant and fight the temptation to turn itself into the Progressive Conservative Party under a new name or these years of work will truly have been for nothing. Fiscal responsibility can happen and the electorate will embrace it if it is presented well by a trusted source. The Wildrose Party does not need to change it’s base principles or mandate in order to win down the road. We need to evaluate how we present and pursue those principles though.
Let’s turn Alberta into a fiscally stable island while the world around us buries itself in debt. The way to begin though will be by ensuring that our next government is indeed dedicated to that principle and goal. Ground level activity and AGM participation will be critical for the Wildrose Party in the next few years. If we don’t assert ourselves as party members, I assure you that the party will continue to centralize even further and we will simply be replacing one group of undemocratic opportunists with another one.
Remaining debt-free is the tougher political road but it is the only worthwhile one.