Why I am voting for the NDP in the coming Alberta election.
I am a lifelong leftist.
It’s something that I learned on my parents’ knees, so to speak. They were the son and daughter of Alberta pioneers who suffered terribly when capitalism spectacularly crashed in 1929, and were active enemies of European fascism in the Second World War. They also came from a Protestant tradition of rationalism and assumed that having a social conscience was what made you a decent human being. Our family found itself in opposition to every Alberta government since 1935, partly for philosophical reasons, since we were not Christians in the era of “Bible Bill” Aberhart and his successor Earnest Manning (the Social Credit era), and partly for practical ones, as we watched as the Conservative Party grew more unresponsive and ever more paranoid and contemptuous of the democratic process in the Klein era.
I am an economic Leftist because the raw facts are that EVERY functioning economy on Earth is a MIXED economy, with elements of state control of vital services. This is not ideology, it is practicality: those services provided commonly by the state (education, health, social welfare, the military) tend to be the LEAST profitable, and the state has no choice but to provide them if we are to have universal education, universal access to health care, etc. This is fundamental to the REGULATION of societies. This does not mean that governments are inherently better at organizing people to do all things. I have traveled in two important socialist states over the past several months, and the contrast between Vietnam’s vibrant economy, which is tolerant of enterprise, and Cuba’s, which is not, is very instructive. I highly approve of free enterprise, it’s just that it works best in those situations where the old motivator of self interest operates best. I also believe that monopoly capitalism and monopoly state-ism have the same fundamental flaw: they cease to be regulated when power gravitates to smaller and smaller elites. This fact is often ignored by those on the political Left, to their peril.
I am impatient with Leftists who ignore practical considerations, even as I’m impatient with those who don’t teach their children to be responsible for themselves, but I do share with them two fundamental beliefs. One is that human beings are not inherently evil (as Bible Bill was constantly reminding us); the other is that they ARE inherently self-interested, which means that they need regulation. And whether you’re talking about Cuba, whose rulers have bluntly refused to answer to the electorate for 56 years, or Alberta, where the electorate has declined to make the rulers answer for themselves for 44 years, the way we regulate governments is to change them.
There is one further thing that I share with those who will vote for change on Tuesday: optimism. The sky is NOT falling. People ARE capable of learning, adjusting, getting better, but they cannot do so without experimentation. Political innovation is as important as any other form of that oh-so-human trait. Mistakes WILL be made, should the NDP form a government in Alberta. I’ve seen monstrous mistakes made by every government I have ever studied. But there will be innovation, and there will be another election in which we will judge the government on its performance.