Ignatieff: Liberal Individualist

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Ignatieff: Liberal Individualist

Ignatieff just gave the "Isaiah Berlin" [url=">http://www2.macleans.ca/2009/07/08/liberalism-is-not-a-bloodless-breviar... in London.  (Berlin was one of Margaret Thatcher's favourte "thinkers" -- Ignatieff has written a biography of him).

 

In the speech, Ignatieff shows he still hasn't shaken off American/British style individualism (the kind he made his living for 30 years propigating):

 

Quote:

Liberalism is a family of common allegiance. We believe in limited government in the service of individual liberty and fiscal responsibility in the service of social compassion. Our creed is a pragmatic vision of good government that adapts to context.

 

Note that Ignatieff's  problem is not the "fiscal responsibility in the service of social compassion" bit.  (Canadian Liberals have always adhered to this line).  It's the  "We believe in limited government in the service of individual liberty" type thing -- that is very much a minority view in Canada.  But it is the mainstream of small-l liberal thought in the US and Britain.

 

Still, Ignatieff should be given the benefit of the doubt.  Later on, he does acknowledge that politics in Canada also serves collective needs:

 

Quote:

The enduring character of our linguistic, cultural and national differences has also shaped our philosophy of government....From the beginning, we had to make a complex unity out of these differences. We had to anchor collective rights to language and education in our constitution... We had to learn to compromise, to reach out across divides that have broken other countries apart...[W]e have sustained the whole edifice of our federation on the constant practice of conciliating difference across languages, identities and cultures.

 

 

This, however, seems to be a minor part of his speech -- as if the Canadian reality is kind of an afterthought he grafted on to the US/UK-style Liberalism.  It is not well-integrated into the larger philosophy.

 

But the I guess that has been the story of his career since he returned to Canada.

al-Qa'bong

I'm not sure why you put scare quotes around "thinker" when referring to Mr. Berlin.  I had to read his essays on freedom in a senior political science class.  He has a solid reputation as a thinker.

 

Anyway, this quote:

"We believe in limited government in the service of individual liberty" is pretty well the definition of classical liberalism. Obama, Ignatieff, Harper, Blair and George Bush are all liberals of this type.

josh

Ah, a man of the "sensible middle."  Or so that's how he presents himself.  I'm not sure FDR, whom he cites, would approve.  Anyway, FDR would not have time for Iggy's one-hand clapping theorizing.

This gave me a good chuckle:

 

"We believe in free markets and free competition because we want to protect individuals from economic tyranny."

al-Qa'bong

Maybe he hasn't heard of Bernie Madoff.

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al-Qa'bong wrote:

I'm not sure why you put scare quotes around "thinker" when referring to Mr. Berlin.  I had to read his essays on freedom in a senior political science class.  He has a solid reputation as a thinker.

The funniest use of scare quotes I've seen recently was by Jeffrey Simpson in the Globe and Mail.  He wrote an [url=http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/trains-like-spains-wont-com... on fast trains, and put the "public good" in quotes:

Quote:

If, as an Alberta minister said, the government wants the private sector to build and operate the train without public money, then don't waste time with these reports. If a fast train is not seen, as in Europe, as a “public good” requiring some public money, then forget it.

Yep, the public good sure is scary.

A_J

-=+=- wrote:
It's the  "We believe in limited government in the service of individual liberty" type thing -- that is very much a minority view in Canada.  But it is the mainstream of small-l liberal thought in the US and Britain.

Incorrect.

Canadian liberalism has always had much more in common with that in Britain and Europe.  It is American small-l liberalism that is typically out of step, bearing little to no resembelance to liberalism in the rest of the world, and the mainstream liberal thought (or at least what gets labelled "liberal") south of the border is hardly "We believe in limited government in the service of individual liberty".

-=+=- wrote:
The funniest use of scare quotes I've seen recently was by Jeffrey Simpson in the Globe and Mail.  He wrote an [url=http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/trains-like-spains-wont-com... on fast trains, and put the "public good" in quotes . . .

"Public good" is a specific term in economics and it doesn't mean what you think it means (nice things for the public).  I'm not even sure if Simpson was using it correctly either, but the quotes are probably there to signal that he's refering to the term "public good", rather than just two words thrown together to indiciate nice things for the public.

-=+=-

A_J wrote:

-=+=- wrote:
It's the  "We believe in limited government in the service of individual liberty" type thing -- that is very much a minority view in Canada.  But it is the mainstream of small-l liberal thought in the US and Britain.

Incorrect.

Canadian liberalism has always had much more in common with that in Britain and Europe.  It is American small-l liberalism that is typically out of step, bearing little to no resembelance to liberalism in the rest of the world, and the mainstream liberal thought (or at least what gets labelled "liberal") south of the border is hardly "We believe in limited government in the service of individual liberty".

-=+=- wrote:
The funniest use of scare quotes I've seen recently was by Jeffrey Simpson in the Globe and Mail.  He wrote an [url=http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/trains-like-spains-wont-com... on fast trains, and put the "public good" in quotes . . .

"Public good" is a specific term in economics and it doesn't mean what you think it means (nice things for the public).  I'm not even sure if Simpson was using it correctly either, but the quotes are probably there to signal that he's refering to the term "public good", rather than just two words thrown together to indiciate nice things for the public.

 

You are incorrect on Canadian liberalism.  It is Canadian liberalism that is the outlier, not American.  American and British liberalism are part of the great sweep of the idea that came out of Europe in the 18th century.  Ignatieff actually realizes this.  That is why he had to qualify his (British/American) liberalism when he applied it to Canada in the later part of his speech, adding the statment about collective needs here.  He is actually correct in saying this comes out of our particular history.

You are also applying the narrow economic definition used for public good, which might be used in Economics 101 or in the business pages, but that is not how the term is understood generally (in the sense of the Common Good).  This is why Simpson was compelled to use scare quotes -- as if such a thing as the Common Good didn't exist (like Thatcher said:  There's no such thing as Society).

 

 

 

al-Qa'bong

Yet Hobbes and Locke could use the term common weal without quotation marks, as even 17th-century liberals could recognise its existence.

Fidel

Quote:
Conservatives tend to believe that when markets correct and growth returns societies simply adapt to new economic conditions. In reality, without foresight and planning by government, people can be left unprepared for new opportunities. The new economy that will emerge from the creative destruction of the last eighteen months will need new skills, and government will need to invest continuously in scientific and technological training for the next generation.

I've never read so much bland rightwing pap disguised as something or other. The truth is that Liberal governments are the most fiscally irresponsible according to a finance report produced by the federal Liberals themselves in 2005 and revealing NDP governments to be the most responsible by direct comparison.

The truth is that after 12 years of Liberal government mismanagement of the economy and country, Canada is still a hewer and drawer economy on its ass and headed nowhere in any progressive world sense. NAFTA was the biggest sellout to US interests in our history as a Northern colony. Liberals can not be trusted with the future is what he should be saying if Ignatieff actually spoke the truth about his own party's record in federal power.

"Creative destruction" is just Liberal Party doublespeak for "flexible labour markets" and openly pledging their allegiance to the supranational big business over democratic governance view, ie. the neoliberal agenda. They believe in bubble economies and exactly what Alan Greenspan admitted before Congress recently is his own warped neocon view of how the world should work. Liberals have no clue as to how capitalism and mixed market economies might work if some basic democratic rules were to be "created" by real people doing their jobs in federal government. Liberals and Tories are pretty much the same in their total disregard for transparency and accountability in government. "Creative destruction" my ass. It's falling down around their ears, and this is what these mealy-mouthed bastards try to pull over our eyes still!

remind remind's picture

Don't know if this 2007 article at HuffPo has been linked here before or not, but it is hilarious.

Quote:
"I made some of these mistakes and then a few of my own. The lesson I draw for the future is to be less influenced by the passions of people I admire -- Iraqi exiles, for example -- and to be less swayed by my emotions. . . ."

And here, finally, is where my skull cracked open, my heart combusted, and a murder of crows flew out of my ass. Michael Ignatieff is drawing lessons for the future. Michael Ignatieff has a future in public policy. Sure, it's CANADIAN public policy, so it doesn't really count, but still-- it's like the guy can't be stopped. You know why? Because he's at that level where you literally can't make a big enough mistake to be fired, shunned, or indicted. I'd like to visit that level someday. First thing I'd do is get rip-roarin' drunk and rob a bank using Richard Perle's face as a weapon. (JOKE!)

Then again, I guess it's for the best-- because if people like Michael Ignatieff were ignored, how would we know what to think about the world?

Oh, wait: We could ask the bus drivers.

Attention, Michael Ignatieff's constituents: HE THINKS YOU'RE DUMB. Also, there's something suspicious about that "Provided, of course. . ." It's only five syllables, but it seems to mask a conga line of condescension. It makes me think Ignatieff assumes his readers are dumb, too. But I'm not dumb-- I predicted the Iraq war would be a disaster. And that means I'm as smart as a bus driver.

Uncle John

Better the devil you know than the devil you don't.

Good pols know when to hold'em and when to fold'em, and most importantly when to say nothing.

I have a feeling Iggy's going to talk himself right out of a job.

remind remind's picture

HUH?

Harper and Day went on USA and took ads out in US papers at the time of the invasion of Iraq, telling Americans they were on their side and that should the opposition have had a say we would have gone to Iraq.

This IMV is treason.

There is no difference between Iggy/Liberals and Harper/Cons. Except of course for his blowing of Canadian tax payers money beyond any reasonable limits. At least the Liberals when feeding those at the trough, did not lose millions at the Canadian mint, not run up a 160billion dollar deficit.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Fidel wrote:

I've never read so much bland rightwing pap disguised as something or other. The truth is that Liberal governments are the most fiscally irresponsible according to a finance report produced by the federal Liberals themselves in 2005 and revealing NDP governments to be the most responsible by direct comparison.

Obviously that 2005 Liberal report did not label the party as "fiscally irresponsible." That must be a conclusion you have drawn. So tell us, what's your criterion for fiscal responsibility? Balanced budgets? Paying down the deficit? Investing public funds where they will produce the greatest ROI for the bottom line? Increasing user fees for national parks and museums? Cracking down on student loan defaults? Cutting EI benefits?

How does your definition of fiscal responsibility (a) differ from that of the "old-line parties," the IMF, and the World Bank, and (b) take into account the needs of Canadian workers, farmers, and students for social expenditures to improve their lives? 

fiidel_castro

The most obvious falsity in the speech is this quote:

"We believe in free markets and free competition because we want to protect individuals from economic tyranny."

Yet free markets and mass competition, which has direct effects on labour-forces, foster and create distinct economic disadvantages for the majority of a society (working classes and impoverished) while creating advantages for a minority of a society (those at the helm of production). Those individuals that have no economic capital and will never be in charge of the means of production and/or the means of subsistence will forever be at the mercy of the market and its "free" competitive forces. The working classes and the impoverished are hit the hardest and it is their individual (collective if you like) rights that are often quashed by mass competition in the capitalist-marketplace. Free market capitalism inherently creates great schisms within every capitalist society and Canada is no exception. Thus, Mr. Ignatieff is purposefully supporting just that - an "economic tyranny." Canadian free market competition fosters a prevalent economic tyranny and it those individuals that are at the very bottom of the division of labour that are the hardest hit, i.e. the Indigenous peoples.

A_J

-=+=- wrote:
You are incorrect on Canadian liberalism.

You're going to have to provide something to back yourself up then, because I can do nothing but disagree.  British, and European, liberalism is what is known as "classical liberalism" - free people, individual liberties, secularism and free markets.  This is what you see in Canada as well.

The United States usage of the term has always been seen as an odd duck.  There, liberalism, or at least what gets labeled as "liberalism" is an unusual mix of individual liberty (though in the form of the Democratic party, not as much as you'd see in Europe or even here), government intervention in the market, labour politics but also capitalism.  American liberalism today is largely still defined by Roosevelt's New Deal, which has little in common with the liberalism you will see in Britain or Europe.

So there, I have provided a ridiculously brief overview of what liberalism tends to mean in Britain, Europe, Canada and the U.S., what do you have?

-=+=- wrote:
You are also applying the narrow economic definition used for public good, which might be used in Economics 101 or in the business pages, but that is not how the term is understood generally (in the sense of the Common Good).  This is why Simpson was compelled to use scare quotes -- as if such a thing as the Common Good didn't exist (like Thatcher said:  There's no such thing as Society).

Of course, that's all predicated on your jumping to the conclusion that these were "scare quotes" and not any other usage of quotation marks (such as what I just used, to denote a common term: "scare quotes"), not to mention your intimate knowledge of what is going on inside his head ("Simpson was compelled" - another use of quotation marks, here for a direct quote).

And it's not the "narrow economic definition", it's the definition that is correct (a good which is non-rivaled and non-excludable; like a publicly-accessible park), even if many people, generally, are ignorant as to what it means.  I wouldn't be surprised if Simpson is also ignorant of its correct usage too.

ottawaobserver

M. Spector wrote:

Fidel wrote:

I've never read so much bland rightwing pap disguised as something or other. The truth is that Liberal governments are the most fiscally irresponsible according to a finance report produced by the federal Liberals themselves in 2005 and revealing NDP governments to be the most responsible by direct comparison.

Obviously that 2005 Liberal report did not label the party as "fiscally irresponsible." That must be a conclusion you have drawn. So tell us, what's your criterion for fiscal responsibility? Balanced budgets? Paying down the deficit? Investing public funds where they will produce the greatest ROI for the bottom line? Increasing user fees for national parks and museums? Cracking down on student loan defaults? Cutting EI benefits?

How does your definition of fiscal responsibility (a) differ from that of the "old-line parties," the IMF, and the World Bank, and (b) take into account the needs of Canadian workers, farmers, and students for social expenditures to improve their lives? 

I thought it was a report by public servants in the Department of Finance looking at the fiscal record of provincial governments over the past X number of years, so I think it was mainly looking at debts and deficits and carrying costs, rather than broader definitions of worthwhile vs. non-worthwhile areas for public investment.  Obviously I could stand to be corrected by someone who was more familiar with the report.  It was written during the 13 years while the Liberals formed the government in Ottawa, but I don't believe it's exactly correct to say the federal Liberals wrote it; I'm pretty sure it was written by researchers in the Department of Finance.

remind remind's picture

Interesting