The Fraser Institute's Michael Walker

Perfesser Dave said it best yesterday: “Democracy is undemocratic when it gets in the way of free market choices.” But Perfesser Dave was joking.

Perfesser Walker of the Fraser Institute said it first, in the Globe and Mail on Nov. 23, and he wasn’t joking.

Michael Walker is sort of like the godfather of the Fraser Institute, the Vancouver-based “think-tank” whose far-right nostrums are quoted reverentially by Canadian media as if Dr. Walker had personally carried them down from Mount Sinai engraved on a tablet of stone by the finger of a wrathful and vengeful neo-Con deity.

The Fraser Institute, in turn, is the intellectual headwater of that muddy stream of “Conservatism” that trickles down through Preston Manning of the Reform Party to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the so-called Conservatives he leads.

So if you’ve ever wondered about the Harper Conservatives’ true commitment to our Canadian democracy, Walker’s explanation is illuminating. Taking issue with Manning for his support of the idea Greek citizens should be permitted to vote on the “bail out” package proposed by their bankers for their bankers, he put it this way: “…Greek democracy no longer speaks for the public interest and cannot be relied upon to solve the problem.”

How can this be? Well, the Conservative Party avatar explains, “in Greece and an increasing number of countries, democracy itself is in deficit. It is in deficit in the sense that a majority of the Greek electorate has been bribed with payments from government for which nobody in Greece is having to pay in taxes.”

In other words, Walker elucidated, by their stubborn refusal to accept the market fundamentalist theology of the neo-Cons — and here is the full quote excerpted partly above and plagiarized by Perfesser Dave yesterday — “Corrupted at its very foundation, Greek democracy no longer speaks for the public interest and cannot be relied upon to solve the problem.”

Therefore, Greek democracy must be thwarted, the Greek people treated as truculent wards of the ideologically pure elite who rightly run the market fundamentalist state, else the democratic perfection of the market be obstructed.

If I may be so bold as to parse Walker’s explanation, his four-part logic unfolds like this:

1)    Free markets are the perfect expression of democracy
2)    Anything that interferes with the perfect expression of democracy is ipso facto undemocratic
3)    Greeks may democratically vote to obstruct the most perfect form of democracy
4)    Therefore, preventing democracy in such circumstances is the perfect expression of democracy

This is the Orwellian tautology that underlies the core position on democracy believed by our Canadian neo-Cons, a group, I submit, that includes our prime minister.

In other words, democracy will only be permitted if it yields the correctly democratic result.

And a mob of unruly Greeks bent on voting to determine their fate, or unruly Canadians for that matter, won’t be the people who get to decide what’s democratic — to wit, the only outcome allowed, the fundamentalist worship of “free markets.” In which, as Walker risibly asserts elsewhere in his screed, it is a truth universally acknowledged, “the normal pattern in Western democracies is that lower-income families are net beneficiaries and higher-income families are net payers.”

Would the neo-Cons who make up Harper’s debased Conservative Party be prepared to apply Walker’s logic in the event, say, that Canadian voters, corrupted to their very foundation by generations of public health care and decent pensions (falsely portrayed as benefits that have not been paid for, or have not been earned), vote for a program or a political party that is not in “the public interest and cannot be relied upon to solve the problem”? Remember: It’s not just Greece that has this problem, according to Walker, but “an increasing number of countries.”

It could never happen here, you say?

Arguably, it already has in a small way, when Harper — colluding against our Constitution with the Governor General of the day — prorogued Parliament to prevent our elected representatives from dissolving his government as was their right and essential democratic function.

Walker goes on: “The demonstrations in the streets of Athens were not the manifestation of democracy at work. They were the vanguard of the clear majority of citizens who are disconsolate at the prospect of loosing (sic) their ability to continue to feast at the expense of their children. As past Greek and other experience has demonstrated, the only way that democratic frenzy comes to a halt is when the country hits the wall and can no longer borrow the money to carry on.” (Emphasis added.)

As you can see, Walker has modified the traditional definitions of democracy — the notions that the “majority rules,” or, the “majority rules with appropriate protections for minorities” — to rule by those who know best, inevitably a self-selecting group.

But that is how these fundamentalist zealots, burning with the cold flame of ideological purity, view the possibility that voters might democratically choose public solutions to the very real deficiencies of unregulated markets, or seek to ask the principal beneficiaries of our economic system to pay their fair share of its costs.

They see such thinking as the product of a frenzy that can be morally circumvented by any means, no matter how immoral.

Democracy means nothing to people whose only goal is the perfect distillation of their ideological nostrums, especially when they are conveniently in their own self-interest. It hardly matters if the ideological perfection they pursue is Stalinist or Straussian, it leads down the same dangerous intellectual cul de sac. (And I make no apology for that analogy, by the way, even here in Stalinism-obsessed Alberta.) When they are finished, there may be no way left for us to assert ourselves but in a frenzy in the streets!

If this doesn’t worry you, you haven’t been paying attention to history.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga’s blog, Alberta Diary.

David J. Climenhaga

David J. Climenhaga

David Climenhaga is a journalist and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. He left journalism after the strike...