On the Rise of Hate

On the Rise of Hate

As we recover from yet another mass killing we hear a lot of smart people saying that the rise of hate is driven by a fear of loss of power. But they don’t clearly identify where that fear comes from.

At the same time, even though we might not be aware of it most of us already know where it comes from on a visceral level. We worry about our debt load, about what kind of world our children and grandchildren will grow up in, about the environment, about our jobs, our pensions, and ironically about the rise of hate.

Humans are a competitive species. Our political systems are a gossamer barrier between modern civilization and tribalism. It’s far too easy to transfer our anxieties into an identification of some “other” that we can blame for our worries. It is a dangerously small step from resentment to hatred, and from there to violence.

What few seem to notice, or at least to explicitly identify, is the correlation between the confidence of the middle class and the strength of social liberalism. If most people think the future will be bright and there will be more than enough prosperity to go around, suddenly we’re a lot less concerned about differences in race, religion, gender, and so on.

It is a cruel irony that this social conservatism has a affinity for autocratic politicians, precisely the type that are going to ensure that the wealth gap increases. The real way to alleviate social anxiety is to vote for a party that will actually work to redistribute wealth. Instead of gravitating towards populists the anxious middle class should be gravitating to socialism.

If I were a conspiracy theorist, I’d assert that the Illuminati (or whoever) are manipulating society to achieve this result, but I just can’t see that. I think it’s just our base human nature. We all have a responsibility to fight these instincts, for nothing good can come from the alternative.

Enough with the Omnibus Petitions

I’m getting really tired of online petitions that act like omnibus bills. The title says “Stop X” and I happen to think “Stop X” is a darn fine idea, but then you get to the actual text and it’s “Stop X, Build more Y, Change Z, and unionize everyone”.

That’s one less signature for “Stop X”, right there. We hate it when legislators pull this crap, maybe you should consider not doing the same thing in your petitions. Stick to a single issue.

Dear Rob and Doug: Get the Hell Out

On Thursday, Doug Ford said this to the Toronto Sun: “This is not normal in democracy… It is a full out jihad against us right now.”

Yes Doug, you have that partly right, because what’s “normal” in democracy is that when you get caught engaging in criminal behaviour, you resign. Because what’s “normal” is to be accountable to your taxpayers by communicating to them through the media. All media. Because what’s “normal” is to represent all the people, not just the ones who voted for you. Because what’s “normal” is to have some integrity and not do backroom deals to help your buddies.

So you ignore all that and what you get is angry voters. Sooner or later you get enough voters sufficiently angry that they’re not going to take it anymore and you get a battle, mislabel it “full out jihad” if you want, but you brought it upon yourselves and it is NOT going away with a wave of your usual bully tactics, so get used to it or do the right thing and get the hell out.

On Government Communications Surveillance

There’s no lack of evidence to show that there are people in the world who think that an appropriate response to the misdeeds of the West is to bring the death and destruction back and throw it in our faces. I fail to understand this logic of revenge, but unfortunately there are many who embrace it. Humanity has a long history on the failure of using evil to counter evil, but we never seem to convert this knowledge into wisdom.

This might be surprising, but because of this I’m not entirely opposed to governments communications surveillance for security reasons, even the communications of their own citizens – after all most acts of terror come from hateful people within our culture, not from the stereotypes the media is so enamoured with. (more…)

Unifying the Liberal and Conservative Perspectives on Government

Conservatives typically look to shrink the role of the state. Their favourite tool of choice is the reduction of revenues through tax cuts. The theory appears to be that a reduction in tax revenue will lead to the elimination of the services that are not essential to the operation of the state. This is in many ways a perverse application of the principles of the free market system. Not only does it not work as planned, it frequently results in structural budgetary deficits.

Liberals tend to look at increasing the role of the state. They see the state as a tool for ensuring the well being of the populace. Their favourite tool of choice is the introduction of new services or regulations, with a corresponding increase in revenue from taxation. The theory appears to be that centralized management can be efficient. This is in many ways wilful ignorance of the merits of the free market system. Not only does it not work as planned, unbridled growth of taxation is an impediment to economic growth.

By and large, that’s a capsule summary of politics in the West. Two diametrically opposed, equally incorrect, deeply flawed models for government, alternately taking control of the apparatus of the state, making a set of ill-informed changes before being turfed out by dissatisfied voters to let the other side repeat the process from the opposite perspective.

This is an unstable system that will never reach equilibrium.

The fundamental issue is one of semantics. So let’s start with an axiom: nobody enjoys paying taxes. Aside from extremists who either envision a magic state that functions in the absence of revenue or an equally improbable state that functions in the absence of variable rewards for variable work/value, most of us accept that some level of taxation is inevitable. The problem is that we think about taxes in absolute terms — usually as a percentage of our income or assets. It seems to be that both liberals and conservatives could find a lot more common ground if the discussion was framed in terms of Return on Taxation, much like business measures Return on Investment.

Surely everyone, left or right, wants to ensure that their tax dollars are used to achieve the greatest value.

While it is true that this approach will generate ongoing argument on which methods should be used to arrive at a measurement of “return”, my suspicion is that liberals and conservatives will find that when viewed through the lens of value, their policies will be less divergent. In an ideal scenario, we can focus our efforts on getting more value per tax dollar and adopt more rational — and stable — policies.

The left and right seem to find it increasingly difficult to find common ground, but it is only by doing so that a democratic system can function effectively. Let’s make Return on Taxation the objective we all share.