Saturday, October 17, 2009

Stephen Harper, Leo Strauss and Stating the Case Against Democracy

As stated in the previous post, Leo Strauss was one of the fathers of the modern neo-Conservative movement, who based his manifesto on three basic principles: Deception, religious fervour and unbridled patriotism.

Strauss argued that the common people were not capable of making important decisions, so it was up to the elite of society to make those decisions for them. Of course, in a democracy where the will of the majority must prevail, the task for the 'elite' was to manipulate the masses, into making the 'right' decisions.

We saw this with Preston Manning and the Reform Party. He stated that his was a populist party, when it fact it became painfully clear to the membership that it was actually run by what they called the 'Calgary Clique'; which included Stephen Harper, Manning's lieutenant.

The Fraser Institute, a right-wing think tank, and part of the infrastructure for the right-wing revolution, also follows Strauss's theories, and selected speakers help to reinforce their views. One regular was the late Milton Friedman, Ronald Reagan's economic advisor; and he is pretty clear when it comes to the notion of democracy:

"The (Fraser) institute's relentless pursuit of free-marketeering has also demonstrated a distinctly anti-democratic component. Milton Friedman's startling intervention at the 1986 institute sponsored 'Freedom, Democracy and Welfare' forum - protesting the statement that 'democracy is an ultimate value' - led to a fascinating series of exchanges.

Friedman declared, 'You can't say that majority voting is a basic right ... That's a proposition I object to very strenuously.' The institutes's senior economist, Walter Block, agreed. Why does it follow that we should have an equal right to vote in the political process?'

"Friedman followed up his thoughts in a Fraser Forum article which concluded, 'One of the things that troubles me very much is that I believe a relatively free economy is a necessary condition for a democratic society. But I also believe there is evidence that a democratic society, once established, destroys a free economy.' Not content to stop there, he suggested that it was the pursuit of wealth that was the ultimate social value, while the pursuit of justice would lead to total ruin'." (Hard Right Turn: The New Face of neo-Conservatism in Canada, Brooke Jeffrey, Harper-Collins, 1999, ISBN: 0-00 255762-2, Pg. 423)

The above video of Leo Strauss, is only to give you a visual, and some idea of his philosophy. The rest of that lecture can be found on YouTube, if the first one hasn't put you to sleep.

Donald Gutstein wrote an excellent article on Strauss and Stephen Harper's attachment to the neo-Conservative movement; giving us some idea of waht a Harper majority might look like.

What do close advisors to Stephen Harper and George W. Bush have in common? They reflect the disturbing teachings of Leo Strauss, the German-Jewish émigré who spawned the neoconservative movement. Strauss, who died in 1973, believed in the inherent inequality of humanity. Most people, he famously taught, are too stupid to make informed decisions about their political affairs. Elite philosophers must decide on affairs of state for us.

In Washington, Straussians exert powerful influence from within the inner circle of the White House. In Canada, they roost, for now, in the so-called Calgary School, guiding Harper in framing his election strategies. What preoccupies Straussians in both places is the question of "regime change."

Strauss defined a regime as a set of governing ideas, institutions and traditions. The neoconservatives in the Bush administration, who secretly conspired to make the invasion of Iraq a certainty, had a precise plan for regime change. They weren't out to merely replace Saddam with an American puppet. They planned to make the system more like the U.S., with an electoral process that can be manipulated by the elites, corporate control over the levers of power and socially conservative values ....


  1. This is either an incredible misunderstanding or an incredible misreprentation of three different kinds of so-called "anti-democratic" positions.

    The first, that of the Straussians is an abstract platonic philosophy and is not an advocacy of political change against democracy as such. Straussians, like Churchill, are largely in favor of democracy and of spreading democracy.

    Milton Friedman's was an entirely economic and consequentialist position - it's only anti-democratic insofar as democracy is self-defeating... people attempt to live off other people (government being that great fiction whereby people attempt to steal value from themselves and redistribute it to themselves as if this process created anything) and therefore a total democracy becomes mob rule, become parsitic, this temptation to use the guns of the state to redistribute wealth grows ever larger, incentives for productivity are perverted, and ultimately individual freedom is lost. This is not that much of a controversial point and is why there are not actual "democracies" today, there are constituational republics with democratic elements.

    As for Block, he's a Rothbardian anarchist and not any kind of conservative. He is opposed to democracy because democracy, like any coercive government, is immoral and violates universal human rights. Block points out that theft is theft, whether it's done by 1 person or 100 million and that democracy doesn't make the government "the people." On the contrary, democratically elected governments have often been despotic, murderous, totalitarian. Hitler, for example, was democratically elected in a landslide. It does not follow that the Jews killed themselves. Human rights are human rights and they are not to be comprompised by a criminial with a gun, even if that gun comes from the imaginary entity referred to as "the state." Block is fundamentally opposed to the use of physical violence in attempts to solve social problems (that is, the state).

  2. Regardless of the basic fundamentals, Canada has taken a hard right turn and when we look at the three basic principles of Leo Strauss, we can't deny that our current government is following them in some form.

    Harper has cleverly sought out the hot button issues and divided the country over them. He has exploited religous fervour and fueled the idea that somehow Christians in this country are being persecuted.

    And he has definitely intentionally made Canadian politics so ugly that the entire country is turning off. This is not a promotion of democracy.

    In the past four years Canada has become almost unidentifiable. We used to be nice. Peace loving and tolerant. We used to be leaders and now we're irrelevant.

    So whether the movement has distorted Strauss, I don't know. I just know that our current government does not believe in democracy and certainly does not promote it at home.

  3. The internal social politics of Canada notwithstanding, less democracy would be a beautiful thing if what replaced it was more individual self-determination. If the Canadian government pursued that kind of anti-democratic policy, no sane person would criticize it. I suspect that's not the case.

    The perception of Canadian politics outside of Canada is viewed largely as irrelevant and in reality is usually not thought about at all... as it shouldn't be. Canada is a comparatively irrelevant country that does not have the marginal power in geopolitics to affect any change that is not initiated by the US, Britain, or the EU. Canada's significance is similar to that of Saudi Arabia or Venezuela - oil and geographical proximity to a superpower.

  4. I don't agree. Canada has led in many ways. It was a Canadian who drafted the Declaration of Human Rights and creatd the Peacekeepers which is still a vital orgnization, even if Canada itself now provides fewer that 100 soldiers to the cause.

    And the lack of 'self determination' is just rhetoric, in the same way that the 'tough on crime' is rhetoric. The crime rate in Canada is the lowest in 30 years and the fact that the use of food banks is the highest it's ever been is because of the jobless rate.

    Canadians are not lazy, as Stephen Harper and his gang would like us to believe. There needs to be a fairer distribution of wealth ... not more opportunites for someone to get rich.