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Douglas Bell

Tory gruel Add to ...

I hate to say it but, really, in what other nation on Earth would the resignation of a government statistician and the release on bail of a minor-league corporate nogoodnik (not exactly Bernie Madoff now is he?) so thoroughly dominate the news of the day? That said, Conrad Black is an interesting guy and the issue that drove Munir Sheikh to give up his car and his driver in favour of a bus pass is, in its way, symptomatic of a broader trend in political life. I'll leave Crossharbour for another occasion and focus on the census debacle. On Tuesday of this week, writing in the New York Times, David Brooks laid out what he sees as the current terms of political debate in the United States.

"When historians look back on this period, they will see it as another progressive era. It is not a liberal era - when government intervenes to seize wealth and power and distribute it to the have-nots. It's not a conservative era, when the governing class concedes that the world is too complicated to be managed from the center. It's a progressive era, based on the faith in government experts and their ability to use social science analysis to manage complex systems.

This progressive era is being promulgated without much popular support. It's being led by a large class of educated professionals, who have been trained to do technocratic analysis, who believe that more analysis and rule-writing is the solution to social breakdowns, and who have constructed ever-expanding networks of offices, schools and contracts.

Already this effort is generating a fierce, almost culture-war-style backlash. It is generating a backlash among people who do not have faith in Washington, who do not have faith that trained experts have superior abilities to organize society, who do not believe national rules can successfully contend with the intricacies of local contexts and cultures."

The Tories ridding us of the long form census is a feeble attempt to gain political advantage by importing this same backlash from the States. It's dollar store demagoguery, pure and simple. Because putting the motto "live free or die" on a license plate was already taken, the Tories have to settle for Potemkin victories like scrapping the census, kicking ass at the G20, nixing affirmative action in the civil service, and building more prisons. Pretty thin gruel really. But you have to take what you can get in a country where only one in three voters really give a damn about your agenda

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