One of the things I’ve noticed about Neoreaction is that although the Dominion is vastly over–represented among this network of bloggers and the community around them, there has of yet been precious little in the way of neoreactionary analysis of the Canadian regime itself. In this article, I want to take a look at the State structures of Canada, the interests which constructed them, and how Moldbuggian analysis can help us understand the modern day politics of the true north strong and free.
The first big distinction to make from our friends south of the 49th is that, of course, Canada is still a monarchy! Constitutional monarchy though it is, the lack of enthusiasm for joining in the American Rebellion (not that they didn’t try) meant that the British Crown continued to rule part of the North American continent and eventually extended its territories north of the 49th parallel from sea to shining sea. But given that it is constitutional, we have to ask what real impacts the Crown has had on the affairs of State. Her Majesty may fire the Australian government when they get out of hand, but the last time there was any real dispute between a Canadian Prime Minister and a Governor-General (the Crown’s representative) was the King-Byng affair of 1925-26. In this rather complex dispute, Prime Minster King asked the Governor-General, Lord Byng of Vimy, to dissolve Parliament and call an election while a motion to remove censure from a no-confidence motion against the government was still under debate, which Lord Byng refused to do. Removing the censure would have brought down King’s government and, by calling the election, King sought to increase his influence. Eventually, an election was called, but King’s stance that the dispute was a battle for democracy and Canadian independence has ensured that no Governor-General has ever since failed to publicly back the Prime Minster. Here we see the distinction between de jure and de facto political power. Legally speaking, Parliament governs on behalf of the crown. In reality, the Canadian legislature, executive, and judicial branches exercise their power almost as independently as their American counterparts.
So in the affairs of Parliament, the Crown’s power has been dramatically limited. But as any reader of Moldbug knows, the elected bodies are but one part of the State apparatus and not nearly as important in day-to-day governance as is usually assumed. How much does Parliament impact the daily workings of the health care system? Environmental protection? The Bank of Canada? Parliament is to an extent setting the parameters for each of these agencies, but once that’s done its role becomes rather limited. Your local MP would be of little use in the daily inspections of oil and road infrastructures and postal networks. Each of these organizations makes its own decisions on a daily basis and has that power delegated to it by both necessity and Parliamentary decree, much as Parliament itself has its de jure authority to manage the Dominion delegated by the Crown. As in any Moldbuggian analysis, we want to remember the principle that sovereignty is conserved.
Crown corporations are enterprises of which the Crown is the sole shareholder (how very Moldbuggian indeed) and which exist in order to provide services where the State (either the federal government or the province) deems it necessary to supplement or bypass the private sector. The variety of services the Crown corporations provide include monetary policy (the Bank of Canada), social cohesion (the Canadian Race Relations Foundation), social security (Canada Pension Plan Investing Board) and much more. You can see a full list here. Some, like BC Ferries, operate only in a certain province and report to the provincial rather than the federal government. Crown corporations, like many American agencies, operate with a high degree of independence from the government. The strongest signal of this independence come from the public unions operating within them. While the Conservative government has been a major supporter of Israel, the Canadian Postal Workers Union has openly supported the Palestinian cause as well as other political agendas. If one of the borders of Parliamentary sovereignty – royal sanction – has been extended as far as can be without ceasing to be monarchic at all, another – cooperation with the governing bodies of the State – has held strong, even in the face of the Conservative Party’s general push to try and limit the power of the civil service and public sector.
So why don’t we take a closer look at Her Majesty’s company management? There are three main parties in Canada, which has not yet slipped into American duocracy. The Conservative Party is the current governing party, forming the government since 2008 and holding a majority since 2011. Because of Canada’s first-past-the-post system of electing MP’s, its majority does not reflect the fact that it in fact represents less than half of the Canadian populace. It’s a characteristic of opposition parties to criticize this system as being the reason for their opposition status. Judging the validity of these critiques is the subject of another post, however. The Liberal Party has historically been the leading force in government, to the point of calling itself Canada’s “natural governing party”, but was so soundly annihilated in the last election that it lost even opposition status, and is currently the third largest party in Parliament. The New Democratic Party is the left-leaning social democratic party, which gained popularity in Quebec during the last election, carrying it to its current status as Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition. Additionally we have the social democratic and separatist Bloc Quebecois, currently with only four seats, and the Greens with their two. We’ll focus on the big three.
In order to simplify our analysis of
the management Parliament, I’m going to use Moldbug’s “American castes” system. I’ll mention any noteworthy distinctions from our southern neighbours if they arise. The Conservative Party of today was a fusing together of the establishment Progressive Conservatives – the descendants of the protectionists and British Empire loyalists of Conservative Party yore – and the Western populist Reform movement. The latter tended to focus on decentralization in order to appease Western alienation and was influenced by Thatcher-Reagan economic doctrines. The Globe and Mail defines the base thus:
“…among its elements are: a high degree of religiosity, a moralistic view of foreign policy, a populist dislike of government, a loathing of the media (except Sun News Network, Sun newspapers and a few very right-wing columnists), a distaste of anything that smacks of high culture, a reverence for the military, an abhorrence of abortion, a suspicion of “intellectuals” and their reasoning, a belief (against all evidence) that crime is out of control, a generalized sense that honest, God-fearing people like themselves have been marginalized and patronized by secular “elites,” a sense that produces bursts of resentment and anger about the state of the country.”
With this combination, the Conservatives represent a variety of Canadians including: rural dwellers in the Western provinces, social and religious conservatives (although Harper’s slapdown of pro-life MP’s in his party has resulted in some alienation on that front), almost every riding in Alberta (Harper’s home province), a large number of suburban middle class voters, and business. Through Moldbug’s lense, the CPC is thus at its core a representative of vaisya and the conservative optimate sections of the Canadian population. Canadian vaisyas, among whom I will number those Canadians who are working in skilled labour or white collar professions not numbered among the upper class optimates and brahmins, are not limited to white suburbanites. Richmond, located just outside the City of Vancouver and with a large Asian demographic, elected the first Chinese-Canadian woman to serve in the Cabinet. While in the city of Surrey during the election, I saw posters for the Conservative candidate written in English, French, and also Punjabi (the north of the city elected an NDP candidate, the wealthier and whiter south a Conservative one). There is also the issue of Canada’s natural resource industry. Many of the tradesmen and labourers in the industry are Conservative because the party is the biggest supporter of resource development. However, the party’s support for the Temporary Foreign Worker program has served to alienate some of this base in recent months. Optimates are difficult to distinguish from Brahmins. I would include in this caste wealthy and upper class individuals who have either professional degrees (STEM, business, law), no degree at all, or come from inherited wealth. A great number of these also fall in the Conservative camp, particularly if they are not involved in social causes or elite-progressive subcultures. Again, the modern optimates include a large number of immigrant businessmen, particularly from mainland China, but also from India and other countries.
The Liberal Party is the haven of the brahmin. The University of British Columbia has long lived within a Liberal stronghold (although the Conservatives mount a growing challenge) in a province where most ridings go either Tory or NDP. The University of Toronto jostles back and forth between Liberal and NDP (currently, Olivia Chow is the NDP MP for its riding). Its leader during the 2011 election was Michael Ignatieff, the son of a brahmin family who made his career in journalism as well as holding positions at Oxford, Cambridge, the University of Toronto, and (most certifying of all) Harvard. His family held many notable political and academic positions, but it’s George Grant, the legendary Canadian philosopher, who stands out most. His classical background and Red Tory philosophy of Canadian identity were embodied in his work Lament for a Nation, a book which criticized growing Americanization in Canadian cultures. Ignatieff’s successor, Justin Trudeau, is in many ways the brahmin embodied. Upper class; the son of the Prime Minister who defined the modern, multicultural, post-Imperial Canada; a man from an elite academic and social background who advocates for a variety of progressive causes, and whose philosophy reflects his party’s focus on internationalism and a diverse global community interacting without the restrictions of borders. He is socially adept, participating in stunts like a charity boxing match with a Conservative senator. He might be Harper’s biggest threat precisely because he could win over the ever-cherished youth vote with his outspoken support for causes like marijuana legalization and LGBT issues. The party’s role as an umbrella of interests means that it also includes sections of each of the other castes, especially the optimates and vaisyas, with perhaps lower participation from the helots and dalits because of the party’s commitment to free trade.
The last party we’ll examine is the NDP. This party grew out of an alliance of farm and labour interests and the political left which began in the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation. It has generally been more socially radical than the Liberals and advocates for higher corporate taxes, higher minimum wages, and more lucrative social security programs. This makes it the natural home of the dalit, the caste which most directly benefits from such social programs, as evidenced by its strong support bases in areas like the poverty stricken Downtown East Side of Vancouver. Here the NDP and its predecessor have won all but two elections since the Vancouver East Riding’s creation. During the 2011 election it also found bases of support in Ontario and especially in Quebec, areas where the western-based Conservatives have faced a lot of opposition. It has a strong base of immigrant support as well, which gives it a strong helot connection. Its opposition to the foreign worker program means that resident and citizen workers see it as protecting their interests. Foreign workers would not increase the NDP’s base of support in the short term since they can’t vote, although the NDP’s stance that the TFW should provide better opportunities for workers means that in the long term, an extension of citizenship could grant them entry into an increasing helot population. The NDP also acts as the de facto Parliamentary representative of the public unions and the civil service. In many cases, they are the same people, as evidenced by the election of former officials of the Public Service Alliance of Canada and the Canadian Union of Public Employees. In BC, the latter was the provincial NDP’s third biggest donor. Such groups represent the publicly employed branch of the vaisyas. Moldbug’s analysis is especially useful in light of this influence, as it shows the influence which these parts of the State have in the decision making bodies of Parliament.
The core of Moldbug’s analysis lies in his claim that the State is – whether we admit it or not – a corporation. In the case of Canada, this leads us to a very interesting situation. From the Formalist Manifesto:
“…to a formalist, the fact that the US can determine what happens on the North American continent between the 49th parallel and the Rio Grande, AK and HI, etc, means that it is the entity which owns that territory. And the fact that the US extracts regular payments…means no more than that it owns that right. The various maneuvers and pseudo-legalities by which it acquired these properties are all just history. What matters is that it has them now and it doesn’t want to give them over, any more than you want to give me your wallet. So if the responsibility to fork over some cut of your paycheck makes you a serf (a reasonable reuse of the word, surely, for our less agricultural age), that’s what Americans are – serfs. Corporate serfs, to be exact, because the US is nothing but a corporation. That is, it is a formal structure by which a group of individuals agree to act collectively to achieve some result.”
If this is the case, then we must answer the question as to who owns the State. A tough question for our American friends, but up in the Dominion, this question has been answered ever since General Wolfe planted firm Brittania’s flag on Canada’s fair domain! In her personality as the Crown, the monarch, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, is the one and sole owner of the State! Because this ownership rests in her role as the sovereign and not an individual, she cannot simply buy or sell parts of the State without the consent of its management, her ministers. However, to refer to the State and to refer to the Crown is to refer to the same thing. Now, we had a name for a corporation of which Her Majesty was sole shareholder. In Moldbuggian terms, we must come to the conclusion that the Canadian State is a Crown Corporation! Specifically, it is a Crown Corporation with many corporations under its umbrella and a top management which is decided by the ballot. So where to go from here?
“On Forms of Government, let fools contest; whatever is best administered is best.”
– Alexander Pope
From a neocameralist perspective, the question remaining is: does the current system of administration work? We’ll set aside issues like revenue sources, subsidiarity and federalism, and the sustainability of a country the size of Canada, and focus solely on asking whether the current model is the best way to formalize the power structures acting within the State. In other words, we want to see whether the voice of each part of the state in decision making is equivalent to its role in governance. As Parliament is the current nexus of decision making at the level of laying out policy, any part of the State is ultimately answerable to this body. Remember though, Parliament are only managers. Administrators don’t need to be experts, they need to be able to make good decisions after hearing the experts out. The public unions and civil service, as we saw, have their representatives in the NDP. Is that efficient? Let’s ask it another way: would it be easier for the civil service to negotiate while they have to take political coalitions into account in the current model, or with a more direct form of representation? Conversely, is it easier to criticize the actions and programs of their officials when they are in a political role, or when they are acting officially and within institutional regulations on behalf of their organizations? Currently, they must work through intermediaries because the top management (Parliament) is decided entirely through the ballot.
We saw how each party has its own base which it depends on. Like in any representative democracy, parties and politicians reward their base for their loyalty and seek to limit the power of their opponents. What is the purpose of an elected Parliament? To grant the decision making power of corporate policy to the people. The neocameralist claim is not so much that this is a bad thing as that it obscures the real power balances of the State by mistaking de jure decision-making voice (the people’s representatives, in a democratic Parliament) for de facto decision-making voice (those with the power to get parties to represent them, like the civil service, have a higher voice than the average citizen). The democrat protests that this means that the structures of democracy must be changed in order to correct this. The neocameralist asks whether this imbalance might not be inherent to efficient, long-term governance.
“Formalists attribute the success of Europe, Japan and the US after World War II not to democracy, but its absence. While retaining the symbolic structures of democracy, much as the Roman Principate retained the Senate, the postwar Western system has assigned almost all actual decision-making power to its civil servants and judges, who are “apolitical” and “nonpartisan,” ie, nondemocratic.
Because in the absence of effective external control, these civil services more or less manage themselves, like any unmanaged enterprise they often seem to exist and expand for the sake of existing and expanding. But they avoid the spoils system which invariably develops when the tribunes of the people have actual power. And they do a reasonable, if hardly stellar, job of maintaining some semblance of law.
In other words, “democracy” appears to work because it is not in fact democracy, but a mediocre implementation of formalism. This relationship between symbolism and reality has received an educational if depressing test in the form of Iraq, where there is no law at all, but which we have endowed with the purest and most elegant form of democracy (proportional representation), and ministers who actually seem to run their ministries. While history does no controlled experiments, surely the comparison of Iraq to Dubai makes a fine case for formalism over democracy.”
The main point of neocameralist formalism is to minimize violence (re: politics) by decreasing uncertainty. The public sector faces uncertainty insofar as it cannot be sure that its influence in Parliament will not decrease because of an NDP collapse. The vital work of environmental science in a State which derives much of its revenue and creates jobs in the natural resource sector also faces uncertainty because the new management (the Conservatives) decided to not just limit future research but even to purge decades worth of work already done. It’s a strange corporation indeed which actively destroys value which its subsidiaries have produced. In both cases, democracy leads to a rewards system: public unions receive a return on investment from the NDP, and resource companies looking for a repealing of environmental protections receive their ROI from the Conservatives. The neocameralist coolly analyzes the influence of the civil service, the necessity of the scientific research units, and the importance of the resource management sectors of the State and grants them each their direct voice on the board. Increased certainty because of decreased politics (although it can never reach zero), and thus increased ability to negotiate on the one hand and be held accountable on the other. What this would look like and whether it could even be done is a question for another day.
The question for Canadians, especially those aware of neoreaction and its political models, is where formal structures fail to reflect political and administrative realities. The voice of the private-sector vaisyas is currently restricted to the Conservative and Liberal parties, where it often gets drowned about amidst those of the optimates and brahmins, who have the means to influence policy. That of the public-sector vaisyas must in turn work alongside those of the helots and dalits, whose numbers are high enough to counterbalance their lack of wealth. Uncertain and constantly shifting motives and coalitions make long-term management extremely difficult. The neocameralist would attribute the bulk of the success of Canada’s State operations (and to be sure, it has performed admirably in many ways) to its independent civil service, its autonomous Crown Corporations, and the limiting of Parliamentary administration by law, custom, and royal mandate to functions which none of these other sectors can properly perform. The question we must ask ourselves is if and how we can continue to preserve this source of stability while eliminating inefficiencies and disparities of voice in the current structure. For that to happen, a shift must occur in the political focus from democracy per se to organizational structure and institutions. Not quite so sexy, to be sure, but vital nonetheless. If we are lucky, it might be easier to do here than most other Western countries. After all, the complaint is sometimes heard that Canadians simply aren’t political enough. We don’t have the blockbuster campaigns of the US, the biting rhetoric of the Brits, or the mass protests of the French.
The neocameralist thanks their lucky stars it is so.