How Do We Get Out from Under This?

The American contagion has set in. Stephen Harper to Maxime Bernier to Pierre Poilievre to the Freedom Convoy - the signs are everywhere.  But what about the British contagion? That's a more troubling problem - the lack of ideas. Does this sound vaguely familiar?

If mainstream politics feels surreal and inadequate, this is partly due to the mysterious absence of a phenomenon that, for most of the past 150 years, was treated as an integral feature of politics and policy: ideas. Ideas have come in various shapes and sizes and from various sources. Some, such as those that formed Keynesianism, are associated with a single individual. Others, such as those that underpinned Thatcherism, were forged through an alliance of thinktanks (such as the Institute of Economic Affairs) and public intellectuals (such as Milton Friedman and Keith Joseph).

It is when the status quo breaks down in some way (as occurred in the UK in the 1970s or within the left after 1989) that ideas and intellectuals become most important in identifying routes forward, and establishing a new normality.

One crucial factor is the precedent of the most disruptive political campaign of recent British history: Vote Leave. ...Vote Leave offered no route-map towards a better “economic model”, and little explanation or evidence about how Brexit would improve the UK. It concentrated wholly on signalling, connecting with people by force of symbols and innuendo. This was post-policy politics, and it worked, as Boris Johnson and Cummings showed again in 2019.

In fact, it worked so well that Britain is now lumbered with a policy whose consequences are palpably disastrous, but which still no frontline politician dares to question.

...Reality will eventually catch up with whomever finds themselves in power over the coming years, just as it eventually caught up with Johnson. The last six years has demonstrated that politics without ideas is possible, but not necessarily desirable, either for the country or those in power. An abstract narrative does not fix anything by itself, but – if it gains a grip on reality – it helps coordinate the instruments of governing, campaigning, and communications, especially when the future is most uncertain. The alternative, to borrow Cummings’s helpful metaphor, is government by broken shopping trolley, lurching around aimlessly.

In Canada, the last two decades have been dominated by government bereft of ideas, vision.  Harper's former BFF, Tom Flanagan, told an audience that Sideshow Steve positively eschewed vision. He wanted nothing to do with it.

What great ideas have come from Harper's successor? What vision? His father left a vision, a revaluing of the rights of the individual against the state, that hasn't been emulated by anything in the decades since Trudeau senior's departure. It is this void, this lack of ideas and vision, that has left Canada and the developed world in the death grip of dysfunctional neoliberalism.

We are not governed, we are ruled. We are not led, we are administered.


  1. "We are not governed, we are ruled. We are not led, we are administered."
    I usually go with we are farmed.

  2. "This too shall pass" as the adage goes.

    Of course, whether we'll expire as a species prior or post to this age's passing is a question that requires answering. The upcoming generations do have answers, and they are quite radically different from the previous one's, and much time, effort, and capital has been expended and expenditured to prevent, contain, and crush these new answers.

    The answers, of course, are simple but they'll cost people in power a lot of money.

    Shrinkify cities. The Vancouver Plan's pretty good. It could be better.

    Reduce air travel by increasing and improving train travel.

    Reduce impact from freight by trucking by increasing freight by rail.

    Increase the number of rail lines across Canada by four to six times.

    End supersized cruise ships.

    End supersized transport ships.

    Reduce meat eating in the general population.

    All these are easy and simple answers. However, overcoming the opposition to these ideas is the hard part. The Kochs and people of that ilk have no interest in anything changing. They believe in their oil profits like people believe in religion.

    Also, these answers won't work to help with the effects that are baked in.

    Fresh water. Likely, we'll begin to see collapses of creeks, rivers, and even whole lakes. And this can happen very rapidly. Opposingly, we may see areas become deluged and drowned in water—and this will also make this water equally undrinkable as fresh may blend into salt, and cross into polluted areas—there's no easy or cheap solutions here. But we do need our best and brightest on this. Water shapes the world, and where it goes—and doesn't—will reshape entire nations and cause others to fade away into the wind like dust.

    Forests. While I have a great deal of faith in trees—they are incredibly resilient—at the same time, people need to protect forests. From fires, pollution, over-development of cities, and over-harvesting. Forests can be made into deserts quite easily and rapidly. Plus, they help to retain excess energy, heat, and water. But there's this appetite in figures such Bolsanaro to destroy forests. It's just madness. Ending this madness is key, and there's no easy answers to this. Additionally, there's trees growing in the Arctic now!

    The first answer then is wholesale change of our political class. And then a fundamental remaking of our bureaucracies. Bolster them. Beefify them (while also reducing the beef industry). Take down or apart financial conglomerates that oppose this new world. Bolster and protect industries that will be of benefit. Destroy the destructive industries. Implode them.

    Simple, simple, simple. But the opposition to this is the hard part. Overcoming and it, and defeating it once and for all. That's the tough part.

  3. "How Do We Get Out from Under This?"

    I do not see a 'path to victory' at this point. (Victory = surviving extinction in a dignified lifestyle)

    We are out of time. As said above, no actionable ideas are being worked on by 'our leaders'.
    Baiting Russia and China into war at the back door while the front door and living room are on fire is another harbinger and additional cause for the pending clusterfuck.

    I just came back from a brief visit to Tofino - if humans survive, we are really going to miss all the beaches.


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