I got dinked out of posting on a Mark Steyn column earlier this week. Fortunately, the prolific Mr. Steyn has lobbed another one my way, this time ruminating on the endemic corruption of Canada’s one-party state in response to a reader inquiry. His thoughts are well worth the read, as they explore the many, many byways of political corruption in what is by all accounts a relatively law-abiding liberal democracy.
It’s certainly – how shall we put this? – striking that a fellow [Prime Minister Chretien] who’s spent 40 years in the House of Commons with the exception of a brief time-out in the late Eighties is, by Canadian standards, so phenomenally wealthy.
Let’s just pause there for a moment. In the modern Canadian state, it is not necessary for M Chrétien to do anything illegal. As he has said, after years in government, he’s a well-connected guy with a fat Rolodex who knows the wheels that have to be oiled: he can tell his clients “what is necessary for them to do”. That’s something folks will pay for, as out-of-office politicians in many western democracies have discovered. But very few have the opportunities of patronage that exist in Canada: unlike M Chrétien with Senator Fitzpatrick, Mr Bush cannot install a boardroom buddy from his ball-team days in the US Senate.
Third, it’s interesting to see how M Chrétien’s business deals – like the Grand-Mère – circle back to the government, in the form of one agency or another. He was able to tell M Duhaime “what it is necessary for him to do” – ie, put him touch with the BDC – and also able to tell the bank “what it is necessary for them to do” – ie, pony up the dough to M Duhaime. In a one-party state, he is in the fortunate position of being able to tell all parties “what it is necessary for them to do”.
Canada’s “national identity” is supposedly to be found in its “social programs”; Canadians are supposedly willing to pay higher taxes in order for a more equitable society. Quite where the 50% of income the government takes winds up is hard to see: I can’t help noticing that I see far more beggars on the streets of Toronto and Montreal than in Boston, New York, Chicago, or any other American city I’ve been in recently, whether run by Republicans or Democrats. The hospitals in Canada are so overloaded they’re unable to observe even basic hygiene procedures, a basic failing which covers everything from the Ontario health system’s incubation of SARS to Labrador’s gift of Chlamydia to its gynaecological patients. M Chrétien lectured Wall Street that, while Canada had fewer millionaires than America, it also had fewer poor people. But what you can’t help noticing is that the plutocrats we do have are almost all well-connected Liberal Party types or businessmen whose businesses are either subsidized or regulated by the government. That’s why in the one-party state we wind up not just with one party but one bookstore chain, one media chain, etc. Meanwhile, the gap in income between the governing class – in its broadest sense – and the governed grows ever wider. After 40 years as a guy who knows “what’s necessary” for others to do, M Chrétien is merely the most prominent exemplar of the system.
There are words to describe the kind of society that kicks veterans’ widows out on the street while giving the former riding secretary who approves the decision a $160,000 expense tab, that lavishes billions on corporate welfare on Lib-friendly businesses but can’t wash the instruments between pap smears: “Welfare state”? “Just society”? Try “kleptocracy”.
I find myself with very little to add.