There ought to be a better way for a Tory to get upset about the status quo than spending time in prison. Nevertheless, the fitful winds of change are benefiting from Conrad Black’s misfortune. Here, in the pages of the National Post, is his poverty program for America:
“I am more conservative as a capitalist, because it is the only system that conforms to the almost universal human desire for more, and I favour low income taxes and less regulation than the administration. But, as I wrote here on Wednesday and especially after spending three years in American prisons, I am a strong leftist on protection of human rights and liberties, restraint of rabid prosecutors and a radical effort to address poverty. Yet Obama’s “sharing the wealth” approach won’t accomplish anything. Instead, I favour a wealth tax to be administered, under supervision as charities are, by the taxpayers and devoted to the reduction of poverty, a tax and program that would be reduced as poverty was reduced, giving the wealthiest an incentive to eliminate poverty.”
Conrad Black hasn’t shaken his distaste for liberals or his high Tory confidence—born of that privileged hilltop view of the unintended consequences of other people’s best intentions, especially the ones that lead to government action. However, as with that Canadian hyphen "red-Tory," Black undermines his intentions by serving two ambitions at the same time: doing something decisive about poverty and making government less intrusive, even in the social sphere.
Black wants to be a problem-solver without sounding like one of those ridiculous problem-solvers in government. In doing so, he echoes those less-intelligent billionaires who favor “self-taxation” as an alternative to giving government additional revenue to be more effective.
Should the rich—and a little more of their money—be assigned the lead in fighting poverty, because the rich know more about money, neighborhoods, career planning, and networking than elected politicians and their public servants? Why not, then, earmark the taxes of young people and the working poor to finance America’s national defense? After all, in big wars, they do most of the fighting?
Black is taking risks with common sense, because he’s divided and that’s a rare, good thing. And he’s acknowledging also that doing the decent thing often will cost more money—and that’s real progress.