Seamanship Quotation

“In political activity, then, men sail a boundless and bottomless sea; there is neither harbour for shelter nor floor for anchorage, neither starting-place nor appointed destination.”
— from Michael Oakeshott's
Political Education” (1951)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Charter of popular values: rejecting America and Canada’s liberal revolution

Quebec Premier Pauline Marois’s proposal that the people of Quebec gather round and write a legal Charter of Popular Quebec Values feels creepy for a good reason: it is literally anti-liberal. Liberal societies protect weak political ideas and peaceful minorities, not the Behemoth.

Rural, unilingual, and traditional Francophones might be able to squeak a Charter of Values into law. However, it’s really not conceivable that Quebec separatism can be advanced by campaigns that not only drive away "the others" but also put in serious doubt Quebec’s future as a liberal society. Without a cosmopolitan and liberal base, an independence movement on this liberal continent is doomed.

(Mounting a campaign of provocation against the rest of Canada is futile. Stephen Harper needn’t and won’t escalate. Besides, he just hasn’t got the charisma to radicalize his opponents in any part of the country.)

Canada’s government puts the Queen of Canada on its stamps and Quebec’s Government puts “Je me souviens” on its license plates. Otherwise, Canadians overwhelmingly want their governments to be as republican as Boston, as secular as Washington, and at least as liberal as San Francisco.

The Pope’s political authority in Quebec ended in the 17th century, and the inexorable passing of British conservatism was effectively sealed in the next century, in the liberal revolution of 1776.

North Americans divide over borders, official languages, and the merits of living in federal states. They cherish, however, their liberal Bill of Rights and the equally liberal Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Since the 1960s, all winning separatist politicians in Quebec insisted that they were liberationists, not reactionaries. They claimed, simply, that Quebeckers could use the tools of a modern liberal state more effectively if they had a national government of their own. 

Marois’s mandate from her party, and her only chance to advance their ambitious cause, is to govern at least as well as her neighbors, and embrace — along with our currency and North American open markets — either the Canadian or the American (or both) charters of individual rights.  

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