Canadian Conservatism

Professor F.H. Buckley has written a broadly sympathetic piece about Canadian conservatism and the constitutional differences between Canada and the US.

While the American Founders rightly feared the kind of one-man rule they thought George III exercised, America today has what Virginia’s George Mason called an “elective monarchy,” which he thought was worse than the real thing. Barack Obama can make laws by diktat, unmake laws by not enforcing them, and all of this without effective Congressional oversight. America’s tort system too often resembles a demented slot machine of judicially sanctioned theft. Its populist criminal law convicts virtually everyone that partisan prosecutors choose to charge. Its convoluted tax code makes firms invest heavily in tax lawyers and lobbyists. Its K-12 public educational system is vastly inferior to Canada, and America’s promise of income mobility is broken.

These criticisms echo what Conrad Black has been arguing for several years. The surprise is that an American constitutional law professor agrees. My personal acquaintance with US government institutions over decades of peripheral dealings with parts of the US federal government confirm in the view that, even if the US recovers from Obama – and I believe it will – it still has constitutional defects arising from the independence of the President from the House of Representatives, or putting it another way,  the non-responsibility of its executive to its legislature, and its legislature to its executive. Their legislation is sloppily drafted, their consequent dependence on the courts to sort things out leaves them at the mercy of judges and lawyers, and the expense of all this keeps their politicians wholly dependent on raising money at all times.

In Canada, you get the weapons contract by planting benefits in key ridings. In the United States, you buy the Senators and Congressmen, and they put the defence plants in the key constituencies. There is no politician you really must buy here. It is done occasionally, but it is an exception rather than standard and legal operating procedure. If you think I paint a too glowing picture of our honesty, you are wrong. I am not describing honesty; I am describing the relative costs of the decision-making systems in Canada and the US.