Some of my fans (well, two) commented that my putting Thatcher (British conservative) and Laurier (Canadian Liberal) in the same sentence and calling them my hero’s makes no sense (Science versus Santa Claus, Dec 17). After all, they are political opposites. That got me worrying; perhaps I ought to try to explain how that does make sense to a Contrarian mind.
As I see it, the battle is not Communism versus Capitalism; or Left versus Right, or Progressive versus Conservative, or government versus private enterprise, as our popular media portrays everything. That train has left the station; that ship has sailed, that battle is ancient history. The real struggle is the Unholy Alliance of big government together with giant corporations versus the people; this New Aristocracy versus Equality; Serfdom versus Freedom. Some background.
The civilized world was dominated by the Roman Empire and its antecedents and successors for all of history until the French and American revolutions began unravelling it. Indeed there are those who would argue we still live in the Roman Empire; after the Romans were crushed, the Pope filled the role of Emperor, then British royalty, lately the American President.
The Roman Empire social structure was that everything was owned by various classes of aristocracy, and the people were serfs to that aristocracy. Actually, most ancient societies including those in the bible; primitive societies, and even underworld gangs adopt this structure, perhaps it is in our genes.
The contract between Aristocrat and Serf was that the serf owed loyalty to the noble, would work for him, and would fight for him if needed. In return, the noble would provide a livelihood and a place for the serf to live. Serfs who broke this contract would become ‘outlaws’, as in Robin Hood, and be banished from civilized society. Serfs were not slaves, they could not be bought or sold or traded, but they were dependent, owned nothing, and all their decisions depended on the noble.
The Roman diet was based on bread and wine, and cereal crops (for bread) and grapes (for wine) did well in medieval Europe, especially Italy and France. But there was a Global Cooling period in the Middle Ages, the ‘Little Ice Age’, and by the end of the 18th century, European weather was too cold and wet for bread and wine. Northern agriculture including animal husbandry (forage) along with vegetables such as rutabaga’s and later potatoes became the staple food for much of Europe. The French resisted that change and tried to stay with their Roman roots, bread and wine, resulting in great famines and social unrest. Given a startlingly incompetent royalty (remember the queen, who when told that the people had no bread said ‘let them eat cake’), the result was great turmoil and new political ideas, and eventually the French Revolution.
France was the intellectual capital of Europe, wealthy young Americans studied there, and these new political ideas along with the incompetence of George IV of Britain also resulted in the American Revolution which, with French support, created the new United States of America.
New England had been founded as a ‘classless society’ – no nobility, Yankees would all be equal citizens, each owning their farms and homes outright, and this personal freedom is still jealously guarded in some New England states. The new United States was built on this Yankee ‘freedom, democracy, all equal citizens’ model. It flourished, and this model was exported to at least the Anglo-phone world, although outside the US we kept some degree of class-consciousness and nobility. This is a good economic barometer; the richest countries are the ones with the most freedom and entrepreneurship. Arguably all the wealth and progress of the past two centuries comes out of this model – free, equal citizens, each an independent farmer or entrepreneur in business for himself.
Other than the Yankees, European colonies including Canada and the American south were founded on the Roman Inherited Nobility model (incidentally this ‘free farmers vs inherited plantations’ dichotomy was also a root cause of the American Civil War).
All that is coming to an end, now, even in the US, as the Unholy Alliance takes away our property rights and our freedom, kills small business, and turns us all into serfs to the new nobility of government/big corporations. We in Canada are worse off than many, as our right to property was stolen in the new ‘Constitution’ of 1982.
Thatcher and Laurier were each in their own way champions of private property, personal initiative, entrepreneurship and above all personal freedom, and that qualifies them both to be heroes in my Contrarian eyes.