Politics

Try This if You Don't Think Our Politics Have Shifted to the Right

None of the public services we rely on and take for granted would stand a chance of being implemented in our current political climate if they didn't already exist.

By Ryan McGreal
Published March 09, 2020

If you don't think our politics have shifted dramatically to the right in the past few decades, try this thought experiment:

Imagine public libraries didn't already exist. Imagine someone coming along and saying, "I think the government should pay to construct a building in every town, fill it with books and other knowledge and information media, and let anyone come in and borrow them for free."

Do you think any mainstream political party would take that seriously?

Now imagine we didn't already have public K-12 schooling. Imagine someone coming along and saying, "I think the government should directly take over schooling from age 3 to 18 and provide it free for everyone. In fact, they should make education mandatory for everyone."

Can you already hear the peals of laughter from the Serious Realists over such an outrageous proposal? The recriminations, tongue wagging and fear mongering from Fiscal Conservatives?

Run down the list of public services - trained responders whom the government pays to drive to your house in specialized vehicles and put out fires or take you to the hospital? For free? - and you can carry out the same thought experiment.

Look at how ridiculously hard it is to even talk about the idea of giving health care to everyone in America, the only OECD country that doesn't already do that. Even the so-called "centre left" scoffs at how "unrealistic" such proposals are.

Face it: none of the public services we rely on and take for granted would stand a chance of being implemented in our current political climate if they didn't already exist and weren't already entrenched in our expectations.

Even so, the mainstream parties - liberal and conservative alike - are relentlessly chipping away at the public services we do have, deregulating them, starving them for resources, and selling them off to private bidders in whole or in part.

The next time a Serious Person scoffs at an idea by calling it "socialist" or "unrealistic", remember that every public service we hold dear - the things we can't imagine our quality of life without - also started out as a "socialist" and "unrealistic" pipe dream.

But they were fortunate enough to be imagined during a more hopeful, more humane, less sociopathic era.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan wrote a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. His articles have also been published in The Walrus, HuffPost and Behind the Numbers. He maintains a personal website, has been known to share passing thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and posts the occasional cat photo on Instagram.

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By CharlesBall (registered) | Posted March 11, 2020 at 12:21:24

The Hamilton Public Library was donated by Andrew Carnegie, one of the worst Robber Barons, in 1913. http://historicalhamilton.com/durand/mai... . Hospitals were started mostly by religious orders. Government decisions to fund education were largely driven by the manufacturing industries requiring an educated workforce. Canada is the only country that nominally opposes joint public and private health care. I say nominally because we have joint public and private health care already. Dentistry, drugs, physio, occupational therapy, most optometry, podiatry, audiology and psychology - all major health areas - are largely private.

Comment edited by CharlesBall on 2020-03-11 12:21:55

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By WRCU2 (registered) - website | Posted March 12, 2020 at 07:55:40

Ryan, you are far too liberal with your use of the word free. Nothing is free except advice. Everything you've mentioned from libraries to public schools, police, fire and EMS are not paid for by the government, they are fully funded by working, taxpaying Canadians who make big government possible. Heck, the polluted air I exhale is not even free anymore.

"But I got a Free Flu Shot just the other day", someone may bray! "Oh, you're right", I say as I close my eyes, plug my ears, cover my mouth and quickly walk away. Thinking to myself... Please don't shed on me for free, eh?

Comment edited by WRCU2 on 2020-03-12 08:18:15

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By grok (registered) | Posted April 14, 2020 at 15:44:33

People often wring their hands about the Reichwing as if its power somehow grows without bounds, these days. However, that is a formulation coming out of the specious reasoning of the very chattering classes which themselves already pledge total fealty to the established Neoliberal order.

Instead -- as any serious revolutionary understands: what we ARE witnessing, these past 4 decades of Neoliberal classwar assault on Humanity, is the CLASS POLARIZATION of bourgeois society. And so, while the Reichwing does indeed 'consolidate power' by continuing to seize the reins of governmental power all over the Planet -- those reins of power ARE being seen as increasingly IRRELEVANT by the working-class, and proletarianized petit-bourgeois service workers and other allies. Which is WHY the Reichwing continues to 'win elections'.

Who cares about giving 'our' Fake Democracy yet more undeserved credibility..? Socialist revolution is called for. Bottom line.

Comment edited by grok on 2020-04-15 11:15:49

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