On Democracy and Reason: A Warning!

Yesterday, I was reminded by a reader, of this essay on “Democracy and Reason,” which I published in 1996 – 22 years ago! – as a newspaper column, and which this kind reader said “was prescient,” given the mob-like, dictatorial tenor of recent public discourse.


In one of those unctuous political utterances for which he was notorious, the former British Prime Minister John Major once declared that “fascism and communism lie behind us. The two great enemies of reason have been defeated.” This was astonishing from a nation that spent so much blood fighting these very evils – and dead wrong on three counts.

First, fascism and communism may be napping, but are not comatose. Their roots are far too deep for that. Many Eastern European nations, after having been joyously liberated from the horrors of communism in the 90s, turned right around and freely voted it back into power with only a slight change of make-up. As for the much misunderstood fascism, there are signs of it everywhere, both in Europe and in North America, especially in the schools and Universities, which heavily promote ethnic identitarianism.

Second, the implication of his comment was that communism is a demented expression of the left, and fascism, of the right. As a good pluralist, Major wished to blame them equally. Leftist journalists and undergraduates are always eager to echo this balancing reflex by quickly labeling anyone with non-egalitarian views, a “fascist.”


How A Constitution Is Turned From a Shield Into A Sword

Here is a fine, clear piece from The National Post (June 30th) in which Professor Bruce Pardy of Queen’s University scolds judges for wandering outside the confines of the law and “reading in” meanings to Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms (1982) that are not there, and were never intended to be there.


Professor Pardy explains how this sneaky usurpation of the Will of the People takes place by invoking “Charter Values” that judges either invent from whole cloth, or simply assume were meant to be a part of the Charter, or ought to have been part of the Charter, and so on. But as they are nowhere to be found in the Charter, judges simply invent and invoke them, and rule accordingly. Which means that far too often, we are being ruled by phantom values that exist only in the heads of judges.

Pardy explains how this illegitimate manoeuvre (inventing “Charter Values” that are not in the Charter), in effect “transform the Charter from a roster of liberty rights [intended to protect citizens from illegitimate state power] to a regime of undefined, collectivist values [that enable the state to impose its own values on citizens].

And this, in effect, “turns the protective shield of the Charter into a sword.”