Monday, October 20, 2008

The March of Folly and The Liberals

One of my favourite history books is The March Of Folly by Barbara Tuchman. In this she outlines how governments throughout history have followed courses of action that were clearly against their own self interest. This occurred despite a significant and widespread contemporary understanding that following the paths chosen would lead to failure. The presence of viable alternatives with a much higher probability of success were also demonstrated. She used several events such as the fall of Troy, the American Revolution and the Vietnam War to make her case.

I have always found the general principles in this book are good things to keep in mind when faced with tough issues. Make sure that ossified thinking hasn't set in.

The Liberal Leader is being pressured today to announce his retirement by factions within his own party. Is this a wise course of action for the Party to take?

Let us see:

Evidence that this would be a disastrous course of action: check Tom Flanagan may be the worst American to move to Canada since, forever, but he is not shy about advertizing his intentions through the above editorial and other posts about destroying the Liberals. One of the most distinctive things about him is a very un-Canadian chutzpah in stating what he intends to do and daring us to call him on it.

Viable alternative present: check Mr. Dion has faced the worst the slime machine can throw at him and remains standing. The fact that his leadership ratings, particularly in Quebec rose during the election clear the path the recovery of the Liberal Party.

I find these quotes from the book interesting (all transcription errors are mine.):

"Mental standstill or stagnation - the maintenance intact by rulers and policy makers of the ideas they started with - is fertile ground for folly."

"In its first stage, mental standstill fixes the principles and boundaries governing a political problem. In the second stage, when dissonances and failing function begin to appear, the initial principles rigidify. This is the period when, if wisdom were operative, re-examination and re-thinking and a change of course are possible, but they are as rare as rubies in a backyard.Rigidifying leads to increase in investment and the need to protect egos; policy founded upon multiple errors never retreats. .... In the third stage, pursuit of failure enlarges the damages until it causes the fall of Troy, the defection from the Papacy, the loss of trans-Atlantic empire, the classic humiliation in Vietnam"

And where does Mr. Dion fit in this?

"Aware of the controlling power of ambition, corruption and emotion, it may be that in the search for wiser government we should look for the test of character first. And the test should be moral courage."

The Liberal Party can rightly claim to have taken part in the building of Canada. If it has decided, however, to follow the path to folly and self-destruction, it will play out as it will. I hope this is not the case. But if this does transpire the Liberal Party is not Canada. It has long done the best job of representing the pragmatic middle ground but the Canadian people will be looking for a centre-left government and something new will arise to take on the torch from the Liberals failing hands. It won't be anyone currently on the stage. No one else around today can do what the Liberals have done in the past.Recommend this Post

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