Ontario Liberals risk “epistemic closure” and conservatives should reform

Consider what has happened and what is happening in the United States. Here Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry writing in The Week:

“Several long winters ago, when President Obama was thunderously elected amid Messianic fervor, and much of the right was in the throes of apoplectic confusion, some liberal writers warned of a phenomenon among right-wing intellectuals, which they called “epistemic closure.” The charge was that conservative thinkers had lost the ability to process the idea that the world of 2008 was not the world of the Reagan Era, and more generally to consider new ideas or, really, reality. The word “derp” entered our lexicon to mock forehead-slappingly stupid statements, defined by the liberal blogger Noah Smith as “the constant, repetitive reiteration of strong priors.”

Meanwhile, two things are particularly striking about the current Democratic agenda. The first is that it’s so tired. Raising the minimum wage, raising taxes on high earners, tightening environmental regulation — these are all ideas from the ’60s. The second is that nobody on the left seems to be aware of it.”

It seems to me the Ontario Liberals are in the same position as the Democrats of 2012: they have a popular leader who was elected by the Left with Messianic fervour (or what passes as Messianic fervour here in Ontario) and are brimming with triumphalism. But their policies are already tired: a new and unnecessary pension plan; raising taxes on high earners; deficit spending that even Keynes might have balked at. I predict in four years the lustre of Kathleen Wynne will be greatly tarnished. Obama promised to “lower the oceans”; Wynne to balance the budget in 2017 without cutting spending or raising taxes.

So what is the opportunity for Ontario’s conservatives?  Gobry continues:

…even as they [Democrats, progressives] were making that point [i.e. the right is undergoing a period of epistemic closure]  the smartest writers on the right were already rising to the occasion. A flurry of innovative young writers like Yuval Levin, Reihan Salam, Ross Douthat, Tim Carney, and Avik Roy put out fresh, 21st century ideas on everything from tax reform to healthcare to social mobility to poverty to curtailing the power of big business. Many of these ideas are now compiled in a seminal new book. And many of these ideas have been adopted by the most prominent GOP [i.e. Republican] politicians and presidential candidates. Only with the right leader will the GOP truly embrace what’s been called reform conservatism, but it’s clear that the GOP is becoming the party of ideas again.

What Ontario conservatives need to do over the next four years is to work through our apoplectic confusion and rise to the occasion. Let’s commission our best and brightest young minds to make Ontario conservatives the party of ideas. First idea: drop the adjective “progressive” – it’s effectively meaningless – and develop a reform conservatism for Ontario. Maybe Christine Elliott will get it.


Here’s a link to PEG’s article: http://theweek.com/article/index/263711/vox-derp-and-the-intellectual-stagnation-of-the-left?utm_source=links&utm_medium=website&utm_campaign=twitter Read the whole thing.


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