Builders and Wreckers


There are two types of people: those who separate the world into categories and those who don’t.

Seriously though, I’ve found in my years of observing them that politicians often do fall into two categories: builders and wreckers. It is not really an ideological vision – I can name plenty of conservative builders. John A. MacDonald, for example, or Robert Borden. More recently, John Diefenbaker and even Brian Mulroney (who started to look good after the wreckers took over his party). You can find conservative builders in every country. These are men and women who have a particular vision for the world that is expansive and constructive. You might not agree with their vision but you have to acknowledge that it’s there.

There are wreckers on the left as well – though they often masquerade as builders. I suspect history will judge Hugo Chavez as a wrecker, rather than a visionary. He didn’t build a true socialist society but rather squandered the nation’s resource wealth to pay for populist projects. When the money was gone, so was the state. He could have taken a more prudent approach – like Norway which has secured its long term security under both left and right wing governments.

Canada has recently changed governments and a lot of people have suggested that it has taken little time to do away with the previous PM’s legacy. I would argue that is because Mr. Harper had no real legacy. His party was a party of the small – they had no vision for the future but only a determination to tear down what previous generations had built – peacekeeping, an open society of expansive human rights, social safety nets, environmental protections. It left a lot of rubble to clean up but there was nothing there to get in the way of rebuilding.

It’s too early to judge what Mr. Trudeau will be. He is certainly an activist and seems to have a specific vision – quite clear when you wipe away the hype over selfies and public relations – of the Canada he wants to build or, at the very least, restore. But he needs to go beyond restoration of previous glories and do something new and big. Restoration is always a conservative project and often lapses into a subtle form of wrecking, called petrification.

Like making America great again. While Mr. Trump claims he wants to build a wall, it doesn’t appear that he plans to build anything else. Indeed he has all the hallmarks of a wrecker on a grand scale – certainly his legacy of corporate bankruptcies and a failed university would suggest that. But more importantly he wants to tear down social safety nets and environmental protections – elements that provide the only protection most Americans (including the vast majority of his supporters) against rapacious capitalism.

I might have some doubts about Ms. Clinton’s builder credentials – though I think they’ve improved because of a push from Mr. Sanders – but I know she will at least keep what America has built. And maybe keeping America great is better than some vague promise to make it great again.

And that’s ten minutes – back again for an indeterminate run.


4 thoughts on “Builders and Wreckers

  1. The Harper non-legacy is kind of exquisite. When I see conservatives try to defend him, I’ve found two consistent things that they cite: TFSAs, and income splitting. Two unremarkable achievements, neither of which has any significant impact, neither of which required any significant political capital to put in place.

    There’s just precious little there.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Maybe rebuilding will be enough for now. I admit to some hopes re: medicines, eye care, dental and mental health care being finally added properly to the medicare toolkit. And maybe a bit more on the space exploration and commerce fronts…?

    Liked by 1 person

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