Posted by: gcarkner | December 29, 2016

The Road to Freedom, Democracy and the Common Good

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See Professor Ron Dart’s new book The North American High Tory Tradition (American Anglican Press, 2016)


A significant struggle began in the year 1776 over the fate of a continent, and there are those who believe that this struggle ended in the year 1783, with the ancient ways of the Old World being given over entirely to those of a New. Is it true, however, that the end of what has been called ‘The First American Civil War’ saw the complete victory of the republican way, and the banishment of the older Tory tradition from these shores? The North American High Tory Tradition tells another story, one in which a different vision for life in North America emerges from the cold of the True North where its flame has been kept burning until the present day. George Grant (1918-1988), the most influential High Tory intellectual of the 20th century, warned us in his Lament for a Nation of the collision course which lies ahead for these two different ‘North Americas’–that embodied in the Dominion of the North, and that in the Republic to its South. Is the disappearance of the Tory alternative an inevitable fate to our future as ‘North Americans’? In The North American High Tory Tradition Ron Dart shines light upon the classical lineage, deep wisdom and enduring nature of the High Tory tradition as it has been planted and grown in the soil of North America, and in doing so reveals how Canada may serve as a north star to lead North Americans to a different destiny than that planned for them by a certain few in 1776.

I am enjoying the insights (historical, moral, philosophical and political) of this well-written book. The reflections are rooted in some of the key shapers of the Canadian identity. We need sane, substantial voices and balance amidst today’s sometimes bizarre political theatrics, growth of populism and the ideology of image. I would also recommend highly the book by Chief UK Rabbi Jonathan Sacks called The Dignity of Difference; it is a fair treatment/critique of religion and globalization. One might also view on the same theme Yale professor Miraslov Volf’s insightful 2016 book, Flourishing: why we need religion in age of globalization. ~Gord Carkner

screen-shot-2017-01-06-at-4-54-40-pm Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

Modern thought raises no barriers to a future nihilistic war against liberal democracy on the part of those who have been brought up in its bosom. Relativism–the doctrine that all values are merely relative and which attacks all ‘privileged perspectives’–must ultimately end up undermining democratic and tolerant values as well. Relativism is not a weapon that can be aimed selectively at the enemies one chooses. It fires indiscriminately, shooting out the legs of not only the ‘absolutisms’, dogmas, and certainties of the Western tradition, but the tradition’s emphasis on tolerance, diversity, and freedom of thought as well. If nothing can be true absolutely, if all values are culturally determined, then cherished principles like human equality have to go by the wayside as well.   Francis Fukuyama, The End of History (1992, 332)

Mankind…is not merely the maximizing animal. We are also, uniquely, the meaning-seeking animal. (J.Sacks, The Dignity of Difference, 194)

Man was not made for the service of economies; economies were made to serve mankind; and men and women were made–so I believe–to serve one another, not just themselves. We may not survive while others drown; we may not feast while others starve; we are not free when others are in servitude; we are not well when billions languish in disease and premature death. (J. Sacks, The Dignity of Difference, 196)

Economic superpowers, seemingly invincible in their time, live a relatively short life-span: Venice in the sixteenth century, the Netherlands in the seventeenth, France in the eighteenth, Britain in the nineteenth, and the United States in the twentieth. The great religions, by contrast, survive…. Why this should be so is open to debate. My own view is that the world faiths embody truths unavailable to economics and politics, and they remain salient even when everything else changes. They remind us that civilizations survive not by strength but by how they respond to the weak; not by wealth but by the care they show for the poor; not by power but by their concern for the powerless. The ironic yet utterly humane lesson of history is that what renders a culture invulnerable is the the compassion it shows to the vulnerable. The ultimate value we should be concerned to maximize is human dignity–the dignity of all human beings, equally, as children of the creative, redeeming God. (J. Sacks, The Dignity of Difference, 195)

Six C’s:

I have proposed a simple set of ideas that might guide us in the choppy waters ahead. Control means taking responsibility and refusing to see economic or political development as inevitable. Contribution means that there is a moral dimension to economics. Advertisers who mislead, producers who turn a blind eye to inhumane working conditions and starvation wages, beneficiaries of the system who do not share their time and blessings with others, are unacceptable whether or not what they do is legal. Compassion means that developing countries must take seriously their obligation to the world’s poor, protecting their independence while opening up ways of escaping from poverty. Creativity suggests that (not the only, but) the best way of doing this is through investment in education. Co-operation tells us that market do not survive on competition alone. They presuppose virtues and what I have called covenantal relationships, without which the Prisoner’s Dilemma tells us that individual self-interest will fail to generate collective good. Conservation reminds us of our duties to nature and to the future, without which the pace of economic growth will merely be a measure of the speed at which  we approach the abyss…. Freedom means restraint. (J. Sacks, The Dignity of Difference, 174)

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