"Facts are meaningless. You could use facts to prove anything that's even remotely true!"
-Homer J. Simpson

Monday, February 12, 2007

Can Progressives Unite the Left?

My post of a couple of days ago (that sparked one of my best comment debates ever) was the provocatively titled Wither the NDP? which put forward the following premise:

We have all heard the Benjamin Franklin quote "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results". I think that Tommy would agree.

Just like he did in 1961.

I think it is time to take a lesson from, of all people, Preston Manning. We on the left need to unite the left and create a winning coalition.

I am calling on the NDP, the Green Party, the Bloq (without the separatist angle) and the Liberals, the former PROGRESSIVE conservatives and others too think about this.

I then said in the comments that I would lay out what it was that I thought could unite us.

And so it begins.

I want to start with first principles. What philosophical rational for a political party can New Democrats, Left-Liberals, Greens, non-sepratist Bloq and others actually agree on.

I think the best chance is John Rawls Theory of Justice

Imagine for a second that you are floating in space, above the earth and you don't know who you are and where you are from.

Suddenly an angle (or demon, or whatever) appears and says, "You are an unborn child, I am about to place you with your parents, that you do not know, in a position that you do not know - but before I do that you get to decide how the earth is organized. Once you have set up the earth in the manner in which you like then I will place you with your unknown parents and you will live your life"

What kind of world would you choose?

Remember that you don't know how you would end up so, for example, you wouldn't want to create a world with slavery because you might become a slave, you wouldn't create a world where minorities are mistreated because you might be a minority.

Rawl's book goes through all the facets of a society that you would and wold not want in this world before you are placed in it.

He argues that this would create the "fairest" of all possible worlds.

Without getting too in depth into the argument (and it is a very, very good argument) here is what the bottom line is:

First: each person is to have an equal right to the most extensive scheme of equal basic liberties compatible with a similar scheme of liberties for others.

Second: Social and economic inequalities are to be arranged so that:

a) offices and positions must be open to everyone under conditions of fair
equality of opportunity

b) they are to be of the greatest benefit to the least-advantaged members of
society (the difference principle).
In other words, liberal freedoms where the only restrictions that are placed on us are for the benefit of the worst off (because we might be born as the worst off.)

I believe that this core set of personal liberties coupled with the concern for the worst-off in society that can be the guiding force behind a progressive party. I know that as a New Democrat that I can support this position and I think most Liberals can as well. Extending the principle to concern for the environment (you don't know when you will be born either so you don't want a world that will be destroyed shortly) gets the Greens as well. The protection of minority rights inside a state is important to the Bloq and if they can agree to work within a united state to achieve their goals (and if they believe the state is committed to the above framework then I think this is possible).

Obviously this is pie-in-the-sky and the real test will come in the following days when I lay out how this principle should be translated into guiding principles and issues that can form the basis of a governing plan and an election manifesto.