East York Mirror
During the upcoming weeks we are going to see a series of decisions made that will determine the kind of lifestyle we will have for the next 20 to 30 years.
I have been waiting for this moment since 1986 when I saw the political structure of Ontario begin to radically change. It was during the 1980s that a new political and economic movement was being promoted with evangelic fervour amongst a wide range of politicians.
The ideas for this new movement came from the writings of an obscure Austrian born economist and philosopher Friedrich von Hayek (1899-1992). Between 1940-43, Hayek developed a thesis that any form of government control over economic and social decision making was wrong. He believed, following his observations of events in Europe up to that time, that such government intervention would end in government tyranny of either a socialist or fascist nature.
Hayek's central argument was human freedom was only found in individualism expressed in a completely free market economy with government reduced to very basic roles. His ideas were published in the 1940s in the book The Road to Serfdom.
Even if you have never heard of this book before, it has had a deep impact upon your life, particularly since the 1980s.
It was Hayek's ideas that were the foundation of the neo-conservative financial policies of late former American president Ronald Reagan and former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher.
They were also the ideas behind Stephen Harper's rise to power as prime minister as he moved from the Reform Party to the current Conservative Party of Canada.
It was also Hayek's ideas that brought about the demise of the Progressive Conservative, or Red Tory, in Canada. It is also the motivation behind the obsession that contemporary conservatives have with the total elimination of the Liberal Party and the NDP.
This is also why we have seen political leaders, such as Prime Minister Harper and Mayor Rob Ford ignore former political protocols, traditions and understandings. While their actions may seem irrational to those who do not understand the ideology behind them, they are acting on their own logic based on Hayek's ideas.
The problem is that while the template for modern conservative's polices had its origins in Hayek's writings, I am certain that most don't even know who the man was. As a result, as is the case with many ideas, they can spin out of control into extremism.
We are facing major changes - practice and budgetary policy - at all levels of government, with the distinct possibility of complete conservative control. Even the current Ontario budget under the Liberals has used Hayek's ideas as its template.
What ever happens, our comfortable assumptions about our government institutions and our relationship to them will change radically. Mayor Ford and Prime Minister Harper have given us only a glimpse of the changes to come.
It's now time to ask yourself: what kind of a society do you want to live in? If you don't, others will answer that question for you. And you will have to live within their answer for a long time.
Joe Cooper is an East York resident and community activist. His column appears every Thursday in The Mirror. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org