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Letter to the editor: Freedom and Democracy

Do we really want to live in a 'survival of the fittest' world?
2022 01 28 Freedom Convoy North Bay (Campaigne)

To the editor:

A libertarian wave is sweeping across Canada.  First, it was the People’s Party of Canada, then the Freedom Convoy, and most recently the Rolling Thunder protest.  What’s not to like about freedom?  Pierre Poilievre is trying to ride this libertarian wave to become the leader of the Conservative Party of Canada and, ultimately, Prime Minister of Canada.

The word “freedom” is complicated and has many interpretations. 

The libertarian concept of freedom promoted by Mr. Poilievre is based on the concept of the “self-made” man or woman, and the idea that each of us is responsible for our own success in life.  They think that if the government would just get off our backs and out of our pockets, we would all be better off.  It is a naive understanding of freedom.

Libertarians do not understand that there are no self-made men or women.  Hundreds and thousands of people contribute to the success of each individual.  A single individual cannot survive, let alone thrive, entirely on their own.  We only achieve success within a community that supports us.  Even the hardiest of “survivalists” depend on guns, ammo, canned food, and other supplies made by other people.  There are no self-made survivalists. 

Consider your own success.  Where would you be without the maternity nurse who assisted at your birth, your second-grade school teacher, your volunteer sports coach, the bus driver who drove you to school, the police officers and firefighters who kept you safe, the education you received, the medical care you received, the small business that hired you one summer, and the roads and highways you travel on every day? 

Our personal success is built upon the contributions of many people and government programs.  Libertarians give themselves all the credit.

Another thing that libertarians do not seem to understand is that all of our laws restrict our personal freedoms.  Every law either restricts our right to do something we might want to do, such as drive at high rates of speed or requires us to do something that we would rather not do such as pay taxes.  If a law does not interfere with our freedom, there would be no need for the law.

Libertarians often point to some particular law that irritates them such as gun registration laws, motorcycle helmet laws, and most recently vaccine mandate laws.  But why stop there?  Why not repeal the entire Highway Traffic Act?  Personally, I object to having to drive on the right side of the road.  It clearly limits my freedom of movement.  Why not repeal all of our tax laws, food and drug safety laws, building codes, environmental protection laws, family laws, and consumer protection laws?  They all violate our personal freedoms. 

We are fortunate to live in a free and democratic society.  We need to understand, however, that “free” and “democratic” are opposing concepts that must continuously be balanced against each other.  Freedom without democracy is anarchy.  Democracy without freedom leads to autocracy.  In World War I and World War II, Canadian soldiers fought for both freedom and democracy.

In democratic countries, we create laws that limit our freedoms by design.  At election time we are able to elect a new government that may decide to change some of those laws.  Until such laws are democratically repealed or amended, we have a duty to respect and uphold them. 

I suspect that some of the people driving around with Canadian flags festooning their trucks do not fully appreciate the implication of making Canada the “freest country in the world”.  Libertarians would replace public education with private schools, public health care with pay as you go private health care, and would replace social programs with an “every man and woman for his or herself” approach.  Mr. Poilievre talks about his preference for private charity over public welfare. 

Many in the freedom movement have benefited either directly or indirectly from government programs like unemployment insurance, workers' compensation, the Canada Pension Plan, Old Age Security, public health care, and public education.  Ultimately, libertarianism is about richer Canadians not wanting to pay taxes to help support lower-income Canadians. 

Do we really want to live in a “survival of the fittest” world?

Trevor Schindeler
North Bay, Ontario

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