Conservatism isn’t going to get us out of this mess

I wanted to steer clear of political stuff for a while, but I didn’t predict a global pandemic shifting our zeitgeist so drastically in a month. Let me preface this article by emphasizing I mean small ‘c’ conservatism, not political parties.

In the matter of one month, what looked like a small regional outbreak of COVID-19, has turned into an unprecdented global emergency. To combat this emergency, governments are retooling and mobilizing our economies on a war footing. The likes of which has not been seen since world war 2. It’s becoming clear that large scale government intervention will be required to come out of this crisis whole.

A few weeks ago, in the New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie wrote a column called “The Era of Small Government is Over” This is of course the antithesis of small ‘c’ conservatism. Small limited governent and low taxation are the bedrocks of the modern conservative movement. The problem we’ve seen is that, when we apply that philosophy to the COVID-19 pandemic we are basically trying to stop a freight train with a bb gun.

Around the world governments have combatted COVID-19 on their own terms based on their own individual needs. Germany at the start of the pandemic, was able to implement interventionist and strict isolation policies, combined with years of public investment into it’s intensive care capabilities have helped it weather the crisis admirably. Compared with the UK approach, which has been inadequate to protect it’s citizens from the virus.

The grand example of the failure of conservatism in the age of COVID-19 is of course the United States. In the past, the world would have looked to America to show global leadership and initiative to lead us through this emergency. Instead we have seen entrenchment of ideologies that will no doubt kill American lives and exacerbate a problem at the worst possible time. And of course we can’t ignore the gross incompetence of Donald Trump. The resulting mess is a perfect storm for defeat.

Here in Canada, while our federal system ought to be a recipe for division and strife, the opposite has occured. Conservative parties in power are ignoring ideology and looking for best outcomes available. The result has been a laser like focus on defeating COVID-19 the likes of which our country hasn’t seen in a generation. The Toronto Star was able to publish this article showcasing how our elected leaders are coming together in our time of need. Financial and physical resources are being deployed to defeat the disease and keep our economy going at no expense. Defeat of the disease and survival of our way of life is of paramount importance.

Large scale intervention as decided by the federal government will be the only way our economy and way of life survives COVID-19. Conservatism as an ideology does not provide us with the tools we require to prevail. Right now our duly elected governments are where we need to place our trust. They are still accountable to us, this is still a democracy and accountability is still the law of the land. Despite what naysayers and conspiracy theorists say. To get through this, we’re going to need trust. Trust in our institutions and ourselves.

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