Linda McQuaig and Chrystia Freeland stage Marxist battle in downtown Canada

Posted on October 22, 2013 in Equality Debates – FP Comment
22/10/13.   Terence Corcoran

Linda McQuaig and Chrystia Freeland stage a confrontation in based on guilt and alienation in a Toronto microcosm of harmony and diversity

The federal riding of Toronto Centre is right at the geographic heart of Toronto. It might also be called Canada Centre, given that its boundaries encompass a multi-ethnic and multi-income agglomeration of Canadians, from the richest white old-money residents of Rosedale to thousands of middle-class homeowners and condo dwellers to some of the poorest immigrants from far-off lands too diverse to name.  Into this relatively peaceable microcosm of Canadian harmony and diversity today come two divisive figures.

As a result of Prime Minister Harper’s Nov. 25 bye-election calls, Toronto Centre is about to be turned into a national ideological war zone. Make way for the Battle of the Marxists in Downtown Canada.

On the left running for the NDP stands journalist Linda McQuaig, co-author of The Trouble With Billionaries, a book that plays to ancient leftist theories of alienation and harps endlessly on the evils of allowing people like Bill Gates and the Bronfmans to make so much money. She prescribes tax rates of up to 70% and radical confiscation of the assets of the wealthy, the money to be redistributed around the economy to the less well-off, from the haves to the have-nots.  “Robin Hood on a grand scale,” she calls it.

No novice in the business of provocation and confrontation,  Ms. McQuaig came out swinging Monday with a direct video challenge to her opponent, Liberal candidate Chrystia Freeland. “Hi Chrystia. It’s Linda McQuaig!”  says Ms. McQuaig in her best innocent-friendly trap-setting manner. “You’ve written a book on income inequality and I’ve written a book on income inequality.”  But they are very different books, she says, with very different policy prescriptions.  So let’s have a debate, one on one, “any time, anywhere.”

In response, Ms. Freeland sent out a brief tweet: “Looking fwd to taking part in all-candidates debates over the coming weeks. Important for #torcen voters to hear from all parties.”  Good idea, and not just because having all-candidate debates is the right thing to do.  In a book-vs-book, ideology-vs-ideology battle, Ms. Freeland has little to gain in a one-on-one with Ms. McQuaig.

Ms. Freeland’s book is Plutocrats:  The Rise of the New Global Super-rich and the Fall of Everyone Else.  The premise is false—everyone else has not fallen. But that’s what these books are like. To say that Plutocrats is “very different” from Ms. McQuaig’s The Trouble with Billionaires is somewhat misleading.  Both books are identical in their foundations, political tracts that popularize class warfare and the idea that market-based economic activity favours the rich, punishes the poor and creates increasing inequality that squeezes the middle class.

The differences between the two books are limited to details of policy and extremity of rhetoric. Ms. McQuaig likes to deliver the grand distortion. “Inequality has reached grotesque proportions in North America,” she writes.  To iron out the inequality, she proposes to tax away the estates of the rich.  She says there are 97 Canadians with net worths of more than $500-million. “An inheritance tax [maybe 70%] is essential if we want to prevent them from turning into a kind of permanent aristocracy.”

Or plutocracy, in Ms. Freeland’s jargon. “As the economic gap between the plutocrats and everyone else becomes a chasm, they are coming to inhabit their own global gated communities.”  Ms. Freeland’s theory—to the degree that I can figure it out—is that the super-rich have somehow isolated themselves from the rest of us and have failed somehow to make sure that their wealth and power is fairly distributed to “everyone else.”

How that redistribution is to take place to create a more equal world Ms. Freeland doesn’t really say.  Unlike Ms. McQuaig, she has no big plan to confiscate the income and assets of the wealthy.  But her analysis is no less Marxist in its origins.  She frequently quotes Karl Marx, the granddaddy of state socialism. Marx, she says, understood the dangers of a capitalist class that grew entrenched and protected itself.  “The capitalist system carries within itself the seeds of its own destruction,” she quotes Marx.  She says Marx predicted that the rising capitalist class “would overreach itself and create a system that so effectively consolidated its supremacy that it would eventually choke off economic growth and become politically un-sustainable.”

Why did this Marxist collapse not happen?  In Ms. Freeland’s muddled view, the threat of a Marxist/communist revolution promoted a “willingness to share” among the elites. “It was better to give the working class an effective political voice, and a social safety net, than to risk having their Bolshevik vanguard seize power altogether.” Whether this means adopting McQuaigian tax rates or some other policies Ms. Freeland never says.

The poor voters of Toronto Centre are about to get a heavy dose of such crypto-Marxist revivalism.  The NDP and Liberal candidates have the same message, the same economic inspirations, the same collection of manufactured indicators.  They would divide and polarize, spread guilt and alienation.

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