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Will Cohen

Reasonable or not, the right should not welcome the rise of Marine Le Pen

The recent rise of parties designated as far-right by the media in Europe has shaken the political foundations of the European Union. Given their increasing vote share many are beginning to see these parties as legitimate options in the political landscape that represent an important political grouping, those that are dissatisfied with the cultural and economic policies their governments have been making in the post-war era. As someone who was born in the UK and still holds British citizenship, I have always maintained a personal interest in political developments in the country. Like many, I watched on with a mixture of curiosity and concern as the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) managed to claim victory in the recent European elections. I also watched on with dismay as France voiced its frustration with the current government by giving a plurality of votes to the National Front (FN), led by the charismatic Marine Le Pen. Among the most interesting commentaries I read on the results was an article in the National Post by a colleague of mine, Jackson Doughart, and a follow up piece in the Prince Arthur Herald. In these articles Mr. Doughart put forward a well articulated defence of UKIP and the FN, arguing that they are respectable and reasonable parties that should not be dismissed by North American Tories. Mr. Doughart is entitled to his opinion, and I will not dispute much of what he said despite not agreeing with it. However, one thing that I think is worth a deeper look is his assertion that the National Front is now a ‘conservative’ party. Before I do that, I do think Mr. Doughart is correct on two accounts. Firstly, his scepticism of the European Union is justified. The federalist project that is at the heart of the current version… Read More

Limited government at home means limited government abroad

When John McCain and Lindsay Graham condemned President Obama for not being willing to do what was necessary and intervene directly in the Syrian conflict, and when staunch supporters of Bush like Rep. Peter King became leading voices in the moderate faction of the GOP in the recent shutdown debate, it became clear that the ideas at the heart of the Bush Doctrine are alive and well within the Republican Party, despite the recent emergence of a far more cautious strand of thinking among many GOP lawmakers.   It appears as though neoconservatism has begun to rear its ugly head once again, after a couple of years spent licking the wounds it endured during the Bush years.  There is nothing conservative or right-wing about neoconservatism, and at its heart neoconservatism is an arrogant, dangerous and foolhardy ideology that believes in the complete moral superiority of its own ideas, and dismisses its opponents as unpatriotic or ignorant.  Neoconservatives hold at the centre of their philosophy a belief that the ‘common man’ is an irrational being who needs guidance by a small and elite group of rational beings who see reality as it is, uninhibited by the irrational assumptions the common man makes. But what exactly is neoconservatism? There is no one agreed upon definition of what exactly constitutes neoconservatism, but it does have some key distinguishing features.  Neoconservatism is routed in the thinking of Leo Strauss and Irving Kristol, who thought that government should be run by Platonic philosopher kings who were better suited to the affairs of governance than the common man.  Strauss was also very critical of enlightenment liberal values, which he saw as having resulted in a nihilistic culture in the west.  The answer to this was to glorify the state in a way that nationalism and the… Read More

Climate change agnosticism is not a good policy

In a response to a previous article I wrote on the recent IPCC report, Jackson Doughart denounced my use of the term ‘denier’ to describe those who dispute the scientific consensus on climate change, and advocated for a kind of climate change agnosticism.  I want to explain why my use of the term denier is not ‘reductio ad Hiterlum’, and why climate change agnosticism is not the way to go.       My first problem with the critique presented by Mr Doughart is that he lumps me in with mainstream environmentalists, something I heavily object to.  I am not and never will be directly associated with the mainstream environmental movement, and in my personal dealings I have found that mainstream environmentalists dislike me as much as those of the right who denounce the movement.  My motivations for being concerned with conservation are very different from those of David Suzuki and Al Gore.  If you are really interested in an alternative basis for environmental conservation I will direct you towards the work of philosopher Roger Scruton, and his green conservatism that is rooted in the concept of ‘oikophilia’.  What Mr Doughart is doing here by trying to categorize me as a mainstream environmentalist is employing a fallacy I will call ‘reductio ad Hippyum’, discrediting my arguments by trying to associate me with hippies on the left, something that simply isn’t true. Now, I will clarify for Mr Doughart my use of the term 'denier', and why I will continue to use it despite his protests.  My use of the term denier is deliberate and intentional, but it is not for the reasons stated by Mr Douthat, namely that I do so in order to equate climate change deniers to holocaust deniers, and Nazis.  If this were the case I would… Read More

The Climate Change Denial Argument is Melting Away

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has just released its fifth assessment on the state of scientific knowledge on climate change.  Among its key findings are that the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are the highest they have been in over a million years with 40% of this increase coming in the past 200 years, that on the basis of current models ocean levels could rise over a metre by 2100, and that scientists are now 95% convinced that human activity is directly responsible for climate change. Unsurprisingly, deniers latched on to anything they could to attack the report, claiming that because the report showed that there has been a “global warming pause” over the last 15 years it is obvious that global warming is now a failed scientific hypothesis.  Well, contrary to what deniers have previously claimed, the fact that the IPCC was fully willing to admit that there has been a pause in the rise of global temperatures shows that they are a genuinely unbiased scientific body ready to follow the evidence regardless of where it leads. The temperature “pause” is a classic example of the kind of arguments that deniers use to promote their views, because it seizes upon one minor observation without actually looking at all the data or the bigger picture.  If you remove just one year, 1998 from the picture then there is no pause. According to NASA, the ten hottest years since 1880 have all happened since 1998, with 2010 being the hottest since these records began. But, it is undeniable that there has been a lull in global temperature increases recently, a question that the report provides an answer to.  In 1997/1998 there was a powerful El Nino in the Pacific, which resulted in the surface water around the… Read More

Catholics should support the abolition of the Ontario’s Catholic Schools

John Rawls, arguably the most influential political theorist of the twentieth century coining a concept he called the ‘overlapping consensus’ in his masterpiece, A Theory of Justice. The overlapping consensus is the idea that in a pluralistic society, people with markedly different metaphysical and philosophical worldviews can still agree on the basic principles that govern those rules and institutions in society that are for everyone. Essentially, Rawls envisions a pluralistic society as one where people with markedly different religious and philosophical views could still come to the same conclusions on fundamental principles of justice in a society where there was no one single philosophical viewpoint accepted by the vast majority of the population. This basic principle is one that has much use in modern pluralistic and diverse countries like Canada, and is one I believe that can help illuminate an issue that is still quite a divisive one in Ontario, the Catholic School System. I want to put forward here a case for ending the separate, publicly funded Catholic school system, but not from a secular perspective, instead from the perspective of a conservative Christian. The arguments that secular detractors of Catholic schools put forward are usually valid, and the response to them is usually very weak, being something along the lines of “well its protected in our constitution so that’s that.” Quebec and Newfoundland, two provinces that actually have a population that is majority Catholic changed their constitutions to abolish Catholic schools, so there’s no reason Ontario, a province where Catholic are not the majority of the population cannot simply do the same thing. But, what I want to try and demonstrate here is that the abolition of the Catholic school system is something that practicing, genuine Catholics would benefit from and should be supportive of. I personally also… Read More
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