Category Archives: Politics General

Once More Into the Voting Booth, Dear Friends!

The up-coming election here in Ontario has not yet been formally declared, but the noise is picking up, so I might as well join in. I started by reviewing my Manifesto, which appears as a separate page on this site, for the purpose of up-dating.

It says what I thought needed to be said at the time, in a way appropriate to that time, while we were still being governed federally by the Harper Gang. I think the tone is wrong for today, however, that I should not have spoken with such carping negativity even when I was railing against carping negativity. I will revise it, although I fear that it may not make such lively reading when I get finished.

It will take a little while to do that, because I want to get both tone and wording right.

I am also revising the Official Platform of my Party of One, first published here on November 14, 2014. Here is the new order and wording.

  1. Explicit recognition that the pursuit of Social Justice is the proper broad Goal of our politics, the cause in which we are all engaged together. The fact that that Goal remains riddled and elusive must not be offered as an excuse for us to abandon the cause. But since positive Social Justice is such a vexed concept, then let us settle for a collective resolve against obvious social injustices, such as blatant inequalities: in prosperity, in opportunities, in basic services, in all the blessings that those of us who are reasonably well-off take for granted.
  2. Explicit recognition that all our governments, as they strive for prosperity and Social Justice, must provide competent administration and reasonable care in management of the money we pay to them for our public services.
  3. Explicit adoption of a search for Balance as the means by which we grope our way forward. This means respect for the complexity of all public affairs and refusal to reduce them to simplicities. It means seeing the issues before us simply as Unsolved Riddles which we can address through conversations where Knowledge, Imagination, Compassion, and Humour (the Stephen Leacock Tetrad) are constantly in play, guiding us towards the following, all of which are equally important (please pay no attention to the order of presentation):
  4. Strength to the Social Fabric: languages, cultures, communities, enterprises, arts, opportunities, employments, governments, public services.
  5. Strength to Parliamentary democracy, including electoral reform, and to democratic institutions at all levels.
  6. Strength to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and related elements of our inherited constitution.
  7. Strength to the Social Safety Net.
  8. Prosperity, vigorous and justly shared; respect for the complexity and difficulty of this goal.
  9. Stewardship, resolute, protective and far-seeing, of our air, land and waters.
  10. Internationalism in foreign affairs, pursuing peace, prosperity, justice and the rule of law.
  11. Vigilance in the protection of our own territory and sovereignty, extreme reluctance in foreign adventures.
  12. Reconciliation as the fundamental principle applied to disputes, contentions, and criminal justice.

I believe that the vast majority of Canadian voters are liberal in their generosity to one another and especially to those less fortunate than themselves, progressive in their ideas about public policy and services, and conservative in how they want public funds to be managed. I think that the inherent difficulties in even understanding the complexity of such an agenda, let alone providing for it, spook many of us, and that our political parties in their vicious partisanship and self-interest are only too ready to prey upon our uncertainties.

Fie upon all such predators! We the voters have sovereignty over a very complicated state of affairs, where easy answers whether from right, left, or middle are almost certain to be wrong or at least tragically limited. Let’s talk about it, and force our political parties to address it, in the light of that obvious truth.

 

Advertisements

More Unsolved Riddles

A recent article on iPolitics by Alan Freeman under the headline “Governing is a lot harder than you think, Mr. O’Leary”  :: http://ipolitics.ca/2017/02/24/running-a-government-is-a-lot-harder-than-you-think-oleary/ :: provoked the following comment from me:

Mr. Freeman makes an extraordinarily important point, worth noting not only by Mr. O’Leary, but by all of us who would over-simplify political discussion. All governments, however small, are complex organisms comprised of PEOPLE who know, and are learning, who think, and feel, and act within their means. They are not machines to be manipulated from the top, although they can be led. But changing their direction takes time. They are inherently conservative, much more easily stalled by negative forces than motivated by positive ones. The culture of anecdotally-fed carping negativity that permeates so much of our contemporary political discourse fastens a huge drag on our government organizations and their leadership. We indulge ourselves in strident expressions of polarized over-simplified opinions, and expect our public servants, elected or not, to sort out the mess. Then we yell at them from all sides no matter what they do. Stephen Leacock advised us to think of complex issues of social justice as unsolved riddles, to be addressed, not by the simple-minded application of ideology or formulas derived from theory, but by groping our collective humane way forward, guided by Knowledge, Imagination, and Compassion. Anyone got a better idea?

Recent discourse on Electoral Reform and Immigration illustrate this concern very clearly. Discourse on electoral reform became so poisoned that to persist towards change could only make things worse. The government therefore made a decision to postpone. As Mackenzie King said, more or less, when confronted about a broken “promise”: “In politics you do what you can, not what you want.” The voice of experience. The Liberal Party “promise” on electoral reform was perhaps the voice of inexperience. But since when is it a sin to be inexperienced?

Immigration policy is another kind of unsolved riddle. When we engage with the peoples of the world for the purpose of trade and investment, which we yearn to do, then we engage with them also as people. From a practical and moral perspective we cannot have one without the other. We could, of course, adopt the role of brutal exploiters, as colonial powers did and do, but that is not for us, not for the whole us. Deep down we know, in our heart of hearts, that if the money is global, then so are the people, and so is the land. We’ll struggle with that reality, and with its cost, but we will keep trying not to ignore it. So will the Americans, decent people that they are, as they begin to see what the alternative looks like.

New Directions, New Projects, Maybe Even the Occasional New Idea

Leslie and I completed, on September 20th, our 15th and final summer season of Country Supper Storytelling Concerts. In all we performed 573 of these, served and entertained 3,917 people along the way, many of whom became good friends. This whole experience was an almost unalloyed pleasure, the only alloy being occasional exhaustion. As such episodes grew in number and intensity with our advancing age, we decided we should find something new, preferably something where we could do a lot of the work sitting down.

We have always been interested in touring, especially in forms of touring that involved community participation. The Chautauqua model intrigued us, and we experimented with it one year, but it proved too big and too conflictual with our other activities. Now these are reduced, and we are about to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday with our Stephen Leacock’s “My Discovery of the West” Re-Tour 2017 — from 15th to 150th in one fell swoop, or swell foop. Our ports of call will be: Orillia (for a Launch at the Leacock Museum), Thunder Bay (Port Arthur and Fort William in Leacock’s day), Sioux Lookout (Leacock didn’t go there but the train does now), Winnipeg, Regina, Saskatoon, Edmonton, Calgary, Medicine Hat, Vancouver, and Victoria. We will launch on October 20th 2017 and end November 28th. We will tell that story, if you would like to follow it, as it evolves on: www.voyageurstorytelling.ca & https://mariposabyconway.wordpress.com/

We are also becoming the home of a Leacock Database in which we will catalogue every piece that he wrote and every public speech that he spoke to the extent that we can locate them and with as much detail as we can find. The extent is considerable thanks to the bibliographical prowess of Carl Spadoni and his predecessors. Details are bounteous in some cases, sparse in others. We will complete the first round of that project in another month. Right now the database has about 2,400 records, including 1,300 pieces and about 800 speeches. When it came to verbiage, Stephen Leacock was a prolific man.

When that project settles in for the long pull, looking for details, we will start a database for the Canadian writers of magazine articles from Confederation to World War II. This grew out of our efforts to gather Leacock articles from Canadian literary magazines like the magnificently named The Canadian Magazine of Politics, Science, Art and Literature (1893 to 1938) and Maclean’s Magazine (1896 to the present). We started asking ourselves who these people were, many of them obviously amateurs, who wrote for these magazines with such dedication and spirit. Where did they live? How did they live? What are their stories? We are going to find out. We have seen enough already to know that their stories are enchanting, diverse, often up-lifting, occasionally tragic, invariably interesting. Stay tuned.

Then there is politics. This blog began out of my interest in writing about political matters. Other projects have interfered with the flow, but my interest persists. In particular, I am concerned about what I believe to be immaturity and sloppiness in our political discourse, particularly as reported in our beloved news media, but also in the pronouncements of both government and opposition. At the top of my list of immaturities is their, and our, perpetual carping negativity in discussion of public affairs. The political oppositions whom we hire to find fault with our governments seem to find it very difficult to get their eyes up out of the mud, after the manner of worms, in which course they are followed with mindless glee by the news media. A close second is both of their, and our, addiction to sensational anecdotes without any regard for the context or relative frequency of these episodes. Thirdly, I have a particular grief with the news media for their lust for reporting predictions without regard for the quality of the data behind them, the rigour of the analysis, or the often highly self-interested perspective of the person making them. And fourthly, I believe that maturity requires us to stop thinking of the stated intentions of our governments as “promises” and cultivate a more sophisticated understanding of what politicians are saying to us when they campaign.

And what of our governments? What share do they deserve of the obloquy? Well, obviously, they deserve all they get when they “spin” at our perceptions for the purpose of making themselves look good or make mistakes out of incompetence or dishonesty. I believe also, however, that the business of government is extraordinarily complicated and difficult, often because we the people make it so, and that a mature and sophisticated understanding requires recognition that things will often go wrong for reasons other than incompetence or dishonesty. In a huge multitude of instances they also go right, or at least well enough, and we need to celebrate from time to time all the people who make it so, at all levels, elected and hired, federally, provincially and municipally. These hard-working people are our employees, at least indirectly, and we collectively carry an employer’s responsibility, which does not consist in ignoring them when they do well, defecating on them from a great height when things go wrong, and generally thinking of them in the worst and most simplistic way we can find.

All this should keep me busy enough to hold boredom at bay. As for the inevitable decay of mind, well, maybe it will slow that down too.

Toward the Heart of Lightness, Step by Step

January 4, 2016

2016 ho! Here we go! Whither this blog?

The Detroit writer Anna Clark (http://annaclark.net/blog/) has proposed that the purpose of blogging should be “to practise the public art of writing and reflection”. That makes good sense to me, as long as it means that the writing and the reflection go hand in hand in mutually reinforcing support.

While retaining my freedom to tack hither and yon as circumstances suggest, I would like, in this spirit, to explore these themes in the months ahead:

  1. What does it mean to “do politics differently”? Who should do it? The present government says it wants to do it. What if it tries, but everybody else—opposition parties; journalists; voters—carries on in the old accustomed way? What happens to that good intention then? (We, in our old accustomed way, would not call it an “intention”, rather a “promise” with all the weight that word carries.)  I predicted last year, before the election, that we would be governed by the “mind-set” of the government, not by the platform or the “promises” or any such ephemera. We certainly were with the last lot. We will learn much more about the new mind-set in the months and years ahead.
  2. As I read more and more political journalism, I think I am noticing some common themes in the mind-set there, and despite all the undeniably good work, I too often see examples of what I think is poor practice: over-simplification of complex public affairs, particularly economic ones; careless use of terminology; an unhealthy appetite for the making and reporting of predictions, coupled with an uncritical attitude; a primitive notion of what “balanced reporting” means, particularly when coupled with a somewhat confused notion of what it means to “hold the government to account”; a naive attachment to the idea that journalists are, or should be “storytellers”. We rely on journalists to report on and interpret what is happening, which they assume, quite rightly, to be an important public role.
  3. During the election campaign one expression on many lips was “the economy”. Good grief, that it has come to this! Down, I say, with the prevailing hideous over-simplification, ill-informed misconception, weak understanding, unsupportable prognostication, and slipshod interpretation on all sides. If “the economy” is so important, then why do we tolerate such persistent misinformation and vacuity of conversation, from governments, journalists, and commentators of all kinds, and in our own minds and ways of speaking? Enough!
  4. One particular issue on which I intend to say much, and in as many directions as I can find, has to do with electoral reform. But not here. This post is getting long enough as it is.
  5. Another has to do with the policy outwash from the recent climate conference in Paris, and the apparent international resolve to stop dumping our garbage into the air. Would that we could come up with the same wide resolve concerning water and land, but one step at a time, I guess. We will have to find new ways of producing and consuming, which means new cultures. This would be easier if we could discover new and appropriate ways of thinking and believing or, even more richly, new ways of being. We have made these kinds of transitions before, and we can do it again.
  6. I intend to explore the idea of “multiculturalism” (a good idea, as far as it goes, but a terrible word) which I believe to be not the same thing as pluralism, which is the higher ideal.
  7. All these themes, and any more that may emerge from events, have to do with my advocacy for Comprehensive Justice, by which I mean Social Justice, Economic Justice, Environmental Justice, and other forms, with their inter-relationships intact. Both “comprehensive” and “justice” are packed words that need to be unpacked in practical ways. We’re not talking philosophy here, we’re talking politics.
  8. As did, interestingly enough, Stephen Leacock, which takes us over into the other blog: https://mariposabyconway.wordpress.com/

All this should keep me busy enough.

A good year to all!

Starting from some Thoughts on “Big Government”

December 16, 2015

A recent article in iPolitics by the (politically) late Alberta MP Brent Rathgeber, concerning the ambitions of the Alberta Wildrose Party (“Can Brian Jean unite the right in Alberta? Don’t bet on it.”), asserted as follows:

“It’s a myth that Alberta is built on conservative bedrock. For decades, from Lougheed through Getty and Klein, Albertans demanded the best of everything — the widest highways, the best schools and hospitals. When resource revenues were plentiful, governments could keep taxes low. When natural gas and crude prices tanked, governments racked up huge deficits. But at no time did Albertans lose their appetite for big, expensive government.”

I lived in Alberta for 25 years, raising my family and making my living, and because of the nature of my work, I probably got around more than most. I don’t think Albertans have any appetite for “big expensive government”. I think they have an entirely commendable appetite for excellent public services, or at least those public services the majority of them use. Their appetite for paying for them may not be quite as keen, nor for those services used by the less fortunate minority among them, but do they thus set themselves apart from the main stream of Canadians? I am not sure than anything much sets Albertans apart from the main stream of Canadians except their particular regional history and the extraordinary wealth of their land. But that is not what I am writing about today. No, it’s Mr. Rathgeber’s use of the term “big government”.

Big government. Its undertones of tyranny and oppression rattle the ganglions of anyone with even a teaspoon of libertarian blood. But surely it belongs more in the language of propaganda than of reasonable political conversation.

When I am driving down a good highway, I do not feel the heavy hand of government oppression, only the productive hand of basic infrastructure. When I visit the doctor or am admitted to hospital, I do not feel the tread of an iron boot, only the concern of my fellow citizens wishing me well and helping me get there. And so it is with a whole range of common experiences where I feel the beneficent hand of public service. And when I feel myself regulated, which I do not to any inconvenient extent, I feel my community protecting itself, and me, and my descendants, from the harm of abuses and damage.

Of course our government is big. We expect it to do a great deal of work to support and improve our lives, and to do that in ways that are fair and equitable. And we know perfectly well, when we think about it, that if we left these responsibilities to private initiative, the apparent “efficiency” would come at the expense of  “comprehensive justice”, if I may so roll social, economic and environmental justice into one term. And while we may squirm under the need to pay for comprehensive justice, we have no desire to abandon it as a standard. Our voting in the recent election proved that.

All big organizations are to some extent inefficient. If you think governments are exceptionally that way, take a close look sometime at big oil, or big finance, or big transportation, or big anything else. And as for big military, good grief! The illusion of efficiency in big organizations, public or private, comes not from some kind of economic virtue, but from their power to do the work that we want done.

Power is always a two-edged sword, and in an imperfect world both edges are going to cut. We do our part when we, as voters and as consumers, work to sharpen the edge that does the work, and blunt the edge that does the harm.

What does all this mean, in the specifics before us these days? I think it means, first of all, being a little patient with our new government—both the executive side and the opposition—to give them time to do what we elected them to do. If we jump all over them, telling them, after a few short weeks on the job, that they are doing it all wrong and should be doing something different, then we are being the very worst kind of bosses, the kind that breeds inefficiency. I think we need to slap down the people who are talking that way, and notice where they are coming from.

We have elected ourselves a government of people who say, no doubt with some sincerity, that they want to “do politics differently”, and an opposition that wants to find “a new tone”, which also means doing politics differently from their side of the fence. But what does it do to their resolve, and their capacity, if we come at them in the same old way? Perhaps the idea of “doing politics differently” applies also to us and to the journalistic folks on whom we rely for much of our data.

In particular, perhaps we should ask ourselves whether all the carping criticism, so pervasive in our politics, journalism, and conversation, is good for our body politic, or our personal mental health for that matter. I won’t say any more, because I don’t want to be carpingly critical even of carping criticism, but I for one would prefer that we find a healthier, more balanced way to judge the performance of our elected officials and “hold them to account”, to use the fashionable phrase.

Holding them to account. Accountability. We hear these words all the time. They are spoken as if self-explanatory, and self-justifying. In the fields of politics and public service, however, they are full of rich technicality. Do we ever think much about what they mean, or the kind of data we need to realize them in a balanced and correct way? Or the kind of clear thinking required to make them just and expedient?

In other words, how can we hold to account the people who are holding “them”—whoever they are—to account on our behalf? How can we do that justly and fairly, in a balanced way, with good data? How can we do it without indulging in carping criticism? And if we are glib and careless in how we do it, ought we to be held to account? And by whom?

Doing politics differently: Quite a challenge, on all sides. A good one, worth answering.

A Prism on Isms

Holy smoke! Was my most recent post on this thing really over five weeks ago? My most abject apologies to my legion of followers. Not that I have any reason to believe you will have missed my opinions, however. I think most lives tick along very nicely without those. Just ask Leslie. Hers most certainly would, but alas, poor girl, she has to put up with them. But you, by the merest flick of the mouse or sweep of the finger, can dismiss me instantly.

I have been pondering on “isms”, stimulated by our prime minister’s insistence on the evils of “militant jihadism”. He uses the phrase in the same style, and for much the same purpose, as a previous generation of politicians used “communism”. The style is propaganda; the purpose is to fabricate and convince us to fear an enemy without, in order to distract us from the enemy within, which is him, his brand of politics, and the interests he is determined to serve.

His efforts are in part successful with me: he strikes fear in my heart, all right, but not for “militant jihadism,” whatever it may be. I would be the first to admit that my knowledge of the history is patchy, but it occurs to me that the current phenomenon in Iraq and Syria is nothing new, seeming quite similar to the efforts of the Mahdi in the Sudan and Mohammed Abdulla Hassan in Somalia not a large number of decades ago. It seems possible to me that all these movements were fed, and perhaps caused, by the clumsy machinations of western imperial powers pursing their own selfish interests in lands that didn’t belong to them. A little knowledge of and respect for the well-grounded fears and resentments of those people might help to put ours to rest.

As for barbarism, I deplore the beheading of innocent people as any humane person must, but I am not sure it is more barbaric than, for example, bombing homes from the air. Killing is killing, no matter how it’s done.

But that’s not what I am writing about today. Isms. I am wondering about the value and possibility of a generally accepted hierarchy of isms, that would help us keep our heads clear and our compass lenses unfogged amidst the multifarious forces that batter us. I think that I would put “Humanism” at the top, at least by the second definition in my dictionary (the Canadian Oxford): “a belief or outlook emphasizing common human needs, seeking solely rational ways of solving human problems, and being concerned with humanity as responsible and progressive intellectual beings”, to which I would add something about sympathy and understanding as foundational attitudes. Obviously the idea is too big for few-word definitions.

I think that numbers of my friends would put “Naturism” up there too, by which I do not mean nudism, but rather the belief that Nature should be viewed like Humanity, as something whose well-being should be pursued as a highest good, for its own sake and not merely for its utility. I am not sure that I can go whole hog on that one, but the idea is attractive. If we say that we should not destroy Nature lest we destroy ourselves, which is no doubt true, then we are making Nature subordinate to Humanity. If we cultivate Nature for our good, then we are doing the same thing. On the whole I think that a properly conceived Humanism will allow us to care properly for Nature too, and that if we keep things in that order we’ll be less confused.

The same goes for Individualism, Commonism, Producerism, Consumerism to mention others I would put high up the list. Maybe others, but I can’t think of them today. I hope that not too many others turn up in the top echelon, because it’s confusing enough already. Even as it is, I would have to put Balancism up there too, à la Stephen Leacock and Henry Mintzberg (cf. www.mintzberg.org), both of McGill University.

Of one thing I am sure: Militarism, Powerism and Exploitism show up on an entirely different list.

I think that for a time in the post-WWII period Canadian Liberalism, Conservatism (Progressive Conservatism it was then), and Social Democratism all were making quite reasonable stabs at Balancism, with some differences of emphasis of course. These are allowed, Balance in a complex world being what it must be.

I think the Conservatives have lost that voice and have taken on another that is not balanced at all. I read a lot from the Progressive side of the political debate, which is where I think the NDP would like to be if they dared to go there. I see too much simple anti-Conservatism there, which I find agreeable and entertaining, but not constructive, and not Balanced. I think the Liberals may be, or were, trying to achieve Balance by taking all the pans off the scale. They are re-building; we need to see their full platform before we can reasonably form a judgement. I believe that traditional Liberalism was quite Balanced, within reasonable tolerances, which is why it did so well electorally for so many  years.

I find Elizabeth May the most Balanced politician in the country right now, at least in her writings if not her sound bites, which lean towards anti-Conservative stridency. I wish the Green Party as a whole, federally and provincially, were more like her.

Balance is a practical goal, achieved through the day-to-day slog of research and practical politics.

Humanism at the top, supported by carefully cultivated Naturism, Individualism, Commonism, Producerism and Consumerism, all in Balance. That’s where I stand. I think a lot of people stand there too, or would like to stand there if they could find the words to say where it is. If we had a real Balance Party with the rhetorical skill to bring itself to life, then I think it would win at a walk.

But of course, as we all see every day, there’s a lot more money in Powerism, Corporatism, Militarism, Exploitism and Fearism. Money talks. Violence talks.

Chatter talks too. Oh, how it talks! On and on and on and on! Rampant Cacophonism! Rampant Sensationalism! There’s no Balance to be found in that.

Ideas and Ideals can talk too, but only through human voices, people with the right words and the right flair. Where can we find them? How can we support and encourage them? How can we prevent them from being dragged into the world where Money and Violence talk, where Cacophony rules? That, as I see it, is the substance of the practical political problem for us, the people.

Excursing in the Public Realm

This morning I set forth to the village of Lion’s Head, to run some errands and spend the fruits of my pensions, provided (old age pension), administered (Canada Pension Plan), or enabled (RRSP) by the people of Canada, through their government. Before I even left the house, therefore, my journey was already anchored in public services.

I turned out of my driveway onto the road, ploughed, also constructed and maintained, by the Municipality of Northern Bruce Peninsula, in which I reside. I paused to check for mail, brought to me through the efforts of a chain of public servants employed by a Crown Corporation, Canada Post, delivered to my rural box by the last links in the chain, who are also a couple of my neighbours.

At the end of my road I turned onto a highway constructed, recently re-paved and maintained by contractors hired by the Province of Ontario, and then onto a road similarly provided by the County of Bruce. Along the way I passed an ambulance, speeding to some emergency, and a member of the Ontario Provincial Police, on patrol for malefactors, hazards to public security, or people in need, both these vehicles and their personnel being provided by a collaborative arrangement among levels of government the exact details of which escape me.

When I got to Ferndale I stopped at the recycling depot, another municipal service, and then on to the Lion’s Head Public Library, a service of the County. The bank where I went for some cash is a public company, sternly regulated by the Government of Canada to ensure it remains solvent for my benefit and reasonably honest in its dealings. The local grocery store is a private enterprise, of course, but I was aware that I could read lists of ingredients on labels, and rest reasonably assured that my groceries were bug-free, not only because my grocer runs a clean operation, but also due to the efforts of regulators and inspectors perhaps both federal and provincial, and had been washed in clean water from the new water treatment plant operated by the Municipality and paid for by three levels of government.

Passing the school, of the kind that served me and my children so well in the past and continues to serve my hopes for the future, I stopped at the hospital where I left a sample of blood, skillfully drawn in a public hospital by a public person, in response to the prescription of a doctor working in a public medical system. I visited the drug store to collect some pills and left without paying a dime, thanks to the Provincial pill-paying provision for people my age, topped up by my own medical insurance.

My last errand took me to the Liquor Store, a service of the Government of Ontario, perhaps not essential but certainly convenient and lucrative.

I drove home thinking how irritated I would be when, sometime in June, some band of tunnel-visioned pin-heads would assure me that I should rejoice because we had arrived at “tax freedom day”.

I write this little travelogue not only to celebrate our wealth of public services, for which we must pay if we wish to maintain their quality and allow them their just measure of improvement, but to remind you that our “government” does not consist in the petty and partisan bickering of our legislators and their henchmen, followed so obsessively by our news media, but in the skilled work of legions of our neighbours and the thousands upon thousands of operations and transactions in which they engage every day for our benefit. And because we are a democracy we can be reasonably assured that they are working for our benefit, and not for the benefit of some authoritarian power. If we think they are not we can do something about it.

Such being the case, to speak and act as if our government as a burden which we are obliged to support whether we like it or not constitutes wilful self-deception. Tax freedom day forsooth! Of course we want our public services to be efficient and not wasteful. But most of all we want them to be there when we need them.