Originally posted: October 24, 2005.  6:45am

The following article was written before our current Conservative government came to power.  Six years later, and my gloomy predictions came true worse than I could have ever imagined.  There’s a reason that I don’t trust any Canadian political party; they’re all the same in the end.


I came across a quote written by George Jonas in 1990. The following excerpt is from an article in which Jonas was attempting to explain the mindset of the Eastern Europeans who were emerging from the ashes of the old USSR. The quote seems to describe the state of mind of many of today’s Canadians equally well:

It’s a type of welfare syndrome, the legacy of an oppressive, omnipotent state. It is a malady that isn’t easy to describe. Maybe one could call it the cynical beggar’s disease. It’s chief symptom is a nation sitting back and saying to its government: “A pretty mess, eh? Thank God it’s none of our business.”

“Yes, the old government was bad,” many Hungarians say today, “and now they tell us that the new government is good. Well that’s nice. So what’s the new government going to do for us?” People who say this don’t understand that a good government doesn’t necessarily do things for people; it simply lets them do things for themselves. Many East Europeans can’t see this yet. For nearly two generations they have been conditioned to look to the government as the architect of things both good and evil.

I am not suggesting that the Canadian government is on par with the dictatorships of the old USSR, but rather I am pointing out that today’s Canadians appear to have an awful lot in common with citizens who have lived under an oppressive communist regime for far too long. The War on Personal Responsibility seems to have been successful in Canada. Canadians seem content to allow the government to regulate, control, and provide for more and more aspects of their lives with each passing day.

This attitude has also infected our national politics. While it is perfectly natural to expect the NDP to cultivate the cynical beggar’s disease in the population, both other main parties play off it as well. The Liberals, for their part, have won successive elections precisely because they have convinced Canadians that they will give them more free stuff than either the New Democrats or the Conservatives. (Never mind the fact that the Liberals have become very un-liberal in the process!) What is mind boggling is that the CPC – and this seems to be becoming more pronounced – appears to have made “big government and free stuff” a campaign slogan.

I love Canada, but sometimes the prevailing attitudes just make me shake my head in amazement.

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4 Responses to “Cynical beggar’s disease”

  1. The business of governing has been lost in secrecy and backroom deals so that we the recipients of the deals are left to endure without consultation.. In all those years it has been accepted by many and promoted by more that the nation is ruled by the brilliant the rich and the well connected . There is no rule that states this there is no policy to exclude any member of society but there is an illusion or facade which feeds this presumption.

    • Andrew says:

      This is pretty much correct. Even policies that are publicly enacted are loaded with loopholes and escape clauses that have been specifically crafted to let established and well-connected interests continue to exploit their position of dominance.

      Dan Carlin’s “Common Sense” podcast beats this drum quite frequently (albeit from an American perspective). Well worth checking out: http://www.dancarlin.com/disp.php/cs

  2. Stabs says:

    If I’m paying somebody money I expect them to do something in return. I do believe in achieving things for myself yet at the same time I’d like some return for the tax I pay.

    If the government does nothing, why am I paying it?

    • Andrew says:

      Well if your government does less, you SHOULD be paying less. It follows that the amount of tax collected is proportional to the services that a government provides (or purports to provide).

      If a mythical government (libertarian or fiscal conservative) arises that actually believes in scaling back the scope of its operations, then it will probably also believe in lower taxes. (In reality, tax reductions will trail service cuts because most countries have massive debts that first must be serviced.)

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