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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Core Services Review: Rob Ford is a hazard to Toronto's public health / #TOpoli

I'm sorry, I had to give my head a shake.

Fluoridation?

Look, we've all seen the passage in Dr. Strangelove where General Ripper talks about what an insidious Communist plot it is, but the thing is, that's not just satire. Fluoridation of our drinking water has been a touchstone for conspiracy-minded whackjobs since the 1950s, but now Mayor Stupid wants to get rid of it under the guise of the "Core Services Review."

The notion of saving money and reducing the cost of government may seem a bit more prosaic on the surface, but let's not kid ourselves – what's going on here is motivated by a combination of ideology and stupidity that's just as far out to lunch as the tin-foil-hat crowd that thought Dwight Eisenhower was a Soviet agent.

In Torontoist, Hamutal Dotan cites fluoridation, along with waste diversion and cycling infrastructure, among some of the public-health programs that could face cuts or even elimination as part of Mayor Stupid's drive to ... well, what, exactly?

Just what is this gang of taxpayer-respecting, gravy-train-stopping, size-of-government-reducing, war-on-the-car-fighting buffoons trying to achieve, beyond their lapel-button slogans and sound bites?

Transparency? Accountability? Good governance?

If they have any notion of what the relationship between government and its citizens should look like, what is it? Do they have any thoughts at all about citizenship, about community, about the public good? Is there a vision? Have these questions even occurred to them?

I think we all know what the answer to that is. There's conservatism and then there's this. Blind, wilful dedication to the emasculation and crippling of government, not as a means to an end, but as an end in itself. There's no acknowledgement that public institutions should advance the public interest. No notion of acting collectively for the greater good. No recognition that societies evolve because people can pool their efforts and act collectively to accomplish things they can't do on their own.

In his 1968 essay The Tragedy of the Commons, Garrett Hardin wrote about the conflict between society and individuals and the challenge in balancing those interests. As individuals, economic theory holds, we are all motivated to accumulate as many resources and benefits as we can, while externalizing costs and waste as much as possible. If you're a powerful industrial concern, for instance, you want to take advantage of as many public subsidies, tax breaks and legislative protections as possible while simultaneously making the waste, byproducts and contaminants associated with your production a matter of public concern. You keep the profits, society pays for the cleanup. Regulations? All that red tape gets in the way of your job-creating and wealth-generating. Nasty chemicals? Pour them down the sewer. Who cares?

Who benefits? Powerful interests. Who pays? Society at large. There's a whole industry devoted to that, and to selling the idea that reducing oversight and getting the heavy hand of the state off the backs of hard-working honest businessmen is the key to freedom and prosperity. Government isn't here to solve the problem, government is the problem. More freedom through less government.

You can see that in the war-on-the-car rhetoric. If you drive a car, you just want those goddamn cyclists, pedestrians and transit vehicles out of your way. And you want the goddamn socialist nanny-state to quit taking your hard-earned money with its taxes on gas, vehicle registration fees, and emission controls. I get to drive wherever I want. Air pollution? Smog? Premature deaths? Society's problem. And why isn't the government fixing these goddamn potholes?

Greed, selfishness, and the bullshit myth of rugged individualism are not civic virtues, folks. It's clear that this gang has no commitment to using public institutions to advance the public good. It's less clear just what they think government should be doing at all, unless it's using the apparatus of repression to keep the lower orders in their place. Mayor Stupid thinks the police were far too easy on G20 demonstrators, for instance.

Not much point in arguing with him. We're not going to sway the Fords, Harpers, Harrises and Hudaks of the world. But there are other members of city council, and it takes 23 of them to form a working majority. More on this to come ...

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1 comment:

  1. Greed, selfishness, and the bullshit myth of rugged individualism are not civic virtues, folks.

    Hear, hear!

    ReplyDelete

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