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Death of an ideal

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It recently occurred to me that being a member of society is a lot like being a member of a Costco: Socialism, the heart of the Canadian brand, is really just buying the things we all need, or might need, in bulk.

Take health care — it can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to treat someone for cancer, which few of us could afford. But because everybody is a potential victim we all pay into the health care system to ensure that treatments are free.

You can apply the same bulk purchasing philosophy to everything from fire departments to policing, from infrastructure to education.

Allow any of these things we’ve socialized to become privatized and you create a wedge of middlemen eager to profit from all sides. The U.S. health insurance industry has about two million middlemen wedged between doctors and patients who can only profit by denying coverage to the sick and injured and denying claims.

Which brings me back to the federal election, and this unfortunate idea that we somehow pay too much tax.

Our Conservative MP argued several times at the Whistler all-candidates debate that people should have control over their money because we know better how to spend it than government bureaucrats.

I would argue that the opposite is true, and that most of us would just find newer and stupider ways to blow that extra money while the world crumbles around us. That’s why debt levels are at an all-time high in this country, and why SUV’s once represented 50 per cent of new car sales. That’s why we have a national pension plan, helping seniors that haven’t saved enough to cover the cost after retirement. That’s why education is free — if it cost $10 a day instead of a portion of our taxes every year I’m sure we would be an illiterate society. You can’t cut taxes until those basics are covered.

But the most convincing argument against tax cuts is the economic crisis. Even the U.S., which has spent the last few decades pushing for free markets, is waking up to the idea that a strong government is necessary to foil the worst inclinations of capitalism, and to keep society on an even keel.

Those tax dollars that our national parties are so eager to return to us have more power in the hands of government, when they’re spent on things of interest to society instead of frittered away on second cars and personal electronics.

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