Politics is the only free market that matters to Harper: McLaughlin

Cutting piece by David McLaughlin on the “shopping for votes” phenomenon and the Government’s approach to maximizing its electoral advantages:

Voters are consumers, not citizens. We are ‘shopped for votes’ by parties as our attachment to the political process waxes and wanes. Market segmentation slices and dices the electorate into micro-chunks of likely and accessible voters resulting in targeted voters being bombarded with direct appeals for support or money. Once captured in a party’s database, the virtuous cycle is repeated as retaining a committed supporter is ‘job one’ of any party.

The Conservative Party’s goal to get their hands on news video clips of their opponents for political advertising through new copyright rules fits with this dynamic. As the country is splintered into hundreds of mini-campaigns targeting specific voter demographics, using this material to craft electoral and fundraising messaging is simply the new normal.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been resolute in using incumbency to advance the political dominance of the party he leads and turn the Conservative Party of Canada into the default governing party. He has double-downed year-after-year on a strategy founded first on a core base vote glued by values and, then second, on a relentless string of election rule changes to give his party advantage over his opponents.

Free market capitalism is sold as beneficial for consumers. Healthy competition leads to more choice, lower prices, better service, and innovation.

But free market democracy is no guarantor of equivalent benefits for voters. After all, the end game of ideas and values in a democracy versus products and services in a marketplace are radically different from each other.

Conservatives instinctively favor free markets. It is striking that for all its populist interventionism and regulation as part of its consumer agenda, the most visible manifestation of free market philosophy in action is taking place in the political marketplace.

Politics is the only free market that matters to Harper – The Globe and Mail.

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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