The Social Justice Trojan Horse in Progressive Conservatism

There is a greater problem for real conservatives than the far left: the false narratives woven by the progressive conservatives, who are known in Canada by that name (after their now-defunct party), in the United States as RINOs, in the U.K. as almost all members of the current "Conservative [in name only] Party," and in Australia as many members (if not nearly all) of the Liberal Party.

Despite all the lessons of history, many of these progressives masquerading as want-to-be conservatives repeatedly argue that trending to the mushy middle from the right side of the political spectrum will win elections.

Wrong. All the evidence over the past few decades in the West indicates the complete opposite. The only real conservative that the U.S. has had as president in the past half-century was Ronald Reagan -- who unseated an incumbent president while proceeding to win the two largest back-to-back electoral majorities in American history. All other contenders for the G.O.P. over this time frame either lost or won with far smaller majorities and/or governed more as liberals than conservatives.

Margaret Thatcher won resounding conservative majorities in the U.K. All others on the right since her, and in the decades before, entirely failed to live up to her electoral success. The same story can be written about Australia and Canada. Progressive conservatives and RINOs equal electoral failure. It is that simple.

This eternal argument towards intentional failure is underway in Canada, as many progressive conservatives look to convince the Conservative Party under Stephen Harper that the way to win the upcoming 2015 federal election is by being more liberal. Now the Canadian progressives are even importing politicians from the U.K. in an attempt to convince conservatives that the path forward is via progressivism:

[A] prominent British Conservative minister, speaking at the [Preston] Manning Networking Conference, which kicks off in Ottawa today, suggests that an emphasis on social justice is not only good policy, but good politics, too.

Iain Duncan Smith is work and pensions minister in David Cameron's coalition government and is a former leader of the U.K. Conservative Party.

Even in opposition, he argued that the U.K. Conservatives needed to broaden their focus beyond the economy, immigration and Europe.

'You cannot win if people think that's all you're about,' he told me when he last visited Ottawa in 2008.

When the Conservatives were elected to lead Britain's coalition, he was handed the task of implementing the welfare reforms he'd pioneered as head of his own Centre for Social Justice.

He says there have been concrete economic and political benefits to confounding the expectation that Conservatives don't care about the poor.

In an interview, he pointed to the employment rate in the U.K. of 73.2% (compared to 61.4% in Canada), which even the Bank of England attributes to the government introducing conditions on unemployment benefits.

And here is where the less conservative members fail -- when they attempt quantitative policy analysis.

According to this article -- authored by John Ivison in the National Post -- the employment rate in the U.K. is 73.2 percent, or nearly 12 percent higher than in Canada, and this higher employment rate is apparently due to some form of conservative social justice policy framework in the United Kingdom.

The only problem to this convenient storyline is the inconvenient truth that the employment rate in the U.K. is not 12 percent higher than in Canada. Actually, the employment rate in the U.K. is lower than in Canada.

The same results (i.e., Canada has a higher employment rate than the U.K.) are obtained whether we use the Federal Reserve's data or that of the OECD.

So what is going on with the National Post's flawed data? The article is comparing apples and oranges, as so often occurs when discussing "social justice" issues.

That 61.4 percent "employment rate" claimed for Canada is the employment rate for everyone 15 years and older (see Statistics Canada's CANSIM Table 282-0087), whereas the 73.2 percent "employment" rate trotted out for the U.K. is just for the 16-64 year old age group. It is pure nonsense to directly compare employment rates for the 15+ age group in one country to the 16-64 age group in another country, since 15-year olds are less likely to work than 16-year olds, and the 65+ age group has a far lower employment rate than the 15/16 to 64 age group.

So, not only does the U.K. have a lower employment rate when using the consistent 15-64 age group, but when we head over to the World Bank data to examine 15+ age group employment rates, we also find that Canada wins here, too (62 percent vs. only 57 percent in the U.K.).

No matter how we examine the social justice claims regarding respective employment rates in Canada and the U.K., they are a failure. The fact is that Canada's employment rate is higher than the U.K., not 12 percent lower as the social engineers claim.

As bad as the economic growth has been in Canada and the U.S. during the past few years, it is even worse in the U.K. under the "social justice" party. Since 2010 (when David Cameron came to power), the U.K.'s real per capita GDP has increased just 1.9 percent, versus 2.9 percent in Canada and 4.0 percent in the U.S.

The U.K. offers no useful economic models for the two primary North American economies. On the contrary, it shows us what not to do -- and that is to engage with the "social justice" crowd.