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Jay Currie

One Damn Thing After Another

7/15/2004

Creating a conservative infrastructure

Adam Daifallah writing in the National Post suggests today that there is a crying need to create the intellectual infrastructure required for a real conservative movement to step beyond the Conservative Party's endless, "Like the Liberals but better" electoral rhetoric. I commented on his blog as follows:

While I agree with the analysis I am not inclined to think the media/intellectual infrastructure does not exist, at least in embryo. AIM, the Fraser Institute, the National Citizens Coalition are the beginning; but outfits like the Canadian Tax Foundation and some of the other specialist institutions have the information and the analytic capacity to make a difference.

The question is whether or not the conservatives in the country, as distinct from the Conservative party, will make the effort to use those resources.

Simply putting together policy meetings on a non-partisan basis would be a huge step. So, frankly are group blogs like Shotgun.

Building an infrastructure is, to a degree about creating an environment in which intelligent people can hammer out decade and multi-decade visions without too much concern for the day to day political reality.

If you look at the rise of neo-conservatism in the United States you have to go back to Commentary thirty years ago.

A few years ago the magazine I founded, two chairs, sponsored a film at the Vancouver film festival the title of which I forget. It was about the intellectual ferment in New York in the 1970's. One of the interviewees, whose name I also forget, said, "So we were at lose ends and we did what intellectuals do when they are at loose ends, we started a magazine."

Ezra's effort with the Western Standard is a decent effort but is news rather than policy driven. What is needed right now is a magazine with the funding of The Walrus with a policy component.

Bluntly, so long as The Walrus and Saturday Night wander about with attacks on the idea of GDP as features, the vast majority of Canadians are never going to hear a conservative message. Not because that majority will ever read a wonkish conservative mag; rather because the people who frame the day to day political debate in Canada will have no counterpoint to the slushy liberal center.

A Canadian version of the National Review is something to be devoutly wished for; but I can't see a young Buckley on the horizon to found it.

The right could do worse than to look at David Beers, BC Federation of Labour funded online effort, The Tyee - for whom I sometimes write. It is three steps above Rabble in both the intelligence of its material and its willingness to be entertaining rather than unrelentingly earnest. And, critically, it is a paying market.

Another online success story worth looking at is TechCentralStation. Again, smart, often funny, on the news in a way that the stodgy dead tree magazine world can't be, and a paying market.

Online is certainly the way to go but with funding and a sense of style.

Building intellectual infrastructure would be a matter of committing $4500 dollars a week for around three years. It sounds like a lot of money - a quarter of a million a year - but it would have multiplier effects and spinoffs which could bootstrap exactly the sort of climate Canadian conservatism needs.