One of the (few) good things about getting older, is it gives you a sense of perspective, i.e. you know where things are going, because you know where things have been.
It’s the wisdom that comes from wrinkles.
And since many of today’s young political whippersnappers lack this sense of wrinkly perspective, I sometimes feel obliged to offer them totally unsolicited advice, whether they want it or not.
I know that can be annoying, but it’s what I do.
At any rate, I now feel compelled to offer a new group known as Conservative Futures my sage counsel because with its proclaimed goal of reshaping “the political climate in Canada so that politicians can adopt policies for more individual, economic, and personal freedom” it’s an organization after my own libertarian heart.
So here’s my advice to Conservative Futures: Don’t ever lose heart.
I say that because I’m absolutely certain the people behind this group are going to get a lot of gloom and doom thrown at them, to the effect that they’re wasting their time, that they’re fighting a losing battle, that Canada is, and always will be, a “left-wing” country.
And yes, the evidence for this point of view is out there: socialism is trendy with certain intellectual elites, left-wing voices seemingly dominate both popular culture and the media, and big corporations seem to care more about promoting crony capitalism than about promoting free markets.
But this is where my ancient perspective comes in.
You see, back in 1985, when I started working for the National Citizens Coalition, an organization which was also set up to promote conservatism in Canada, I was often confronted with the idea that I was fighting a lost cause.
And indeed in those days things seemed even gloomier for free market conservatism than they do today.
After all, just a few years before I joined the NCC, the federal government was nationalizing industries and stifling foreign investment; pro-free market voices were few and far between; and, most chillingly, the communist Soviet Union loomed like a Red colossus.
Yet, over the years, despite the pessimism of naysayers, the cause of free market conservatism did make gains.
Today, for instance, communism is in the dustbin of history, our country is blessed with several free market think tanks and even the Liberals have embraced certain free market principles, such as the benefits of freer trade.
That’s not to say everything is rosy for conservatism; in fact, many old challenges remain and many new ones have emerged.
The point I’m making is it’s important for groups like Conservative Futures to keep fighting even if the deck seems stacked against them.
Maybe they won’t win big victories, but a clever communications strategy, combined with a dogged persistence, might lead them to win a series of small victories.
And enough small victories can help change the world.
As the libertarian American economist Benjamin Rogge once put it, "Given man's nature, freedom will always be in jeopardy, and the only question that need concern each of us is if and how well we took our stand in its defense during the short period of time when we were potentially a part of the struggle."
(Gerry Nicholls was formerly vice president of the National Citizens Coalition.)