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John O'Sullivan

Editorial Page Editor of the National Post newspaper in Canada, former editor and editor-at-large of National Review Magazine


The Tories have never been loved. When all is said and done, they are the party that specializes in telling unpleasant truths and dealing with intractable problems. Like the Republicans in the United States, the Tories are the stern "Daddy" party as opposed to the indulgent "Mommy" parties of Labour and the Democrats.

Jun. 6, 2001 - from "Time are too good for Britain's Tories", published in the National Post
[The creeping persistence of the liberal agenda] ...experience should have taught us that the fact that something cannot work does not mean it will not be tried.

Feb. 16, 1999 - from his lecture to the Centre for Policy Studies in London, England
In the next decade ... the Tory party should embrace democracy with much more enthusiasm and keep its qualifications muted ... [T]he principles seem clear. [The party] should question whether any restraint - other than a delaying power with its implied request that Parliament think again - should be imposed. It should seek some form of restraint upon judicial review before it is first abused and then its abuse is entrenched by practice. And it should judge all the constitutional reforms now being proposed by the central test of whether or not they strengthen or weaken the central democratic institution in British life - namely the House of Commons.

Feb. 16, 1999 - from his lecture to the Centre for Policy Studies in London, England
When political institutions come under ... attack, it is often hard, maybe impossible, to defend them in terms of their own justifying principles - of freedom, equality, prosperity, or whatever. The radical critic can always point to a gap between the noble ideal and inadequate practice, and the defender is driven onto the defensive. It is in these circumstances that the defender willy nilly turns to conservative arguments.

Feb. 16, 1999 - from his lecture to the Centre for Policy Studies in London, England
When a country is at ease with itself, conservatism is largely unnecessary. It will exist as a set of prudent maxims - existing institutions embody the wisdom of previous generations; prejudice, experience and habit are better guides than reason, logic and abstractions - but these will have little political purchase. When something like the French Revolution comes along, however, these maxims become vital political truths.

Feb. 16, 1999 - from his lecture to the Centre for Policy Studies in London, England
Liberalism is perhaps the most protean word in the English political lexicon, dependent for its meaning almost entirely on context.

Nov. 06, 1997 - from his essay "Why Conservatives Must Reject Liberalism" published at IntellectualCapital.com
Any American who wants to exercise real power over how people live would be far better advised to apply for a Supreme Court clerkship than to run for Congress. If he eventually becomes a Justice, he will have more power; he will not required to account for his handling of it by anyone; and he won't have to spend months on the road or on the telephone raising funds for his campaign.

Feb. 16, 1999 - from his lecture to the Centre for Policy Studies in London, England
Conservatism is an ornery beast that hibernates in the summer and wakes up in winter. When political storms rage and radicals attack the fundamental institutions of society, then conservatism emerges angrily from its cave to do battle. But when the political climate is mild and pleasant as now with a rising Dow, low unemployment, moderate social policies like welfare reform, and no clear and present danger from abroad then conservatives either cultivate their gardens or, if they are philosophically minded, sit around in circles under the sun speculating on what the next battle will be about. The conservatism of the future is being shaped, debated, and tested in these circles today. What are these groups? What do they believe? And which among them is likely to prevail?

Oct. 11, 1999 - from the opening of "Types of Right: Why Conservatives Break Down", published in National Review
Multiculturalists ... re-define democracy in a non-majoritarian way - as power sharing among different culture groups (or peoples). To enforce and administer this power-sharing - and to secure the rights of minorities - there must be institutions not subject to majority rule. The courts already do this to some extent.

Feb. 16, 1999 - from his lecture to the Centre for Policy Studies in London, England
In the past thirty years, American judges have desegregated the entire school system; ordered the release of hundreds of violent criminals from allegedly overcrowded prisons; levied taxes in order to increase educational spending; removed a legislative prohibition on ethnic and gender quotas and then made such quotas mandatory; redrawn electoral boundaries and then laid down the rules for drawing them up in future; set aside the laws of fifty states on abortion by making it a federal civil right; declared nude dancing to be protected speech under the First Amendment ('What,' I always wonder, 'is the girl saying?'); compelled local authorities to put low-income housing in middle-class areas; and much, much else that was formerly thought to be in the domain of electoral politics.

Feb. 16, 1999 - from his lecture to the Centre for Policy Studies in London, England
Liberalism today is the ideology of the New Class. As time goes on, its true character becomes increasingly - and starkly - clear. It justifies the extension of state regulation over the whole of our lives, not merely our business life, but also our social life, our moral attitudes, even our diet. At the same time it emancipates the New Class, which exercises this extensive authority, from democratic control by transferring more and more decisions from congresses and parliaments to judges, unaccountable bureaucracies, international agencies and other New Class strongholds. It is, in effect, Bolshevism operating in a formally democratic context.

Nov. 06, 1997 - from his essay "Why Conservatives Must Reject Liberalism" published at IntellectualCapital.com
The liberalism [rampant today] is a combination of ever-extending economic regulation (heath and safety, environmental rules, race and gender quotas) and a social radicalism disguised as social liberalism (condoms in schools, gay marriages). Both the regulations and the permissiveness are justified as extending equity, establishing a level playing field, etc. Extending freedom is sometimes cited as a justification, but this claim of social liberalism is easily exposed as bogus. Try removing a child from a morally offensive program of sex education, or refusing to rent an apartment to an unmarried couple, or selecting employees on the basis of tests or talent and the liberal state will soon make plain that in its philosophical house there are not many mansions.

Nov. 06, 1997 - from his essay "Why Conservatives Must Reject Liberalism" published at IntellectualCapital.com
Conservatives need to be reintroduced to ideas which they dimly recall but whose power and authority they have forgotten. One of those ideas is conservatism itself, since even some conservatives have been seduced by the notion of Thatcherism as an ideological project.

Feb. 16, 1999 - from his lecture to the Centre for Policy Studies in London, England
The stakes seem to me to be high - either we retain a vigorous democratic polity ... or we find ourselves living, perhaps not unpleasantly, in a stifling bureaucratic state in which all our wants except liberty are provided for. That is not impossible. Socialism, like history, repeats itself: the first time as genocide, the second time as therapy.

Feb. 16, 1999 - from his lecture to the Centre for Policy Studies in London, England
The opposite of majority rule is not minority rights but minority rule; we have no warrant for assuming that a ruling minority, in this case judges, will be especially tender to the rights of other minorities; and even if we had, there must be some way whereby the majority can restrain judges from infringing its rights by inventive interpretations of the law. For unaccountable power is always abused in the end. If judges gradually acquire the power to overturn existing laws and to make new ones under the guise of constitutional review, they will inevitably abuse that power in time.

Feb. 16, 1999 - from his lecture to the Centre for Policy Studies in London, England
[Multiculturalism] ...is an attempt to replace the system of liberal democracy based upon the individual citizen operating through voluntary organizations, with a system of multicultural democracy in which the fundamental unit is not the individual citizen but distinct peoples, ethnic groups and cultural blocs, with their own world-views, values, histories, heritages and languages. It is through their membership of these groups that people should express their political aspirations. These groups in turn have a right to an equal place at the constitutional table. And to accommodate them, the liberal state must devolve power downwards to the groups and upwards to supranational institutions that will guarantee their rights internationally.

Feb. 16, 1999 - from his lecture to the Centre for Policy Studies in London, England
We have now been given a great opportunity to change our minds. What we are seeing today is that if you give non-democratic institutions the power to restrain democracy, they will use it to correct democracy. Such powers will be abused because it is in the nature of unaccountable power to be abused. Also the case for restraining democracy was based upon the idea that judicial and other elites would dampen the passions of the mob. But these elite turn out to have passions of their own - and by and large they are shared by neither the people nor the Tory and Republican parties.

Feb. 16, 1999 - from his lecture to the Centre for Policy Studies in London, England
We seem to be in one of those periods, like America in the 1950s, when a general contented prosperity makes radicalism impossible and conservatism unnecessary. With nothing solid to fight against, conservatives have nothing particular to say. Or rather they have nothing general to say.

Feb. 16, 1999 - from his lecture to the Centre for Policy Studies in London, England
Once judges begin to review the merits of legislation or ministerial decisions, they are overstepping their legitimate boundaries and either legislating or governing.

Feb. 16, 1999 - from his lecture to the Centre for Policy Studies in London, England
The practice of delegated legislation [is] allowing bureaucrats to make law without democratic accountability... Today almost all countries are governed by a regulatory state which daily manufactures what are in effect new laws determining such matters as the amount of lead in car emissions, the proper ethnic and gender composition of a small company's workforce, and the level of rents in New York city.

Feb. 16, 1999 - from his lecture to the Centre for Policy Studies in London, England
What is happening today that most resembles that slow spread of Jacobinism? Any answer must be to some degree speculative. But my own is that the next great challenge can now be seen in the gradual undermining of democracy, and the shift of power and decision-making from institutions that are accountable to the voters to those that are either accountable to no-one but themselves or that inhabit a constitutional limbo where they cannot easily be held to account.

Feb. 16, 1999 - from his lecture to the Centre for Policy Studies in London, England
We see the harbingers of [a growing challenge to democracy] in three developments: the shift of power from legislatures to bureaucratic agencies and the courts brought about by over-government; the shift of power from nation-states to supranational bodies; and the development of anti-democratic ideas that, lagging behind events, serve to justify these relatively new political practices and to defend the new loci of power.

Feb. 16, 1999 - from his lecture to the Centre for Policy Studies in London, England