Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Parable of the Failed State

The thing that has been - it is what will be again, and that which has been done is that which will be done again; and there is nothing new under the sun. Is there a thing of which it may be said, See, this is new? It has already been, in the vast ages of time which were before us. - Ecclesiastes 1:9-10

At this time [the year 1908 – D.], Canadian financial interests joined forces with the Reid Newfoundland Company in an effort to manipulate Newfoundland into confederation. Their instrument was E.P. Morris, Bond’s minister of justice, who left the Liberals and formed his own party in 1907. The new People’s party was drawn from a growing middle class of small businessmen, lawyers, journalists, and newly prosperous outport merchants, not all of whom were aware of Morris’ secret corporate backing. The party was marked by a reversion to the late nineteenth-century policy of adventurism. Morris capitalised on recent industrial development and prospering fisheries to announce a programme of extensive national development encompassing agriculture, mining, local manufacturing, and the fisheries; its keystone the construction of several costly branch railways. Succumbing to Morris’ promises of “something for everyone,” Newfoundlanders ignored the lessons of 1894 [a bank crash/depression that devastated the country – D.], becoming caught up in a euphoria that the revenue was ultimately incapable of supporting. They ousted the cautious Bond from power.

In the process, political life underwent a substantial change. During the Whiteway era, parties had been organised on the basis of rival views of Newfoundland’s destiny. After 1900, only Bond’s party maintained a coherent vision of the future, but his Liberalism was as much identified with his hostility to the Reid interests as it was with his nationalistic fisheries policy. Morris’ party was no more than a fraud, a vehicle to be used by its leaders to buy their way into office and further their ambitions. It represented cooperation with the Reids, and for the rank-and-file it became an efficient channel for patronage and profit. Confederation was shelved. Uninspired by a national vision, politicians contented themselves with extracting a living from the system, and reduced politics to the supervision of an unwieldy and inadequate administrative structure. Parties evaded fundamental economic and social issues and as a result became the expression not of ideas, but of violent personality conflicts. [Emphasis added – D.]

From Ian D.H. McDonald’s “To Each His Own”: William Coaker and the Fishermen’s Protective Union in Newfoundland Politics, 1908-1925, pg. 3

2 comments:

Edward G. Hollett said...

Sounds familiar doesn't it?

History is not what happened, as someone once said. It is what we remember.

What sort of history can you have in a place with amnesia?

Drew said...

apparently, a series of re-runs