A reader writes:
As a Canadian, where our "Tory streak" has provided us with a larger gamut of "conservatism" I find it funny to hear our health care system described as the product of "socialism" or "liberalism". The reason public health care has been so successful here has been because there is support across the spectrum for the policy: our streak of Toryism has engendered a type of Burkean approach that values "the social order" and therefore conservatives from Bennett to Diefenbaker to Joe Clark and Jim Prentice have come to see safety nets and public health care as tools that help maintain "order", stability and peace within the nation. Our constitution has enshrined the words "peace, order and good government".
Our conservatives may not want to go as far as our "socialists" or even some of our big "L" Liberals want to go on some facets of social policy but the fact is that there are plenty of self-described conservatives up here who support the minimum level of social spending necessary to keep inequality from getting so bad that the spectre of class revolution becomes manifest.
Your sentence: "and I've begun to worry that the last few decades have opened up too big an inequality gap in America for political stability in the long run," sounds distinctly Tory to my ears. Your upbringing in Britain has perhaps imbued you with a "Tory streak" of your own I think.
Now its true that in recent decades Canada has seen its conservative party more closely approximate a typical Republican approach but I am forever thankful that we have a more diverse conservatism up here that helps build consensus across party lines on critically important policies like health care. I look south and see what comes from an ideological environment that purified itself into different strands of classical liberalism, where Toryism died out with the Whigs and where the idea of a conservative supporting social policy is nearly unthinkable nowadays, and thank my lucky stars I was born a few hundred kilometers north of the border.
I do think my inner Tory has re-emerged these past few years (if you're interested, The Conservative Soul is my best attempt to explain where I'm coming from). I remain proud of being a Thatcherite and Reaganite back in the day - but I supported them in large part because they addressed the practical problems of their day with courage and clarity. And they also were pragmatists. Thatcher didn't tackle the coal unions until her second term; privatization was an experiment that became something much more; and Reagan, recall, raised taxes and came to a grand bargain with the Soviet Union. My belief in 2008 was that Obama represented the best practical way forward. And although I'm going to criticize him when warranted, I stand by that 1000 percent. We're lucky to have him.