Ever notice the similarities between social democrats and red tories, these days? No, I'm not talking about Jack Layton -- I mean realistic social dems. If you cover up the byline, you may find yourself nodding at old Tony Blair, Ed Broadbent, Roy Romanow or Gary Doer speeches. It's no coincidence -- the so-called "Third Way" to which these men have committed themselves bears a striking resemblance to classic Red Toryism:
1. Fundamentally, both share an inclusive, organic view of society, including a belief in the necessity of mutual obligation to bind together members of the community. This view conflicts with the atomistic, liberal notion of society as a collection of competing individuals.
2. Both red toryism and the third way treat society and the market as separate, but interdependent. For red tories, this is embodied in the desire to put politics before economics when necessary; for social democrats, it means striving to prevent a market society from evolving out of a market economy.
3. In this vein, both ideologies also view the state as a positive instrument in society, and promote government intervention in the economy when necessary to promote the interests of the community (red toryism) or achieve social justice (the third way).
4. Yet, both are rooted in what Giddens (1998: 66) calls "philosophic conservatism," and stand opposed to revolutionary changes to society and its political institutions. Rooted in a strong distrust or dissatisfaction with the type of sweeping social plans embodied in socialism, red toryism and the third way advocate progressive, incremental reform.
To say that Third Way social dems "stole" our doctrine is a little harsh. After all, imitation is the highest form of flattery. It does help to explain why some of us are drawn to moderates like Doer and Broadbent, though -- especially considering the socon and neocon leanings of so many so-called "Tory" leaders.