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William D. Gairdner

Author and columnist, founding president of the Canadian conservative society Civitas, chairman of the world-leading medical research foundation The Gairdner Foundation, doctor of literature, former Olympic athlete. Author or editor of The Trouble With Canada, Canada's Founding Debates, After Liberalism, The Trouble with Democracy (2001) and other works. Dr. Gairdner has a web site offering more information about his work.

Books by William D. Gairdner
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After Liberalism: Essays in Search of Freedom, Virtue, and Order (1998)
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Canada's Founding Debates: A Conversation With The Founders (1999)
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On Higher Ground: Reclaiming a Civil Society (1996)
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The Trouble with Democracy
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Trouble with Canada, The: A Citizen Speaks Out (1990)

War Against the Family: A Parent Speaks Out (1993)

Click here for essays by William D. Gairdner
We think the word democracy has to do only with individual rights, and no longer with our larger responsibilities to the whole people. We seem to believe that individuals have all the rights, and governments have all the duties. The people are simply forgotten. Until we rethink these fundamental propositions, democracy will continue to deceive us.

Jun. 25, 2001 - from Commentary, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
What is perhaps most ironic and extraordinary about our current sense of democracy ... is how its constituent words: freedom, choice, equality, and rights, are used to defend the blatantly contradictory notions of individualism and collectivism simultaneously. Although many Canadians died defending the former against the latter, we now embrace both with an equal fondness.

Jun. 25, 2001 - from Commentary, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
... the most important civilizational ideals are ultimately weighed according to some publicly accepted notion of virtue and vice ... There can be no moral framework, and therefore no true community, without a judicious public intolerance. In other words, there can be no public sense of virtue without a public sense of vice.

Apr. 2001 - from The Trouble with Democracy
... momentous shifts and changes in the ground of human society are usually very slow and seldom felt at the time. The ordinary citizens of ancient Athens or Rome had little inkling that their civilizations were already in deep decline as they lived their daily lives, raised their children, worked their slaves, went to a play, or the baths, or the bloody gladitorial matches ... It is a fact, and a seeming paradox, that the moral and social decay of any civilization may occur in the midst of a general material well-being that serves to mask the decline.

Apr. 2001 - from The Trouble with Democracy
... it seems our fabulous material comfort has made it all too easy to abandon the first duty of free citizens: sincere, lifelong moral and intellectual interest in this greatest of all reflections [political philosophy]. We seem more subject than ever to to mass unconcern - or rather, to a kind of active apathy - and hence to gross ideological manipulation.

Apr. 2001 - from The Trouble with Democracy
Everybody uses the word "democracy" to defend all sorts of contradictory policies and points of view. ... It has become a cheap concept passed around to serve all needs.

Mar. 2001 - from promotional notes for The Trouble with Democracy
Canada would benefit from a cantonal form of government, such as the Swiss enjoy, rather than our present "executive federalism," or top-down form of government.

Mar. 2001 - from promotional notes for The Trouble with Democracy
Although democracy is really just a technique for the distribution of power, we have allowed it to become a new and dangerously unexamined belief system. In a sense, as faith in God and a law above the people weakened, they were replaced by a rising faith in the people and in the "progress" of secular society. The twentieth century was a battleground between warring concepts of democracy that had all become political religions of a sort.

Mar. 2001 - from promotional notes for The Trouble with Democracy
The really exciting educational fact here is that Darwin's theory of evolution has been attacked with increasing severity and power this century by prestigious paleontologists, geologists, transformed cladists, discontinuists, molecular biologists, creationists (religious as well as atheistic), and proponents of intelligent design... But you wouldn't know it to read most school textbooks or class notes. There you find more interest in confining students to stale theories, junk science, and politicized social theory, than offering the far more interesting and complicated truth. Too bad.

Jan. 01, 1997 - from "Educational Junkscience", published on The Canadian Conservative Forum
[The true conservative is] prepared to defend the full range of natural differences that arise from the free expression of talent and effort in each human being, and thus will refuse in principle to forcibly equalize society. He generally seeks local solutions to human problems rather than any homogenizing state action. He is naturally anti-egalitarian, and finds poisonous and immoral the idea of forcibly levelling society, of trying to raise the weak by weakening the strong.

Sep. 01, 1997 - from "Conservatism in a Nutshell", published on The Canadian Conservative Forum
Modern democratic theory [includes] the almost hysterically naive idea that from the pooled votes of more free citizens will arise more goodness and truth.

Dec. 01, 1998 - from "Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the Romantic Roots of Modern Democracy", published on The Canadian Conservative Forum
For the [modern liberal], Man is naturally good and is ultimately perfectible by human means and reason alone, with no particular help needed from God, transcendent moral standards, or, for that matter the next-door neighbour. Human failings and ignorance are ultimately said to be rooted not in the individual but in badly flawed human societies. That is why "progressive" regimes are needed to engineer human perfection.

Sep. 01, 1997 - from "Conservatism in a Nutshell", published on The Canadian Conservative Forum
All government must be structured to protect man from his own worst proclivities. One manís cruelty is bad enough, but multiplied by millions it produces tyranny. Therefore, because we know there is a wide range of abilities and intelligence, virtues and vices, the raw will of the people as a whole needs to be tempered, or "filtered," by the experience and prudence of the best and wisest among us.

Sep. 01, 1997 - from "Conservatism in a Nutshell", published on The Canadian Conservative Forum
[Statistics Canada no longer collects statistics on marriages and divorces] It can only be a political statement that the natural family is not an important organization. ... The philosophy of modern liberalism has penetrated so deeply into the public consciousness that it means nothing to Statistics Canada to throw out a statistic like this. To the government we are all individuals, and they are not interested in the institutions we form.

Jul. 22, 1996 - quoted in "In the eyes of God, but not of Ottawa", by Michael Jenkinson, published in Alberta Report