Toronto – In Ayn Rand’s 1957 epic novel “Atlas Shrugged,” the question that is often repeated is: “Who is John Galt?” As an Objectivist follower and a Canadian federal Libertarian candidate for the St. Paul’s district, the question now is: Who is John Kettridge?
Federal candidates from the numerous minor Canadian political parties are starting to have their voices heard as they are being invited to the local all-candidates debates. On Saturday, the Online Party of Canada will be hosting the Small Parties Political Conference where 11 parties will present their platforms and discuss the issues.
One of these parties is the Libertarian Party of Canada. Although Libertarianism is a philosophy that has never been put into practice, candidates for the party feel that Canadians maintain aspects of libertarianism, including wanting their rights and freedoms.
John Kettridge, an active libertarian for more than 50 years, is running in this year’s federal election not to win, but to inform and educate the voters. This campaign is to inform the St. Paul’s constituents that freedom and liberty doesn’t divide us, but it brings us together.
John Kettridge’s background
Studying chemistry and physics at McGill University, Kettridge went on to earn an MBA from the University of Western Ontario. This led to Kettridge entering the world of business and becoming the president of a management consulting firm.
Not only has Kettridge excelled academically, the Montreal-native has represented Canada in the World Masters Athletics Championships and won a gold medal.
So why waste his maximum brain capacity on politics? “I actually hate politics, and I don’t consider it brainwork other than that in a sense you have to be stuffy and sneaky, but using your brain, I think it’s a misapprehension.”
Kettridge first became politically active during the 1960s when he “fell in love with objectivism” during his academic days in university. “Ayn Rand, and a lot of Ayn Rand, but there were others too and the movement was growing quite a bit globally.”
Speaking from his home in Leaside, Kettridge explained that the Objectivist principles inspired him and the goals of the political philosophy were the right goals, even though the movement had no say in the political landscape during the 1960s.
“Everybody wants, or at least apart from those who are extremists about something, all seem to want the same thing: the eradication of poverty, or people getting along nicely without war, or resorting to crime, those sorts of things.”
Kettridge feels objectivism is a great principle, but it has never been tested, and went a step further by stating that “freedom has never been tested, despite the existence of the United States.”
“It’s like some types of curves in a graph that will approach a limit in an infinite range and it’s somewhat like that,” said Kettridge. “Anytime we get anywhere near an open framework, whether personally or economically, things really seem to blossom and do well.”
Although Kettridge feels libertarianism isn’t a “total knockoff of objectivism because it’s much looser,” he is a “practical realist” and believes that anytime there is a “minimal movement towards less rather than more, it has demonstrably always been beneficial.”
In the end, Kettridge realizes “we are where we are,” despite how much he dislikes it.
“The starting point of change has to be today, whatever the today is – and today is pretty bad,” explained Kettridge. “I, and Libertarians, tend to recognize no overnight shift is possible, and you have to move things by very small increments.”
External views of libertarianism
Over the years, both libertarianism and objectivism have been accused of being anti-altruistic; a philosophy of indifference to people and society. Those who oppose either libertarianism or objectivism believe, if enacted, everyone will suffer, corporations will run everything and the world will enter into chaos.
Kettridge disagrees with that assessment because he feels quite the opposite. He stated that he doesn’t feel indifference towards his fellow man, but rather he feels for the disadvantaged.
“I recognize that you don’t have to be poor or disadvantaged to have awful experiences,” noted Kettridge, “or for that matter, to become poor or disadvantaged. And you don’t have to be poor or disadvantaged to be taken advantage of either either.”
Despite these claims by philosophical opponents, Kettridge said that these things “happen regularly and I don’t like those.” He added: “I have feelings; I think I’m relatively humane and a humanist and I think most libertarians are.”
“I’m not sure all of us would be selfish as people assume you must be to subscribe to objectivism and libertarianism.”
It is hard to explain the philosophical traits of libertarianism to people, and Kettridge concurred that it is because most people do not make the habit of having an open mind and are not taking the time to carefully think about objectivism or libertarianism.
“I thought a lot about objectivism and the way things happened have made me fortunate to have a business experience that is oriented to performance management in large complex organizations and facilitation of consulting firms,” said Kettridge.
“Getting things done and having objectives and achieving them in large organizations and I know how that happens and know about human performance system and how people organize themselves around objectives of getting things done and what does and what does not motivate and, in particular, what pushes you in the wrong direction, even if you know what the right directions are.”
Kettridge explained that he sees an “awful lot” of the aforementioned in government and he makes these points when he speaks to certain individuals, including those who are victims of their immediate experiences and those who accept government as it is.
This is one of the reasons why he has a trouble speaking on “opportunity-loss” from the present state and “to something a lot less.”
The libertarian view is that society benefits from “much, much less government” and this makes some people “vomit” and others “know what you’re getting at.” The ladder starts to ask questions “that are thought out,” such as what happens to sick people and those in poverty.
“You can get into pretty interesting discussions, but I can’t believe whenever I talk about government, per se, nobody likes it and it doesn’t matter who it is.”
The St. Paul’s candidate feels politics is not a “rational exercise,” but from his perspective when they executive things politically it is an awful experience and he understands this from first-hand experience because he has worked with government organizations.
“Their performance system is very poorly structured in getting things done,” said Kettridge. “I see that, but it’s hard to get into quantitatively. I go back to the opportunity-loss thing; we human beings have a very difficult time understanding something that isn’t within our own experience.”
When a libertarian individual discusses no government, or less, the listener will immediately paint a picture of hospital patients being thrown in the streets dying or the injured not getting to the hospital – Kettridge noted that is already happening and there are numerous examples of these instances.
Kettridge finds this befuddling, though, because the people who complain about this are now asking for more from the same agencies who deliver these inadequate services. “It’s tough to deal with.”
Why is this, though? Kettridge believes that the general public is irrational. The people think that changing politicians and changing the people in politics is going to change something, but completely forgo that there are “tens of thousands of bureaucrats for each politician.”
“Changing the people in politics could change the approach, but when in fact it can’t change the performance structure,” said Kettridge. “The other thing is there are a lot of people who can see benefit for themselves in a certain policy, or a riding benefit they are getting.” He added that these people are not realizing in the process that they are encouraging and facilitating everyone else to do exactly that.
Re-examining the role of government or analyzing what could be different in government is not considered the norm, according to Kettridge. “Because we haven’t stepped back and looked at the changes that have took place in the last 10 years that might encourage us to do things differently.”
Although there are no illusions of grandeur, the Libertarian Party hopes that the movement will educate and inform people that they will become so fed up and willing to consider alternative directions that it may have some influence.
On this issue, Kettridge started out by talking about his father who lived to be 100 years old (born in 1902 and perished in 2002). During his father’s time, the dollar he had back in 1902 would have been worth $20 to $25 on the day he died.
On the other hand, the dollars society has today on the day he died were worth about four cents what he had then.
“The gradual impact year after year – and there was hardly any government in 1902, there wasn’t even an income tax in 1902. Gradually a little bit over time it became suddenly 25 times, or a deterioration of 95 percent.
Kettridge, although not a full-fledged expert economics, is a “Milton Friedman-type economics.” The primary factor of overall inflation is due to “government mismanagement of money.”
“Originally, it used to be physically printing and now there are other factors,” explained Kettridge. “Those factors are the factors causing general inflation and the sorts of bubbles we are experiencing now and the bubbles, or the awful experiences we’ll have with the probable hyperinflation.”
He also feels that wage levels have remained stagnant or have decreased, but are being disguised by inflation.
Austrian Theory and Libertarianism go hand in hand because, as Kettridge said, their arguments and demonstrations “are pretty solid too,” especially when their lessons are put in straightforward, understandable terms that make a lot of sense.
“I’m really quite frightened about those sorts of things now; in the past it was always quite gradually for us with a couple of exceptions and a couple of period of times. With the sorts of stimulus we’re throwing into the economy globally, I think we’re in for a disaster. I’m worried about that.”
In an interview with Toronto Centre Libertarian federal candidate Judi Falardeau, she stated that the only role Canada should have on the world stage is to maintain embassies around the world to continue talk and trade relations.
Kettridge disagrees with this assessment and realizes that his position on foreign policy is a “little more extreme than she is.” He doesn’t think that government has any role to play in trade development, and the only ones that should be involved in international trading are the ones who actually trade.
Furthermore, Kettridge doesn’t feel the need for passports nor embassies all around the world because it is a waste, especially the buildings that are constructed by architects specifically for their current functions.
“I do have trouble explaining what would substitute for passports because no one would let Canadians in anywhere if they didn’t have them,” said Kettridge. “I think the best foreign posture and any country would be to do a hell of a good job at home at being a free country; basically setting itself up for a poster child.”
The current wars in Afghanistan and Libya are complete mistakes because the nation doesn’t need troops helping the government of Afghanistan’s “set of thugs for another.” But Canada does need the military for protection and to avoid attacks from foreign invaders.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s recent purchase of F-35 fighter jets has been a hot topic for the mainstream media and the Conservative leader’s opponents. Kettridge doesn’t think it’s either defense or military spending, but rather “political spending.” “I think that jet is absolutely useless.”
“They are political purchase decisions, which are the very worst kind and they happen to be huge when it comes to military stuff and the waste compounded on top of waste. We tend to be heavy anti in almost all of that, but we would like to see a fundamental of essential capability that would make us comfortable.”
In terms of the United Nations, Kettridge thinks the international body “is a joke” and doesn’t think Canadian taxpayers should foot the bill to have any sort of involvement in the UN; either as peacekeepers or to sit at the tables in New York City “with so many dictatorial, thuggish and corrupt leaders.”
He said that most of the UN’s agendas and goals that have floated around the UN have been severely misdirected or corrupt and have not produced any results. “I really have a low opinion of the UN.”
Foreign aid has been a tough issue for any public or private official. If you oppose foreign aid then you are viewed as a monster, but if you support foreign aid you have the chance of perpetuating the crises in the country that received this aid.
Kettridge disagrees with the idea and views foreign aid as being pocketed by leaders, disappears or even unaccounted for.
“It’s one of those things as a government, I don’t have the right to dictate to each citizen that four cents for every tax dollar is going to XYZ country,” said Kettridge. “I think what you want as a Canadians is to freely give whatever you want to give.”
Is there anything else Canada should be doing with other nations?
“I do believe some international involvement communications and relationships are necessary,” said Kettridge. “I think the interests of Canadians internationally don’t have to be representative, but possible to speak to international governments somehow just because that’s the only thing these international governments will accept.”
He added that Canadian libertarians are more interested in the removal of provincial barriers than being a member of the UN.
St. Paul’s Riding
The electoral district of St. Paul’s is located in Toronto, Ontario and has been represented in the House of Commons since 1935. The riding stretches from Dupont Street to Bayview Avenue and Eglinton Avenue to Davenport Road.
It has a population of more than 110,000 and the average annual income is $34,000. Carolyn Bennett has been the Liberal Member of Parliament since 1997. The riding has generally been Liberal, and has been so since its inception.
Conservative candidate Maureen Harquail, Green Party candidate Debborah Donnelly and New Democratic candidate William Molls are vying for a seat in St. Paul’s.