Print Edition: October 30, 2013
The reader has to come to this book with an open mind.
The ideas of Dart’s red tory tradition are not familiar to us. Although the writing is accessible, its topics simply are not. Keepers of the Flame is a collection of political philosophy, but it also works as a gateway into understanding the red tory perspective. It is an introduction to a lost form.
But Dart isn’t simply speaking to the ghost of George Grant and Stephen Leacock. He lays down his own conclusions on the state of Canadian affairs.
The ground covered in the book is immense.
To start, red toryism is not what you think it is. It’s not blue. The best way to define red toryism is as a political ideology: a way to look at the world. But unlike more common political views, red toryism holds open and clear dialogue as one of its tenets. All views and ideologies are required to be debated. It is a political vision that values all political views.
The idea of the “common wheel” is at the core of the red tory tradition. The whole is better than the sum of its parts. The commons is as important as the private. These two realms should be balanced with poise.
Red toryism isn’t conservative or liberal in the modern sense. It finds value in traditional models as much as progressive ones. For Dart’s toryism, history serves as a literary analysis of the current day. The fondness for tradition, linked with the preservation of the environment and the commons, gives this collection of ideas a classically liberal feel.
With red-tinted glasses the conservatism we know today looks shallow and inauthentic – modern conservatism conserves very little. The main ideas that Blue Tories and American Republicans want to preserve are extreme forms of the first wave of liberalism; private property as the public good, less state involvement, and gifts from Ayn Rand.
The essence of red toryism comes from seeds planted in high Anglicism, but don’t let that lead to a drawing of Dart’s work as bible-thumping caricature. His writing is reserved and painstakingly open to the greater good of all.
The book’s overarching theme is balance and caution: do not idealize the left or the right. The answer to the pains of a free market society is not communism.
Keepers of the Flame is an essential addition to Dart’s bibliography. The essays within are bound together with a much needed, formal edition. Fermentation Press has printed this collection with higher quality than other texts in the genre.
There has been recent debate about professors requiring students to read their own books, but that issue aside, I would prescribe this book to all Canadians. The red tory tradition is the Canadian tradition, a crucial part of our country’s DNA.