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I can empathize with your last point: I never pick the winner (well, almost never).

I like your summary of the potential reasons for the success (or potential success) of political inheritance.

I think that given the examples, or at least those that are salient to me, the offspring is rarely as good as the original. This has an interesting parallel in family held/run businesses. The second (and third) generation is only rarely better than the first, though in that case the succession is due to ownership rather than reputation/connections.

All this is to say, the whole "Justin" thing makes me uncomfortable, because I fear that once he is in the spotlight, his lack of skills and depth will become clear. Of course, I am also a poor judge because I care about policy thoughtfulness and depth, and that doesn't seem to be the thing that sways elections, thus my first point about me not picking winners.

I really like the sunspot theory, especially as a theory of monarchies. "If not the King's son, then who? It would be better to choose the King's son, even if he might not be the best, than to have a very destructive fight over who really is the best."

Nick - yup, because in many ways the leader is just a figurehead, and the team below is more important. One of the awkward things about the Reagan presidency is that many believe he was a great president, but at the same time he was suffering from dementia, which says something about how much with-it-ness is really needed in a leader.

b.t.w., did you see that Charles' many many times patched Barbour jacket is being heralded as the latest thing by all the fashionistas?

The liberals are looking for an easily marketable product. They are looking for a saviour. They are still looking for an easy solution.

What they have not done is look in the mirror.

It might work, the lib party could be cleaned out through attrition, but a mea culpa would make them more a more effective opposition, and give them a better shot at the next election than a sunspot figurehead.

What I always found strange about Canadian politics is that whenever one party was deemed "corrupt," members of that party would simply switch teams and then get re-elected! I find it incomprehensible that the voting public can be so dense.

I think if we take Hayek seriously on matters of politics, then there may be a Theory 5: The idea that politics only applies to people with a certain value system. Value systems are known to be fairly consistent from parent to child (despite our silly promises never to end up like our parents), so it makes sense that some power-hungry politician or bureaucrat would raise offspring to be equally power-hungry.

...is it still okay to speak ill of politicians, or has society finally flipped on that and we are supposed to consider them good people now?

chrisj "The liberals are looking for an easily marketable product."

The Trudeau brand is not easily marketable west of Winnipeg. The National Energy Policy still rankles in Alberta, but even in the other Western provinces pirouetting politicians and two-fingered salutes didn't sell well.

Justin Trudeau spent a fair amount of time in the West while growing up (the Sinclair connection), and I think he can connect with the West of the Sea-to-Sky-Highway (i.e. Whistler and Vancouver's affluent North Shore suburbs, which is where the Sinclair family is from). He can probably connect with the West of Nelson and Tofino too. But can he manage Surrey? Burnaby? Saskatoon?

whitfit: "I fear that once he is in the spotlight, his lack of skills and depth will become clear"

That's my fear too.

How topical, I am in the political marketing business, aka I am a member of my NDP Riding Executive. We came third last federal election by only 200 votes (on our redistributed results), all of our neighbouring ridings had the NDP come second, this in Central-Eastern Ontario. I spend my time trying to convince the oldsters that this riding is turnable and we can edge the Liberals next election and come in second, with a little planning and self-help. They are coming around from being a "third-party".

Justin Fever is all hype. His latest theme is "change". Er, OK, I'm 30, I was born in 1982, ten days after the Charter was signed. I don't remember the Trudeau years! He is blatantly playing off his name and running an electoral version of an Oldies radio station. He gets his support from the 50+ who want to relive their youth. But it has no resonance with my generation.

On change, I find it hilarious that a third-party leadership candidate runs on change when his party was lapped by the NDP in the most miraculous, incredible and wacky election result in this country since Confederation. The next time he says change, I'll start posting pics of Ruth-Ellen "Vegas" Brosseau, MP for Berthier-Maskinongé on "Tout le Monde en parle" sitting next to an obviously discomfited Gilles Duceppe.

On youth, Justin is ten years older than me and is nearly twice the age of several sitting members of the NDP Caucus. Who, I might add, have done sterling jobs, have actually gotten involved and did not turn into a leak-a-minute circus like the media expected them to be.

All this is to say, the whole "Justin" thing makes me uncomfortable, because I fear that once he is in the spotlight, his lack of skills and depth will become clear. Of course, I am also a poor judge because I care about policy thoughtfulness and depth, and that doesn't seem to be the thing that sways elections, thus my first point about me not picking winners.

You mean like this, whitfit: http://blogues.lapresse.ca/boisvert/2012/11/23/le-manque-de-jugement-de-justin-trudeau/

English Summary (interview between Patrick Lagacé and Justin Trudeau, Francs-Tireurs, 2010)

Justin Trudeau: Canada is suffering at the moment because Albertans control our community and socio-democratic agenda.

Patrick Lagacé: So is Canada better served when there are more Quebeckers than Albertans in power [in Ottawa]?

Justin Tudeau: Yes.

Thank you, Mr. Trudeau. With that statement, I will destroy you in this riding. That is all I need to say around here to sell my brand and sink yours.

Being completely two-faced when between French and English is a long, long tradition in Canada but is doesn't work so well anymore. English Canadians have learned enough French to find and understand these gems, that's why the French debates are monitored for newsworthy gaffes by interns across the country who have taken French Immersion.

I think the spam filter ate my comment.

Determinant: it did. Which proves there's a Liberal plot to control the media!

Thanks for fishing it out.

The Trudeau brand is not easily marketable west of Winnipeg. The National Energy Policy still rankles in Alberta, but even in the other Western provinces pirouetting politicians and two-fingered salutes didn't sell well.

West of Sudbury, more like. ;)

The interesting thing last election was that Ontario was turning into BC, electorally. The Liberals slid into third place and Ontario saw many Tory/NDP contests, a dynamic that is the norm in most places west of Winnipeg, but very rarely seen in Ontario. Until now.

Between a frigid Quebec, a hostile West and with Ontario decidedly shaky, I don't know where Trudeau's base of seats is supposed to be.

The other thing is that while Pappa Pierre is often accused of killing the Liberal Party by alienating Quebec, Jean Chretien arguably did more. He passed Campaign Finance Reform which capped individual donations and eliminated corporate and union fundraising. That kneecapped the Liberal Party's funding machine. Stephen Harper ripped the Liberal's heart out when he capped donations at $1,200.

The Liberals are inefficient fundraisers. They were classically dependent on corporate donations and high-income, low frequency donations, the kind the present rules work against. The Tories and NDP are both much better retail fundraisers. The Liberals' fundraising apparatus takes too high a cut (=MER) which nails them on retail efforts. To be without money in politics is like being without air, you suffocate.

How the Liberal Party President allowed Chretien to pass his political finance law is beyond me.

How the rest of the party broke is detailed here: http://www.ipolitics.ca/2012/12/30/the-liberals-strange-quest-for-the-centre-right/

Justin is being backed by the professional wonk class, a group stuffed full of lawyers, pollsters, hired guns and other economically right-wing people. These people support the Liberal Party in return for power. Now that the Liberal Party is no longer a guaranteed vehicle for power, and the other parties have stronger ideological components to membership, this class feels bereft and adrift, a feeling they can't stand.

Frances, your theory has a lot of weight in entrepreneurship, as per the well-founded saying "shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations" (e.g., the Aspers). But which is more easily destroyed: financial capital or political brand? Without getting into the apparent hopelessness of the Liberal effort, I think Trudeau would have had a chance had he been 40 and an MP at the time of Chretien's departure, because there were still enough people who would have voted Liberal even if the leader was a sack of potatoes with a smiley face. But the base has eroded. Even I will admit that the thought of a federal NDP government is now less repugnant to me because I know that, if they do win, it will not be the NDP of 2011. It will be a Median Voter Party with a few token gestures to the left (statue of Jack Layton, victim-class Governor General, etc.). The only theory that offers Trudeau any hope is your #4, and even that doesn't bode well.

There is less to say about Trudeau than there is about the party. If they think a millionaire fur-bearer whose job experience is limited to 2 weeks as a sub drama teacher in a Montreal high school, is going to go up against Harper with all his experience, or Mulcair with his nouveau-NDP gravitas (i.e., the beard), then the party elite are to be condemned to hellfire for either their vapidity or their cynicism (I vote for the latter).

Of course, I'm still waiting for my glorious libertarian revolution to happen. Maybe you have a lesson in patience or the management of expectations you can share with me...

Determinant: I read that blog post in La Presse you cited. So, his comments on westerners are "an error of youth"...when he was 38? For him perhaps, yes, and since his juvescence shows no signs of ending, we can expect more.

Frances, regarding dynasties, I found this, courtesy of The Monkey Cage:

“We show that dynastic prevalence in the Congress of the United States is high compared to other occupations…we find that political power is self-perpetuating: legislators who hold power for longer become more likely to have relatives entering Congress in the future. Thus, in politics, power begets power.”

Maybe for members of congress (or MPs) where there is less intense scrutiny. But a Prime Minister?

Determinant: good point on the election financing.

"He gets his support from the 50+ who want to relive their youth." With population aging, I'd guess that over half the electorate is 50+.

Shangwen "in politics, power begets power"

That strikes me as Theory 3, networks are bequeathable.

Mr Trudeau actually taught high school in Vancouver; I don't know if he taught in Montreal as well.

I'm not that sure of actual dynasties in Canada. The Social Credit Bennetts of British Columbia (WAC, aka Wacky and his son Bill) but the others are decidedly marginal. Here's a list:


I'm not even sure the Laytons county; Jack was a New Democrat and his father a Tory cabinet minister. Jack didn't get his father's help with connections, it all had to come from his own work.


I've seen other wacky stuff from Justin. The man gives off a serious aura that his handlers are using him as a puppet, stuffing him with lines and occasionally he goes off-script to general hilarity and Liberal embarrassment.

"He gets his support from the 50+ who want to relive their youth." With population aging, I'd guess that over half the electorate is 50+.

Um, not according to the population pyramid on Wiki. Looks more like a third. The median age nationally is 40.6 years. And not all of that group are his supporters of course; that is the prime Tory demographic too.

If Trudeau flames out like the last two Liberal leaders, I would expect that to be just about enough to bury the party. I would not be pleased with that result. As an empiricist, I prefer a cynical pragmatic party to an idealistic ideological party (Reform and NDP in earlier incarnations), or more likely, cynical ideological parties (CPC and NDP of today).

Frances, thanks for the correction. Clearly distaste is the enemy of accuracy. Regarding your #3, maybe it's that a hierarchy of networks is bequeathable. It's clearly not the same voters as for Trudeau pere, but if the party elite will grant him support, they will activate their networks, and so on, and so on. After all, what information do voters really have? If it is the case that the same elite (as Determinant says, manipulative wonks) refused to support genuinely fine people like Martha Hall Findlay, boo on them. Or is it, instead of a bequest, just a nostalgic echo, like the Mannings?

Andrew F: agreed. Lately I have been thinking of putting up my sword and getting back to voting again. I would have liked Rae or Findlay as PM, or Garneau. But with them I might still have stayed home. If Trudeau gets picked, I'll be back in the booth for sure.

It's worth noting that, unlike Justin Biedeau, Harper and Mulcair have had to work their rears off to build a brand. The two seem pretty similar to me: situational control freaks who know they've inherited a caucus half-populated by losers who don't know how repugnant they are to the median voter (Lukiwski, Bruinooge, and the NDP lumpenkinder). That is good control-freakery in my view. This sort of chronic discomfort is what the Liberals still seem to have failed to acquire. Maybe complacency is also inherited.

Determinant - if the median population age is 40.6, the median age of the electorate will be well above that as people under 18 can't vote. I'd guess it's around 50, and older if one looks at the people who actually vote, as opposed to those who could theoretically vote.

Andrew F, Shangwen - I'm going to refrain from weighing in on the politics except to say that I had a beer with Martha Hall Findlay last time I was in Calgary and was blown away - really liked her a lot. She seemed genuinely interested in and engaged with policy, and very smart. But then I've never had a beer with Justin Trudeau - he might be equally impressive.

"The median age nationally is 40.6 years."

Yeah, but what's the median voter's age? Voting rates are much higher amongst the 50+ than the under 30s.

"Jack didn't get his father's help with connections, it all had to come from his own work."

Without discounting Layton's considerable political talent, it's worth remembering that there is a not inconsiderable overlap between the NDP and the old red Tory wing of the PC party

There is significant taper at the 60+ level while there isn't below that age, take a look at the wiki illustration on "Demographics of Canada". It's not half, 40% more like it. The population is not uniformly distributed.



Yeah, the NDP voted for Mulcair (and I voted for Mulcair) because wanted a brawler, somebody who could and would stick the knife in and twist. That's both keeping the caucus together and sticking it to the side in Question Period, and all the other low-level things that make up the necessary background noise to a respectable political operation. The Liberals still haven't come to grips with the fact that this isn't their father's NDP.


I like smart people, but smart doesn't mean I agree with them. Martha Hall Findlay is an economic liberal, a dogmatic free marketeer, and not my cup of tea. The image of a non-partisan technocrat running the country to perfection is a myth and a fallacy; you must have some sort of ideology to guide decision-making when push comes to shove. I prefer politicians who are honest about that.

I like Hall Findlay as well. I think she could have been a strong leader.

Variant on 4: people analogize about the state as if it were the family/household. Families run on descent, so some version of that feels right for states and other large organisations - there is a reason why there is a word "nepotism"). A rough test of this is that political inheritance is much stronger where family inheritance is stronger (primogeniture and non-partible inheritance).

"Shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations" is an old theme - first given theoretical form by Ibn Khaldun and more recently pursued by the cliometrician Peter Turchin (War and Peace and War). It really only applies where inheritance is comparatively weak. Where, as in western Europe and Japan, inheritance is strong, you are stuck with whatever the family dice throw up, so you have to find work-arounds.

Trudeau's platform is that he is trading on his father's legacy. Papa Pierre was the last time the Liberal Party had anything like a coherent policy and ideology: centralist, corporatist and moderately welfare-statish (let's not get to wound up about how big the Liberals made the Welfare State, they left a lot on the table, unfinished).

The Liberal Party is a brokerage party, it famously claims to have little or no ideology. Instead it substituted power for ideas and made brokerage and the sharing the benefits of power its raison d'etre.

Ok, that can work as a strategy, but it falls apart if you don't have power. The federal Liberals were in power for 70 of the last 100 years and the longest stretch they spent out of power was 1984-1993. By 2015 that will be eclipsed. They have lost three consecutive elections, which they have never done before, and gone through two leaders who failed to make PM, which has never happened since Confederation.

Ideology is nice when in power, but it is absolutely central when you are out of power. It is the ingredient that keeps the machine together and attracts new talent. It's the scrip you pay in when you don't have the currency of power on your side. But the Liberals have trouble making this strategy work, so they are groping for the nearest thing they have, Trudeau Jr.

Peter T: re shirtsleeves. Fascinating. I raised that because it happened in my own family: my grandfather in China was a billionaire in 2013 dollars. Family breakdown and weak institutions in HK and Guangdong thus prevented me from living a life of unimaginable self-indulgence (it thus also kept me out of the Triad, not a bad thing I guess although I'm not a bad shot).

I agree with Frances' preference for the self-made pol. Not much sense that JT feels he has to work hard, is there? An existential flame-out of the grits might be spectacular to watch, but the prospect of a Republican-Democrat political duopoly disturbs me.

Our nearest Westminster-system family, the UK and Australia, both seem to work well on a clear left/right two party system, Tories/Labour in the UK and Liberal-Nationals(Tories, really)/Labor in Australia.

The Democrats in the US are not a left-wing party, they are a populist part that is sometimes left-wing. The Republicans used to have a left wing but killed it in the 1980's, which is why they are completely unbalanced now.

Besides, the kind of gridlock seen in the US Congress is constitutionally impossible in Canada (and every other civilized country). It works both ways, compare the Thatcher and Atlee Goverments in the UK.

whitfit: "I fear that once he is in the spotlight, his lack of skills and depth will become clear"

That's a valid fear. Mind you, seemingly hapless politicians (even the sons of politicians) can evolve into successful leaders. Anyone who watched Dalton McGuinty's (another son of an, admitedly less prominent, Liberal politician) early years wouldn't have been impressed. In 1999 Mike Harris ate his lunch. Four years later, McGuinty crushed Ernie Eves and gave the provincial Tories fits for the next 9 years. Mind you, McGuinty had more going for him before become Liberal leader than Justin Trudeau, but not much.

I suspect that, given time, Trudeau could become at least a threat to the Tories and NDP. But we're talking 2019, not 2015, and it isn't clear that the Liberals have (i) the patience to wait that long (witness the one-and-done careers of Dion and Ignatieff), or (ii) the resources to do so.

I think it'd be easier to give Trudeau a second attempt, given that the party is starting from a low base. If he manages to increase the party's seat count, I suspect he would be given the time to make a second attempt. He has the advantage of being more of a natural politician (which Dion does not have) and younger (which Ignatieff did not have -- being substantially older than the other party leaders) than his two predecessors.

That said, I expect the most likely outcome is for the LPC to muddle forward as a third party (as the Lib Dems have done in the UK for many decades).


I think you're right that youth is Trudeau' singular advantage, in that it gives him the opportunity to learn on the job (if he were 10-years younger, Bob Rae would be the next Liberal leader).

I think the grits are in serious trouble (especially if they can't get their act together west of Missisauga), but until Mulclair proves he can fight and win an election, I wouldn't doom them to third-party status yet. In terms of running an national election campaign Muclair is as untested as Trudeau, and first-time leaders often have a rough go of it (although Muclair does have the advantage, at least, of hacving run a heavily contested leadership campaign and is otherwise a more seasoned politician). It's not as if the NDP's support from 2011 is rock solid. Quebec support has a way of shifting unexpectedly, and Mulclair seems to be doing his damndest to piss-off potential Western supporters. That said, nothing I've seen since 2006 suggests that the Liberals have any ideas on how to get their act together, or any inclination to do so, and certainty JT hasn't been forthcoming over the course of the leadership "race", so you could be right.

I'm reminded of Mancur Olson's, "Dictatorship, Democracy, and Development," which was a rational choice take on why various types of government provide more stability than anarchy. Monarchists prefer dynastic succession because it both encourages the monarch to enforce existing contracts and reduces the likelihood of future succession crises that impair contracts' enforcement.

This doesn't necessarily apply to democracies, but given that all governments have some kind of loyal constituencies, it would appear that Theories 3 and 4 are correct.

Andrew F: "I expect the most likely outcome is for the LPC to muddle forward as a third party"

Out West the Green party is starting to become a significant force, taking over the fertile and largely unoccupied socially liberal/fiscally conservative territory (something which people who insist the Greens are a party of the left fail to understand). So doing as well as third is not a foregone conclusion.

re shirtsleeves: my father uses the phrase "clogs to clogs in three generations" - I guess because in Northern England, where he grew up, poor people wore clogs, that is, wooden shoes.

The fate of the British Liberals is summarized in the book "The Strange Death of Liberal England". The British Liberals were the Party of Government, just like their Canadian offspring pre-1914 and were in power in WWI. But WWI broke them and they never held government again after 1918. The rise of Labour sealed their fate.

Canadian Liberals always patted themselves on the back for cheating that fate.

Anyway, back to ideology and money. Ideology is a luxury for a sitting government, but it really helps when in opposition. What else can you use to convince people to donate money to you?

The Liberals' problem is that without power they don't have a good narrative for their advertising, they don't have something quick, simple, emotional and moving to make people given them money to be reinvested back into advertising for vote. The longer they are out of power, the more acute the problem becomes.

Frances: "socialy liberal/ fiscally conservative": not only that but on the CBC political compass two years ago, their voters position on "national unity" ( meaning QC) was the most similar to the PC. They are tree-huggers but western tree-huggers...

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