In my previous post I linked to a Marxist-sounding op-ed by the dean of the University of Toronto’s business school. Hard to imagine any of his American b-school counterparts writing such words. In thinking about Canada, I am reminded of a piece from Bloomberg.com last July on how Canada’s “hardheaded socialism” has made it richer than the US, that the net worth of Canadian households was now greater than those south of the border. The author, Stephen Marche, described the approach of conservative Canadian governments, including the present one. Money quote [emphasis added in bold]
Both liberals and conservatives in the U.S. have tried to use the Canadian example to promote their arguments: The left says Canada shows the rewards of financial regulation and socialism, while the right likes to vaunt the brutal cuts made to Canadian social programs in the 1990s, which set the stage for economic recovery.
The truth is that both sides are right. Since the 1990s, Canada has pursued a hardheaded (even ruthless), fiscally conservative form of socialism. Its originator was Paul Martin, who was finance minister for most of the ’90s, and served a stint as prime minister from 2003 to 2006. Alone among finance ministers in the Group of Eight nations, he “resisted the siren call of deregulation,” in his words, and insisted that the banks tighten their loan-loss and reserve requirements. He also made a courageous decision not to allow Canadian banks to merge, even though their chief executives claimed they would never be globally competitive unless they did. The stability of Canadian banks and the concomitant stability in the housing market provide the clearest explanation for why Canadians are richer than Americans today.
Martin also slashed funding to social programs. He foresaw that crippling deficits imperiled Canada’s education and health-care systems, which even his Conservative predecessor, Brian Mulroney, described as a “sacred trust.” He cut corporate taxes, too. Growth is required to pay for social programs, and social programs that increase opportunity and social integration are the best way to ensure growth over the long term. Social programs and robust capitalism are not, as so many would have you believe, inherently opposed propositions. Both are required for meaningful national prosperity.
Social programs were cut not to gut them—and certainly not for ideological reasons à la the American right—but to perennialize them. And no one on the Canadian right is talking about replacing the country’s single-payer health care system with something akin to what presently exists in the US.
On Canadian banks and regulation—of Canada not going off the deregulatory cliff—, business reporter Theresa Tedesco and Paul Krugman had analyses in ’09 and ’10, respectively (here and here). Should the US Congress be so inspired.
On current right-wing praise for “socialist” Canada, conservative onetime press baron Conrad Black had an op-ed last weekend in the conservative New York Sun, misleadingly entitled “How Canada Has Eclipsed America In the Obama Years” (misleading because Black dates the beginning of the eclipse well before Obama took office). Money quote [emphasis added in bold]
the United States has fumbled away its gentle overlordship of the world these last 15 years. [i.e. through the entire Bush-Cheney period] Huge current account deficits and colossal federal budget deficits arose, and while the United Sates is generally successful [sic] in real wars, its habit of calling policy attacks on sociological problems “wars” has led to the conspicuous failures of the wars on crime, poverty and drugs.
The Canadian dollar has risen from 65¢ American to par, and Canada’s comparative standard of living has inched upwards, and its wealth is much more evenly distributed. The jagged nature of American democracy left 40 million African Americans unsegregated but still the subject of institutionalized discrimination, and 70% of people with magnificent (free) medical care and 30% with access to care but on a pretty stingy and erratic basis.
American education has become very uneven, American justice has degenerated into a turkey shoot for the benefit of a prosecutorial class that terrorizes the country and has given America 10 times the average number of incarcerated people per capita of other advanced prosperous democracies. Sixty million basic manufacturing and service jobs have been out-sourced while 20 million unskilled peasants were admitted illegally to the country, and trillions of dollars of worthless real estate-backed securities inundated the world, pumped out by Wall Street and certified as investment grade, almost asphyxiating the American financial industry while trillions of dollars and thousands of American lives were squandered in the sanguinary Quixotry of nation-building in the Middle and Near East.
Okay, an American conservative may retort to this that Black is Canadian—or he used to be, until he became a Brit—so whaddaya expect?! But still…
Black then offers this
Prudent, hesitant Canada, ran 14 federal government surpluses in a row. We are the pigs in the brick house — it isn’t a heroic position, neither daring nor stylish, but Canadians are peering through the portals of their stout solid home, transfixed and astonished.
Astonished at America. My, even libertarian Cato Institute types (e.g. here; h/t for the above image) are praising the Canadian way of running the economy. Now they do deplore the government-run health care system and government spending that amounts to 42% of national output, but the fact remains that Canada is prospering—and in the estimation of the libertarians—despite the government-run health care system and high levels of government spending. Which, ergo, means that economies and countries can indeed prosper with government-run health care and high levels of government spending. Or under what American conservatives call “socialism”…
One is reminded of American right-wing dissing of Canada in the last decade, most famously expressed by Patrick Buchanan, who referred to the country as “Soviet Canuckistan” back in ’02. This was at least humorous. Less humorous was a cover story on Canada in the National Review, also in ’02, entitled “Wimps!” In the screed author Jonah Goldberg opined that what Canada needed was “a little invasion” by the US
It’s quite possible that the greatest favor the United States could do for Canada is to declare war on it. No, this isn’t a tribute to South Park, the TV cartoon that popularized a song — Blame Canada — calling for an outright invasion of America’s northern neighbor. A full-scale conquest is unnecessary; all Canada needs is to be slapped around a little bit, to be treated like a whining kid who’s got to start acting like a man. Why would such a war be necessary? The short answer is: to keep the Canadians from being conquered by the United States. In effect, it would be a war to keep Canada free.
Other tidbits from the screed
Canada is barely a functioning democracy at all: Its governmental structure, if described objectively, is far more similar to what we would expect in a corrupt African state with decades of one-party rule.
Despite Canada’s self-delusions, it is, quite simply, not a serious country anymore. It is a northern Puerto Rico with an EU sensibility.
If the U.S. were to launch a quick raid into Canada, blow up some symbolic but unoccupied structure — Toronto’s CN Tower, or perhaps an empty hockey stadium — Canada would rearm overnight. Indeed, Canada might even be forced to rethink many of its absurd socialist policies in order to pay for the costs involved in protecting itself from the Yankee peril. Canada’s neurotic anti-Americanism would be transformed into manly resolve. The U.S. could quickly pretend to be frightened that it had messed with the wrong country, and negotiate a fragile peace with the newly ornery Canadians. In a sense, the U.S. owes it to Canada to slap it out of its shame-spiral. That’s what big brothers do.
Goldberg naturally did not spare “Canada’s disastrous health-care system.” Other US right-wingers also jumped on the Canada-bashing bandwagon, such as Ann Coulter, who informed Canadians that they were “lucky we allow them to exist on the same continent,” and Tucker Carlson, who snickered that “without the U.S., Canada is essentially Honduras” (see here).
Voilà a slice of the American right’s Weltanschauung. To Goldberg, Coulter et al the only thing I have to say to them is this.