Yo, Canada

Yo, Canada

: Here’s a heretical thought coming out of four nice days in Toronto:

Would our world in America be all that different if we had not revolted against England?

I don’t mean to piss off Canadians with another observation that, gosh, we’re so much alike. Of course, there are differences, cultural and philosophical. Robertson Davies used to argue that Canada actually has more in common in its worldview with Scandanavia than with the U.S. and I think he had a point. And I will say that Canadians are lousy at making left turns.

I also don’t mean to piss off Americans by devaluing that which we value so strongly: our Constitution and Bill of Rights (well, except when we find the First Amendment politically inconvenient) and dogged individualism. Nor do I necessarily want to get into an argument about what I still view as the superiority, even with its problems, of the Canadian health-insurance system.

And perhaps one could argue that we’re similar because of the gravitational pull of our oomph and that oomph comes from the independence bred of the revolution.

But having given all those caveats, it is still true that we and our lives are remarkably similar for having taken such different paths 200 years ago. And our lives are similar to the lives in England and then by extension in Europe and what we haughtily call the “modern” Western world.

What ties us together, I think, is not history or revolution or philosophy but simply democracy.

What ties us together is that when you give people the right to determine their own destiny, they will find the water levels of freedom and civilization.

: I was sitting in the Toronto airport thinking about this as I read a Q&A with Natan Sharansky in the National Post (which, stupidly, won’t let us see the story; I wish I could tell you to read the whole thing but I can’t) as he flogged his new book, The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny & Terror. Sharansky makes powerful arguments in favor of democracy for all people and against the prejudiced and wrong-headed belief that some people do not want or are not ready for democracy.

Why are you optimistic that people will be achieved in the Middle East?

Because I believe that every society on earth can be free and that if freedom comes to the Middle East, there can be peace. The question is whether the free world will do everything in its power to help this region become democratic.

Amen to that. Ultimately, democracy is what will tie the people of the world together. We may seem to be on radically, dangerously different courses now but in the long run, let people govern themselves, give the people control of their lives, and people will be people.

: By the way, here’s the proof that the U.S. and Canada are alike after all. I pick up Maclean’s magazine and what’s the cover story but:

The War Between Town and Country. Cottagers vs. farmers. Suburbs vs. small towns. Urban cash vs. rural clout. This is Canada’s next culture war.

AKA red provinces vs. blue.

  • Roddy McCorley

    One of the many biographies I’ve read of George Washington (which just proves how much I must hate America) made the interesting point that had the Colonies not been English, the Revolution might never have happened. The Colonists thought of themselves as Britons, entitled to all the same rights as any other British citizen. Denied that recognition by Parliament, they sought it from the King. When he sided with Parliament, that’s when we opted for independence.
    Had the colonies been, say, Spanish those sorts of pesky notions of equality would probably never have come into play.
    Canada, too, has a history rooted in the rights of British citizens. That more than anything is probably what lies at the root of our similarities.

  • I won’t begin to try to speak with authority on this topic — there are historians who have spent entire careers trying to sort out such “what if” historical scenarios. Who’s to say, for instance, that Canada would enjoy its present independence and democracy had the United States not fought its revolution. Or what if the Canadian route to democracy had been the path of the French Revolution and its excess? Or what if? What if? Canada is a wonderful place with wonderful people. And the country and people of Canada have made great contributions to mankind. But the history of Canada, and the freedoms it enjoys today, is more influenced by the American Revolution than by some random or inevitable march of history.

  • Jeff-
    Modest agreement. We and our Canadian friends enjoy a great many similarities due to our common European history.
    Modest disagreement. Canada’s health system is not superior to ours. It is dependent on ours.
    Those needing urgent (but non-emergency) care often come to the States for prompt medical care. I read a story once about a man diagnosed with some non-emergency ocular problem that grew an emergency, blindness-threatening problem before his scheduled surgical date could arrive. Here in the US, similar problems are addressed in days rather than months.
    Additionally, Canada (like other nations) access American pharmaceutical technology without paying their fair share of the research and development costs. If there were a way to prevent other nations from using American researched drugs while using price caps that do not adequately fund R&D, then many nations would be up the proverbial creek without a pharmaceutical paddle.
    Our health care system could be better. However socializing it is not a productive step towards that worthy objective.

  • zt miles

    For another view of the Canadian health care system see “Bad Things Come to He Who Waits” in the Western Standard. http://www.westernstandard.ca/website/index.cfm?page=article&article_id=368

  • Additionally, Canada (like other nations) access American pharmaceutical technology without paying their fair share of the research and development costs.
    Nonsense. Instead of parrotting the propaganda the pharmaceutical companies feed you, why don’t you find out the truth.
    The pharmaceutical companies are raking in a net profit that’s far higher than their R&D outlay. Take a look at Pfizer’s balance sheets, for instance.
    In 2001 they made a net profit of just under $10 billion while only shelling out $4.7 billion on R&D. In 2002, the numbers were $11.7 billion and $5.2 billion. In 2003 they only raked in $3.9 billion while spending $7.1 billion but that was because they spent $5 billion on mergers and acquisitions.
    They’re playing you for fools.

  • Jim S

    Sharansky is right about people wanting to be free. He’s wrong about that giving rise to anything approaching democracy in the Middle East. They will, more often than not, vote in an Islamic government because nothing bad can come from good people who believe in Allah. Maybe it won’t be as radical as Iran or Saudi Arabia. Maybe. Why? Because their culture may not eliminate their desire for freedom, but it does devalue their desire for other people to be free. You know, those strange people who believe in Jesus? Who don’t pray 5 times a day and think that Sunday should be the Sabbath? We won’t even discuss agnostics, atheists or, Allah forfend, the Jews.

  • Robert-
    Yes and if every country paid a portion of those profits, then drug prices in the US would be substantially lower.

  • Andy Freeman

    > The pharmaceutical companies are raking in a net profit that’s far higher than their R&D outlay.
    I’m still waiting for folks who believe that drug companies make too much money to do the right thing, namely, start a drug company and run it as they preach. If their claims about the drug biz are correct, such a drug company will make lots of money AND drive down the cost of drugs. With said money, they can do other good works, or they can drive down the prices even more.
    Yet, I’m still waiting. Why aren’t they willing to do the good they demand of others?

  • I’m still waiting for folks who believe that drug companies make too much money to do the right thing, namely, start a drug company and run it as they preach.
    Dude, you’re talking about people whose most advanced technological feat is making puppets for anti-war demonstrations.
    “A liberal is mathematically illiterate, and proud of it.” — Robert Heinlein

  • We will have peace when we have a World Without Dictators.
    The globalized world is too small to allow equal legitamacy to democracies and dictatorships and theocracies. The UN needs to be reformed by an increase in the power and budget making authority of the democracy caucus, with the US and the UK pushing explicit pro-democracy.
    The World Bank should be primarily supporting small businesses and private-owned home ownership — “equality in the market” leads to equality among buyers, and equality among voters.
    But transitions can be hellish.