Ph.D. Octopus

Politics, media, music, capitalism, scholarship, and ephemera since 2010

Canadian Social Democracy

with 4 comments

Big man wotty weighs in on Krugman’s Canadian piece. I’ve heard this argument- that Canadian difference isn’t just about different institutions, but a different culture- from other Canadians as well.

But I wonder, is it possible that Canadians by and large have a better attitude toward their government exactly because they have better institutions? In other words, perhaps Canadians like their government because their government provides them with health care and decent education, whereas ours mostly just drafts us or imprisons us. What came first the chicken of big government or the egg of positive ideas about that government?

I ask this because I suspect that were Americans, by some fluke, to pass, for instance, single payer health insurance, it would become very popular very quickly despite our supposed cultural dislike of government.

So Canadians, any thoughts? Am I full of it?


Written by Peter Wirzbicki

February 3, 2010 at 21:24

4 Responses

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  1. Um, wiz? You’re trying to drive up hits to our blog and our current lead post is titled: “Canadian social democracy”? I’m just saying. xo big man wotty


    February 3, 2010 at 22:09

  2. Yes (…you are full of it, perhaps even a hoser). Wiz has clearly not spent much time in Canada. Though I was born and raised in New England, I spent 2 years living in western Canada. Canadians have a fundamentally different culture that leads to different institutions. Of course this personal experience argument is anecdotal and most likely unconvincing to a bunch of academics. So, all you historians, use your own discipline for a moment. In the late 1700s during and after the US fought a war of independence “United Empire Loyalists” left the US for Canada. These were the people who did not not espouse the individualist ideal of “independence”, the did not elect violent revolution. Now can hear the arguments coming about the bourgeois nature of the American Revolutionary War, but the reality is the US has retained that culture of individualism. That original willingness to remain within the system to act as participating citizens in their governance and toward a slow reform for sovereignty without complete independence has help form Canadian values and culture. Perhaps the resulting institutes have reinforced that culture. Canadians are clearly more civilly engaged on the whole than Americans. The are also less confrontational. In this light Wotty is correct “Canadians do see a necessary and beneficial role for government to play. We do not reflexively mistrust regulation or imagine government to be so inherently inefficient and corrupt that everything possible should be left up to the private sector.” The value is evident today, as it was in the 1700s.
    Yes the question seems futile, ‘which came first the culture or the institutions’?, but I argue that before the institutions, the very value on which those institutions are based was made of a different material than it’s American counter part.

    honorary Canadian

    February 4, 2010 at 00:52

  3. yes, big man wotty, as it were, subscribes to honorary canadian’s analysis. the first two thoughts I had in response to little man wiz’s question were: a) the chicken/egg problematique is indeed a canard (the chicken is a duck?) as there never really is a clear chicken and a discrete egg (it’s kind of like asking: do individuals make up societies, or do societies make up individuals?), and b) I thought of the UEL’s fleeing revolution for the warm monarchical embrace to the north.


    February 4, 2010 at 12:57

  4. If the US adopted a single payer health insurance system it would become more like Canada. But we just saw how Obama could not even get a public option. There is a profound difference here in the noton of tne role of government which is a huge difference in the political culture. Canadians have some suspicions of government but they don’t automatically label as socialist anything governments do except defence.

    mel watkins

    February 4, 2010 at 16:32

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