No, Canada Isn’t Evil

Did you know that more North American cars are manufactured in Ontario than in Michigan?

Unfortunately, our country’s political tensions are so elevated that anyone who even suggests the possibility that another country may do something better than the U.S. is labeled unpatriotic. Of course, those suggestions are made because the person making them cares deeply about our country’s future, but that point often gets ignored.

Fareed Zakaria of Time Magazine penned an interested piece in the 2/16 issue entitled “The Canadian Solution.” In it he points out several areas in which Canada’s government policies appear to be working better than ours. Maybe if we finally can admit that not everything we do in the U.S. turns out to be perfectly right, we can begin to at least consider other kinds of policies without being labeled un-American.

It became clear from President Obama address last night that healthcare reform will be on his agenda in 2009. A likely focus for such reform will be making sure that every American has health insurance. Such a task will undoubtedly be bad-mouthed by many, labeled as socialism.

“Let the free market work, we can’t be socialists like Canada and France!,” they’ll say. The free market is usually great, but if you have been diagnosed with a disease and lose your job and employer-based insurance plan, you often can’t turn to private health insurance provided by the free market. Either the insurance company will refuse to cover you at all (because they won’t make a profit on someone who is sick), or they’ll charge you a few thousand dollars a month, which obviously you can’t afford. The free market works most of the time, but not all of the time, as the sub-prime bubble has taught us so well.

Zakaria’s article uses evidence from Canada to try and show us that sometimes other countries get things right more often that we do. Simply pointing out facts does not make Zakaria unpatriotic, it simply suggests that he believes we should keep an open mind about certain important issues. After all, if our system isn’t working very well, but we refuse to adopt the ideas of other countries, then how can we ever expect to make improvements?

Below are some excerpts from Zakaria’s article:

“Guess which country, alone in the industrialized world, has not faced a single bank failure, calls for bailouts or government intervention in the financial or mortgage sectors. Yup, it’s Canada. In 2008, the World Economic Forum ranked Canada’s banking system the healthiest in the world. America’s ranked 40th, Britain’s 44th.”

“Canada has also been shielded from the worst aspects of this crisis because its housing prices have not fluctuated as wildly as those in the United States. Home prices are down 25 percent in the United States, but only half as much in Canada. Why? Well, the Canadian tax code does not provide the massive incentive for overconsumption that the U.S. code does: interest on your mortgage isn’t deductible up north. In addition, home loans in the United States are “non-recourse,” which basically means that if you go belly up on a bad mortgage, it’s mostly the bank’s problem. In Canada, it’s yours.”

“Ah, but you’ve heard American politicians wax eloquent on the need for these expensive programs (interest deductibility alone costs the federal government $100 billion a year) because they allow the average Joe to fulfill the American Dream of owning a home. Sixty-eight percent of Americans own their own homes. And the rate of Canadian homeownership? It’s 68.4 percent.”

“Its health-care system is cheaper than America’s by far (accounting for 9.7 percent of GDP, versus 15.2 percent here), and yet does better on all major indexes. Life expectancy in Canada is 81 years, versus 78 in the United States; “healthy life expectancy” is 72 years, versus 69. American car companies have moved so many jobs to Canada to take advantage of lower health-care costs that since 2004, Ontario and not Michigan has been North America’s largest car-producing region.”