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Globalization and the Meaning of Canadian Life

Globalization and the Meaning of Canadian Life

Copyright Date: 1998
Pages: 368
  • Book Info
    Globalization and the Meaning of Canadian Life
    Book Description:

    Globalization is not new: Canadians have some 400 years' experience of being dependent on economic events in other countries. Watson shows that economic integration leaves room for considerable diversity in national economics and social policies.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7538-4
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Part I: Globalization

    • 1 Defining Moment
      (pp. 3-13)

      Tuesday, 25 October 1988, a little after 10 p.m. EST. Twenty-eight days before a federal election would decide the fate of the Canada–United States Free Trade Agreement. Just over two hours into the federal party leadersʹ English-language debate. It was the defining moment of a defining election. Or so people thought at the time.

      Looking every bit the prime minister he once briefly had been, John Turner spoke calmly and confidently, his silver hair shining in the television lights, his clear, blue eyes locked onto Brian Mulroneyʹs, his words flowing quickly and smoothly, with none of the baffled hesitation...

    • 2 The Globalization Hypothesis
      (pp. 14-20)

      On 1 March 1989, exactly one hundred days after Canadaʹs great free trade election, the head of the Canadian Manufacturersʹ Association made one of the least politic public statements since Pierre Trudeauʹs ʹZap! Youʹre frozenʹ ridicule of wage and price controls in 1974. In a letter to Finance Minister Michael Wilson urging tax relief in the upcoming budget, Laurent Thibault wrote: ʹThe Canada–US free-trade agreement that we fought hard for creates great opportunities but also makes it more urgent that we tackle the outstanding issues that affect our competitiveness ... Since Canadian taxes are already high compared to our...

    • 3 Four Hundred Years of Globalization
      (pp. 21-26)

      If ʹglobalizationʹ means just-in-time, computer-managed production by companies that operate in many different countries, then it really is something new: electronic computers are only half a century old. But if it simply means deeper and deeper economic integration, it is just the continuation of a process that has been going on for some time. ʹThe history of the world economy since the Industrial Revolution,ʹ writes English historian Eric Hobsbawm, ʹ[has] been one of ... increasing ʺglobalization,ʺ that is to say of an increasingly elaborate and intricate worldwide division of labour; an increasingly dense network of flows and exchanges that [bind]...

    • 4 Convergence?
      (pp. 27-37)

      Whatdothe data say? Unfortunately, reliable economic data (in some countries,anyeconomic data) donʹt go back very far. Ideally, it would be possible to look at how different countriesʹ public sectors have changed over the last hundred years. But the farther back you go, the fewer countries have available statistics and the more dodgy are the data that do exist. Figure 4.1 is about the best that the economics literature can offer. It shows what happened to public spending in six countries – the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany, France, the Netherlands, and Japan – from 1913...

    • 5 Home Truths
      (pp. 38-45)

      How about the situation closer to home? Does our own experience with taxation and public expenditure in Canada lead to any conclusions about economic integration and public policy? You would think it might, since over the last few decades we have become increasingly integrated with the worldʹs biggest, richest economy. Figure 5.1 shows what has happened to taxes as a percentage of Canadian GDP since 1965. It is no surprise to anyone who lived through this period that this figure has gone up. From 25.9 per cent of GDP in 1965 it rose by 10.2 points, to more than one-third,...

    • 6 Are We There Yet?
      (pp. 46-56)

      When a theory apparently does not fit the facts, economists either fix the theory or fix the facts. ʹFixing the factsʹ sounds sinister but just means seeking reasons why the effects predicted by the theory may have been hidden by some aspect of reality. Maybe globalization really is forcing different countriesʹ tax rates into conformity, but its effect is masked by other changes that are driving them apart. That would be significant in itself, since globalization is supposed to be an overpowering force, but investigating this possibility is a task best left to others more statistically inclined.

      Fixing the theory...

    • 7 Free to Choose
      (pp. 57-70)

      As the last chapter suggested, a second way to react when a theory apparently does not fit the facts is to fix the theory. A good way to begin is to be very precise about what it actually predicts. Does globalizationreallyrequire all countries to have more or less identical public policies? Or is that a straw man? What is it, exactly, that globalization theory does predict?

      The heart of the globalization thesis is the idea that ʹthe threat by transnational corporations to move production to plants in underdeveloped nations ʺtamesʺ the governments, and workers, of developed statesʹ (Gwyn...

  6. Part II: The Meaning of Canadian Life

    • 8 False Premise
      (pp. 73-85)

      Were Canadiansnotfree to choose their tax and spending policies, the countryʹs political life would be much simpler, for we would be spared what for us so often seems the ordeal of self-government. The precise details of fiscal policy could still be debated, since they might differ slightly from what was on offer in the economies with which we were most closely integrated. We could also continue to indulge our fascination with – or, if you prefer, pick the scab of – constitutional issues. And there would be other things for Canadian governments to decide: gun control, abortion, foreign...

    • 9 Governing Misperceptions
      (pp. 86-90)

      What everyone knows often is not true. Everyone in Canada knows that we have always used government more than the Americans have and that, weather apart, this is the most important difference between our two countries. ʹAmericans are individualistic,ʹ writes Richard Gwyn, ʹhave always been sceptical about government, and have always believed that each person should be free to pursue ʺlife, liberty and happinessʺ in their own way ... We believe – within sensible limits – in collectivism and egalitarianismʹ (Gwyn 1995: 61, 51). As every schoolchild knows – or used to know, when schools still taught history – the...

    • 10 The American ‘Governmental Habit’
      (pp. 91-103)

      Despite what we Canadians may think of them, despite their – by current international standards – comparatively low tax rates, Americans have a long history of government intervention in what their all-but-official ideology suggests should be private affairs. As the late Jonathan Hughes, Northwestern University economic historian, observed: ʹThere was no time in American history free of nonmarket controls over economic lifeʹ (Hughes 1991: 12). The reason is simple: ʹThe American distrusts the free market and accepts its decisions willingly only when they suit his needs ... Historically, Americans have proved to be more comfortable even with malfunctioning controls ......

    • 11 ‘The Most Rugged Surviving Individualists’
      (pp. 104-112)

      In measuring our government and society against the Americans,ʹ most Canadians probably do not think of such things as when we introduced the income tax or created a central bank or by just how much nineteenth-century railways and industrialists benefited from land grants or loans or tariffs. Rather, they think in terms of twentieth-century social policy, and their conclusion invariably is that, whether in the form of unemployment insurance or university tuition or medicare, Canadiansʹ social policy is much more humane and interventionist than the Americansʹ. As historian Jack Granatstein (1994) has commented, ʹCanadiansʹ perception of themselves [is as] the...

    • 12 The American Lead
      (pp. 113-120)

      So much in politics depends on the shrewd choice of adjective. ʹProgressiveʹ as applied to governments has become a synonym both for ʹinterventionistʹ or ʹactivistʹ and for ʹgood.ʹ Good government obviously is desirable, but it is no longer so clear that interventionist or activist government is good government. Nevertheless, supposing that the old faith still held and Canadians did yet believe that ʹthat government is best which governs most – or at least a good deal,ʹ there is ample evidence that by this standard American government has often been more ʹprogressiveʹ than Canadian and that the United States has many...

    • 13 Canadian Free Enterprise
      (pp. 121-130)

      Just as Canadians often overlook the fact that government has always been important, even crucial in the United States, so, too, do they forget the part played in this countryʹs development by our own private sector. Canada was not built by bureaucrats or politicians. Private initiative may have been supplemented by government aid and, as was also true in the United States, may have sought out protective regulation whenever it appeared that such coddling might be forthcoming, but it was private initiative nevertheless. Even worse for kinder/gentler revisionism: private initiative was motivated mainly by profit – or in todayʹs vernacular,...

    • 14 The Unimportance of Being Different
      (pp. 131-142)

      At bottom, how crucial is it that Canada be different from the United States? Not separate. Assume for the moment that we maintain our separateness from them. They have not challenged it, and few of us want to give it up.¹ So we probably wonʹt have to. But to what extent should we consciously strive to use the legal separateness we now possess to be different from the United States?

      Consider identical twins – an apt analogy, since, to our frequent distaste, the world at large thinks of us as largely indistinguishable from the Americans. Twins are separate beings but...

    • 15 Distinct Society?
      (pp. 143-157)

      For all the emotional and legislative effort we have put into creating our own distinctiveness, just how different are we from the Americans? By world standards, not very different at all. And what differences there are donʹt always run in the direction we normally think. A quiz may help. In which of the two countries are people more educated? The OECD says that Canadians spend a larger share of their GDP on education than any other industrialized country, and everyone knows how expensive U.S. university tuition is. So presumably we are more educated. In fact, in 1980, ʹthe average native-born...

    • 16 Cement for a Nation?
      (pp. 158-177)

      The previous two chapters argued that, even if the world does need different cultures in case the dominant American culture should prove unsuited to the future social environment, the fact that at bottom we arenʹt very different from the Americans puts us quite far back in the queue for a place on the Ark. One way to move up, of course, would be to make ourselves more different.

      The most famous proponent of this course, though also a fatalist about its likelihood – by the mid-1960s he thought it an option already foreclosed – was George Grant, philosopher, professor, Platonist,...

    • 17 The Rising Cost of Civilization
      (pp. 178-194)

      Even supposing it has secured our longed-for sense of separateness from the Americans, our national belief that our government must be more interventionist than theirs often blinds us to the costs of intervention. If what is at stake really is national survival, then almost no cost is too high – a theory of budgeting certain to please the beneficiaries of government activity. But if the nation is not at risk, then the effects of excessive government need to be scrutinized. The costs of overgovernment come in several forms, ranging from obvious out-of-pocket expenses, through the ʹexcess burdenʹ of taxation and...

    • 18 The Psychic Costs of Government
      (pp. 195-213)

      Government also involves costs that donʹt show up on T-4 slips or in the Public Accounts. If the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) imposes Canadian content requirements on broadcasters or restricts competition in cable television, that raises cable rates. This cost doesnʹt show up in anybodyʹs books as a tax, but thatʹs exactly what it is: ʹCan-conʹ providers and cable companies profit, and cable subscribers lose. A tax by any other name would redistribute as much. When the Canadian Dairy Commission restricts the supply of milk, or the Canadian Chicken Marketing Agency the supply of chickens – as they...

    • 19 Virtually Canadian
      (pp. 214-236)

      The end of the nation-state is the most chronically foretold death of the 1990s. The predicted culprits are economic liberalism and the digital revolution. In the twenty-first century, it is argued, human beings will interact with one another in essentially two ways: locally and globally, either face to face, in the accustomed way of traditional reality, or screen to screen, in the wired way of virtual reality. Local government will be needed to regulate local relations among people – to keep them from smoking in the wrong places or running red lights, to collect their garbage, teach their children, and...

    • 20 Do Countries Still Make Sense?
      (pp. 237-256)

      If it is hard to know exactly how the new technologies will change people, it is even harder to know what their effects will be on countries. The telephone presumably affected Canadians profoundly, which in turn must have changed Canada profoundly, though exactly how would have been as hard to predict in 1876 as it is to explain 120 years later. The beginning of wisdom on these questions may be to realize that for the most part there are no answers, even after the fact.Doesnationhood require a minimum degree of common knowledge among citizens? Presumably it does, but...

  7. Notes
    (pp. 257-288)
  8. References
    (pp. 289-304)
  9. Index
    (pp. 305-314)