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Culture clash: What are those Canadians thinking?

As I See It

Have you ever wondered what people in other countries think about us?

Many Americans, myself included, seem to be so arrogant about our country that we confess to not caring very much about what others think of us. A recent article in the Christian Science Monitor illustrates what one Canadian sees as the differences in our culture and that of his country.

Canada today is a blend of American and British influences. According to David Martin, whose column on the subject appeared in the Feb. 15, 2001 issue of the Monitor, Canadian uniqueness begins with their founding document, which calls for “peace, order and good government.” Contrast that with our commitment to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

The Canadian constitution resonates with British properness while, by comparison, ours reflects our emphasis on the individual. In large part, America’s greatness has resulted from our hero-worship of the rough and ready frontiersman who could take care of himself without the necessities of social structure.

The northeastern part of our country reflects some of the British-influenced love of station and social order at all costs, but many of their ancestors supported England during the Revolutionary War anyway, so what do you expect!

Martin suggests that because Canadians value the commonwealth over the rights of the individual, they have socialized medicine. Everyone is covered and no one has to fear losing his home and savings because of illness or misfortune.

America’s health care policy is currently in transition. Where we are transitioning to has not been determined. We haven’t decided how we are going to pay for health care for our citizens.

Currently, except for the elderly, disabled and children of lower-income parents, everybody is on their own. In some cases, an employer will pay for health care for its employees. In other cases, the individual pays for his own health care. In many cases, nobody pays for health care and hospitals either write-off the cost as uncollectible or the person goes without care.

For an issue as important as health care, it is confounding that a solution remains beyond our grasp.

Before we rush to the judgement that the Canadian system of national health care is the pony to ride, we should be mindful that their system is not without problems. Some report that the quality of care is somewhat lacking and elective, non-essential medical procedures have a long waiting list and waiting is not a strong suit for us Americans.

Martin suggests that because Canadians value social order over individual liberty, few Canadians own handguns. The writer suggests that the absence of handguns has led to a far lower crime rate for Canada than we enjoy in the U.S.

While I am no authority on the Canadian crime rate, I doubt that banning handguns has much to do with it.

A handgun untouched by human hands will eventually rust away and return to the elements from which it was made and will neither kill nor injure anyone in the process. It is only when the gun is disturbed by humans that violence results. To argue that without handguns there would be no violence is to say that prior to the invention of handguns a few hundred years ago there was no trace of violence in the world.

Canadians, according to Martin, believe in cooperation whereas we treasure the image of the self-made man. He reports that they pay more generous welfare benefits to those in need and subsidize higher education more than we do. Additionally, they regulate their airwaves much more than we do here in the U.S.

The end result of this social generosity is less disparity between the rich and poor and, presumably, a higher-educated populace, perhaps more civilized, though the author doesn’t say so in his column

We have only recently rid ourselves of the demoralizing, dehumanizing legacy of unlimited welfare and the permanent underclass it produces.

People have an inherent need to be productive and the lure of a free lunch for being unproductive is just too tantalizing for many citizens.

It seems to me that God created us with a competitive instinct and any system that attempts to subvert that instinct is not for good. As for education, any kid in America who wants to go to college can do so by utilizing some combination of work, grants, scholarships and loans.

I enjoyed Martin’s column. It gave me some food for thought. He is marching to the tune of a different drummer than we follow here in America and I don’t anticipate a substantial migration of U.S. citizens to Canada.

In summary, I believe I’ll just stay right here in Mississippi.

Thought for the Moment – It is this whole process of meeting and solving problems that life has its meaning. Problems are the cutting edge that distinguishes between success and failure….Wise people learn not to dread, but actually to welcome problems. — Psychiatrist and author M. Scott Peck

Joe D. Jones, CPA, is publisher of the Mississippi Business Journal. Contact him at cpajones@msbusiness.com.

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