Seamanship Quotation

“In political activity, then, men sail a boundless and bottomless sea; there is neither harbour for shelter nor floor for anchorage, neither starting-place nor appointed destination.”
— from Michael Oakeshott's
Political Education” (1951)

Friday, January 28, 2011

Surprise on Canada-US Bridge—Governors can be statesmen too

Despite its long-term value and other more short-term distractions, the new Republican governor of Michigan Rick Snyder has finally declared himself in favour of the $5.3 billion Detroit River International Crossing project.
“The surprise endorsement from Rick Snyder, a Republican sworn in as Governor on Jan. 1, breathes new life into a long-delayed bridge proposal backed by Ottawa as a solution to costly delays at North America’s busiest commercial crossing. Goods worth $150-billion—or one-quarter of the merchandise trade between Canada and the United States—flow across the congested Ambassador Bridge every year.

“This new bridge will create jobs, strengthen our economy and help establish Michigan as a hub for global commerce,” Mr. Snyder said in an address Wednesday night to the state legislature in Lansing.”

The governor’s rationale is heartening. It’s easy to talk about job creation in the midst of a local recession. But there are always alternative ways to create jobs—with more direct local benefits than building a bridge to Canada. It’s more impressive for a Mid-West governor to reaffirm the value of open trade.
Today, thinking positively about markets is actually statesmanlike. Being a “hub of international commerce” doesn’t generate the excitement it did a generation ago.  Michigan may have an economy as big as Taiwan, as the latest Economist calculates. However, between 2002 and 2009 it has lost 44% of its private manufacturing jobs.
Declaring for a bridge that will enhance the security and growth of NAFTA trade with Canada is a tribute, not only to Canadian and US international diplomacy, but the commitment of individual politicians to superior benefits of free trade.
The border continues to militate against this project and the Governor still has work to do to persuade fellow Republicans in the Michigan state legislature. Nevertheless, it’s nice to see a politician, unforced by parochial calculation, embracing a sound economic idea.


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