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)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

America’s pessimistic friends

Positive expectations about America’s future as well as hellish conditions at home contributed mightily to America’s appeal to immigrants, along with long queues and queue jumpers. It might, then, stand to reason that pessimism—in the right places—could save $billions and reduce those damnable queues.  

The problem, according to the highly esteemed Pew Research, is that today those who are optimistic about America are less likely to speak English and less likely to possess those skills most in demand. Canadians and Brits, on the other hand, may be easier to absorb, but are also less easy to excite.

It is arguable that what a foreigner says about the US in opinion surveys can be a reliable guide to anticipating their next move, let alone the next car they buy or movie they view. Nevertheless, the Pew findings do say strange, bad things about what others think about the US. And, in Canada and in Western Europe, those sour opinions must influence the nervous agenda-setters in their unpopular governments.

Here’s a startling Pew finding on power:

The percent that believe China “will eventually” or has “already replaced” the US as the world’s leading superpower: 50% in Mexico; 66% in Britain; and 67% in Canada. (The Chinese themselves go along with the Brits at 66%)

Here’s a Pew finding on virtue:

The percent who have a “favorable” view of the US and of China: in Mexico 66% hold a favorable view of the US and 45% hold a favorable view of China; in Britain it’s 58% for the US and 48% for China; in Canada its 64% for the US and 43% for China.

Other North Americans are easier on the US than her peevish British parent. However, Canadian pessimism toward the US, and faith in the rise of China, is extraordinary. It belies Canada’s interests, immediate circumstances, positive prospects, and supposedly sophisticated understanding of how the world works.

These abstract opinions reveal dramatically the power of arbitrary and abstract opinion-making. After 146 years as an independent neighbor, it still passes as commonsensical to write that the US is not only a competitive place to get ahead but is also governed by less civilized people and is destined to collapse. Diversifying away from their mess goes down as ambitious and prudent.

Lawrence Martin’s Globe and Mail column “As America unwinds, Canada rewinds” is a classic of fact-free, influential Canadian anti-Americanism. The US economic recovery is unquestionably more stable than China’s, and broader, cleaner, less inflationary, and based on superior growth in productivity than is the case for the little miracle to its north.

Too bad for US protectionists, for the Tea Party—and for Canadian newspaper readers—that Martin still writes in Canada and isn’t writing his warnings about America for Mexicans or Argentinians or South Koreans or Indonesians.

No comments:

Post a Comment