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, November 2, 2016

Do we need to be big to be cosmopolitan political animals?

The just society has been restored. Best intentions, disciplined by fact-checkers, motivate our institutions. When we’re not on Netflix or vicariously fighting US elections, Canadians ponder Canada’s singular original flaw: being good, but too small. Canadians simply can’t shake the feeling that Canada could do so much more to save this troubled word if only it was bigger.

Happily, this problem has a gently impactful, re-calibrated century-old solution: a population target of 100 million bona-fide Canadians by 2100. Its champions most surely already own real estate in downtown Toronto and Vancouver, studied and vacation in Europe, and can’t stand America’s cussed indifference.

After putting up with more than a century of being less appealing to global risk-takers and mistreated minorities than the great happiness lady to the south, we’re now a first love, not a rebound destination. So, that old itch to be great too has found credible voices in our national politics.

Andrew Coyne gives the idea a cleared-eyed pass in his excellent column: “Increased immigration is good for Canada — and the reasons aren’t only economic”.

The target isn’t a leap of faith and wouldn’t require that much of an additional increase in annual immigration annually. We can micro-manage (high-grade) the admission of individuals keen to embrace Canada’s governing values. Coyne doesn’t try to argue that immigration will solve the emerging burden of grey dependents or increase real incomes per-capita by magically increasing our productivity. He settles on a classic liberal assertion, and a Machiavellian one:

“Ambitious countries want to grow, but growth also makes countries ambitious.”
“Second, it (population target) would add to our clout in the world. We would be growing at a time when our peers are shrinking. At 100 million, current United Nations projections suggest we would be second only to the United States (it is forecast to grow to 450 million) among the G-7, vaulting past Japan, France, Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom.”
Since half of new Canadians settle now and will continue to settle in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and a fourth city, depending on shifting regional job prospects, Coyne is a hundred percent, half right: by 2100 Montreal and Vancouver will have joined Toronto as eminent, brutally ambitious centers of western creativity, commerce and civilization.
Having the talent and problems as big as New York’s and Los Angeles’s, it is reasonable to expect that Toronto will discover in its midst truly exceptional, cosmopolitan political leaders. Visitors will study how we run things as a giant city and we’ll be more entertaining than the Fins and Norwegians.
However, Canada as a nation-state and the public service in its national capital Ottawa won’t have more “clout in the world.” To put it personally, your choices of future prime ministers won’t give you added or less voice as an unregistered ‘citizen of the world’, let alone North America.
This is not a good thing or, happily, the way it must always be.
As a child of the Sixties, I still believe “clout in the world” is a constructive, indeed a healthy ambition--others out there will not stop seeking to have it and, often, in order to do less good. 
However, Machiavelli would only be amused at the thought that the nicest suburb on this continent wants to be a significant political force on its own. Indeed, as an Italian cosmopolitan--who’d see instantly that secret ballots in primaries, caucuses and general elections have the real power--he might ask: why do you follow US political gossip, passionately day-after-day, and reject any form of political participation?

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