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Exploitation, Growth, and other Economic Ideas — 8 Comments

  1. Pingback:Rachel’s Musings » We Need a New System

  2. The “social contract” is a contract to take care of each other, which includes universal health insurance, unemployment benefits, and generally the idea that you’re not on your own. It’s more communal; less individualistic. There is some of that in the US but not nearly as much as in Europe or Canada.

    The melting pot is a myth. There are China towns in lots of cities – three here in San Francisco. Japan town. Little Italy. It was impossible to get to parts of SF when the Italians won some soccer championship. There are lots of people who hardly speak any English. So, it might look like people are more likely to give up their heritage but, in reality, cultures prevail (and not just in SF, btw, there are a couple of Chinatowns in Chicago).

    Good points about the influence about the U.S. history. When I first got to the US, I was taken aback at how much attention is paid to the Civil War. As if that was the most recent war! Most people here have no idea that WWII was started two years before Pearl Harbor. But that’s another issue… I think you are making a good point, though, that the bloody independence of the US must have an impact on the collective psyche, especially compared to the peaceful way Canada took.

  3. Rachel wrote: “I find the differences between the US and Canada rather fascinating. There’s a social contract in Canada, which is absent in the US.”

    I am interested in your opinion on this? I am interested in what you mean. I am rather of the opposite opinion. For example, in the United States, people are in tears as they pledge their allegience and shed their history, and proudly become “American” citizens. In Canada it’s much less patriotic- sure, immigrants sign some papers and take the test, but they are encouraged to keep their heritage active. There are many Canadian citizens who don’t speak any English (or French) and live in little “European” communities in big cities – one example is the Greek Town that exists right in Toronto, and they really come to life when the Euro Soccer Tournament is being played. My opinion is that Canadian citizens are a mosaic where differences are encouraged; The U.S. is a “melting pot” where ancestry is shed and Americans are reborn in their place.

    Rachel wrote: “Not sure if there is an answer to that but I don’t recall that Michael Moore addressed why there’s more fear in the US than in Canada, why the attitudes are so different…”

    I agree, it’s strange. I think some of it might have something to do with our collective history as a country. Canada was built by England agreeing for us to become our own country (it took a while) whereas the U.S. threw some tea in the sea and then starting shooting at each England. Then after that, the U.S. had a huge Civil War. So there’s a lot of bloodshed (and guns) in the history of the U.S., wheras Canada avoided pretty much all of that. If you ask a U.S. citizen if they have a family member who died in a war (any war, including the Civil War) I think the percentage of “yes” would be astronomically higher than that is Canada.

  4. A couple of resources I stumbled on that address the impact of inequality: The Obama budget (yes, I know, it’s hard to believe) and Equality Trust (both links courtesy of the March 2nd edition of the Too Much newsletter, which I can highly recommend).

    Some choice points from the Obama administration’s budget as summarized in Too Much:

    The nation’s top 400 taxpayers, the new budget points out, averaged $263 million each in 2006, nearly quadruple their income in 1992. The net worth of America’s wealthiest 1 percent, the budget also notes, now exceeds the entire net worth of the bottom 90 percent.

    “In fact,” the White House adds, the top 1 percent is now taking home “more than 22 percent of total national income, up from 10 percent in 1980.”

  5. Wiebes: Thank you so much for your input! I grew up in Germany, so a lot of this “everyone for themselves” attitude here in the US is rather puzzling to me. It’s nice to get a “sanity check” from people outside the US.

    I find the differences between the US and Canada rather fascinating. The countries are fairly close together both largely populated by immigrants but the attitudes are so different. There’s a social contract in Canada, which is absent in the US. Not sure if there is an answer to that but I don’t recall that Michael Moore addressed why there’s more fear in the US than in Canada, why the attitudes are so different…

  6. First of all, great post. I live in Canada and many of the ideals that you describe here are a reality in Canada.

    I watched the movie “Bowling For Columbine” which talks about gun control. To simply stereotype for one minute: Americans feel safer with a gun, whereas most Canadians do not. That about sums up the differences in gun culture.

    The same is true with economics. Canadians generally have felt that the government is there to provide a “safety net” for people- all people. Yes, our health care system is not perfect, and it is not free. (Canadians usually pay much more in taxes). However, the thought of buying health insurance in the thousands of dollars is just unacceptable to most Canadians.

    You can also look at our wealthiest Canadians. Maybe the top guys, the oil barons, the media conglomerates… they might be worth 1 or 2 billion dollars at most. Meanwhile, the U.S. has billionaires that are worth like 10 billion or more!

    You can also look at the poorest Canadians. We have poor and homeless people. But, I mean go to New Orleans (I mean before Katrina). There are lots of homes in the United States that would pass as third-world shacks. I visit Oahu regularly and I also see towns outside of Honolulu that are so beyond poor compared to anything that is in Canada.

    So my point is that the idea of squishing the poorest or the poor and the richest of the rich together makes sense, and anything different would be strange. But in the U.S. you have a different culture, where it’s “everyone for themselves” and as a result there are ridiculously poor neighbourhoods and incredible opulence that dwarves anything in Canada or many other parts of the world.

    I think Obama is a cool cat but he’s way off base with the stimulus package in some aspects. You can’t spend your way our of a recession with money that you do not have. Americans need to:

    – Start building real wealth – for example, Americans need to start saving money every month or pay down their mortgage (instead of spending it).
    – Create new industries that other countries actually need and want. Forget about the cars, start making electricity using the incredible hydro and electric resources in your country and ship it all over the world. Better yet, use nuclear power, build a bunch of reactors, and then export the energy. That would greatly reduce your dependency on foreign oil.

  7. Thanks, Pam! I am glad you’re enjoying my blog!

    Good point about how heterosexual marriage plays a role in all this as well. It certainly is a way to control people, especially women, and ensure that we buy the growth & consumption philosophies – from little league onwards. The “traditional” life path incorporates that as well, including getting a “good job” and advancing up the career ladder as if the world were so much nicer higher up that ladder.

    I am not sure, though, that same-sex marriage would come with less consumption. I sense that the focus on marriage within the LGBT movement stems from the more conservative elements of the movement, an attempt to normalize same-sex couples rather than allowing the more radical ideas for relationships to filter into the rest of society. So, it seems like an attempt to duplicate the “traditional” life path with the only difference that the couple happens to be of the same sex.

  8. Hi Rachel,

    I love this blog!!! You touch on so many topics that I constantly ponder throughout the day. I think that this stress on growth is the whole reason why heterosexual marriage is always shoved down our throats. The nuclear family is the biggest spender in the US economy. Families buy bigger homes, furniture, clothing, toys, etc. that fuel our out-of-control economy. If people stopped marrying and women were allowed full control of their sexuality, the current drain on resources and destruction of precious green space would slow down. I feel that this would be a good thing.

    I’ve always felt that if heterosexual marriage did not benefit the Establishment (i.e., white, middle class males), it would have died out long ago. I feel that one of the reasons the Establishment is against homosexual marriage is that it really doesn’t contribute to the economy. Some homosexual couples do have children but not at the same rate as heterosexual couples. Homosexual married couples would be getting tax and other financial benefits without generating the consumer demand that occur with larger families.

    I think this economic downturn may play out to be to our benefit. We all need to slow down, spend less (myself included) and just hang out for a while. We humans really don’t need much–clean water, food and somewhere to sleep. Other animals must look at us and think we are crazy!!!

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