February 9, 2018

QotD: Canadian versus American forms of government

Filed under: Cancon, Government, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Canada does not bother with palaces; the closest thing we have is Rideau Hall, whose history, appearance, and location all serve to confirm the point. In Canada we pay relatively little heed to social class — a legacy of having been a colony, with its ultimate rulers (and, until 1949, its literal court of last resort) conveniently offshore. We have left formal titles mostly in the dust while Americans resurrect them frantically: the newspapers bow and scrape to “Sen. Clinton” and “Gov. Palin” long after their brief periods in office.

We manage not to admire displays of wealth in the whimpering, craving way that Americans do; our old money avoids ostentation, and our bankers are practically Spartan. (We have a few literal lords, but I suspect even my colleague Conrad Black would resist being addressed as anything but “Mr. Black” by a fellow Canadian in Canada.) We accept higher taxes in exchange for state provision of medical care, but when it comes to welfare we honour the Protestant work ethic more earnestly than the republic to the south does, with its food stamps and its endless disability rolls.

This all emerges partly from having an expatriate monarchy that we can drag onto the scene as needed, and can worship and scrutinize from afar. We get the best of both worlds. If we adopted a real republic, the long-term path to union with the U.S. would be that much shorter; how long could a squeal of “But we’re so much nicer than they are,” a bare assertion of mystical innate superiority, provide a moral basis for independence?

The Romans and the Tudors would perceive the Canadian genius quickly: they would discern more clearly than ourselves that we have pioneered a truly novel political system — an ultra-practical, constitutionally successful version of the old Jewish temple, with its invisible god secreted in a hidden sanctum. Our domestic political leaders can never be glory-hunting priest-emperor types, as long as there is someone above them, far away, who is called “Majesty” and possesses the regalia of state. This is why, when someone refers to the prime minister’s wife as “first lady,” they are really threatening the basis of our political existence, and should be chastised — even if, I hasten to add, they are writers or editors for other Postmedia newspapers.

Colby Cosh, “Why Canadians are better republicans”, National Post, 2016-05-30.

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