New Yorker: Merger of the Century Makes a “Practical, Hardheaded Business” argument

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New Yorker

From New Yorker Magazine:



After a week in which it looked like the Great American Way was closer to a suicide pact than a governing arrangement—with so many undemocratic choke points that the polity strangles—a whole new way of thinking about our domestic arrangements may be in order. A woman who has been held at gunpoint by her husband for a week, to suggest a situation with certain parallels, might want to get out of the relationship. Tea Party types, like abusive family members, may tend to ask whether we really think the neighbors have it any better. And so it seemed apropos when a friend passed on, the other day, a new book proposing that the answer to all of America’s problems is not to blame Canada but to join it.

The book, called “Merger of the Century,” is by Diane Francis, whose author bio tells us that she divides her time between Toronto, where she’s a professor at Ryerson University’s School of Management, and New York. Her argument isn’t, as the title suggests, for a high-minded union in the name of democracy, it’s for a practical, hardheaded business arrangement: “Like Google and Motorola, the US and Canada could combine to better meet competition and cope with shrinking markets … [they both] should understand that they are at the beginning of a long slow slide downward unless they change their attitudes and behavior.” The U.S., she argues, though burdened by a too-big military and a too-bad health system, has remaining competitive advantages in its entrepreneurial culture and optimistic outlook—its excitability, in plain English. Canada has complementary competitive advantages in the stability of its banking system and the wealth of its resources—its unexcitability, in other words. Match American gee-whiz with Canadian let’s-see, and it will produce a super country—rather like a marriage between a dull, stable person who owns a nice chunk of land and is looking for a little fun and a slightly crazed but still attractive one who needs some stability after a wild stretch.

Francis also makes the shrewd point that the two outlier regions in both countries—Quebec in Canada, and the American South—have been allowed to unduly distort the politics of both countries, with Quebec’s suspicions tugging Canada hard to the left and the South’s paranoias pulling the United States far to the right. The outliers, in this scheme, would be bypassed, or perhaps seduced: Quebec’s tropism for America is famous, and the Quebecois might “overwhelmingly opt for the merger, as they did in 1988 with free trade, if only to get out from under English-Canadians.” The South would see that the merger makes economic sense: “A major migration of Canadians would leave for America’s warmer climates and lower living costs, and Canada’s two million or so snowbirds would stay permanently in Florida, Arizona, California and other Sunbelt destinations if affordable health care was available.” (Point hers, italics mine, and more to come on both.)

Read the full article in The New Yorker.