This brief but nonetheless impressive one-note theme on the evils of big government is fatally flawed by its lack of pictures to explain why the Canadian GDP is merely 81 percent (by purchasing-power parity) of the United States.
Pictures? In a book of this scope, they're called "charts." For example, how does defence spending compare to the US? Mexico? Great Britain? France? Health spending? Original research? What is Canada's balance of foreign trade for the past 20 years compared to the US and Mexico? What are poverty levels, and middle income levels, in comparison?
Consider, for example, that Canada pledged in the Kyota climate change protocol to reduce its 1990 greenhouse gas emissions by 6 percent by 2008-12. Instead, emissions rose by 27 percent and will climb again this year, thanks to the "dig, baby, dig" mentality of the tar sands projects. Is this the cost of balanced budget virtue?
How can a country not be prosperous when it is the largest exporter of petroleum to the US? Why do the Australians want to buy Saskatchewan's potash? Perhaps, just as recent US prosperity was based on credit card debt, current Canadian prosperity is based on the fire sale of its patrimony.
Unfortunately, it is mainly a well-written right-wing screed against government spending. Granted, Canada exists today because government aid to the CPR meant British Columbia did not become 'American Columbia.' Would a little more government spending, rules and red tape have prevented the near extermination of the cod?
Lack of spending for the Avro Arrow was a major benefit to the California aerospace industry -- and now Canada plans to spend umpitty-billions to buy Made-in-the-USA F-35s? DeHavilland Canada produced some of the world's finest aircraft in the 1950s, many of which are still flying: how many did the government buy to keep this gem of innovation in business? Would the CN exist if not for massive government bailouts? Air Canada? Macleans?
There's an emphasis on NAFTA, but no analysis of the Ogdensburg Agreement by which C.D. Howe truly launched Canada into branch plant economic integration. What of the Trent-Severn Waterway, launched as a major defense project and now a prime recreation resource? What about the $1 billion to host the G8 and G20 economic conferences in Huntsville and Toronto?
The book asserts "... we can and do make Blackberrys ..." Perhaps it would help to add the Blackberry Torch 9800 contains $171 worth of parts from the US, Korea, Great Britain, Germany, Japan and Switzerland and is assembled for $12 each in Mexico. Does "Hecho en Mexico" translate to "Made in Canada"?
Perhaps the Canadian "service" economy is better typified by Orillia, where the steel foundries closed by the 1990s and the town now lives on earnings from Casino Rama.
All this should be put into perspective. As the book amply illustrates, Canada launched a wide ranging series of economic reforms in parallel with President Bill Clinton. It all seems very impressive, such as the Clinton decision that the deep water oil industry can regulate itself. But the lack of oversight, as the history of Orillia illustrates, often leads but to disaster.
The book is sadly lacking on these grounds.
But, it succeeds in its assertions that prosperity depends on free people being free to make their own decisions. Canada has largely escaped the teapotty political desperadoes, just as competent government regulation protected Canadian financial services. The basic economic principles outlined in this book are better than gold; the difference between the US and Canada surely is the wisdom to apply and abide by such fundamental values.
However, there needs to be a focus on common sense instead of a plea to go back to the virtues of 1910. To understand today's Canada, read 'Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town' before visiting Casino Rama. Both offer a better descriptions of our times than this effort.