Montreal, January 5, 2002  /  No 95  
<< page précédente 
Harry Valentine is a free-marketeer living in Eastern Ontario. He can be reached at
by Harry Valentine
          A few months ago, The Learning Channel broadcast a show in which American and Japanese engineering students were paired up to solve a technical challenge. Neither could speak each other's language. They were from two distinctly different cultures which during an earlier time had fought against each other in war. Despite this, each paired team came up with unique and innovative solutions to the technical problem they had been assigned. 
          The linguistic and cultural differences between English and French Canada are not quite as extreme as the linguistic and cultural differences that exist between America and Japan. In an environment that is free from political manipulation, people from very diverse backgrounds can actually co-operate productively toward each other's mutual benefit.
          Parallels can be drawn as to how political behaviour created antagonism between people of different cultures, languages and religions. The history of Northern Ireland stands out as an obscene example as to how two groups of people who speak the same language, live in the same country and share over 99-percent of the same theology, end up living for decades with social unrest and sectarian violence. These events were provoked mainly by an English/Protestant political agenda, an agenda which not only prevailed in Northern Ireland, but also extended into places like Australia and into Quebec.  
          In parts of Australia, descendants of an Irish-Catholic background were denied job opportunities in a similar manner experienced by French-Catholics living in Quebec. It was ultimately economic change and competition which undermined the supremacy of English/Protestant business owners, managers and directors, opening doors to people who had previously had opportunities denied them. A political agenda caused the problem and it was the dynamics of a relatively free market which solved it. Political agendas are often enacted in secret by a few people in power, whose actions affect entire populations. 
Manufactured crisis 
          The conflict between America and Japan preceded the attack on Pearl Harbor on "the day that will live in infamy," according to author Robert Stinnett in his book entitled Day of Deceit. Stinnett sourced his information courtesy of the Freedom of Information Act and reveals that America had broken Japanese codes a year prior to the Pearl Harbor attack. Sinnett also sourced information from Japanese records which indicated that America had initiated an oil and steel embargo against Japan, an action which was supported by Holland and Britain. Stinnett's book not only shows how Japan was provoked into attacking America, it reveals that Roosevelt knew of the impending attack on Pearl Harbor 24 hours in advance and kept that information from the US commander stationed there. Until Stinnett undertook his research, only a privileged few people were aware of the dynamics which provoked Japan into attacking Pearl Harbor. 
          A book which parallel's Stinnett's thesis, written by Robert Higgs and entitled Crisis and Leviathan, illustrates how various governments, including that of the USA, have used real and contrived states of emergency to increase governmental power at the expense of the civil liberties of ordinary people. After the emergency is over, the officials and the bureaucracies remain to inherit increased power. The themes presented by Stinnett and by Higgs can be viewed in a Canadian context.  
          One example would be the creation of the Canadian Wheat Board during World War II, which was supposed to be a temporary measure to ensure that grain was properly distributed around Canada and to the nation's troops. World War II ended over a half a century ago and the Canadian Wheat Board still exists and is the sole means by which wheat may be exported from Canada. Most of the marketing boards came into existence by similar means. 
          Every marketing board and regulatory agency and tribunal which has been created in Canada came into existence to prevent some perceived or potential crisis, even though the evidence to substantiate such crises or emergencies was virtually non-existent. Prior to the creation of the agricultural marketing boards, free-market regimes existed. Farmers could sell what they wanted at whatever price they wanted to whomever was willing to buy their produce. Many agricultural products are still sold that way and without any violence or brawls breaking out at marketplaces between competing farmers. 
     « Every marketing board and regulatory agency which has been created in Canada came into existence to prevent some perceived or potential crisis, even though the evidence to substantiate such crises or emergencies was virtually non-existent. »
          Yet somewhere in our past, politicians made themselves immortal (and provided appointments to their cronies) by creating marketing boards and regulatory agencies. Sometimes the "emergency" which provoked such action was that milk or beef or pork was selling at different prices in different parts of Canada, or in different parts of the same province. During earlier times, more people were employed in the agricultural sector than in the manufacturing industries located in the cities. The "emergencies" which led to the creation of the agricultural marketing agencies was more often a vote buying fiasco, in which farmers and farm workers were offered "guaranteed" prices and incomes through governmental market regulation.  
          Along with the introduction of market regulation was the establishment of inter-provincial trade restrictions. The result has been subtle state-inspired inter-cultural animosity between Quebec and English Canada, caused by the political favouritism which is part of the regulatory process. Market regulation is one of the causes of the alienation Quebeckers feels from English Canada, where anti-Quebec sentiment often appears. 
Regulation breeds alienation 
          Practically every sector of the economy which is overseen by a market regulator has undergone declines in investment, employment and income. The agricultural sector is a prime example of this result. Both passenger and freight railway transportation were once heavily regulated, as was intercity bus transportation. All three sectors have lost market share to other transportation methods and have undergone massive reductions in income, investment and manpower. The illusion of deregulation was introduced to some sectors, like the airlines and the freight transportation sectors, for the alleged purposes of encouraging greater efficiency through competition. At the present time, the near bankrupt airline industry is still subject to a host of governmentally enforced restrictions, such as ownership laws. The financial health of the independent (so-called deregulated) trucking industry is no better than that of the airlines. 
          The history of governmental debacles follows the same agenda. Create a regulatory agency in the face of a real or perceived crisis, then appoint political cronies to plum positions in such agencies. The agency remains even though the so-called crisis is long past, or never existed in the first place. In the long run, the agency and the political appointees create crises of their own, that is, the very crises the agencies were created to prevent in the first place. Without government intervention in the economic activities of peaceful citizens, it is doubtful whether an anti-Quebec sentiment would have developed in parts of English Canada, or whether people living in Quebec would have felt alienated from the rest of Canada. 
          Federal government agencies producing such results should have provided Quebec sovereignists with valid reasons to secede from Canada, except their attention was focused elsewhere. Author David Gordon wrote in Secession, State and Liberty, that people should have the right to secede from a federation. During an earlier period in Quebec's history, English Protestants owned, managed and directed most of the major industries in the province, employing mainly low paid French-Catholic blue collar labour. Quebec sovereignists had targeted the behaviour of the Anglo-Protestant control of Quebec's economy as their reason for independence.  
          Rene Lévesque's intent to nationalize key industries such as electric power was inspired by Karl Marx and led to an industrial mass exodus from the province after Lévesque became the PQ premier. His intent not only undermined the economic cause of Quebec independence, it also shattered the hopes of Quebec's blue collar workers. Over time, changes in the economy which included automation and competition from new players, reduced the power and influence of English-Protestant owned and controlled businesses which remained in Quebec. 
          Author Alvin Toffler's book entitled Megatrends, forecast the types of change evolving in the world, including the emergence of an information sector in the economy. The dynamics of the economic change which began outside of Canada, achieved far more to benefit educated French Canadians living in Quebec, by providing them with more new job opportunities (in West Island Montreal) than anything the pro-sovereignists could ever have imagined. No politician or bureaucrat in either Quebec City or Ottawa can claim any credit for this. The change created new opportunities for co-operation, acceptance and understanding including between people from widely diverse cultural backgrounds. 
          The 2001 Grey Cup Game was played in Montreal and people from French Canada and English Canada celebrated together in an atmosphere of mutual acceptance and respect. This was the initiative undertaken by private people, with no political agenda. There is now great opportunity for people from Western Canada to invest in the new, dynamic economic sectors now evolving in Quebec, that is, provided such activity remains free from political intrusion. When the political and bureaucratic sectors remain absent and uninvolved, private people from very diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds can co-operate peacefully and productively toward each other's mutual benefit. This has happened between engineering students from the USA and Japan. The 2001 Grey Cup celebrations in Montreal has the potential to open up new levels of acceptance and co-operation between private people living inside and outside of Quebec (see THE POLITICAL LESSON OF THE 2001 GREY CUP IN MONTREAL, le QL, no 94). 
The black book of federal economic interventionism 
          The anti-Quebec sentiment which was once rife in English Canada and which still exists in small pockets, was an after-effect of federal policies which achieved something other than what was intended. It provided material for Normand Lester to write a book about (Le livre noir du Canada anglais, or The Black Book of English Canada). However, he seems to have misinterpreted the root causes of that anti-Quebec sentiment. The bankruptcies and near-bankruptcies in the airline industry, the independent trucking industry and the agricultural sector are less serious examples of after-effects of similar government economic policies which also caused the anti-Quebec sentiment to develop in English Canada. 
          Perhaps Normand Lester would care to write a sequel to his book, about how federal policies and their after-effects caused the anti-Quebec sentiment he so eloquently wrote about. He may also mention how the federal government created a new bureaucracy to promote national unity after the policies of other federal government departments nearly broke up Canada, a phenomena which reflects the central them of Crisis and Leviathan by Robert Higgs, that government expands itself in times of even contrived crisis. The antidote to this phenomena is written up in David Gordon's Secession, State and Liberty, which advises that a credible secessionist movement does have something of worthwhile value to offer to a population at large, especially if it champions more individual rights and increased personal freedom and autonomy for the citizens whose support it attracts. Perhaps sometime in the future the Quebec independence movement may care to consider David Gordon's thesis. 
Previous articles by Harry Valentine
<< retour au sommaire