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Friday, June 27, 2008

Weekend Discussion Thread: Is Canada Freer than the US?

Is Canada freer than the US? That's the question Anthony Gregory asks at the LRC blog, noting that  "[Canada] doesn't have quite as much a police state or as many prisoners, or an empire, and its economic freedom score according to the very pro-US Heritage Foundation is only ever so slightly lower than America's." Recently, Gregory recognized that freedom of speech and religion are rather shakier here than in the US in response to a colleague's post about the Stephen Boisson decision, but I wonder if he realizes how few gun rights Canadians have.

I find it hard to quantify and compare freedom, it's clear that individuals in Canada and the US have different freedoms, but I think that Gregory may be right to say that outside of economic freedom, Canada is freer than the US. Of course all sorts of personal biases come out when assigning relative importance of different liberties, but our lack of a heavily militarized economy and society, more reasonable drug laws and sentencing, and relative security (for a portion of) our civil liberties and privacy might outweigh the HRCs, the Firearms Act, and other liberticidal measures.

There are other ways to compare freedom: compare how much government intervention "touches" the daily lives of individuals in each country, calculate government spending per capita, a Tax Freedom Day, or some other measure, use some sort of freedom index etc., but any way you slice it, it's no exact science. There's been a bit of this discussion here at The Shotgun already, but I'm curious to hear your thoughts, dear reader.

Posted by Kalim Kassam on June 27, 2008 | Permalink

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Comments

Canada used to be freer than the U.S.A.; our rejection of the prohibition is one example which comes to mind. However beginning in the 1960's the construction of the nanny state started and the whole concept of such a state is for the state to interfere, intervene and basically do everything possible to run our lives - thus removing the concept of personal responsibility. Considering that freedom of expression and of the press is the corner stone of a free society, to-day the Americans are freer than we are. Add to this the police state mentality concerning fire arms (only the police and military should have them was the thinking of the liberal MP responsible for the present system), the U.S. wins the contest.

I am very much aware that the Americans suffer from internal rot from lefties like we do, and in some places in the U.S. they have succeeded in implementing much of their agenda. However it seems that Americans are more willing to fight back and have the tools to regain basic freedoms as the failure of the Washington D.C. gun ban to remain in place. Furthermore I would suggest that on a whole they are far less complacent and remain less trusting (lefties excepted) of government.

Posted by: Alain | 2008-06-27 9:13:50 PM


About comparing and ranking different freedoms...

I think the only way this can reasonably be done is with reference to some kind of view of human nature (or "what's good for man," if you prefer.) Some liberties will be more central to the development and expression of that nature than others.

A complete ranking of the various liberties is not within anyone's grasp, but I'd have to say that freedom of speech and thought ought to be pretty high on anyone's list. Those liberties reflect what is very much at the core of what makes humans more than animals.

True, Canada has more liberal drug laws. But for the reasons just stated, I prefer more freedom of speech rather than less, and thus the First Amendment over the hobbled speech protection in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That's why I would maintain that the United States is still freer than Canada.

Not to mention that whole Second Amendment thing seems pretty cool to me. Also, the Fifth Amendment's prohibition on taking private property without just compensation is also great (Kelo decision notwithstanding.) I can't recall any equivalent to these two robust liberties in the Canadian Charter.

In addition, the Charter contains the odious, freedom-nullifying Section 1.

I'm sure Jaws will tell me why I'm wrong soon, and why Canada still is the true north strong and free :-).

Terrence

Posted by: Terrence Watson | 2008-06-27 9:36:54 PM


The United States is massively freer than Canada.

In terms of economics, freedom of speech, and everything that matters - the United States is an infinitely freer country than Canada. Not free enough, in terms of economics. Still way too many taxes. Way too much socialism. But, better.

The United States is only less free for people who no free nation should tolerate - terrorists and their associates and the like.

So far as druggies go, I would point out that, in practice, the American system actually works pretty well. After all, the people who go to jail for drugs in the United States are people we wouldn't want on the streets in any case. As others are fond of pointing out, people of higher social standing barely ever go to jail for drugs in the U.S. Not for any real period of time, in any case.

Posted by: Adam Yoshida | 2008-06-27 10:21:57 PM


One measure of freedom I consider tipping the scales in The US favour is the amount of private land. Take forests, for example. About 60 % of Americas forests are privately owned in about 10,000,000 ownerships (60% non-industrial by area). In terms of scale, the US grows and produces 50% more timber than Canada. Canada's forests are 11% privately owned and West of the Maritimes, averages 5%. These areas of private ownership have not changed much in the last 150 years when States and Provinces generally stopped deeding public land to individuals, Homesteading on Agricultural land being the last major addition.

Trying do develop or manage resources on Crown land versus private land is increasingly becoming a tightening noose of entitlements and bureaucracy. I see no grasp of the consequences nor discussion of land reform in Canada. In terms of the forest land ownership situation in Western Canada, I see it as the last great Soviet experiment.

Posted by: John Chittick | 2008-06-27 11:23:58 PM


The there are two types of liberty that matter. Liberty in action and liberty in justice. America has more liberty in action than any other Western nation (or fewer, or less invasive, laws that restrict individual action). Liberty in justice is how well one's liberties are protected by the judicial system. On this score the U.S. (notwithstanding the Heller decision and probably the best Supreme Court in the Western world) is likely the worst in the Western world.

If you are charged by the federal justice system, you are guilty. Period. (Unlike the quasi-judicial Human Rights Commission, these applies to all serious federal crimes. They will lay on charges until you admit to something.) Ayn Rand and the Cato Institute can't save you.

In Canada, whatever the feminist family courts (and quasi-judicial the Human Rights Commissions which are losing credibility thanks to sites like this one), you can still have a reasonably fair trial. In America -- if the issue is drugs -- they seize your property before you are even brought to trial.

The United States has the largest prison population in per capita and real terms than any other nation on earth, including China. More than other developed nation, it is likely to rob you of [i]all[/i] your liberty. (The underdeveloped nations might have a lower number only because they kill more enemies of the state, but even accounting for this the American number is staggering in its contempt for liberty.)

Canadian libertarians -- especially Alain -- are blinded by their disgust of the left (only because it is right in front of them). The right as most prominent libertarians point out -- including Lew Rockwell -- is likely the greater threat (with its love of the ultimate evil state power -- war).

Yes, on taxes, healthcare, and gun control the U.S. is better, but the American government is far more menacing than our state of smug, foolish, and meddlesome social democrats. Your life might seem easier, better, and freer than the U.S., but if, for your reasons outside your control, you find yourself on the wrong side of the law in the U.S., you'll think differently.

BTW John Chittick has odd forestry stats to say the least. 80% of all land in the U.S. West is held by the federal government. At least in Canada, though there is too much state ownership and subsidisation, the land is owned by the provinces (i.e. decentralised).

And Kalim Kassam needs to be deprogrammed from the U.S. libertarian movement's romanticism of the U.S. America was the last western nation to be rid of the greatest threat to liberty in history outside of war: slavery. The U.S. libertarian movement either glosses over it or offers bizarre explanations for how America is still the land of liberty in spite of it. Canada was freer than the U.S. historically and Kalim needs to read up to find this out. His praise of "Americanism" sets back the libertarian movement in this country.

Posted by: Robert Seymour | 2008-06-28 12:27:48 AM


Free country, that was 40 years ago, before political correctness crept in. Try opinionating your feelings in a public forum on gays,muslims,natives,blacks,"special people",and a host of other subjects if you disagree with government policy. Try opening up a "smoking only" restaurant. Try claiming the property you bought as your own if a gas exploration company wants to drill there. Try to get a designation for "white history "month. Ask where the "status of men" dept. is.Ask when prostrate cancer month is.Try riding your bike/motorcycle without a helmet.Your car without a seatbelt.Try protecting your family against a home invasion without you going to jail if you happen to hurt someone in the process.Free country??,that ship has sailed.

Posted by: peterj | 2008-06-28 12:48:40 AM


Robert - liberty and war are inseperable concepts. Anyone who is against war is against liberty, since the only means by which it may ever be secured or defended is through the expedient of warfare.

In case you haven't noticed, Robert, liberty is not the natural state of humanity. It is a unique form of being supported by a delicate network of laws, history, and custom. The natural state of humanity is anarchy, followed by despotism and slavery.

Only a state which is constantly ready - indeed, eager for - war can preserve liberty.

A free society without an empire and without a willingnss, indeed eagerness, to go to war is like a body without an immune system.

As for the U.S. prison system, as I said - the overwhelming majority of people in prisons are people, regardless of the justice or morality of drug laws, we're all probably better off without in any case. There are obvious exceptions, primarily among those convicted of trumped-up white collar crimes - but the prole thugs who make up the majority of the prison population don't have any other real use anyways, not even really as cannon fodder anymore.

And, in any case, discussing comparative American versus Canadian freedoms is pointless without recalling that Canadian freedoms depend almost entirely, at this point in history, upon American arms. Indeed, without the Americans we'd all have long since been conquered by either Nazis or Communists.

Posted by: Adam Yoshida | 2008-06-28 1:04:22 AM


Adam....absolutely correct. We do not have a army,navy or airforce worth talking about,yet love nothing better than ragging on our southern neighbors and putting them down at every opportunity. The only saving grace is that on the world stage...we barely register and millions of canadians have friends or relatives in the states. No one fears us,but they do fear our neighbors,and we take that for granted.

Posted by: peterj | 2008-06-28 1:21:16 AM


Canada wins on the privacy front. Despite the weak language of the Charter protection of privacy, we've done a better job keeping the state out of our private space than the US. The erosion of the 4th Amendment and collapse of any sort of judicial oversight of wiretapping in the United States since 9/11 has left Canada far more free than our neighbours to the south. Furthermore, the US has no national data protection law. While PIPEDA is flawed, it at least offers some control over how our personal information is used by non-state actors.

Posted by: Voice of Reason | 2008-06-28 2:52:32 AM


Above, I wrote:

"Your life might seem easier, better, and freer than the U.S., but if, for your reasons outside your control, you find yourself on the wrong side of the law in the U.S., you'll think differently."

Should read:

"Your life might seem easier, better, and freer IN the U.S., but if, for your reasons outside your control, you find yourself on the wrong side of the law in the U.S., you'll think differently."

Adam,

For a good analysis of the relationship between war and liberty, see the introduction to de Jouvenel's On Power.

Posted by: Robert Seymour | 2008-06-28 8:21:49 AM


Indeed, without the Americans we'd all have long since been conquered by either Nazis or Communists.
Posted by: Adam Yoshida | 28-Jun-08 1:04:22 AM

Hardly. We had Second Lieutenant Yoshida and the XVIII Airborne Corps to protect us.

Posted by: The Stig | 2008-06-28 10:45:03 AM


Not free enough, in terms of economics.
Posted by: Adam Yoshida | 27-Jun-08 10:21:57 PM

Yeah, we weren't free to get all those sub-prime mortgages.Though airlines like Southwest are free to charge obese individuals like you for 2 seats, while in Canada you would be classified as having a disability and only charged for 1 seat, and squash the person sitting next to you.

Posted by: The Stig | 2008-06-28 10:51:48 AM


Alain, right on the money.

Adam I agree with many of your comments. Some of the druggies though, should be minor offences, or no offence at all. Canada wins on this one.

There are many cases where Canada wins and the US wins. Try homeschooling in California for example. Or try owning a gun in Canada.

However, Americans will fight for their freedom, most Canadians will not. In 20, 50, or 100 years, that may be the only difference that matters.

Posted by: TM | 2008-06-28 1:11:51 PM



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Posted by: sweesyniG | 2008-06-28 2:43:16 PM


My answer: It's a tie.

Economic Freedom: Fraser's Economic Freedom of the World Report has us tied at fifth. I take their study to be normative for my view on who has more economic freedom. I don't even blink in the direction of the Heritage Foundation's study. It's not as good as Fraser's.

Property: In the U.S., there is a formal, written defence of property. Unfortunately, post-Kelo decision, it's hard to say that the U.S. is better than Canada on this score. De facto, if not de jure, Canada has about the same legal protections for property as the U.S. I call it a tie.

Free speech & expression: U.S. wins. Maybe not so big time, considering McCain-Feingold, but Harper is busy squelching our political speech by upholding the gag laws and limiting our ability to spend whatever resources we happen to have on political issues. Plus, we have the HRCs, which are clearly liberticidal.

Gun rights: U.S. wins.

Freedom of religion: Tie.

Drugs/drug-related liberties: Canada wins in a landslide. We allow adults to make decisions about what they want to do with their own bodies much more so than the U.S. does. And, Adam, it is a matter of total indifference when measuring freedom whether or not we "like" the freedom in question. You might think that it's better that people who, say, say racist things in public should be locked up, but that doesn't mean that, somehow, it doesn't infringe on liberty to lock people like that up. Same thing with drugs: We're not measuring which country is, all things considered, better, we're measuring which country has more liberty. And when it comes to my freedom to "pollute" my body with whatever I want, Canada wins hands-down.

One very, very crude measure of a country's overall level of political/economic/and personal freedom is the per capita rate of imprisonment. Of course it matters just what, precisely, is illegal, but I think it's an interesting fact that the U.S. is heads-and-shoulders above all other countries when it comes to throwing people in the clink. What follows is a list of the world's worst dictatorships and communist regimes. Civilized, mostly liberty-loving countries are way, way down that list. That includes Canada. It's in no way a slam dunk, but it's a hint that something's amiss in the good old U.S. of A.

Posted by: P.M. Jaworski | 2008-06-28 7:53:50 PM


In terms of economics, freedom of speech, and everything that matters - the United States is an infinitely freer country than Canada. Not free enough, in terms of economics. Still way too many taxes. Way too much socialism. But, better.
Posted by: Adam Yoshida | 27-Jun-08 10:21:57 PM

The state needs taxes in order to exist. If you think we should get rid of all taxes and Governments there would be no "United States", you would have 300 Million people living seperated througout the land, each eyeing the other suspiciously. The moment you had people band together you get a "Government", which would need to be feed by people it Governs.

Tell Adam, how would your Utopia look like, in broad strokes of course.

Posted by: Snowrunner | 2008-06-28 7:55:10 PM


Robert - liberty and war are inseperable concepts. Anyone who is against war is against liberty, since the only means by which it may ever be secured or defended is through the expedient of warfare.

Posted by: Adam Yoshida | 28-Jun-08 1:04:22 AM

So Liberty can only be guranteed by the State? After all a War is always involving an Army and thus it needs a structure and submission by the one serving in the Army.

Or differently. It seems in your view the only way Liberty can be achieved by giving up ones own decision making to adhere to a "General" or higher power that tells you what you are supposed to be fighting for in the name of Freedom.

In my book, that is not Freedom.

----------------------------

In case you haven't noticed, Robert, liberty is not the natural state of humanity. It is a unique form of being supported by a delicate network of laws, history, and custom. The natural state of humanity is anarchy, followed by despotism and slavery.

Posted by: Adam Yoshida | 28-Jun-08 1:04:22 AM

Aren't you the one who is constantly yelling out how the State has too much power, how you glow in smuckness when you beat a traffic ticket and hail it as a great achievement for your rights etc.?

Make up your mind. Do you want laws and protection (and thus a Government that requires your taxes) or do you want to live in Freedom, which at this moment you are equating with Anarchy and slavery?

Chose your shackle Adam.

----------------------

Only a state which is constantly ready - indeed, eager for - war can preserve liberty.

Posted by: Adam Yoshida | 28-Jun-08 1:04:22 AM

Of course that State would require people willing to give up thinking for themselves. An Army of individuals that do as they please will be a beaten Army. Who do you suggest is going to give up their free will and decision making so that they can at least pretend to be Free while slaughtering others and being slaughtered?

-------------------------

A free society without an empire and without a willingnss, indeed eagerness, to go to war is like a body without an immune system.

Posted by: Adam Yoshida | 28-Jun-08 1:04:22 AM

An Empire is the exact opposit of Freedom, in fact an Empire in General tends to be the one thing you constantly rail against: The control of a few over the many.

--------------------------

And, in any case, discussing comparative American versus Canadian freedoms is pointless without recalling that Canadian freedoms depend almost entirely, at this point in history, upon American arms. Indeed, without the Americans we'd all have long since been conquered by either Nazis or Communists.

Posted by: Adam Yoshida | 28-Jun-08 1:04:22 AM

Really? When was the last time someone attempted to invade Canada? Or are you going to the "God is real, you just have to belief in him" route when it comes to that?

Posted by: Snowrunner | 2008-06-28 8:01:37 PM


Peter,

Canada does have de jure property rights. The Bill of Rights (1689), which is part of Canadian law, prohibits all forfeiture and fines without trial. How's that for a takings clause? No seizure, or even fines, without trial! Most modern Canadian law is unconstitutional. The US Bill of Rights looks quite statist compared to it.

The Bill of Rights (1689) also protects the liberty to keep arms for defence. This has been used unsuccessfully in Canadians courts in a handful of cases by non-academics and non-lawyers. The judges arguments against it have been weak. If smart libertarians start using it with well-researched, sophisticated arguments, it may change a lot.

We just have to promote knowledge of it again.

Also, Harper was wrong. Atlantic Canada is not Canada's defeatist culture. Canadian libertarians are. They complain that Canadians don't fight for their liberty. If anyone in this country is not fighting for liberty that should be, it's the average Canadian libertarian. That's the biggest difference between Canada and the U.S. Libertarians that act like the left has won, ensuring that they walk all over them. Start writing letters and giving money.

Posted by: Michael Cust | 2008-06-28 8:13:01 PM


Mike: I'll dig up the 1689 Bill of Rights. Sounds pretty good to me. I'm curious, however, whether a contemporary court would take what's in that Bill very seriously.

As for the average libertarian, I mostly agree. Although maybe they're just more rational than the rest. Who knows?

Posted by: P.M. Jaworski | 2008-06-28 8:17:40 PM


PS The current convention in Canadian courts with respect to property rights is that all takings must receive fair compensation unless the legislation specifically instructs otherwise. It is the common law standard.

Posted by: Michael Cust | 2008-06-28 9:35:53 PM


LOL. What an easy question. The United States of America. Although there have been terrible moments (under FDR, Nixon, Carter) the US still stands behind freedom of speech - something Canada is clearly against. Americans are free to protect themselves via the second amendment. Americans are even governed by a freer political system that doesn't concentrate power in one man.

The attack on property rights via eminent domain is relatively new in the US - property rights have been forbidden in Canada for quite some time - we call it apropriation.

Posted by: Faramir | 2008-06-29 4:43:15 PM



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