Back in 2010, I wrote about the Free State Project, which is based on the idea that libertarians should all move to New Hampshire and turn the state into a free market experiment.
I was impressed when I spoke at one of their conferences and gave them a plug, but more recently I’m running into people who are so discouraged about America’s fiscal outlook that they’re thinking of moving to some other nation.
But maybe Canada is the place to go. It’s now the 5th-freest economy in the world, while the United States has dropped to 18th place.
I’m a big fan of Canada’s fiscal reforms. On several occasions, I’ve explained how Canadian lawmakers boosted economic and fiscal performance by restraining the growth of government spending.
Indeed, Canada is my main example when I explain why the United States should follow my Golden Rule of fiscal policy.
Canada’s reforms got some positive attention in today’s Wall Street Journal from Mary Anastasia O’Grady.
Former Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin has a stern warning for the U.S. political class: Get real about the gap between federal revenues and spending, or get ready for disaster. Mr. Martin knows of what he speaks. In 1993, when he was Canada’s finance minister, his country faced a daunting fiscal crisis. …When the Liberal Party government of Prime Minister Jean Chrétien took power in October 1993, Mr. Martin was charged with pulling his nation out of the fiscal death spiral. He did it with deep cuts in federal spending over two years that amounted to 10% of the budget, excluding interest costs. Nothing was spared. Even federal transfers to the provinces to fund Canada’s sacred national health-care system got hit. The federal government also cut and block-granted money for welfare programs to the provinces, giving them almost full control over how the money would be spent. In the 1997 election, the Liberals increased their majority in parliament. The Chrétien government followed with tax cuts starting in 1998 and one of the largest tax cuts—both corporate and personal—in the history of the country in 2000. The Liberals won again in 2000.
In the U.S., by contrast, we’ve degenerated to the point where the central bank is now financing a disturbingly large share of the deficit.
Market discipline doesn’t exist in Washington, which has the “privilege” of an accommodating central bank issuing the world’s reserve currency. The big spenders don’t need to pay attention to pesky numbers. …the Fed bought 77% of all new federal debt last year. It is doing so at rock-bottom interest rates. By holding the short-term fed-funds rate low while it buys up long-term securities, Mr. Bernanke is helping our political class ignore the real cost of rising federal indebtedness.
This doesn’t mean we’re at near-term risk of becoming another Argentina or Zimbabwe, but I definitely don’t like the trend. No wonder the Canadian dollar is now stronger than the dollar.
But that’s a separate issue. This post is mostly about fiscal policy and Canada’s outlook.
In the short run, Canada’s a good bet. Reforms have been implemented, and they happened under a left-of-center government and have been continued more recently by a right-of-center government.
We’ve had bipartisanship in the United States as well, but the wrong kind. For the past 12 years, we’ve endured big spenders from both parties. No wonder Canada now ranks higher.
In the long run, though, I’m not sure Canada’s the right choice. I joke about the cold weather, but I’m more concerned about the fact that the burden of government spending remains too high, consuming about 42 percent of economic output. And even though Canada has implemented some pension reforms, it has a government-run healthcare system that will become a greater burden on taxpayers as the population ages.
This doesn’t mean I’m optimistic about the long-run outlook in the United States. Yes, we can fix our fiscal problems if we cap the growth of spending and implement entitlement reform to address the long-run problem, but I’m not holding my breath expecting those policies.
So I’m back to my original plan of finding somebody to give me millions of dollars so I can escape to the Cayman Islands.
P.S. If you’re thinking of sending me a big check, give me some advance notice. To avoid nasty headaches with the IRS, I should go to the Cayman Islands first and then have somebody give me millions of dollars.
P.P.S. On a more serious note, here’s my video highlighting nations – including Canada – that successfully restrained government spending.
P.P.P.S. The Canadian government also deserves praise for resisting global schemes to raise taxes on the banking sector.
P.P.P.P.S. But there are bad people in Canada, such as the politician who escaped to the U.S. for surgery while leaving ordinary Canadians stuck in long waiting lines.
P.P.P.P.P.S. To close on a light note, here’s a satirical article about American leftists trying to escape to Canada after the 2010 elections.