Saturday, December 11, 2010

A North American Union

Every so often you come across an article like this in the Globe and Mail:
The Harper government is bracing for a backlash over a border security agreement it is negotiating with the United States, anticipating it will spark worries about eroding sovereignty and privacy rights, a document obtained by The Globe and Mail shows.
Conspiracy theorists in both the U.S. and Canada have long fretted about their leaders' participation in back room dealings to form a North American Union. Interestingly, the idea ruffles the feathers of people all over the political map. American conservatives think there are too many Mexicans in the U.S. already, Canadian liberals oppose the rightward shift in immigration and social policy needed to harmonize Canada with its more dominant neighbor, and conservatives of all countries have nationalistic alarm bells that go off at the thought of any sacrifice of sovereignty to such a union.

And yet, I do think it is inevitable. Events always seem to make more integration, not less, the obvious policy. In this case, hold-ups at the border since 9/11 are seriously affecting cross border trade. Canada and the U.S. have the biggest trade relationship in the world and it's in no one's interest to have it slow down. The only real solution is to harmonize border security. This is, conspiracy theorists will point out, if not part of a master plan, at the very least a step onto a slippery slope. I think they would be absolutely right.

But would that really be such a bad thing? A North American Union, at least in the case of Canada and the U.S, makes a lot more sense than a European Union. For one thing, most people speak the same language and share a common culture. While there might be linguistic and cultural barriers to a worker in Athens relocating to Berlin, the same can't be said about Buffalo and Calgary. For most people, the only real tangible effect of a NAU would be to suddenly find their freedom of movement greatly expanded.

I'm not saying a North American Union is a cause people should go out and fight for, but I do think it's time to start questioning the nationalistic orthodoxy that requires our leaders to sneak around in order make perfectly sensible policy.

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