Friday, October 23, 2015

If my wife and I wanted to move to Canada, would they have us?

This question, meant more tongue in cheek than anything else at this point, was prompted by Paul Krugman's column from this morning, a snip of which is below.

I would like to live in a country that, in these times of economic doldrums, actively practices policy in accord with a Keynesian vision.  For the last several years I've written many posts on what it would take to get that to happen in the U.S.  It seems highly unlikely at this point and will remain impossible as long as Republicans control the House, even if the Democrats take back the Senate.  Impatient on that score, the thought of moving to Canada is a quite tempting alternative.  More on that below.

First though, here is a bit of nostalgia to show the above isn't entirely tongue in cheek.  I took a sabbatical at UBC in Vancouver during the spring and summer of 1989.  It was a glorious time.  I met my wife then.  I was visiting in the Econ department in the Business School and she was an assistant professor in another department that focused on Labor Relations.  She had a walk up apartment on the second floor in Kitsilano, right next to the beach.  Our first date was at a place called Fish on Yew.  On Saturdays we'd go to the open market on Granville Island.  At the time I became very partial toward Granville Island Lager. Vancouver was a wonderful location and we had a very romantic time.

I moved into her apartment on the third night and proposed after two weeks.  So most of the time I was there we knew we were going to get married and had to make some decisions revolving around that.  One biggie was where to live - Vancouver or back in Champaign.  I was ready to move permanently to Vancouver and went as far as having lunch with a bunch of economists at Simon Fraser in their Faculty Club. I'm pretty sure I could have gotten an offer from them had I pursued it.  But Leslie wanted to go back to the U.S. for two different reasons.  The first is that she was from Des Moines and wanted to be closer to her family. The second is that she really didn't like being an assistant professor and wanted to something else more in the real world regarding labor relations.

So in the fall when my sabbatical was over I went back to Champaign and she stayed in Vancouver for that semester.  We did a long distance commute and racked up quite a phone bill.  Then she moved to Champaign.  The wedding itself happened the following June.  Leslie still has a pension from her time as an assistant professor, but otherwise the connection with friends at UBC was severed and until this morning I really hadn't given any thought about returning there or moving elsewhere in Canada.

* * * * *

The argument that the system around Congressional elections is so rigged that the current Republican majority in the House is essentially locked in is well articulated here:

Given this, there is a mounting frustration with the status quo that is clearly showing up in the Presidential races, but will surely persist on both the right and the left as long as a Democrat wins the White House but Republicans maintain control of he House.  If you are an individual voter, one who from past experience outside of the world of politics knows that ongoing frustration is not a healthy state of mind, you start to consider alternatives.

Let me first do so in a fantasy.  Imagine that the Pacific Northwest and New England were realigned to become part of Canada, along with perhaps some or all of the Upper Midwest.  Further imagine that people in other states of the U.S., who are liberal in their politics, are encouraged to migrate to one of these states or to Canada proper, while those who are conservative and currently in residence in those states are encouraged to migrate south.  In other words, given that a house divided cannot stand, let's depart from Lincoln's solution and make two houses, the northern one called Greater Canada, the southern one then called the Remaining United States.  Could this happen?

Now let me consider a much more realistic scenario.  When my wife is ready to retire (probably not for at least a few years yet), we then leave Champaign for some other destination as our permanent residence.  Might the new location be somewhere in Canada?  Does the politics of the place matter a lot in the quality of life determination?  Or can one simply ignore politics if one makes an effort to do so?

There is also an implicit assumption that the new Trudeau government will prevail for a long time to come.  Is that a reasonable assumption to be making?  After the election in the U.S. in 2008, one might have made a similar prediction about an Obama-led Democratic government.  Yet two years later there was the great shellacking and the Democrats became the minority party in the House.  So I may be confounding a moment for a movement.  The Canadians were fed up with Harper in the same way that Americans were fed up with Bush.

I have time to weigh the alternatives.  If Canada seems to fare well relative to the U.S. over the next few years, that will surely matter.  In the meantime, I wonder if my liberal friends in the U.S. are thinking similar thoughts. 

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