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Showing posts with label Mark Steyn. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mark Steyn. Show all posts

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Mark Steyn: 'Is Canada's Economy a Model for America?'

Mark Steyn's column appears in the New York Sun, the Washington Times, Philadelphia’s Evening Bulletin, and the Orange County Register. In addition, he writes for The New Criterion, MacLean’s in Canada, the Jerusalem Post, The Australian, and Hawke’s Bay Today in New Zealand. The author of National Review’s Happy Warrior column, he also blogs on National Review Online and appears weekly on the Hugh Hewitt Radio Show. He is the author of several books, most recently America Alone: The End of The World as We Know It, a New York Times bestseller and a number one bestseller in Canada. A Canadian citizen, Mr. Steyn lives with his family in New Hampshire.

The following is abridged from a lecture delivered on the Hillsdale College campus on September 29, 2007, at the second annual Free Market Forum, sponsored by the College’s Center for the Study of Monetary Systems and Free Enterprise.

I was a bit stunned to be asked to speak on the Canadian economy. “What happened?” I wondered. “Did the guy who was going to talk about the Belgian economy cancel?” It is a Saturday night, and the Oak Ridge Boys are playing the Hillsdale County Fair. Being from Canada myself, I am, as the President likes to say, one of those immigrants doing the jobs Americans won’t do. And if giving a talk on the Canadian economy on a Saturday night when the Oak Ridge Boys are in town isn’t one of the jobs Americans won’t do, I don’t know what is.

Unlike America, Canada is a resource economy: The U.S. imports resources, whereas Canada exports them. It has the second largest oil reserves in the world. People don’t think of Canada like that. The Premier of Alberta has never been photographed in Crawford, Texas, holding hands with the President and strolling through the rose bower as King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia was. But Canada is nonetheless an oil economy—a resource economy. Traditionally, in America, when the price of oil goes up, Wall Street goes down. But in Canada, when the price of oil goes up, the Toronto stock exchange goes up, too. So we are relatively compatible neighbors whose interests diverge on one of the key global indicators.

As we know from 9/11, the Wahabbis in Saudi Arabia use their oil wealth to spread their destructive ideology to every corner of the world. And so do the Canadians. Consider that in the last 40 years, fundamental American ideas have made no headway whatsoever in Canada, whereas fundamental Canadian ideas have made huge advances in America and the rest of the Western world. To take two big examples, multiculturalism and socialized health care—both pioneered in Canada—have made huge strides down here in the U.S., whereas American concepts—such as non-confiscatory taxation—remain as foreign as ever.

Thursday, April 24, 2008


By Mark Steyn

April 23rd is St George's Day and Shakespeare's birthday, so the least we could do here at SteynOnline is mark the occasion with an English Song of the Week bonus. That's a greater formal acknowledgment of England's national day than you get in most parts of England. Abroad, "England" is used somewhat carelessly by foreigners as a synonym for "Britain", "the United Kingdom" or "the British Isles", much to the irritation of the Scots, Irish and Welsh. But in Britain itself the word is curiously controversial, representing as it does a land all but banished from the official cartography of the state: The BBC has a "Radio Scotland", "Radio Ulster" and "Radio Wales", but no Radio England. Tony Blair has endowed Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast with toytown parliaments but none is planned for England, merely regional assemblies for ersatz regions that live only in the bureaucratic imagination. The metropolitan powers are said to live in dread at loosing some unlovely form of English nationalism that will quickly conclude if anybody needs to secede from the United Kingdom it's not the Celts living it up on parliamentary overrepresentation and welfare benefits but the beleaguered English themselves.

Heigh-ho. Here at SteynOnline we're partial to the English. I would have picked a Shakespearean song but most of the best are written by Americans (West Side Story, Kiss Me, Kate, The Boys From Syracuse) and that didn't seem quite in the spirit. As for English pop songs, they were a delicate bloom for most of the last century. In the Forties and Fifties, the Performing Right Society, the songwriters' professional body, cowered so helplessly before the invading forces of Tin Pan Alley, Broadway and Hollywood that they lobbied for quotas to restrict the import of American pop music. A couple of years later, the Beatles and co came along and the protectionists went suddenly quiet. Had the government given in, British pop would be as commanding a presence on the world stage as British cars.

Still I'm fond of those English pop songs cranked out by music publishers in Denmark Street between the wars - and a surprising number made the big time in America: Ray Noble's "The Very Thought Of You", Campbell & Connelly's "Try A Little Tenderness", and "These Foolish Things" by Jack Strachey, Harry Link and a moonlighting BBC producer, Eric Maschwitz. Compared to their New York contemporaries, a lot of the Denmark Street chappies can sound a little archaic. But over the years I've come to love fellows like Carroll Coates, whose "Garden In The Rain" - which begins "'Twas just a garden in the rain" - is a quintessentially English romance, right down to the line "a touch of colour 'neath skies of grey": The Sinatra recording has an especially fine Robert Farnon arrangement with a beautiful guitar coda.

But numbers that celebrate England more explicitly? They're harder to come by. Like many foreigners, I learned the American landscape through songs - "Moonlight In Vermont", "Old Kentucky Home", "Yellow Rose Of Texas", "Alabammy Bound"... English songwriters are more sheepish about place, and certainly more sheepish about home as an idea and an inspiration.
But there is a striking exception:

I give you a toast, ladies and gentlemen

I give you a toast, ladies and gentlemen

May this fair dear land we love so well

In dignity and freedom dwell...

Don't recognize it? Well, the verse is largely forgotten, though it's one of two big English hits to use the word "awry", the other being Noel Coward's "I'll See You Again" - "Though my world may go awry". It's a lovely word, especially set to Coward's notes. This second deployment of the thought is more pedestrian but it gets us nicely into the chorus:

Though worlds may change and go awry

While there is still one voice to cry

There'll Always Be An England...

Ah, yes. Such a full-throated expression of love for England that it seems in some sense almost unEnglish. And, in a way, that's not surprising. It was April 1939, a very dark spring in Europe, and one concentrating the minds of the London lyricist Ross Parker and his publisher. "He said, 'Ross, there's a song doing very well in the States called ''God Bless America."' Think you can do one like it?' So I sat down and wrote, 'There'll Always Be An England'."

In 1939, England didn't seem so quite so obviously blessed by the Almighty as America, but Parker and his composing partner Hughie Charles set to it. It's a stirring declarative martial song but with, at least initially, oddly delicate imagery:

There'll Always Be An England

While there's a country lane

Wherever there's a cottage small

Beside a field of grain...

Round about the same time Ivor Novello was writing:

We'll Gather Lilacs in the spring

And walk together down an English lane...

Even in a small and highly urbanized state, the idea of a rural England is very potent. I once had a long and rather perceptive exchange with Mrs Thatcher about how England had more or less invented the idea of the "countryside". Not the semi-wilderness of the Great North Woods in Maine and New Hampshire but a very ordered, very English kind of country - a patchwork of English lanes and hedgerows and stiles centered around a church and a pub and a manor house. Even in the cities, the myth of a bucolic rural England is a potent one. So, having doffed his cap to it, Ross Parker moves on:

There'll Always Be An England

While there's a busy street

Wherever there's a turning wheel

A million marching feet...

That's more like it. Billy Cotton and his band introduced the song at the Elephant and Castle, and it went down so well it was decided it was just the ticket for a film called Discoveries, starring Doris Hare and Issy Bonn and a bunch of variety acts, and loosely inspired by a BBC talent-spotting show. It was August, the eve of war, and the picture had already been previewed, but the producers figured the public was hungering for a big patriotic finale. So they got a ten-year old boy, Glynn Davies, to sing "There'll Always be an England" accompanied by full chorus, military band, thousands (well, dozens) of extras on a set festooned in Union Flags, and grafted it on to the end of the movie. It was the first war song of the new struggle, not just for England, but for His Majesty's realms beyond these islands:

Red, white and blue

What does it mean to you?

Surely you're proud

Shout it aloud

"Britons, awake!"

The Empire too

We can depend on you.

Freedom remains

These are the chains

Nothing can break....

And so it seemed, as an unprepared British Empire found itself dragged into yet another European conflict. When the moment came for London and the Dominions to declare war on Germany, "There'll Always Be An England" was the Number One song in Canada and many other parts of the Empire. Dennis Noble and Vincent Tildsley's Mastersingers and a few other acts of the day had the first records on the song but it was the Forces' Sweetheart, Vera Lynn, who embedded it in the heart of a nation. And when she got to the final eight bars, a contrived local knock-off of "God Bless America" was suddenly the real thing, genuine lump-in-the-throat stuff:

There'll Always Be An England

And England shall be free

If England means as much to you

As England means to me!

Hughie Charles was a genial old fellow in a battered trilby enjoying his retirement by the time I met him. But I asked him whether Ross Parker had written the words "And England shall be free" as a conscious evocation of "Britons never never never shall be slaves" from "Rule, Britannia", and he said it thought it was probably unconscious. If so, it was extremely fortuitous: A very foursquare song, it was nevertheless the one that summed up what was at stake in that testing time between the fall of France and Pearl Harbor when Britannia and her lion cubs stood alone. Its sentiment matched the challenge posed by Churchill: Does England mean as much to you as England means to me? If it does, we can press on, and win.

1939 set Hughie Charles and Ross Parker up very nicely for the next six years. The other hit they wrote as the storm clouds were gathering that summer was the great sentimental favorite of the war, "We'll Meet Again", Vera Lynn's lifelong signature song. In Mark Steyn's Passing Parade, I recall a rather strained lunch I had with Princess Margaret and the Forces' Sweetheart in which Dame Vera seemed a delightfully near parodic embodiment of Englishness. (She sent back the avocado with the words, "This foreign food disagrees with me.") Afterwards, we had a little chat about her songs. "They still like 'We'll Meet Again'," she said (I seem to recall a couple of laddish telly pop stars had just had a Number One cover version with it). "But 'There'll Always Be An England' is what they call controversial," she added, lowering her voice, lest someone might overhear.

You can see what she means in the comments at this website. In the comments, Alex rages, "An appallingly syrupy anthem to petty nationalism and 'little Englanders'. Haven't two world wars shown us that nationalism is a scourge, a hangover from the tribal groupings of the Dark Ages? I'm a citizen of a united Europe, and proud to be so." On the other hand, Margaret Stringfellow says, "The EU is hell bent on destroying England as a country, by replacing England by the Regions. There will not always be an England unless the English people wake up."

Incidentally, that line of Alex is a classic example of how even Britons learn the wrong lessons from history - in this case that "two world wars" had exposed nationalism as "a scourge". As for "appallingly syrupy", evidently the country lane and field of grain no longer resonate, at least with him. In the early Nineties, to blunt the argument advanced by Margaret Stringfellow, the Prime Minister John Major declared:
Fifty years on from now, Britain will still be the country of long shadows on cricket grounds, warm beer, invincible green suburbs, dog lovers and pools fillers and, as George Orwell said, 'Old maids bicycling to Holy Communion through the morning mist' and, if we get our way, Shakespeare will still be read even in school.
I doubt it. Old maids bicycling between the Euro-juggernauts on the bypass were a rare sight even 15 years ago, and will be rarer still circa the early 2040s. And I wonder if we'll still know "There'll Always Be An England". It's a curious entry in the song catalogue. The phrase is known and, credited to Parker and Charles, turns up in Bartlett's and any number of other collections of quotations. But it's not sung very often and when it is - at least since Tiny Tim did it at the Isle of Wight pop festival in 1970 - it's usually performed with heavy-handed irony.

It belongs to a pre-ironic England. On November 25th 1941 off the coast of Alexandria HMS Barham was torpedoed by a German U-boat during a visit to the battleship by Vice-Admiral Henry Pridham-Wippell. The ship lurched to its port side, the commanding officer was killed, and the vice-admiral found himself treading oil-perfumed water surrounded by the ship's men and far from rafts. To keep their morale up, he led them in a rendition of "There'll Always Be An England". The 31,000-ton Barham sank in less than four minutes, the largest British warship destroyed by a U-boat the course of the war. But 449 of its crew of 1,311 survived. "There'll Always Be An England" was written for that England.

It's different now. It's still a popular headline, but today there's a question mark at the end, either explicit or implied. And, if Dame Vera were to sing it now, that "if" in the penultimate line is more conditional than it's ever been:
There'll Always Be An England
And England shall be free
If England means as much to you
As England means to me...
Happy St George's Day.

Sunday, February 10, 2008


Real Clear Politics

The United Kingdom, from common language and shared heritage, offers us our best window into what is happening in Europe. This is especially so when we try to come to grips -- if we have the courage to do so -- with the historically sudden irruption, and rapid spread, of Islam across Europe.

There are parallel developments in all the nations on the Continent: high immigration rates from Islamic countries, comparatively high birth rates among that immigrant population, and the radicalization of their young in Wahabi mosques financed by the oil wealth of Arabia. But for many English-speaking Canadians, it is the British experience that brings the phenomenon home.

The demographic issue is at the centre of much controversy. There can be little dispute over the statistical facts, which are quite dramatic, and as exhilarating from an Islamist point of view, as they are ominous for those who fear the loss of everything associated with western civilization. For, owing to the prior triumph of the leftist "multicultural" ideology, which holds that one "culture" is as good as another, and therefore it is wrong to preserve our own way of life, there is considerable opposition to discussing these facts.

We have seen this in Canada, where journalists Mark Steyn and Ezra Levant have been hauled before "human rights tribunals" -- kangaroo courts in which defendants are stripped of all the traditional protections of court law, and where judgments may be passed against them by people with no legal qualifications on the basis of whim and hearsay.

Mr. Steyn, in particular, stands accused of having openly discussed demographic questions. Mr. Levant stands accused of having published materials the mainstream media had been cowed into suppressing by the fear of Islamist violence.

In both cases, the journalists are being prosecuted by Muslims who advocate the imposition of Shariah law, but are using an apparatus that was designed by the Left for the persecution of those expressing right-wing views.

The British system works differently, and the media in Britain remain more robust than the media in Canada, and willing to report things that would be studiously ignored in a Canadian newsroom. On the other hand, by sheer force of numbers, and the intimidation value of several Islamist atrocities on London's streets, the "fear factor" in Britain is much higher, and the Labour government has proved much more responsive to Islamist demands.

The chief, and most consistent Islamist demand, is for the imposition of Shariah law, at least for Muslims, but ideally by the whole state. In fact, many Shariah courts are already operating informally in Britain, dealing mostly with routine civil questions of marriage, divorce, inheritance, and financial disputes, but sometimes with crime. For instance, a Shariah court in the London district of Woolwich was allowed recently -- apparently with the co-operation of police -- to pass judgment on unnamed Somali youths in a knifing incident. (The assailants were released in return for an apology to their victim.)

In various other ways, Shariah is being recognized, semi-formally. For instance, although bigamy remains nominally a crime in Britain, the Labour government has approved new social provisions by which extra welfare payments, council housing privileges, and tax benefits may be claimed by polygamous households, and the cash benefits to which the extra wives are now entitled may be paid directly into the account of their husband.

At a higher level, the (Anglican) Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, publicly called this week for the recognition of "some form of" Shariah law for Muslims in Britain, and said it should be given equal status with parliamentary law. While Archbishop Williams has a long history of muddled pronouncements, and is widely observed to be emotionally unstable, the strength of his office is now engaged on the Islamist side.

Muslim groups such as the Ramadhan Foundation responded luke-warmly, welcoming the suggestion but criticizing the archbishop for having failed to punish his Bishop of Rochester, Michael Nazir-Ali, who is under police protection after recently suggesting that various Muslim districts in Britain had become "no-go areas" for people who are not Muslim. (The Anglican Archbishop of York is also under fire, for making remarks critical of radical Islam.)

The saddest part of this, is that so many "moderate" Muslims emigrated to Britain (as to Canada) expressly to escape from societies in which Shariah law is normative. And what they are learning now, is that, thanks to the triumph of multiculturalism in the West, "you can run but you can't hide."