Frontier’s Recommended Christmas Books

Commentary, Healthcare & Welfare, Frontier Centre

With a spring provincial election predicted by many for Manitoba, and the ongoing drama of a minority federal government, the Christmas holiday is likely to be the last extended break for some time to come.

For policy junkies and gift-givers alike, here are some books with which to while away a winter day. Anyone concerned with Canadian health care or social policy will find the following to be provocative and fascinating wherever they sit on the political spectrum.

In Our Hands is the latest tour de force from Charles Murray, the American iconoclast and Renaissance man who has been breaking new ground in public policy for decades. Taking as his starting point the propositions that every American should benefit from that nation’s prosperity, and that the current welfare state creates more poverty and suffering than it alleviates, he seeks to find an alternative that will promote initiative, responsibility and enterprise while providing a truly universal safety net. Providing, in the place of welfare, free health insurance, food stamps and rent subsidies, a $10 000 income for every adult American, would ensure that the necessities of life are universally available, that taxes will be significantly reduced, and diverted from bureaucracy to actually assisting those in need. The practicalities are only vaguely outlined, but the basic idea is deceptively simple, and could become the key to a free and prosperous society.

A Nation of Serfs is a look at how the welfare state has gone badly for Canada in particular. Mark Milke demonstrates how ensnared in governance Canadians have become, showing how corruption has invaded our politics, and identity group games have eroded the fabric of the nation. Most illuminating is Milke’s look at Canada’s political history. Despite the feeling that Canadians have always been multicultural patrons of a nanny-state, Milke shows that history reveals us to have been, until quite recently, the subjects of a constitutional monarchy that was actually more free in many ways than the USA. An assertive national culture and a small, limited government are a legitimate part of our background, and one that we must reclaim.

Healthy, Wealthy and Wise , by Daniel Kessler, is a look at the strengths and weaknesses of the American health care system. It is fascinating to compare the system described here with Canadian health care. While there are many flaws to the provision of care in the USA, Canada should learn from the problems that we have in common with our neighbour. It is to Canada’s credit, for instance, that insurance is not linked to employment, and is thus more stable for most Canadians than it is for most Americans. On the other hand, both insurance companies in the USA and provincial health care in Canada promote a certain wastefulness by providing “first-dollar coverage” – giving Canadians a stake in their own health will make them smarter consumers, and ultimately healthier, as well.

Finally, America Alone, by Canadian ex-pat Mark Steyn, is a chilling look at the big picture. The War on Terror, demographics and the nanny state are all familiar problems to anyone who follows the news. Steyn makes clear how very interconnected these problems are. Western nations have become ennervated by a state that plans for the future so they don’t have to. Freed from the burden of providing themselves, too many people are simply opting out in the most basic way possible: by choosing not to contribute to the next generation. Meanwhile other groups, often explicitly hostile to western democracies and political philosophies, have no such doubts about their own importance, and are proliferating with respect to ideology and also to sheer numbers. Steyn is not optimistic about our collective future, but America Alone is nonetheless a riveting and entertaining read.