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Canada-US Smackdown!

I've written on numerous occasions (here, here, here, here, here, here, here) about the ever-growing cultural divide between Canada and the US. Now that the New York Times is saying the same thing, does that make it real?

Canadians and Americans still dress alike, talk alike, like the same books, television shows and movies, and trade more goods and services than ever before. But from gay marriage to drug use to church attendance, a chasm has opened up on social issues that go to the heart of fundamental values.

A more distinctive Canadian identity -- one far more in line with European sensibilities -- is emerging and generating new frictions with the United States...

To many commentators the two countries seem to be exchanging their traditional roles, one founded in America's birth as a revolutionary country and Canada's as a counterrevolutionary alternative.

During the Depression, under the New Deal of Franklin D. Roosevelt, the United States was the progressive force, while Canada stubbornly held on to conservative economic policies.

By the mid-1960's, though, Canada shifted to a far more activist government, moving to a national health insurance system. Not long afterward, the Vietnam War began siphoning popularity from the Great Society experiment of President Johnson. The trends have only widened since.

From harm reduction to universal heath insurance, marijuana decriminalization to gay marriage, Canada seems to be on the right side of many, many issues. Meanwhile, their murder rate is far lower (32 percent of the US rate), their prisons far less full (17 percent of the US rate), and their budget balanced.

Once again, I ask: are we in the US too proud to learn from Canada?

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