X: Social thought. Conversations with the original personalities who are rethinking the way our society and institutions work. With your host, Michael Phillips.
Why are there two predominantly English speaking countries in North America which live side by side but in many ways, don't look the same?
Michael Phillips (MP): Our guest today is Seymour Lipset. He's a professor and author of Political Man as well as the most recent book, Continental Divide. He has many distinguished works in his background. I'm your host, Michael Phillips. Welcome to Social Thought, Professor Lipset.
SEYMOUR LIPSET: Thank you. Glad to be here.
MP: Would it be fair to say we should revise the Declaration of Independence to "we hold these truths to be self-evident below the 49th parallel"?
SEYMOUR LIPSET: Well, the truths, such as they were, in the Declaration of Independence carried below the 49th parallel, or at least carried in what became the United States and didn't carry in Canada, then British North America, the British North American colonies, rejected the Declaration of Independence and reject a lot of the emphases in it, which derived from it on individualism, ultimately populism, egalitarianism, but in many ways adhered to what was then known as a Tory ideology, an emphasis on a strong state, on monarchy and noblesse oblige, communalism if you will. But, over the years, over the centuries, it's been two centuries, of course Canada is no longer, it's still a monarchy formally, the King, the Queen of England is the monarch of Canada, but it's basically as democratic or more democratic than the United States. But, and I can elaborate on it, I go into great detail in the book Continental Divide, which compares the United States and Canada as the two countries that came out of the American Revolution. Canada today is a very different, remains a very different country from the United States. The Tory emphasis, the emphasis on the noblesse oblige, monarchical statism, has, if you will, turned into a social-democratic statist emphasis. Canada is much more of a welfare state than the United States is. And that is true of course for Europe. Socialist movements I've argued in various places, things I've written, are the other side of conservatism. Conservatism in the Euro-Canadian sense, which is quite different from the American sense. Conservatives in Europe and in Canada and Britain were monarchists originally who believe in hierarchy, in the aristocracy, but related to that was a belief in a strong state, a mercantilist state, and noblesse oblige. And the emphasis on anti-statism, the belief that the state is a menace, the state, the power of the state is something to be distrusted, that you need a Bill of Rights, that you need divided powers that we have in this country, distrust of the state is what classically, historically, was known as liberalism. Liberalism was the ideology of America, of the United States, but also the ideology of the bourgeoisie, of the middle classes, who wanted a weak state, wanted to be able to do business freely, also wanted equality of opportunity as distinct from the emphasis on heredity, which you got in the monarchical societies. So that what we call conservatism, Europeans call liberalism.
MP: I want to go with you through the metaphors, the two metaphors that began with the social sorting. As you say, these two countries were sorted, socially.
SEYMOUR LIPSET: Mm hmm.
MP: By values. The people that remained, the larger number, had very different values than those who fled.
SEYMOUR LIPSET: Right.
MP: How did this essential social sorting and metaphor begin to shape the institutions?
SEYMOUR LIPSET: Well, when you talk of the sorting of the ?flick, roughly it's estimated 50,000 Tories, supporters of the British, moved up to what became Canada. And conversely, an unknown number of people moved south, particularly those an interesting exchange of religions. The Anglicans, Episcopalian priests, moved south, moved north rather, from the United States, because they were the Anglican Church, the Church of England was pro-British. On the other hand, the Congregationalists, who were the church of New England, the Congregationalist ministers moved south. And that kind of pattern I think probably continued over the centuries, but at any rate, the people who went north believed in and wanted a more stable society, wanted a hierarchical society, wanted basically a more conservative society. Whereas the Americans put an emphasis on egalitarianism, on, as I said before, on distrust of the state and ultimately on populism. Now, the images of the two systems, you know, the words which have been so suggested as most characterizing the United States from the Declaration of Independence, is "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," which has an emphasis on the individuals. And the Canadian equivalent was peace, order, and good government. In the Canadian Constitution, drawn up in 1867, before that they were separate colonies, the purpose of drawing up the Constitution and having it, it was, as enunciated by the fathers of confederation, the Canadian founding fathers, is peace, order, and good government. The emphasis is on the community, on the stability of the community. The American emphasis is on the happiness of the individual. And these, and this, and Canadians have remained more trustful of government, more willing to use government, less suspicious of government. Americans have been unwilling to use government, have feared government, and this continues down to the present.. We have a republican government, Republican Party, it's somewhat less perhaps laissez-faire than Ronald Reagan's, but, the Republican Party had been in power now, with the presidencies, in the left seven or ten elections, and their emphasis has been in to some degree on distrust of the state. The Canadians now have the Conservative Party of Canada in power, but in the last Canadian election, which was, as ours was, in '88, Brian Mulroney, who is the prime minister of Canada and the leader of the Conservative Party, referred to the welfare state, which is quite extensive in Canada, as part of Canada's sacred heritage. Now, it would be unthinkable, unimaginable, to have Ronald Reagon talk of the welfare state as part of the American sacred heritage. But, essentially, what, Brian Mulroney and the Canadian conservatives are Tories. And they place much more emphasis on the use of the state for social purposes, including welfare purposes. In fact, all three Canadian political parties, the Conservatives, the Liberals, and the Socialists, called the New Democrats in Canada, they get about twenty percent of the vote, all support the welfare state. In the United States, we have something of a welfare state, much more than we used to before the Great Depression, but we remain with this negative attitude towards government. The differences between the two countries that came out of the Revolution and are reflected in other ways, or caused by other ways, they have different religious traditions. Our tradition is Protestant sectarian. Sometimes, I've made this point on various occasions, saying the United States is the only Protestant country in the world. Obviously, there are other countries which are Lutheran and Anglican and so on, but by Protestant here I mean the sects, who are principally the Methodists and Baptists, but the hundreds and hundreds of others which characterize the United States. And the Protestant sects have on one hand, for the most part, not been hierarchical, they've been congregational, and they also emphasized the individual's personal relationship to God, not mediated by the church, not mediated by a minister. The converse of the sects are the churches, the churches of the Catholic, the Anglican, the Anglican Church, the Orthodox Church of Eastern Europe, and others, and the Lutheran Church, which is Protestant, and all of the churches are hierarchical. They have bishops and archbishops. The parishioners are expected to listen to the hierarchy, and the hierarchy sets the tone. And what also has characterized the churches is that they've been state churches. In Europe, they all were supported by the state and in most of Europe and in Canada too, for that matter, in part, they receive funds from the state. One of the main characterizing the United States was the separation of church and state, and that meant that the church, among other things, that the church, the sects in this case, do not support, are not supported by the state, but on the other side of the coin is they don't support the state, they don't feel obligated, as did the state churches, to support the state in crises to tell people as citizens or subjects they should support the state. You find, for example, an interesting thing which is perhaps in the, which is significant in terms of international military crises, that the United States has a tradition of opposition to war. We all know, remember, the opposition to the Vietnam war, but that's not unusual. Every war the United States has been in, from the War of 1812 through Vietnam with the one exception of World War Two when we were attacked by the Japanese, which solidified support, there has been a large-scale anti-war movement. In 1812, New England threatened to secede because it was opposed to the war. In 1848, there were thousands of American soldiers, including some West Point graduates, deserted and joined the Mexican army, because they felt Mexico was right and we were wrong and they should be on the right side. There was opposition to the Spanish-American War. There were hundreds of thousands of conscientious objectors opposed to World War One. And what sets this pattern is that there is no obligation in American religion for the individual to support the state. Rather, what American individualistic sectarian religion says is, the individual follows his conscience, he's moralistic. And therefore, if he's opposed to the war the day before it started, he's opposed to the war the day after. He doesn't turn around because the state declared war. On the other hand, in the church countries, the churches support the state and call upon their practitioners in peace, but also particularly in wartime. Now, this emphasis, I should hasten to add, on opposition to war also shows up in pro-war, because moralism, idealism, is not just opposition to war, it's also patriotism, it's also support of war. And hence, whenever we, that is, the Americans, go to war, we always go to war for moral reasons. We decide we're fighting for God against Satan. And hence, and since we're fighting for God against Satan, the other side is thoroughly evil, we demand unconditional surrender, which is a unique American phenomenon. Because Satan must surrender unconditionally. If Satan doesn't lose out completely, we don't recognize him. So, we didn't recognize the Soviet Union, we didn't recognize communist China, we still don't recognize Cuba or Vietnam. And this nonrecognition is an aspect of the same phenomenon as opposition to the war. If you're opposed to the war, you resist it. If you support the war, it's God's war and the other an enemy of Satan and you support it. Other countries think of going to war for interests, not for morality. When Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union an evil empire, he was as American as apple pie. We always fight the evil empire. That's the nature of our religious mandate, that we think the other side is evil and we represent religion. But, and if you look at other countries, our opposition to communism wasn't a function just of the fact, conservative in the American sense or capitalist. The European conservative countries and capitalists were opposed to communism, but they didn't take the same moralistic stance. When Castro came to power in Cuba, within a few months of his being in power, Francisco Franco and his government recognized Castro, and Franco's Spain and Castro Cuba did a lot of business as long as Franco was in power. Because Franco was a good Catholic, took a typical Catholic position, which is that human nature and human institutions are inherently evil and immoral, but you don't expect perfection out of them. So, if the other government is bad, what else is new? That's the nature of human institutions. You don't declare war on them because they're bad and if you did you'd have to be fighting everybody. But the United States thinks of institutions as being good or bad, it thinks of people as being moral or immoral. And hence, we decide an ideology or a country or an ism is bad, we crusade. Franco, DeÝGaulle, Churchill, didn't crusade against communism. They didn't like it, they were as much against it as Americans were, but their whole attitude towards other opposition groups was different. And Canada in this sense is like Europe. It's a church country, it doesn't, so that the Canadians have done business with the Cubans, the Canadians worked with the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. And this was not just because Canada is a smaller country population-wise and therefore more sympathetic to other small countries, but because the Canadians don't have the same moralistic view on foreign policy. And I would suggest that these differences between the American view and the Canadian view are to some degree reflected to the fact that they ended up on different sides of the same border, but one ended up with Anglican England and Catholic, the French-Canadians were Catholics, and we ended up as utopian moralists.
MP: This is Social Thought, I'm Michael Phillips, and our guest today is Seymour Lipset. He is a professor as well as author of Political Man and Continental Divide, which we're discussing now. So far we have begun to look at continental divide, the separation of Canada and the United States based on the Revolution and the Canadian counter-revolutionary attitudes. Professor Lipset has made a very strong point that the Canadian institutions are conservative in the traditional meaning of European conservative, we are liberal in that meaning, anti-statist, and we've looked at a number of issues ranging from religion to foreign policy. I wanted to, a lot of listeners being Americans don't know Canadian history too well. One is the origins of the Catholic institutions in Canada, and the other is the tenacity of the Canadians in holding on to monarchy.
SEYMOUR LIPSET: Well, the religious origins of the Canadians stem of course in some part from the nature of their immigration. Roughly twenty-five percent of the Canadian population, they may stop being Canadian soon, because they're having all kinds of arguments about that, are francophones, French speakers, are descendants of the people who settled what we now call Quebec. And of course they were Catholics, and became more intensively Catholic because after the British conquest, which occurred in 1763, most of the Èlite of French Canada went back to France, but the church, the priests, didn't, so that the only Èlite that stayed were religious and they made the area even more religious. And then when the French Revolution occurred, the clergy, the church in Quebec, were horrified by it, the French Revolution was anti-clerical, anti-church, so they tried to cut Quebec off from cultural contact with France. And in a sense Canada has rejected two revolutions. It rejected the American revolution, but it also rejected the French revolution. And in that sense Canada is a counter-revolution, is twice a counter-revolutionary country, having rejected these two revolutions.
MP: Didn't the also get immigration of Catholic priests? during the revolution?
SEYMOUR LIPSET: They got some, yeah. There were, there was an immigration of refugees, it wasn't very heavy, that is, they didn't get others, but they got more, but a number of Catholic priests did come to Quebec and stay there, so they reinforced the conservative, reactionary, if you will, tendencies in the Church and in Quebec society. But in English Canada, which is of course the largest one, originally the Church of England, the Anglicans, were the dominant church. They stopped being that with immigration and so on, but they helped, the Anglican Church helped set the tone of Canada after the revolution for quite a number of years, and percentage-wise there are many more Anglicans in Canada than there are Episcopalians in the United States. So the majority of Canadians today, I think, oh, probably close to two-thirds are either Catholic or Anglican, mostly Catholic, I think, about half the Canadians are Catholic. And it's interesting to note that while Canada did have and does have many people coming from Protestant sectarian backgrounds, they united. The largest, the second largest denomination in Canada, it's larger than the Anglicans, is the United Church of Canada. The United Church of Canada is the, are the Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, and others. Now, to unite, for sectarians to unite is the obverse of being sectarian. In the United States, the sectarians keep dividing, they split. Ecumenicalism is difficult. Canadian sectarians became ecumenical, reflecting their communal orientation, which again shows that this is a different kind of sectarianism, more church-like than sectarian.
MP: Also, the history of tenacity in holding on to the monarchó
SEYMOUR LIPSET: Oh, yeah, you asked that, I'm sorry. Well, you know the monarchy was preserved of course, after the American Revolution, and Britain remained, supporting Canada, up until, oh, the War of 1812 and beyond, there were British troops in Canada and the Canadians were .............. Until really sometime in this century, Canadians have been worried that the U.S. is eventually going to take 'em over. And in fact what brought about the unity of the British provinces into one country, after, it was the Civil War, because you know the United States has hundreds of thousands of troops under arms, and the Canadians got worried that when the war ended that here was the United States, this gigantic military power, that it would turn on Canada and finish the whole thing, they had taken over the South, they were going to take over Canada, that they had even that to worry about, and so that pressed them into uniting in 1867. But beyond that, the British fairly early, by the 1820s or '30s, accepted the fact that Canada really, from an economic point of view, wasn't of great benefit. So they pressed the Canadians to become independent, to go off on their own, to protect themselves, not to expect support or taxes from Britain. But the Queen, Queen Victoria for most of the nineteenth century, or the King, the monarchy, remained the symbol of authority for Canadians, the symbol of continuity. Some Canadian historians, philosophers, argue that Canada is an ancient country, the United States is a new country, by which they mean that Canada goes back to the, through the monarchy, government in Canada goes back to the Middle Ages, goes back to the beginnings of the British monarchy, that it's a continuation of England and of the English political system, whereas the United States broke with that, in 1776, so we became a new, in that view, a new society or a new government in 1776, which did not have legitimacy, did not have a tradition of loyalty and obligation. Whereas the Canadians say through the continuation of the monarchy you have this continuity of legitimacy and a respect for authority, of deference to the state, and that is symbolized by the monarch, by the queen. The Queen, of course, is rarely in Canada. There is a governor-general, who currently is a Canadian of Ukrainian descent, I can't even pronounce his name, it's a complicated Ukrainian name. Canada has had a French-Canadian woman as governor-general, it's had a Jew as governor-general, so that the emphasis of continuity with Britain in that sense isn't that strong. But whenever the Queen visits Canada, she gets a lot of attention, though right now, since the French-Canadians are talking about quitting and very annoyed about various things, they will not give symbolic deference to the Queen.
MP: Canada was also very reluctant in this century recently to, even as part of the Commonwealth, to reduce the influence of the monarchy. But we can move on, because I want to cover, say, police issues?
SEYMOUR LIPSET: Mm hmm.
MP: And the literary impacts that you've singled out.
SEYMOUR LIPSET: Well, on the police side or the crime side, one of the interesting differences between the U.S. and Canada is that we have a much higher crime rate than the Canadians, something that people who visit Canadian cities are quite aware of. I think the murder rate, the American murder rate is about four times that of Canada, it's 8 point something and the Canadian is 2 point something. And other crimes of violence, rape and other things, are much lower in Canada than they are in the United States. We have many more lawyers than the Canadians. We spend more on policing than the Canadians do. With respect, say, to gun control, we have many more guns. And of course we have all this resistance to gun-control legislation. The Canadians have many fewer guns, and they have strong gun-control legislation, and it you look at opinion polls, you find Canadians are in favor of even more ?incensive or stronger gun-control legislation. That fact, by the way, the difference in attitudes and ownership of guns, I think upsets one hypothesis or one theory that some people have of why Americans like guns, namely, the frontier, that Americans are hunters, we have this contact with the frontier which makes us, gives us a sense of wanting guns and, of course, the National Rifle Association emphasizes hunting and the like. Well, the Canadians certainly had an even bigger frontier than the United States, they have more contact with the wilderness than we do. Canadians, a lot of them like to hunt. But they don't feel the need for this freedom to buy guns at random or at will that Americans do. And in some degree this ties back to something I discussed earlier, which is this greater respect for the state, greater respect for authority, which one finds in Canada. That Americans, going way back, and some would relate it to the Revolution and to the break with legitimacy, the break with the monarchy, are much less respectful of authority, much less [?] likely to engage in deviant behavior. I just happened to be talking to a Japanese about the United States and Japan, and he was a political scientist and he was interested in why we have such a low voting rate in the United States. You know roughly fifty percent of Americans voted in the last presidential elections, and even fewer, thirty-five to forty percent, vote in congressional elections. Well, in Canada, seventy-five percent vote in the national elections, and in some of the provincial elections, even more. And this Japanese commented that Japan is in the same order. Now, one theory, which is, and I've, it's been suggested and I've stressed this, as to why we vote less is not that we're less interested in politics, because if you look at opinion polls you find that Americans have a lot of interest in politics, and a lot of people, and the audience for presidential debates is very high. But my, the thing that I've suggested is that people vote in many countries, not because they're interested in politics, but because it's expected of them, it's a citizen's duty to vote. And they, when the lights are red, you don't cross them even if there are no cars coming. In fact, I quote in my book Continental Divide, Canadians commenting on this, how Canadians will stand at a street corner where there are no cars coming and not cross when the lights are red. And I know in Germany it's the same thing. You notice this in a lot of other places. Or, if the sign says "Keep Off the Grass," people don't go on the grass in a lot of countries. In the United States, they ignore the sign. Well, I think this is tied in with our voting. What rewards do you get for voting? Okay, you may feel good, you've done your duty and the like. But that, for a lot of people, isn't enough, and even if they're interested in the election, they don't bother to go to vote. But in other countries, a citizen is supposed to go to vote, just like he isn't supposed to cross the street when the light is red, and hence he does what he is told, and what he is told to do is vote. But Americans don't do what they're told to do. And part of this, if you will, idiosyncratic behavior of Americans is that they don't vote if it feel it isn't gonna make a difference.
MP: You've also found parallels in the metaphors of Canadian literature and American literature.
SEYMOUR LIPSET: Mm hmm. There's a very interesting literature written by Canadian literary critics, and literary historians, about American and Canadian literature. You know one problem, if I may, with comparing Canada and the U.S. is that Americans almost, in any field, know little or nothing about Canada and rarely refer to it. Canadians, on the other hand, know usually as much or more about the United States than we do. So, when they discuss institutions or behavior in their own country, they often compare it to the U.S., and this is true in the literary field. And Canadian literary critics have pointed to a lot of interesting differences in the literature of the two countries. One of them is that in Canadian novels and fiction that women play a much more prominent role, as heroines, as strong, women are stronger in Canadian literature. And some people have argued that this stems from differences, metaphoric differences, between Canada. They'll use a Freudian notion, that we killed the father, we killed, we threw away the king. The Canadians didn't kill the father. So that the Canadians had quarrels with their family, but didn't live, didn't quit. And that this is like a daughter. A daughter fights with her mother, but doesn't, doesn't really break with her. Sons break with their fathers, kill the fathers. So the notion that's advanced, and I'm just repeating what a lot of literary critics, it's not my idea, that Canadian women, or Canadian novels therefore reflect this feminine aspect of the women's role in the family rather than the masculine one. And then some people have suggested that this may explain why so many of the creative writers in Canada are women. Proportionately, there are many more important women writers, like Margaret Applewood or Alice Munroe or a whole host of others, than there are in American fiction. And the suggestion is, one reason for this is that the Canadian novel is much more of a feminine novel than the American novel and therefore is better written by a woman, than by a man.
MP: Our sister country in this sense.
SEYMOUR LIPSET: Yeah. And the daughter of Britain. [chuckles]
MP: Thank you for being with us, Professor Lipset. This is Michael Phillips, the program is Social Thought, our guest was Seymour Lipset, professor of political science, author of Political Man in 1981, Johns Hopkins University Press, and most recently, Continental Divide, 1990, from Rutledge.