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Correspondence from Socialist Canada — Week Eight: The Cost of War

Nigel Clarke

Through the curiosities of circumstance, Nigel Clarke finds himself marooned in Ottawa, the capital of the socialist haven of Canada. Thanks to The Progressive Army and co-conspirators who must remain nameless, Nigel is able to smuggle his thoughts on life behind the curtain to the outside world each week.

To read last week’s correspondence click here

Earlier this week, the weather system which pummelled the east coast of the United States turned Ottawa into a winter wonderland once again. As I watched the snowfall both down and up, a curious wind-assisted phenomenon, an unusual noise filled my ears. It sounded almost like a plane taking off, or somebody driving a Lamborghini at 100 mph (excuse me, 160 kilometers per hour). Suddenly, from around the corner came a snow plow (excuse me, plough). It was a beautiful specimen; waxed, polished, and brand new. On the side, five large letters were printed – Volvo.

Where I am from, those applying to work at a snow removal company are asked about their experience in large engine repair. This is because the mid-70s John Deeres most commonly used are almost assured to break down at least once during a usual shift.  

To be honest, I was not aware Volvo made snow plows. For that matter, I’m not entirely sure I was aware anyone made snow plows after 1980.

Within the American narrative of socialism, there is powerful imagery surrounding machinery. Think of the broken tractors in the Soviet Union or the old cars in Cuba. Watching a late model Volvo snow plow drive by, I could not help but impose this narrative on the situation and ask: How did these socialists pay for that?


Nigel Clarke

A few days ago, the news of Donald Trump’s intention to table what he calls a “historic” increase in American military spending made its way north of the border. According to Trump (though “according to Trump” is almost a satirical statement at this point), the increase will be $54 billion, though many insist the real figure is somewhere around $18 billion.

If the increase in spending was a standalone country, $54 billion would rank 5th in the world in military spending. Even $18 billion, which pundits are portraying as an inconsequential drop in the bucket, would be more than socialist Canada spends in total on its military ($16 billion).

Speaking of socialist Canada’s yearly spending, there are some here who have been vocal in their criticism of the budget of Revered Leader Trudeau. Perhaps they make a valid point. After campaigning on a promise to run $10 billion deficits (an odd campaign promise), Trudeau’s first budget nearly tripled that with a deficit of $29 billion.

$29 billion. It almost sounds kind of cute next to the United States’ $450 billion deficit.

Certainly, Trudeau’s budget has been criticized not only by the ‘right’ for its deficit but by the ‘left’; for not going far enough, for not reducing military spending, sufficiently investing in the young people who carried Trudeau into office or addressing the corporate tax rate.

But it has also been called the “Robin Hood Budget,” presumably due to its large investments in education, affordable housing, clean energy, infrastructure, First Nations issues, and so on.

It is the difference in the budget discussion between the U.S. and Canada that seems important here. The United States starts with the underlying impregnability of military spending, then, noticing the huge deficit created, asks which social programs can be cut. In socialist Canada, the “huge” deficit is created in large part by overly robust program spending.


Nigel Clarke

The city of Ottawa — the national capital — is home to numerous foreign embassies: Capitalist and Socialist alike. Around the corner from where I am staying are the Afghani embassy, the Armenian embassy, and others. These smaller embassies are usually housed in converted character homes along residential streets. Further into downtown, housed in larger, more commercial buildings, are some of the more prominent embassies: British, Japanese, German, Mexican, etc.

There is, however, one embassy which stands out as distinct from the rest. In the heart of downtown, behind concrete barricades and a fence topped with glistening metal spikes, stands a concrete bunker guarded by soldiers – the United States embassy.

For the U.S., even diplomacy is militaristic.

It is this muscle-flexing imperialism, even in a place like Canada — so far removed from war most can’t fathom its existence — which is exactly the problem.

I had a friend from Chicago who traveled the world during the W. Bush years. Before he left, he sewed a Canadian flag patch onto his backpack. When I asked him why he responded: “so people I meet won’t hate me.”

If the excuse for American militarism is national safety, I would suggest a country would be inherently safer if it was liked rather than hated.

(Unless, of course, you are speaking of the safety of American corporations, not the public)

But more importantly, it is becoming increasingly evident that the United States cannot continue to maintain this global military empire and provide adequate services to its population at home. Education, infrastructure, healthcare, employment, and so on are all crumbling, despite monstrous deficits. I’m no mathematician, but …


Nigel Clarke

It has been fascinating to experience firsthand just what a government is able to do when it does not have to maintain a global empire. It is the universal healthcare, the progressive approach to homelessness, and university which costs about 1/10th of what it does in the U.S. It is the numerous museums, schools, and libraries within walking distance and the well-manicured parks, illuminated all night by carved stone lamps.

The other day, I walked into a nondescript government-run information building. It appeared to be a place to get pamphlets about the city, pay parking tickets, and other such monotony. What was unusual was that sitting in the middle of the foyer was a man in a tuxedo at an enormous grand piano playing Beethoven. I thought, how many bombs can you buy with this man’s yearly salary? (Answer: Zero)

Consider this: The United States could cut its deficit to zero strictly by lowering military spending and still spend the most on its military of anyone in the world.

I am not entirely sure this is an issue of socialism v. capitalism, since, strictly speaking, the military is socialist. It might just be about considering what you need when asking what you can afford.

Read More: Correspondence from Socialist Canada

Week Seven: It Pays to Play

Week Six: Border Wall to Keep Us In

Week Five: The Melting Pot and the Mosaic

Week Four: Canada’s Trump vs. Canada’s Obama

Week Three: Inside the Other Side of Healthcare

Week Two: Legal Weed and Socialist Police

American Espionage: Correspondence from Socialist Canada

Written by Nigel Clarke

Writer and notorious vagabond. From the frozen north. Follow Nigel on Twitter @Nig_Clarke.

Nigel Clarke is a Writer for Progressive Army.

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Correspondence from Socialist Canada — Week Eight: The Cost of War