Civic pride and cultural diversity: Pick one.

Civic pride and cultural diversity: Pick one.

The train of thoughts outlined in this writeup started with my thinking about the differences between Southern Germany and Canada. What struck me was that the area had a lot more in the way of what I like to think of as public services than what I am accustomed to in Canada.† There is better public washrooms, public health care, recreational pathways, playgrounds, and just in general much more of the type of things that make a place more enjoyable, but takes tax dollars to fund.

Of course, this is because Europe in general has higher taxes, and so there is the money available to spend on things like that.†But higher taxes are not the root of what is different. It is, indirectly politicians do what the people want, so the reason for higher taxes is because the people are willing to pay for the services they enable.†People take a lot of pride in public services, and if people didnít appreciate them, Iím sure they wouldnít be that effective. So ultimately, they have better public services because these things are more important to the people in Southern Germany than in Southern Ontario.† Not that Canada is the worst place for this sort of thing, just not as good as what I saw in Southern Germany.

So the next thought is: Why are these things more important to some societies than others.† Are some societies more altruistic to be willing to pay for things that are of benefit to the general public?† Perhaps some societies are composed of better people than other societies?

One of the other things that struck me about southern Germany was that the population is fairly different in a number of aspects. The population consists largely of people who have lived in the area for a long time, and have no intention of ever moving elsewhere.† The population is also much more homogenous (or less multicultural). Basically, the people live there and very much identify with the place and the people from that area.†This of course doesnít make for a particularly worldly population, but it does result in a very nice place to live if you prefer to just stay put.† And so it makes sense that if a population identifies with a place, and people, that they would put a greater emphasis on having good public services.

Contrast this with an immigrant culture such as we have in much of Canada. Just about every person, if they arenít from another country, is from another part of Canada at least, it seems. There are many different types of people intermingling, and people often move around.†And so it seems natural that people identify much less with a particular place. There is also much more diversity in culture.†This is something Canada takes pride in and promotes. When this works well, you have a sort of† ďcommunity of communitiesĒ. But then there is the question of which community people identify with.† To a large extent, people identify with their ethnic or subculture community at least as much as with the community at large.† And thatís if it works well.† If its dysfunctional, then people probably donít identify with the community at large at all.

And of course, people want to support the things you care about. And if the things they care about are things other than the community at large and the place they live in, their willingness to pay more taxes to support public services centered around these is probably less.

And so I conclude that the reason our public services in Canada are not as good is that our population is more diverse and more on the move. And thinking of other places I have visited, or at least know of, the places with the best public services tend to be places with very homogeneous cultures.† Places with poor public services tend to be places with more diverse cultures. These cultures arenít necessarily from different countries Ė just different Ė different classes or strata as well.

And if this is correct, we will never have the kinds of public services in Canada that Europe has.† And as much as we like the idea of cultural diversity, it isnít conducive to having really good public services.† Of course, that doesnít mean immigration is bad.† If you are going to have a lot of immigrants, its no doubt better to promote cultural diversity than to have the whole thing mashed together in a dysfunctional melting pot.

And I sympathize to some degree with Western Europeans trying to stop the influx of immigrants from the Eastern Europe Ė a problem that has gotten much worse since Eastern Europeans got the freedom to leave.† Because the thing that makes these places what they are is a relatively homogeneous culture of people who have lived there for a long time, and if you suddenly start stirring the pot, the place wonít be the same anymore. Not all bad, but I donít like the idea of Europe diminishing in its European-ness.

In the mean time, I no longer have to feel that we arenít as good because we donít have the same kind of public services.†Its not that we arenít as good we are just different.

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