For all of the grumbling about the global financial crisis, with anemic growth in the U.S. and Europe and concerns about inflation and investment bubbles in China, there is one nation that has seemed immune to this stagnation: Canada. American and European leaders could learn from this example of liberty, and the economic growth that has accompanied it.
Our northern neighbor, governed since 2006 by Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives, has emerged from the global recession stronger than ever.
Canada's national debt, unemployment rate and trade deficit are all lower than the comparable relative numbers for the rest of the G7 nations (U.S., U.K., Germany, Italy, France and Japan), but economic growth and median household income are rising.
The Canadian economy is smaller, but these statistics take relative size into account and still show Canada leading -- by a growing margin -- over European and U.S. performance.
Why this change in position after decades of Canadian weakness in comparison to American economic strength?
Capitalism has found more friendly terrain north of the U.S. border. In recent years, Canada has passed the U.S. in economic freedom, according to an analysis by the Heritage Foundation. Additionally, under Prime Minister Harper, spending by the Canadian government has fallen below 40 percent of their overall economy; in the United States, President Obama has gone in the opposite direction, with overall federal spending now at 45 percent of the total economy.
Canada has embraced the challenge of discovering new energy sources, with tar sands in the province of Alberta providing jobs, domestic supplies and oil for export.
Unemployment in Alberta is less than 5 percent, an enviable level. The Obama administration, by clear contrast, has refused to allow Canada and U.S. investors to build the Keystone XL pipeline to allow for these oil resources to come to market.
Obama's energy policies seem designed to hinder, rather than encourage, domestic production, with moratoriums on oil exploration and crushing regulations on mining and use of coal -- our most abundant fuel.
The same administration pumped millions into shady solar investments, subsidizes electric cars no one wants to drive, and loans money to speculative wind farms -- whose major beneficiaries in Missouri have been relatives of prominent Obama supporters.
Canada has also embraced free markets abroad, breaking from a protectionist sentiment that dominated public opinion until recently.
Beginning with the North American Free Trade Agreement -- implemented by the last Conservative government of the 1990s -- Canada has ratified free trade agreements with 10 nations. It is enthusiastically negotiating additional treaties with eight additional states, plus the European Union and a group of Central American nations.
Compare this to the years of delays by President Obama of free trade agreements negotiated with our allies South Korea and Colombia, held hostage until labor union demands for additional provisions were met -- including spending on their favorite domestic programs.
Is it any wonder that Canada has a higher credit rating than the United States? Canadians recognize effective leadership, and appreciate the growth of both economic liberty and prosperity in their nation.
Harper's Conservative government, which first came to power in 2006, was reconfirmed by a national vote in 2008 and in 2011 earned an absolute majority in the Canadian parliament.
In a country governed for decades by the Canadian Liberal Party and its left-wing allies, and which has an electorate traditionally far more receptive to big government, the continued success of Harper is even more remarkable.
The Canadian example should serve as an encouragement to those in the United States who still believe in the power of the market, as well as a warning to the current Democratic administration. Economic freedom brings economic prosperity, with Canada providing strong evidence that even decades of socialism can be overcome with leadership, integrity and diligence.
If the Canadians can learn this lesson, despite what had been an even larger government than what we are currently enduring, there is hope that the American electorate will make a similar reversal this November.
Dr. Wayne H. Bowen, professor and chairman of the Department of History at Southeast Missouri State University, is also a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve.