Thursday, April 03, 2008

The Canadian Giant

When Americans think of Canada, a handful of quaint images usually run through our heads. Lumberjacks. Mounties. Maple syrup. It might seem backwards, rugged, or even primitive. But Canada is America's largest trading partner, greater than even China or India. There are virtually no tariffs put on items exchanged between the two countries--about as close as I've ever seen of actual free trade. It's a wonder Lou Dobbs doesn't focus his wrath on America's northern neighbor.

On the most recent Southpark episode, Canada becomes so angered by their lack of respect worldwide that they strike. After an unknown course of time (several die during the strike due to hunger and fatigue), it's revealed that Canada lost $10.4 million in lost production as a result of the strike.

I suppose the writers felt this was a high sum or knew it wasn't and used to to poke fun at Canada. But in all honesty, for a country of 33 million people, that adds up to less than fifty cents a person. The Canadian economy is actually quite robust (no doubt in part due to trade with the US and other countries), with a GDP per capita on par with the United States ($38,200 versus America's $43,594).

To capture how small the number is, understand that we can use it to estimate the length of the strike. Canada's GDP is $1.274 trillion. That means the strike lasted for 0.00000816 years, or, ignoring weekends and assuming an eight hour work day, 1.02 minutes. (I use USD here; note that if you switch to Canadian dollars it changes nothing since you'd be multiplying the numerator and the denominator by the same constant.)

The world economy is huge. Mind blowingly, fantastically huge. It is so large, Americans scarcely notice a nearby one trillion dollar economy and the toil and effort of a population the size of California. How great we have become, and how small each of us are.


Ryan said...

Um, ... did you notice what the name of the group was? The group was called the "World Canadian Bureau" but their initials were WGA. And didja notice the two people complaining about the strike are two writers for a foul-mouthed cartoon? And how the argument was over compensation for the internet?

I don't think they were making fun of Canada at all.

Rhett said...

Ryan, didja think that he was simply using the cartoon to illustrate and economic point? I doubt David was seriously criticizing the writers of Southpark.

Ryan said...

Hey, I was just trying to point out that the central message of the cartoon was a point that David probably thinks should be said more, not less.

David said...

There's no doubt the episode was about the strike, but what struck me about the episode was that their take on Canada reflects people's opinion about Canada (otherwise it wouldn't work and they would've had to go with a different country people pay little attention to, like Luxembourg). Naturally they were making fun of Canada. But you're right Ryan; they weren't only making fun of Canada.