Canada has invented another disease, to go along with speech codes and multiculturalism: the Queens University philosopher Will Kymlicka , a professional liberal ideologue who spends his time inventing rationales for political elites to pander to ethnic minorities at the expense of majorities. (The 3/28/00 Wall Street Journa ran a puff piece on him - article by G. Pascal Zachary: A Philosopher in Red Sneakers Gains Influence as a Global Guru).
Institutionalized pandering does pretty well describe how the Canadian polity currently works. As the WSJ puts it,
"…in the 1980s, Mr. Kymlicka favored Canada's concessions to Quebec, which was allowed to pursue what he calls 'asymmetric federalism,' meaning that the French-speaking province has powers – over immigration, schools and language – that other Canadian provinces don't have. This sort of autonomy, Mr. Kymlicka argues, is justified because it doesn't unduly hurt the English-speaking majority but helps the French minority."
This happy situation, of course, is not described in its entirety. Thus (1) English-speakers are disadvantaged – their federal institutions are significantly controlled by French-speaking Quebeckers, but Quebec's institutions are totally French; (2) inside Quebec, the French-speakers have legislated to suppress English; (3) "asymmetric federalism" is not working anyway, because Quebeckers have repeatedly elected a separatist government and are clearly on the verge of seceding. But "asymmetric federalism" certainly allowed Canada's political class to keep its snout in the trough for a little longer. (I discussed all this in my 1986 bookThe Patriot Game: Canada and the Canadian Question Revisited.)
It can't happen here? The Wall Street Journal continues admiringly:
"Mr. Kymlicka thinks the U.S. could go further to insure minority rights and institutions – especially in areas like New Mexico Hawaii and Alaska where native people were incorporated into the nation by conquest. In particular, he thinks the U.S. could do more to support Spanish-speaking citizens who want to be bilingual, but also needs to heed those who want to switch to English. 'Minority practices are only worth preserving only if minorities want to do so,' he explains."
Er—what about what the majority wants? Or are minority rights "asymmetric" too?
Uniting minorities and dividing the majority has been the historic political strategy of both the long-dominant parties in Canada and the U.S.: the Liberals and the Democrats. (I got into to trouble for describing the Democrats in Alien Nation as a "black-Hispanic-Jewish-minority white coalition." But hey, truth is an absolute defense).
The two countries have political establishments that are happy with the result, so there is a strong market for rationalizations of the process. We will hear more about Professor Kymlicka.
But the Wall Street Journal's enthusiasm for Kymlicka can probably be traced to its prominent display of a quote from his 1995 book Multicultural Citizenship:
"Globalization has made the myth of a culturally homogenous state even more unrealistic, and has forced the majority within each state to be more open to pluralism and diversity."
In fact, the salient event of the last decade has been the emergence of nation-states from within the prisons of syncretic, multinational empires—most notably after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Even Professor Kymlicka's ancestral Czechoslovakia has broken up. Globalization and free trade makes it easier, not harder, for small polities to survive.
But for a variety of reasons, this does not suit the agenda of New Class bureaucrats, international corpocrats and (it appears) the species of neoconservative intellectuals inhabiting the Wall Street Journal editorial page. The war against the nation-state continues.