The Chinese media have been devoting a surprising amount of attention to the new Chinese edition of Arrival City. This article in the influential Guangdong-based Southern People Weekly by reporter Li Naiqing is, if you read Chinese, an entertaining overview of the Chinese perspective on my writing.
If a neighbourhood kid grabs you on the street, slashes you with a knife and steals your wallet, once you get over the pain, the rage, the fear and the police bureaucracy, you’ll probably want him sent to prison.
But what sort of prison? That’s where you, as a victim, confront the question that most countries face today: Correction or revenge? Do you want to hurt the criminal, or do you want to hurt crime?
So ask yourself. Would you want him to do time in Norway’s Halden Fengsel, possibly the best prison in the world?
Halden, completed two years ago, is a nicer place than the homes that many of its inmates come from. There are comfortable cells with flat-screen TVs, Ikea-style wood furniture and mini-fridges, teaching kitchens, music studios and excellent libraries, two-storey houses for lengthy visits with partners and children, guards who don’t carry weapons and share meals and sports with the inmates – a great many of them murderers and rapists.
Prisoners are locked in their cells between 8:30 p.m. and 7:30 a.m., but are otherwise expected to be engaged in classes, treatment programs and prison-yard jobs. “If you have very few activities, your prisoners become more aggressive,” prison governor Are Høidal told The Guardian this week.
Despite the seriousness of their crimes and their deprived backgrounds, the inmates rarely fight. They do have incentives: If they misbehave, they can get sent to a less enjoyable “closed” prison, like the one that will house anti-immigration terrorist Anders Breivik.
Mr. Høidal has explained in earlier interviews that revenge and suffering have no place in the Norwegian prison system. “We want to build them up, give them confidence through education and work and have them leave as better people.”
Does that make you feel all warmhearted and hopeful for the kid who disfigured you? Are you yearning to give him the chance to become a better person? Probably not. There’s a good chance it infuriates you. Especially when you learn that it’s costing more money to keep him in this luxe prison than you earn in a year.
But consider this: Fewer than one in five prisoners in Halden will commit another serious crime after being released. In Canada, the United States and Britain, the rate is more like three in five.
We know exactly why Norway has such lower recidivism numbers. Prisoners, being under constant observation, are very easy to study, and they’ve been studied like mad. Cambridge University criminologist Friedrich Lösel recently compared scores of studies in a dozen countries and found they reached almost identical conclusions.
He found that what causes prisoners to reoffend at lower rates, everywhere, is basic education, vocational and employability programs, anger management and therapy while behind bars (or, in Norway, no bars). On the other hand, things that cause prisoners to reoffend more after release include longer sentences, strict discipline, deterrent “shock incarceration” programs and regular sanctions (such as withdrawal of privileges).
In other words, we have a stark choice: We can punish people more, or we can reduce crime more. One cancels out the other. Sadly, though, it is a sense of anger and vengeance that motivates policy decisions in most countries these days.
Britain, for example, launched a legal bid this week to continue its ban on prisoners voting in elections. This makes no sense. Imprisonment is the removal of one important right – mobility and thus physical freedom – but it is not a removal of citizenship. Yet the desire to make life worse for prisoners, even in such petty ways, overwhelmed larger interests.
And Britain is relatively sane. In the United States, prisons often ban most reading material, just one prisoner in 10 is given any training, more than 20,000 are kept in solitary confinement and most face what Human Rights Watch calls “wanton staff brutality and degrading treatment of inmates.” Studies all show that the U.S. has among the world’s highest reoffending rates.
Canada, unfortunately, is headed in the wrong direction. Despite having the lowest crime rates – including violent crime – in more than four decades, its most recent crime bill shuns rehabilitation and includes most of the ingredients for higher reoffending rates.
Our taste for revenge is costing us our safety. It’s also costing us money: Dr. Lösel finds that every $1 spent on prison rehabilitation programs saves $7 in future policing, legal and penal costs.
As someone who’s been mugged once and burgled three times in recent years, I can tell you that I’d rather feel safer than avenged. Sadly, my neighbours are choosing otherwise.
RESOURCE: Below is a PowerPoint summary of Friedrich Lösel’s analysis of what has been found to work — and what hasn’t — in reducing post-prison reoffending rates. More detailed research on this question by Dr. Lösel can be found here and here and here.
After 60 years seeing her face on the money, on the postage stamps, on the TV screen and in our strangest dreams, we have become so accustomed to her that we hardly ever stop to think just how singularly weird the Queen really is. I don’t mean that disrespectfully. As an individual, Elizabeth II is possibly the least peculiar person you’ll ever meet. The secret of her considerable success, I’d argue, lies in her complete lack of regal affect, her almost middle-managerial air of calm professionalism.
And that is where the weirdness comes in. Elizabeth, more so than any other monarch before her or almost certainly after, has mastered and embodied the strange paradox of the constitutional monarch.
We are living through the final great age of the constitutional monarchy, and her long reign may mark this institution’s peak moment of success and credibility.
On the three occasions I’ve been invited to meet the Queen – we’ve chatted briefly about Canadian history, horse racing and newspapers – I have been struck by the way she carries out the day-to-day job of being the head of state: Not as a power to be reckoned with or as a symbol to be revered, but as a highly competent civil servant.
For that is exactly what she is: a civil servant, hired by Parliament to carry out a specific task. Her only remnant of absolute power is her right not to sign any piece of British legislation – but, then, if she did, Parliament could choose another family for the next-in-line. The constitutional monarchy is, paradoxically, a complete inversion of the old monarchy, where the kings and queens created a cabinet and a parliament to carry out their will.
Beginning with the English Bill of Rights of 1689, it flipped around: Now the monarchy exists at the behest of an elected Parliament, which, in turn, effectively “elects” the ruling monarch. “A Republic has insinuated itself beneath the folds of a Monarchy,” the great philosopher of constitutional monarchy Walter Bagehot exclaimed. It was a revolution without a guillotine.
I have no doubt that the Queen is a sufficiently well-read student of Mr. Bagehot to know that there is no longer any truth to his most famous line: “Above all things, our royalty is to be reverenced … Its mystery is its life. We must not let in daylight upon magic.”
The notion of a monarchy revered for its magical powers, or even passively tolerated for its life of leisure and good connections, dissolved the moment Queen Elizabeth II stepped out in 1953 to a phalanx of TV cameras. To keep her job, and maintain it for her offspring, she has had to embody exactly the opposite qualities: transparency, humility, frugalness, ordinariness.
Those happen to be the qualities of a good elected president. For today’s constitutional monarchs know the game is up: In a perfectly reasonable world, they would not exist. If we started from scratch, we would not choose a hereditary selected aristocrat from a randomly selected family as head of state in a modern, rights-based democracy. But we do, in 36 countries, including Canada.
You may notice that these countries are not doing too badly. In fact, there’s an even larger paradox here: When you look at modern monarchies, such as Sweden, Spain, Japan or the Netherlands, you see a lot more democracy taking place than you do in some republics.
As the Dutch historian Wim Roobol notes in his paper “Twilight of the European Monarchy,” the main reason why the steady 300-year decline in proportion of monarchies has not reached zero is because countries like Canada are sometimes more democratic than some republics, and republics are capable of being more authoritarian than any modern monarchy. Remember, all the Arab dictatorships that saw democratic uprisings last year were republics.
This makes it tough for people like me who would prefer a system like those in Germany or Ireland, with ceremonial but elected presidents – like governors-general, but chosen by the people. It might be better for independence and national unity – for the first time, all Canadians would be voting to fill the same office – but nobody wants to change it as long as our popular Queen wears the crown.
It won’t come to an end because people like me don’t like it. Rather, Dr. Roobol notes, it will end because some latter-day royals will realize that their “glamorous but essentially politically empty function is not worth the troubled life in the spotlights of a partly affectionate, partly unctuous and very often cynical public opinion.”
We used to behave ourselves because we thought the kings and queens were watching. Now they do because we are.
This essay opens with a historical vignette
If you were in London 110 years ago to watch the coronation of King Edward VII, it would have looked a lot like the scene of this month’s royal jubilee, with one notable exception: In 1902, the route of the royal coach, visited by millions of people, had been transformed into a giant advertisement for immigration to Canada.
Which serves as a reminder of a lost project
Prime minister Wilfrid Laurier made no secret of its purpose: to increase Canada’s population tenfold as soon as possible, and thereby turn the country from a sparsely populated colony into a major, independent nation with its own culture, its own economy and its own institutions, capable of influencing and bettering the world, rather than simply being buffeted in the world’s tides.
And a call for a return to its mission
It is time to act. Canada should build its population to a size – at least 100 million – that will allow it to determine its own future, maintain its standard of living against the coming challenges and have a large enough body of talent and revenue to solve its largest problems. All it takes is a sustained and determined increase in immigration.
Followed by a detailed case for a tripling of the current Canadian population.
This essay, the concluding chapter in the Globe and Mail’s series The Immigrant Answer, is part of a long-term project to make the case for a “Big Canada.” I first built the 100-million case in this 2001 column. My argument was soon joined by voices from across the ideological spectrum: By Andrew Coyne, by Robert Kaplan, and by Irvin Studin, whose journal Global Brief made the case on geostrategic grounds.
The sections of this article pertaining to cultural industries and institutions are extracted from a longer essay, “Public Thought and the Crisis of Underpopulation,” that I have written for the forthcoming collection of essays Public Intellectuals in Canada, edited by Nelson Wiseman for the University of Toronto Press. I presented a version of this paper as a Cambridge University lecture for the 2012 conference of the British Association of Canadian Studies.
If you wake up early in Frankfurt, you can drive to Madrid in time to have a late beer, without encountering a border crossing or a currency change along the way. Yet you will traverse an imaginary border between economic miracle and financial catastrophe, between booming Germany, the world’s second-largest exporter, and crisis-ridden Spain, a country so debt-troubled that it is in danger of crashing the euro.
You may notice that many more truckloads of German goods are headed through France to Spain than are going in the opposite direction – a one-way flow of goods and services that is the root cause of this continent-wide crisis, the reason why debt piled up along the Mediterranean coast in the first place.
Europe is now in a war, possibly unwinnable, against that debt, much as the United States has spent four years battling crisis levels of private-sector debt rooted in its trade imbalances with China. The root problem, however, is not borrowing or banks, but one of the most dangerous dilemmas of our age: People who live in exporting nations don’t spend money. They’re not paid enough to buy imports, so inequality soars and debt piles up.
Germans prefer a different explanation. Those Europeans along the Mediterranean coast, the story goes, simply gorged themselves on borrowed money and public-sector spending, their economies larded with corruption and inefficiency, and never learned to save money or have a proper private-sector economy. The two economic cultures were incompatible from the beginning, this theory goes, and should never have shared a currency.
That story might be believable if you were driving to Athens. The tiny Greek economy, largely irrelevant to this drama now, did live up to some of those stereotypes. When you come to much larger Spain, you realize it doesn’t tell the whole truth.
There is no obvious reason why Spain should be an economic disaster. It was not a country with high government debt – in fact, it ran surpluses. It was not a country with out-of-control public-sector employment or corruption; in fact, it was considered a lean, clean model country. It was not a corrupt or difficult place to do business, as anyone who has shopped at a Zara clothes store or used the ubiquitous Repsol gas stations will tell you. Its big banks were very solid; one of them, Santander, has bought some of the failed British banks. (Spain’s local mortgage-lending banks are another story.) And its citizens weren’t spendthrifts – Spain’s household savings rate is 18 per cent, higher than Germany’s.
But now Spain is in huge trouble. Its unemployment rate is 24 per cent, with 5.6 million people jobless. A private-sector mortgage debt crisis, caused by the cheap debt flooding in from the north to cover those imbalances, had to be bailed out by the government, adding public debt to the crisis. Borrowing costs have soared and commercial lenders won’t touch Spain, making it almost impossible to pay down the debt or get the productive economy going again.
It should be obvious that Spain’s problems won’t be solved by slashing government spending – it wasn’t the cause, and cutting it will stall the economy further. Nor will they be solved, in a fundamental way, by increasing it. So the debate over austerity, thrust into the mainstream by the election of French president François Hollande, is somewhat beside the point.
His alternative – “growth” – is something almost everyone agrees upon, albeit not enough to renegotiate the austerity-based bailout pact. But they’re talking about different things. For German leaders, it means making the Mediterranean economies more efficient and productive. While countries like Spain do need some reforms, this really misses the point.
What Germany needs, urgently, is to become a consuming nation. It built its post-1990s export boom on artificially low wages. That’s partly why Germans aren’t enjoying their boom as much as you’d think: They’re sitting on a $200-billion pile of cash that grows by almost $25-billion a year as export and debt payments pour in, unable to use it. As the International Monetary Fund has noted, this surplus is a core cause of the continent’s inequality and debt.
Germany needs to follow the Chinese. Beijing, facing a ruinous surplus four years ago, allowed inflation to take place, wages to rise, and consumerism to become prevalent and therefore its trade surplus to fall close to zero – a much healthier position for everyone.
Germany needs to follow this lead. The exporting nations need to inflate their economies, raise their wages, pour investment money abroad, creating markets for the prior victims of their debt. When those victims start selling, the others need to start buying. Those trucks need to start moving in the opposite direction.
I’ve spent the week in cobblestoned squares, listening to French presidential candidates argue that their country’s way of life is threatened by forces from beyond its borders. It’s a popular refrain these days: As economies falter, people fear the economic and human waves sweeping in from beyond.
President Nicolas Sarkozy has led the way, pledging to reintroduce trade protectionism, reinstitute passport checks and cut immigration. His challenger François Hollande has also suggested more protectionist policies and less immigration. As a result, four out of five French voters now believe that globalization is bad for their livelihoods, and that borders should be closed to foreign investment and immigration.
As I listened to these warnings, I couldn’t help thinking about how my week had begun in London.
On Monday morning, I paid the electricity and gas bills by writing a cheque to a French company. We buy our heat and light, as do 5.7 million other British families, from EDF Energy, a state-owned French company that provides a quarter of Europe’s electricity.
Then I took the garbage bags to the curb, where they were collected expertly by employees of the French company Veolia Environnement. Its 331,226 workers provide garbage collection, water treatment, street lighting and public transportation in 77 countries.
I hit the road, avoiding the tide of Renault Clios and Meganes and Peugeot 207s, among the most popular cars in Europe, together accounting for almost a million vehicles sold each year in the 27 European Union countries.
At the Underground station, I boarded a train built by Alstom, the French engineering company with 85,000 employees in 70 countries. They also built the nuclear reactors that provide my electricity. The train was guided by the Underground’s signalling and control network operated from a central hub in Waterloo Station by Thales, the French company with 68,000 employees in 50 countries.
En route, I made some travel plans. I’ll need to be in Munich, Warsaw and Barcelona in the next while, which inevitably means staying in one of the 5,000 hotels owned by the French company Accor, whose 145,000 employees in 40 countries run the Sofitel, Mercure, Ibis, Pullman, Novotel and Motel 6 chains.
French companies are impossible to avoid. They employ 4.5 million people outside of France and account for almost a fifth of all the investment in Europe. If you want to buy groceries in most parts of Poland or Greece or Portugal, you have little choice but to go to one of the 13,000 giant supermarkets of France’s Carrefour chain. France’s banks dominate finance across the continent – which is why they are so dangerously exposed to the Greek and Spanish crises. France doesn’t suffer the blows of international capitalism – it metes them out.
In fact, French investment abroad is twice the size of outside foreign investment in France. And if you strip away finance flows and look only at the industrial economy, French companies do 14 times more business abroad than foreign companies do in France. This is hardly a country that will, in the words of Mr. Sarkozy’s campaign speech, “dilute itself into globalization.” The French are the globalizers, not the globalized.
What about the human flood? I thought about that as I stepped off the Underground in the corner of Kensington known as “petit France” for its baguette shops and brasseries. London is home to 300,000 French citizens who take advantage of Europe’s open borders. There are two million French living abroad, an outflow that’s approaching the number of foreigners coming in.
As I had lunch with a Parisian expat scholar, I saw people heading to the local lycée to vote early in the presidential election. We now know that slightly more than half of those London French cast their ballot for a candidate, Mr. Sarkozy, who has promised to outlaw foreigners voting in local elections.
And then Thursday, a great many of those same French citizens went to another polling station to cast a ballot for the London mayor, because as European foreigners, they have full rights to vote in Britain’s local and national elections.
Mr. Sarkozy said he’d end Europe’s open borders because immigrants, notably Muslims, aren’t integrating in France. In fact, every study shows French Muslims have the highest rates of social integration, adopting the language, the family sizes and the liberal attitudes toward premarital sex and homosexuality at Europe’s highest rates, and even becoming as atheist and religiously unobservant as French Christians.
The problem is that nobody gives them jobs. And the larger problem within France is not foreign capital, but the fact that people have trouble creating jobs. As with so many countries today, their leaders are searching in vain for outside enemies when the real problem is right in front of them.
Photo of Nicolas Sarkozy’s final Paris campaign rally by Doug Saunders