Canada is as close to Utopia as any society can get and it owes that status to its remarkable efficiency, a Montreal philosopher says. And while being called “efficient” isn’t likely to ignite an uncharacteristic burst of patriotism across the land, it is a uniquely Canadian attribute that is central to the country’s economic and social well-being.
Professor Joseph Heath, who holds the Canada research Chair in Ethics and Political Economy at the Université de Montréal, believes that traditional public loyalties to religion, ethnicity and language have been displaced – wittingly or not in favour of an efficient society that works better than any other in the world.
“Our increased commitment to efficiency is a sign of progress,” he says. “Efficiency is not necessarily a cold, calculating virtue nor is it merely a mask for self-interest. Efficiency is a noble, humanistic value intimately related to a number of other values that we hold dear, such as cultural diversity, respect for individual rights, and the alleviation of suffering.” Heath considers efficiency the central value in Canadian society, a theme on which he elaborates in The Efficient Society – Why Canada is as Close to Utopia As It Gets.
Heath provides welcome context to help explain a phenomenon of recent years: Prime Minister Jean Chrétien’s annual announcement that the United Nations has determined that Canadians enjoy the highest quality of life of any country on the planet. Many Canadians find that that revelation is not consistent with their personal circumstances or experience.