Last week, there was a Wall Street Journal editorial proposing that the US and Canada, being best friends for such a long time now, should tie the knot already and merge to become one nation. I have no idea how serious this proposal is, but let's toy with the idea for a bit.
On paper, a US-Canada merger makes a lot of sense. On a total trade basis, the US and Canada are each other'partner. Literally millions of people have worked across each border, and both nations have a long history of defense and foreign policy together.
But from a practical perspective there are at least 3 enormous sticking points to a US-Canada merger:
1. Government. This should be obvious. How would a parliamentary democracy and a constitutional republic make decisions?
2. Healthcare. Would Canada keep its (mostly-funded and solvent) benefits system?
3. Taxes. The current US tax code is almost 74,000 pages long. Does anyone even want to attempt to figure out how adding 35 million Canadians to that would work? What about Canada's carbon tax? Or its VAT?
So the WSJ author overlooks quite a few elephants in the room. But to simplify things, may I present the ITF version of this...
Let's start with a customs union and EU-style, passport-less travel between the nations. I've traveled to Toronto twice this year, and anything that provides a small tailwind for travel is a good thing, in my view. Plus I could visit more Toronto Happy Hours.
Eliminate the working-requirements. Visas are a completely arbitrary and politically-driven means of rewarding other countries we happen to like. What better way of showing our Canadian neighbors we love them by letting them work here Visa-free, and vice-versa? Professionals would especially benefit by being able to more easily expand their job search abroad without having to worry if a firm will be able to sponsor them. Firms would be able to attract top talent with less hassle and paperwork.
And finally, let's spread the NAFTA love. All the way down to Panama. More free trade and opportunity for everybody is an enormous market tailwind.
Some paranoid folks will oppose these steps on principle because they believe they are steps toward creating a North American superstate. But is that even workable? Do they have a point? Or is my splitting the difference a better approach?