Listening to the answers from Goldman Sachs executives in Congressional committees yesterday, one gets the impression that "we did nothing wrong" in the derivative debacle at the core of the collapse of Wall Street. While, during the same period, Canadian Chartered Banks were not legally permitted to engage in such practices.
Accepting a different set of rules, in Canada, or permitting more regulation, depending on your viewpoint, is part of a very different culture.
Canadians give a higher rank to the stability of the financial system (a complicated social system) while Americans, generally, give a higher rank to the freedom of the individual to push the envelope, pursuing financial gain. Canadians value the "rights of the individual" (witness the celebrated Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms) and the courts play an important role in the application of the charter, ironically a written statue, given the brevity of the Canadian constitution itself.
On the other hand, in the U.S. where both the constitution and the proliferation of laws demonstrate a very high "intervention" habit by Congress, pursuing personal/corporate profit without government interference is part of the holy grail.
The Canadian culture of moderation, of balancing conflicting interests, of challenging the extremes, of a middle (and likely to remain there) country, in geopolitical terms, of integrating the almost anal (by American standards) fixation on "accounting" (in the Auditor General etc.) into the public consciousness, stands as a unique and rather hopeful model of growing a nation, when compared to the "open skies for profit" approach of the Americans.
Perhaps, being biggest, and most powerful, and most wealthy, and most aggressive in sustaining the number ONE position has its own dark side.
Having lived and worked in both countries, I prefer the northern model of social contract, by a significant margin.
Now, can Canada motivate our next generations to unbridle their imaginations, within a context of "quality control" so that both "forest and trees" ( and even the leaves on those trees) can be clearly visible in a more efficacious balance of micro and macro?