Economics 101

The instructor in my Economics 101 class at university was a visiting professor from McGill University in Montreal. He was obviously outraged that a man of his stature would be assigned to conduct this elementary course, and made no secret of the fact.

On the first day of the class, after introducing himself and making us aware of his impressive academic credentials, he held up a book and stated: This is your text. It is the same text that is used by every Economics 101 class.

In his other hand he held up a few sheets of paper and stated: This is the syllabus setting forth the schedule of assigned reading of the text and the dates of the mid-term and final exams. It is the same syllabus used by every Economics 101 class. The mid term and final exams are Department wide exams and are based entirely on this text. If you read and absorb the material in the text you will have no problem passing this course.

What he said next totally stunned us. He said: I don’t take attendance. It’s immaterial to me whether you show up for class or not. That is entirely up to your discretion. My lectures will not be based on any of the material in your text. I intend to lecture on whatever subjects that relate to economics that I choose. I do, of course, hope that at least some of you will come to my lectures so that I don’t have to speak to an empty room.

I’m surprised that not one of us in the class had the nerve to report this jerk to the Economics Department. He should have been sent directly back to Montreal. It was, after all, his duty to assist us in absorbing and understanding the course materials. I believe that is what we were paying tuition for.

He was a man of his word. Most of us went to his first few lectures. Few attended many more.  The man had an intense hatred of the United States. His lectures were bitter diatribes, railing against the United States’ economic and cultural exploitation of Canada, exploitation that he insisted was carried out deliberately and with malice.

Now I am aware that there is some resentment of the United States by some elements in Canada, but it is nowhere near the degree expressed by our professor. Almost 90% of Canada’s population lives within 100 miles of the U.S. border. Without any conscious intent on the part of America, Canada is bombarded by American radio and television signals – American culture, personalities, news, attitudes, etc. Canada is by far the United States’ biggest trading partner, and it is very likely that the vast differences between the countries’ populations and economic resources can give the U.S. advantage in trade negotiations.

Pierre Trudeau, Canada’s Prime Minister probably expressed Canada’s feelings towards the United States in a speech in Washington in 1969.

“Living next to you is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly and even-tempered is the beast, if I can call it that, one is affected by every twitch and grunt.”

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