One critical difference between a well-functioning city-state on the periphery of East Asia -- or a country like Canada -- and China, is the degree to which rules are predictable and enforced. Obvious or not, those tempted to bend or break the rules should recall such distinctions, as should the rest of us.
In a few days the "fiscal cliff" deadline will arrive and potentially bring massive automatic spending cuts and tax increases to the U.S. Even if Congress and the President agree to avoid the cliff, the next crisis awaits. It has long been said that when the U.S. sneezes, Canada catches a cold. So why have these debt-related ailments in the U.S. not afflicted the Canadian government? The answer is that Canada has been practicing what the U.S. always preached. That is why we Canucks are not jumping off cliffs or smashing into ceilings.
On a recent trip to Kenya, my friend and his family crashed head on into an example of why some developing countries cannot grow and prosper. As they were about to board their flight from Nairobi, the clerk at the exit gate said there was a problem with their boarding passes. Before she returned them and before they could board the flight, they were told they must pay $800 to correct the "problem."