Archive for April 10th, 2022

I’m a big fan of federalism.

Switzerland is the gold standard for federalism. Unlike the United States, the Swiss have resisted centralization. Most spending and taxation still occurs at the sub-national level.

But there are other examples of decentralized systems, with Canada also deserving plenty of praise.

Today, though, I want to write about Spain.

I had an opportunity to learn about the Spanish system while giving speeches last week in Castellon, Barcelona, and Madrid as part of the Free Market Road Show.

Let’s look at some data from Liberalismo a la madrileña, written by Diego Sánchez de la Cruz, the head of Foro Regulación Inteligente.

His book documents how pro-market reforms in the Madrid region have resulted in greater prosperity.

We’ll start with a look at the level of economic freedom in different Spanish regions. Madrid is at the top and Extremadura (bordering Portugal) is at the bottom.

Does a higher level of economic freedom produce better results, as measured by per-capita economic output?

The answer is yes. Madrid ranks first and Extremadura ranks last.

This certainly seems like strong evidence for free markets and limited government.

And one of Diego’s earlier publications graphed the relationship between economic freedom and per-capita output.

Definitely a strong correlation.

But what about causation? For instance, some of my left-leaning friends may wonder if there’s some other reason for the superior performance of the Madrid region. Maybe it was always the richest part of Spain and its current prosperity has nothing to do with current policy.

People always should be skeptical about data, particularly when looking at one-year snapshots.

That’s why I’m a big fan of looking at long-run trends. And this chart showing how Madrid has overtaken Catalonia helps confirm that good policy produces good results.

To elaborate, Madrid enjoyed rapid convergence over the past two decades, a period where there was lots of economic liberalization (including de jure elimination of a wealth tax and de facto abolition of a death tax).

By the way, based on current trends, Madrid and Catalonia now may become members of the anti-convergence club.

P.S. There has been some discussion of decentralizing in Australia and the United Kingdom, but no actual progress so far.

P.P.S. Leading scholars from the Austrian school of economics wrote in favor of decentralization.

P.P.P.S. There are some simple steps to restore and rejuvenate federalism in the United States, such as block granting Medicaid and shutting down the Department of Transportation.

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