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Archive for the ‘Statism’ Category

Based on Sunday’s election in Italy, the nation’s next Prime Minister almost certainly will be Giorgia Meloni, which has some worried that Italy is returning to the “far right” fascism of Benito Mussolini.

From an economic perspective, though, it would be more accurate to say that Mussolini is “far left.”

Or to say that he is a collectivist, which puts him in the same camp as socialists and communists.

In an article for the Independent Institute, Angelo Codevilla discussed how Mussolini began his career as a socialist activist, but ultimately was forced out of the party because of his nationalist views..

He was active in socialist circles, both Italian and international, giving speeches to workers and helping to organize strikes… He got to know Vladimir Lenin… Benito became a full-time socialist activist…as editor of its socialist newspaper. …he supported himself writing essays and editing a journal called Lotta di classe—class struggle… In 1911 the party entrusted the 28-year-old with editorship of its flagship publication, Avanti!. …He had become Italian socialism’s brightest star. …In…1914…he committed socialist heresy by writing that class struggle is a bad idea because the nation is more important than social class. He called his few scattered followers fasci, bundles, of individuals. …Hence he labeled the movement “Fasci Rivoluzionari d’Azione Internazionalista” and its members “Fascisti.” …the party expelled him.

In other words, Mussolini was part of the conflict between “national socialism” and “international socialism.”

Both versions of socialism favored big government, but they differed in how they viewed the nation state.

And this conflict, driven in part by the events of World War I, led Mussolini to develop fascism as a distinct strain of statism.

…continuing to call himself a socialist and propagandizing his evolving blend of nationalism and socialism…Mussolini shifted to building fascism into a party. …Hegel, following Napoleon, had made patriotic worship of the scientifically administered, progressive state the political essence of modernity. Mussolini’s vision of Italy followed from that. “The bureaucracy is the state,” he said. …Mussolini explained, …The state personifies the country, and disciplines its several elements to its service. “Soon, we will be the state.”

And he was right, at least in the sense that he and his fascists soon took over the government.

In the 1921 elections, Mussolini’s Fascists had gained only .04% of the vote. But chaos reigned in the streets because of socialist, Communist, and anarchist mobs, as well as because of the perhaps 40,000 fascist squadristi (the Blackshirts) who fought them. …Mussolini organized the descent of some 30,000 squadristi on Rome to demand he be named prime minister. …the king appointed Mussolini to head a government with almost no fascists. But…Mussolini gradually dispossessed the rest. …Fascist Italy was the first country in which the elected legislature gave up its essential powers to the executive…thus establishing the modern administrative state. …Socioeconomic organization was fascism’s defining feature. Only employers’ and employees’ organizations approved by the government were allowed. …No longer would corporations be responsible to owners.

Mussolini’s fascism was different than traditional socialism in that the goal was to have the government control the economy, but not to have government take over “the means of production.”

Both approaches were very hostile to free markets, of course.

I’ll close with some excerpts about Italian fascism and FDR’s failed New Deal.

After Franklin Roosevelt’s inauguration in 1933, Mussolini’s enthusiasm for likening the New Deal to fascism’s political-economic order… he made clear that “the spirit of [FDR’s program] resembles fascism’s since, having recognized that the state is responsible for the people’s economic well-being, it no longer allows economic forces to run according to their own nature.” …Fascists rejoiced that FDR had forsaken liberal for corporativist principles… It could hardly have been otherwise since the essence of the National Industrial Recovery Act—the involuntary inclusion of all participants in categories of economic activity and their subjection to government-dictated prices, wages, and working conditions—was at least as detailed as those in fascism’s corporate law. 

Since I’ve written about how the New Deal (and much of modern leftism) is based on fascist economics, I obviously agree.

But I’ve also explained that it’s better to refer to such policies as corporatist or interventionist since fascism nowadays also implies support for some of Hitler’s lunatic ideas about race and conquest.

P.S. The main message of today’s column is that it’s silly to label Mussolini (and his political heirs) as being on the far right. But it’s also true that Mussolini’s nationalist approach to statism is different than the ideas advocated by Marx (and his political heirs).

Dissecting and explaining these differences is why I think the left-right ideological spectrum should be replaced by this triangle.

By the way, the top of the triangle could say “Classical Liberalism,” but I used “Libertarian” so American readers would easily understand.

P.P.S. There’s a “Political Compass Test” that does a good job of determining one’s philosophical orientation, but it completely botches where Mussolini belongs.

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The people of Iran are protesting against their tyrannical government. The trigger for the anger and unrest is the murderous brutality  of the nation’s so-called Morality Police.

I can’t help but wonder, though, whether there’s also national discontent because of bad economic policy.

According to the latest edition of Economic Freedom of the World, Iran has one of the world’s most repressive governments. Of the 165 jurisdictions, only Libya, Argentina, Syria, Zimbabwe, Sudan, and Venezuela rank lower.

In other words, the Iranian government restricts economic freedom just like it restricts political freedom.

And that has very adverse consequences for the prosperity of the Iranian people, notwithstanding the fact that the nation has abundant energy resources.

Here’s a chart, derived from the Maddison database, that shows how Iran has fallen far behind Bahrain when measuring per-capita economic output.

I picked Bahrain because that’s the nation in the Middle East that ranks highest for economic liberty (#39).

This gives us another example of the “anti-convergence” that occurs when two nations have big differences in economic freedom.

The bottom line is that Iran has a horrible government for more reasons than we’re seeing in today’s headlines.

P.S. Here’s a comparison of economic liberty over time in both Iran and Bahrain.

P.P.S. Western sanctions against Iran obviously undermine prosperity, just as similar sanctions hurt places such as Cuba, North Korea, and Venezuela. I like when people make this point since it shows they (at least implicitly) are making the case for free trade. But I disagree if they want people to believe that such sanctions explain more than a small fraction of the problems in those nations.

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When I wrote about the 2021 edition of Economic Freedom of the World, I noted that both Chile and Canada were drifting in the wrong direction.

In the just-released 2022 version, there’s not any good news about those two countries, but I was more struck by the very bad news about the United Kingdom, which fell out of the top 20 thanks to a big drop in its score.- from 8.16 to 7.71 (more evidence that Boris Johnson was bad news).

Here are the jurisdictions with the most economic liberty.

The bad news is that every nation in the top 20 had less economic liberty in 2020 than in 2019.

American readers will be interested to see that the United States dropped from #6 to #7.

And Switzerland leapfrogged New Zealand to claim the #3 slot.

Denmark, Japan, and Estonia jumped several spots in the rankings. Not because their scores increased, but rather because other nations moved in the wrong direction at an even-faster pace (note that Denmark now ranks above the USA).

By the way, few people will be surprised to see that Venezuela remains in last place, though fairness requires that I acknowledge that it was one of the few countries to get a better score.

Here are some of the other key findings.

The index published in Economic Freedom of the World measures the degree to which the policies and institutions of countries are supportive of economic freedom. …The EFW index rates 165 jurisdictions. The data are available annually from 2000 to 2020… The most recent comprehensive data available are from 2020. Hong Kong remains in the top position, though its rating fell an additional 0.28 points. Singapore, once again, comes in second. The next highest-scoring nations are Switzerland, New Zealand, Denmark, Australia, United States, Estonia, Mauritius, and Ireland. …lowest-rated countries are…Iran, Libya, Argentina, Syria, Zimbabwe, Sudan, and lastly, Venezuela. …Nations in the top quartile of economic freedom had an average per-capita GDP of $48,251 in 2020, compared to $6,542 for nations in the bottom quartile.

The final sentence in the above excerpt is key. More economic liberty is strongly associated with more national prosperity.

I was curious about whether Hong Kong would retain the #1 slot. And it did, even though its score dropped to 8.59. For what it’s worth, the authors are not optimistic about the future.

Hong Kong has been…at the top of the EFW index for all years for which we have data, and this remains the case in 2020. In previous annual reports, we sounded the alarm bell about signs of declining economic—and other—freedoms in Hong Kong. In particular, we highlighted the new security law imposed in 2020 by the Chinese government with potential sentences of life imprisonment and the accompanying arrests in its aftermath. In this year’s report, Hong Kong’s overall EFW rating fell by a stunning 0.28 points to 8.59 for 2020 from 8.87 in 2019. …Hong Kong’s decline was much larger than the world’s average decline.

Speaking of declines, here’s a very sad chart. It shows that global economic liberty suffered a big drop from 2019 to 2020.

The pandemic is the main reason for the decline.

The policy responses to the coronavirus pandemic, including massive increases in government spending, monetary expansion, travel restrictions, regulatory mandates on businesses related to masks, hours, and capacity, and outright lockdowns undoubtedly contributed to an erosion of economic freedom for most people. Not surprisingly, virtually all jurisdictions, 146 out of the 165 to be exact, recorded lower scores in 2020 than in 2019, and the global average of the summary EFW index fell by 0.18 points. … these various policies…very well may have saved millions of lives, or they may have been completely ineffectual. That is a question for epidemiologists and health economists to work out. Our concern is economic freedom, and, on that margin, there is no question that government policies responding to the coronavirus pandemic have reduced economic freedom.

We’ll probably have to wait two years to see whether governments undo pandemic-related policy mistakes.

Next year’s version will reflect 2021 data, and many nations such as the United States were still imposing bad fiscal and monetary policy at that time.

It’s possible that we will see some improvement next year, but I’ll be even more curious to see EFW‘s 2024 edition, which will be based on 2022 data.

My fear is that politicians and bureaucrats will have self-interested reasons to retain the additional power they grabbed during the pandemic. But I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

Let’s close with a depressing look at the nations that lost the most economic freedom in the current edition.

For personal reasons, I’m sad to see the big declines in Taiwan, Georgia, Singapore, and Panama.

And it’s amazing (in a bad way) that Argentina and Greece managed to fall so much, given that they started with bad scores.

Sadly, every developed nation moved in the wrong direction. The industrialized countries that moved in the wrong direction by the smallest amounts are Switzerland (-.12), Australia (-.13), Sweden (-.14), and Denmark (-.14).

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It’s not as bad as Cuba, North Korea, or Venezuela, but Argentina (as illustrated by this video) is a case study of how statism can ruin an economy.

The most important takeaway from the video is that Argentina used to be one of the world’s richest nations.

Even as recently as the late 1940s, Argentina was in the top 10 for per-capita economic output.

But it’s been downhill ever since.

If you want to blame just one politician, the clear choice would be Juan Peron. But he’s been followed by plenty of other statists. Even the supposed conservatives in Argentina seem to be fans of big government.

The net result is that the people of Argentina keep losing ground relative to their peers in other nations.

To some degree, Argentina is an example of why “modern monetary theory” is a bad idea. Simply stated, it’s not a good idea to finance big government via inflation.

Not that we need another example. Sri Lanka’s economic collapse already taught us the same lesson.

But Argentina’s wretched politicians seem determined to make a bad situation worse. In her column for the Wall Street Journal, Mary Anastasia O’Grady opines about the nutty ideas of the current Minister of the Economy, Silvina Batakis.

Ms. Batakis’s resume isn’t reassuring. She’s a former minister of the economy for the province of Buenos Aires (2011-15) who left her successor with empty coffers and forced him to turn to the federal government for emergency help to pay the salaries of public employees. …In a 2019 tweet, Ms. Batakis advised that to “combat” poverty requires “a state that plans and intervenes.” Worry has quickly spread that Ms. Batakis will abandon even mild attempts to end the fiscal profligacy and money printing that has generated inflation now running at more than 60% a year, and accelerating.

So what comes next?

…another round of hyperinflation driven by government “experts” who believe in modern monetary theory—which posits that printing money to pay bills doesn’t have to cause inflation if tax rates are high enough.

No wonder the Argentinian peso has lost so much of its value.

So what’s the bottom line? Well, I asked in 2019 whether the country could break free of “economy-sapping statist governance.”

Given the country’s dependency culture, the answer almost certainly is no.

P.S. The last minute of the above video warns that Democrats have a policy agenda that will make America more like Argentina. That’s true, but the profligate spending of Bush I, Bush II, and Trump suggests most Republicans are not any better. They may even be worse.

P.P.S. Argentina’s politicians are not the only villains. The IMF also deserves to be castigated for enabling and subsidizing the nation’s bad policy.

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Since I wrote yesterday about Ukraine’s terrible economic policy, fairness requires that I make the same points about Russia’s similarly dirigiste system.

We’ll start with Russia’s scores from the latest edition of Economic Freedom of the World.

Not exactly a good set of numbers, particularly with regards to “size of government.” And it’s safe to assume that Russia’s overall score will decline when a new version is released later this year.

But I want to make the point that Russia faced serious economic problems well before Putin decided to invade Ukraine.

Indeed, he may have attacked in part to distract from Russia’s ongoing economic problems.

To some degree, this is a story of weak demographics, as I observed last month.

But Putin is making a bad situation worse.

Consider what George Will wrote for the Washington Post back in 2020.

n Putin’s ramshackle Russia…as recently as 2018, almost a third of medical facilities lacked running water, 40 percent lacked central heating and more than half lacked hot water. …in Catherine Belton’s exhaustive new book…, “Putin’s People: How the KGB Took Back Russia and Then Took On the West…” says that “by 2012 more than 50 percent of Russia’s [gross domestic product] was under the direct control of the state and businessmen closely linked the Putin.” …state-directed capital allocation actually is crony socialism.

It’s sometimes not easy to measure crony socialism (which technically should be called fascism), but even the International Monetary Fund recognizes its downsides.

Here’s some research from the IMF, authored by Gabriel Di Bella, Oksana Dynnikova, and Slavi Slavov.

The size of the Russian State…economic footprint remains significant. Concretely, the state’s size increased from about 32 percent of GDP in 2012 to 33 percent in 2016, not far from the EBRD’s estimate of 35 percent for 2005-10. …a deep state footprint is reflected in a relatively high state share in formal sector activity (close to 40 percent) and formal sector employment (about 50 percent). The deep footprint is also reflected in market competition and efficiency. Although sectors in which the state is present are more concentrated, concentration is large even in sectors where the state’s share is low. …Finally, state-owned enterprises’ performance appears weaker than that of privately-owned firms, which may be subtracting from growth.

Last December, Jarret Decker analyzed Russia’s state-controlled economy in an article for Reason.

There’s a thorough discussion of how the oligarchs gained control of key sectors of the economy, as well as this discussion of other policy mistakes.

The 1990s in Russia and throughout most of the former Soviet Union were a time of dizzying change… As price controls were lifted and the money supply increased, inflation exploded. In 1992, Russian inflation was about 2,000 percent, with another 1,000 percent inflation the following year. Life savings disappeared almost overnight. …plummeting social indicators were all tied to the disastrous performance of the Russian economy, a chaotic mix of large enterprises still under state control, a central government heavily in debt…the “crown jewels” of the former Soviet economy—in sectors such as oil and gas, mining, and steel production—remained under state control. …in GDP per capita, Russia has fallen far behind its fellow former Soviet republics in the Baltic region, with output per person about half of Estonia’s and about 40 percent less than Lithuania’s and Latvia’s. Not coincidentally, the Baltic countries all rank in the top 30 in the world in the Heritage Foundation’s 2021 Index of Economic Freedom.

I’ll wrap up with a story that is particularly disappointing to me.

One of the few good policies Putin implemented was a flat tax.

But rather than build on that successful reform, he decided to reverse it and adopt a system with discriminatory rates. Here are some excerpts from a 2020 report in the Moscow Times.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday signed a law on increasing income tax for high earners in the first move away from a flat tax system in place since 2001. Starting next year, the tax rate will rise from 13% to 15% on incomes over 5 million rubles (about $65,800/55,370 euros at the current exchange rate). …The reform is expected to give state coffers an additional 60 billion rubles, the president said… The current flat tax system was introduced in 2001 and was among the key reforms of Putin’s first presidential term.

The bottom line is that the yoke of communism has been removed but statism remains.

Which explains why Russia is not converging with the United States, as theory would predict. Here is a chart based on the Maddison database.

This is quite depressing, especially if the economy’s poor performance gave Putin an extra incentive to “wag the dog” with military aggression.

But let’s end on an optimistic note. It’s possible that Putin has miscalculated and his attack on Ukraine eventually will result in his ouster.

The best-case scenario is that he gets replaced with a free-market reformer. The Russian version of Mart Laar, perhaps. Then Russia could become a success story, which is exactly what we’ve seen in the Baltic nations.

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Regarding Russia’s reprehensible attack on Ukraine, I’ve written three columns.

Today, let’s address the topic of foreign aid for Ukraine, specifically whether American taxpayers should help restore that country’s economy once the conflict ends.

I’ll start by recycling an observation I made back in 2014, which is that Ukraine has been an economic laggard because of statist economic policies.

More specifically, I compared Poland (which has engaged in substantial liberalization) and Ukraine (which has not) and showed a growing gap between the two nations (another case study for the anti-convergence club).

Now let’s look at some updated data from the latest edition of Economic Freedom of the World.

As you can see, Ukraine is a cesspool of statism, ranking a miserable #129 out of 165 jurisdictions.

That’s lower than Russia, which is #100.

And the same is true if you look at the latest edition of the Index of Economic Freedom, which ranks Ukraine #130 and Russia #113.

At the risk of stating the obvious, giving economic aid to Ukraine would be flushing money down the toilet.

Unless, of course, western nations such as the United States somehow made aid contingent on sweeping economic liberalization.

We know what works. Don BoudreauxDeirdre McCloskey, and Dan Hannan have all explained how Western Europe and North America became rich in the 1800s and early 1900s with the tried-and-true approach of free markets and limited government.

Even a curmudgeonly libertarian like me would relax my long-standing hostility to aid under those conditions.

The odds of that happening, however, are slim to none. And I would put my money on none, as explained by the “Foreign Aid Paradox.”

P.S. Some people incorrectly claim Western Europe recovered after World War II because of government aid (the “Marshall Plan”). The real credit belongs with people like Ludwig Erhard.

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Joe Biden’s economic policy has been a disaster.

  • He’s bad on the issues where Trump was bad (spending and trade).
  • He’s bad on the issues where Trump was good (most notably, taxes).
  • And he’s bad on the issues where Trump had a mixed record (regulation).

Based on his track record as a long-time Senator, none of this is a surprise. According to vote ratings from the Club for Growth and National Taxpayers Union, Biden was to the left of even Crazy Bernie.

Unfortunately, a bad president (anyone remember Nixon?) can do a lot more damage than a bad senator.

Today is Part I of a series of columns analyzing Biden’s failure.

We’ll start with his so-called Build Back Better plan. Joe Biden didn’t explicitly mention “BBB” is his State of the Union address, but he did promote almost all of the specific policies that are in that plan.

And he even made the preposterous argument that some of those policies would help bring inflation under control.

I’ve repeatedly explained why the president’s plan for a bigger welfare state is bad news, but this tweet from Americans for Prosperity’s Akash Chougule does a great job of debunking Biden’s argument in a very succinct fashion.

You may recognize the chart. As I pointed out last year, it shows that prices rise rapidly in areas where government subsidies distort the market.

In areas where the free market operates, by contrast, prices actually tend to decline.

I’ll close with the observation that Biden’s Build Back Better is a clunky amalgamation of new and expanded entitlements. His per-child handout is the most expensive, and it’s especially pernicious because it would undo the success of Bill Clinton (and Newt Gingrich’s) welfare reform.

But if there was a prize for the most economic damage per dollar spent, Biden’s scheme for government-dictated childcare would be the worst of the worst since he subsidizes demand while also restricting supply. If it gets approved, the chart may need a new vertical axis because Biden will screw up the market for childcare even more than the government has screwed up the markets for health care and higher education.

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For most of human history, we’ve had primitive and impoverished societies based on feudalism and tribalism.

The good news is that capitalism began to emerge a couple of hundred years. The parts of the world that adopted free enterprise became incredibly rich. And there even have been meaningful improvements in living standards in the parts of the world that only partly liberalized.

But not everyone likes economic freedom. They argue for alternatives to markets.

And they’ve put forth all sorts of ideas over the past 100-plus years. Some of them utterly reprehensible, such as communism and Nazism.

Others ideas have caused immense damage, such as socialism and fascism. And others such as corporatism and the welfare state, have undermined the benefits of free markets.

The bottom line is that none of those alternatives have worked. They’ve produced stagnation at best. And, in many cases, oppression and deprivation.

Yet our friends on the left haven’t given up. Like medieval monks searching for the Holy Grail, they desperately want to find something that can replace capitalism.

And some of those folks on the left are putting big money into the effort, as reported by Steve Lohr of the New York Times.

Wages have been stagnant for most Americans for decades. Inequality has increased sharply. …Those problems…are partly byproducts of…free markets, free trade and a hands-off role for government. Its most common label is neoliberalism. …The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and Omidyar Network announced on Wednesday that they were committing more than $41 million to economic and policy research focused on alternatives. “Neoliberalism is dead, but we haven’t developed a replacement,” said Larry Kramer, president of the Hewlett Foundation. …The Ford Foundation and the Open Society Foundations have pledged to join the initiative and make grants later this year. …many prominent economists have questioned the wisdom of leaving so many human outcomes to the whims of markets. …“Reducing inequality has to be a goal of economic progress,” said Dani Rodrik, an economist at Harvard’s Kennedy School and a leader of its project on reimagining the economy. …Mike Kubzansky, chief executive of Omidyar Network, said today’s economic challenges spanned partisan divisions. “I think there’s pretty broad agreement that the traditional set of economic ideas has passed its sell-by date,” he said.

As a quick aside, when folks on the left use “neoliberal” as a slur, they are using the word to depict capitalism or libertarianism (the “neo” indicating today’s version of classical liberalism).

And I also can’t resist pointing out that Rodrik needs to learn about the “Eighth Theorem of Government.”

But let’s focus on the main issue. The Wall Street Journal editorialized on the left’s search for an alternative to free enterprise and pointed out that the real goal is to give Washington more power and control.

The 20th-century economist Joseph Schumpeter famously wrote that capitalism sows its own destruction by creating a knowledge class who despise its success. Behold the Hewlett Foundation and Omidyar Network’s $40 million gift to the paupers at Harvard and MIT to “reimagine capitalism.” …By “reimagining capitalism,” …what these foundations really mean is putting politicians and the administrative state in charge of redistributing more of its proceeds.

Amen.

One point I’ll add is that the left’s goal may be “redistributing more,” but an unavoidable economic consequence is that the economy doesn’t produce as much.

And that’s bad news over time, even for the people who are the supposed beneficiaries.

Which is why genuinely compassionate people support capitalism, which is the only system that has a proven track record of reducing poverty.

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When I first wrote about the Index of Economic Freedom back in 2010, the United States was comfortably among the world’s 10-freest nations with a score of 78 out of 100.

By last year, America had dropped to #20, with a very mediocre score of 74.8.

Sadly, the United States is continuing to decline. The Heritage Foundation recently released the 2022 version of the Index and the United States is now down to #25, with an even-more-mediocre score of 72.1.

As you can see, the biggest reason for the decline is bad fiscal policy (we can assume that Biden’s so-called stimulus deserves much of the blame).

So what nations got the best scores?

Our next visual shows that Singapore has the world’s freest economy, narrowly edging out Switzerland.

Notice, though, that Singapore’s score dropped and Switzerland’s improved. So it will be interesting to see if the “sensible nation” takes the top spot next year.

Also notice that only 7 nations qualified as “Free,” meaning scores of 80 or above.

The United States is in the “Mostly Free” category, which is for nations with scores between 70 and 80.

By the way, notice that the United States trails all the Nordic nations. Indeed, Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Iceland, and Norway get scores in the upper-70s.

How is this possible when those countries have high-tax welfare states? Because they follow a very laissez-faire approach for all of their other policies (trade, regulation, monetary policy, etc).

I’ll close with a depressing look at how the United States has declined over the past two decades. I already mentioned that the U.S. gets a score of 72.1 in the 2022 version. That’s far below 81.2, which is where America was back in 2006.

P.S. The Fraser Institute’s Economic Freedom of the World shows a similar decline for the United States.

P.P.S. Taiwan is an under-appreciated success story.

P.P.P.S. New Zealand is still in the “Free” group, but it’s decline is worrisome.

P.P.P.P.S. Kudos to Estonia for climbing into the top group.

P.P.P.P.P.S. The bottom three nations are Cuba, Venezuela, and North Korea.

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There were many notable tweets in 2021.

I realize there are still more than 11 months left in 2022, but we may have a winner for this year’s best tweet.

The hack leftists at Oxfam have a new report with the laughable title of “Inequality Kills.” As part of the report, they grouse about “the recent 40-year period of neoliberalism” that supposedly helped only rich elitists.

Johan Norberg destroyed Oxfam’s sophomoric argument with a tweet showing that this era of free-market policy is associated with dramatic reductions in extreme poverty.

As Johan points out, if neoliberalism (in Europe, that’s the left’s term for people who support economic liberty) was a sinister plot by “rich, powerful, and corrupt elites,” their scheme failed.

They wound up enriching poor people instead!

In reality, of course, there was no secret plot.

What actually happened is that nations did shift toward free markets. And pro-market policies are the only effective way to reduce poverty.

Here’s a chart from the latest edition of Economic Freedom of the World. As you can see, economic freedom has increased over the past two decades, from an average score of 6.61 up to 7.04.

By the way, the above chart underestimates the policy improvement in poor nations.

That’s because the level of economic liberty has declined in the United States since 2000. It’s also declined in Western Europe. And it’s declined slightly in Japan.

So if we took the average score of developing nations, we would see an even bigger increase.

And that increase from 2000-2019 would be relatively small compared to the huge increase in the average Fraser Institute score the preceding two decades.

As you can see from this chart, we got a dramatic increase in economic liberty during the years of the Washington Consensus, with average scores increasing from 5.31 to 6.60.

So what’s the bottom line?

The developing world has enjoyed huge reductions in severe poverty thanks to improvements in economic freedom.

Which is exactly the opposite of the statist agenda being advocated by the kooks at Oxfam.

P.S. For those interested, Johan added a follow-up tweet to show that the reduction in global poverty was not just the result of what happened in China.

Since we shifted to China, I’ll augment Johan’s tweet by noting that China’s partial liberalization after Mao led to more inequality in addition to a giant reduction in poverty.

So even though poor people were big winners, Oxfam probably thinks this is bad news since rich people got richer faster than poor people got richer.

P.P.S. The cranks at Oxfam are not the only ones who are willing to hurt the poor so long as the rich get hurt even more.

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Other than just-for-the-fun-of-it election predictions, I generally stick to economic analysis rather than politics.

But I acted as a pundit in this interview about Joe Biden’s waning popularity (in my defense, I also used the opportunity to slip is some criticism of his agenda).

My assertions about Biden pushing a hard-left agenda aren’t new.

I made the same point during the 2020 election campaign.

And I take second place to nobody in criticizing what he’s been doing ever since he got inaugurated.

Indeed, the only thing I’m uncertain about is whether I should be more upset about his class-warfare tax agenda or his proposals to expand the burden of government spending.

And, for what it’s worth, I don’t think my comments about Biden’s leftist ideology are controversial. Not even back in 2020.

For instance, here’s the headline from a Vox column that year by Matt Yglesias.

And here’s a headline from a column that same year by Michael Kazin in the New York Times.

Both of those columns said the same thing – namely, that Biden had embraced a leftist agenda (and both authors were very happy about that development).

I also would direct people to this 2019 Washington Post column by Lane Kenworthy, which observes (with approval) that Democrats have moved to the left.

If you want even more evidence, this analysis from 538 also makes the same point.

And a report from Pew notes that there’s a much bigger gap now between Republicans and Democrats – and it’s almost entirely because the median Democrat is now much farther to the left.

There’s one other point from my RT interview that’s worth highlighting.

I mentioned that we’ve had a strange realignment in the United States. Many rich people have moved to the left while lots of low-income people have moved to the right.

Is this because Democrats are pushing some policies that disproportionately help upper-income people, such as student loan bailouts and expanding the deduction for state and local taxes?

Maybe that’s part of the answer, but I mentioned in the discussion that social and cultural issues are probably the main reason.

In other words, wokeness may be the big dividing line nowadays in American politics – which is not exactly good news for libertarians who want the focus to be statism vs. liberty.

P.S. I also used the interview to explain that Reagan was special because he was able to enact big changes (notwithstanding America’s separation-of-powers system). But unlike other presidents who oversaw big changes (such as LBJ and FDR), Reagan actually pushed through reforms that were good for the nation.

P.P.S. I don’t like the idea of government-financed media, but my philosophical objections haven’t prevented me from appearing on PBS, BBC, and France 24, so I figured it was okay to also appear on Russia Today.

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Leftism and Hypocrisy

I periodically write about our leftist friends who display remarkable hypocrisy on issues such as taxation, education, Covid, and climate.

Here are just a few examples.

Gee, it’s almost as if there’s a pattern.

Writing for Reason, Professors Jason Brennan and Christopher Freiman highlight more of the hypocrisy that seems so prevalent on the left.

It’s been a bad year in public relations for Champagne socialists—or if you prefer, Neiman Marxists. The socialist Twitch streamer and Young Turks host Hasan Piker bought a $2.7 million house in Beverly Hills, complete with a swimming pool and an outdoor widescreen… Millionaire Aurora James designed Democratic New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s show-stealing “Tax the Rich” dress, which she wore to the $35,000-per-ticket Met Gala. The phenomenon of egalitarians living in luxury while denouncing the evils of inequality is not new. …socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders…remains within the top 1 percent of U.S. earners and the top .02 percent worldwide. Curious observers may question why Sanders, a tireless critic of the 1 percent, doesn’t sell his $575,000 vacation home and give the proceeds to charity or offer them as a general donation to the U.S. government via pay.gov. The same goes for Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a longtime progressive who has a net worth of over $10 million… When the disconnect between personal behavior and expressed ideology is this dramatic, and when the person gets rich and famous for expressing that ideology, we have to wonder whether he was ever sincere or was instead merely trying to promote himself. …Talking about socialism is cheap (indeed, even lucrative); a $2 million donation is not. Yet rather than bear a real cost to really help the poor, Piker and other prominent egalitarians adopt a philosophy that they think demonstrates their good hearts but that allows them to live high.

So is there any defense of this type of hypocrisy?

Sort of, though I’m not sure it’s very persuasive.

In a Wall Street Journal column last year, Ted Rall defended rich leftists by claiming that put values above self-interest.

‘Limousine liberals” have driven full circle—or rather the term has returned to its origins. Coined in 1969 by Mario Procaccino, the Democratic Party’s unsuccessful challenger to New York Mayor John Lindsay, the epithet described “hypocritical wealthy do-gooders insulated from the negative fallout of their bad ideas,” in historian David Callahan’s definition. “This theme,” Mr. Callahan has written, “remained a staple of conservative attacks.” Sen. Ted Kennedy was a classic example. He sent his kids to exclusive private schools at the same time he was telling working-class whites to bus their kids to distressed schools in the slums. …The accusation of hypocrisy or inauthenticity is…less logical… Had Kennedy gotten the tax system of his dreams, he and his family would have been poorer. He voted his values, not his self-interest. That’s admirable.

P.S. Libertarians can be hypocrites, of course, but the only article I’ve analyzed on the issue was not convincing.

P.P.S. By contrast, there are plenty of hypocritical Republicans.

P.P.P.S. The champion hypocrites are the bureaucrats at the OECD and IMF, who reflexively support higher taxes while receiving very generous tax-free salaries.

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A new edition of the Human Freedom Index has been released. When you combine measures of personal freedom and economic freedom, the “sensible nation” of Switzerland is at the top of the rankings.

I don’t know if this means we should view Switzerland as the world’s most libertarian nation (or perhaps the world’s least statist nation), but it’s obviously good to lead this list.

And it’s not surprising that New Zealand is next, though many people are probably shocked to see Denmark in third place (it has very bad fiscal policy, but otherwise is a very laissez-faire nation).

The United States is #15, which is good but not great.

Here are a few passages from the report’s executive summary.

The Human Freedom Index (HFI) presents a broad measure of human freedom, understood as the absence of coercive constraint. This seventh annual index uses 82 distinct indicators of personal and economic freedom… The HFI covers 165 jurisdictions for 2019, the most recent year for which sufficient data are available. …fully 83 percent of the global population lives in jurisdictions that have seen a fall in human freedom since 2008. That includes decreases in overall freedom in the 10 most populous countries in the world. Only 17 percent of the global population lives in countries that have seen increases in freedom over the same time period. …Jurisdictions in the top quartile of freedom enjoy a significantly higher average per capita income ($48,748) than those in other quartiles; the average per capita income in the least free quartile is $11,259. The HFI also finds a strong relationship between human freedom and democracy

If you want to know the world’s worst nations, here are the bottom 10.

Venezuela is normally the worst of the worst, but in this case Syria wins the Booby Prize.

Let’s now give some extra attention to Hong Kong.

The report notes that there’s been a very unfortunate decline in human freedom in Hong Kong, mostly because of an erosion of personal freedom.

And Hong Kong’s score is expected to drop even further in future editions.

Freedom has suffered a precipitous decline in Hong Kong. The territory was once one of the freest places in the world, but the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) escalating violations of Hong Kong’s traditional liberties has caused its ranking in our index to fall from 4th place in 2008—when the first globally comprehensive data appeared—to 30th place in 2019, the most recent year in our report… Our survey does not yet capture the suppression of 2020 and 2021, including the CCP’s imposition of a draconian security law that enabled its aggressive takeover of Hong Kong.

Thanks to the recent election, I expect we will see a similar discussion of Chile’s decline in future editions.

Here’s a final observation that should be highlighted.

Because the report relies on hard data (which often takes a year or two to be finalized and reported), this year’s HFI is based on 2019 data.

And that means we won’t see the effect of pandemic-related restrictions, which generally were adopted in early 2020, until next year’s version.

…this year’s report does not capture the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on freedom.

P.S. Here’s what I wrote about the previous edition of the Human Freedom Index. And if you want to dig into the archives, I also wrote about the publication in 2016 and 2018.

P.P.S. For what it’s worth, I still think Australia might have the best long-run outlook for human freedom.

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Now that a socialist has been elected (with open support from the Communist Party), what comes next for Chile?

Lots of bad policy, for sure, but Axel Kaiser warns that the left also wants to replace the country’s pro-liberty constitution.

Axel, who is President of Fundación para El Progreso and also a Senior Fellow for the Atlas Center for Latin America, just scratches the surface in this short video. He told me that there are many other desirable provisions, including school choice.

So it shouldn’t be surprising that the left in Chile is so determined to replace it with a document that empowers politicians.

I wrote about this issue last year, citing experts (including folks on the left) who all agreed that giving politicians new powers over the economy was the clear purpose of a new constitution.

This is basically a fight about whether to replace rights with entitlements (or, in the language of philosophers, whether to replace “negative rights” with “positive rights”).

By the way, there’s research showing that a society based on liberties is the best way of generating the prosperity needed for higher living standards (i.e., the access to goods and service that proponents of positive rights claim to support).

And, earlier this year, I showed how that works conceptually.

But you don’t need empirical research or theoretical analysis. Just open your eyes and look around the world. The nations based on socialism and so-called positive rights have produced economic misery and deprivation.

By contrast, there’s a much better track record – especially for ordinary people – in countries where government plays a smaller role.

It’s tragic that Chilean voters chose the redistribution approach in Sunday’s election. If they opt for a new constitution next year, the nation will be doomed.

P.S. By the way, here are some excerpts from today’s Wall Street Journal‘s editorial about the election.

Latin America, or much of it, is moving to the populist left, and Chile became the latest example by electing socialist Gabriel Boric… He’s the most leftist politician to win in Chile since Salvador Allende in the 1970s. His major theme was reducing economic inequality, which he proposes to do through state power. Mr. Boric wants to raise taxes, eliminate the country’s highly successful private pension system and increase government spending and regulation. He supports the constituent assembly now rewriting the constitution, and his goal is to give government more control over just about everything. …Foreign investors and Chileans with money and property are nervous. From the end of 2019—when the left launched riots demanding a new social contract—until August 2021, Chile’s central bank says some $50 billion (15% of Chilean GDP) fled the country. About half was investment capital and half from businesses and households. …on Monday the Chilean peso fell 2% against the U.S. dollar while the broader stock market plunged 10%. …The world is watching closely to see if the new president will…take Chile in the direction of such failing Latin states as Argentina or Peru, or worse.

Amen.

The best case scenario is that Chile is copying Argentina. The worst case is that it is copying Venezuela.

P.P.S. There was a president in the United States who wanted to remake society on the basis of “positive rights.” Fortunately, he did not succeed.

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I warned a few days ago that Gabirel Boric would be bad news if he won Chile’s presidential election. Well, he won, and now we’re going to find out whether he will repeal the policies that made the country successful.

He definitely seems to be another “leftist savior,” as described in this video.

At best, Chile has elected someone as bad as Kirchner in Argentina.

The worst-case scenario is that Boric will be an utter disaster, like Chavez or Maduro from Venezuela.

If you want more details about the election results, Las Últimas Noticias put together this helpful graphic.

I had predicted a 54-46 Boric victory, but these results are even worse.

But what’s really depressing is that Latin America – and the world – is going to lose a role model.

Chile was already declining because of the soft leftism of two recent presidents, Michelle Bachelet and Sebastián Piñera, and it seems almost certain that this degeneration will accelerate as Boric pushes a hard-left agenda.

I’m especially worried about damage to the nation’s system of personal retirement accounts.

I’ll close with a personal observation that people sometimes challenge me to point out successful libertarian nations.

I have traditionally responded by stating that there’s no such thing as a pure libertarian country, but that we have some great success stories if we focus on comparative policy.

Sadly, I can’t really use Hong Kong as an example any more, and now it looks like I’ll have to drop Chile off my list. So my fingers are crossed that nothing bad happens to Switzerland, Estonia, New Zealand, or Singapore!

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Greetings from Santiago. Chileans vote today for a new president and there’s a risk that a Venezuelan-style leftist, Gabriel Boric, will prevail.

And that puts at risk the economic progress described in this video.

The video has a good discussion of Chile’s very successful system of private pensions (which will be in danger if Boric wins).

But it also points out how free trade helped create the prosperity of modern Chile.

And that narrative is confirmed by looking at Chile’s score from the Fraser Institute’s Economic Freedom of the World.

I’m always happy to sing the praises of free trade and condemn protectionism, but let’s keep the focus on today’s election in Chile and why it matters.

That’s why this tweet tells you everything you need to know.

Notice how Chile began to prosper after it began to shift to free markets around 1980 and notice how Venezuela began to fall after it shifted to statism starting around 2000.

Notwithstanding all this evidence, Boric is favored to win today’s election. Which would be a vote for national economic suicide – perhaps akin to the British people voting for the pro-nationalization Labour Party after World War II (described in this video, for those interested).

I hope I’m wrong, both about the results of the election and the potential changes to economic policy if Boric prevails.

P.S. If you’ve enjoyed my Chilean election coverage, I did the same thing a couple of years ago in the United Kingdom (see here, here, here, here, and here).

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I explained a few days ago that Sunday’s presidential runoff in Chile should be viewed as the most important election of 2021.

This is because the left’s candidate, Gabriel Boric, wants to turn Chile into Venezuela, as I mention in this radio interview with Ross Kaminsky.

For some reason, you only hear my voice during this Zoom discussion, which means I don’t even have a face good enough for radio.

But let’s set aside that technical glitch and focus on Mr. Boric’s agenda.

Here’s a flyer that a campaign worker gave me as I was walking around Santiago yesterday.

It’s in Spanish, but one of my Chilean friends translated. Here are Boric’s economic proposals.

There was one attractive proposal. He’s proposing to cut the pay of politicians. But that will yield trivial savings if it happens and the odds of it actually happening are laughably small.

Also, he says he wants to fight crime, which is good (in theory).

His worst idea, though, is not on this flyer. If you go to his website, you’ll find this passage in his economic plan (as translated by Google): “The tax reform will collect on the order of 8% of GDP under the regime.”

He is not overly specific on how he will collect so much additional money, but the website mentions higher income taxes, green taxes, and the imposition of a wealth tax.

All of which sounds like a recipe to drive entrepreneurs and investors (and/or their money) out of the country.

To understand the radical nature of his plan, tax revenues in Chile currently grab about 21 percent of the country’s economic output according to the OECD – so Boric is advocating a 38-percent increase.

By comparison, Biden’s tax plan in the U.S. is awful, but he’s “only” proposing a 4-percent increase in the tax burden (about 1 percent of GDP).

P.S. Since Ross and I were comparing Argentina and Chile, here’s a chart I put together using the Maddison database.

P.S. Given that Chile’s free-market reforms have been especially beneficial to poor people (see here, here, here, and here), I wonder if they understand how Boric’s election would threaten their upward mobility.

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If you want visual proof of Chile’s “improbable success,” this chart tells you everything you need to know.

Thanks to free-market reforms in the 1980s and 1990s, growth exploded, Chile became the Latin Tiger and poverty plummeted.

It’s remarkable how quickly per-capita GDP has increased compared to the average of other major Latin American economies (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Venezuela).

Some folks on the left (including editors at the New York Times) bizarrely think Chile’s “neoliberal experiment” has been a failure. Given their upside-down perspective, they probably think Venezuela is a smashing success.

But today’s column is not about what’s happened in the past. It’s about what may happen in the future because of an upcoming presidential election.

Let’s start with this article from the Economist, which expressed concern back in November that the first round of the presidential election would lead to a stark ideological choice between the hard left and hard right.

…stable Chile disappeared two years ago, in an explosion of massive and sometimes violent protests…In a vote for the constitutional convention in May (in which only 43% turned out), support surged for the hard left while drying up for mainstream parties. As a result, the convention has become a theatre of wokeness, with calls to wage war against pivotal industries…, alongside…for a bigger role for the state in pensions, health care and green regulation. …pessimists fear a Utopian list of unaffordable rights and anti-capitalism. …Gabriel Boric, the candidate of the hard left, has seemed poised to win the presidential election. A former student leader, …some of his allies…include the Communist Party… Mr Boric wants to expand tax revenues by 8% of gdp over six to eight years (impossible, say many economists) and review trade agreements in order to engage in industrial policy. …That is why support has grown for José Antonio Kast of the hard right. …Whereas Mr Boric promises the most left-wing government since the chaotic Socialist-Communist administration of Salvador Allende, Mr Kast offers the most right-wing one since the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet.

Sure enough, the November election put Boric and Kast in a runoff, which is scheduled for December 19.

I don’t know if it would be accurate to say this is akin to a hypothetical Rand Paul-Bernie Sanders contest, but a report in the Wall Street Journal suggests that are very big economic implications.

After years of protests and political upheaval that seemed certain to shift Chile’s politics sharply to the left, voters in the first round of a presidential election largely backed candidates who support the country’s free-market economy… More than half of the ballots in the Sunday vote went to three right-wing candidates who support the market economy, led by first-place finisher José Antonio Kast with 28% of the vote. Gabriel Boric, the leftist candidate who backs dismantling a private pension system and creating a state-run lithium company, finished second with 26% of the votes… “People didn’t buy the idea that Chile needs to dismantle the market-friendly model, they just want a stronger social safety net,” said Patricio Navia, a Chilean political scientist at New York University. …The future of Chile’s once-lauded economic model that bolstered foreign trade and slashed poverty over the last three decades has been in doubt since mass protests erupted two years ago… Mr. Kast, a 55-year-old former lawmaker…, says he is a democrat who is offering Chileans economic prosperity and freedom.

By the way, the presidential election isn’t the only big thing that’s about to happen in Chile.

The article also acknowledges something I wrote about last year, which is the possibility of a new constitution based on entitlements rather than liberties (i.e., positive rights vs negative rights).

The election is being held as a special assembly made up of mainly leftist delegates is writing a new constitution, which could weaken investor protections and expand social rights. The constitution is expected to be finished next year when it will be put to a referendum.

A Washington Post column published yesterday by Professor Michael Albertus summarizes what’s at stake.

Chile’s presidential runoff election on Dec. 19 is the country’s most important election since its return to democracy in 1990. …Chile’s election pits José Antonio Kast, a bombastic far-right politician whom many liken to Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro, against Gabriel Boric, a far-left lawmaker and former student organizer. …The stakes couldn’t be higher. Chile’s ongoing constitutional convention is poised to propose next year the biggest overhaul to the country’s political system since the Pinochet dictatorship.

Prof. Albertus points out that the election isn’t just about economics.

There are big fights about immigration, law and order, abortion, and indigenous rights.

For those of us who care a lot about prosperity, Mary Anastasia O’Grady of the Wall Street Journal opined two days ago on the implications of Chile’s upcoming choice.

The stakes are high in Chile’s Dec. 19 runoff presidential election pitting the free-market former Congressman José Antonio Kast against socialist Congressman Gabriel Boric. The country has been trending left for years. But Mr. Kast’s surprise first-place finish in the election’s first round—with 28% of the vote—and the center-right’s strong showing in legislative elections suggests that Chileans are reconsidering national suicide. …If the vote goes left, Chileans can expect policy geared toward greater redistribution of the existing wealth-and-income pie—higher taxes, nationalization of pensions, populism, etc. If the vote goes right, there will be a chance to restore the fast growth of the 1990s by deepening the liberal economic agenda. …there’s something much bigger at stake. That is the survival of the democratic institutions protecting the pluralism, property rights and public order that have made Chile one of Latin America’s richest countries. Mr. Boric is backed by a coalition—Approved Dignity—heavily influenced by the Communist Party and other hard-left groups. …If Mr. Boric wins the runoff, you can bet they will demand their pound of flesh.

Ms. O’Grady’s column notes that Chile’s free-market reforms dramatically reduced poverty (for more details, see here, here, and here).

The market economy has been enormously successful in Chile. The share of Chileans living in poverty fell to 8.6% in 2017 from 68.5% in 1990, according to official data. Extreme poverty over the same period dropped to 2.3% from 48.8%. It’s a development record that few countries in the world have achieved.

Last but not least, she makes a very important point that Chile’s recent performance has not been very impressive.

…the clamor for change isn’t irrational. According to Chilean economist and investor José Luis Daza, …In the five years before the pandemic in 2020, the country grew at an average annual rate of 1.9%, less than half that of the world economy. “After 2000,” he told me in a phone interview from Santiago last week, “there has been zero productivity growth. In fact, it has been marginally negative.” …It was in the midst of this economic malaise in October 2019 that extreme-left militants burst onto the scene in Santiago. …Mr. Daza recently put his work in New York on hold to join Mr. Kast’s economic advisory team with a focus on growth.

I’m not surprised. There has not been any meaningful pro-growth reform this century. Indeed, the opposite is true. Policy has actually drifted in the wrong direction.

But if Boric wins this weekend, a drift in the wrong direction could become a tidal wave, washing away the Chilean Miracle.

The last thing Latin America needs is another Venezuela. Milton Friedman will be rolling over in his grave.

P.S. I’m especially concerned that a victory for the left could lead to the repeal of some of Chile’s best policies, including social security personal accounts and nationwide school choice.

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Big government is not good news, assuming you value liberty and prosperity.

But at least it’s good for a few laughs, as we saw in January, twice in May, and July. So let’s squeeze in a few more examples before the year ends.

Our first item today is for people who like being misled.

On a related note, we have a way for pathologists to identify those people after they’re dead.

Now let’s shift from pathologists to historians.

Ah, yes, the slippery slope.

Our fourth item is a visual depiction of Mitchell’s Law.

Per tradition, I’ve saved the best for last.

It’s not just the lettering on the door, it’s also the door not going down to the floor and the upside-down “Watch your step” sign.

Yes, this is satire, but you’ll see it’s not that far from the truth if you peruse my “Great Moments” columns.

Remember, if government is the answer, you’ve asked a very strange question.

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If you want to understand why some nations enjoy much stronger economic growth than other nations, the best place to start is the Fraser Institute’s Economic Freedom of the World.

And if you want to understand why some states have more vibrant economies than other states, you should check out the latest edition of the Fraser Institute’s Economic Freedom of North America.

Since most readers are from the United States, I’ll start with a look at the publication’s sub-national index, which shows how American states rank in terms of economic liberty. Unsurprisingly, a bunch of jurisdictions with no income tax are at the top of the list and California and New York are at the bottom.

By the way, the authors (Dean Stansel, José Torra, and Fred McMahon) specifically note that the rankings are based on 2019 data (the latest-available data) and thus “do not capture the effect on economic freedom of COVID-19 and government responses to it.

With that caveat out of the way, here are some of the findings for the sub-national index (which is where Figure 1.2b from above can be found).

Since the Fraser Institute is based in Canada, they understandably start by looking at Canadian provinces, but you can then read about results for the rest of North America.

For the purpose of comparing jurisdictions within the same country, the subnational indices are the appropriate choice. There is a separate subnational index for each country. In Canada, the most economically free province in 2019 was again Alberta with 6.17, followed by British Columbia with 5.44, and Ontario at 5.31. However, the gap between Alberta and second-place British Columbia continues to shrink, down from 2.30 points in 2014 to 0.73 in 2019. The least free by far was Quebec at 2.83, following New Brunswick at 4.09, and Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia at 4.20. In the United States, the most economically free state was New Hampshire at 7.83, followed closely by Tennessee at 7.82, Florida at 7.78, Texas at 7.75, and Virginia at 7.59. …In Mexico, the most economically free state was Baja California at 6.01.

Here are the provincial rankings from Canada.

Alberta is the best place for economic growth and Quebec is the worst (by a significant margin).

Here are the some of the findings for the all-government index (which uses a different methodology than the sub-national index mentioned above).

The good news, from the perspective of folks in the U.S., is that most states rank above every other jurisdiction in North America (and the Mexican state all rank at the bottom).

The top jurisdiction is New Hampshire at 8.23, followed by Florida (8.17), Idaho (8.16), and then South Carolina, Utah, and Wyoming tied for fourth (8.15). Alberta is the highest ranking Canadian province, tied for 33rd place with a score of 8.00. The next highest Canadian province is British Columbia in 47th at 7.91. Alberta had spent seven years at the top of the index but fell out of the top spot in the 2018 report (reflecting 2016 data). The highest-ranked Mexican state is Baja California with 6.65, followed by Nayarit (6.62)… Seven of the Canadian provinces are ranked behind all 50 US states.

By the way, here’s some historical context showing that all three nations had their best scores back in the early 2000s (when the “Washington Consensus” for pro-market policy still had some impact.

Historically, average economic freedom in all three countries peaked in 2004 at 7.74 then fell steadily to 7.24 in 2011. Canadian provinces saw the smallest decline, only 0.19, whereas the decline in the United States was 0.51 and, in Mexico, 0.58. Since then average economic freedom in North America has risen slowly to 7.43 but still remains below that peak in 2004. However, economic freedom has increased in the United States and Mexico since 2013. In contrast, in Canada, after an increase in 2014, it has fallen back below its 2013 level.

P.S. If you want some additional historical context, Alberta’s fall from the top (mentioned in the first excerpt) can be partly blamed on the provincial government’s fiscal profligacy when it was collecting a lot of energy-related tax revenue.

P.P.S. I first wrote about Economic Freedom of North America in 2013 and more recently shared commentary about the 2019 and 2020 versions.

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Thanks to socialism, Venezuela is a basket case.

This video from John Stossel asks if the United States can and should learn from this bad example.

The easy answer is yes. Indeed, you can click here and here to get 56 examples of why we should not copy Venezuela’s descent to statism.

The main thing to understand is that the world is an economic laboratory and the various countries are experiments showing what works and what doesn’t work.

Nations such as Venezuela clearly are wretched examples of what happens if there is a large amount of bad policy.

Other nations, by contrast, are examples of what happens if there’s a medium level of bad policy. Think Greece, Argentina, and Italy.

While countries such as the United States and Denmark show what happens if there is a (comparatively) modest amount of bad policy.

All this is depicted in the “socialism slide,” which I created back in 2019 to show how nations score in the Fraser Institute’s Economic Freedom of the World.

The good news is that the United States would have to fall a long way down the slide before approaching Venezuela-style economic despotism.

Even Biden’s plan would represent just a small step in that wrong direction.

P.S. I’m focused on the dangers of copying Venezuela’s bad economic policies, but I agree about the downsides of the other two policies – gun control and speech control – mentioned in the video.

P.P.S. I’ll never stop being amazed that the New York Times wrote about Venezuela’s economic crisis and never once mentioned socialism.

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Two days ago, I shared the most morally reprehensible tweet of the year.

Today, we’re going to share a tweet that also is painful to read, but in this case only our friends on the left will be discomforted.

I’ve opined about Chile’s success and Venezuela’s failure on multiple occasions, but here’s the great José Piñera with an especially powerful comparison of the two nations.

I’ve had dozens and dozens of conversations with friends on the left about Chile and Venezuela and they have no response other than to sputter “Pinochet was a dictator!”

That’s true, I tell them, but please respond to my question about what we can learn when we compare Chile’s successful experience with economic liberty and Venezuela’s awful experience with statism.

At which point they bring up Pinochet again and refuse to deal with the actual data.

Speaking of data, since embedding a chart in a tweet sometimes doesn’t lead to the most user-friendly presentation, I went to the Our World in Data website to create my own version of Jose’s chart.

This type of chart looks at “relative changes” in per-capita economic output, so all nations start at the same place and we then examine which ones grew the fastest.

Or, in the case of Venezuela, which ones declined (and the ones, such as Argentina, that performed poorly).

Here’s another version of the chart, but this one gets rid of all the other nations so we can more easily compare Chile and Venezuela. As José Piñera wrote in his tweet, this is “extraordinary.”

Because Venezuela has a lot of oil, the nation’s economy does face exaggerated ups and downs as energy prices fluctuate.

But it’s easy to see a trend of economic stagnation (the nation’s energy industry was nationalized and is now collapsing, so that will augment Venezuela’s misery).

Our final version of the chart adds the average performance for the world and the average performance for Latin America. As you can see, Chile is still the best performer and Venezuela is still at the bottom.

I’ll close with two final observations.

But perhaps José Piñera‘s preferred candidate, José Antonio Kast Rist, will win this year’s election and save Chile from going in the wrong direction.

P.S. Venezuela used to be much richer than Chile, so it makes sense that Chile began to converge. But now the two countries are part of the anti-convergence club because Chile is now richer and continuing to grow much faster.

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Don Boudreaux, Deirdre McCloskey, and Dan Hannan have all explained how capitalism enabled mass prosperity after endless stagnation and poverty.

There’s a similar message in this video from Kite & Key Media. The most relevant parts start at 2:30, though I recommend watching the entire video.

But if you don’t have time to watch any of the video, here are four of the key points.

  1. We are much richer, on average, than we were 50 years ago. This is a point I made both in June and September, and it’s worth adding that the all income groups tend to rise together.
  2. There was almost no growth for much of world history, a dismal reality that is beyond the comprehension of politicians such as Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley.
  3. Technological progress enabled by capitalism not only ended mass poverty, but it also brings many luxuries within reach of lower-income and middle-class people.
  4. As shown by basket cases such as Venezuela, Lebanon, and North Korea, bad policy can wreck economic progress.

Regarding point #4, my only complaint with the video is that some viewers might conclude that economic growth will be automatic so long as politicians don’t make catastrophic Venezuelan-style policy mistakes.

It would have been nice to point out that, yes, the worst-possible set of policies produces the worst-possible economic damage, but also to explain that a modest amount of statism can hurt growth by a modest amount and a lot of statism can hurt growth by a significant amount.

In other words, there’s a spectrum of possible policy outcomes (I’ve also referred to this as the “socialism slide“) and it’s best to get as close to laissez-faire capitalism as possible.

Remember, even small differences in economic growth lead to big differences in long-run living standards. And the “size of the pie” is a good predictor of whether a nation enjoys broadly shared prosperity.

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Economists of all types agree with “convergence theory,” which is the notion that poor countries should grow faster than rich countries.

Though they are usually wise enough to also say “ceteris parisbus,” which means the theory applies if other variables are similar (the translation from Latin is “other things equal”).

I’m very interested in this theory because we can learn a lot when we look at nations that don’t have “equal” policies.

And the biggest lesson is that you have divergence rather than convergence if one nation follows good policies and the other one embraces statism.

Take a look, for instance, at what’s happened to per-capita economic output (GDP) since 1950 in Taiwan and Cuba.

The obvious takeaway from these numbers from the Maddison database is that Taiwan has enjoyed spectacular growth while Cuba has suffered decades of stagnation.

If this was a boxing match between capitalism and socialism, the refs would have stopped the fight several decades ago.

By the way, some folks on the left claim that Cuba’s economic misery is a result of the U.S. trade embargo.

In a column for the Foundation for Economic Education, Emmanuel Rincón explains the real reason why these two jurisdictions are so wildly divergent.

…the Communist Party of Cuba has blamed the United States for Cuba’s misery and poverty, alluding to the “blockade” that the U.S. maintains against Cuba. However, …the rest of the world can trade freely with the island. …Taiwan’s economy is one of the most important in the world, with a poverty rate of 0.7%, as opposed to Cuba, which has one of the most depressed economies on the planet and 90% of its population living in poverty. What is the difference between the two islands? The economic and political model they applied in their nations. …Taiwan has the sixth freest economy according to the Index of Economic Freedom… While Taiwan took off with a capitalist model, Cuba remained anchored in the old revolutionary dogmas of Fidel Castro… With popular slogans such as redistribution of wealth, supposed aid to the poor, and socialism, Fidel Castro began to expropriate land and private companies to be managed by the state…today the GDP of the Caribbean island is five times less than that of Taiwan, and 90% of its population lives in poverty, while in the Asian island only 0.7% of its population is poor. It is definitely not the fault of the “blockade”, but of socialism.

To be sure, Cuba would be slightly less poor if there was unfettered trade with the United States, so maybe Taiwan would only be four and one-half times richer rather than five times richer in the absence of an embargo.

The moral of the story is that there’s no substitute for free markets and small government.

P.S. Though I appreciate the fact that our friends on the left are willing to extol the virtues of free trade, at least in this rare instance.

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Two years ago, I wrote that China needed to choose between “Statism and Stagnation or Reform and Prosperity.”

Sadly, as I noted last month in Part I of this series, it seems that President Xi is opting for the former.

Which is unfortunate since China needs a lot more growth to get anywhere near U.S. levels of prosperity.

Yet that’s not very likely when the United States is ranked #6 and China is ranked #116 for economic liberty.

For what it’s worth, China’s score is likely to drop in future years rather than rise, and I’m certainly not the only one to notice that China has economic problems.

Writing for the Atlantic, David Frum looks at the country’s shaky economic outlook.

China’s economic, financial, technological, and military strength is hugely exaggerated by crude and inaccurate statistics. Meanwhile, U.S. advantages are persistently underestimated. The claim that China will “overtake” the U.S. in any meaningful way is polemical and wrong… China misallocates capital on a massive scale. More than a fifth of China’s housing stock is empty—the detritus of a frenzied construction boom that built too many apartments in the wrong places. China overcapitalizes at home because Chinese investors are prohibited from doing what they most want to do: get their money out of China. …More than one-third of the richest Chinese would emigrate if they could, according to research by one of the country’s leading wealth-management firms.

David mentioned “inaccurate statistics,” which is a big problem in China.

But I also worry about bubble statistics, which is an issue the Wall Street Journal editorialized about earlier this year.

…credit has exploded, with total public and private debt expected to exceed 270% of GDP in 2020, up 30 points in one year. Most of that has gone to state-owned firms and exporters. Smaller, more productive private companies that serve the domestic market report credit shortages. This undermines long-term growth… Unless China can unlock and expand its productive private economy, it will never be able to manage the burden of the debt Beijing has created.. China’s unbalanced recovery represents an enormous lost opportunity for the Chinese people.

David Ignatius of the Washington Post opines on President Xi’s embrace of bad policy.

President Xi Jinping has moved down a Maoist path this year toward tighter state control of the economy — including “self-criticism” sessions for Chinese business and political leaders whose crime, it seems, was being too successful. Xi’s leftward turn represents a major change… The result is a severe squeeze on what Xi views as “undisciplined” entrepreneurs. …Xi’s crackdown has rocked the Chinese economy. The top six technology stocks have lost more than $1.1 trillion in value over the past six months… Xi is animated by what he has called his “China Dream,” of a nation of unparalleled wealth and power — and also the egalitarian ideals of socialism.

In a column for the Wall Street Journal, Dennis Kwok and Johnny Patterson warn that private investors should not trust the Chinese government.

Beijing’s crackdown on private businesses has wiped out hundreds of billions of dollars in market value in the past two months. Under the policies of “advancement of the state, and retreat of private enterprises” and “common prosperity,” the state’s tightening of control will increase. …Beijing assails “foreign forces” for seeking to curb China’s rise as a great nation. That refrain is constantly pushed by state media… Investors and shareholders of Wall Street firms must understand that there has been a paradigm shift in Mr. Xi’s China. Long gone are the days of pragmatism. What the Chinese state wants, the Chinese state gets.

In an article for the Atlantic, Michael Schuman explains how China’s heavy subsidies for electric cars haven’t produced vehicles that can compete with Tesla and other western  vehicles.

Do Chinese state programs actually work? …bureaucrats have never stopped meddling with markets. State direction, state money, and state enterprises remain core features of the Chinese economic model. President Xi Jinping has even reversed the trend toward greater economic freedom, notably with a hefty dose of state-led programs aimed at accelerating the progress of specific sectors. …China’s industrial program has resulted in a lot of production, but only questionable competitiveness. Even Beijing’s spendthrift bureaucrats seem to have awoken to that—sort of. They’ve been rolling back direct subsidies to carmakers, with an eye on eliminating them.

In other words, industrial policy is backfiring on China.

The former Prime Minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd, opined for the Wall Street Journal about China’s resurgent statism

In recent months Beijing killed the country’s $120 billion private tutoring sector and slapped hefty fines on tech firms Tencent and Alibaba. Chinese executives have been summoned to the capitol to “self-rectify their misconduct” and billionaires have begun donating to charitable causes in what President Xi Jinping calls “tertiary income redistribution.” China’s top six technology stocks have lost more than $1.1 trillion in value in the past six months… Mr. Xi is executing an economic pivot to the party and the state… Demographics is also driving Chinese economic policy to the left. The May 2021 census revealed birthrates had fallen sharply to 1.3—lower than in Japan and the U.S. China is aging fast. The working-age population peaked in 2011… While the politics of his pivot to the state may make sense internally, if Chinese growth begins to stall Mr. Xi may discover he had the underlying economics very wrong.

That final sentence is key.

Free enterprise is only tried-and-true recipe for economic prosperity. Chinese leaders are wrong to think they can get faster growth with more intervention.

Simply stated, China appears to be moving further left on this spectrum when it desperately needs to move to the right.

The bottom line is that I’m not optimistic about the future of China.

The country needs a Reagan-style agenda (the approach used by Singapore, Hong Kong, and Taiwan) to achieve genuine convergence.

P.S. Amazingly, both the IMF and OECD are encouraging more statism in China.

P.P.S. I used to be hopeful about China. During the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, China was horrifically impoverished because of socialist policies. According to the Maddison database, the country was actually poorer under communism than it was 1,000 years ago. But there was then a bit of economic liberalization starting in 1979, which generated very positive results. As a result, there was a significant increase in living standards and a huge reduction in poverty. But that progress has ground to a halt.

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The Fraser Institute in Canada has released its latest edition of Economic Freedom of the World, an index that measure and ranks nations based on whether they follow pro-growth policy.

Based on the latest available data on key indicators such as taxes, spending, regulation, trade policy, rule of law, and monetary policy, here are the top-20 nations.

You may be wondering how Hong Kong is still ranked #1.

In this summary of the findings, the authors explain that EFW is based on 2019 data. In other words, before Beijing cracked down. This means Hong Kong will probably not be the most-free jurisdiction when future editions are released.

The most recent comprehensive data available are from 2019. Hong Kong remains in the top position. The apparent increased insecurity of property rights and the weakening of the rule of law caused by the interventions of the Chinese government during 2020 and 2021 will likely have a negative impact on Hong Kong’s score, especially in Area 2, Legal System and Property Rights, going forward. Singapore, once again, comes in second. The next highest scoring nations are New Zealand, Switzerland, Georgia, United States, Ireland, Lithuania, Australia, and Denmark.

The United States was #6 in last year’s edition and it remains at #6 this year.

There are some other notable changes. The country of Georgia jumped to #5 while Australia dropped to #9.

Perhaps the most discouraging development is that Chile dropped to #29, a very disappointing result (and perhaps a harbinger of further decline in the nation that used to be known as the Latin Tiger).

And it’s also bad news that Canada has deteriorated over the past five years, dropping from #6 to #14.

The good news is that the world, on average, is slowly but surely moving in the right direction. Not as rapidly as it did during the era of the “Washington Consensus,” but progress nonetheless.

By the way, the progress is almost entirely a consequence of better policy in developing nations, especially the countries that escaped the tyranny of Soviet communism.

Policy has drifted in the wrong direction, by contrast, in the United States and Western Europe.

Indeed, the United States currently would be ranked #3 if it still enjoyed the level of economic liberty that existed in 2000.

In other words, the BushObamaTrump years have been somewhat disappointing.

Let’s look at another chart from the report. I’ve previously pointed out that there’s a strong relationship between economic freedom and national prosperity.

Well, here’s some additional evidence.

Let’s close by considering some of the nations represented by the red bar in the above chart.

You probably won’t be surprised to learn that Venezuela is once again ranked last. Though it is noteworthy that its score dropped from 3.31 to 2.83. I guess Maduro and the other socialists in Venezuela have a motto, “when you’re in a hole, keep digging.”

Argentina isn’t quite as bad as Venezuela, but I also think it’s remarkable that its score dropped from 5.88 to 5.50. That’s a big drop from a nation that already has a bad score.

Given these developments (as well as what’s happening in Chile), it’s not easy to be optimistic about Latin America.

P.S. There isn’t enough reliable data to rank Cuba and North Korea, so it’s quite likely that Venezuela doesn’t actually have the world’s most-oppressive economic policies.

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What motivates the tax-and-spend crowd? Why do they want high tax rates and a big welfare state?

The most charitable answer is that they don’t want anyone to suffer from poverty and they mistakenly think big government can solve problems.

But there’s another answer that may be more accurate.

As Margaret Thatcher observed about three decades ago, it seems that many folks on the left are primarily motivated by jealousy and resentment against their successful neighbors.

I realize I’m making an ugly accusation. But in my defense, I’m simply reporting what they write. Or what they admit to pollsters.

And now we have another example. Christine Emba of the Washington Post opined earlier this year that politicians should somehow put a ceiling on how much wealth any American can create.

The most shocking thing about ProPublica’s extensive report on the leaked tax returns of the super-rich wasn’t what the report contained — it was the fact that we’re barely shocked anymore. …we, as a society, let them do it. …every billionaire is a policy failure. But more than that, every billionaire is a failure of our own moral imagination. …Should we tax capital gains at a higher rate? Raise the corporate tax rate? Create a wealth tax? (I’d vote yes to all three.) But these debates are small bore. …Instead of debating tweaks at the edges of our tax system, what we should be…focused less on what is “allowed”… Such a philosophy already exists. It’s called limitarianism. …Just as there is a poverty line under which we agree that no one should fall, limitarianism holds that one can construct a “wealth line” over which no one should rise, and that the world would be better off for it.

Ms. Emba doesn’t explain how her “limitarian” policy might be implemented.

But since she’s embraced a wealth tax, the simple way to achieve her goal would be adding a 100 percent rate to that levy for any taxpayers who create so much wealth for society that they wind up with assets of $1 billion.

In case you think I’m joking, here’s part of her conclusion.

…the prospect of having “only” $999 million dollars would not stop innovators in their tracks. And even if it did stop some, would the trade-off be so bad?

I’ll close this column by answering her rhetorical question.

The trade-off wouldn’t just be bad, it would be terrible. A wealth tax (or any other possible policy to achiever her “limitarian” utopia) necessarily would reduce saving and investment.

And that would mean less innovation, slower (or negative) productivity growth, and wage stagnation (or decline).

Which is a good excuse to recycle my Eighth Theorem of Government.

Simply stated, here’s little reason to think that the folks who hate their successful neighbors actually care about their poor neighbors.

P.S. The New York Times also has published a column embracing the resentment-fueled limitarian notion.

P.P.S. Plenty of folks on the left explicitly argue that government has first claim on income. And that you’re the beneficiary of a favor if you get to keep some of what you earn. Once again, I’m not joking.

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Long-time readers know that I periodically pour cold water on the notion that China is an economic superstar.

Yes, China did engage in some economic liberalization late last century, and those reforms should be applauded because they were very successful in reducing severe poverty.

But from a big-picture perspective, all that really happened is that China went from terrible policy (Maoist communism) to bad policy (best described as mass cronyism).

Economic Freedom of the World has the best data. According to the latest edition, China’s score for economic liberty rose from a horrible 3.69 in 1990 to 6.21 in 2018.

That’s a big improvement, but that still leaves China in the bottom quartile (ranking #124 in the world). Better than Venezuela (#162), to be sure, but way behind even uncompetitive welfare states such as Greece (#92), France (#58), and Italy (#51).

And I fear China’s score will get even worse in the near future.

Why? Because it seems President Xi is going to impose class-warfare tax increases.

In an article for the Guardian, Phillip Inman shares some of the details.

China’s president has vowed to “adjust excessive incomes” in a warning to the country’s super-rich that the state plans to redistribute wealth… The policy goal comes amid a sweeping push by Beijing to rein in the country’s largest private firms in industries, ranging from technology to education. …Xi…is expected to expand wealth taxes and raise income tax rates… Some reforms could be far reaching, including higher taxes on capital gains, inheritance and property. Higher public sector wages are also expected to be part of the package.

And here are some excerpts from a report by Jane Li for Quartz.

Chinese president Xi Jinping yesterday sent a stark message to the country’s wealthy: It is time to redistribute their excessive fortunes. …Another reason for the Party’s focus on outsize wealth is to reduce rival centers of power and influence in China, which has also been an impetus for its crackdown on the tech sector… China already has fairly high income tax rates for its wealthiest. That includes a top income tax rate of 45% for those who earn more than 960,000 yuan ($150,000) a year… Upcoming moves could include…a nationwide property tax.

These stories may warm the hearts of Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, but they help to explain why I’m not optimistic about China’s economy.

If you review the Economic Freedom of the World data, you find that China is especially bad on fiscal policy (“size of government”), ranking #153.

That’s worse than China does even on regulation.

Yet the Chinese government is now going to impose higher taxes to fund even bigger government?!?

Is the goal to be even worse than Venezuela and Zimbabwe?

P.S. Many wealthy people in China (maybe even most of them) achieved their high incomes thanks to government favoritism, so there’s a very strong argument that their riches are undeserved. But the best policy response is getting rid of industrial policy rather than imposing tax increases that will hit both good rich people and bad rich people.

P.P.S. I’ve criticized both the OECD and IMF for advocating higher taxes in China. A few readers have sent emails asking whether those international bureaucracies might be deliberately trying to sabotage China’s economy and thus preserve the dominance of Europe and the United States. Given the wretched track records of the OECD and IMF, I think it’s far more likely that the bureaucrats from those organizations sincerely support those bad policies (especially since they get tax-free salaries and are sheltered from the negative consequences).

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As I’ve repeatedly pointed out, capitalism (oops, I mean free enterprise) is far superior than the various forms of statism.

Just last month, I shared a video with 20 example of market-friendly jurisdictions growing much faster than government-dominated nations.

But markets aren’t just superior at producing mass prosperity. Or at reducing mass poverty (the normal state of human existence).

Free enterprise also is the best option for dealing with a pandemic.

I wrote back in March about how free markets saved the day after the coronavirus struck.

In a column for the Wall Street Journal, Walter Russell Mead further elaborates on this theme.

The World Health Organization has been a shame and a disgrace, from its initial silence over China’s coverup of early data on the outbreak through its unreasoning hostility toward Taiwan and its collusion with Beijing’s efforts to discredit the lab-leak hypothesis. The premier international health agency has failed. Covax, the much-touted international program aimed at providing vaccines to citizens of countries too poor to purchase adequate supplies on the open market, has also fallen abysmally short. …What’s worked in the pandemic so far has been the dog everyone wants to kick: Big Pharma. Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson succeeded where the internationalists failed. Scientists in free societies working with the resources that capitalism provides have given the world hope. The WHO, Covax, the Chinese and Russian vaccines, and the “global community,” not so much.

Amen. Let’s be thankful for pharmaceutical companies. Their pursuit of profit is what led to the vaccines that have saved millions of lives.

By contrast, the WHO has been very unhelpful.

And America’s domestic bureaucracies, the FDA and CDC, have arguably been harmful.

Notwithstanding this track record, the Biden Administration wants to weaken the private sector.

The Biden administration…seems to believe that the best response…is to sabotage the American pharmaceutical industry. The U.S. development bank—the International Development Finance Corp.—will provide billions of dollars to firms based in countries like Brazil, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa and South Korea that agree to manufacture Covid-19 vaccines. Meanwhile, the State Department’s coordinator for global Covid response, Gayle Smith, said last week that she wants to push Big Pharma to share its technology with its new government-subsidized foreign competitors. …one wonders exactly how President Biden squares subsidizing cheap overseas competition for one of the most successful industries in the U.S. with promoting jobs for the American middle class.

This proposal is nuts.

Only curmudgeonly libertarians will get upset about an effort to subsidize vaccines for the developing world.

But every rational person should be horrified about a plan that would weaken one of America’s most successful industries.

P.S. Moreover, we should reject short-sighted policies such as European-style price controls on drug companies. Such an approach would undermine our ability to deal with future pandemics and also reduce the likelihood of new and improved treatments for things such as cancer, dementia, and heart disease.

P.P.S. I like pharmaceutical companies when they are being honest participants in a free market. I don’t like them when they get in bed with big government.

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It’s been almost three months since I shared some satiric images about government.

So let’s rectify that oversight with five new items.

We’ll start with some very wise words from Forest Gump (not the imposter).

The second item in today’s collection sort of reminds me of this “shovel” cartoon about Keynesian economics.

Both involve pointless gestures that will never produce results.

I don’t think I need to add any commentary to this next photo.

I shared a cartoon many years ago suggesting that organized crime and government have a lot in common.

Here’s a different view.

Per tradition, I’ve saved my favorite example for the conclusion.

The lower-right frame may not be proof of a stroke, but it’s definitely evidence of brain damage of some kind.

Remember, you’ve asked a very strange question if government is the answer.

P.S. My full collection of amusing images (and cartoons) about government can be viewed here.

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