I was pleasantly surprised to read Newsweek?s Daniel Gross offer the following assessment:

Can China get rich without becoming free?

History suggests it can’t. Until recently China, which was technologically more advanced than Europe in the middle of the last millennium, had been left behind. Historians, led by the magisterial David Landes of Harvard, have made a convincing case that the slow erosion of arbitrary authority?the Reformation, the Enlightenment, the rise of rights, constitutions, democracy?helped stoke the capitalist revolution. For the past few centuries, the developed world has been led economically by democratizing commercial empires?Britain in the 18th and 19th, and the U.S. in the 20th. Without free minds, it’s difficult to have free markets, and vice versa. Trying to develop economically while controlling the flow of information has generally been a losing bet. Either such regimes fail to grow and collapse (the Soviet bloc), or the forces of economic liberalism ultimately lead to political liberalism, as in Chile.

Why the surprise? Gross does not necessarily have a great track record for spotting economic wisdom.