by George Leef
Statist intellectuals are constantly griping that America’s “free market” economy (which hasn’t been an accurate description for about a century) is unfair and doesn’t work for everyone.” Naturally, they’re eager to impose more government programs to fix things — which is just what we’ve been doing since the time Coolidge left office.
If these people are serious, they ought to think about the remarkable economic success story of Hong Kong, which Don Boudreaux writes about here. When Milton Friedman went to Hong Kong for his Free to Choose series back in 1979,the country was substantially less prosperous than France, but today it is substantially more prosperous, and pulling away. The reason? In France, the heavy hand of government is almost everywhere and politics dominates. In Hong Kong, government does almost nothing other than maintain order and there is scarcely any connection between politics and the economy.
As a thought experiment, suppose that in 1979, Detroit had been able to abandon all of the federal, state, and local laws, regulations, subsidies, and so on that beset it and become North America’s Hong Kong. Better or worse? There would no doubt be many more people living in Detroit (it has been shrinking for decades) and the inhabitants would be wealthier and safer by far.