by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
It’s nice to know that a left-of-center commentator can read one of my columns and respond with something more intelligent than name-calling.
Nonetheless, Mills doesn’t quite get it right. First of all, he suggests my column “seemed to fly in the face of everything the Locke Foundation advocates.” It’s not clear where he gets that idea.
Mills gets close to the column’s key takeaway when he says “I think the point of the article was to show that countries that the new wave of self-proclaimed Democratic Socialists admire are, in fact, capitalist countries with high degrees of ‘economic freedom.'” Yes.
Mills spends the bulk of his column praising the size of the safety nets in Scandinavian countries. My original column did not address that issue, though Robert Lawson, the economist whose Duke lecture I quoted, touched on that topic briefly.
After discussing market conditions in Stockholm, Lawson added, “They have high taxes, and that brings them down on the index. That’s why they’re not as high as Hong Kong or Singapore or the U.S. even, but they’re market economies.”
And this is where the John Locke Foundation expects robust debate with Thomas Mills and his ideological allies. What’s the proper size of the social safety net? What’s an acceptable level of tax burden? What are the costs and benefits of trade-offs between economic dynamism and government-provided economic security?
It’s not clear whether Mills is lumping me, Lawson, or the John Locke Foundation in with Republicans whom he says are trying “to win by calling Democrats socialists.”
On the contrary, I gather that Lawson is telling self-proclaimed socialists like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez that they aren’t actually socialists. If they want to avoid sending the United States down the Venezuelan path, they ought to do a better job distinguishing between the countries they admire and those that employ an economic system that does far more harm than good.