Economic Freedom

By:  Walter E. Williams
07/02/2014
       
Economic Freedom

Unfettered government and crony capitalism, not unfettered markets, are the cause of our current economic problems.

A couple of years ago, President Barack Obama, speaking on the economy, told an audience in Osawatomie, Kansas: "'The market will take care of everything,' they tell us.... But here's the problem: It doesn't work. It has never worked.... I mean, understand, it's not as if we haven't tried this theory." To believe what the president and many others say about the market's not working requires that one be grossly uninformed or dishonest.

The key features of a free market system are private property rights and private ownership of the means of production. In addition, there's a large measure of peaceable voluntary exchange. By contrast, communist systems feature severely limited private property rights and government ownership or control of the means of production. There has never been a purely free market economic system, just as there has never been a purely communist system. However, we can rank economies and see whether ones that are closer to the free market end of the economic spectrum are better or worse than ones that are closer to the communist end. Let's try it.

First, list countries according to whether they are closer to the free market or the communist end of the economic spectrum. Then rank countries according to per capita gross domestic product. Finally, rank countries according to Freedom House's "Freedom in the World" report. People who live in countries closer to the free market end of the economic spectrum not only have far greater income than people who live in countries toward the communist end but also enjoy far greater human rights protections.

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