Sunday, April 10, 2011

Free Markets?

(click on image to enlarge)

The Economist magazine has an interesting chart (see above):

People in China are considerably more enthusiastic about the "free market" than people in the USA. I suspect there are two problems here. First, I don't think people in this country, while having opinions, have much understanding about the term.

Some Americans think it is getting the government out of everything. Do they mean highways, schools and the Post Office?

China, while claiming free markets, is really about letting individuals fail. It is definitely not that the government has gotten out of business. All land, all land in China is owned by the government. Probably those asked in China were urban and think that what they have now is better than rural poverty.

People in the U.S. know that their children will not be doing better than they are. This is a first for America.

So, it probably relates in most countries to time. Just exactly what the question was might also be important is a second aspect.

Throwing the word "free" into the mix is also a problem. While we think we believe very much in freedom, most people in this country spend most of their day working working for a large corporation. That boils down to dong what you are told.

No freedom is absolute. No one can drive down a highway at 120 MPH legally. So, as the late philosopher Sir Isaiah Berlin said, it is important to ask, "by whom am I coerced and to what end"?

Freedom is not a commodity, even though many think they own freedom. Milk should not be a commodity either, it is food.

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