Are Free Market Economics and Political Freedom Interrelated? Part I

An author with the Telegraph, Janet Daley, makes some interesting points today in an article titled, “Lose Capitalism and We’ll Lose Political Freedom.” Her main point is that capitalism—wrongly associated with other “isms” as a political ideology—is nothing more than a “conglomeration of all the transactions made between individual and corporate players in an open market.” She goes on to say that capitalism, or as she prefers, “free market economics, is “an anti-system: the aggregation of human behavior as it goes about fulfilling particular wants and needs. It can be described in anthropomorphic terms, such as ‘ruthless’ or ‘benign’ but of itself has no motives and no objectives.”

Critiquing those on the Left who gleefully portend the demise of capitalism, she argues, “There are lots of things that can be done to ‘capitalism’—it can be undermined, suppressed, sabotaged, even outlawed—but it cannot be ‘overthrown’ because in itself, it has no power.” Daley goes on to say, [Capitalism] is the very opposite, in fact, of a tyranny.”

Indeed, free market economics isn’t a political ideology. It is the absence of ideology (mostly in absence: one could argued that belief in the individual over government control is an ideology, but not in the same sense as the other “isms), allowing individual actors to make choices according to their values systems. Free market economics takes what is a base human condition—the desire to improve one’s position—and channels it into the greatest benefit for the greatest number of people.

Most importantly, the author recognizes, “When we make the case for capitalism, we are defending the political principle of freedom, not arguing for one kind of rigid economic organisation [sic] over another.” This final point is the most critical, and is supported by the Index of Economic Freedom produced by the Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal: across the globe, as a general rule, countries with the most- free economies also possess the most-free political systems. I’d like to do an in-depth analysis of the most recent report soon, but the basic point is that countries with significant economic freedom (the U.S., New Zealand, Australia, etc.) are also the most politically-free, while the countries that have oppressive, centralized economic systems are the least-free (North Korea, Zimbabwe, Cuba, Burma).

At any rate, it’s an interesting article and one worth reading.

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