Sunday, 21 August 2016

Matt Ridley on the fate of economic libertarianism

Matt Ridley sums up the current state of economic liberalism in just a few words:
It is the same around the world. Economic liberty is out of fashion. There is almost no country trying the sort of free-market reforms – tax cuts, deregulation, privatisation – that so many countries achieved in the 1980s and 1990s. China and Russia, liberalised briefly in the late twentieth century, seem to be heading back to Big Brother. Brazil has seen its market reforms congeal into crony-corporatism. India and Japan are hardly paragons of small-government economic liberalism. Even here in Britain, I doubt Theresa May took Hayek’s “Road to Serfdom” to Switzerland as holiday reading.
Sad but true, just think of the case of New Zealand. The days of Rogernomics are long gone if this current government (or opposition) is anything to go by. I don't see the likes John Key, Gerry Brownlee or Andrew Little sitting up in bed reading The Wealth of Nations or The Constitution of Liberty.

But why is liberalism out of favour?
Unlike welfare-socialism and crony-capitalism, it fails to create vested interests dependent on its subsidies. The whole point of running for president [or Prime Minister] is to be able to hand other people’s money to your favourite causes and generate grateful patronage. Laissez-faire robs you of that treat.
Anything that stops politicians from bribing some of the people with some other people's money will not go down well with either the politicians or those who, gratefully, receive the largess.

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