'Fixers' of a broken system
By Antony Davies & James R. Harrigan
Published: Saturday, Nov. 24, 2012, 8:56 p.m.
In the 200 weekly polls that Rasmussen Reports has conducted over the past four years, 65 percent of Americans have said that the country is moving in the wrong direction. The numbers have fluctuated, but not once in four years has a majority of Americans said that the country was moving in the right direction.
Like stubborn drivers, politicians of both parties refuse to admit they are lost, and the longer they keep driving, the worse our problems become. In crises, politicians feel the need to “do things.” It never seems to occur to them that they — and their incessant tinkering with the economy — are precisely the problem.
Across countries, states and time, economic data tell a uniform story: The road to wealth, equality, a cleaner environment and less exploitation is economic freedom. But Washington has been driving in the opposite direction for at least 50 years.
Consider the Fraser Institute's Economic Freedom of North America and Economic Freedom of the World reports for evidence. The United States, for decades among the five freest countries in the world, has plummeted to 18th place as of 2010, the last year for which data are available. Today, Americans enjoy less economic freedom than do the people of Hong Kong, Australia, Canada, Finland, Chile, the United Kingdom, Denmark and 10 other nations.
For decades, a political cancer has been growing. It feeds on power, replacing the rights and responsibilities accorded free people with the restrictions and entitlements accorded children. This cancer methodically destroys markets — places where people come together freely to exchange talents and treasure. In its wake, it leaves people beholden to a government that tells them whether they may work, what they may buy and what they will pay.
The cure to this cancer is freedom. Countries with more economic freedom have greater gender equality and less income inequality. This isn't because rich countries tend to be both more free and more equal. Even among the poorest countries, those with more economic freedom enjoy more equality. In developing countries, child labor rates decline as economic freedom increases.
Over the past 25 years, unemployment in the most economically free states averaged 5.2 percent versus 5.8 percent in the least free states. That difference is equivalent to 460,000 jobs. Over the same period, median household income was 7.8 percent greater in the most free states, the poverty rate was 1.6 percentage points lower and there was more income equality.
Even though there are significant differences among the states, the American economic system is largely dictated by Washington. Everywhere we turn we are bombarded with dire warnings of the looming fiscal cliff, but precious few have the nerve to speak the obvious truth: Politicians put us on the edge of this cliff by attempting to do things they had no business doing.
The right thing to do is also the simplest. Stop meddling in the economy and our lives. People must be free to make their own economic decisions and to live with the consequences of those decisions.
All Washington need do is to get out of the way.
Antony Davies is associate professor of economics at Duquesne University and an affiliated senior scholar at the Mercatus Center. James Harrigan is a fellow of the Institute of Political Economy at Utah State University.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pirates trade for Mets first baseman Davis
- Orpik: Penguins must keep their cool
- Penguins’ Bylsma wants Cup version of Letang
- Latrobe woman texts searchers in Linn Run State Park to tell them she’s OK
- Alvarez struggles as Pirates fall short against Brewers
- Rossi: Pens sticking to power-play plan
- RiverQuest short of money, looks for a partner
- Survivors in critical condition a day after fifth Armstrong County car crash victim dies
- Former Mystic Inn burns in Republic, Fayette County
- Police say Latrobe woman bought gun for boyfriend, who shot neighbor
- Pirates notebook: Players show support for Franklin Regional