wombat_socho (wombat_socho) wrote,

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Maybe it's not the right tool after all.

Daniel Drezner points to an interview with Milton Friedman that appears in the New Perspectives Quarterly, specifically to a question regarding the Scandinavian countries, which combine high taxes with high employment. Friedman points out that these countries have a high degree of cultural homogeneity, which allows them to form a consensus on societal goals in a way that's a lot harder for polyglot nations like, say, the US.

The great virtue of a free market is that it enables people who hate each other, or who are from vastly different religious or ethnic backgrounds, to cooperate economically. Government intervention can’t do that. Politics exacerbates and magnifies differences.

Which Drezner says Amy Chua might have some problems with. Chua's thesis is that many Third World countries which have free markets and democracy wind up with the wealth in the hands of one ethnic group, which is then scapegoated in the political process, with pogroms ensuing. So why didn't that happen in America? One could certainly argue that we've had ethnic minorities dominating parts of the economy at different points in our history, but nobody rose to power encouraging a purge of the WASPs or the Jews - those politicians who tried that sort of thing achieved local successes but never really found a national following, since we're just too diverse.

Besides, we don't really have a democracy here. We have a republic, deliberately designed to prevent the kind of mobocracy that runs amok in places like Indonesia, Rwanda, and similar hellholes. The military is small, professional, apolitical to a fault, and a long way from the centers of power; the police, in contrast, are fairly widespread and don't have a lot of tolerance for angry mobs. Maybe that's part of the problem - most of these places are parliamentary democracies, with a largely uneducated electorate and a relatively large, politicized military that sits around looking for trouble.
Tags: culture & politics

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