The Libertarian Alliance

2003-03-26

I just read two fine essays published today by the Libertarian Alliance, the leading British libertarian organization. In the first essay, Nigel Meek analyzes the correlations between economic freedom, civil freedom, and material prosperity. It turns out that the correlations are quite strong: countries with more economic freedom tend to have more civil freedom, and vice-versa (so much for the arguments on the left and right that one can stably possess one kind of freedom without the other). Furthermore, there is a strong correlation between freedom and prosperity. Meek creates a combined measure of economic freedom and civil freedom, and finds that two sad countries are tied for dead last: North Korea and Iraq (followed closely by Libya and Cuba). Fascinating. Meek also finds that the most free countries tend to be northern European or inheritors of English culture and legal institutions: the top fifteen are New Zealand, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, the USA, Australia, Denmark, Switzerland, Finland, Estonia, Canada, the UK, the Bahamas, Sweden, and Austria.

The second essay, by Dennis O'Keeffe, explores why societies downstream from British culture are so successful, with special attention given to America. Following John Stuart Mill's argument in Considerations on Representative Government and taking account of Guy Millière's recent book L'Amérique Monde, O'Keeffe locates the cause of American flourishing in what Mill calls "the active principle": the desire not to endure the world but to change it, and to change it for the better. Without shrinking from criticism of the stupefying banality of much American culture, O'Keeffe celebrates the vital energy, the ceaseless bustle, the inventive creativity, and the sheer motive power of American society. By contrast, he sees Europe as decidedly less active, Asian capitalism as "emulative", and Muslim nations as downright envious. His analysis is more nuanced than I'm portraying here and well worth reading, so don't take my word for it.


Peter Saint-Andre > Journal