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Saturday, January 18, 2014

Heritage Foundation's Freedom Index Proves Socialism is Right:

The Heritage Foundation has a useful tool, called the Freedom Index:

It quantifies exactly how free a country is according to various measurements.  It also gives a very strong case for freedom, since freedom correlates almost perfectly with wealthy, well off, well governed countries we all know and love.  Who can argue with the quality of life seen in the top six countries in the Heritage rankings?

1.  Hong Kong
2.  Singapore
3.  Australia
4.  Switzerland
5.  New Zealand
6.  Canada

But is that really the lesson we should take away from the Heritage Freedom Index?  The freer the better, so let's just abolish government already?  If you look deeper into the numbers, a very surprising, completely alternate explanation comes forth.

Denmark is the 10th freest state in the world, freer than the USA, and yet its government spending is 11th from the bottom, with a hilarious score of .5 out of 100.

Likewise, Niger has the best Monetary freedom policy in the world, and look where that's gotten them.  It turns out, if you want to find the one measurement that most reflects our 'common sense knowledge of who the best countries to live in' are, freedom from corruption is the most correlated, perhaps the only correlated stat in this index.  When you look at freedom from corruption only, you don't get ridiculous results like Denmark at the bottom or Niger at the top, you just get solid entries that all match expectations for where people actually prefer to live.

1.  New Zealand
2.  Denmark
3.  Finland
4.  Sweden
5.  Singapore
6.  Norway
7.  Switzerland
8.  The Netherlands
9.  Australia
10.  Canada
11.  Iceland
12.  Luxembourg
13.  Hong Kong
14.  Germany
15.  Barbados
16.  Japan
17.  United Kingdom
18.  Austria
19.  Ireland
20.  Belgium

Everyone knows these are really, actually, genuinely the best places on Earth.  Our happiness indexes that we regularly poll and study nations on always draw up these same places every year.

These same countries, especially the Scandinavian ones, are not libertarian states.  They're actually socialist states, with over 50% of the GDP controlled by the government.  It turns out if you're simply a virtuous people, who don't lie and steal from each other, prosperity and fulfillment comes naturally to everyone in the nation.  And it's that very fundamental trait, being considerate and respectful to others, that inspires not only lack of corruption but also socialism.

Not only does socialism come naturally to people who don't want to hurt others (that same feeling causes them to want to help others), it's something any nation finds it can easily afford once it's simply not corrupt.  Being not corrupt magically creates such a miraculous level of wealth in any country that tries it that there's suddenly more than enough for all.  There's no point begrudging people a non-scarce good, and non-corrupt countries have money flowing out of them like cornucopias.  Norway?  Luxembourg?  Singapore?  These people really don't mind if a few scraps are thrown to the beggars, they can all buy a new house every year with their incomes anyway.

The way to destroy a nation, or a people, the way this beautiful blue-green Earth turns into a dirty hellhole, is simply and only corruption.  When the government ceases to protect civilians from random seizures of their property, ceases to protect them from criminals in general, and ceases to reward people positions of merit to people with actual merit, but instead hands out high-salaried, high-responsibility jobs to people based on pull (or for the sake of greater diversity for that matter), that country is headed for immediate and terrible ruination.

This is why, looking back, it's meaningless to say "Communism failed everywhere it was implemented, thus communism was wrong."  Where was communism implemented?  A bunch of horribly corrupt countries, including Africa, Russia, China, and Southeast Asia.  They were corrupt before communism came to power, they were corrupt during communism, and they're still corrupt after communism.  Nothing has changed.  They were terrible before the revolts, terrible during, and are still terrible today.  If you want to blame x on y, you have to hold everything else constant and show only x's variation caused y to vary.  But even as communists raised or lowered spending on their subjects, their relative rankings in the world haven't changed.  They were beneath the OECD before communism, beneath the OECD during communism, and they're still beneath the OECD today.  Therefore communism's philosophy of 'from each according to their ability, to each according to their need,' actually has no effect on any of the data we're looking at.

If communism had simply been implemented in a country that was corruption free, like, say, in Denmark, the results would have been stellar.  And by communism I do not mean central planning of the economy, that was just a means to an end and never communism's end.  Communism's end was spelled out unmistakably and explicitly:  "From each according to their ability, to each according to their need."  Communists once believed that centralized planning would improve economic efficiency so they tried it out.  That was a mistake, no different from a mistake in arithmetic, with no moral implications whatsoever whether they were right or wrong.  So long as you're serving the right moral end, you will keep shifting your means until you find the right one that leads to your goal naturally.  Any sensible communist, upon seeing centralized planning's failure, would have instantly tried free markets instead.  It doesn't matter how you reach the goal.  So long as you abolish poverty you've won.  And this is what socialism has been doing for decades now -- they dropped central planning, but Denmark still has over 50% government spending, it's a completely communist state, in terms of a state devoted to the communist creed, that everyone should contribute in order to keep everyone at a quality standard of living.

Furthermore, there's a virtuous spiral to socialism.  The less desperate people are for money, the less likely they are to be corrupt or criminal.  Poverty is the source of all woes on Earth -- if people can afford fairly everything they need in life, they won't hurt others for it anymore, and they won't scheme for extra benefits on the side.  No one wants to hurt others.  No one likes breaking the law.  There's too much risk involved, and it weighs on their consciences.  The number of straight out psychopaths in society is less than 1%.  So when entire countries are subsumed in corruption, and life is just a regular quagmire of injustice from dawn to dusk, where nothing ever goes to the people who earned it but always just somehow ends up in the pockets of the worst, most scummy, most selfish, most violent, most awful people in the country, it isn't because people are naturally evil.  It's because proper procedures weren't put in place to defend against corruption, so that even good people are forced to play the game or be left behind and get trampled over.

If you cut the causal chain, by not allowing corrupt people to receive any rewards, people will instantly revert to what they wanted to do in the beginning, which is play fair and be nice.  Then you'll find that corruption naturally disappears for that generation and all generations that follow.  But if you allow perverse institutional incentives to always reward people for staying corrupt, corruption will never end.  It will haunt your country and your culture to the nth generation.

One way to change the incentives around corruption is to reward people who 'follow the rules.'  A basic income for non-lawbreakers is the perfect reward for not breaking the law.  And it turns out it is much cheaper to provide a basic income than the corruption it takes for them to earn the money unfairly instead.  Republicans insist that if you aren't productive, you should just starve to death on the roadside.  However, this isn't what actually happens.  Before anyone starves, they turn to corruption and crime, making people far more miserable than if they had just paid their taxes and handed the money quietly over in the first place.  Denmark, Norway, Finland, and Sweden all have the same things in common.  A state that lavishes money on its poor, and a state where corruption and property right infringements are practically unthinkable.  It's obvious the two are dependent on each other -- lack of corruption gives them the money to afford socialism, socialism buys them a lack of corruption.  It's a virtuous spiral.

The Heritage Foundation thinks its numbers support libertarianism, but they actually support socialism.  Denmark is a 'freer' country than the USA overall, despite having the 11th worst government spending in the world.  This proves we should be taxing and spending way more than we currently do in order to help the poor.  It also proves that all the Republican plans to grow the economy aren't actually the path to American prosperity.  American prosperity comes only through the virtue of its citizens.  We need a base population that does not accept, does not need, and does not condone corruption.  In other words, we most definitely do not need more immigrants from Mexico -- but we could use plenty from Germany or Japan.  Plus, we could do more to help improve education by teaching people corruption is wrong than any amount of chemistry, biology, or physics lessons.

Why don't we just start with the basics and teach virtue in school?  That's what Plato intended schools for.  Economically, a virtuous, law-abiding populace pays off way more than math or verbal skills ever will.

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