Thursday, October 04, 2007

What Is There About an Island that Encourages Freedom?

Here we are, Americans most of us, thinking that we live in the most economically emancipated country in the world. If you are not American, and something other than British or French, you know this; if you're British or French, you contest this, because you think Britain or France is the most emancipated country in the world.

I am, of course, writing fingertips-in-cheek. For some cold, hard statistics and real scientific parameters, let's look at this article over at Cato. It makes us jump right off our high hat.

The study is called Economic Freedom of the World, and we learn that the most economically free countries are:

1. Hong Kong
2. Singapore
3. New Zealand
4. Switzerland
5. A tie between Canada, the UK and the US

[Thanks to for the image.]

The first four are tiny islands of a sort, if you can count land-locked Switzerland as an island in the middle of that sea of European Union members. And actually Hong Kong, too, is not just the island itself--detail that I had ignored up to this moment. The whole territory is called the "Hong Kong Special Administrative Region" and includes Hong Kong island, Kowloon, the New Territories, and the Outlying Islands. But you get my point.

Now I know my blog wanderings are not scientific; still, I wonder if there might be some explanation for this. Yes, the scientists are going to interrupt me in my ramblings to point out the examples that disprove my implied hypothesis. Cuba is not even mentioned in this study because it is the antithesis of freedom (a hermetic dictatorship) and therefore no data could be obtained to study it. Brunei and Bahrain are kingdoms. Japan only made number 9. But still.

So I continue. Here are the questions that come to mind.

1. Do freedom-minded people move to islands? Definitely true in the case of Hong Kong and Singapore; maybe also of New Zealand. Switzerland, no; because up until fairly recently, they were very tough on immigration, and these past few years a xenophobic minority is increasingly vocal.... But wait. How was Switzerland formed? Weren't they a mountain people able to survive by their own wits, some of whom, resenting the increasing proximity of other-minded folk, retreated higher and higher to be among themselves? There's something to this....

2. Do freedom-loving people tend to resist encroachment? Definitely true for Hong Kong and Switzerland, and maybe the other two.

3. Do people who prefer to benefit from less-free but more generous government policies tend to leave islands and move to those more generous countries, to become citizens there and vote for even bigger governments? That's too complicated to answer, but it would be fun for some geek to research it. The answer is not a given. On the contrary, it would seem that having the gumption to get up and move takes initiative, entrepreneurship and a yearning for freedom from something.

4. Do the powerful of surrounding nations find a reason to allow these small "islands" to exist in peace, for their own profit? Hmm. Definitely true of Hong Kong and Switzerland, and probably Singapore. Monaco comes to mind, but the Report doesn't include them, probably because they're almost part of France; and there are others.

I'll stop here, but you get the idea. I'd love for someone to research why other countries have done better than we have at preserving the very notions that were the basis for our creation as a nation.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

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Blogger Katy said...

No real estate spam please.

12:12 PM  

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