Saturday, November 16, 2013


A few weeks ago, the New York Times published an interview with Eugene Fama, co-winner of this year's Nobel Prize in Economics.  At one point, he talked about a favorite book, F. A. Hayek's The Road to Serfdom.  He said "it's a philosophy, of course:  it's not empirical."  That's a strange assessment:  even the title of the book is an empirical proposition.  That proposition hasn't been supported by the 70 years of history since Hayek wrote:  the condition of people in countries like Britain, the United States, and even France can't be classified as serfdom without some risk of terminological inexactitude.  However, the main hypothesis of the book could be interpreted more broadly:  government intervention in the economy, even when supported by the majority, reduces freedom.

The World Values Survey includes the following question, "Some people feel they have completely free choice and control over their lives, while other people feel that what they do has no real effect on what happens to them. Please use this scale where 1 means 'none at all' and 10 means 'a great deal' to indicate how much freedom of choice and control you feel you have over the way your life turns out."  That seems like a pretty good measure of freedom.  The ranking of countries:

 "Puerto Rico"                8.28
 "Venezuela"  8.14
 "Colombia"                   7.97
 "Trinidad and Tobago"        7.88
 "New Zealand"           7.87
 "Mexico"                     7.74
 "Andorra"                    7.72
 "United States"         7.72
 "Canada"                     7.66
 "Finland"                    7.59
 "El Salvador"                7.50
 "Sweden"                     7.50
 "Australia"                  7.49
 "Guatemala"                  7.48
 "Brazil"                     7.46
 "Cyprus"                     7.44
 "Jordan"                     7.43
 "Norway"                     7.43
 "Taiwan"                     7.41
 "Uruguay"                    7.41
 "Dominican Republic"         7.37
 "Switzerland"                7.36
 "Indonesia"                  7.34
 "Argentina"                  7.33
 "Malaysia"                   7.31
 "Singapore"                  7.25
 "Great Britain"         7.25
 "Viet Nam"                   7.24
 "Zambia"                     7.20
 "Slovenia"                   7.19
 "Chile"                      7.17
 "Ghana"                      7.09
 "Peru"                       7.09
 "Romania"                    7.07
 "China"                      7.06
 "Kyrgyzstan"                 7.06
 "South Africa"               7.03
 "Nigeria"                    6.93
 "Philippines"                6.92
 "Thailand"                   6.92
 "Iran"                    6.85
 "Germany"                    6.83
 "Uganda"                     6.82
 "South Korea"                6.74
 "Hungary"                    6.69
 "Spain"                      6.69
 "France"                     6.67
 "Algeria"                    6.66
 "Netherlands"                6.63
 "Saudi Arabia"               6.60
 "Rwanda"                     6.52
 "Croatia"                    6.49
 "Poland"                     6.48
 "Serbia"                     6.45
 "Italy"                      6.34
 "Hong Kong"                  6.32
 "Czech Republic"             6.29
 "Georgia"                    6.27
 "Moldova"                    6.27
 "Slovakia"                   6.26
 "Russian Federation"         6.25
 "India"                      6.20
 "Ethiopia"                   6.17
 "Mali"                       6.12
 "Lithuania"                  6.06
 "Serbia and Montenegro" 6.03
 "Bosnia and Herzegovina" 6.00
 "Bangladesh"                 5.98
 "Estonia"                    5.98
 "Morocco"                    5.92
 "Macedonia"                  5.92
 "Tanzania"                   5.80
 "Japan"                      5.78
 "Zimbabwe"                   5.77
 "Egypt"                      5.72
 "Burkina Faso"               5.70
 "Turkey"                     5.67
 "Armenia"                    5.66
 "Iraq"                       5.65
 "Azerbaijan"                 5.61
 "Latvia"                     5.56
 "Bulgaria"                   5.53
 "Ukraine"                    5.42
 "Albania"                    5.37
 "Belarus"                    5.20
 "Pakistan"                   4.68

It seems clear that people in more affluent countries feel that they have more "free choice and control," which makes sense.   There also seem to be some cultural differences:  many Latin American countries rank near the top, and most East Asian countries rank low.  There are some rankings of "economic freedom," defined in a way that Hayek would approve of, so it would be pretty straightforward to see if there is a correlation after controlling for these factors.  I've intended to do something like this for a while, so maybe this will motivate me to get started.  

No comments:

Post a Comment