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John Stossel
John Stossel
3 Feb 2016
Political Arrogance

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Economic Myths

Hillary Clinton: "Of course we want to raise the minimum wage!" Donald Trump: If we trade with China, "they … Read More.

Government Makes Us Poor


Here's my fantasy: Libertarians are elected to the presidency and to majorities in Congress. What would happen next? Well, if libertarians were "in charge," you'd have more freedom and prosperity.

Freedom frightens some people. They say if no one is in charge there would be chaos. That is intuitive, but think about a skating rink. Before rinks were invented, if you proposed an amusement in which people strap blades to their feet and skate around on ice at whatever speeds they wish, you'd have been called crazy. There's got to be speed limits, stoplights, turn signals. But we know that people navigate rinks safely on their own. They create their own order, with only minimal rules.

Society would work the same way — and does to a large extent even today. "Great part of that order which reigns among mankind is not the effect of government," Thomas Paine, the soul of the American Revolution, wrote. "It has its origin in the principles of society and the natural constitution of man. ... Common interest (has) a greater influence than the laws of government."

If libertarians were "in charge," there would be laws to protect us from foreign enemies and those who would steal from us or injure us. Today, by contrast, under the rule of Democans and Republicrats, we're drowning in rules — 160,000 pages' worth. Micromanagement kills opportunity and freedom.

Maybe if there were a way to have more competition among governments, things would be better. Competition forces people to become more efficient and to get rid of stupid rules. What if we let people take over some unused land in America to create areas with fewer rules, simpler legal systems, smaller government?

I explored that subject last week with Michael Strong and Magatte Wade, founders of the Free Cities Project.

Strong said, "We want to encourage thousands of people to create new governments that have different rules, each competing for customers with the best education and best health care, the most peace and prosperity you could imagine."

Of course, state governments would have to approve this.

"There are already Native American reservations in the U.S. ... They can become more free.

Honduras already has something like this. In Senegal, we're encouraging a move toward an autonomous city-state that would allow for peace and prosperity."

Wade is Strong's wife and an entrepreneur from Senegal, where she saw firsthand how bad rules prevent people from creating prosperity.

"We need jobs. Who creates jobs? Entrepreneurs," she said.

But Senegal is awash in rules. There was a government monopoly on cement. When the government allowed competition, prices fell by a third.

She started a beverage company.

"It was an ordeal. I did it because I am from Senegal. I have an interest in trying to improve things. But for an American company ... why would they put themselves through such a thing?"

"What people don't realize is the developing world is massively overregulated," Strong said. "Africa is the most regulated continent on earth."

In the Congo, it requires 18 documents to import anything.

Wade added: "The fact we have so many rules — who benefits most? Multinationals."

"And crony capitalists," Strong added. "Corruption in Africa is a symptom of massive overregulation."

Are there any free cities along the lines Strong and Wade envision?

"Hong Kong and Singapore are the best examples," Strong said. "Now they are among the wealthiest places on earth."

And there is a free city in Dubai because the emirate wanted to create a financial sector, but sharia law prevented it.

"Dubai was brilliant," Strong said. "They looked around the world. They saw that Hong Kong, Singapore, New York, Chicago, Sydney, London all ran British common law. British common law is much better for commerce than is French common law or sharia law. So they took 110 acres of Dubai soil, put British common law with a British judge in charge, and they went from an empty piece of soil to the 16th most powerful financial center in world in eight years."

It's what libertarians have said: Freedom works, and government, when it grows beyond the barest minimum, keeps people poor.

John Stossel is host of "Stossel" on the Fox Business Network. He's the author of "Give Me a Break" and of "Myth, Lies, and Downright Stupidity." To find out more about John Stossel, visit his site at <a href="" <>></a>. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at




10 Comments | Post Comment
I just read atlas shrugged by ayn rand. Does anyone else see the irony of what is going on today. Demonizing the people who are creating the jobs and keeping our economy going?
Comment: #1
Posted by: ginny rhoads
Wed Oct 5, 2011 7:25 AM
Re: ginny rhoads

Everyday of my life.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Brandon
Wed Oct 5, 2011 9:05 AM
My dream is to buy a few square miles (from Mexico) on the coast of the baja peninsula in order to establish a truly free country- like Hong Kong used to be. Komrade Obama would probably declare war. Nice dream though.
Comment: #3
Posted by: samswede
Wed Oct 5, 2011 2:43 PM
Re: samswede
I saw a public television travel program with the president of Mexico and he honestly was a superb host to have shown the traveler some very beautiful and inspiring places. I love Mexico and feel we Americans should get together and rush over the border to claim some jobs, land and benefits. (ha) Really, why not make the Mexican dream our reality? We should be so lucky to get out of American bondage to rules, regulations, laws, orders, commands, restrictions, and Income TAXing income etc. etc. etc.... but you are probably correct to know a declaration of war on our dream means we will have to support our new president.
Comment: #4
Posted by: keyihall
Wed Oct 5, 2011 3:52 PM
Anyone who doubts that people can and will set their own limits, stand around an intersection where the stop lights are not working and watch the order that takes place. These intersections will usually move more quickly and smoothly than one where a cop is directing traffic.
Comment: #5
Posted by: James Longfellow
Thu Oct 6, 2011 8:24 AM
Re: ginny rhoads

Precisely, Ginny.
Comment: #6
Posted by: Will Cate
Thu Oct 6, 2011 8:31 AM
Re: ginny rhoads
Absolutely-the activity of the Obama administration is following the blueprint laid out in Rand's book. Unfortunately with the same consequences.
Comment: #7
Posted by: Shane Miller
Fri Oct 7, 2011 1:33 PM
Re: samswede
Make Greece an offer for an island. You may be surprised. I hear it's a buyer's market.
Comment: #8
Posted by: Basil
Tue Oct 11, 2011 12:11 PM
Just look at the difference between East Germany and West Germany--one problem with a command economy is that nobody is smart enough to take charge--and be able to predict the unanticipated consequences. Also, both a highly centralized and regulated economy (look at Soviet economies) and completely laissez-faire economies (look at Lebanon) are open invitatiohs to corruption. For all of the "soak the rich" rhetoric we're hearing from Washington these days, the incestuous relationship between government and too many businesses breed corruption, and taxing "the rich" won't even touch the major money (which wouldn't be enough to pay a day's interest on the debt, anyway).
Comment: #9
Posted by: partsmom
Tue Oct 11, 2011 6:01 PM
I read it 40 years ago. ... I also had "It Can't Happen Here" on my list. Didn't get to it, but now I get to see the Play, ... LIVE!
Comment: #10
Posted by: jus.watchin
Thu Nov 3, 2011 6:21 AM
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