Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Basics

The alternatives are not on the one hand some totalitarian, socialist state and on the other some laissez-faire, minarchist state, and that's it. There are other alternatives if we have the imagination to conceive them. If I argue that we should let markets work and solve problems via voluntary associations that doesn't mean I'm advocating a cold, cruel, survival-of-the-fittest state. Likewise if I argue that government can provide many useful services that doesn't mean I'm advocating a totalitarian, anti-liberty state. We need to get beyond these absolutist, all or nothing conceptions of government and society.

One of the chief problems was this: a modernizing, developing country requires a strong and effective government.  That does not mean that it needs a tyrannical and socialistic one, but it does need a government that is honest and competent enough to establish and maintain the legal, economic and physical infrastructure which a growing market economy needs.  Governments must be able to enforce contracts and the law in reasonably transparent and reasonably timely legal procedures; they must maintain the roads, ports, sewer systems and power generation capacity on which modern and especially urban life depends; they must maintain a sound currency and a reasonable macroeconomic environment; they must either build or sponsor a basic health infrastructure; they must provide a solid educational system.

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