A National Role Model

First Published: 2000-06-07

Gary S. Becker, the Nobel Laureate in Economics, wrote in the May issue of Business Week "Egads! The Left is Unchaining the World-s Economies". He observed the paradox. Around the world following the conservative leads of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, liberal labor and social-democratic governments… after they were elected.. were reversing their traditional socialist policies and were effectively promoting free-market policies. These included lower income taxes, privatization of state enterprises, weakened trade unions and a smaller role for government. And… he cited specific examples ranging from Bill Clinton and Tony Blair to Fernando de la Rua in Argentina.

The Institute for Economic Freedom (the "IEF") in its articles on the Labour Bills used New Zealand as an example of how a Labour Party started an economic revolution. But there is dissatisfaction with this choice. The IEF has been asked to provide other examples.

Well… let-s look at some successes. How about —

  • The United States. "It-s too big and complex and not really a desirable role model for a very small island country" you say.

  • Great Britain. "Yes… it-s an island country but it is still too big."

  • Hong Kong. "Yes… from 1960 to 1997 it was the all-time international economic growth champ… but who wants to live in a -dime-sized- apartment on the fifteenth floor of a huge building complex and work like an oriental."

  • Singapore. "Yes… its growth is high but it-s a popularly elected Chinese dictatorship… a bad role model for a more relaxed people."

  • Chile. "I can think only of that military dictator, Augusto Pinochet. Don-t talk to me about what life would have been without him or the economic brilliance of his advisers you call the -Chicago Boys-."

  • New Zealand. "I already told you… it-s too white."

We could look at Africa. But what you see at first glance is economic and political failure on a vast scale. There are valuable lessons to be learned from the long history of the continent where human life began. However, there are no sparkling role models of sustained economic growth. Nelson Mandela has displayed wise leadership beyond anyone-s expectation… but will his successors be his equal and will they avoid the disasters that beset Nigeria, Zimbabwe, the Congo, etc.

The uncomfortable truth is that there are no black countries that can serve as a role model. Right now the Bahamas itself is the role model. The FNM has started the process but can it sustain it. It won-t if it fails to bring law and order to the country and if it fails to improve dramatically its educational system. It will certainly fail if it succeeds in its present five-bill effort to create a centralized collectivist and interventionist labour system.

Several years ago the Afro-American Dr. Walter Williams, the Head of the Economic Department at George Mason University, ended each speech that he made in Nassau with his personal hope that before he died he would have the opportunity to visit a truly prosperous black country. With the right policy initiatives the Bahamas could be that country.

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