- - Friday, October 24, 2014

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Capitalism, as a wise man who understood human frailty once said, is a bad economic system. Its only virtue is that it is better than all the other systems. Nevertheless, it has fallen from favor in Washington among those who don’t understand human frailty. Class warfare, stimulus, redistribution of wealth and other centralized economic schemes have taken hold among timid economists and academics frightened by robust competition. They regard the markets as old-fashioned and “risky.”

The Pew Research Center finds the true fans of the market in Vietnam, China, Nigeria, Turkey, Malaysia and the Philippines. These nations have seen the devastating effects of socialism firsthand and want no more of it.

Ninety-five percent of those surveyed in Vietnam say more people are better off in a free-market economy. In the United States, only 70 percent agreed — a strong number, and many of the dissenters have cozy jobs in the White House. They ignore history’s lesson that freedom is more effective than central planning.

Adam Smith wrote his great treatise on capitalism in 18th-century Scotland, but only 65 percent in the United Kingdom endorse his views today. The perception of free markets in Asia is the most encouraging sign of economic growth. For much of the 20th century, China, India and the smaller nations tried disastrous experiments, from Mao’s Great Leap Forward to India’s “mixed economy,” and learned better.

India now shows more appreciation of capitalism than the United States, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with the backing of his countrymen, scrapped the Planning Commission, a relic of India’s Fabian socialism. Hong Kong, now a part of China, is a model of success.

Optimism flows from belief in free markets. The Pew study reports that parents in Vietnam, China and India generally expect their children to be better off than they are. The respondents in the developed countries with the lowest levels of confidence in the free market, such as Greece, Spain and Italy, are pessimists.

The citizens in wealthy countries are unable to understand what happened to their comfortable lives in the wake of the debt crisis and the worldwide recession. Their leaders seized the easiest “solutions” — deficit spending and wealth redistribution, to calm restless masses. They made things worse.

Emerging nations, meanwhile, have learned their lessons and reject failed schemes offered by Western economists with little experience with real life. America’s future lies in recognizing what our friends in the developing world have learned to their pain and sorrow, that prosperity lies in capitalism.

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