Socialism is famous for being associated with the brutality of Lenin and Stalin’s USSR, Mao’s China, and Kim’s North Korea. But modern socialists still try to argue that authoritarianism is not inherently tied to socialism– that economic freedom is not a necessary precondition for political freedom. I started rereading Capitalism and Freedom by Milton Friedman and Freedom this week. Here are some excerpts on the subject that caught my eye from chapter 1:
“It is widely believed that politics and economics are separate and largely unconnected; that individual freedom is a political problem and material welfare an economic problem; and that any kind of political arrangements can be combined with any kind of economic arrangements. The chief contemporary manifestation of this idea is the advocacy of “democratic socialism” by many who condemn out of hand the restrictions on individual freedom imposed by “totalitarian socialism” in Russia, and who are persuaded that it is possible for a country to adopt the essential features of Russian economic arrangements and yet to ensure individual freedom through political arrangements. The thesis of this chapter is that such a view is a delusion, that there is an intimate connection between economics and politics, that only certain combinations of political and economic arrangements are possible, and that in particular, a society which is socialist cannot also be democratic, in the sense of guaranteeing individual freedom”
“Historical evidence speaks with a single voice on the relation between political freedom and a free market. I know of no example in time or place of a society that has been marked by a large measure of political freedom, and that has not also used something comparable to a free market to organize the bulk of economic activity… History suggests only that capitalism is a necessary condition for political freedom.
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This relationship should be obvious enough looking at the data. If we limit our view to OECD countries, we see a clear positive relationship between a country’s economic freedom score and their democracy index score. This doesn’t prove capitalism is a precondition for democracy but it strongly suggests the two are related.