The people at Polling Report have a convenient page that, for example, gives you the Gallup results on state of the economy back to the late 1990s. Gallup’s question is subtly different: “How would you rate economic conditions in this country today — as excellent, good, only fair, or poor?”
In the latest poll, only 31% said the economy is either excellent or good; 69% said fair or poor. Responses to the same question taken in 1998 were almost the reverse: 65% or more said excellent or good, around 35% said fair or poor. What’s interesting is that the average unemployment rate in 1998 was 4.5%, basically the same as it is now. So why were people so much happier?
Thursday, October 11, 2007
I was thrilled to see that Greenspan not only knew about the Index (which I co-authored), but supported it and took its ideas to a new level. Since I happened across the section, I realized that historians will read this autobiography centuries from now and track down our book. Looks like the 2007 edition is literally a footnote to history (in a good way!). Kudos to my team at Heritage that put the Index together last year, and especially to the online content team (led by Ted Morgan) that built the website that the Maestro references.
"There is no direct measure of the impact of cultural mores on economic activity. But a joint venture of the Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal has in recent years combined statistics from the IMF, the Economist Intelligence Unit, and the World Bank to calculate the Index of Economic Freedom for 161 countries. The index combines, among other considerations, the estimated strength and enforcement of property rights, the ease of starting and closing a business, the stability of the currency, the state of labor practices, openness to investment and international trade, freedom from corruption, and the share of the nation;s outputappropriated for public purposes. There is of course a great deal of subjectivity in placing such numbers on such qualitative attributes. But, as best I can judge, their evaluations drawn from the data do seem to square with my more casual observations.
"The index for 2007 lists the United Sates as the most 'free' of the larger economies; ironically Hong Kong, now a part of undemocratic China, is also at the top of the list. It is perhaps not a coincidence that the top seven economies (Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Ireland) all have roots in Britain - the home of Adam Smith and the British Enlightenment. But Britishness obviously does not convey a permanent imprint. Zimbabwe, a former British colony (as Southern Rhodesia), ranks almost dead last."
"The greater the economic freedom, the greater the scope for business risk and its reward ...."
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Every day the newspapers seem to tell us the world is a gloomy place. That post-milennial gloom is in the air. My theory is that people feel the future happening all around them and it's dizzying. We still remember the ways things were in the gentler era (you remember: the good old days when all you had to worry about was nuclear holocaust happening any milisecond?). But the 70s and 80s were a radically different, and quieter, time. Everyone wasn't hyperconnected. You could only watch movies at the theater (remember the lines in 1977?) or on ABC's Sunday Night Special.
We're living in the future. Fair enough, but what has the culture been telling us the future would be? Seems to me, the culture has been pretty clear. "Welcome to Dystoipia!"
Remember the Morlocks? The Time Machine was written by H.G. Wells in 1895, and he anticiapted a future where class warfare had gone genetic by nature.
Aldous Huxley imagined the class division would go genetic thanks to artificial intervention in Brave New World. Well, come to think of it, "I don't want to be a Beta." Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess shows a pretty nasty, empty life for the Cheloveks. And most famously, George Orwell's vision may be the bleakest in 1984, with doublespeak and big brother.
How does that square with our reality, which is reflected by absolute and constant improvement in incomes? I'll return to this question frequently in this blog, and would enjoy your thoughts. I am haunted by the human tendency to pretend things are bad when they are not, mainly because the pretense is an intellectual laziness that turns to the ever-larger central state for solutions. An ever larger state? ... Welcome to Dystopia.