John Stossel
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By contrast, in Hong Kong, I started a business in one day. Hong Kong's limited government makes it easy for people to try things, and that has allowed poor people to prosper. Regular people benefit most from economic freedom.

What makes it hard for people to embrace markets is that anti-market zealots, with their talk of Americans pulling together to take care of one another, remind us of the coziness of village life. Instinct tells us that's where we'll find trust -- and fairness.

But our intuition fools us when it leads us to think that government models that institutionalize what resembles village life must be good. Assuming that government can foster togetherness better than our own voluntary associations, businesses and private charities leads to coziness of the bad kind: back-room dealings between the well-connected and government.

If we're going to have a large-scale, modern society, we need relatively simple rules that respect individual rights and that can be applied to all sorts of new situations without having to put global commerce on hold until the hypothetical village elders come up with a plan.

Since most human beings still lived as farmers two centuries ago, the idea of stranger-filled cosmopolitan life outside the small, close-knit village is still novel. It was only around the 18th and 19th centuries that the ideas we now think of as classical liberalism, libertarianism, anarchism and laissez faire began to be articulated. As Westerners became accustomed to living without the rule of kings, aristocrats and village elders, they began, for the first time since the dawn of writing, to imagine living ungoverned lives.

Sure, it's scary, but surrendering your fate to politicians and bureaucrats is a lot scarier.

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John Stossel

John Stossel is host of "Stossel" on the Fox Business Network. He's the author of "No They Can't: Why Government Fails, but Individuals Succeed." To find out more about John Stossel, visit his site at >johnstossel.com. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. ©Creators Syndicate