Jonah Goldberg

Meanwhile, France's generous health-care system is widely hailed as so much more enlightened than America's. What Francophiles usually leave out is the fact that France's per-capita income is 30 percent lower than America's. Such a disparity, according to Nobel Prize-winning economist Ed Prescott, is the difference between economic prosperity and economic depression, and it's explained by France's much higher taxes.

Friedman has gone so far as to wish America could be "China for a day" and to suggest that its "enlightened" regime is preferable to our own. It's not that Friedman wants to abolish democracy, jail dissidents or force abortions. He's more like a drunk looking for his car keys where the light is good. He sees a nation doing things he thinks America should be doing, but doesn't look for what he doesn't want to see: the pollution, the cruelty, the lies and basic evil that are just as central to China's methods as its "enlightened" investments in this or that.

What unites all of these people is a form of power worship. These foreign governments and their experts have control over citizens and economics -- sometimes through democratic consent, sometimes not -- that the state doesn't have in America. Thus proving American backwardness.

Perhaps we're not backward at all. Maybe America simply values economic freedom over economic security more than most countries.

Regardless, the track record of such control, over the long haul, is abysmal, particularly in comparison to America's more unplanned approach (indeed, the world's planned economies often feed off American innovation to survive). The Soviets are in the dustbin of history; Japan Inc. is in its second "lost decade"; Europe is in an economic crisis; China's problems are hard to see because Beijing likes it that way. We have our own problems, but history shows the solution to them is not to be found in more centralized planning.

Politicians and planners have a tendency to lock into their idea of what works, long after it doesn't work anymore. If our government had China-like power in the 1970s, we would have banned natural gas. If it had such powers in the 1830s, we would have stuck with canals long after railroads were viable.

The future can't be found on a junket, and it never works until you get there.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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