Walter E. Williams

The reason some countries are rich while others are poor is best explained by the amount of economic freedom its peoples enjoy and the extent of government control over economic matters. Don't make the mistake of equating economic freedom with democracy. After all, India, politically, is a democracy, but economically it is mostly unfree and poor, ranking 104th in economic freedom. There are countries on the economic freedom index that do not have much of a history of democracy, such as Chile, ranking 11th, and Taiwan, 26th, and yet these countries are far wealthier than some of their more democratic counterparts. Why? It's because their economic systems are free or mostly free, which is not guaranteed by a democratic political system.

The economic development lesson is clear: Have a system of economic freedom and grow rich. Extensive government control, weak property rights and government corruption almost guarantee poverty. A country's institutional infrastructure is critical to its economic growth and the well-being of its citizens. The most critical are protection of private property, enforcement of contracts and rule of law.

To help our fellow man around the world, we must convince him to create the institutional infrastructure for wealth creation. Foreign aid, International Monetary Fund bailouts and other handouts are not substitutes. They just make political survival possible for the elite whose self-serving policies keep a nation poor. Except for immediate disaster relief, foreign aid is probably the worst thing the West can do for poor countries. After all, how much foreign aid is necessary for a country to create the foundations for growth: rule of law, enforcement of contracts and private property rights protection?


Walter E. Williams

Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of 'Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?' and 'Up from the Projects: An Autobiography.'
 
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