The latest example – this opinion piece in the New York Times “Why India Trails China”.
MODERN India is, in many ways, a success. Its claim to be the world’s largest democracy is not hollow. Its media is vibrant and free; Indians buy more newspapers every day than any other nation. Since independence in 1947, life expectancy at birth has more than doubled, to 66 years from 32, and per-capita income (adjusted for inflation) has grown fivefold. In recent decades, reforms pushed up the country’s once sluggish growth rate to around 8 percent per year, before it fell back a couple of percentage points over the last two years. For years, India’s economic growth rate ranked second among the world’s large economies, after China, which it has consistently trailed by at least one percentage point.
India’s underperformance can be traced to a failure to learn from the examples of so-called Asian economic development, in which rapid expansion of human capability is both a goal in itself and an integral element in achieving rapid growth. Japan pioneered that approach, starting after the Meiji Restoration in 1868, when it resolved to achieve a fully literate society within a few decades. As Kido Takayoshi, a leader of that reform, explained: “Our people are no different from the Americans or Europeans of today; it is all a matter of education or lack of education.” Through investments in education and health care, Japan simultaneously enhanced living standards and labor productivity — the government collaborating with the market.
I am always amazed at how the resolution to any problem can be tied back to the presence or lack of universal health care and, depending on the article, global warming. India doesn’t have the infrastructure to provide electricity to mare than 30% of it’s population? Free healthcare will take care of that. The caste system despite being officially abolished keeps millions living in poverty due to a lack of upward mobility? Eliminating green house gases and free mammograms will resolve that issue. It’s a simplistic and ultimately pessimistic world view, but what can you expect it’s an article in the NYTImes written by an economic philosopher from Harvard.
Here is another interpretation. Despite staggering levels of poverty, corruption, lack of infrastructure, and existing under a socialist near dictatorship for a third of of independence India has emerged as one of the world’s most dynamic economies.
I am open to the idea, as was Hayek, that health care can be provided by society with out greatly imperiling freedom. (Hayek discusses this in both Road to Serfdom and Constitution of Liberty). Whether it will be effeciently run, equitable , and effective are all questions that are open for debate. My personal belief is no, yes, no, and the equitability questions almost doesn’t matter because delivering crappy care to everyone shouldn’t be a goal.