The rewards of freedom

You often hear people quote Ben Franklin's comment about the cost of freedom: "The Price of Liberty is Eternal Vigilance"

But freedom has rewards as well. Hat tip to Plato at Political Betting for pointing me in the direction of an item by Iain Martin on the Wall Street Journal website, "The Power of a free society", which in turn referred to a letter in the Financial Times by Jonathan Aylen which you can read here.

Aylen accepts that authoritarian and dictatorial societies can be very good at implementing, or even improving and refining, good ideas from others. But he argues that original ideas and innovations are far more likely to come forward in long-established democracies where people are encouraged from childhood to accept diversity of opinion and to think outside the box. As evidence he argues that there has been a dearth of any really good business innovations from the emerging economies, while poor sclerotic old European nations and the USA still manage to put out a host of them.

Like Iain Martin, I think Mr Aylen may be overstating his conclusion that

"new products, methods and business processes will be a long time coming from emerging markets."

As Iain points out, if it is correct that democracy fosters innovation and new ideas we can expect to see a greater diversity of innovation in wider areas of the planet as other countries beside the OECD nations become long-established democracies. India, for example, despite all the massive problems the country has, is well on the way to that status, having changed governments regularly, but only through the ballot box, since independence more than sixty years ago.

But the argument that innovation requires a culture of independent thought is very hard to refute.


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