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Relief Efforts for Victims of Over-regulation?

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The death and destruction caused by the recent tsunamis are truly awful. Tsunamis are also awfully dramatic.

A much-less-dramatic killer is restriction on economic freedom. Here’s a letter that I sent today to the New York Times on the matter – inspired by two letters-to-the-editor [2] in today’s NYT. One writer is angry that rich countries spend so much effort "exporting" globalization rather than "precious information"; another writer suggests that global warming (and, by implication, the economic freedom that allegedly contributes to it) makes the world more perilous for human habitation.

To the Editor:

Sujatha Byravan suggests that rich countries should export "precious information" rather than globalization to poor countries (Letters, Dec. 29th). She’s confused. The most precious information we can export is about the benefits of economic freedom, including globalization.

Economic freedom saves lives by promoting prosperity – for example, better nutrition, better housing, and less-dangerous work conditions. It’s no surprise, therefore, a strong, positive correlation exists between economic freedom and life expectancy – ranging from 53.7 years in the world’s least-free countries to 75.9 years in the world’s most free. India, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka are only moderately free; as a result, life expectancies there are kept unnecessarily low. In India it is 63.2; in Indonesia 67.2; in Sri Lanka 69.8.

If Indians, Indonesians, and Sri Lankans enjoyed the same freedom enjoyed by people in the world’s freest countries, millions more of them would today be alive. These dead millions were killed by something far more deadly, although less dramatic, than a tsunami: restrictions on their freedom.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Chairman, Department of Economics
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030


Data showing the positive correlation between economic freedom and life expectancy are found in the valuable Economic Freedom of the World [3] study, by James Gwartney and Robert Lawson, published annually by the Cato Institute [4].