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Should ‘Progressives’ Admire North Korea?

Here’s a letter to the New York Times:

Nicholas Kristof says that Americans who want lower taxes and less government regulation should study Pakistan, which he describes as “a low-tax laissez faire Eden” – and which also, of course, is a decrepit economy and society (“Our Fantasy Nation?” June 5).  Never mind that, as University of Chicago law professor Todd Henderson notes, Pakistan ranks near the bottom of indices of economic freedom.*  Forget also that Pakistan is dominated by the military and benighted by liberty-suffocating superstitions.

Straw-man games such as the one Mr. Kristof plays are too easy.  Would anyone be persuaded, for example, if I wrote (paraphrasing his opening line) “With MoveOn.org progressives and many Democrats balking at reducing the role of government, let me offer them an example of a nation that lives up to their ideals” – and then presented as a shining example of a ‘progressive’ society North Korea?  North Korea’s government, after all, offers cradle-to-grave economic supervision and protection of its citizens; incomes in North Korea are quite equal; and the government there actively directs the economy.

Would Mr. Kristof find the superficial similarities between some preferred policies of ‘progressives’ and the reality of North Korean society to be a serious reason to reconsider his ‘progressive’ beliefs?  Of course – and rightly – not.  And for the same reason no one should take seriously Mr. Kristof’s absurd equation of Pakistan with an America in which people would enjoy lower taxes and fewer government regulations.

Donald J. Boudreaux

* In a private e-mail to me as well as in a letter that Todd sent to the New York Times.