… is from page 303 of Columbia University economics professor Arvind Panagariya’s excellent 2019 book, Free Trade and Prosperity:
[A]dvocates of protectionism have provided no compelling evidence that interventions ubiquitous in the 1980s or 1990s were essential to sustaining the double-digit growth that China experienced. On the contrary, progressive liberalization allowed China to sustain and even accelerate growth in per capita incomes.
If economic growth in China in the decades following Mao’s death is the result of state intervention and control – or, as is frequently asserted, the ‘enslavement’ of workers in China – then this growth post-Mao ought to be a fraction as fast as was economic growth in China during Mao’s reign. Of course, quite the opposite is true.
Opponents – left and right – of free markets are fond of attributing many or most (and sometimes even all) improvements in the living standards of us ordinary people in markets, not to the markets in which we conduct our commerce, but instead to the various and mostly hodge-podge economic obstructions, distortions, and diktats thrown into markets by governments.
If these same market skeptics observed swimmers all enjoying themselves in a swimming pool on a hot summer day, these skeptics would attribute the swimmers’ buoyancy in the water, their relishing the pool-water’s refreshing temperature, and, indeed, all the pleasure and exercise the swimmers experience not to the pool being filled with water that’s mostly clean and clear but, instead, to the relatively few bits of detritus thrown into the pool by unruly neighborhood brats.