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Freedom, Choice, and Institutions
on June 18, 2013
Freedom, Choice and Institutions
In his latest book, "The Great Degeneration", Niall Ferguson brings up elements of his former books (The Ascent of Money, Civilization,) and updates them with mention of Nassim Taleb's "Anti-Fragile", Acemoglu and Robinson's "Why Nations Fail", Reinhart and Rogoff's" Growth in a Time of Debt", as well as earlier works by Hernando de Soto, Mark Buchanan , Charles Murray, and the classics "Lombard Street" by Walter Bagehot and "Democracy in America" by de Tocqueville.
What is missing, in my view, is the depth and degree of explanation present in his other works.
He has a consistent and refreshingly negative view of the evils of government over- regulation and policies that obstruct business formation. Our current dangerous path as a society based on dependency rather than competition driven growth also comes in for criticism.
He prefers choice and competition. This includes privatization of schools, less consumer protection, increased ease of business formation, and protection for investors and creditors.
In this book Ferguson discusses the elements that contributed to the growth and historical outperformance of the West and seem to be currently out of fashion. Regard for individual initiative and an open adaptable but limited and general rather than specific framework of law created efficiencies.
Civil structures and a sense of community effort were widespread before cradle to grave dependencies existed. Ferguson cites the decline of membership in clubs and voluntary service societies as a negative societal factor.
He seems to agree with those who support increased urbanization for productivity gains and the opportunities that specialization and differentiation offer, but there are no examples of the community or social efforts he says we need emerging in the urban environment.
These are all important topics and seriously considered. I just think they deserve a bigger book.