Policymakers in Missouri Have a Lot to Learn From Taiwan
[Note: This blog entry was written on Friday. The governor’s trip to Taiwan has since been canceled.]
Later this month, Gov. Jay Nixon will travel to Taiwan and South Korea in order to lobby to them to buy Missouri agricultural exports. Previously, I discussed how this would lead to the subsidization of foreign consumers by Missouri taxpayers. From an article in the Kansas City Star:
On Wednesday, Nixon announced that a trade mission planned for Dec. 10-16 was expected to produce a letter of intent with Taiwanese businesses that will agree to buy Missouri corn, soybeans and other products during the next five years.
At a rate of about $120 million of exports a year, the new agreement would outpace the $69.1 million worth of exports Missouri sent to Taiwan in 2009.
The governor is traveling to Taiwan with the intention that it will influence their government’s public policy decisions. My fingers are crossed that the direction of this knowledge transfer will be in the reverse. Policymakers in Missouri can learn much from Taiwan.
Hopefully, this trip will serve as an opportunity to learn that Taiwan has developed rapidly and meets the needs of its citizens well because it enforces public policies that embrace the free market. If the state government in Missouri were to remove itself from arbitrarily picking winners and losers in the market, the economy would achieve a greater rate of growth. As I have commented before, centrally planned economies have not worked historically, and there is little reason to believe that they will work any differently in Missouri.
I encourage the governor to watch Free to Choose, a multipart PBS television series by Milton and Rose Friedman from the early 1980s that communicates how the economy benefits from free-market principles. Perhaps it would make for good viewing on the flight to Taiwan. (And he might be further interested to know that Arnold Schwarzenegger, a governor from another mother, provides a commentary to the updated 1990 version of the series.)
The first episode, in which Dr. Friedman visits Hong Kong, is particularly relevant to this trip to Taiwan. Friedman explains that Hong Kong has experienced success because it has established basic economic policies that are rooted in free market principles — principles that would benefit Missouri as well. From Friedman’s narrative:
This thriving, bustling, dynamic city, has been made possible by the free market — indeed the freest market in the world. The free market enables people to go into any industry that they want; to trade with whomever they want; to buy in the cheapest market around the world; to sell in the dearest around the world. But most important of all, if they fail, they bear the cost. If they succeed, they get the benefit and it’s that atmosphere of incentive that has induced them to work, to adjust, to save, to produce a miracle. This miracle hasn’t been achieved by government action — by someone sitting in one of those tall buildings and telling people what to do. It’s been achieved by allowing the market to work. Walk down any street in Hong Kong and you will see the impersonal forces of the market in operation.
By increasing American imports to countries like Taiwan, China, and India, the rising living standards in those regions will continue, and this will lead to the demand for more American goods. This change does not require the lead of the government, however. It happens spontaneously and incrementally in unrestricted markets. Missouri could achieve a higher annual rate of growth if it stopped subsidizing and protecting favored industries and instead let the free market work.