Historical Examples of Limited Government Leading to More Prosperity

America

The 1946 Voter Revolt Against Government Regulation
February 1991
by Gary M. Anderson
"First, this reduction in intervention and expenditure is interesting in its own right. We do not ordinarily expect to see government growing smaller, because all of the incentives facing politicians and bureaucrats reward those individuals for making decisions that cause government to grow larger. Second, defenders of the free society need to consider this postwar reduction in governmental interventions in the economy as it may apply in more ordinary circumstances. A careful consideration of these episodes provides grounds for optimism. Particularly significant was the demise of price controls after World War II. We know that Big Government can be stopped, because in the recent past, it has been stopped—at least, temporarily."

The Abolitionist Adventure
by Wendy McElroy
"Abolitionism was the radical wing of the American anti-slavery movement. It demanded the immediate cessation of slavery on the grounds that all men are self-owners. That is, every human being has a natural right to his own person and property, which no other moral or practical consideration outweighed. This emphasis, along with strong ties to Quakers, who denied the government moral authority over men, meant that abolitionism emerged as a libertarian movement."

Alternatives to Public Libraries
April 1987
by J. Brian Phillips
"One of the advantages of data bases is that they provide the user with round the clock access, enabling information to be gathered when it is needed. And of course, the user—not the taxpayer- -pays for the service. Just as the first libraries evolved out of mutual needs and voluntary associations among individuals, these electronic libraries are providing non-coercive means of resolving common problems. As technology improves, and competition increases, the cost, availability, and range of these services will also improve."

At Last, A Job Program That Works
Winter 1997
by Kay S. Hymowitz
"If such a Pygmalion change in a mere three weeks seems impossible, consider the results. At its 19 sites in New York, Boston, Pittsburgh, and Chicago, Strive has put almost 14,000 people, 35 to 40 percent of them men, to work during a five-year period, at the modest cost of $1,500 each. More striking still, where most programs count themselves successful if participants are working after a final three-month follow-up, Strive, whose other defining characteristic is a lifetime commitment to clients, has been able to ensure that close to 80 percent of those placed are still working after two years."

"Beyond the Wit of Man to Foresee": Voluntaryism and Land Use Controls
by Carl Watner
"Columbia, Maryland, the planned development of The Rouse Company of Baltimore, Maryland, is one of the finest examples of a contractual community in the United States."

Black Innovators and Entrepreneurs Under Capitalism
October 2001
by Andrew Bernstein
"In the past, white racists’ fears explained the absence of recognition accorded to the great black innovators and entrepreneurs. But today the statist media and intellectuals claim to support “black empowerment.” What then is the current cause of the bizarre public silence regarding the entrepreneurial success achieved by numerous black Americans? Anti-Western, ostensibly pro-black intellectuals have promulgated the myth that Western civilization is a stolen legacy of African culture. In the name of “black pride,” they relentlessly push this fantasy while ignoring magnificent black achievers right under their noses."

Chaos In The Air: Voluntaryism or Statism in the Early Radio Industry?
by Carl Watner
"In the United States, the laws regulating the radio industry eventually became some of the most severe, the most drastic, and most confining of those affecting any American business. Nevertheless, the history of the radio industry is an interesting example of voluntaryism at work."

The Choctaw Revolution by Peter J. Ferrara
reviewed by George C. Leef
"Ferrara relates the intriguing story of how the Choctaw tribe of Mississippi improved their lives not through political coercion, but by freeing themselves from paternalistic, enervating federal policy. It is a story that might just open the eyes of those who always proclaim their compassion for the oppressed, yet clamor for more government intervention to help them."

Civil Society Blooms in New Haven
Summer 1999
by Kay S. Hymowitz
"A group of loosely affiliated religious and civic organizations in New Haven, Connecticut, offers an intriguing answer. Calling itself the Waverly Extended Family, the group has descended upon a small housing project, the Waverly Town Houses, to do a little old-fashioned child saving. Members provide math tutoring, seek scholarship money for private schools and summer camp, mediate with school or police officials, and offer plenty of time, advice, and support for some 75 at-risk youngsters. The group's goals are still evolving, but it is not too early in the post-welfare era to conclude that the Waverly Extended Family bears out some of the hopes of civil-society optimists. In the past five years, no unmarried Waverly girl has had a baby. Several teens graduating from high school this year will be attending college in the fall, and some of the younger children's grades are going up. Older Waverly residents are showing signs of coming awake after the dark, torpid decades of urban decay. But it's clear as well that whatever victories are achieved at Waverly will be small ones—and even then, some, especially among the boys, are likely to be left behind."

The Colonial Origins of American Liberty
September 2000
by Thomas E. Woods, Jr.
"What the colonial period has to teach us, then, is that the truly American sentiment is not Andrew Jackson’s famous toast, 'Our federal Union—It must be preserved!' but John C. Calhoun’s reply, 'The Union—Next to our liberties, most dear!'”

Complete Freedom
October 1, 2009
by James Leroy Wilson
"One could almost say there's been a "free market" in religion in America, about as close to one as there's ever been in world history."

The Dutch-American Guerrillas of the American Revolution
May 1, 1983
by William Marina
"The British never entertained much hope that New England would be an initial area for pacification. Connecticut, for example, had only six percent Loyalists, and no British army ventured into the New England countryside after the losses at Lexington and Concord. Late in the war, it was in the South that the British sought to establish the pacification program, but there, too, the image of a vast reservoir of Loyalists in the interior, waiting to be liberated, proved illusory."

The Free Market of Religion: A Privatization Success Story
October 29, 2010
by James Padilioni, Jr
"While the dual concepts of liberty of conscience and free exercise of religion were still being developed in the 17th century, they were sufficiently conceptualized by 1791 to warrant the ratification of the Bill of Rights. The language of the First Amendment to the Constitution not only guarantees that the federal government will not establish any religion, it also guarantees the right of each individual to freely exercise their religion according to their conscience. For the first time in Western history, a national State allowed religion to be fully privatized, no longer sheltering it from market forces of competition, and no longer subsidizing it to keep it solvent. Evidently the view of the federal government in 1791 was that religion was NOT too big to fail."

From Central Planning to the Market: The American Transition, 1945-1947
by Robert Higgs
"The complex and often fitful transition from central planning to the market in China and the Warsaw Pact countries has been a hot topic during the past decade. Notably, the United States made a similar transition after World War II. Indeed, the reconversion from a wartime command economy to a market-oriented postwar economy, a transition accomplished with astonishing speed and little apparent difficulty, constitutes one of the most remarkable events in U.S. economic history."

The Great Thanksgiving Hoax
November 28, 2003
by Richard J. Maybury
"Thus the real reason for Thanksgiving, deleted from the official story, is: Socialism does not work; the one and only source of abundance is free markets, and we thank God we live in a country where we can have them."

The Growth of Libertarian Thought in Colonial America
by Murray N. Rothbard
"Apart from ancient writers, three sources were the most frequently cited and quoted in eighteenth-century America, especially in the first half of the century: Algernon Sidney, John Locke, and Trenchard and Gordon of Cato's Letters. Each made a profound contribution to the growth and development of libertarian thought in America."

Growth of the American Revolution: 1766-1775
1975
by Berhard Knollenberg

"Hard Money" in the Voluntaryist Tradition
by Carl Watner
"Both voluntaryists and "hard money" advocates need to be aware of the monetary history related in this article. Not only is the moral case for private coinage laid out, but its very existence just over a century ago proves that such a system was functional and practical."

How Dagger John Saved New York’s Irish
William J. Stern
"With unerring psychological insight, Hughes had his priests emphasize religious teachings perfectly attuned to re-socializing the Irish and helping them succeed in their new lives. It was a religion of personal responsibility that they taught, stressing the importance of confession, a sacrament not widely popular today—and unknown to many of the Irish who emigrated during the famine, most of whom had never received any religious education. The practice had powerful psychological consequences. You cannot send a friend to confess for you, nor can you bring an advocate into the confessional. Once inside the confessional, you cannot discuss what others have done to you but must clearly state what you yourself have done wrong. It is the ultimate taking of responsibility for one’s actions; and it taught the Irish to focus on their own role in creating their misfortune."

How Gold Was Money--How Gold Could Be Money Again
April 1995
by Richard H. Timberlake
"Until the time of the Civil War in the United States, banks routinely held gold and silver as redemption reserves for their outstanding notes and deposits while the federal government held just enough to expedite its minting operations. Congress had the constitutional power to "coin money," but that power did not presuppose that it keep any stock of gold and silver beyond the inventory requirements of its mints. Indeed, even though Congress had the power it was not required to coin money at all. Private mints flourished until the Civil War, often minting coins of slightly greater gold content than government mints. "

How the Western Cattlemen Created Property Rights
March 2005
by Robert Higgs
"The cattlemen's associations also organized efforts to keep rustlers at bay 'by patrolling the range and hiring stock detectives who tracked down thieves.'"

Hurricane Katrina, Houston And The Humanitarian Case Against Zoning
August 31, 2010
by Marc Scribner
"Thanks to the city's liberal land-use policies, Houston enjoys lower real estate prices, increased availability of affordable housing, lower population concentration and more opportunities for entrepreneurs. If not for these conditions, displaced Gulf Coast residents would have faced even tougher--and likely more deadly--challenges following the disaster."

Is Free-Market Anarchism Unworkable? Not in America’s Roofing Industry
July 1, 2011
by Mark R. Crovelli
"The good news is that it has probably never been easier to get a fantastic and affordable roof in this country. This is due to the rebellious and sunburned anarchists in the roofing industry itself, not to the politicians and bureaucrats who have bankrupted this country."

The Libertarian Heritage: The American Revolution and Classical Liberalism
by Murray N. Rothbard
"The American revolutionaries were steeped in the creed of libertarianism, an ideology which led them to resist with their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor the invasions of their rights and liberties committed by the imperial British government. Historians have long debated the precise causes of the American Revolution: Were they constitutional, economic, political, or ideological? We now realize that, being libertarians, the revolutionaries saw no conflict between moral and political rights on the one hand and economic freedom on the other. On the contrary, they perceived civil and moral liberty, political independence, and the freedom to trade and produce as all part of one unblemished system, what Adam Smith was to call, in the same year that the Declaration of Independence was written, the 'obvious and simple system of natural liberty.'"

The Libertarian Origins of Rhode Island
by Murray N. Rothbard
"Roger Williams carried his principles of religious liberty into practice. There was no state church, and no one was forced to attend church. Williams himself was to change his religious views several times, becoming a Baptist for a few months, and then ending as a Seeker, who held to no fixed creed. Liberty has its own inner logic, and so Williams's religious liberty in Providence extended also to women."

Liberty in Perfection: Freedom in Native American Thought
September 1999
by Amy H. Sturgis
"The five nations of what is today the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York—the Onondagas, the Senecas, the Mohawks, the Cayugas, and the Oneidas—had ended their intertribal warfare and formed a federal union in approximately 1200. The constitution uniting the nations was called Kaianrekowa, the Great Law of Peace. Recorded and preserved in wampum, this document codified laws for each nation, rules for the confederacy, and consistent rights protection for all citizens. National membership remained open, and other peoples joined the confederacy. The northeastern body eventually became known as the Six Nations after the formal addition of the Tuscaroras around 1714."

The Liberty Tradition Among Black Americans
May 2005
by Burton Folsom, Jr.
"Many black leaders today promote affirmative action, which gives racial preferences in hiring to black Americans. But that was not the thinking of Douglas or other black leaders, such as Booker T. Washington, after the Civil War."

Life without the Fed: The Suffolk System
January 5, 2011
by C.J. Maloney
"There are certain functions that, due to their nature, many would argue can only be provided by the political authorities — police and fire protection are the prime examples that come to mind. To the majority of modern men, central banking is without any doubt another. Yet, history tells us that it need not be a government-run affair — private individuals acting outside the bounds of political control have proven entirely capable of providing much the same functions as a central bank, and at a far lower cost, no less. Such was the case with the Suffolk banking system, operated out of Boston from 1824 to 1858."

Militia, Standing Armies, and the Second Amendment: Some Perspectives from the American Revolution
July 1, 1975
by William Marina
"The regular American army, as well as segments of a rag-tag militia, accepted the surrender at Yorktown. The existence of that army should never be allowed to obscure the large reason for the British defeat which was that they could never control, let alone win over, a population of armed militia that was the foundation of support for the American government."

Once We Knew How to Rescue Poor Kids
William J. Stern
"Those who care about the fate of the underclass can learn much from the experience of New York's Irish in the second half of the nineteenth century. The nation's first underclass—criminal, drunken, promiscuous, and shiftless, with high illegitimacy rates and thousands of abandoned children—the Irish had so dramatically improved themselves as to enter the American mainstream triumphantly by the turn of the century. The Catholic Church, rather than any government effort, was the main agent of their reclamation, and no Catholic institution shows more clearly just how that transformation was achieved than New York's Society for the Protection of Destitute Catholic Children, which most called the Catholic Protectory."

Our First Thanksgiving
November 1955
by Sartell Prentice, Jr.
"Our first Thanksgiving should, therefore, be interpreted as an expression of gratitude to God, not so much for the great harvest itself, as for granting the grateful Pilgrims the perception to grasp and apply the great universal principle that produced that great harvest: Each individual is entitled to the fruits of his own labor. Property rights are, therefore, inseparable from human rights."

The Paradox of Carnegie Libraries
October 2001
by Chris Cardiff
"This is the paradox of Carnegie libraries. Using his own fortune, Carnegie was able to establish a comprehensive public library system throughout the United States. Yet despite his ability to leave these libraries in the private sector, he essentially used them as a massive bribe to overcome the public’s resistance to financing them through taxes."

Philanthropy That Worked
Leo Trachtenberg
"Of all New York's experiments in helping the poor, few succeeded more resoundingly than the one that sprang from the alliance of the great Jewish-American financier Jacob Henry Schiff and a singular young woman named Lillian Wald. They met in the summer of 1893. In the years that followed, they established a model of private philanthropy and self-help that, without yielding power to bureaucrats, public or private, helped sustain the hundreds of thousands of Jewish immigrants who began inundating the Lower East Side around 1880. Their collaboration produced enduring institutions—the Visiting Nurse Service of New York and the Henry Street Settlement—that still minister to the people of New York. It was an alliance that in our own time of extensive immigration can serve as an object lesson in effective philanthropy that uplifts the poor instead of making them dependent."

The Pilgrims’ Real Thanksgiving Lesson
November 25, 2004
by Benjamin Powell
"Once the Pilgrims in the Plymouth Plantation abandoned their communal economic system and adopted one with greater individual property rights, they never again faced the starvation and food shortages of the first three years. It was only after allowing greater property rights that they could feast without worrying that famine was just around the corner."

Private Highways in America, 1792-1916
February 1994
by Daniel B. Klein
"As we enter the potentially new era of privately managed highways, the historical experience with toll roads offers some important lessons. First, private operation is more flexible, creative, and motivated to serve than government control. In the nineteenth century, private road companies consistently out-performed their public-sector alternatives. Second, private roads will not be constructed without the prospect of private gain. If governments over-regulate or renege on their promises, private road development will not occur. Finally, infrastructure is an economic good best left to private action."

Private Idahoes
by John McClaughry
A review of three books about residential community associations (RCAs). "RCAs obviously meet an important need for millions of people. In a society where government all too often proves unable to defend public order, assure personal security, prevent destruction of property values, spend tax dollars wisely, deliver high-quality services, and refrain from misguided social engineering, RCAs offer an attractive alternative. If one believes it is everyone's solemn duty to remain, suffer, and sometimes perish in the midst of over-governed but under-served urban disaster areas in the name of civic altruism and economic justice, then the RCA is a cowardly escape. On the other hand, if one believes in using one's resources to acquire the ownership of a decent home for one's family, or for one's retirement years, in safe and congenial surroundings, even at the price of some intrusive regulation of private choices, then the various forms of planned communities will remain an attractive option. Whether governments will allow themselves to be replaced by a RCA federation remains to be seen, but it's far from the worst idea to come down the pike."

Putting Government on a Diet: 1945-1950
December 4, 2010
by Dom Armentano
"The period 1945-1950 is (almost) a scientific test of the Keynesian hypothesis. Despite repeated warnings by most mainstream economists that cutting government spending at the conclusion of WW 2 would bring back the Great Depression, the Congress dramatically lowered government spending between 1945 and 1950. Federal government expenditures fell from $106.9 billion in 1945 to $44.8 billion in 1950. Defense spending took the biggest hit falling from $93.7 billion in 1945 to just 24.2 billion in 1950. In just 5 years, government spending (as a % of GDP) fell from 45% in 1945 to just 15% in 1950 and the annual federal budget deficit fell from $53.7 billion in 1945 to only $1.3 billion in 1950.
But what happened to overall economic output and unemployment? Despite the massive economic transitions from wartime to domestic production, GDP actually increased (confounding all of the Keynesians) from $223 billion in 1945 to $244.2 billion in 1947 and then to $293.8 billion by 1950. And despite millions of returning servicemen and women, the unemployment rate averaged a very low 4.5% between 1945 and 1950. Economic disaster? Hardly."

Radical Individualism in America: Revolution to Civil War
by Eric Foner
"Too often, studies of the radical tradition are cast in a “heroic” mold, in which radicals are pictured as heroes to be emulated rather than historical figures defined by their own time, even as they struggle to transcend it. Such an approach is able to provide striking portraits of individual radical figures and movements, but it is usually less successful in examining the social, cultural, and political aspects of American life which have limited the spread of radical movements. On the other hand, those who, like Louis Hartz, have dismissed radicalism altogether, positing an all-encompassing liberal ideology from which there has been virtually no dissent, have difficulty in accounting for the persistence of American radicalism in spite of an all-too-frequent lack of success."

Reciprocal Exchange as the Basis for Recognition of Law
by Bruce L. Benson
Examples from American history of non-state-backed legal systems.

The Role of Private Transportation in America's 19th-Century 'Internal Improvements' Debate
by Thomas J. DiLorenzo
"By 1861 every state had had such a miserable experience with government-subsidized canals, roads, and railroads that only Missouri and Massachusetts permitted such subsidies. That is why proponants of American mercantilism, embodied in the Republican party, turned to the federal government as the source of their largess."

Set the Parks Free
Winter 1997
by Richard Gilder
"New Yorkers are justifiably proud of the newly restored Central Park—but few understand how this renaissance has come about. I’ve had a hand in it as a founding trustee of an organization called the Central Park Conservancy. With thousands of others, I’ve given time and money to the Conservancy to rescue the park from inconsistent management and crippling budget cuts. Seventeen years after it was launched, the Conservancy has invested $165 million in the park for operations, capital projects, and endowing future maintenance. Today it is the de facto manager of Central Park."

Thomas Garrett and the Underground Railroad
February 2005
by Burton Folsom, Jr.
"The Thomas Garrett story is omitted from almost all American history texts. Telling it to students can instruct and inspire them about a crucial chapter in the triumph of freedom in American history."

The Underground History of American Education
by John Taylor Gatto
"John Taylor Gatto documents how the basic philosophy of state-sponsored schools was lavishly funded by power elites in huge tax-exempt foundations (especially the Rockefeller Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation) and came to service their interests in The Underground History of American Education." - Steven Yates.

Welfare before the Welfare State
June 21, 2011
by Joshua Fulton
"According to David Beito in From Mutual Aid to the Welfare State, there was a "great stigma" attached to accepting government aid or private charity during the late 18th and early 19th centuries."

When All Drugs Were Legal
January 27, 2011
by Jacob H. Huebert
"Things were not perfect, as they never will or can be. But there was no real crisis when all drugs were legal."

The Whiskey Rebellion
by Murray N. Rothbard
"Rather than the whiskey tax rebellion being localized and swiftly put down, the true story turns out to be very different. The entire American back-country was gripped by a non-violent, civil disobedient refusal to pay the hated tax on whiskey. No local juries could be found to convict tax delinquents. The Whiskey Rebellion was actually widespread and successful, for it eventually forced the federal government to repeal the excise tax."

Bermuda

Bermuda, Freedom, and Economic Growth
June 2004
by Robert Stewart
"Bermuda does not harbor latter-day Benedict Arnolds. It assists ordinary people by limiting the power of governments to tax their citizens, and by providing greater freedom to the individual. It has nothing to be ashamed of."

Botswana

Lessons From Botswana: Africa’s Economic Dynamo
December 5, 2005
by Scott A. Beaulier
"Many Westerners think that Africa is hopelessly lost. I encountered some of this pessimism first-hand recently at the 13th Annual Wharton African Business Forum (WABF) at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, where I spoke about Africa’s greatest economic success story: Botswana. Botswana, the world’s fastest growing economy for over 30 years, offers important lessons for fostering economic progress throughout the developing world."

Brazil

The Global Education Industry: Lessons from Private Education in Developing Countries by James Tooley
reviewed by Antony Flew
September 2000
"In helping to undermine the intellectual support for government education and, in the current book, demonstrating that private enterprise is providing superior education alternatives for people around the globe, James Tooley has done truly valuable work."

Chile

Cheers for Chile’s Chicago Boys
by Guy Sorman
"Milton Friedmanesque reforms helped create South America’s most prosperous nation."

How We Privatized Social Secutity in Chile
July 1997
by Jose Pinera
"The real rate of return on private pension accounts has been about 12 percent. Pensions are already 50 percent to 100 percent higher than with the government-run system."

A Privatization From Below
by Carlos Ball
"The ultimate lesson of the Chilean experience is that the only revolutions that are successful are those that trust the individual and the wonders that individuals can do when they are free."

China

The Ancient Chinese Libertarian Tradition
by Murray N. Rothbard
"For Lao-tzu the individual and his happiness was the key unit and goal of society. If social institutions hampered the individual's flowering and his happiness, then those institutions should be reduced or abolished altogether. To the individualist Lao-tzu, government, with its "laws and regulations more numerous than the hairs of an ox," was a vicious oppressor of the individual, and 'more to be feared than fierce tigers.'"

China's Forgotten Industrial Revolution
June 2003
by Stephen Davies
"By the 1260s China had reached a level of technological sophistication and economic development that Europe would not achieve until the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century."

China's Spontaneous Order
April 1999
by James A. Dorn
"China’s economy has grown by nearly 10 percent a year since 1978 because the government has gotten out of the way of the market and allowed individuals greater economic freedom—not because of strict adherence to the basic party line, which holds that the individual is a cog in the socialist state. The truth is that China’s economic reforms have succeeded because some individuals were willing to risk everything to escape the iron grip of state planners and a life with no future."

Freedom Works: The Case of Hong Kong
November 2008
by Andrew P. Morriss
"Why has Hong Kong been so free? Partly, Hong Kong has been fortunate to be ruled by men who understood their role as quite limited. Not quite the classical-liberal ideal, even under Cowperthwaite, but nonetheless significantly closer than any other twentieth-century society. And the combination of Britain’s failure to provide any real democratic institutions and its lack of interest in Hong Kong allowed those men to hold to those policies, even as Britain herself experienced economic disaster under the socialism of the 1950s–70s. Hong Kong also benefited from the example of China’s disastrous 1960s economic policies. With so many residents having come as refugees from communism, demand for freedom in Hong Kong was high."

Hong Kong, Crown Jewel of Capitalism
January 1990
by Robert A. Peterson
"The story of how Hong Kong came to be the “emporium of the East” is a fascinating tale of how limited government and free markets have combined to elevate one corner of China far above all the rest. In that history also lie insights for other nations whose greater resources have remained untapped because of socialistic economic policies."

Libertarianism in Ancient China
by Murray N. Rothbard
"Two centuries later, Lao Tzu's great follower Chuang Tzu (369–c.286 BC) built on the master's ideas of laissez-faire to push them to their logical conclusion: individualist anarchism. The influential Chuang Tzu, a great stylist who wrote in allegorical parables, was therefore the first anarchist in the history of human thought."

Czech Republic

The Czech Miracle: Why Privatization went right in the Czech Republic
by Thomas W. Hazlett
"The Czech reforms were uniquely radical in transferring property from state ownership to private hands, and the society has responded with a flowering of initiative and entrepreneurship. And something more: civility. Politicians in the Czech Republic do not triumph by denouncing foreigners and Jews; the disagreements and arguments of this democratic land have not produced gridlock; frustration and hate do not cloud the cobbled byways of beautiful and historic Prague. And 56 percent (to 12 percent pessimists) of Czech citizens feel "generally optimistic" about their future."

El Salvador

Expatriate to El Salvador?
April 30, 2010
by James Dunlap
"In the years since the end of its civil war in 1992, El Salvador has developed an amazingly vibrant economy. There is good reason for this and Peruvian economist Alvaro Vargas Llosa describes the situation perfectly. In El Salvador people are "desperate to own and trade goods and services." Salvadorans are hard working and friendly people and here individuals from all walks of life are busy trying to get ahead. Most seem weary of politics and wish to move beyond the troubled past."

England

An Earlier Response to Environmental Tyranny
April 1998
by Daniel E. Walker
"There was a time when a government elite used its power to enforce draconian laws concerning wildlife and forests; when the common law was ignored; when special courts decided cases concerning the environment; and when the government owned great areas of land, zealously prosecuting and persecuting people who had the audacity to use natural resources to feed and shelter themselves. So-called crimes on government lands were met with harsh punishments, far out of proportion to the offenses. Of course, the government used its laws to raise revenue by imposing severe monetary fines on offenders; building a hedge or ditch without first having obtained government permission, for example, would result in a fine at the least.
People who flouted the laws were identified as outlaws. You probably recognize one of the more prominent names: Robin Hood. He scorned not the Environmental Protection Agency or Bureau of Land Management or the Endangered Species Act, but the horrid "forest laws" of England and their enforcers early in this millennium."

The English Civil War and the First Libertarian Movement
August 12, 2010
by Jeff Riggenbach
"Whatever their motives may have been, whatever at any given moment they thought of themselves as doing, Anthony Ashley Cooper and John Locke advanced the libertarian idea, just as John Lilburne did. All three of them are part of the libertarian tradition."

English Middle-Class Radicalism in the Eighteenth Century
by Isaac Kramnick
"Joseph Priestley here, too, speaks for his age, for his religious brethren, and for his class. In his religious and political tracts, Priestley invokes the doctrinal notion of freedom of conscience, and in his economic writings he wrote of the need for the state to withdraw, the necessity of its being “as little expensive and burden-some as possible.” But, more importantly, Priestley also articulated the new bourgeois demand that government give up its traditional involvement in the economic process. Individualism was as crucial here as in the religious realm, he insisted. Man should be “left to himself.” All the restrictions on individuals should be undone so that they could 'revert to that natural condition of man from which we have departed.'”

Facts about The Industrial Revolution
February 1956
by Ludwig von Mises
"The laissez-faire ideology and its offshoot, the “Industrial Revolution,” blasted the ideological and institutional barriers to progress and welfare. They demolished the social order in which a constantly increasing number of people were doomed to abject need and destitution. The processing trades of earlier ages had almost exclusively catered to the wants of the well-to-do. Their expansion was limited by the amount of luxuries the wealthier strata of the population could afford. Those not engaged in the production of primary commodities could earn a living only as far as the upper classes were disposed to utilize their skill and services. But now a different principle came into operation. The factory system inaugurated a new mode of marketing as well as of production. Its characteristic feature was that the manufactures were not designed for the consumption of a few well-to-do only, but for the consumption of those who had hitherto played but a negligible role as consumers. Cheap things for the many, was the objective of the factory system."

The History of the Abolition of the African Slave Trade, Volume 1, Volume 2
1808
by Thomas Clarkson

The History of England, Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3, Volume 4, Volume 5, Volume 6
1778
by David Hume
Hume’s great History of England the theme of which is liberty, above all English constitutional development from the Anglo-Saxon period to the Revolution of 1688.

Laissez Faire in Nineteenth-Century Britain: Fact or Myth?
by Ellen Frankel Paul
"In all likelihood, Britain in the earlier part of the nineteenth century did not embrace a version of laissez faire that would warm the heart of a purist. Perhaps W. T. Hutchison came closest to the mark when he wrote that a “new interventionism” arose in midcentury before the “old interventionism” had been fully expunged. Yet it is undeniable that liberalism and the spirit of governmental quiescence enjoyed greater respectability than at any time before or since."

The Libertarian Heritage: The American Revolution and Classical Liberalism
by Murray Rothbard
"The libertarian creed emerged from the “classical liberal” movements of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in the Western world, specif­ically, from the English Revolution of the seventeenth century. This radical libertarian movement, even though only partially successful in its birthplace, Great Britain, was still able to usher in the Industrial Revolution there by freeing industry and production from the strangling restrictions of State control and urban government-supported guilds."

Life Savings: For 170 years, a private British organization has been rescuing people at sea.
by James L. Payne
". . . running the lifeboats and paying the thousands of rescue workers does not cost British taxpayers a penny. The Royal National Lifeboat Institution is a private organization, supported, as it proudly says on its letterhead, 'entirely by voluntary contributions' and managed by its own trustees and staff. The RNLI will rescue you whether you are rich or poor, whether you have donated to it or not." . . .
"Reviewing all these advantages, the government's own officials down through the years have quietly agreed with the sentiment expressed by Jack Stapley when I asked him why the RNLI avoided government support: 'We feel service would deteriorate if it was government-funded.'"

The Miracle of Privatization
September 2000
by John Blundell
"Privatization has totally transformed the British economy. Ports, airports, coal, gas, BP, steel, sugar, telecomms, electricity, forests, shipbuilding, motorway restaurants, freight, nuclear power, Rolls Royce, Rover, Royal Ordnance, Short Bros., and water: all have been privatized to the long-term benefit of all concerned, be they customers, shareholders, taxpayers, or all three. And not just for British people. The leaders of these newly privatized industries have become so good at what they do so fast that they are now doing it all over the world."

The Private Supply of `Public Goods' in Nineteenth Century Britain
by Stephen Davies

Reinventing Civil Society: The Rediscovery of Welfare Without Politics
by David G. Green
This book includes a history of the voluntary associations in England that helped those who deserved it.

Saving the Environment for a Profit, Victorian-Style
May 2003
by Pierre Desrochers
"While many writers collected bits and pieces of information on these achievements, the journalist Peter Lund Simmonds (1814-1897) published a massive synthesis on the topic, first in 1862 and in a significantly revised form in 1873, which he titled Waste Products and Undeveloped Substances; or, Hints for Enterprise in Neglected Fields. Simmonds's books discussed the profitable re-use of virtually all types of industrial and other waste. A point he never tired of making was that not only had considerable wealth been extracted from formerly wasted residuals, but also that the environment was typically better off as a result."

Estonia

Estonia Moves to Liberty
May 2004
by Norman Barry
"A more or less complete privatization had been achieved by the mid-1990s."

Estonia's economic reforms
"As soon as it broke free of the Soviet Union, the government of Estonia decided to privatize enterprises and land as speedily as possible."

France

The French Find a Free-Market Solution to Historic Preservation
January 4, 2011
by Christine Harbin
"Turning Versailles into a hotel will have many positive consequences. More people will be able to enjoy the building than they do in the status quo, or if it were in ruins. Additionally, taxpayers won't be forced to pay for the restoration, nor will the restoration compete with other government programs for funds. Another positive consequence is that the building and its history will be preserved."

Germany

From Socialism to the Market Economy: Postwar West Germany versus Post-1989 East Bloc
by Svetozar Pejovich
"Why have some former Soviet-bloc countries had a smoother transition from socialism than others, and why have none adjusted as well as West Germany in the 1950s? The answer lies in the interaction of three factors: the rule of law, the carriers of institutional restructuring, and the informal rules of the community."

The German Miracle vs. the Welfare State
by Ludwig Erhard
Chapter 12 of Prosperity Through Competition, 1957.

Germany: From the Market to Socialism—and Back?
May 2003
by Norman Barry
"One important lesson the rest of the world can draw from the German experience is that there is no “third way,” “capitalism with a human face” or market welfarism: there is either the real thing or, even for rich countries, incipient poverty."

Germany's post-war economic miracle
"The radical new policies adopted by Adenauer's post-war Christian Democrat government transformed a sclerotic economy. Between 1951 and 1960 the Federal German economy doubled in size."

Origins of the German Economic Miracle
December 1988
by Robert A. Peterson
"The unemployed went back to work, food reappeared on store shelves, and the legendary productivity of the German people was unleashed. Within two years, industrial output tripled. By the early 1960s, Germany was the third greatest economic power in the world. And all of this occurred while West Germany was assimilating hundreds of thousands of East German refugees."

The Party of Freedom: Studies in the History of German Liberalism by Ralph Raico
reviewed by Joseph R. Stromberg
"My only regret is that this important work is not yet available in English. Those who have any German at all owe it to themselves to read this masterful work from the pen of one of our best classical liberal historians."

Holland

Dutch treat (smoking edition)
July 9, 2009
by J.D. Tuccille
"After a year of widespread defiance of a law banning smoking in bars and cafes, and two court victories by bar owners, the Dutch government is backing off enforcement of the intrusive ban and effectively letting many smaller businesses set policies that work for them and their customers."

Lessons in Liberty: The Dutch Republic, 1579-1750
July 1987
by Robert A. Peterson
"The modern world provides us with hundreds of examples of what happens when a nation adopts the philosophy and practices of socialism. Certainly we can learn from bad examples—about what not to do—but we can learn equally well from good examples. Unfortunately, such positive “role models” are few and far between. History does provide us with some, however,—Hong Kong comes to mind, as do nineteenth-century Britain and America. The Dutch Republic is one example that has been often overlooked."

Let's Go Dutch: A surprising European approach to health-care reform.
August 18, 2009
by Stanley Goldfarb
"The Netherlands is a liberal country. It has legalized drugs and euthanasia is an accepted social policy. Yet, to solve its health care dilemma of rising costs and inefficiency, it has turned to a health care system that sounds much more like something to come out of the American Enterprise Institute than from a nation in which the Socialist party made the largest gains in the last election. It is opting for private health insurance and competition."

Netherlands to close prisons for lack of criminals
May 19, 2009
by NRC Handelsblad
"The Dutch justice ministry has announced it will close eight prisons and cut 1,200 jobs in the prison system. A decline in crime has left many cells empty."

The Pilgrims in Holland
November 1988
by Robert A. Peterson
"The Dutch have given many things to America: Easter eggs, Santa Claus, waffles, sauerkraut, sleighing, skating, and a host of “vans” and “velts” who helped to build our nation. But perhaps their greatest contribution to America was the 11 years of freedom they gave the Pilgrims—crucial years that helped America’s founding fathers work out their philosophy of freedom and prepare for self-government in the New World."

Iceland

After banking bust, Iceland turns to free-market innovation
March 4, 2010
by Ben Quinn
"Measures before Parliament are aimed at improving transparency laws and luring Internet-based media and data centers from all over the world to use Iceland as a base for investigative journalism. One aim is to counter challenges to media freedom in other countries such as Britain, where laws heavily favor plaintiffs in libel cases.
But Iceland doesn't want the innovation to stop there. Some here want to transform the island nation of 320,000 into a massive, living laboratory."

Ireland

The Irish Miracle
April 2004
by Karl Sigfrid
"From being a nation of emigrants, Ireland is now a country to which people move to find jobs."

Why Ireland Boomed
by James B. Burnham
"The great economic success story of the past ten years has been the Republic of Ireland, which suffered from a 17 percent unemployment rate in the mid-1980s but enjoyed nearly double-digit economic growth rates in recent years. The Emerald Island serves as a valuable case study to illustrate how large the payoffs can be from better economic policies in the presence of favorable external factors."

Israel

Israel's Grassroots Libertarian Revolution
April 1990
by Sam Lehman-Wilzig
"In the final analysis, then, the really important aspect of Israel’s dismantling of socialism—as well as similar processes in such countries as Poland and Hungary—is not that the well-educated policy-makers have become aware of their system% economic and philosophical bankruptcy, but rather that the less “sophisticated” citizenry are the source which pushed them to act. In such a situation, there is little chance of turning back the clock. There is all the chance in the world that the new system taking its place will be successful and stable, once the not-inconsiderable transitional difficulties are overcome."

Israel: The Road from Socialism
September 1989
by Macabee Dean
"In the last decade, Israel has undergone a great change in its thinking about state-owned companies. Most Israelis, including a large percentage of the socialists who formerly backed state-owned companies, now regard these firms as a drain on the nation’s resources."

Silicon Israel: How market capitalism saved the Jewish state
by George Gilder
"Netanyahu has long believed that the peace process as we know it is irrelevant, focused on a handful of issues that breed anger and perpetuate conflict. Meanwhile, true peace—and the promise of a decent life—lies waiting to be picked up by those Palestinians and Israelis who are willing, and now increasingly able, to invest in creation over destruction."

Italy

Italy's unregulated small artisan sector
"Post-war Italy illustrates vividly the problems associated with excessive government intervention and supervision of the economy. Essentially, there are two economies: an inefficient, corrupt public sector and a remarkably efficient, innovative private sector comprising mainly small- to medium-sized enterprises."

Liechtenstein

Will Liechtenstein's Autonomy Prevail?
by Karen De Coster
"The glory of Liechtenstein's political freedom, overall, has been due to unequivocal banking secrecy; lax regulatory oversight; anonymity in business formation and banking; legal company structuring that is friendly to wealth-creating holding companies; overall moderate taxes; tax laws allowing for tax-efficient asset management; and a minimal licensing and permit environment."

Mauritius

Mauritius: A Glimmer of African Freedom
January 26, 2011
by Sterling T. Terrell
"Without a doubt, the nation of Mauritius is the freest country that you've never heard of — indeed, it is the freest country in all of Africa."

New Zealand

The Incredible Shrinking State
by William D. Eggers
"How New Zealand got up from down under its bureaucracy."

In New Zealand, Farmers Don't Want Subsidies
July 17, 2012
by Mark Ross and Chris Edwards
"The removal of farm subsidies in New Zealand gave birth to a vibrant, diversified, and growing rural economy, and it debunked the myth that farming cannot prosper without subsidies. Thus rather than passing another big government farm bill that taxpayers can't afford, the U.S. Congress should step back and explore the proven alternative of free market farming."

Poland

Poland's Economy Is No Joke
January 16, 2010
by Peter Schiff
"Recently, Poland held an IPO for its state-owned power utility, Polska Grupa Energetyczna. According to a news report, "The sale brought in $2.1bn, pricing at the top end of the bankers' guidance range, and becoming Europe's largest IPO of the year." The government has used these revenues to fund its budget and keep taxes in check. More importantly, it has returned capital to the marketplace to be used in the most efficient manner."

Portugal

Portugal liberalizes drugs, world doesn't end
June 20, 2010
by Garry Reed
"And even with its flaws it's monumentally better than the continuing drug thugocracy in the United States."

Serbia

Competition Policy in FR Yugoslavia: Market Structures and Competition Institutions
by B. Begović and B. Mijatović (redaktori)

Decentralization of Social Welfare in Serbia
by Gordana Matković

Four Years of Transition in Serbia
by Boris Begović, Milica Bisić, Milica Đilas, Boško Živković, Gordana Matković, Boško Mijatović, Marko Paunović, Danica Popović, Slobodan Samardžić, Snežana Simić, and Dragor Hiber - Center for Liberal-Democratic Studies

The New Model of Privatization in Serbia
by Boris Begović, Bosko Zivković, and Boško Mijatović

Switzerland

Citizenship in action
by Geoffrey Wheatcroft
"Swiss firefighters are a living rebuke to right and left: society does exist, but is best left alone."

Neither Nationalist nor Socialist
by Walter Olson
How the Swiss kept their freedom in World War II.

The Secret of Swiss Prosperity
February 1984
by Dean Russell
"That’s the secret of Swiss prosperity—the free market economy, backed up by the resulting strictly-limited government, private ownership, tax and banking laws favorable to capital accumulation, good financial managers, and trade all over the world with anyone (under any form of government) who wants to trade. They learned long ago that prosperity can’t really be created; it just seems to show up automatically when and where there’s a favorable climate for it."

Swiss Voters Turn Back Gun Control Referendum
February 17, 2011
by Dave Bohon
"On February 13 voters in Switzerland turned back a proposal that would have tightened controls on firearms possession and use in a country where a large share of the homes have at least one gun and where learning to shoot and handle a rifle for defense of country (as well as sport) is a right of passage for every Swiss male."

Three Cheers for the Swiss People
by Paul Green
"The Swiss people themselves remain strongly behind bank secrecy – perhaps 75% of them – and within Switzerland, even the taxman cannot violate this. Yet somehow, to the puzzlement of statists around the world, Switzerland still survives and does so as one of the richest, most blessed and most peaceful countries in the world."

Taiwan

The Taiwan Model
July 1998
by Hugh Macaulay
"We will detail first why Taiwan was unlikely to succeed. It faced almost every conceivable condition that has led other countries to explain away their failures. Next we examine its record of successes, levels achieved by few countries anywhere or at any time. We then look at conditions that produced this outstanding record, conditions ridiculed and rejected by most countries. We conclude with lessons for other countries, both those called emerging and those that are fully advanced. There is much to be learned."

Other Examples

An Essay on the History of Civil Society
1767
by Adam Ferguson
"A pioneering work of the Scottish Enlightenment in the field of "philosophical history", or what we would today call sociology. It deals with the social, political, economic, intellectual, and legal changes which accompanied societies as they made the transition to modern commercial and manufacturing society."

The Historical Origins of Voluntaryism
by James Luther Adams
"In modern history the first crucial affirmation of voluntaryism as an institutional phenomenon appeared in the demand of the sects for the separation of church and state."

A History of Force: Exploring the Worldwide Movement Against Habits of Coercion, Bloodshed, and Mayhem by James L. Payne
reviewed by Butler Shaffer
"Payne acknowledges that the use of force has fluctuated historically, but he insists that the overall trend is toward a diminution in coercive behavior, whether practiced by institutions or by individuals."

The History of Freedom by Lord Acton, with an Introduction by James C. Holland
reviewed by Salim Rashid
January 1995
"Acton's essays are certainly worth reading but one must constantly keep in mind how unselfconsciously he is the product of the Victorian age."

The History of Freedom in Antiquity
by Lord Acton
"In ancient times the State absorbed authorities not its own, and intruded on the domain of personal freedom."

The History of Freedom in Christianity
by Lord Acton
"The only influence capable of resisting the feudal hierarchy was the ecclesiastical hierarchy; and they came into collision, when the process of feudalism threatened the independence of the Church by subjecting the prelates severally to that form of personal dependence on the kings which was peculiar to the Teutonic state.
To that conflict of four hundred years we owe the rise of civil liberty. If the Church had continued to buttress the thrones of the king whom it anointed, or if the struggle had terminated speedily in an undivided victory, all Europe would have sunk down under a Byzantine or Muscovite despotism. For the aim of both contending parties was absolute authority. But although liberty was not the end for which they strove, it was the means by which the temporal and the spiritual power called the nations to their aid."

The Individualist Legacy in Latin America
by Alvaro Vargas Llosa
"Latin America’s underdevelopment is rooted in the region’s statist heritage. Yet from precolonial times to the present-day, an individualist ethos has manifested itself there."

Islam and the Discovery of Freedom by Rose Wilder Lane with introduction and commentary by Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad
reviewed by George C. Leef
"For the most part, he documents points she makes, but occasionally corrects her writing. By placing his commentary in footnotes, Ahmad is able to strengthen Lane’s argument that Islamic civilization flourished because of its emphasis on freedom and the rights of the individual without detracting from her beautiful writing style."

It Can Happen Here
Government really can be cut: case studies from Canada, New Zealand, and the United States

November 2010
by Arnold Kling, David Henderson, and Maurice McTigue
"New Zealand, Canada, and the postwar United States all managed to slash the state on a grand scale. Governments shed responsibility for forests, railways, radio spectrum, and more while relaxing labor markets, slimming the welfare state, and ending price controls. Far from damaging economies or increasing unemployment, these reductions in the size and scope of government boosted GDP, improved services, and created jobs."

Privateering and National Defense: Naval Warfare for Private Profit
by Larry J. Sechrest
"Almost all economists declare that national defense is a “public good” that will be provided in sub-optimal quantities—or not provided at all—by private, profit-seeking firms. The purpose of this paper is to challenge just that sort of statement. The attack on national defense as a public good which must be provided by the state will be two-pronged. One part, the briefer of the two, will raise theoretical questions about public goods in general and national defense in particular. The second part will be devoted to a detailed survey of privateering, a form of naval warfare conducted by privately-owned ships which lasted from the twelfth century to the nineteenth century. What privateers were, how they operated, the legal customs that grew up around them, how effective they were, how profitable they were, and why they disappeared will all be addressed. The common employment of privateers during wartime will be offered as empirical evidence that defense need not be monopolized by the state."

R. J. Rummel's Research Shows That Freer Nations Are More Prosperous and Less Violent
by Roy Halliday
R. J. Rummel offers empirical evidence to support his conclusions.

The Scandinavian-Welfare Myth Revisited
March 09, 2010
by Markus Bergstrom
"We have seen that while the Scandinavian countries have extremely high amounts of what Rothbard called binary intervention, i.e., taxation, their saving grace is their relatively lower amount of triangular intervention, i.e., regulation. This puts the Scandinavian countries on a level playing field with other developed countries and helps explain why they are able to have equal or higher living standards. The misconception that the other Western countries are a lot more free-market oriented than Scandinavia is very unfortunate; it feeds the notion that more government expansion would bring joy and happiness to all, when in fact it would make things worse."

The Triumph of Liberty by Jim Powell
reviewed by John Hood
May 2001
“Please read The Triumph of Liberty to your kids. Or go to their school and hit a teacher over the head with it.” - P. J. O’Rourke

The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some Are So Rich and Some So Poor by David S. Landes
reviewed by Randall G. Holcombe
April 1999
"His explanation of the wealth and poverty of nations is simple: rich nations are once-poor nations that developed market economies; poor nations are once- and still-poor nations that did not."

When Individuals Beat Governments -- Christman 1914
by Robert L. Johnson
"The brave soldiers who went against government orders and instead followed a much higher calling during the Christmas truce of 1914 have taught us that it is very possible to defeat the government."

Back to the list of topics

This page was last updated on August 25, 2012.