This article was published in Infobae on July 11th, 2021.
Rights are not the product of government decisions, but of specific personal acts. No group can demand the right to a predetermined amount of goods, food, or housing but only to the eventual fruits of joint activities. To overcome hunger, you must produce enough food. No decree can guarantee survival when food is lacking.
Individual incomes increases in societies in which the social contract implies some sort of “dare to undertake” agreement, recognizing that specialization and competence achieve more than the authorities. They are societies that ensure your freedom to decide for yourself, associate with others and share the fruits of your labor. The Enlightenment paved the way for reason. The English Glorious Revolution of 1688 severely restricted the king’s powers: he could no longer legislate or create taxes. The Bill of Rights strengthened individual rights, which were now equal for all. In 1776, The US Declaration of Independence was issued: “In order to ensure the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, governments are instituted whose just powers derive from the consent of the governed.” This agreement was strengthened with the Constitution of 1788, the resolutions, and powers given to the Supreme Court.
The French Revolution, in 1789, proclaimed “the same and equal rights and measures for all humans at all times.” Revolutionaries tried to end privileges and ensure equal measures for all, ending transactional chaos by establishing the Metric Decimal System. The Argentine Constitution of 1853/60 also ensured individual rights, attracting millions of immigrants seeking to prosper in a dynamic society, which became one of the richest of its time. Similarly, the 1868 Meiji Restoration, in Japan, certified individual rights and property.
The progression of personal rights and the growth of GDP were stagnant for hundreds of thousands of years, until the 19th century. At that moment, the increase in freedom and the fight for human rights meant an increase in average income took off rapidly. By 2020, the world GDP was 1070 times the historical average. An ideological revolution.
Without food and living under minimal conditions, people perish. When their basic needs are covered, they reproduce until discomfort unless other activities are ordered through property rights. It was liberty and individual property rights that improved living standards. In a just and flourishing country, income is the counterpart of the value given to individual rights. Only on the basis of property rights, people can order themselves, determine their own trade and elevate their way of life. Indeed, private property reflects the value of the activities undertaken. More comprehensive property rights coordinate more productive individual activities, leading to greater knowledge, income and wealth. No progress is possible with uncertain property rights. No matter the justification, redundant prohibitions always add up to misery. Argentina was impoverishing by the many inhibitions decreed by arrogant authorities in the face of novel conflicts.
Fewer restrictions are favorable to all countries and peoples, at all levels of development. Since 1990, the average individual income in China was multiplied 15 times; in Vietnam by 10, in Cambodia by 8, although they are still poor. At a much higher stage, Ireland became one of the richest nations. Poland, Romania, Hungary, former communist countries, liberated their economies and prospered rapidly. In our America, Chile, Peru, Uruguay, Ecuador and several Central Americans eliminated redundant obstacles and markedly prospered.
It is common to be amazed at income asymmetries. According to ancient neoclassical theory, this should not happen with increased technological diffusion. The mistake is not incorporating justice of rights, for all individuals and occasions. Indeed, in 2020 the twenty countries with the greatest freedom cover 52% of GDP with just 11% of the world’s population. They average $ 55,300 per inhabitant, compared to $ 6,700 for the rest of the planet.
Argentina, overwhelmed by restrictions, would quickly resume progress and see an increase in economic activity if it were to be released from them. To gain competitiveness, it should multiply imports, lower costs, and open exports. It should also increase freedom in commerce, open the currency exchange market and remove all obstacles to face-to-face classes and citizens’ trips abroad. Last Tuesday, Infobae reported the irreversible damage from the closure of the schools. An impoverished generation for life.
To ensure justice of rights, the entire judicial structure should be strengthened and made effective.
According to Robert Cooter, the superiority of democracy rests on the institutional framework that sanctions the laws desired by the population, balancing the will of the executive and popular passions. Justice requires reason in order to make the laws and apply them consistently. The characteristic of democracy is thus the leading role of citizens and respect for each other it entails, avoiding redistributive conflicts. To that end, the responsibility of the opposition is to make the opposing voices heard and bring about consensus. Rulers feel their vigilance though voting and the continuous control mechanisms to which they are subjected. The danger is those who take advantage of their power to impose objectives contrary to individual rights.
Democracy combines interests, reasons conflicts, coordinates wills, awakens and channels passions and helps to see the whole picture.
Democracy is in danger if those in power are unaware of its scope.