I am mostly an advocate of markets and economic freedom. In general I think people should be free to buy, sell, trade, and make decisions on price independently without the need for government intervention. Of course this is not carte blanche. There are many areas I think government intervention is important and relevant. You don’t want kidney markets and we should care about externalities like pollution. In general though, the default for me is “do what you want”. Markets.
But in advocating policy I often assume that most people believe what I believe. Which, as it turns out, may not necessarily be true. Over the weekend I played around with the 2016 version of the World Values Survey. It is a global survey that asks people from around the world a variety of questions.
One of these is:
How would you place your views on this scale? 1 means you agree completely with the statement on the left; 10 means you agree completely with the statement on the right; and if your views fall somewhere in between, you can choose any number in between.
Private ownership of business and industry should be increased (1) vs Government ownership of business and industry should be increased (10)
A second question asks:
Government should take more responsibility to ensure that everyone is provided for (1) vs People should take more responsibility to provide for themselves (10)
The vast majority also believe that the government should take more responsibility in making sure that everyone is provided for. To put it in other words, the majority believe that the state should play a more active role in providing for people. Again for context, Ghana is a bit less government leaning that we are. The Netherlands tilts towards individual responsibility but not as much as the United States.
How do you push for market tilting reforms in an economy where people in general believe in state control and government interventionist actions? Your guess is as good as mine. Something policy makers should really think about. Of course it goes without saying that the popular opinion is not necessarily the best option.
On an unrelated note, just over six percent of Nigerians do not believe in hell. Which is rather unexpected. I thought it would be close to zero. The Netherlands in 87 percent, the US is 30 percent and Ghana is also six percent.
You can find the World Values Survey here.