Timmy in Iranian

timmyiniranian

The original English text was:

Today, Iran is at about the level of economic wealth that England was in 1880, Sweden in 1925 and China in 2000. Those countries have all become considerably richer since those dates, China alone near doubling in just 16 years. There is no reason why one of the oldest civilisations on the planet should not be one of the richest: all that is necessary is that Iran follow the correct economic policies that allow growth.

Adam Smith told us that “Little else is requisite to carry a state to the highest degree of opulence from the lowest barbarism, but peace, easy taxes, and a tolerable administration of justice: all the rest being brought about by the natural course of things.”

We might be a little more sophisticated in our language these days but the important point is that growth is not something which is caused by government policy. It can be prevented by it, most certainly, and there are certain things, like that administration of justice, which are necessary for it to occur. But economic growth is something that happens because people cooperate to make it happen, not because they are told how to do it nor that they must do it. Leave people the space and that natural desire for a better life can be allowed to, and will, work in growing the economy.

The performance of China over recent decades needs to be understood in these terms. Yes, there’s still a Communist Party claiming to control things, there’s still state owned industry and enterprises. But what has really happened is that said state, said Communist Party, has withdrawn from trying to manage swathes of the economy: and it is in those swathes where that control is absent that the growth has been occurring. The same can and will be true of any other economy. Relax the direct control and the planning and allow the green shoots of the market economy to grow up around it.

Whether one would prefer a high tax, high welfare, state of the Scandinavian social democracy kind, or the more minarchist vision of Hong Kong or Singapore, is a secondary question. For the thing those places have in common is that they score remarkably highly on the usual measures of economic freedom. Who may trade with whom, in what, how and where, is almost entirely unregulated in any manner in any of those places. That one system then taxes the resultant wealth to redistribute, the other does not, is that second order decision. There must be that economic freedom there for the wealth to be generated in the first place.

My and our best wishes for the New Year and my and our point in a nutshell. Nowruz will continue to get better and better into the future the more that economic freedom is allowed to exist.

Tim Worstall

Senior Fellow Adam Smith Institute, London.

This is in the Iranian New Year edition of Tejarat-e Farda, Iran’s most-circulated weekly magazine.

No, I have no idea why they asked me but…..

24 thoughts on “Timmy in Iranian”

  1. The Inimitable Steve

    PS – I think this the greatest Anglo-Iranian olive branch since Flock of Seagulls made their country famous for being so far away.

  2. Bloke in North Dorset

    A Senior Fellow now I see, I mashed that. It only seems like yesterday that you announced you had been made a Fellow, how time flies.

    Doesn’t Iran have a history of trade before the mad mullahs took over?

  3. I hope they have a highly competent specialist translator. Your English syntax is quite tricky for a non-native speaker and the meaning can easily be misconstrued. The paragraph on China in particular might well have gone horribly wrong in translation.

    You should try and adopt a much simpler style for articles which are intended for foreign language publications.

  4. That’s what you wrote. You have no idea if that is what they printed.

    ‘It only seems like yesterday that you announced you had been made a Fellow’

    It’s the beard!

  5. Nothing else is requisite to carry a state from the highest degree of opulence to the lowest barbarism, but Islam.

  6. “For the thing those places have in common is that they score remarkably highly on the usual measures of economic freedom.”

    Unless you are a Scandinavian woman who wants freely and briefly to rent out access to her lower reproductive tract, or a Scandinavian man who wants freely and briefly to pay the rent for brief access to it.

  7. Happy Nowruz from an Iranian.

    I’m quietly waiting for Iran to become the power house it used to be when there was a Persian Empire. 🙂

    @Mabuse, To be accurate, Timmy in Farsi or Timmy in Iran.

  8. Persians still consider the British as masters of devious misdirection so the net effect of your article is likely to about the same if you posted it on the Tax Justice Network.

  9. Nothing else is requisite to carry a state from the highest degree of opulence to the lowest barbarism, but Islam.

    Not really. Islam as originally a trading religion, because the agricultural output of the Mecca/Medina area has never been great.

    Hence religious restrictions that are quite easily met by traders, like regular daily prayer breaks and month long fasts, that are very hard on agricultural workers.

    For a long time the Levant was a hive of trade, and countries like Lebanon were doing well.

    What has killed it is statist Islam. Where the prodnose state gets its beak involved in personal matters. That prevents free trade, and the system breaks down. (Most Islamic countries in recent have also tried a more or less Socialist form of economic control, with the same poor results it gives elsewhere.)

  10. The Inimitable Steve

    Eh.

    I think the backwards tendencies of Islam spring from:

    * Hostility to scientific inquiry – the contributions of medieval Islamic astronomers are overblown, and the Islamic world has produced almost nothing of scientific value in the past 1,000 years. I’m sure there must be plenty of bright, curious Muslims, but their culture doesn’t seem to be friendly to new ideas.

    * Fatalism – the “if Allah wills it” mentality, as opposed to the “God helps those who help themselves” mentality.

    * Polygamy and inbreeding – which are inimical to the sort of high-trust, relatively individualistic society that can create a lot of excess wealth in the absence of massive natural resources. The inbreeding bit isn’t specifically Islam’s fault, but cousin marriage is strongly correlated with Mohammedanism.

    It leads to a low-trust society with rampant nepotism, bribery, productive people being dragged down by their hordes of useless relatives, and a permanently angry underclass of poorer young men who can’t get sex unless they go to a brothel or rape.

    Statism is just a recent symptom of what is an inherently dysfunctional and oppressive socio-religious system that ossifies social mobility and scientific and economic progress, and offers very little to potentially bright but poor young men except religious headbangery and encouragement to die in a retarded jihad.

    Or so I reckon.

  11. So Much For Subtlety

    Chester Draws – “Not really. Islam as originally a trading religion, because the agricultural output of the Mecca/Medina area has never been great.”

    Yes, really. Islamic societies ought to be Adam Smith’s dream. They do tend to insist on all those conditions. Taxes are low and Sharia tends to keep them that way. Trade has always been free – and it is condemned when it is not. Justice is definitely known and secure. But it did not make the Muslim world rich. It slowly made them poorer and poorer. What TimW’s piece does not acknowledge is that Adam Smith was wrong – something else is needed and Muslim societies do not have it.

    “What has killed it is statist Islam. Where the prodnose state gets its beak involved in personal matters.”

    Because of course Islam has nothing to say about personal matters!

    “That prevents free trade, and the system breaks down.”

    I fail to see how stoning adulterers results in a lack of free trade. It is more likely that restrictions on raising taxes means that Muslim governments have to get around them through more or less corrupt means.

    Adam Smith wrote in a White, Northern European, Protestant world. He could not see how other societies could have other social assumptions leading to very different results.

  12. Chester Draws,

    Islam was more of a raiding, thieving, killing, slave taking, raping of trading caravaners cult.

  13. So Much For Subtlety

    The Inimitable Steve – “The inbreeding bit isn’t specifically Islam’s fault, but cousin marriage is strongly correlated with Mohammedanism.”

    It is kind of Muhammedanism’s fault. And to support you view it is a problem, here is today’s Labour Party member of the week:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3531852/Labour-councillor-20-suspended-claims-called-Hitler-greatest-man-history-latest-anti-Semitic-scandal-hit-Corbyn-s-party.html

    It is amazing how the frog has been boiled. If people had said this was going to happen, Windrush would have been towed back out to sea.

  14. “The inbreeding bit isn’t specifically Islam’s fault, but cousin marriage is strongly correlated with Mohammedanism.” and Norfolk.

  15. @SMFS not many Muslims on board the Windrush,/i>.

    And while Islam => cousin marriage, the converse is not true – plenty of it in Hindu cultures, and NFN (and the Ozarks), as DocBud points out. It’s often encouraged to keep dowries within the family and to prevent landholdings being split beyond sustainability.

  16. Steve: You’re mostly right but you are underestimating the contribution of the Islamic Golden Age to scientific progress.

  17. The Inimitable Steve

    Matthew – I might well be.

    From my hazy recollection of history at school, the Islamic Golden Age’s scientific contributions were mostly in transcribing classical texts into Arabic (nuthin’ wrong with that), stargazing, and giving us concepts that begin with Al-.

    There’s probably more to it than that, but compared with the scholarly achievements of the Chinese, the mathematics of the Hindus, the philosophy of the Greeks, the engineering feats of the Romans, or the embarrassment of scientific riches that poured out of Europe from the Middle Ages onwards, seems to me it was more of an Islamic Gilded Age.

  18. Here’s a good overview:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2001/10/30/science/how-islam-won-and-lost-the-lead-in-science.html?pagewanted=all

    just ignore the idiotic apologia about three quarters of the way through. If you change your comment to “the Islamic world has produced almost nothing of scientific value in the past 400 years” then you’re dead on.

    ” the embarrassment of scientific riches that poured out of Europe from the Middle Ages onwards”

    … which built on all the other things you’ve mentioned, don’t forget. And which was entirely reliant on the Europeans embracing the scientific method, which they got from Islamic investigations into optics.

  19. The knowledge that the Koran talks of is knowledge of Allah. Islam, just as Chrisitianity did, has no interest in knowledge that casts doubt on the existence of Allah. It may be not just coincidence that the period when scientific discovery thrived under (not because of ) Islam began to decline as the period of scientific discovery and philosophical thought that led to the Enlightenment began in Europe. The challenges to authority and religious dogma are not things Islamic governments and authorities will countenance. In the 21st century, Muslim philosophers and scientists would be risking their lives to question the authority of the Koran or the existence of Allah, which is where scientific investigation and philosophical thought will inevitably lead.

  20. The Pedant-General

    SMFS,

    I fail to see how stoning adulterers results in a lack of free trade. It is more likely that restrictions on raising taxes means that Muslim governments have to get around them through more or less corrupt means.

    I think that’s the key: the “more or less corrupt means” falls foul of both the “easy taxes” and “tolerable administration of justice” requirements. The question is why (is it the case that) Islam should be so susceptible to corruption?

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