Freedom for people of all races and all national, religious, and ethnic origins

What we said in the previous section about the importance of allowing women to contribute fully and truly to the workforce also applies to people of various racial, national, religious, and ethnic backgrounds. In fact, freedom for women and freedom for people of all kinds of backgrounds are simply two specific aspects of allowing the free market to function properly and to most effectively allocate economic resources to their most productive uses.

The Bible strongly affirms the equality of all people as creatures made in the image of God and the moral wrong of discrimination based on racial, national, or ethnic distinctions. The historical narrative in Genesis starts with the creation of Adam and Eve, the parents of the entire human race. The apostle Paul taught that God “made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth” (Acts 17:26). If we all are descended from these two parents, then on what basis can we discriminate against any other human beings?

Paul also wrote that there should be no racial discrimination, because in Christ “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28). The picture of the future revealed in the book of Revelation shows “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne” of God and worshiping (Rev. 7:9).

Linda Gorman points out how a genuinely free market counters discrimination: “Many people believe that only government intervention prevents rampant discrimination in the private sector. Economic theory predicts the opposite: market mechanisms impose inescapable penalties on profits whenever for-profit entrepreneurs discriminate against individuals on any basis other than productivity.”69

Non-discrimination was another trait by which Britain profited greatly when unwanted people fled from other countries and brought developed economic skills with them. Weavers came with skills from the southern Netherlands, and farmers brought more productive ag?ricultural methods. Jews from Spain and other areas where they were persecuted came with vast knowledge and experience in financial matters. The Protestant Huguenots came from France, bringing great skills as merchants, craftsmen, traders, and managers of financial matters.[1]

Ferguson tells how Spanish and British colonial settlers in North and South America differed in this respect:

Our story begins with two ships. On one, landing in northern Ecuador in 1532, were fewer than 200 Spaniards accompanying the man who already claimed the title “Governor of Peru”. Their ambition was to conquer the Inca Empire for the King of Spain and to secure a large share of its reputed wealth of precious metal for themselves.

The other ship, the Carolina, reached the New World 138 years later, in 1670, at an island off the coast of what today is South Carolina. Among those on board were servants whose modest ambition was to find a better life than the grinding poverty they had left behind in England.

The two ships symbolized this tale of two Americas. On one, conquistadors; on the other indentured servants. One group dreamt of instant plunder—of mountains of Mayan gold, there for the taking.

The others knew that they had years of toil ahead of them, but also that they would be rewarded with one of the world’s most attractive assets—prime North American land—plus a share in the process of law-making. Real estate plus representation: that was the North American dream.[2]

The United States allowed vast numbers of people to immigrate in the mid- to late 1800s and early 1900s. During some years in this period, more than one million immigrants entered America. When the population of the United States went from 10 million to 94 million people between 1821 and 1914, 32 million of them were immigrants, and many of them in the later years were children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of immigrants who had come earlier in that peri- od.[3] Many of the immigrants to the United States were literate, some were highly productive farmers, and many were trained craftsman.

By contrast, the Roman Catholic countries of Latin America excluded Northern Europeans and most North Americans, and thereby excluded many of the talented workers they needed for economic development.[4] As recently as 1900, in Italy, Spain, and Portugal, “the religious persecutions of old—the massacres, hunts, expulsions, forced conversions, and self-imposed intellectual closure—proved to be a kind of original sin. Their effects would not wear off until the twentieth century . . . and not always even then.”[5]

The Balkan countries of Eastern Europe allowed people from other nations, but, because of a kind of ethnic and national prejudice, there was wide resentment toward the Greeks, Jews, Armenians, and Germans who came to these nations, worked hard, and became wealthy. When the Balkan nations became independent, “the natives did their best to drive out the strangers, that is, to expel the most active elements in the economy. . . . The Balkans remain poor today. In the absence of metics [foreign workers] they war on one another and blame their misery on exploitation by richer economies in Western Europe.”[6] Algeria is another example. When it gained independence from France in 1962, more than a million Europeans were living among more than 10 million native Algerians. After independence, even the Europeans who wanted to stay “were sped on their way by insults, threats, violence, seizures back of properties seized in the first place.” But they had formed much of the backbone of the Algerian economy:

The successful ones owned the best land, grew the wine and wheat that were the great exports, handled the shipping, managed the banks, made the economy go. . . . The loss of these human resources was a crushing blow. Over the years, the Algerian economy slowed, and even oil and gas could not stem the tide.[7]

Landes, writing in 1999, says that “in the last few years, the country has faltered and festered. Almost three quarters of the young men from seventeen to twenty-three years of age are unemployed.” The industrial infrastructure has deteriorated, and Algeria “can no longer feed itself. So it imports increasing quantities of foods.”[8]

Freedom for people from all races and from all national, religious, and ethnic origins is crucial for any country’s economic development.

  • [1] Landes, Wealth and Poverty, 223.
  • [2] Ferguson, Civilization, 98-99.
  • [3] Landes, Wealth and Poverty, 321.
  • [4] Ibid., 317, 324, 329.
  • [5] Ibid., 250. (But see note 58 above.)
  • [6] Ibid., 252.
  • [7] Ibid., 440-41.
  • [8] Ibid., 507-9.
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