In December 2010 a jobless Tunisian graduate burnt himself to death. Having been forcibly prevented from the dangerous and criminal act of selling vegetables from a cart without the proper “license”, he took drastic action.
The chain reaction which followed, now affectionately referred to as the “Arab Spring”, likely would not have happened in a country where red tape was minimal and economic freedom prevailed.
Various opinion pieces tell us that the reason for the Arab Spring is that people want democracy. Bollocks!
I don’t see any Singaporeans setting themselves on fire. Singapore works because the amount of economic freedom is huge. Opening a business is easy. Regulations are minimal.
“But Chris, both Tunisia and Singapore are dictatorships.” True, but actually irrelevant.
The problem lies not in the political structure but in the economic one. I don’t give a rats tail if I get to vote or not (because what’s the difference anyway?) if I can’t make a living easily and freely.
Mark and I can attest to this personally, having had enormous difficulties in opening financial accounts while constantly being in different parts of the world.
My friend Derek Sivers gave a fantastic speech on this topic recently. I encourage you to watch it here, especially if you’re a banker. Derek thinks that the banking system is a complete bottleneck in the business process, and that we’re due for a disruptive break-up of the system. I could not agree more – and I certainly hope it happens sooner than later!
Regulation today has run amuck. The consequences of “keeping us safe” are huge. We’d love to implement Democracy the Capitalistexploits way, but we realize it’s just not going to happen any time soon.
Here in Thailand, where both Mark and I find ourselves at present, I look around me and I see people trading continuously. Want to sell something on the side of the street? Go for it.
Here is a picture of a Thai businessman. May as well be comfortable and entertained when at work right? See the satellite dish mounted on the back of his fruit-selling scooter? He was watching a football match in between serving customers ice cold fruit and drinks. Do you think he has a food handler’s certification?
Want to sell gasahol? Just get a couple of old bottles and fill them up, slap some paint on a sign and you’re in business. I wonder where OSHA is in this scenario?
Want to transport something? Throw it in and tie it down… go baby, go! No DOT to get in your way here…
Can you imagine doing ANY of these things in London, Paris or NY city?
Speaking of NY city… Check this out. They need a F&%$ing online “wizard” to guide you through the ridiculous process of applying for all the necessary licenses and approvals! Take a look at the list of licenses towards the end of the page!
I was chatting recently with a Thai national about his business. I asked if he had a license to sell his product. He looked at me strangely.
I then asked him how often he took a holiday, as it seemed he was out there rain or shine every day. He said that he works as much as he can possibly work. “I take a holiday only when there is not enough work,” was his response.
Contrast this to the European Union who have just passed a law stating that if a worker falls ill during their mandatory 4-6 week holiday they will in fact be due another vacation – at the employer’s expense!
Nevermind that Europe is mired in recession, is saddled with rising unemployment while its governments are struggling under debt burdens they are unable to pay back. Austerity? No, never mind all of that, it’s more important to regulate and pass myriad useless and counterproductive laws.
I wish I was making this stuff up!
“Government ‘help’ to business is just as disastrous as government persecution… the only way a government can be of service to national prosperity is by keeping its hands off.” – Ayn Rand