OK, I have to apologize for my post two posts back on Don's comments about North Korea. I really botched communicating my point and only have myself to blame for that. The fact that I rarely agree with Don and Russ probably confused the point as well. But commenter Edwin was able to zero in on my point:
"Trying to smash the topic of freedom into a little box labeled "economic policy" ignores that there are preconditions for a free market economy, and there are more general preconditions for the whole condition of freedom."
Exactly. I don't agree with Don on government because I think his views on government are not conducive to a free market or a free society. And I don't buy into this notion that I am "turning up the government dial" a little more than Don is, and that that's the difference. Vernon Smith highlights that the important thing in understanding the operation of markets is understanding the rules of the game, and of course there's the issue of what rights are binding and enforced in a free market and what aren't. It's not a "more government" or "less government" thing. It's a "preconditions of freedom" government or "not preconditions of freedom government" thing.
Edwin goes on:
"Movement towards a freer market economy in a free society is possible as preconditions are met, but attempting to cure North Korea or to stave off totalitarianism with market prescriptions is not guaranteed to work (to put it mildly): North Korea is structured such that a free economy cannot work, and America is structured such that there will always be vigorous opposition to any policy that limits somebody's economic freedom (and more besides)."
Again - exactly. Edwin is starting to sound like Joe Stiglitz during the collapse of communism. Price liberalization and privatization are all essential, Stiglitz said. But they won't do a damn thing to help if you don't have the institutional environment in place for the market to work.