If you see an economy burdened with the heavy hand of bureaucrats, suffocating controls and arbitrary delays, you can assume it will grow slowly or not at all. You can also expect that Republicans, with ample justification, will blame the government for stifling productive activity.
But Mitt Romney can surprise you. Speaking in Jerusalem, he noted how much richer Israel is than "the areas managed by the Palestinian Authority," and he fingered a different cause. "Culture makes all the difference," he said.
Romney is not the first person to compare and explain Israel's economic performance over time with other places. The immortal economist Milton Friedman—who would have been 100 years old this week—did so back in the 1990s. But he wasn't complimenting the Israelis, writes Steve Chapman, and he didn't ascribe the difference to culture. He blamed it on bad government.