"How we 'won' in Vietnam, but are losing at home": Glenn Reynolds


What is it that America's number-one psycho Vietnam vet, John Rambo, said in First Blood? "Nothing is over!"

Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit, revisits America's engagement with Vietnam and comes away thinking we lost the war, though not in the way you think:

According to the Pew Global Poll, 95% of people in Vietnam agree that most people are better off under capitalism, even if there is inequality.

By contrast, only 70% of Americans believe the same thing. (America is out-performed by such other less developed countries as Nigeria, China, Turkey, Malaysia, the Philippines and India). Maybe, quipped an Internet commenter, the Vietnamese should send us some advisers….

In his book, The Rise and Decline of Nations, economist Mancur Olson argues that established economies develop a web of special interests that gradually chokes off economic growth. Vietnam's advantage is that its own parasites haven't had a chance to start spinning much of a web yet. Ours, on the other hand, have been at it for decades.

Olson wrote that — as with the German and Japanese booms after World War II — it takes a major calamity, such as a war or a revolution, to cut through that web and allow economic growth to take off again. I've argued in the past that massive democratic change — a "wave" election — might accomplish the same end.

Read the whole thing.

I'm not sanguine that this midterm will be a wave election. It may well get a bunch of Republicans elected but it's far from clear that they are dedicated to free markets in any meaningful way (and we know they tend to like "free minds" not at all). But the country certainly needs to understand that it can't take innovation and rising living standards for granted. And if that's a lesson we need to learn from Vietnam, I got no problem with that as long as we learn it and learn it fast.