The world’s most capitalist countries

Written by Andrew Henderson
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Dateline: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Western countries have a tendency to see the world in black and white: “us good, them bad”.

For so-called free-market conservatives in the West, that means deriding “evil” and “socialist” countries like China that fly the communist banner in name only.

However, chances are high that the Western, freedom-loving country in which you live actually hates capitalism.

Don’t get me started on the crony capitalism that figureheads like Warren Buffett root for. Old Warren got his big break by basically stealing a family business from children who had to sell it to pay the estate tax.

Now that he’s a big deal, Warren Buffett owns sprawling insurance companies that lobby government to keep the estate tax in effect, all so they can sell insurance against it.

In case the irony is lost on you, Warren Buffett profits from his insurance companies selling a service to business owners who don’t want to end up like the Omaha family he ripped off years ago.

Then there’s the notion of borders as a way to keep foreign workers out. If an Indian computer geek is the best guy or girl for a tech job, why should companies like Microsoft face a shortage of H1B visas to get the talent they need… all while smaller companies get left out in the cold altogether?

On a more simple level, why shouldn’t local fast-food workers compete with Central American immigrants? If the much-ballyhooed American workforce is as strong as its proponents say it is, the Mexican workers won’t stand a chance.

Every day, individuals and businesses around the world make decisions based on self-interest. That self-interest makes sure we have the most amount of money in our pockets and the best chance for profit in the future.

For me, that has included hiring higher-priced Westerners to fill several positions at our companies recently. Sure, I could have trained a Filipino virtual assistant to do the job, but I preferred paying someone in North America five times the salary to not have to bother.

Such is capitalism at work.

And the reality is that capitalism no longer exists in its true form in any Western country. Heck, it doesn’t exist in any mutated form.

For as much as the West and its politicians claim to stand behind capitalism, Western countries are some of the least capitalistic on earth.

Perhaps politicians in The Land of the Free are worried about being the victims of some kind of modern McCarthyism, although even that trend is changing.

Today, politicians like Elizabeth Warren denounce capitalism, while Barack Obama tells business owners “you didn’t build that”.

While anti-immigrant parties across Europe are gaining steam, anti-capitalist Green and even Communist parties hold decent positions in numerous national legislatures. Countries like Portugal and even Austria have numerous communist parties.

Hating capitalism has become more and more popular in the West, and it is having an impact on the culture.

In Spain, for instance, not only is it difficult for most youth to find a job, but many young people are angry at even having to find one. The anti-capitalist culture in much of Europe has indoctrinated the next generation to think that working for “the man” is unethical.

While I’m all for starting a business and going my own way, there is a better way to do it, as I’ll share in a moment.

Meanwhile, everything from Occupy Wall Street rallies to socialist politicians demanding that the “evil rich pay their fair share” has set people off against the free market.

Capitalist countries where the free market is still alive and respected

Yet, capitalism is still thriving in other parts of the world. In fact, you’ll never believe which countries are the most capitalist. It turns out that the most capitalist countries are also some of the largest homes of what I call “forced entrepreneurs”; people who don’t work for the man because they can’t.

A recent survey of 44 countries around the world revealed that Vietnam has the highest levels of support for capitalism and the free market, with 95% of respondents speaking highly of the system.

Population-rich Bangladesh, one of the poorest countries in South Asia and the world, came in second place with huge support of the free market economy, followed by South Korea, China, and Ghana.

Respondents to the survey suggested overwhelmingly that open trade creates jobs and leads to better wages. Those surveyed in these emerging markets indicated that foreign investment is a good thing, not something to be wary of.

Some of the world’s poorest people believe that capitalism and free markets are what will drive them to prosperity. They realize that it will not happen overnight, but that favoring new jobs and new investment will ultimately raise them out of poverty and create better conditions in their countries.

These countries understand what Canada, Hungary, and the United States do not: shutting down pathways for the wealthy to invest in your country leads to falling markets and being left behind.

Of course, some will argue that the United States and other wealthy countries do not have to kowtow to foreign capital the way a poor country has to. I disagree.

After a country spits on capitalism, it doesn’t take long for the negative effects to kick in. Eventually, your country looks like Paris Hilton, wondering why it’s so rich and too stupid to care.

For the time being, there will always be a certain amount of investment in countries like the United States. The rich of the emerging world still dream of living in a “rich country” and haven’t figured out that doing so will subject them to a draconian tax regime best avoided.

However, some of the world’s most substantial investments are going to countries you would never think are capitalist.

I for one would rather invest in Vietnam, where the culture is very pro-capitalist, even while the government maintains a faux “Socialist” banner.

In fact, places like China may claim to be communist but are practically runaway capitalism. An EU diplomat I sat next to on a plane several years ago lambasted Mainland China as “Republican politicians run amok”.

As I reported from Nicaragua almost a year ago, the old school communists may not want to shed their titles, but most of them have seen the light. The communists are capitalists now.

Even the emerging world politicians who still wish to run a corrupt government realize that money coming in and investment being made is better than stealing all of the country’s farmland and putting people in work camps.

Politicians in the Western world pay lip service to capitalism in a way that politicians here in Asia and the emerging Americas don’t. For these Western politicians, it’s just that: lip service.

If you run a business, much of Western society is opposed to you.

They are offended by your ability to profit while their wages stagnate.

They view you as the oppressor.

They wish heavy regulatory burdens and other punitive actions on you.

They want you to bear the brunt of a bankrupt nations’ increasingly desperate tax code.

Western nations have gotten away with saying one thing and doing another. Like saying they are for private property rights, then using de facto expropriation by raising property taxes eight-fold.

Or by raising capital gains taxes while claiming to welcome investment.

The world’s most capitalist countries are the ones you’d least expect. They are the ones where people understand through life’s lessons that they are owed nothing and that hard work can create opportunities.

These capitalist countries are the ones you ought to seek out. Bangladesh, India and Vietnam are vying to become the next Singapore or Hong Kong.

South Korea has seen this transformation in this lifetime. So have countries like Georgia.

The next place to see such a remarkable Singapore or Korea-like transformation will be one of these truly capitalist countries that knows, as I say, where their bread is buttered.

Meanwhile, the clueless West will continue to disintegrate and become poorer and poorer as they abandon the very principles that made them rich so long ago.

Andrew Henderson
Last updated: Dec 29, 2019 at 12:18AM

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11 Comments

  1. Paral04

    I didn’t know that about Warren Buffet. I knew he is a sleaze but didn’t think he was that bad.

    Reply
    • Mark

      You are racist against Filipinos. You must be a Trump supporter! Please get rid of your hatred in your heart. If you just know how stupid Americans are.

      Reply
  2. StuckInUK4Now

    “Western nations have gotten away with saying one thing and doing another. Like saying they are for private property rights, then using de facto expropriation by raising property taxes eight-fold.”

    Here’s just such an example taken from the website of the ‘Mid Devon Gazette’, a local newspaper in south-western England, reporting on the impending demise of one local business.

    “Ridiculous business rates are blamed for the closure of one of Tiverton’s most-loved retailers which will cost 25 people their jobs. Rainbow will close its doors in April after 16 years at Lowman Way. Famed for its eclectic selection of stock, the chain is a favourite with bargain hunters looking to track down anything from curtains to compost.

    Owner Ralph White said increased rates had meant the Tiverton shop was no longer viable. He said: “We’ve had an increase of 600 per cent which is absolutely ridiculous – the costs have just gone up and up.”

    Mr White said the announcement was not an easy one: “It’s a very difficult fact of life but when a business becomes not viable, it’s got to go. There are some people I’ve employed for 25 years, so it’s very difficult.”

    Got that? An increase of SIX HUNDRED PERCENT.

    Reply
  3. Jake

    In agreeing with Manuel Riel, the title is indeed deceptive. These guys publish create an economic freedom index factoring monetary and fiscal policy that is useful in this discussion. economichedge.com

    Reply
  4. Jerry Hutcheson

    Great stuff Andrew. I have been following your blog and podcasts for a while now. The writing is on the wall. It is just a matter of time before western statist policies bring down this once great captialist nation. I am in the process of planning my escape. When my business becomes stable I will start working on my Plan B.

    Reply
  5. Dave

    What a bullshit! More and more people in the west want socialism and think it’s not fair only 10% of the people in this world is getting richer and richer. In my country company owners only pay 20% tax while worker pay double or even more while they have no obligations to protect their workers for future problems. Easier to put them on the street then to take responsibility. Capitalism is only money, no social behaviour. Capitalism creates work only to make more money for the rich. Only a few can profit from capitalism. The rest is a slave for the rich.

    Reply
    • Brian

      Capitalism says only two things. You own your body and the effects of it. You are free to enter into any contract because you own your body and the effects of it.

      Any system that taxes or prevents people from entering into contracts that they see as benefitial has nothing to do with capitalism.

      Reply
  6. Harris

    I think it’s funny that you view China as more capitalist than the US. Those Asian countries have those values because Marxism in the east is quite different than in the west. Marx noted the benefits of the capitalist phase of development over the feudal one, which is why Lenin called for a brief capitalist phase in Russia and China has been okay with guiding itself into markets cautiously. Marxism of the east is pro-work because that’s what makes workers workers. The west is just a giant competition for who can do the least work, and that’s from rich to poor. Communists have always been capitalist+. Also funny note, some of the first ideas of socialism agreed there should be little to no taxes or regulations. So its not that the capitalists are closet commies or commies closet capitalists, you’re just unfamiliar with socialist history. Im not sure how you can write an article on how “yes is no and no is yes” without feeling awkward and that there’s a piece of the puzzle missing.

    Reply
  7. Harold

    As I see it…America is the only country in the world that has an economy. ALL other countries manufacture products for the U.S…none of them have any economy and would not have any WORK if the product was not consumed by Americans.
    Therefore America seems to be the only capitalist country in the world.

    Reply
  8. david

    Nice article. Certainly some great points. It’s funny to see some confused people in the comments. Stephen Pinker’s research has showed that global capitalism has decreased world poverty by 50% between 2000-2012. Research also shows that 75% of america’s poor have cable tv, air conditioning, a used car, a smart phone, AND are 20 pounds overweight. Obesity has officially passed up starvation. So ‘capitalism only helps the rich’ is either proof of an 85 IQ or mental illness, or some combination of the two.

    As an aside, The coloring of this article seems to imply that anarchy is the only true capitalism. That may be the case, which means we’ll only see true capitalism for brief window’s in developing countries, like it was in the late 1800s in the US. I will add one disagreement about the immigration comment: Welfare. 60% of immigrants stay on welfare for the rest of their lives, and the free services used by ILLEGAL immigrants equal between 120-200 billion dollars per year. That’s all coming directly from our taxes. So arguments for pure capitalism and free markets aren’t as simple as the businesses owners would like to make them sound. I’d be all for open borders if there was no welfare safety net being extracted from my taxes.

    Reply
  9. Michael

    Spot on David! I wish more had the insight and critical thinking skills to identify the complexities involved.

    Reply

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