It’s Chinese New Year next week, when people in Hong Kong and Singapore take a few days off from the pursuit of making money.

The 2012 index of economic freedom ranked those countries first and second respectively.

About Hong Kong it said: ‘There is little tolerance for corruption.’

It noted Singapore’s ‘effective enforcement of anti-corruption laws.’

On the latest corruption perceptions index, Singapore and Hong Kong both ranked better than Germany, the U.K., and the United States.

Hong Kong and Singapore may not have Western-style democracy. But freedom? Yes, they have it.

People oppressed by corruption can’t be economically free. And usually not free in other ways. Corruption keeps them poor, scared, and politically weak. And often unhealthy and uneducated.

But Deroy Murdock showed how economic freedom works. In a great article about Hong Kong for the National Review, he said, ‘First and foremost, Hong Kong is the Vatican of economic liberty.’

Unemployment is just 3.2 percent here (versus 8.5 percent in the U.S.), and it shows. Around the clock, “Hong Kong people” (as they call themselves) buy, sell, produce, and deliver. Everyone seems to be running somewhere. Workers rush handtrucks in every direction, laden with raw materials, finished goods, and sometimes just Styrofoam boxes.

In Singapore too, everyone who wants work has plenty of it. The busyness shocks first-time visitors from the West. Yet people in both Hong Kong and Singapore have a longer life expectancy than Americans. And they look and sound happy.

Economic dynamism, as Murdock said, has a special look.

That’s why good leaders — not necessarily the most popular or most creative, but the really good ones — won’t tolerate corruption. It interferes with true economic freedom.



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