Jeff Madrick from the Economic Policy Institute has written a book called The Case for Big Government which is dedicated to explaining how an active and capable state sector is a necessary precondition for economic growth. David Kusnets gave it a positive review in The New York Times Book Review. Donna Wiesner Keese, from the Independent Women’s Forum, a conservative anti-feminist group, objected:
Madrick’s statement, quoted by the reviewer, that “there really is no example of small government among rich nations,” is unsupported nonsense. Think Dubai, free and rich.
As Rick Hertzberg says this is a bit of a bizarre counterexample:
I mean no disrespect to the 240,000 citizens of Dubai (its other 1.2 million residents are imported workers, hundreds of thousands of whom live in “collective labor accommodations”), but is this the best Mrs. Keene can do? Not even a “nation” but a province of the United Arab Emirates, specializing in real-estate and financial-services bubbledom?
Again, no disrespect, but the UAE’s role vis-à-vis the non-oil-extracting rich nations falls somewhere between that of a welfare recipient and that of an extortionist. Or—speaking of “independent women”—a bit like the role of Alaska within the United States.
There’s also the question of why you would describe Dubai as “free.” Or, rather, I understand perfectly well why she describes it as “free” — it’s a straightforward consequence of the right-wing’s sick obsession with reducing the level of taxes rich people need to pay as the prime virtue of politics. For from being free, Dubai is ruled by a dictator, Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, dignified with royal title in virtue of the fact that he inherited his political power from relatives rather than seizing it of his own accord. The State Department certainly doesn’t seem to think that his subjects, or those of the other UAE component emirates, are all that free:
The government’s respect for human rights remained problematic, and significant human rights problems reported included: no citizens’ right to change the government and no popularly elected representatives of any kind; flogging as judicially sanctioned punishment; arbitrary detention and incommunicado detention, both permitted by law; questionable independence of the judiciary; restrictions on civil liberties- freedom of speech and of the press (including the Internet), and assembly; restrictions on right of association; restrictions on religious freedom; domestic abuse of women, sometimes enabled by police; trafficking in women and children; legal and societal discrimination against women and noncitizens; corruption and lack of government transparency; common abuse of foreign domestic servants; and severe restrictions on and abuses of workers’ rights. [...]
The constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention; however, there were reports that the government held persons in official custody without charge; and that the government charged individuals but denied them a preliminary judicial hearing within a reasonable period. The law permits indefinite routine prolonged incommunicado detention without appeal, and the detainee only has the explicit right to contact with an attorney. [...]
The constitution provides for freedom of speech and of the press; however, the government restricted these rights in practice. The government drafts all Friday sermons in mosques and censors private association publications (see section 2.c.). The law prohibits criticism of the rulers, and from acts to create or encourage social unrest.
Freedom House sticks the UAE with its coveted “not free” tag, owing to its total lack of political freedom and scant respect for human rights. But, hey, the Independent Women’s Forum says we should look to it as a shining example of how small government will bring us prosperity and liberty.