Economic Freedom: Study Questions
Suggested Study Questions and Activities
Teachers: The following are questions and activities that can be given to your students after they read the materials in each section. The questions are meant to be asked as a review exercise, although some encourage critical thinking as well. The activities can be presented as classroom exercises or as individual homework assignment. Unlike the questions, they tend to require additional research. Some call for students to create mock trials or debates that would engage the entire class. Both the questions and the activities are formatted so that they might be used directly by students, although you may rewrite them as you feel necessary.
How do Adam Smith’s ideas affect national economies today? Does laissez-faire mean complete economic freedom? Are there any reasons to limit laissez-faire? What are they? How do Adam Smith’s ideas correlate with modern laissez faire theorists like Milton Friedman? Use selections of The Wealth of Nations (especially Books I, IV, and V) and The Road to Serfdom for the discussion.
Do you agree with the Heritage Foundation's definition of economic freedom (see Essential Principles)? Why or why not? Is this definition consistent with Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations? Some define economic freedom as economic rights (see UN Covenant on Social and Economic Rights)? How would you define economic freedom?
Some argue there are "twin" — political and economic — characteristics of democracy? Discuss the ideas of political and economic democracy. How does one differ from another? When is it permissible to limit political liberty? Individual liberty? Economic liberty? How do different political philosophies come to different answers to the last question and how do these justify such limitations.
Compare the Essential Principles sections for Economic Freedom and Freedom of Association. Does economic freedom preclude freedom of association? Is freedom of association an unnecessary or necessary constraint on economic freedom “in order to protect liberty itself.” Review different economic periods in which trade unions acted to constrain business practices towards labor and workers. Discuss the interrelationship between economic freedom and freedom of association in terms of Ezra Solomon’s definition of economic freedom.
Why was Estonia able to improve its economy so quickly after independence from Soviet rule? What do independence leaders Tunne Kelam and Mart Laar attribute the success to? Are there any lessons that other developing countries could learn from Estonia and apply themselves?
Compare the economic experiences of Estonia and Cuba as described in the Country Studies. Both have experienced communist dictatorships and economic policies. What factors influenced the different routes that the two countries have taken since the fall of the Soviet Union? Discuss why Estonia changed and Cuba did not after the fall of the Soviet Union?
What factors contributed to the economic decline of Kenya, and when did it begin? What is the correlation between political and economic freedom in Kenya? How do these relate to the legacy of British colonial rule?
Freedom House lists Kenya as a Partly Free country. Assign a paper to research and compare Kenya's economic history with those of neighboring African countries (e.g. Uganda — see Country Study). Briefly compare the Freedom House ratings are for Kenya's neighbors and what are their economic situations (using IMF GDP rankings, UN Human Development Index, and Heritage Foundation survey). What is the methodology that Freedom House uses to determine economic freedom? What correlations are there between economic and political freedoms as measured by Freedom House?
The most recent elections in Kenya resulted in the inauguration of Uhuru Kenyatta as president and William Ruto as vice president, both of whom were indicted by the International Criminal Court for their role in the ethnic violence that erupted after the 2007 elections. Have students research New York Times and Economist articles on the 2013 elections to review and discuss whether these were free and fair. Organize a students’ debate: The 2013 elections were a step forward for Kenya’s democracy (Yes/No).
What countries affected Cuba’s history? Which had more impact: Spain, the US, or the USSR? How are principles of economic freedom and political freedom treated in Cuba under the communist dictatorship? Are social and economic rights respected?
Cuba has followed a communist policy for more than five decades now and the United States has maintained a trade embargo against Cuba for almost as long. Have students discuss: Which has affected ordinary Cubans more: the communist government’s economic policies or the trade embargo? Should the embargo be lifted? Have students read articles related to President Obama’s historic visit to Cuba in March 2016 and discuss: did the trip help or hurt human rights and economic freedom in Cuba?
Have students go to Yoanni Sanchez’s web site Generation Y (see link in Resources) and read recent blogs by her as well as other independent bloggers linked by her site through Voces Cubanos (Cuban Voices). What are the most important issues reported on by Sanchez and these independent journalists? How are human rights reported on? Economic policy and changes? How do they assess Cuba’s current situation? To what can these independent journalists exercise freedom of speech and media?
The Cuban Revolution promised to improve the situation of Afro-Cubans, who have suffered a four-century legacy of slavery and discrimination. Has the revolution improved the situation of Afro Cubans? Look at the New York Times article “For Blacks in Cuba, the Revolution Hasn’t Begun.” How does it describe the current situation of Afro-Cubans? How are Afro Cubans active in the opposition?