You Don’t Have to Be Freewheeling to Love Free Markets

A fascinating article (gated) about the Turkish economy from today’s Wall Street Journal includes this morsel:

When an Islamist-leaning political party took charge of Turkey six years ago, this vibrant Mediterranean resort town [Antalya] feared a bumpy ride for a local economy driven in part by booze and bikinis.

Today, says Ahmet Barut, a hotel magnate here, the only real question is whether the town can sustain an unprecedented economic boom. He’s not keen on the teetotaling habits of the governing party’s leaders, nor the headscarves worn by their wives, but he applauds a key part of their record: “They are good at economics.”

From tourism and tomato growing to car making, Turkey has prospered far more under an Islam-tinged government than it did under some previous, ardently secular administrations more in tune with the often decidedly un-Islamic ways of many Turkish businesspeople.


We are well aware of the Turkish appetite for bikinis. Consider the Turkish cover of Freakonomics:


Always remember that "Islamist" when speaking of Turkey is a totally different ball game than the same term when used regarding most of their neighbours.

This "Islamist" government's policies include seeking EU membership. And their most controversial pro-Islam policy? Allowing people to wear headscarves in government buildings. Gasp!

In most secular democracies, an affront to freedom of expression like banning a display of religion in public buildings would be fought to the highest courts. In Turkey, with an overwhelmingly Muslim population, it's the other way around.

David Jinkins

They took some liberty with the title too:

"Invisible Economy: How does the World Really Work?"


Yes, because Ataturk in no way was responsible for modernizing the failed Ottoman Empire (which was not secular, and was backed by religious zealots).

Just because some conservative zealots back free markets doesn't mean that anyone in this country should support a backlash against the secular Turkish state. The reason Turkey helps the US so much? It could just be due to the secular nature of the nation's government. The US's best interest is to have to have the secular's in power instead of the zealots, regardless of economic policy.

George Tenet Fangirl

I would think that a (mildly) socially conservative government would be a boon to resort towns anyway. The more people feel repressed, whether through political mandates or through cultural norms, the more demand there will be for the few permissible outlets for debauchery.

Bill Millan

I would assume that the present Gov is Islamist/Capitalist while the previous were Secular/Socialist.


Did you get to approve the cover beforehand? This is a good marketing strategy when you use an image that may be forbidden thus making it more desirable in a subliminal or "subversive" way. People will want more of something that will likely be banned.


I had no idea they were obsessed with bikinis over there...


Personally I think free markets are a tool to ensure prosperity or at least prosperity so that we can be freewheeling.