But what exactly accounts for prosperity if not culture? In the case of the United States, it is a particular kind of culture that has made us the greatest economic power in the history of the earth. Many significant features come to mind: our work ethic, our appreciation for education, our willingness to take risks, our commitment to honor and oath, our family orientation, our devotion to a purpose greater than ourselves, our patriotism. But one feature of our culture that propels the American economy stands out above all others: freedom. The American economy is fueled by freedom. Free people and their free enterprises are what drive our economic vitality.But what exactly accounts for prosperity if not culture? is a clever question that provides leverage for arguing — not that he argues it — that if you don't think it's culture, you must think it's some inborn biological factor. That is: If you don't agree that it's culture, you could be a racist.
(And yes, I realize that inference will be resisted with the argument that the economically unsuccessful places are oppressed by other countries, Israel is oppressing the Palestinians, etc. etc.)
ADDED: This is related, from Stephen Moore's tribute to Milton Friedman (who was born 100 years ago yesterday):
Once in the early 1960s, Friedman wrote the then-U.S. ambassador to New Delhi, John Kenneth Galbraith, that he would be lecturing in India. By all means come, the witty but often wrong Galbraith replied: "I can think of nowhere your free-market ideas can do less harm than in India." As fate would have it, India did begin to embrace Friedmanism in the 1990s, and the economy began to soar. China finally caught on too.