Real life can never give social scientists the kind of laboratory-quality tests that natural scientists can create, but sometimes it comes close. Since the two Koreas–North and South–are virtually identical culturally, it would appear that the different political systems explain the outcome illustrated by the figure below, which comes from last Monday’s Washington Post:

Since the Korean War divided the country, South Korea’s citizens have enjoyed greater freedoms than their northern cousins, and that includes economic freedom. The Heritage Foundation/Wall Street Journal Index of Economic Freedom measures economic freedom over the recent decades. Since 2001, South Korea’s score on the Index of Economic Freedom has ranged from the high 60s to low 70s on a scale of 100. North Korea’s score for the same period has been no higher than 10, and currently stands at 1.0.