Wednesday, January 17, 2007

"Index of economic freedom": USA 4th of 157

The United States maintains the fourth-freest economy in the world, so says the brand-new 2007 Index of Economic Freedom, a co-production of The Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal. The methodology can be found here.

The overall message is undeniable: that governments which limit economic freedom--socialist governments, for example--limit the quality of life of their citizens. Likewise, those governments that get out of the way and allow free enterprise to flourish will see substantially more prosperity.

It is also undeniable that English common law was and is the best foundation for economic freedom, as the nations with high economic freedom tend to overwhelmingly in the Anglosphere.

While the overall thrust of the Index may make sense, I find the rankings flawed in several ways:

1. No account of that subtle thing called personal freedom. Which is understandable, because it's hard to quantify, unlike tax rates, trade barriers, and property rights (although corruption, the WSJ and Heritage admit, is a difficult thing to quantify too). But I'm sorry, personal freedom does matter to me. Singapore (ranking #2) may be a wonderful place to invest, own property and make money, but it's still a place where you can't chew gum as you please. Singapore has nanny police statism, if not nanny high-tax big government statism. I wouldn't rate Singapore so high.

2. No accounting for Hong Kong's new status. While they have retained British common law and business policies, the threat of Red China pulling the rug out from under them is oh-so-palpable and ever present. If we are going to include Hong Kong in the rankings of "nations", then why not rate the various "Special Economic Zones" of Red China as well? And if Hong Kong merits ranking because of its Special Administrative Region status, where is Macao then?

3. I think a separate Index ranking for female business personnel is necessary, given the nature of Islamic barbarism. To their credit, Muslim nations that were former British colonies and have retained English Common Law retain a high degree of economic freedom. Still, if I were a female business executive, I'd rather do business in Mexico (ranking #49) or Italy (ranking #60) or Brazil (ranking #70), despite their higher taxes, high degree of corruption and poor contract law, than I would do business in Bahrain (ranking #39) or Malaysia (ranking #48) or Oman (ranking #54).

4. I suppose I could get nitpicky and argue that federal nations (USA, Australia, Brazil, Canada) need subranking for their state or provincial parts, but that's minor.

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