It was not that long ago that the United States lead the free world but recent history has begun to challenge that assertion on multiple fronts. At a certain point, we can not keep calling ourselves the freest nation if the facts are against that. Recently the Heritage Foundation released its 2017 edition of the economic freedom index. Ever since the United States score peaked in 2006 we have been on a near constant decline. As late as 2008 the United States has been in the world’s top five but declines in financial freedom, business freedom, and property rights are leading our fall from the top.
Continuing recent trends, the five freest economies were Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand, Switzerland and Australia. Many supposed socialist countries like Sweden, Denmark, Australia, Canada and New Zealand were either comparable or beat the United States. While the United States only fell three-tenths of a point in our score, the rest of the world increased its trend of economic liberalization, increasing by two-tenths of a point this year. While America’s absolute decline was small its relative decline was large, six spots. The top eight countries all increased their levels of economic freedom with an average of one and a half points. The countries in the top twenty increased their scores by an average of one and three-tenths of a point explaining why our relative score fell so much compared to our absolute score. While the rest of the world is rushing towards free market capitalism we are regressing to a more and more state controlled economy.
As I argued here almost two years ago, economic freedom is associated with greater wealth, better environments, more economic stability and increased social progress. We should not worry about our declining economic freedom because it is some good idea but because it makes you and I poorer. Our lives are demonstrably hurt because of our declining score reliance of free markets. As the Hill pointed out, “The Heritage report said countries with scores between 80-100 are considered economically “free,” while countries scores between 70-79.9 are considered “mostly free.” Individuals in those countries saw incomes at more than double the average levels in other countries and more than five times higher than the incomes of people living in countries with “repressed” economies.”