Economic Freedom Is Good for Women, Children, and Other Living Things

Science proves overwhelmingly that freedom is good for us

Map of economic freedomCredit: Fraser InstituteEconomic freedom is, as Martha Stewart might say, a good thing. That's not just my bias as a libertarian: I've got science on my side.

In a new study published in Contemporary Economic Policy, two of the authors of the annual Economic Freedom Index set out to see how other researchers were using their work. Specifically, West Virginia University economist Joshua Hall and Southern Methodist University economist Robert Lawson found 402 scholarly articles that use some aspect of the index, which the Fraser Institute has published each year since 1996. The institute broadly defines economic freedom as “the extent to which you can pursue economic activity without interference from government, as long as your actions don't violate the identical rights of others.”

Once Hall and Lawson identified the articles citing the Index, they whittled the list down to 198 papers that use it as a substantive variable in their analyses, usually trying to correlate economic freedom with some other outcome, such as economic growth, income levels, productivity, poverty, inequality, and so forth. Based on the effects identified in each study, Hall and Lawson sorted the articles into three outcome groups: good, bad, and mixed. An example of a good outcome would be a 2008 study in the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization that found that “those societies that rely upon individual economic freedoms to promote women’s well-being have been more successful than those societies relying upon greater political rights.”

Similarly, a 2006 study published in the Journal of International Trade & Development correlated child labor rates with the index's ratings of countries' openness to trade. From 1960 to 2000, the article reported, “Child labor force participation rates declined on average by 3 percentage points per decade while trade openness increased on average by 6 to 7 percentage points.”  A third study, published in Contemporary Economic Policy in 2008, found that economic freedom correlated with greater protection against the extinction of species. Insecure property rights, for example, are associated with increased deforestation.

Economic freedom isn't all beer and pizzas. In 2007, two economists from Lund University reported in the Journal of Economic Literature that the freedom to trade internationally was associated with higher levels of income inequality. Another study finding a bad outcome was published in the Annual Review of Public Health in 2008. It reported that economic freedom contributed to rising obesity by lowering food prices, empowering women to participate in the paid workforce, and producing fewer restrictions on the entry of new businesses selling food into the marketplace. Likewise, a 2003 study in the Journal of Economic Perspectives found that people living in developed “countries with more price controls are much less obese than people in countries without price controls.” In other words, freedom tends to make people fat. A sociopolitical recipe for reducing obesity might involve establishing price controls, forcing women to stay home, and imposing regulations that limit the creation of new businesses.

Once Hall and Lawson finished sorting through the relevant 198 articles, they found that two-thirds (134 articles) reported good outcomes correlating with higher levels of economic freedom. Twenty-eight percent (56 articles) reported mixed outcomes and just four percent (8 articles) found economic freedom correlated with bad outcomes. “The balance of the evidence is overwhelming," Hall and Lawson conclude, "that economic freedom corresponds with a wide variety of positive outcomes with almost no negative tradeoffs.”

In that case, here's another piece of good news: According to the latest Economic Freedom Index, “average economic freedom rose from 5.30 (out of 10) in 1980 to 6.88 in 2007. It then fell for two consecutive years, resulting in a score of 6.79 in 2009 but has risen slightly to 6.83 in 2010, the most recent year available.” Less happily, the United States has fallen from 8.65 in 2000 to 8.21 in 2005 and 7.70 in 2010. After a long stint as third freest economy in the ratings, the U.S. is now number 18.

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  • Almanian!||

    Yeah, but you know what's NOT good for women and children? That scandalous increase in the crime rate in the US - especially murders committed with guns - by Tea Bagging Rat Fucking Bitter Clingers.

    Emily Ekins just posted an article about it.

    /MSNBC fanboy

  • Pro Libertate||

    Good thing the IRS is taking steps. Steps.

  • ||

    Look, proper procedures were followed. I don't know what else you want.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Of course they were. Teabagging palinites were punished. What I don't get is the apology. Surely they will continue to use the IRS to punish the politically unmutual.

  • Pi||

    Goosesteps?

  • Pro Libertate||

    Yes, that's the word I was looking for.

  • jemkem06||

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    (Go to site and open "Home" for details)

  • gordonshane1101||

    If you think Wendy`s story is great,, 4 weeks ago my girlfriend's half brother basically also broght in $7415 just sitting there 10 hours a week from there apartment and there classmate's sister-in-law`s neighbour did this for six months and easily made more than $7415 in there spare time at their pc. applie the instructions from this website..... WWW.DAZ7.COM

  • felicia22||

    my co-worker's half-sister makes $69/hour on the computer. She has been without work for six months but last month her payment was $15232 just working on the computer for a few hours. Read more on this site http://www.fox86.com

  • Mark22||

    The trouble with your point is... that crime rates in the US have actually been decreasing, especially murders committed with guns.

  • markhit07||

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  • jillian77||

    If you think Charles`s story is exceptional,, 2 weeks ago my sister's boyfriend got a cheque for $4088 sitting there a 10 hour week at home and the're best friend's sister-in-law`s neighbour has been doing this for 8-months and easily made more than $4088 part-time from their labtop. use the guide at this website, http://www.fox86.com

  • OldMexican||

    Economic Freedom Is Good for Women, Children, and Other Living Things


    B... Bu.... But.... But Climate Changey!

  • ||

    I, for one, welcome our new women and children overlords.

    Hey Ron, if your gonna post a map, I need to be able to read the legend.

  • Fluffy||

    But there's a Harvard lecturer who says that capitalism is destroying the world. So you must be wrong.

  • fried wylie||

    Can you expect anything else? It's not like his paycheck is based on market forces.

  • LynchPin1477||

    He probably sounds reasonable compared to the person that I had the dubious distinction of getting to talk to a couple days ago
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Layla_AbdelRahim
    She tried to tell me chimpanzees only eat meat and kill other chimpanzees because of their contact with humans, and that might be one of the more reasonable things she said. For an anthropologist she was surprisingly ignorant of basic anthropology.

  • fried wylie||

    To be fair, I'm not sure if studying chimps counts are anthropology-proper.

    Proto-anthropology?

  • LynchPin1477||

    I think studying primate society to learn more about early human-ancestor society could maybe be classified as anthropology. Even if it couldn't, she was still spouting off nonsense and demonstrably false claims.

  • KDN||

    She attributes the collapse in the diversity of bio-systems and environmental degradation to monoculturalism and the civilized ontology that explains existence in terms of anthropocentric utilitarian functions.

    Those are all words that I know, and it's a grammatically correct sentence, but I can't understand at all what that means. It's like the academic version of Call Me Maybe.

  • Bill||

    She means the spread of Western culture and US values. By anthropocentric utilitarian functions she means systems that describe how men relate to each other in a practical way - i.e. market economy/capitalism and probably democracy for that matter. After all, if she was in charge, she would make sure no human ever affected the environment. If you can't do anything, you can't hurt nature.

  • hotsy totsy||

    Hey, it already destroyed life on Mars!

  • sarcasmic||

    But, but, but that's not possible! Economic freedom allows people to get rich, and as we all know becoming rich happens at the expense of the poor! Tony said so so it must be true!

  • grey||

    So economic freedom is better than government officials deciding fairness? It..seems...so...not Obama policy.

  • OldMexican||

    In 2007, two economists from Lund University reported in the Journal of Economic Literature that the freedom to trade internationally was associated with higher levels of income inequality.


    And that's a bad outcome because Fuck you! That's why!

  • Bill||

    Yep, doesn't matter if everyone is better off, if some are more betterer than others - that is evil.

  • OldMexican||

    Another study finding a bad outcome was published in the Annual Review of Public Health in 2008. It reported that economic freedom contributed to rising obesity by lowering food prices[...]


    Emanciated and starving people are far healthier!

    Where do you find these bozos and their "studies," Ron?

  • fried wylie||

    Where do you find these bozos and their "studies," Ron?

    Surely there exists a federal agency to provide these reports at a subsidized rate for underprivileged journalists.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    The state has kept us out of the poverty in which the free marketeers would have us all wallowing. Regulations have kept the forests afloat and the air breathable. Government sustains us.

  • Marc F Cheney||

    "Economic freedom: men, elderly hit hardest"

  • OldMexican||

    Economic freedom also brought us Bangladeshi falling buildings and abstinence-educated sexual slaves!

  • OldMexican||

    Less happily, the United States has fallen from 8.65 in 2000 to 8.21 in 2005 and 7.70 in 2010. After a long stint as third freest economy in the ratings, the U.S. is now number 18.


    C'mon, we can do better! We should be number 164! C'mon, guys!

    /Tony.

  • fried wylie||

    "Bigger is Better!"

  • Bill||

    Obama just started his 2nd term. There's plenty of time to fall lower.

  • ||

    I agree, but I don't think it's convincing to point out a simple correlation between economic freedom and prosperity.

    You could say socialism leads to poverty, but you could also say poverty leads to socialism. Certainly, desperately poor people seem to be more attracted to the idea of robbing the rich. Venezuela was poor before it was socialist. So was most of sub-saharan Africa, Latin America, etc.

    Focus on the cases where socialism led directly to worse poverty, or the basket case economies that are trapped in a cycle of poverty, debt, and socialist reinforcement. Such as Detroit.

    (All kidding aside, it would probably be enlightening to do a comparison between the political dynamics in Detroit and your average Banana Republic. The problem IS lack of economic freedom. )

  • LynchPin1477||

    Focus on the cases where socialism led directly to worse poverty

    Granted, it is an extreme example, but there is perhaps no better case study for comparing command economies vs free market economies than North and South Korea.

  • prolefeed||

    Focus on the cases where socialism led directly to worse poverty

    That would be all of them.

    Cuba versus South Florida.

    North versus South Korea.

    East versus West Germany.

    Mainland China versus Hong Kong.

    Venezuela versus Chile.

    Zimbabwe versus South Africa.

    Prolly more really blatant side by side examples I haven't thought of, but I challenge you to name even ONE situation where a socialist country thrived compared to a much free-er country bordering or near it.

  • prolefeed||

    For that matter, North Korea versus Mainland China. Degrees of socialism matter, since every country on earth is socialist to some extent.

  • ||

    God I had the most annoying discussion at my sister's graduation party from arts school. Ecuadorian socialist tried to tell me that Chile was the worst off in Latin America, due to inequality. As if the Gini coefficient was a be all and end all measure. He also had no problem with the entirely legitimate Venezuelan election. People are fucking thick.

  • Ornithorhynchus||

    Botswana is probably an even better comparison for Zimbabwe than South Africa.
    Botswana is green on the map above, so it is economically freer than South Africa, plus, it's had the highest rate of economic developement of any mainland African country. It went from being one of the poorest countries in the world in the mid-60s to being richer than South Africa today. I recently saw an article that said Botswana is on the verge of becoming the first African country with a middle-class majority. (But the article did not define middle-class.)

  • ΘJΘʃ de águila||

    Wait 'til the American War and Interventionist Gang finds out about Botswana's natural resources. They'll have another African regime to topple and economy to to wreck.

  • fried wylie||

    Have we reached the point where the single white male has been disadvantaged enough yet?

  • LTC(ret) John||

    Has the universe reached its heat death stage yet? No?

    Then, no, no we have not.

  • fried wylie||

    Strangmazingly, I expect exactly this response.

    Luckily my sexchange will provide the donor testicles that will be required for my negroplasty.

  • fried wylie||

    (and Obamacare will cover the bill, woooo!)

  • Irish||

    Economic freedom isn't all beer and pizzas. In 2007, two economists from Lund University reported in the Journal of Economic Literature that the freedom to trade internationally was associated with higher levels of income inequality. Another study finding a bad outcome was published in the Annual Review of Public Health in 2008. It reported that economic freedom contributed to rising obesity by lowering food prices, empowering women to participate in the paid workforce, and producing fewer restrictions on the entry of new businesses selling food into the marketplace. Likewise, a 2003 study in the Journal of Economic Perspectives found that people living in developed “countries with more price controls are much less obese than people in countries without price controls.” In other words, freedom tends to make people fat. A sociopolitical recipe for reducing obesity might involve establishing price controls, forcing women to stay home, and imposing regulations that limit the creation of new businesses.

    So it improves people's lives in virtually every way, but some people are improved less and people can choose to eat too much and become obese. It this is the best they can do to argue against economic freedom, I don't think they have much of a case.

  • ||

    These people are literally advocating starvation.

  • fried wylie||

    You just don't get it. The proper combination of food, energy, and healthcare deprivation WILL PRODUCE UTOPIA.

    With The Right People In Charge, of course.

  • ||

    Utopia, in a Spartan kind of way.

    Complete with the children belonging to the community and lots of social equality and solidarity.

  • ||

    I call not-Helot!

  • fried wylie||

    I tried to use all the proper terms, yet I feel like my sarcasm didn't come across clearly.

  • prolefeed||

    Oh, I got it, FW.

    put a /sarcasm at the end of such a post if not sure if people will get it.

  • sarcasmic||

    Poverty is romantic.

  • OldMexican||

    Well, someone else's poverty brings romantic feelings to Progs. The Progs themselves would never be caught near that awful and dirty crowd - psha!

  • prolefeed||

    two economists from Lund University reported in the Journal of Economic Literature that the freedom to trade internationally was associated with higher levels of income inequality.

    That doesn't mean anyone at all is worse off due to the trading. It may mean that those who are best at trading benefit somewhat more than everyone else.

    Another study finding a bad outcome was published in the Annual Review of Public Health in 2008. It reported that economic freedom contributed to rising obesity by lowering food prices, empowering women to participate in the paid workforce, and producing fewer restrictions on the entry of new businesses selling food into the marketplace. Likewise, a 2003 study in the Journal of Economic Perspectives found that people living in developed “countries with more price controls are much less obese than people in countries without price controls.”

    Are you really characterizing people starving in poor countries as a benefit, and people having the choice to consume more calories than you would prefer they did as being a problem?

  • cavalier973||

    A sociopolitical recipe for reducing obesity might involve establishing price controls, forcing women to stay home, and imposing regulations that limit the creation of new businesses.

    Also, compel exercise. I'm thinking a few minutes every day, in front of your two-way television set, with the exercise kommisar facilitator keeping an eye on you to make sure you're putting forth the gov't-required effort when you do jumping jacks.

  • prolefeed||

    I believe there already is a how-to instruction manual for this beneficial government program:

    'Thirty to forty group!' yapped a piercing female voice. 'Thirty to forty group! Take your places, please. Thirties to forties!'

    Winston sprang to attention in front of the telescreen, upon which the image of a youngish woman, scrawny but muscular, dressed in tunic and gym-shoes, had already appeared.

    'Arms bending and stretching!' she rapped out. 'Take your time by me. One, two, three, four! One, two, three, four! Come on, comrades, put a bit of life into it! One, two, three, four! One, two, three, four! ...'

    The pain of the coughing fit had not quite driven out of Winston's mind the impression made by his dream, and the rhythmic movements of the exercise restored it somewhat. As he mechanically shot his arms back and forth, wearing on his face the look of grim enjoyment which was considered proper during the Physical Jerks

  • Sevo||

    "freedom to trade internationally was associated with higher levels of income inequality"
    And?

  • anon||

    Economic freedom isn't all beer and pizzas. In 2007, two economists from Lund University reported in the Journal of Economic Literature that the freedom to trade internationally was associated with higher levels of income inequality. Another study finding a bad outcome

    Fucking Hell, Ron. After all this time writing for Reason and you still consider income inequality a bad thing? HAVE YOU LEARNED NOTHING!?

  • anon||

    Also, quite funny how a group of people holding similar principles comes to such astonishingly similar conclusions. I posted my comment before reading comments only to find about 10 other people with the same complaint.

    GROUPTHINKZ!

  • Mark22||

    Could Reason please stop paying lip service to the idea that inequality is intrinsically bad?

  • WilliamGiannone||

    what Susan explained I am amazed that people able to make $8998 in 1 month on the computer. did you read this site link... www.up444.com

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