Free Markets

U.S. Slightly Improves Economic Freedom Ranking—as Most of the World Slides


JMR_Photography / Foter / CC BY

Last year, the Economic Freedom of the World Report ranked the United States in 17th place; this year the U.S. has risen to number 12.


That's good news. But…Ian Vasquez of the Cato Institute, which is a partner in producing the report, notes, "For decades, the United States ranked in second or third place on the index. In 2000 it was #2, yet by 2005 it ranked 8 and it continued its precipitous fall until recently."

The press release announcing the latest report's release points out that "Globally, the average economic freedom score dropped slightly to 6.84 out of 10 from 6.87 last year."

By contrast, the U.S. improved its score a tick from 7.73 to 7.81. It may not be a return to a high-ranked position, but it's a welcome slow swim against a tide moving in the wrong direction.

The biggest hit to America's score—the reason the country is no longer in second or third place—has been in the area of Legal System and Protection of Property Rights. The report attributes the "huge" decline in this area to increased use of eminent domain to swipe property from legitimate owners and award it to the politically connected, holes blown in traditional legal protections by the wars on terror and drugs, and the legally dubious auto bailout. Add in the proliferation of intrusive regulation, and the report points out, "to a large degree, the United States has experienced a significant move away from rule of law and toward a highly regulated, politicized, and heavily policed state."


The economic freedom ranking isn't an abstract question of ideology, or speculation that it might make it more difficult to do business or create jobs. No, there are real consequences here for standards of living for ourselves and our kids in the years to come.

scholarly work on this topic indicates that a one-point decline in the EFW rating is associated with a reduction in the long-term growth of GDP of between 1.0 and 1.5 percentage points annually… This implies that, unless policies undermining economic freedom are reversed, the future annual growth of the US economy will be only about half its historic average of 3%.

So even a small improvement in the rating matters in real terms—even if it's not nearly enough. And a global slip in economic freedom is bad news for the prosperity of much of the world's population.

NEXT: Leonard Liggio, R.I.P.

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  1. Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.

    1. Nothin’ ain’t worth nothin’ but it’s free.

      1. Freedom isn’t free. It costs folks like you and me. And if you don’t kick in your $1.05, who will?

    1. But! –and this is the point– it is *larger* than it was!

  2. In 2000 it was #2, yet by 2005 it ranked 8 and it continued its precipitous fall until recently.

    Uh, what significant world event happened in the meantime? I’ll tell you what. Nine-Eleven. America found itself in a different place, a dangerous place that required significant financial regulation to keep us safe from terrorists.

    1. You know, there is such a huge opportunity here for the U.S. to be an economic juggernaut that makes our past economic success look like a sad joke. Rein in the government and return to a more or less free market economy. . .all while the rest of the world continues down Socialist/Fascist Blvd. That would give us not only economic success beyond anything ever seen before, but it would also fund whatever military status we feel we need.

      Instead, we’ll fuck around and let things happen to us. Maybe something will work out that randomly saves our asses. Maybe not. Let’s just hope for the best, shall we?

      1. Rein in the government and return to a more or less free market economy.

        Way to side with the terrorists.

        1. If the U.S. were the economic power it would be in a free market economy, we’d also benefit technologically. Let the terrorists combat a country with orbital deathrays and kinetic weapons, along with hordes of minirobots designed to kill and kill again.

          1. You know as well as I that those weapons would quickly be turned on you. I say nip it in the bud right now and stifle tech companies through over-regulation.

      2. Rein in the government and return to a more or less free market economy. . .

        You can’t do that! That’s how some people get super rich while others don’t! And the richer the super rich are, the poorer everyone else appears by comparison! Not fair! It’s better to be equally poor than to allow some people to get super rich! Everyone knows this!

      3. The good news is that what your desire is happening at the state level in many states. The heartland in particular is in a silent tax revolution. It will trickle up.

        1. Oh hell, even *NY* gets this now. Sure, “StartupNY” is crony-capitalism at best, but the fact that they’re even admitting that taxes are too damn high is remarkable.

          1. Even the DC council gets it and is seriously considering tax reform. I can’t believe Reason hasn’t talked about this Forbes sure has.

            Cronyism is bad, but there are many degrees of cronyism. I’d rather have a private sector with crony corruption producing some wealth than socialism, which produces little or no wealth. Better China than Detroit.

          2. Maybe they’ll get a “The TAX is too damn high” party soon.

            1. Yeah right let’s not get all crazy or anything.

            2. If the LP cannot succeed, perhaps the NFYCS Party could. Unification on one simple principle–stop spending.

              1. NFYCS


                1. No, Fuck You, Cut Spending.

      4. Heil Hydra!

      5. This is pretty much the conditions of the post-war boom, right? Sure, Europe had to rebuild its capital, but it was also busy trying to make socialism work, and the US was not yet under the regulatory burdens of the EPA or OSHA or what-have-you.

  3. Canada is still better than us. CANADA.

    1. That should be the canary in our economic coal mine: “Whoa, fucking Canada just passed us in economic freedom indicators. Better stop fucking around down here in the socialist delusion pits and return to reality for a while.”

    2. Once derided as being the socialist model that we don’t want to emulate…

      *cries into poutine*

    3. HELL YEAH

  4. Can Putin take Russia back to full-retard Communist please? Back when they were our nemesis, we had something to compete against and a reason to be the free alternative.

    Since that wall came down, we have been drifting leftward – towards fascism, fighting meaningless wars, and wasting ever more money on failed social programs.

    1. You mean like during the Reagan years when the war against Americans who use drugs ramped up while the police started to militarize in earnest?

      1. Didn’t say it was perfect, just a lot better than now.

        1. I find that highly questionable. Cops were plenty abusive and corrupt we just didn’t see it. MJ was way more illegal back then too.

    2. I saw a Milton Friedman interview where he said that after the fall of the USSR, almost everyone agreed that socialism was a terrible, unworkable idea, but almost every country became more socialist. Fucking sad.

      1. Those dumb Soviets just did it the wrong way! We just need better TOP MEN to handle the problems!


        1. What do leftists agitate for? A kinder, gentler communism. Always and everywhere.

          1. Less killing, more stealing.

            1. Less visible killing, more legitimized stealing.

      2. Because the flip side of “if you go this far, the system will collapse” is “if you don’t go quite that far, maybe the system won’t collapse!”

      3. Except, that was toward the end of the peak period of denationaliz’n of infrastructure & major industries such as communications, and that trend continued for quite some time afterward.

    3. I’m afraid it’s not going to work that way. For 1 thing, Putin’s not a communist, so it’s not like he’s going to front an -ism that the USA can say it’s going to be on the opposite pole from. Instead, I’m afraid it’s going to be a matter of Russia and the West joining in a fight vs. Islamic extremism, and it’ll be a competition to get to the same “place”.

      1. I’m afraid it’s going to be a matter of Russia and the West joining in a fight vs. Islamic extremism

        That’s about as likely as aliens landing and giving us FTL technology.

        The Russians have made it very clear they have absolutely no interest in being our ally in anything, even things of presumably mutual interest.

  5. I have to wonder whether this reflects an improvement of the US’s level of freedom or if it reflects a general degradation of freedom elsewhere.

    1. Unless there’s been a wholesale repeal of legislation and regulation that is strangling the economy, I’d have to go with the latter.

      1. My thoughts exactly. I don’t feel any freer, I haven’t read much in the way of expanding freedom and last I checked we have more economic regulation now than in years past. And then there’s Obamacare…

        1. I do feel freer. Liberaliz’n in terms of tolerance of pot, although I don’t use it, makes me feel freer than a yr. ago. Also, didn’t they liberalize what you can carry on an airliner?

    2. They gave the raw scores. It’s part each.

  6. and the legally dubious the auto bailout.

  7. Yesterday, I found myself trapped in a room with the New England Headline News service playing. And it was freaking depressing.

    2 out of 3 ads were political ads (and it took titanic self control from throwing something through the screen when that unrepentant child abuser Martha Coakley touted her ‘anti-pedophile’ bona-fides). The anchors were primarily focused on instilling fear, except for the coverage of the funeral of some marine sgt who posthumously got a bronze star (I guess he was as heroic as a one star general who came within 10 miles of an artillery strike during a one day visit to Vietnam in 1972), where they switched to encouraging people to feel vicarious pride.

    It is no wonder that the U.S. is slipping further into fascism. Because there is no philosophy, just emotional reactions. No logic, but an unrelenting frantic pushing of emotional buttons; a wall-to-wall incitement of fear and rage.

    What amazed me most was that no one else in the room seemed to notice. They just puttered around doing ordinary activities, occasionally perking up to agree with something they saw. Nobody wanted to change the channel because they wanted to hear the latest weather reports. Since those are easily found on the Internet, I conclude that the shit really didn’t bother them at all.

  8. Your lunch time derp: a cop lover whines in my local paper

    Recently it seems we have inundated with negative press about law enforcement officers and officials. We’ve all seen the videos and heard the responses. It has given members of the public a sense of distrust about all LEO’s. Before we rush to judge all by these actions, let’s take awhile and think about things.

    In any profession ? pick one: teacher, doctor, banker, law enforcement, nurse, attorney, or some other ? those in that profession generally fall into one of three categories. There are the ones who were “made” for the profession, they excel in it; then there are those who are good at the profession, and lastly there are those who for whatever reason(s) should not have been in the profession in the first place or should not be allowed to remain in the profession.

    Throughout my life I have been honored to know individuals in all professions who were true professionals and have brought great credit and honor to their profession and themselves. Sadly, I have also known members of professions who brought dishonor and discredit to their profession and themselves.

    Before we go flying off the handle and make an overall judgment about all LEO’s, let’s stop a minute and think about the true professionals in that profession out there proudly serving the community and its citizens with honor and dignity.

    1. It is perfectly fine to make an overall judgement about the police in response to numerous examples of recklessness, incompetence, and dishonesty.

    2. Before we go flying off the handle and make an overall judgment about all LEO’s, let’s stop a minute and think about the true professionals in that profession out there proudly serving the community and its citizens with honor and dignity.

      Yes, both of those guys are pretty awesome.

      1. I always thought Dunphy deserved some credit.

        1. Don’t further inflate the ego. There could be an explosion.

        2. If you mean that there exists a value of “some” for which Dunphy deserves some credit, then yes.

      2. 99% of cops give the rest a bad name.

    3. Before we go flying off the handle and make an overall judgment about all LEO’s, let’s stop a minute and think about the true professionals in that profession out there proudly serving the community and its citizens with honor and dignity.

      There’s gotta be one or two of ’em out there somewhere, right?

    4. I’ve found LEO to be an instant indicator of a pig fellator.

      1. This. I refuse to use that acronym.

        I generally use “cop”.

        1. They’re not law enforcement officers. They’re compliance officers.

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