Free Markets

U.S. No Longer Slides in Economic Freedom Ratings, But Still Only 'Mostly Free'

Whew. We won't have to match ourselves against Bulgaria anytime soon.


2015 Index of Economic Freedom

The good news from the debut of the 2015 Index of Economic Freedom is that the United States has stopped its free fall down the rankings. For those of us living here, that's a bit of relief, suggesting that we won't have to actually compete with Bulgaria (number 55) for who sucks slightly less anytime soon. The bad news is that the U.S. remains stuck at number 12. That earns us only "mostly free" status and puts us out of the running with economically more liberated economies like those of Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand, Australia, and Switzerland. It also reaffirms the archaic status of socialist jokes about Canada, which slides in six whole slots above us. That's a shame, because I have a good one that looks like it's permanently out of circulation.

The Index, compiled by The Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal, sums up the land of the mostly free thusly:

The United States' economic freedom score is 76.2, making its economy the 12th freest in the 2015 Index. Its score is 0.7 point higher than last year, with modest gains in six of the 10 economic freedoms, including control of government spending, outweighing a slight decline in business freedom.

Although the precipitous downward spiral in U.S. economic freedom since 2008 has come to a halt in the 2015 Index, a 1.6-point decline in overall economic freedom over the past five years reflects broad-based deteriorations in key policy areas, particularly those related to upholding the rule of law and limited government. Continuing to trail such comparable economies as Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, and Canada, America has been ranked "mostly free" since 2010.

Specifically, with regard to the "rule of law," the Index notes, "High levels of government spending and the expansion and complexity of the government's regulatory agenda have increased opportunities for political favoritism and cronyism."

That's an acknowledgement of a fact that everybody but politicians seems to know: "When buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first things to be bought and sold are legislators," as P.J. O'Rourke puts it. I would modify that to note that the most common thing to be bought and sold are the inspectors, regulators, and tax collectors who apply the red tape and have the opportunity to unofficially sell exemptions and indulgences. New York City went down this path decades ago, and developed a whole industry—expediters—to grease the interactions of businesses with bureaucracy.

Complicated regulations, along with high taxes, also drive people into the shadow economy where they operate under the radar. That can become a habit after a while, as people grow used to operating off the books.

The Index of Economic Freedom isn't the only source to fault America's slide from the top ranks of free market economies. In December, the Fraser Institute released the latest edition of its Economic Freedom of North America report, which noted that Canada had expanded its lead over the U.S.

NEXT: WATCH: How a Great School is Breaking the Cycle of Poverty in America's Poorest City

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  1. mostly free is just another phrase for very little left to lose.

    1. Mostly free means lots of government job opportunities.

    2. No, it means a lot left to lose. “Repressed” has very little left to lose, but it’s still great to see Congo’s degree of improvement there (+4.4!).

      Note that even the “mostly unfree” are above 50 on a scale of 0-100, which just goes to show you how much freedom there is. I mean, you can score more than half, and it still doesn’t count as mostly free, which means the grading curve is skewed toward rating places as less free than they really are.

      What I’d like to see is the total +/- over all countries rated. I don’t feel like doing the math.

  2. That’s an acknowledgement of a fact that everybody but politicians seem to know

    No, progressives haven’t figured that out either.

    1. all progressives are politicians in their dreams.

      1. Some of them are just happy to be ruled.

        1. Freedom means asking permission and obeying orders.

          1. I wonder how many progressives would admit to liking Giuliani’s ideal version of freedom.

  3. Just because Canada is more economically free than us, doesn’t mean that there aren’t any socialist jokes to be made.

    1. I was thinking the same thing. Being free from taxes and financial regulation is nice, but I’m not moving to Singapore. Now, if Oz would just strengthen their free expression protection and loosen their gun policy…

      1. i would escape to Darwin in a second if I could convince the wife and family that there aren’t crocodiles on every corner and deadly snakes/spiders in your shoes every morning.

        1. I lived there for two years in the late 70s. Not a bad place and a lot more cosmopolitan now.

        2. So if you could get your wife to believe the lies about people surviving Australia?

        3. If the spiders don’t get you, the skin cancer will.

      2. New Zealand is beautiful.

        Hell, I’d gladly live in any one of that top ten, except for Singapore.

        Singapore may be economically free, but I’m a degenerate so knowing Singapore it would be hard for me to go more than a week or two without the police beating me with canes in a dungeon somewhere.

        1. Mmm mmm mmm mmm, mmm mmm mmm mmm

          1. I’m glad I’m not the only one who thought of that song.

        2. but I’m a degenerate so knowing Singapore it would be hard for me to go more than a week or two without the police beating me with canes in a dungeon somewhere.

          Bah! If you were truly a degenerate, that would e a feature, not a bug.

        3. Just don’t spit out your gum. Or do drugs. Or mouth off. Or 10,000 other arbitrary restrictions on personal freedom and you’ll be fine.

  4. My only question in gauging my “freedom” relative to NZ, Australia, HK or Singapore: what is the state of private firearm ownership like?

    Oh, no such thing?

    Then fuck off.

    (This also applies to the right to own body armor, JOHN!!!)

    1. really? that’s the one deal killer?

      I mean, it’s important, but I don’t think it’s a deal breaker. I also, however, don’t exercise my rights in that department as it is.

      1. Yeah, it is that important to me. And very few countries allow that freedom to the extent that America does, as well as extending that to our CCW laws. It is THAT important to me.

    2. This also applies to the right to own body armor, JOHN!!!


    3. *economic* freedom

    4. According to wikipedia, New Zealand has 1.1 million legally owned firearms out of a population of 4 million.

      That’s a pretty high rate. Their laws might be a bitch to comply with, but they appear to be far better than Australia.

      1. True, that is a RELATIVELY high rate, but nothing like the GOOD OLE US OF A!!! 310 million people = 300+ million guns!!! (And I mean a lot of cool ones, too, not just fucking bolt action hunting rifles…)

  5. What happened to that post about the Super Bowl and Pat Tillman?

    1. the NFL had it taken down.

      1. Or they realized what utter hogwash it was.

        I mean, going into an Iraq rant in the middle of a piece about Pat Tillman?

        1. So even peacenazis sometimes feel shame and self-consciousness? Interesting, and unexpected.

  6. Another plus for #10 Mauritius:…..uritius-2/

  7. I was watching the Top Gear Patagonia Special the last couple of weeks. The contrast between Argentina and Chile was just immense. Argentina looks like a dirty, third world shit hole while Chile looks like Canada or Europe with lots of nice cars, shops and well tended homes and towns.

    The only difference between the two countries is that in Chile Pinochet lined up all of the communists and socialists and shot them. And in Argentina they ended up running the place. I won’t endorse murder as a proper means to any end. There is no question, however, that Chile is better off for Pinochet having just shot the socialists and been done with them.

    1. You know who else had a Final Solution?


        This guy?

        He’s either a neonazi cleaning business or very, very bad at picking names.

      2. If you are going to do it, at least shoot the right people. Pinocchet was evil, but he seems to have at least known who needed shooting.

        1. Speaking of that, when are you going out East to kill some slavers and die in a noble cause, John? ANY PRICE!

          1. Man. I am so glad I didn’t read that thread at all.

            1. It was nowhere near the horrid level of the body armor thread.

          2. If people in America held slaves, I suppose that would be my duty now wouldn’t it?

            1. What, we just have a responsibility for Americans? Good news for Lincoln, then: no need to invade.

        2. something, somethings, ends/means..

          1. The ends don’t justify the means. But the fact that the ends turned out to be good, says about all you need to know about socialism

            1. I get your point. It’s a weird situation. Yes, by any rational standard, Pinochet was a terrible dictator and an evil fuck. But, the problem is, would the situation have wound up wildly different with a person who wasn’t?

              Allende was pretty much destroying the Chilean constitution. On a number of fronts, he was in open defiance of it. And both the legislature and the courts had said as much. The legislature was openly calling for the military to intervene to get rid of the guy. And Allende pretty much looked like he was going to stop any opportunity for a cessation of power.

              So, would an honest and patriotic guy in a similar position to Pinochet not stage a coup?

              Meanwhile, Allende had brought in Cuban “advisors” to start training his and his party’s followers as a private army. And he’d made clear that, in the event he was deposed, they’d go the guerrilla and terrorism route. And a lot of the leftist fellow-travelers who flocked to Chile were committed to support that effort.

              So, would an honest and patriotic guy in a similar position just let the terror campaign get under way?

              Again, none of this is to excuse Pinochet. He was a bastard. But, Chilean democracy was broken before he took power.

              1. Having written what you did, how do you qualify Pinochet as a bastard? If he did your dirty work, wouldn’t that make you the bastard? And if you’re not a bastard, then why would he be one for doing what you thought was necessary?

                There are circumstances in which we can’t judge the way we can in other circumstances, where there are no grave & proximal threats.

                1. I’d say if Pinochet had limited himself to the coup, he’d have been on solid moral ground and would be best described as a patriot.

                  It’s the actions afterward that pose a big problem. The reality is that there’s little reason to believe that his regime’s torture of prisoners was necessary or advanced any attempt to prevent a civil war. Moreover, not everyone arrested posed any significant threat. Also, it’s pretty clear the regime opted for more brutal responses when less ones (mass deportation, for example) would have been equally effective.

                  Finally, you get to the 10-ton elephant in the room. Pinochet held onto power for decades beyond the point that the threat existed.

        3. “I’m not a dictator; I just have a grumpy face.”

          -actual Pinochet quote

          I learned from the manual for the Tropico dictatorship simulation game.

          1. I love that game. There’s a Tropico wiki has all the quotes from the loading pages.
            “Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.” Margaret Thatcher

          2. Okay, maybe this is going to sound really cynical, but is there any truth to that? If Pinochet were just a really handsome guy, would he have been considered a dictator?

      3. Pre-Common Core Arithmatic?

        1. Nice.

      4. The Reason Webmaster?

    2. Eh, you don’t have to kill them. But I think that if any lesson has been learned through such examples, it’s that you don’t let them vote or have power in any government. Hong Kong did exactly this without having to kill anyone; Singapore did have to quell insurrection but as far as I’m concerned that is an entirely legitimate use of state power.

      1. The point is not that you should shoot them. It is that the example should make socialists realize what a plague on humanity they are. Fat chance that will happen.

      2. But what can you do to not let them vote or have power? As long as they’re around, they’ll threaten to do so. It’s like that scene with Jonathan Winters in It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World: “We can’t control him; we’re going to have to kill him.” You may be in position where you have sufficient power to kill people, but far from sufficient to control them, which is a lot harder.

    3. And the Chileans didn’t throw rocks at their cars because of a license plate.

      Argentina: FUCK YEAH!

    4. I saw it too – you can literally see how one government seized and squandered the wealth of what was once one of richest countries in the world.

      I see some of that to a lesser extent driving through eastern PA then up into central NY state.

    5. Great episode – and scary as hell when the commies showed up in Argentina.

    6. President Bachelet is doing what she can to ruin Chile. Argentina will improve once Kirchner is gone.

      1. Claude Kirchner? How’s the air up there, tall timber?

  8. Of the top ten, New Zealand would be a place I would not mind living but wife would never agree to be that far from family. Chile would be another one on my list if not for the hurricanes and earthquakes.

    1. MC had me looking this up. Ouch my balls!…..ew-zealand

    2. Well, if you like sheep…

    3. I’ve lived in NZ 3 times. It’s ok. Expensive as hell. People are nice.

      In rural areas it’s a lot like I imagine the US was in the 50s and 60s.

      It’s nice. It, however, like everywhere has problems. There IS, however, a libertarian streak there.

      1. …and hobbitzes

        1. secret is, they import those.

    4. No love for Mauritius, an upper middle income island paradise?

      1. I’ve heard Mauritius is paradise. Wouldn’t actually care about the gun thing there as I imagine with such a small population there isn’t much crime. What is the cost of living, though…

        1. And the names are awesome:

          Prime minister: Anerood Jugnauth

          President: Kailash Purryag

          1. Those names sound like they should be Star Wars characters.

  9. What happened to that post about the Super Bowl and Pat Tillman?

    That sort of PEACENAZI aggression will not stand!

    1. What is going on here? Is Pat Tillman being enslaved at the Super Bowl by peacenazis? And John is upset about it?

  10. Sort of OT but here goes:

    I have a friend who works for the Illinois State government and he’s on the negotiating team that will deal with Rauner in a a couple of weeks regarding union contracts. Anyway, he went on this rant about how Rauner wants to destroy his union and the middle class and I had about enough when I told him that his union did this to themselves.

    They donated campaign money to the corrupt assholes who runs Illinois and had no problem that they were basically stealing from the taxpayers. Now that they have stole from their pension fund, suddenly you guys are angry. The best part about it was that in the November 2014 state elections, they voted for the same assholes who stole from them simply because they promised the unions that they will fight Rauner and give them everything they wanted. He didn’t have much to say except that it’s against the Constitution to have their pensions taken away or altered dramatically despite the fact the pension system is 330 million in the hole and only 22 percent funded.

    1. And also he refers to himself as a libertarian.

      1. Hmm, has no financial sense and doesn’t actually believe in liberty, despite calling himself a libertarian. Your friend is shriek?

        1. He’s pretty libertarian on a lot of other things but he gets the case of the stupids when it comes to his job and retirement pension.

    2. When pensions are run as Ponzi schemes, there isn’t anything to take away.

      1. Exactly.

        The only way the state can really maintain the current retirement system they have is if they raise taxes significantly on Illinois’ taxpayers, make the union members give at least 40 percent of their paycheck towards the pension fund, or shut down government for three years.

        These three options aren’t politically pliable so they are going to stick with the status qup and fuck themselves and the taxpayers in the ass.

    3. He didn’t have much to say except that it’s against the Constitution to have their pensions taken away or altered dramatically despite the fact the pension system is 330 million in the hole and only 22 percent funded.

      “Laws are magic and you can legislate a free lunch!” –the reality-based community

      1. I hate Rauner with a passion but I really hope that he tells the unions to go fuck themselves and pull a Walker on their asses.If you can topple the public sector union in Illinois, then you can do it anywhere else.

        1. “I hate Rauner with a passion but I really hope that he tells the unions to go fuck themselves and pull a Walker on their asses.If you can topple the public sector union in Illinois, then you can do it anywhere else.”

          Rauner is a gigantic pile of shit, but our last two governors have been Blago and Quinn.

          Really, there’s no way to go but up.

          1. True. I didn’t vote in the Governor’s race but it was still great to see the proggies have a mental breakdown when Rauner won.

    4. Does this guy even know what’s in the Constitution?

      1. In the Illinois State Constitution I believe that it’s enshrined that the state has to give their public employees a pension and also that it can’t be altered significantly.

        1. Constitution of the State of Illinois

          ARTICLE XIII


          Membership in any pension or retirement system of the State, any unit of local government or school district, or any agency or instrumentality thereof, shall be an enforceable contractual relationship, the benefits of which shall not be diminished or impaired.

          1. I think this is SOP for pubsec unions everywhere. This is why the creditors for bankrupt California cities will get back at best pennies on the dollar while their fatass cops and administrators retire at 40 with six-figure pensions. It’s madness – and it’s coming to a city near you.

          2. I didn’t think about state constitutions. Damn federalism.

  11. OT: Steve Benen, Madcow blogger, has a feel

    While Democrats focus heavily on policy outcomes and the efficacy of policy proposals ? as one might expect from a governing party ? Republicans too often prioritize partisan and ideological goals over practical ones.

    The projection, it’s too much!

    1. This is rich coming from the Queen of Partisan Hackery. The self awareness no doubt is missing.

  12. And that summarizes all you need to know about progressives. They truly believe they are not partisan – everything they propose is “common sense.”

    1. It’s like common sense gun control laws. If there were such a thing, there should be no problem passing them due to overwhelming public support.

  13. he went on this rant about how Rauner wants to destroy his union and the middle class

    When/how exactly did the “middle class” get redefined as “union workers”? I have been detecting this shift for years, and I believe it to be a major component of the Democrats’ whiny Death of the Middle Class rhetoric.

    1. White collar workers are “upper middle class” which pollutes the proletariat with bourgeois blood. Only blue collar workers are true proles, and the most pure of the purebred proles are public Union blue collar workers.

      It’s classic marxian class warfare. People pushing buttons on a keyboard for a paycheck aren’t uncomfortable enough to start a worker’s revolution, so they must be guilted into supporting the revolution of the blue collar workers.

      1. …which pollutes the proletariat with bourgeois blood. Only blue collar workers are true proles…

        And the sad part is, some people actually do think this way. The bourgeoisie are, by definition, the middle class. The proletariat by definition isn’t.

    2. If I was Rauner and an asshole I would go on television and say that they only we can fund the current pension system is shutting down most of the government for three years and hike your taxes 50 percent. We would see how fast the middle class would diassociate themselves from the union workers.

  14. “Even if it worked, I would oppose it.”

    And why is that, class? That’s right, all together now:


    Very good.

    1. Unless slavery is involved

      1. +1 War of Northern Aggression

        [begins playing Dixie on the banjo while other re-enactors wave caps and make the Rebel Yell]

        1. What does Billy Idol have to do with this?

    2. I picked this up off of derpbook, and the guy was arguing that he used to be a libertarian, but didn’t care for the way that rigid principles don’t fix the messy world NOW! NOW! NOW! NOW!

      People are suffering, so any action is preferable to fix the hurt in the world! Principles are bad, intentions are good!


      1. Derpbook is only good for killing brain cells and increasing my blood pressure.



  16. For those of us living here, that’s a bit of relief, suggesting that we won’t have to actually compete with Bulgaria (number 55) for who sucks slightly less anytime soon.

    Believe me, that won’t stop Blocko from trying his best to make it happen.

  17. POT(pissed off topic): I’ve been doing my taxes, and I calculated that between federal income tax, property tax, and sales tax, my wife and I paid uncle Sam, cousin Texas, and nephew Collin County just short of $25k in taxes for 2014.

    It’s like they don’t know that I have massive student debt to pay off or something. Hell, just give me half of it back and disqualify me from social security and Medicare.

  18. Hmmm. Number 5 but still seeing a downward trend.

    *arches eyebrow, peers over at Swiss masters*

  19. I think it’s funny the US is behind a former Soviet bloc country. I guess 70 some years of slavery will make a people appreciate freedom.

    1. Hopefully things wont get that bad here before more people start pining for freedom.

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