Economic Freedom Makes People Happy

New study finds that happiness correlates with living in a free society.



The Declaration of Independence asserts that people self-evidently have unalienable rights to Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. Reason readers will not be shocked to learn that liberty and happiness are intimately correlated, according to a new report, Economic Freedom, Individual Perceptions of Life Control, and Life Satisfaction. Just published by Canadian think tank the Fraser Institute, the study finds that people living in countries with a modicum of economic freedom tend to be happier than those who do not. From the study press release:

The cornerstones of economic freedom are personal choice, voluntary exchange, freedom to compete, and security of private property. Economic freedom is measured in five different areas: (1) size of government, (2) legal structure and security of property rights, (3) access to sound money, (4) freedom to trade internationally, and (5) regulation of credit, labour, and business.

The analysis shows that living in an economically free country plays a greater role in one's life satisfaction than does income, age, employment or even a country's political system.

The study finds that economic freedom and life satisfaction are linked in two ways. First, there's a direct correlation: Simply put, happiness derived from living in an economic free country is inherently valued. Secondly, economic freedom gives individuals the feeling of being more control of their own lives….

"Past research concluded that economic freedom spurs prosperity, income, employment and better public institutions. The finding that economic freedom plays a significant role in individual life satisfaction is just another reason for governments around the world to work towards greater economic freedom for their people," [said Fred McMahon, the Fraser Institute's Dr. Michael A. Walker Research Chair in Economic Freedom.]


Alas, the U.S. has been sliding down the freedom index rankings for the past several years, although the slide arrested last year. For more empirical data on the joys of economic liberty, see my article, "Globalization is Good for You!."