Economic Freedom in the World Is Increasing

The United States ranks 16th in the world on economic freedom index


Sergey Khakimullin/Dreamstime

Economic freedom has been increasing around the world during the last 30 years according to the Fraser Institute's Economic Freedom of the World 2016 Annual Report. Using data from 2014, the Canadian free-market think tank creates its economic freedom index using a ten-point scale that measures the degree of economic freedom in five broad areas; (1) size of government: expenditures, taxes, and enterprises; (2) legal structure and security of property rights; (3) access to sound money; (4) freedom to trade internationally; and (5) regulation of credit, labor, and business.

The good news, according to the 2016 report is that "economic freedom has increased throughout the world during the past three decades. The average EFW rating of the 20 high-income countries was 0.8 units higher in 2014 than 1985 and that of the 89 developing economies, 1.7 units higher." Between 1985 and 2014, economic freedom among high-income countries rose from 6.9 to 7.7 points; among developing countries economic freedom increased from 5.0 to 6.7 points. To consider how bad things used to be, by 2014 only four developing countries remained below the 5.0 point average of 1985 - Argentina, Congo, Libya, and Venezuela.

The report notes that the top-ten countries are Hong Kong and Singapore, that once again, occupy the top two positions. The other nations in the top 10 are New Zealand, Switzerland, Canada, Georgia, Ireland, Mauritius, the United Arab Emirates, and Australia and the United Kingdom, tied for 10th. The researchers report the rankings of some other major countries: the United States (16th), Germany (30th), Japan (40th), South Korea (42nd), France (57th), Italy (69th), Mexico (88th), Russia (102nd), India (112th), China (113th) and Brazil (124th).

The bottom ten least economically-free (otherwise known as basket-cases) are Iran, Algeria, Chad, Guinea, Angola, the Central African Republic, Argentina, the Republic of the Congo, Libya and, lastly, Venezuela. Glancing at the map below will tell you that the folks a Fraser did not evaluate places like Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, etc. - which suggests there is a level below basket-cases. Let's call that the hellhole level.

Additionally, the report notes that nations that are economically free out-perform non-free nations in indicators of well-being. Nations in the top quartile of economic freedom had an average per-capita GDP of $41,228 in 2014, compared to $5,471 for bottom quartile nations (PPP constant 2011 US$). In addition, life expectancy is 80.4 years in the top quartile compared to 64.0 years in the bottom quartile.

Fraser Institute

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  1. This being an election year (and with my irrational hope that political ideologies might someday be held accountable at the ballot box), I went and looked at the Freedom Index report for 2009--which looks at data from 2007 before our country took a progressive turn for the worse.

    The United States ranked 6th in 2007.

    So we've fallen ten places to 16th since Obama took office?

    That's pathetic.

    Our size of government ranking went from 41st to 78th, our credit market regulation went from 26th to 66th, and our business regulation went from 24th to 51st.

    "Additionally, the report notes that nations that are economically free out-perform non-free nations in indicators of well-being.

    Then the future isn't as bright as it used to be.

    1. The United States ranked 6th in 2007.

      Everything is getting better guys! Improvement in so many little ways, every day!

      1. Hey, Ron said it's getting better in the world, not the USA. We can't be the best anymore, because... social justice... something something ... equality something... white people ...

      2. I bet the authors of that study didn't take into account the phenomenal growth of the American "making $68 per hour on the Internet" industry.

      3. I think Bailey was talking about freedom in the world generally rather than in the U.S. specifically.

        And just because everyone else has gotten better, that doesn't mean we've gotten worse. It might have meant we've just gotten only slightly better while they got a lot better.

        But that argument would be easier to buy if it weren't for two things:

        1) The same countries in the top ten in 2007 are still ahead of us in 2014.

        Australia, Chile, Hong Kong, Ireland, New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerland, et. al.

        2) We know what Obama did to credit market regulation, ObamaCare, etc.

        1. Well, we have gotten worse, I can't think of any argument against that, and many for it. Increasingly burdensome regulations on businesses, more cronyism, unrealistic forced increases in minimum wage, Obamacare, just to name a few.

        2. Yes, but the trains are now running on time, right?

        3. It might have meant we've just gotten only slightly better while they got a lot better.

          Fair point. I tend to think that the massive regulatory burden that has been imposed by Obama, either through dreadful legilsation, worse rulemaking, and executive orders or just plain old diktats means we've gotten worse.

          1. Yeah, I debunked the argument myself.

            We know how and why we got more credit market regulation.

            There's nothing mysterious about it.

   Dodd?Frank_Wall_Street_Reform _and_Consumer_Protection_Act

            And it was justified as a response to Obama having to bail out Wall Street--at his own discretion! We have to pass this law so that I'll never have to do what I did again.

            I'd rather have seen Goldman and JPM go the way of Bear-Sterns and Lehman Brothers--not that they were in any danger of doing so.

        4. And just because everyone else has gotten better, that doesn't mean we've gotten worse.

          It means there are 15 other countries around the world that are freer, economically, than the "land of the free, home of the brave."

          Makes me want to stand up and sing the national anthem.

          1. Makes me want to stand up and sing white-out the national anthem.


    2. Then the future isn't as bright as it used to be.

      More - its probably going to get worse.

      from yesterday =

      Is it a foregone conclusion that the US economy will be greatly more socialistic in the next 25 years than it will even the slightest bit more free?

      Cato thinks the US has become less-economically-free since 2000

      the bullet points they hit are =

      - Increased spending,
      - a weakening rule of law,
      - worse monetary policy,
      - greater trade barriers, and
      - more regulation

      given the stances of both presidential candidates, i'd think the trend on all those points is "more-negative"

      What i don't like about headline arguments about 'trends' like the above is that they often are made to elide/avoid clarity on 'absolute #s'. "The Direction is Good!" - yes, but between Where, and Where?

      1. Still, I think it's more important to blame Obama and the progressives for the byline rather than Bailey for the headline.

        This isn't like one of Robby's free speech pieces that's actually anti-free speech. Maybe Bailey didn't make the point we wanted him to make, but it's not like he's against economic liberty. He's just thinking positive and taking the wider view.

        That's unpopular sometimes when there's an election between a joker and a corruption magnate. It's probably a good thing if someone reminds us every once in a while that the world will keep spinning even if our next President (like the last one) is an idiot.

        And the idea that the future isn't as bright as it used to be is Yogiesque irony, really. It won't be as good as it could have been with more economic freedom, but the future has always been uncertain. I remember thinking that the future would be nuclear war or Soviet domination of the world--and we were less regulated back then.

        1. the future has always been uncertain. I remember thinking that the future would be nuclear war or Soviet domination of the world

          Why can't we all just be happy about another day without an extinction level impact event, is that too much to ask?

        2. This isn't like one of Robby's free speech pieces that's actually anti-free speech.

          I wasn't trying to ding Bailey; I was just making a point about "Big Picture" analyses.

          I think the big picture is all well and good; but its very easy to mistake "The Undeveloped World" moving inevitably into the "Developing World" as some kind of magical global embrace of capitalism.

          When you analyze things en masse, you need to break things into categories to see what the drivers and laggers are. "Ranking Things" isn't necessarily enlightening at all.

          It would be more productive to look at the biggest economies on earth and ask what their main issues are, and then look at the "fastest growing" economies, and see what their issues are, etc.

          Then you look at those specific issues - e.g. govt spending, trade regulation, legal rights, etc - and list what the 'most improved' and 'least improved/most declined' are

          I'm sure the attached report does some of this; or maybe not. Its just too-easy and simple to take the single conclusion, "stuff is trending up!" and call it a net-good without looking at the moving parts underneath.

      2. Hell, I'll get static from my fellow libertarians around here for suggesting that some of the things Obama did should be undone.

        Goldman Sachs is hardly an investment bank anymore--same thing with J.P. Morgan. Regulation of the credit markets has all but sank those flagships of capitalism. When we're talking about the forces of creative destruction as a good thing, we're really talking about things like M&A, LBOs, junk bonds, and easy credit to business owners against the value of their homes. Half the people around here seem to think that getting rid of Glass-Steagall was a bad idea and that finding ways to extend home loans to more and more people in the lower middle class was somehow wrong.

        The only wrong they we did was bail the bastards out (often, against their will).

        I'd rather have one Bailey than a thousand phony capitalists who say they're for deregulating the credit markets but actually support every single thing Obama did on a case by case basis to regulate them--so long as you don't put Obama's name next to it.

    3. The US was 2nd on the day that the abominable George W Bush took office, the man who ignominiously confessed to having "violated free market principles to protect the free market". No president since Roosevelt did as much damage to economic freedom as did GWB.

      Obama was merely Bush on steroids.

      No matter whether it's Emperor Trump or Empress Clinton the US will fall below 30th place by 2020. The Republicans and the Democrats are firmly committed to doing so.

      1. "No president since Roosevelt did as much damage to economic freedom as did GWB."

        Not that I want to defensd that jackass, but Nixon and LBJ both want to have a word with you.

  2. my co-worker's step-aunt makes $68 hourly on the internet . She has been without a job for seven months but last month her payment was $16869 just working on the internet for a few hours. Learn More Here ....

    1. Looking at the map above, I'm gonna guess Svalbard Islands? BTW, in Svalbard Islands, if you leave the town limits, you are required by law to carry a gun with you.

  3. Media Research Center interview of Darrell Castle (If you go to the part around 3:40, you'll see him talk about Gary Johnson.)

    Glenn Beck interviews Darrell Castle

    TL;DR version of the first interview (I haven't listened to the second):

    Legal abortion deprives babies of life without due process of law. Castle wants to appoint judges who share this view.

    He believes in secure borders, but as for illegal aliens who are here already, he wouldn't go after them unless they commit extra crimes.

    Wants to pull out of NATO - stop helping European scroungers pay for their welfare state.

    Putin is a Russian patriot, whether Obama is a U.S. patriot, no comment.

    And why Castle is different from Johnson: Unlike Johnson he supports border security, opposes abortion and supports religious freedom.

    1. A right-wing site's comments on the two interviews. Bottom line: Castle is OK except he wouldn't deport enough people and he ought to keep the U.S. in NATO.

      1. I forgot to segue into that with "speaking of how to improve economic freedom..."

    2. It's about sex and immigrants.

      Anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage, anti-immigration, . . .

      pro-drug war?

      I hope all the social conservatives flock to him and leave the Republican Party to libertarians like Rand Paul.

      Even if Johnson runs as a Republican next time, I think the libertarianish faction in the Republican Party is looking good for 2020--especially if Hillary wins. And the better Johnson does in the general, the better the argument will be for Rand Paul. It's funny to think of Rand Paul as some kind of insider, but that's what he's becoming if he isn't one already. I just wish Rand had run for governor of Kentucky. Then he would be set.

      Social conservatives are a fringe movement. Looks good on 'em.

      1. "pro-drug war?"

        Pro-decriminalization. Johnson isn't the only candidate who can disagree with his own party's platform.

        "I hope all the social conservatives flock to [Castle] and leave the Republican Party to libertarians like Rand Paul."

        You're kidding, right?

        There's lots of Republicans who are simultaneously (a) SoCons and (b) budget hawks. In contrast, a Republican who is squishy enough to support abortion is usually squishy enough to support deficit spending.

        And you *do* realize that Rand Paul is prolife, just like his obstetrician Dad? And that Rand proposed a statute to protect the 14th Amendment right to life of *all* human beings, including the ones in the womb?

        1. And you *do* realize that Republican primary voters rejected the SoCon candidate (Cruz) and voted for the New York progressive?

          So the Republicans *already* took your advice.

          1. (as far as rejecting the SoCon heresy is concerned)

        2. Johnson is not anti-drug war. He's for legalizing cannabis, that's all. If cannabis becomes legal nation wide, the DEA will just criminalize something else that will land just as many people in prison. I don't know what it will be, but I can guarantee you they've already put a lot of thought into it. A libertarians first priority in office should be to end the WOD and disband the DEA.

          1. Yeah, the Constitution Party platform seems to support a drug war on the state level, and a federal ban on imported drugs, but even the platform - which doesn't seem to be as liberal as Castle on MJ - wants to roll back the *federal* drug war more than Johnson would do.

            But judge for yourself:

            "The Constitution Party will uphold the right of states and localities to restrict access to drugs and to enforce such restrictions. We support legislation to stop the flow of illegal drugs into the United States from foreign sources. As a matter of self-defense, retaliatory policies including embargoes, sanctions, and tariffs, should be considered.

            "At the same time, we will take care to prevent violations of the Constitutional and civil rights of American citizens. Searches without probable cause and seizures without due process must be prohibited, and the presumption of innocence must be preserved."

            1. And the crime plank suggests a major rollback of the federal criminal code, giving priority to the states, while at the same time providing for jury nullification.

              1. Jury nullification would actually go a long ways towards fixing the justice system. So that's not going to happen.

            2. "We support legislation to stop the flow of illegal drugs into the United States"

              IOW, they're beholden to American pharm companies. That's nice to know.

              1. In the same sense that Johnson is beholden to the Sara Lee corporation, because it will more readily absorb the costs of "discrimination" laws than small religious bakers.

              2. You know what would stop the flow of illegal drugs to the US?

                Legalizing those drugs. Its definitional.

                1. And it should be legal for a conservative Christian baker to operate a bakery too, but we can't have everything.

                2. The the drugs are eligible for welfare, great.

          2. Johnson is not anti-drug war. He's for legalizing cannabis, that's all.

            Not true.

            No legalization of heroin, but apply harm reduction. (Jun 2016)
            Marijuana has fewer side-effects than alcohol: no hangover. (Apr 2016)
            States are finally seeing the failure of the War on Drugs. (Jan 2016)
            Why do we tell adults what they can put in their bodies? (Jan 2016)

            People 95% positive on legalizing; incumbents 100% negative. (Aug 2012)
            Marijuana is safer than alcohol. (Aug 2012)
            75% of border violence with Mexico is due to drugs. (Jun 2011)
            Marijuana is safer than alcohol. (Jun 2011)
            Legalize marijuana instead of 1.8 million arrests and $70B. (May 2011)
            Harm-reduction: health issue rather than criminal issue. (May 2011)
            Drug policy today parallels Prohibition in the 1920's. (May 2011)
            Other governors privately support ending drug war. (Oct 2002)
            War on Drugs is a miserable failure; $6M for treatment. (Apr 2001)
            Drug use is up despite $30B spending on War on Drugs. (Jan 2001)
            Prescriptions for heroin & methadone at local pharmacy. (Jan 2001)

            Allow medical marijuana and needle exchanges. (Jan 2001)
            More federal funding for all aspects of Drug War. (Aug 2000)
            States should make drug policy, not feds. (Aug 2001)

            Block SIV, you're starting to believe his bullshit.

            It does appear, however, from the 2000 quote, that he's either changed his mind or it's a misprint.

            1. Most of the things you list there are just statements of opinion - not actual proposed policies.

              His answers at the CNN 'town hall' said specifically he's opposed to legalization of anything beyond weed.

              Johnson doesn't go 'full libertarian' on drugs
              Unlike Ron Paul, who made a case for legalizing all drugs when he ran for the Republican nomination in 2012, Johnson said Wednesday he is against loosening drug laws beyond marijuana.

              "We are not espousing the legalization of any drugs outside of marijuana," Johnson said when asked about his drug policies by a mother who said her son was a recovering drug addict.

              Johnson advocated for harm reduction programs around the world that provide clean needles and supervised injection sites, but stopped short of advocating for the legalization of drugs.

              "It's prohibition... that kills people," he said, but then went on to advocate for some prohibition.
              "It seems to me that there's an inconsistency here," Cuomo said. "Either you think drugs should be legalized or not."

              "Keep the drugs illegal," Johnson said.

              Here he gets a direct question on the topic, and he mostly dodges the essence of it, reiterating that he's for weed-legalization, against legalization of other drugs, but caps it with the idea that it would still 'be nice' in theory.

              1. I am not advocating legalizing all drugs,

                1. SHIT!

                  From your own citation.

                  I am not advocating legalizing all drugs, although I will follow that up with the following sentence. If we legalize all drugs tomorrow, the world would be a much better place. And that gets back to the point, 90% of all drug problem is prohibition, not use related and that should be the focus.

                  He's an incrementalist. He's against the drug war. He's taking the pragmatic approach of legalizing one and seeing how it goes.

                  His is CERTAINLY anti-WoD and would take steps to incrementally dismantle it. Nothing happens all at once.

                  1. I love when politicians come out explicitly against something and their true believer useful idiots rush to their defense and chalk it up to incrementalism.

                    "No no, he's not a flip-flopping piece of shit, he's just lying to everybody else but me!"

              1. Wait, he changed back to prohibition again.

  4. Sigh, are you kidding me, Bailey? America is home to free-wheeling, gun-slinging capitalists who rape the earth, poison our children, and pay slave wages to hard-working unemployed single moms while refusing to pay taxes and outsourcing jobs to Indians! Millions of pages of legislation and regulations are not enough to stop this unfettered, laissez-faire system of corporate control of our lives! I mean, have you seen all that advertising that literally makes us buy their cheap crap that nobody wants?!

    Clearly, America is #1 on the economic freedumb scale.

    Top-voted comment at CNN, MSNBC, HuffPo, WaPo, etc., etc.

    1. "America is home to free-wheeling, gun-slinging capitalists who rape the earth, poison our children, and pay slave wages to hard-working unemployed single moms while refusing to pay taxes"

      A majority of Europeans actually believe this. Which makes it fun to troll them about Brexit and about being afraid to travel there because of terrorists. This really ruffles their feathers. To really get their panties in a knot, say you're going to vote for Trump.

  5. Well, Bailey, if you think things are getting better right now, just wait until the next administration, and you will find out just how good you are...

  6. So basically, 50% of the economy is comprised of people who actually make things, and the other 50% is the people who break those things and then beat up the first half and say, "You're not making enough!" Did I get that right?

    Jill Stein mistakenly approved this message.

  7. Slightly OT but I remain amazed that to this day the Fraser Institute hasn't been burned down or blown up by some form of radical environmentalists. In Canada they were a regular two minutes of hate target throughout the time the Tories were in power, EVERYTHING wrong with the government's views on environmental causes was all their fault.

    1. Also Canada top 10 bitches! Suck my freedom America! to get pesky things like 'freedom of speech' and 'actually constitutional rights'.

      1. Has Prince Zoolander legalized weed yet?

    2. Fraser is HATED by the left.


  8. With technology increasing at the pace it is, there could be some really big gains in living standards and overall quality of life world wide. But the rate at which that will happen in reality is dependent on how much we can get the government out of the way. At the moment, governments around the world seem extremely determined that not only are they not going to get out of the way, but they're going to get a lot more in the way. We could actually start to go backwards because of this. Governments will take us straight back to the Dark Ages if they are left to go totally unconstrained, Hillary style. Oh, the ruling elites will be living it up, but for the rest of us, it could be very grim indeed. Killing off a few billion peasants in the name of saving the planet will have the elites giving each other hero awards.

    1. With technology increasing at the pace it is, there could be some really big gains in living standards and overall quality of life world wide.

      My impression is that what's increasing is the dissemination of technology.

      Applied technology raising living standards lags actual scentific breakthroughs by about a generation. And you know what we haven't had in a long time? Actual scientific breakthroughs.

      I think we're going to see applied technology stagnate for awhile.

  9. All you really have to do is look at that map to know how bad economic freedom is. Bunch of white people! Viva la revolucion!

  10. These indexes, I'm not sure they mean what people think they mean. Economic freedom is increasing yet the total number of statutes and regulations is perpetually at a new all time high.

    1. They rate 'em on a scale of 1-to-10 but it's a Canadian 1-to-10 so that's like a 3.5 American. (I think I did the math right on the US/Canadian conversion but I'm an American so you'll probably want to double-check the answer with a Canadian.)



      1. DEPLORABLE!

  12. The finest in unbiased reporting: Trump voters explain their unshakable faith

    The best in Brexit whining:

    1. No trigger warning for that rebel flag and those round boobies? There should be 3 trigger warnings right there.

      1. Wait, and then Trump. So that's one rebel flag, 2 fat round boobies, and one Donald. That's like ... ok, 2 trigger warnings for Trump, 2 for the boobies, and one rebel flag. That's like 4 trigger warnings in one video! That's hate speech, mister!

        1. Shit, bad math day, 5 trigger warnings in one video! Hate crime!

          1. Math is racist, Hyperion. Get thee to a reeducation camp!

          2. It was progressive math, Hype. You're good.

  13. Start working from home! Great job for students, stay-at-home moms or anyone needing an extra income... You only need a computer and a reliable internet connection... Make $90 hourly and up to $14000 a month by following link at the bottom and signing up... You can have your first check by the end of this week... Go to this website and click tech tab for more info..This Web?

  14. Harry Browne prior to 2000 said he was betting that Y2K was not going to be a big deal because, even though he didn't know much about it, the banks and insurance companies and the financial markets - the people for whom Y2K would be the biggest disaster of all - didn't appear to be panicking over it no matter how much the media insisted we should all be panicking over Y2K.

    Glenn Reynolds frequenting looks at the size of the global warming alarmists carbon footprint and says "I'll start believing it's a crisis when the people who keep telling me it's a crisis start acting like it's a crisis." (Al Gore recently bought some prime oceanfront property when, to hear him tell it, that property'll be underwater in just a few years due to global warming.)

    Even if you don't know the answer, take a look at what the smart money's saying and that'll give you a clue as to which way to bet.

    The IRS is thumbing their nose at the Republicans in Congress, as did the State Department and the FBI, they're covering for Hillary and they don't much seem to give a shit who knows it.. And the Republicans aren't doing a damn thing about it. That ought to tell you who they're confident their next boss is going to be. And the federal bureacracy, when you get down to it, are the ones going to be counting the votes and certifying it was a fair election. If you see Eli Manning putting a big bet down against the Giants, you maybe should take a hint.

    1. That ought to tell you who they're confident their next boss is going to be.

      or, that they don't care who their next boss is going to be, because they feel bulletproof. And with a choice between Hillary, who will enthusiastically support a weaponized bureaucracy, and Trump, who, if history is any guide, will have zero Republican support for reining it in, why shouldn't they?

  15. "Hey, kids, what day is it?"

    "It's Constitution Day!"

    "And do you know what James Madison brings to good little boys and girls get on Constitution Day?"

    "A motorcycle rally and gun show on Constitution Day weekend!"

    "That's right, kids, get on your Harleys!"

    1. It's in Florida! I'm in Washington state, as far from Florida as you can get inside the contiguous 48. Let me see...six thousand miles round trip on my machine to get to and back from a place where I can't buy a gun because I'm from out of state...hmm... I think I'll pass.

      Have a good time Fusionist, I'll drink a beer to you.

      1. I'm not going, it's just a good time for the kids.

        1. They can have lots of harmless fun.

  16. Mr Bailey:

    Whether we end up in Trumpania or Clintonia, we are in for a shitstorm of regulation and repression.

    Even if a meteor strikes the first debate and the only surviving candidate is the one standing outside in the street trying to get attention, the Republicrats are hell bent on more government.

  17. Love how the economic freedom color coding correlates for a world poverty heat-map.

  18. Libertarian party platforms and Ayn Rand articles are being translated into more and more languages. The commies and Jesus freaks immediately grasped the importance of exporting looter ideology across language barriers. But most of the relevant ethical defenses of freedom from coercion are made in the USA. These States are an aberrantly monolingual outfit, but as long as converts to freedom arrive as immigrants (unless crowded out by mohammedan berserkers), there is hope. Already the LP platform is posted online in Spanish and Portuguese, so 3/4 billion people can discover that libertarian values have nothing to do with bomb-throwing commie anarchists (which is the usual equivocation in their languages).

  19. Singapore and Hong Kong are the top 2? Okay... Both are one-party dictatorships where freedoms of the press, expression and assembly and due process rights are severely curtailed. While they may have strong property rights' protections which are essential for economic freedom, I feel like those protections do not mean much without political freedoms and some sort of assurance the state won't throw you in jail for indefinite periods of time for "political crimes".

    "If you are obedient and don't question the Top Men, you will be affluent and successful" doesn't sound much like freedom to me.

  20. There are Von Mises honkers who crow about the capitalist heaven that is death-for-a-joint Singapore. Forty percent of the population are foreigners with no vote other than to leave.

  21. What the study didn't mention was the COMPETENCE of the governments. I live in Mexico, and even though the position says 88 according to the criteria, the govt here is so lax that they don't apply all those regulations and laws most of the time. Thus we are freer here by simply ignoring the govt. most of the time. You can build a house without ANY permits in many places. You can drive a car for years without the proper stickers and papers, if you are careful.

  22. It is nice to hear that the developing countries are getting more economically independent. The economic growth of the developed countries is not much surprising. write my essay for me

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