Free Minds & Free Markets

Economic Freedom Makes People Happy

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

SmileyfaceLibertyemofacesThe 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!."

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  • Mike M.||

    What, you mean you're skeptical that Ecuador is one of the happiest and most economically free countries in the world?

  • WTF||

    Or that Mexico ranks so much higher than the US, so tens of millions of Mexicans are enduring serious hardships to sneak over the border into the US?

  • thrakkorzog||

    Hey according to one expert, Tijuana is the happiest place on earth. Admittedly, that expert is Krusty the clown.

  • Hugh Akston||

    So the secret reason that libtardians support open borders is revealed. ¡Viva Mexico!

  • Almanian - Trump's Woodchipper||

    Mmmmm - tacos

  • Paul.||

    Donkey show!

  • thrakkorzog||

    Mexican hookers! With butt sex!

  • wareagle||

    and weed.

  • Almanian - Trump's Woodchipper||

    I thought more government control made people happy? Or was that just with marriage?

    /Shikha "Logic"

  • Paul.||

    Meh, lots of ways to interpret this. For instance, if the government paid my rent, my healthcare, and most of my incidental expenses, leaving me "free" to not contribute to society, I'd probably be pretty happy, too.

  • Scarecrow & WoodChipper Repair||

    I'd be bored. I think most people would be, sooner or later.

  • Paul.||

    For the first time in my life (after almost 30 years of working) I found myself unemployed in 2014. Remained that way for about a year.

    One of the best years of my life. Was never bored. Not once. Couldn't figure out how to fit it all in.

    It's all about perspective.

  • ||

    Look Paul, there is only so much Borderlands I can play and sitting by the pool reading I can do before I get bored and start getting high. You don't know what it's like!

  • Microaggressor||

    You can play Borderlands sober?

  • Rhywun||

    Yeah I've never taken more than a week off in 20+ years - I'm seriously thinking that if I get laid off I will milk that for a couple months at least.

  • Almanian - Trump's Woodchipper||

    I note someplace that begins with "SOMALIA" is missing from those second two charts.


    Maybe because they don't have roads to drive to the place where they're being polled? WHO KNOWS?

  • Almanian - Trump's Woodchipper||

    PS I thought "Burkina Faso" was some kind of exotic dog breed....

  • thrakkorzog||

    I thought it shared a border with Rand McNally.

  • ||

    But Burkina Faso was my escape plan! Now what will I do?!?

  • Paul.||

    Burkina Faso is a helluva place to live if you're in the 1%

  • wareagle||

    is that not true of most of the horrible places?

  • Princess Trigger||

    Not scandanavia. The super rich flee those hellholes.
    Selfish bastards.

  • In League with the Dark Ones||

    Being rich is standing out.

    And standing out is forbudt.

  • Almanian - Trump's Woodchipper||

    "Burkina Faso is one helluva drug."

  • Libertarian||

    Mel Brooks makes me happy. Cute, short article -- if you can overlook the apostrophe from hell.

  • ||

    "How can I put this? Imagine if the Holocaust happened every four years like the Olympics. I would rather that happened than your rock opera."

  • ernieyeball||

    "I don't think you're happy enough! I'll teach you to be happy!
    I'll teach your grandmother to suck eggs!"

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Reason readers will not be shocked to learn that liberty and happiness are intimately correlated, according to a new report...

    The report says that Reason readers will not be shocked? I didn't get a chance to peer review it.

  • prolefeed||

    When North Korea, which is a gigantic country-sized prison which shoots you if you try to escape, fails to make the bottom ten list for life satisfaction or life control, I'm gonna assume there's some giant holes in their research methodology.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Like say the inability to actually speak to anyone living in North Korea regarding their happiness?

  • Ron Bailey||

    All: As noted by many, the data on happiness is derived from places where actual surveys can take place. This would exclude hellholes like Somalia and North Korea. Just put them at the bottom of the happiness list for now. :-)

  • Hugh Akston||

    That's what I was getting at. Thanks Ron.

  • Paul.||

    I'd imagine if you called Kim Jon-un, he'd report his people are very happy.

  • Hugh Akston||

    If you called anyone in North Korea, Kim Jung-Un would report that they were very happy.

  • Paul.||

    And they have 100% voter turnout! Their democracy is more vibrant than ours! /Nina Totenberg

  • In League with the Dark Ones||

  • prolefeed||

    As noted by many, the data on happiness is derived from places where actual surveys can take place. This would exclude hellholes like Somalia and North Korea.

    If you have an authoritarian government that prohibits anyone from talking to poll takers or measuring "life happiness" or "life control", it should be axiomatic that said subjects should be at the bottom of any realistic measure of "life control". And, to only a slightly lesser extent, at the bottom of any measure of life happiness, either. Not to do so is to have a retarded definition of either.

    And, if you were permitted to go into NK and ask citizens about their "life happiness", I'll bet you would find that 100% of the citizens polled would say, yes, we are absolutely happy happy happy in every possible way comrade. By the measures of this poll methodology, one would have to conclude North Korea is by far the happiest place on earth.

    So, yes, retarded. GIGO.

  • OldMexican||

    Economic Freedom Makes People Happy

    Well, some.

    There are the eleutherophobes like Tony the Marxian.

  • Irish ♥s ESB||

    Any study which finds Colombia is the happiest nation on Earth probably has some methodological flaws. I mean, I know dirt poor countries with high crime, serious problems with drug trafficking, and an unemployment rate of almost 10% are usually very happy, but I have my suspicions about Colombia.

  • Bubba Jones||

    Because Shakira

  • Rebel Scum||

    Economic Freedom Makes People Happy


  • Irish ♥s ESB||

    I can't figure out why all those Mexicans keep coming up here if their country is so goddamn happy...I mean, Latin America seems super happy in general, so it makes absolutely no sense why so many people seem to want to leave.

  • In League with the Dark Ones||

    Well, Mexico is a socialist paradise.

  • OldMexican||

    I vouch for that but it has become less socialistic as the price of oil keeps coming down.

  • ant1sthenes||

    Maybe they're happy all the other guys left...

  • Calidissident||

    Does the Qatar survey include only Qatari citizens or does it also include the quasi-slave foreign laborers?

  • Winston||

    Did the survey ask whether travelling really fast and de-evolving into giant horny salamanders makes people happy?


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