The United States has lost ground in economic freedom for the fifth year in a row, according to the annual Index of Economic Freedom published by The Heritage Foundation in partnership with The Wall Street Journal.
Its score of 76.0 is 0.3 points lower than last year, with declines in monetary freedom, business freedom, labor freedom, and fiscal freedom. The score places the US in tenth place world wide, behind such countries as Canada, Switzerland, Chile, and Mauritius.
In fact, the country has not been in the “Free” tier since 2009, remaining in the “Mostly Free” category along with Bahrain, Lithuania, and Botswana.
“Dynamic entrepreneurial growth is stifled by ever-more-bloated government and a trend toward cronyism that erodes the rule of law,” according to the Web site. “More than three years after the end of recession in June 2009, the U.S. continues to suffer from policy choices that have led to the slowest recovery in 70 years.”
Economic freedom is both a practical and a philosophical principle.
Scholars debate whether economic freedom naturally leads to prosperity, but the bulk of studies point to a conclusion, as expressed by Robert A. Lawson: “measures of economic freedom relate positively with … various measures of economic and social progress.”
Others assert the need for economic freedom in the more general name of liberty, regardless of whether it leads to the greatest prosperity. According to the Ludwig von Mises Institute’s wiki:
The non-aggression principle (also called the non-aggression axiom, or the anti-coercion or zero aggression principle or non-initiation of force) is an ethical stance which asserts that “aggression” is inherently illegitimate. “Aggression” is defined as the “initiation” of physical force against persons or property, the threat of such, or fraud upon persons or their property.
In either case, and especially for people who appreciate economic freedom as both practical and moral, the slippage in such measures by the United States causes concern. Relative ranking may not matter so much, since it is possible to gain a lower rank simply because the rest of the world has become more free, which would be something to celebrate.
The raw score drop, however, points to decreasing freedom in absolute terms, a trend that may help to swell the ranks of thoughtful libertarians.
“As the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom demonstrates, economic freedom is the path to prosperity,” said Anthony Kim. “The decline of America’s economic freedom means that our economy is losing its capacity to achieve dynamic and sustained economic growth. That’s bad news for American individuals, families, and entrepreneurs, who will reap fewer rewards for their hard work in the future.”