The market may move up and down, but there is something more fundamental; namely, economic freedom. The Heritage Foundation has published an “Index of Economic Freedom,” which rates conditions in 179 countries and can be viewed at the Heritage Foundation’s 2012 Index of Economic Freedom site. It is worth noting that the United States is not in the highest tier of “free” countries, but is ranked as “mostly free.”
Each rated country in the Index is given a score. The country with the most economic freedom is Hong Kong with a score of 89.9, the United States receives a score of 76.3 and the lowest ranked country – Communist North Korea – has a score of one. The ratings cover four areas: (1) Rule of law as measured in property rights and freedom from corruption; (2) Limited Government as measured by government spending and fiscal freedom; (3) Regulatory Efficiency as measured by business freedom, labor freedom and monetary freedom; (4) Open Markets as measured by trade freedom, investment freedom and financial freedom.
Here is the breakdown for the United States (source is Heritage Foundation):
- Property Rights 85.0
- Freedom from Corruption 71.0
- Government Spending 46.7
- Fiscal Freedom 69.8
- Business Freedom 91.1
- Labor Freedom 95.8
- Monetary Freedom 77.2
- Trade Freedom 86.4
- Investment Freedom 70.0
- Financial Freedom 70.0
One might guess that the U.S. was once in the top category of “free,” and further, that we have become less free over time – and will likely continue on this path until we enter the category of “mostly unfree,” where nations like Russia, China and Italy stand today. What is pushing us in the direction of less freedom? Political scientist Tim Groseclose has written a book titled Left Turn: How Liberal Bias Distorts the American Mind. Groseclose has developed a measurement of political liberalism, which appears to track (at the same time) the leftward drift of both political parties in the United States. His measurement is called a PQ (or political quotient), with 100 being extremely liberal (i.e., leftist) and 1 being extremely conservative. Perhaps the most astonishing measurement in the book concerns the U.S. Congress. Professor Groseclose will correct me if I’ve misunderstood his numbers, but he mentions that the PQ of Congress (median member) was 38 in 1980, but was 50.06 in 1999. What makes this astonishing is that the Democratic Party controlled Congress in 1980, and the Republican Party controlled Congress in 1999. In other words, today’s median Republican is to the left of yesterday’s median Democrat. If this seems absurd, perhaps I have misread Professor Groseclose’s numbers. (Read his book and make your own determination). Of course, we don’t need a political scientist to tell us that the entire country has moved to the left. We know that the size and expense of government continues to increase. We know that regulations have decimated many domestic industries.
Of course, the United States isyet a free country (mostly free, according to the Heritage Foundation); though it cannot be denied that we are “on the road” to serfdom, slowly but surely. Social spending is going to grow because people are going to avail themselves of the government’s “bounty.” Instead of the law of supply and demand, there will be a law of increasing demand for government programs and government money. Already many Americans prefer dependency and entitlement to economic freedom; and this preference will have catastrophic consequences for the country – and may spell the end of liberty.
To quote from Kim Holmes and Mathew Spalding’s Why Does Economic Freedom Matter, “America’s founders knew that liberty is about more than just securing political freedoms. True liberty requires economic freedom – the ability to profit from our own ideas and labor, to work, produce, consume, own, trade, and invest according to our own choices.”
So it is.