US Loses Ground in 2011 Index of Economic Freedom

The U.S. dropped from 8 to 9 on the just-released “Index of Economic Freedom” put out by the Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal. That’s a bit of a downer, considering we used to be #4, back in 1995. The Index ranks nations on 10 measures of openness, rule of law, and competitiveness. Tellingly, all regions except Europe and North America achieved increased levels of economic freedom. In fact, the U.S. didn’t even earn a grade of “free” – which would’ve been a score of 80 or higher. If this were running or swimming, I think this is kind of like coming in maybe third place in the second-fastest heat. Woo.

Why is this important? As the Index authors explain, “economic freedom is key to overall well-being.” That means tangible benefits of living in a freer society, such as higher per capita incomes, better health, education, and security, and more personal freedom.

Seems we slipped a bit in business freedom (score of 91), trade freedom (86.4), government spending (54.6 – there’s a shocker, right?), monetary freedom (77.4). Somehow we squeaked a bit ahead in labor freedom (95.7), freedom from corruption (75), and fiscal freedom (68.3). (CEI has a forthcoming Agenda for Congress that should prove a great blueprint for reform in these regards.)

The good news from a global perspective is that the global average economic freedom score increased a bit, 0.3 percent, to 59.7, with the biggest improvements in developing and emerging economies. And more economies improved than took a dive.