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January 14, 2011

APPARENTLY WE'RE ONLY 'MOSTLY FREE'.... Fox News' John Stossel wants folks to know some discouraging news: we're slipping on the "Index of Economic Freedom."

Last year, I reported that the United States fell from sixth to eighth place -- behind Canada -- in the Heritage Foundation/Wall Street Journal's 2010 Index of Economic Freedom. Now, we've fallen further. In the just-released 2011 Index, the United States is in ninth place. [...]

The biggest reason for the continued slide? Spending as a percentage of gross domestic product. (State and local spending is not counted.)

The debt picture is dismal, too. We are heading into Greece's territory.

Now, anyone who seriously believes the United States is "heading to Greece's territory" is obviously not to be taken seriously. But I do find the larger story interesting.

Every year, the Heritage Foundation, one of the right's leading think tanks, publishes this index, ranking the planet's 179 countries on their "economic freedoms" (as defined by the Heritage Foundation). In previous years, the United States was considered "free." Now, however, we're only "mostly free."

So, who are the shining beacons of liberty? Rather, which countries do a better job at meeting the Heritage threshold for being actually economically free, or at least freer than we are? Hong Kong and Singapore are on top, followed by Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, Canada, Ireland and Denmark.

Walid Zafar notes some of the "morally, intellectually and ideologically inconsistent" flaws on display.

First, Hong Kong and Singapore are city-states, and, according to The Economist, hybrid regimes -- somewhere between a weak democracy and an authoritarian regime.

Other than Hong Kong and Singapore, the other countries ahead of the United States are all strong social democracies. In other words, they are the very places that both the Heritage Foundation and the editors of the Wall Street Journal consider evil: nations supposedly teetering on the cusp of socialism, where taxes are at near-exorbitant rates. Worse, in all of these states, there is some form of socialized medicine and, in some instances, mandated health insurance.

What gives? It's almost as if the Index of Economic Freedom is an arbitrary exercise and not really about economic freedom at all.

It is curious, isn't it? The Heritage Foundation would apparently be more satisfied if our economic freedoms were more in line with countries that have socialized medicine, impose higher tax rates, and in Ireland's case, is in need of a massive bailout to prevent a catastrophe.

Steve Benen 1:15 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (32)

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Comments

Is Singapore still taking away a person's chewing gum in customs upon arrival these days?

I measure economic freedom as those who can walk and chew gum at the same time, so Singapore wouldn't offer me much freedom of flavor! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on January 14, 2011 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

"It is curious, isn't it? The Heritage Foundation would apparently be more satisfied if our economic freedoms were more in line with countries that have socialized medicine, impose higher tax rates, and in Ireland's case, is in need of a massive bailout to prevent a catastrophe."

Haha! Ohhhh the stupid! It burns!!!!

Posted by: krazeeinjun on January 14, 2011 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, we are completely free, but not completely dead, only mostly dead.

Posted by: bignose on January 14, 2011 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

Seeing as how it's the Heritage Foundation, it's more than likely that their "freedom" rankings have as much political as economic basis - i.e. trying to influence/bolster their political influence here at home. Hong Kong and Singapore probably make their list because they are really good places for really rich people to influence the government. But Denmark?

Posted by: Jay C on January 14, 2011 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

While I have no idea what the Heritage Foundation metrics are, I wouldn't make too much fun of, for example, Denmark or Switzerland as beacons of economic freedom. Having lived in Europe, I considered it very economically freeing not to worry about health care, a pension, 5 weeks vacation, college education for my children, and so forth. There are many kinds of freedom. Americans should get a clue.

Posted by: IndigoJoe on January 14, 2011 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

Amazing how low Germany ranks -- #23 -- considering they weathered the financial meltdown probably the best of any Western nation. Per their detail charts, it seems the US is dragged down by government spending and corruption. Germany's workers are "repressed" according to this analysis; one can only assumed strong unions and social safety net = repressed workers. What a load of up-is-downism crap.

Posted by: ManOutOfTime on January 14, 2011 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

Bigger Qusetion: Who gives a rat's ass what the Heritage Foundation thinks? It is an intellectually dishonest hack factory.

Posted by: martin on January 14, 2011 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

After Citizens United, I would expect is to be superfree on this idiotic index.

Posted by: Winkandanod on January 14, 2011 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

I have been to Denmark. Let us aspire to be like Denmark!

Posted by: Michael Carpet on January 14, 2011 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK


"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines."

-and, apparently, the Heritage Foundation!

Posted by: DAY on January 14, 2011 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

Boy, I sure do hope the U.S. becomes like Singapore and/or Hong Kong -- because nothing says "FREEDOM!" like being caned a dozen times for spitting. (Although, for some reason that reminds me of a few girls from college, but I digress ...)

Oh, and to bignose: We're not dead yet! In fact, we're feeling better ...

Posted by: Mark D on January 14, 2011 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

Fox News' John Stossel wants folks to know some discouraging news: we're slipping on the ‘Index of Economic Freedom’.

As I posted here about nine months ago...


This a perversion of the 'United Nations Human Freedom Index':

38 - Sweden
38 - Denmark
37 - Netherlands
36 - Austria
36 - Finland
35 - France
35 - Germany
34 - Canada
34 - Switzerland
33 - Australia
33 - United States
32 - Japan
32 - United Kingdom

(0 = least freedom, 40 = most freedom)


Posted by: Joe Friday on January 14, 2011 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

Would that Stossel/Heritage were "Mostly harmless."

Posted by: Jim H on January 14, 2011 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK

A Rush and Sean thinktank and a Murdoch tabloid told you so and you repeat it like its the god honest truth.......

Boy was P.T. Barnum right!

Posted by: Wowzers on January 14, 2011 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

Clearly they're as outraged as I am that the Supreme Court will likely further empower the police to enter private property without a warrant!

Wait, this is about less business regulation and not an actual threat to our liberty? Give me a break, John Stossel.

Posted by: doubtful on January 14, 2011 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

I knew John Stossel when we worked at KGW-TV in Portland. He was telegenic but not terrible bright then. Time has not done him any favors.

Posted by: Russell Abaord M/V Sunshine on January 14, 2011 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

I just wanted to report that John Stossel and the Heritage Foundation are mostly stupid.

Posted by: Trollop on January 14, 2011 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

Canada outranks us on the Freedom Hot 100. Far as I can see, the main differences between us and them are completely contained in the phrases "single payer" and "military-industrial complex".

Posted by: kth on January 14, 2011 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

First, Hong Kong and Singapore are city-states

Singapore is a independent city-state, but Hong Kong is a special administrative region of the People's Republic of China.

Posted by: cmdicely on January 14, 2011 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

We're not slipping toward Greece-style problems? Anyone who thinks the official National Debt numbers represent the totality of our debt problems is not to be taken seriously either.

Posted by: Speed on January 14, 2011 at 2:59 PM | PERMALINK

The good news is that thanks to the Heritage Foundation and oh so many of its fellow travelers the US is still NUMBER 1 in the publication of BS Propaganda called "Studies" that prove absolutely that conservatives are good and liberals are bad.

PS:
Stoessel is a complete moron.

Posted by: robert on January 14, 2011 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

What Stossel doesn't admit is you can't be Hong Kong and have a far flung empire with bases all over the world. Doesn't work that way.

Posted by: Sean Scallon on January 14, 2011 at 3:32 PM | PERMALINK

Kevo @ 1:21...LOL! That was perfect!

Posted by: Athena on January 14, 2011 at 3:41 PM | PERMALINK

Free? Didn't Ireland just receive a bailout? Isn't that SOCIALISM??

Posted by: Reginald S on January 14, 2011 at 3:41 PM | PERMALINK

last year ireland was in heritage's top ten most free

http://www.alternet.org/story/148993/right-wing_think_tank_praised_ireland%27s_%27economic_freedom%27_..._and_then_its_economy_crashed?page=entire

Posted by: dj spellchecka on January 14, 2011 at 3:50 PM | PERMALINK

Steve

It is always correct to use quotes when referencing think tanks associated with the right wing, i.e.

'... one of the right's leading "think tanks" ...'

Let's be accurate in our use of language!

Posted by: Blue Pencil on January 14, 2011 at 3:58 PM | PERMALINK

It's important to note that HF's Index measures what countries are most advantageous for starting a business - not living. That said, they bend over backwards coming up with a formula that makes their list similar to lists like the World Bank's Per-capita income index and Economist's Quality of Life Index. If you look at the details, you will find, however, that the scores for taxing and spending are in inverse order to the over-all results. In other words, if you like Republican tax and spend proposals, try Russia, China, Vietnam, Venezuela, Mexico, India, etc. Forget any English speaking or industrial countries. But that is not how the over-all index results come out. While the Index is tremendously disingenuous, it is also a great source of data to compare contries. Just ignor the ratings!

Posted by: Danp on January 14, 2011 at 3:58 PM | PERMALINK

the mustache of fake tests did an interview with bill beach of heritage....it's full of howlers but i really liked this quote best: "If Mexico could fix its drug war problem, we'd see the good things happening there."

http://www.creators.com/opinion/john-stossel/freer-is-better.html

Posted by: dj spellchecka on January 14, 2011 at 4:06 PM | PERMALINK

1. Find out what John Stossel thinks.

2. Safely assume the opposite is true.

Posted by: maxgowan on January 14, 2011 at 4:08 PM | PERMALINK

The city of Paris spend 50% of it's municipal budget to keep Paris looking like Paris and the Parisians are some of the freeist people on earth.

Posted by: KurtRex1453 on January 14, 2011 at 4:57 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, this is complete bollocks.

The claim that Australia is "more free" than the United States appears to rest largely on the idea that Australia's financial sector is less regulated than the US's.

We have a government-regulated banking oligopoly, with four large banks, now supported by a government-backed deposit guarantee which they get cheaper than competitors, that completely dominate the market.

The prudential supervision of Australian banks has also long been more rigorous than in the US - as I understand it, there was luck involved, but it also helped to keep Australian banks out of the subprime mess.

Meanwhile, the Australian labor market is much more regulated than the United States, and we have proper socialized heathcare (with some private sector involvement, but that's also very heavily regulated).

One can only conclude that the Heritage Foundation was either sloppy, or deliberately skewed its ratings to make a political point.

Posted by: Robert Merkel on January 15, 2011 at 4:02 PM | PERMALINK

New Zealand ranks above the US on economic freedom, and I think rightly so. Our near-exorbitant tax rates? A top personal marginal tax rate of 33%, a 12.5% goods & services tax, no capital gains tax, no state income taxes, low property taxes (education funded centrally out of income taxes).

Posted by: Eric Crampton on January 17, 2011 at 7:33 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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