By Daniel Honchariw
Rarely does reliance on any particular statistic tell the whole story.
Thus, the fact that Nevada’s unemployment rate has returned to pre-recession levels does not necessarily indicate the state’s labor markets are as healthy as they were in December 2007, when the Great Recession hit.
Nonetheless, the news from Nevada’s Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation — that the unemployment rate has fallen to 5.2 percent — is encouraging, given it was nearly 14 percent as recently as 2010.
Accordingly, to achieve pre-recession levels of unemployment marks a milestone for state politicians and policy-makers who have spent the better part of the last decade trying to reverse the horrors of the worst financial crisis since the 1940’s.
Governor Sandoval, speaking to the recent employment gains, boasted:
As 2016 nears an end, I’m encouraged by the significant progress our state has made as a result of our combined efforts these past six years. . . Looking forward, I’m excited about the direction that Nevada is heading and I remain committed to working with our business community to build a stronger and more resilient economy.
Despite the indicated progress, however, all is not rosy. Other important statistics show that Nevada’s labor markets remain weaker than they were in 2007.
First, of those employed, a greater proportion are now working part-time — “part-time for economic reasons,” according to the definition used by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. These are workers who, despite their best efforts, have been unable to find full-time employment.
Second, continuing a decades-long trend, the relative size of the labor force as a proportion of the state’s 16-and-over population has fallen for the last 10 years — which reduces the unemployment rate as a mathematic calculation.
Together, these problematic trends suggest that — notwithstanding considerable improvement from the darkest days of the recession — the overall health of Nevada’s labor markets still lags compared to the pre-recession era.
Today a greater proportion of employed Nevadans are part-time workers than in 2007.
Despite those workers’ inability to acquire full-time work, they are considered “employed” for purposes of measuring unemployment.
For a broader look at overall employment, the graph below tracks the “official” unemployment rate (“U-3”) as well as two alternative measures of labor underutilization: marginally-attached workers (“U-5”) and part-time workers (“U-6”).
Here the difference between the U-5 and the U-6 lines constitutes the proportion of part-time Nevadans in the labor force who, by definition, and for the purposes of the “official” unemployment rate are nonetheless considered to be employed.
From 2007 forth, the difference (U-6 minus U-5) tends to increase over time before beginning to normalize in 2011, indicating that the proportion of part-time workers has been increasing over time.
In 2007, for example, the difference between U-5 and U-6 was 2.3 percent, which indicates 2.3 percent of the labor force, or 2.4 percent of the employed labor force, was employed on a part-time basis.
By contrast, in 2016 the difference between U-5 and U-6 had increased to 5.1 percent (and was as high as 7.7 percent in 2011). This indicates that 5.1 percent of the labor force, or 5.4 percent of the employed labor force, was comprised of part-time workers.
Thus, between 2007 and 2016 part-time workers as a proportion of the employed labor force increased from about 2.4 percent to 5.4 percent. This amounts to a proportional increase of 225 percent over that period.
Given the size of Nevada’s labor force is greater than 1.4 million, approximately 70,000 people in 2016 were employed part-time because they were unable to acquire full-time employment.
In other words, if Nevada’s part-time workers were considered to be unemployed for reporting purposes, the state’s unemployment rate would be 10.3 percent — nearly doubling the “official” rate of 5.2 percent.
Labor Force Migration
Furthering this documented trend, Nevada’s labor force participation rate (“LFPR”) has decreased considerably since 2007.
Because unemployment measures do not account for those who are neither employed nor actively searching for work — meaning those who are not labor-force participants — by definition the employment rate increases as the LFPR decreases.
Thus, a reduction in the relative size of the labor force typically coincides with an increase in employment (or, conversely, a decrease in unemployment4).
This pattern is evident here, most notably from 2011 forward — based on improvement to the employment rate, the economy showed signs of rebounding from its lows, but such coincided with continued migration from the labor force.
Thus, the significant gains in employment since 2011 have been at least partially attributable to continued labor force migration, which has the effect of overstating progress made against unemployment.
What does this all mean?
While progress against unemployment since its 2010 highs has been encouraging, a more comprehensive analysis of Nevada’s labor markets suggests that much work is still to be done.
More specifically, it means that lawmakers should prioritize reforms which aim to increase private-sector job growth and remove employer-disincentives for hiring full-time workers.
At the federal level, all signs point to Obamacare — a law that actually encourages the hiring of part-time workers — as being first on the chopping-block for 2017.
Here’s to hoping that Nevada’s upcoming legislative session also produces similar job-creating reforms at the state level.
 95.4 (employment rate in 2007) / 2.3 = 2.4% of employed labor force
 93.8 (employment rate in 2016) / 5.1 = 5.4% of employed labor force
The founder of a small fashion-design house and clothing manufacturer in San Fernando is getting ready to pack up and move to Las Vegas. Houman Salem explained that he loves his current location in the heart of California’s fashion district — but simply cannot tolerate the looming increase in the state’s minimum wage. “We need more stable, blue-collar jobs in places like the San Fernando Valley — the kind I thought I was helping create,” he writes. “California, however, has put up a giant ‘Go Away’ sign.” (Read more)
Senate Republicans passed a budget resolution this week repealing portions of Obamacare. The resolution was passed using the reconciliation process, in hopes that repeal can be fast-tracked to President-elect Donald Trump’s desk once he is sworn in. The budget resolution would require $1 billion in deficit reduction over the next decade and sets aside funds for an Obamacare replacement reform. (Read more)
Last week, widespread attention was given to the more than 1 million acres of western land — covering portions of Nevada and Utah — that the Obama administration unilaterally declared a national monument. Comparatively unnoticed, however, is that the administration is about to restrict a staggering 10 million acres of western land from future mining operations, claiming such steps are necessary to protect the Greater Sage-Grouse population. (Read more)
The most recent jobs numbers show a disturbing trend: the number of Americans not in the labor force has grown 18 percent in the last eight years — reaching a record setting number of 95 million Americans out of work in 2016. But there was another disturbing trend exposed in the most recent data: While many blue-collar industries — such as manufacturing — have been on the decline, government jobs continue to increase. State, local and federal government jobs currently outnumber manufacturing jobs by nearly 10 million. (Read more)
Unsurprisingly, Nevada’s Public Employee Retirement System experienced another shortfall in 2016. Indeed, at nearly $13.5 billion, the shortfall was the largest ever set by PERS — adding dramatically to the system’s overall unfunded liability. Disturbingly, this massive shortfall occurred despite a record high number of contributions in the last year. As a result of these record-high costs, and ballooning debt, both taxpayers and PERS members will be net losers unless substantial changes are made to the overall system. (Read more)
The Public Employees’ Retirement System of Nevada (PERS) reported a record-breaking shortfall of $13.457 billion last month, according to data published in the System’s comprehensive annual financial report for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2016.
Annual contributions likewise hit a record-high, coming in at around $1.7 billion. As a result of these record-high costs, most new members are now projected to be “net losers” under PERS — meaning the value of their future retirement benefit will be worth less than its total cost.
The report also confirms PERS continues to excel at keeping both administrative and investment fees low, with investment fees remaining flat since the previous year at around $39 million — or about 0.1% of total fund size.
While investing exclusively in index funds keeps fees low, there is a tremendous risk of future shortfalls given the System’s assumed 8 percent annual investment return — which far exceeds the projections of PERS investment consultants, other pension funds, Warren Buffett and many others.
2017 brought a significant personnel change to PERS. Longtime investment consultant Ken Lambert has chosen to move on, to be replaced by former president of Wilshire Consulting Julia Bonafede — who authored the second opinion review commissioned by PERS in 2015, which found that PERS was unlikely to hit its investment target over the next decade.
To read more about PERS, be sure to visit http://www.npri.org/issues/detail/pers
Happy New Year!
Can you believe 2016 is almost behind us?
It’s a great time of year to be optimistic. On New Year’s Day, we celebrate not just our success over the last twelve months, but the new opportunities that lie before of us in the months ahead. In this spirit, we look forward to forging another year of meaningful success.
And on behalf of everyone at the Nevada Policy Research Institute, we want to extend our best wishes to all of our supporters. Your generosity, engagement and dedication to our shared ideals is what will make our work in the coming year possible. And, for this we are extremely grateful. We have a lot to do in 2017, and your involvement is crucial to keeping Nevada free and prosperous.
Your support has helped us defend educational choice, fight for government transparency and expose the cronyism and corruption in Nevada government. As much as we were able to accomplish in 2016, I’m sure that, together, we can accomplish even more in 2017.
On a more personal note, everyone at the Nevada Policy Research Institute would like to wish our former Executive Vice President, Victor Joecks, good luck in his new adventures.
As many of you know, Victor was deployed with the Nevada National Guard for most of last year — and upon returning home he has seized an opportunity to be an opinion columnist with the Las Vegas Review Journal.
Although his presence will be missed at the Institute, we’re thrilled to have such a powerful voice for free markets and individual liberty on a soapbox at such a well-established media outlet.
Victor, we wish you well.
And to all of the Institute’s supporters, we wish you a great New Year’s weekend. I look forward to standing beside all of you as we fight for our shared ideals in the year ahead.
Happy New Year!
Sharon J. Rossie
A new state law requiring background checks on private gun transfers will not be taking effect in 2017, according to Attorney General Adam Laxalt. The law, passed by voters with a narrow margin in November, would have required the Federal Bureau of Investigation to run background checks on any individual that purchases, borrows or otherwise receives a firearm from another private citizen. According to Laxalt’s office, the FBI has refused to allocate resources to conducting the checks, and the state of Nevada lacks the authority to do so on its own. As a result, the law has been deemed “unenforceable,” and will not move forward at this time. (Read more)
President Barack Obama has once again used his executive authority to designate a large swath of western lands off-limits to future development or public use. The Obama administration has been taking criticism after its decision to create the Bears Ears and Gold Butte national monuments — monuments that cover portions of Utah and Nevada. The administration’s self-congratulatory Tweet turned the criticism into mockery after it was learned that the picture they shared was of an entirely different national park. As Senator Orin Hatch (R-UT) pointed out on his Twitter account, “If you're going to take 1.3M acres of Utah land, at least use the right photo.” (Read more)
According to a Clark County Education Association poll, parents believe public schools need more money. But, unsurprisingly, the CCEA never actually informed parents how much the schools already receive in funding. In fact, less than one in 10 respondents to another poll — conducted by EdChoice — could even guess the correct range of tax dollars being spent per year on public schools. When given the current amount of per-student funding, people began to change their mind about whether or not public schools actually “need” more money. (Read more)
When Nevada first became a state, a clause was added into its constitution giving the federal government control over most of its lands, with the understanding that the feds would quickly put the land up for auction. Clearly, that never happened. Since Oct. 31, 1864 — that's right, more than 152 years — Nevada has tried to hold the federal government to its word and regain control of its own backyard. Apparently, trusting Washington D.C. to do anything in a timely manner is far too much to ask. (Read more)
If you want to be a hairdresser in Chicago, Illinois, you will first need to take a class on how to identify potential victims of domestic abuse. And you will have to repeat that class every two years, otherwise the city will revoke your hairdressing license, and put you out of business. It’s just one more example of the ridiculous licensing requirements that plague local governments throughout the nation. In 1950, only one in 20 workers required any sort of government license for their occupation. Today, that number is one in three. Increasingly, Americans have to literally ask their government for permission before earning a living. (Read more)
It’s hard to believe that the end of the year is almost here. Hanukkah begins on Saturday, Christmas day is Sunday and the New Year is just around the corner.
It’s a time of year when many of us try to step back from our day-to-day lives and spend a little time with family and friends. After all, this last year has been extraordinarily busy for most of us — and things aren’t about to slow down in 2017. But for now, we can rest.
The holidays present an opportunity to refocus on the people that are most important to us, and let them know how grateful we are for their love and support.
Which is why, on behalf of the entire staff at the Nevada Policy Research Institute, I would like to thank the Institute’s family of supporters and friends. Your generosity, dedication and enthusiasm for our shared ideals has helped to both preserve and expand liberty and individual freedom during a time of increasingly intrusive government.
I hope that as you celebrate the holidays you will consider renewing your support for the Institute, by making a tax-deductible donation before the end of the year. Such a gift will help ensure that there remains a strong and independent voice for liberty in the Silver State. Please visit NPRI.org to make a donation.
Once again, thank you for helping us keep Nevada prosperous and free.
Merry Christmas and happy holidays!
Sharon J. Rossie
Educational choice — such as Nevada’s Education Savings Accounts — really should not be a partisan issue. Kevin Chavous, a Democrat and former councilman in Washington D.C., understands this more than most politicians after seeing the success of school choice in in his own city. According to Chavous, the people who are generally against school choice, are the ones that already have it. Among parents who have children trapped in underperforming schools, however, the possibility of a better education is overwhelmingly popular. (Read more)
Yet another healthcare provider has decided to leave the Obamacare exchange at the end of the year. Evergreen Health Cooperative’s announcement earlier this month means only five out of the original 23 co-ops will continue to operate in exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act. The massive losses incurred by Evergreen forced the company to abandon the exchanges — despite a $65.5 million taxpayer-funded loan in 2012. (Read more)
Government officials in Colorado, Utah and Nevada have agreed to fully subsidize a series of electric vehicle charging stations — creating a network that would make it possible for electric vehicles to travel the 2,000 miles of highway between Denver, Salt Lake City and Las Vegas. (Read more)
Families of three individuals killed in the Orlando nightclub massacre are suing Facebook, Google and Twitter, claiming that the social media giants did not do enough to censor material that may have contributed to the radicalization of the gunman. The lawsuit even goes so far as to allege that the social media companies provide “material support” and “an infrastructure” to terrorist organizations by not censoring enough content. The lawyer for the case argues that social media companies should essentially be held responsible for the content published by its users. (Read more)
Bald and Golden eagles are among the numerous protected birds that are slaughtered in large numbers by industrial-scale wind energy. While other industries must cope with fines, penalties and even criminal charges for exceeding a permitted number of “acceptable” eagle deaths, renewable energy companies have been virtually licensed to kill the majestic birds. In fact, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has decided to quadruple the number of eagles wind farms will be allowed to kill per year, and has even said it will waive fines and criminal charges for firms that exceed their permitted number of kills. (Read more)
The nation’s largest public pension plan, CalPERS, just adopted a plan to reduce their 7.5 percent assumed rate of return to 7 percent over the next three years.
One board member described the rate reduction as “giving us a chance to be a leader in the nation in responsible pension funding.”
It is a move that the Public Employees’ Retirement System of Nevada (NVPERS) should seek to emulate.
At 8 percent, NVPERS assumed average annual investment return is one of the highest in the nation.
The use of inappropriate investment rates increases the likelihood that future generations will be burdened with the cost of past debt — much like what has already happened to current NVPERS members — while also exposing the fund to potential insolvency.
This is why over 100 countries require pension plans to use discount rates based on bond yields — similar to the approach required for U.S. private pension plans — which results in rates ranging from approximately 3.5 percent to 6 percent.
Even the pension plan at Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway only forecasts a 6.5 percent assumed rate of return on its investments.
In other words, NVPERS investments must outperform Warren Buffett in order to generate sufficient funds to make good on the promises made to retirees.
That’s one risky bet.
Robert Fellner is the director of transparency research at the Nevada Policy Research Institute.
- For a more in-depth discussion of this topic, please click here.
- To review all of NPRI’s analyses of the Nevada PERS situation, visit: http://www.npri.org/issues/detail/pers
The Governor’s Office of Economic Development gave roughly $1.8 million in tax abatements to Amazon.com last month, describing it as part of an “incentive” for the company to place a new fulfillment center in southern Nevada. The problem, however, is that Amazon needed to come to Las Vegas regardless of tax incentives, as it’s a necessary part of the strategy the company had publicly laid out months ago to its shareholders. (Read more)
Faraday Future says it will unveil a prototype of its first production car at the CES 2017 trade show in Las Vegas next month — despite the fact that executives of the company have described it as “running out of cash.” Faraday even had to shut down the construction of its factory north of Las Vegas, despite an agreement from the state that would have allowed for nearly $300 million in tax incentives. According to former executives with the company, the struggling would-be automaker’s first vehicle is expected to be a large electric sedan, with a price tag of $150,000 - $200,000. (Read more)
Fiscal and taxes:
The United States tax code is becoming even more complex. In 2016 the IRS added 7.7 million words of tax regulation to help “clarify” Title 26 of the US Code — which itself stands at almost 75,000 pages. In addition to this massive amount of regulatory language, another 60,000 pages of case law are associated with the code. Is it any wonder that complying with the tax code costs the American economy around $1 trillion annually? (Read more)
President-elect Donald Trump announced Thursday he has selected Rep. Ryan Zinke, R-Mont., a former Navy SEAL, to be the next interior secretary. Zinke has a long track record of leadership and independence. Unfortunately, Zinke is staunchly opposed to the Republican Party’s stated goal of returning federal lands to the states, saying instead all that is needed is “better management.” (Read more)
If parental satisfaction is any indication, traditional assigned-district public schools “may be an endangered species,” according to a new report from Education Next. The report shows that parents, unsurprisingly, are most satisfied with their child’s education when they have a larger say in where their child is educated. The private sector received the highest levels of satisfaction from parents, followed by charter schools and then programs that allow genuine choice within public school districts. (Read more)
Happy Holidays, ESA friends!
For me, during this time of hustle-and-bustle I sometime forget to do things that are on my list. I’m sure you’re probably the same way.
This email is just a gentle whisper to remind everyone who has previously submitted an ESA application to complete their online ESA registration.
So, I thought a little operation called “Hit Submit” might be helpful!
“Hit Submit” — Catchy, right?
Everyone who has completed an ESA application prior to this current registration period — whether in 2015 or 2016, through email, online or in hardcopy — will have to sign-in to the Treasurer’s new ESA portal to verify and/or update their application in the new system.
And I do mean everyone!
Now, not all applications have been entered or transferred into the new online data system, so if you haven’t received a letter yet from the Treasurer’s firstname.lastname@example.org — be sure to check junk and spam folders — don’t fret. They are still moving applications over into the online system.
But here’s a little trick I learned — a way to see if your application has been moved into the new system: Go to the portal’s “forgot password” and enter your email. If your application IS in the new system, it will walk you through creating a new password. On the other hand, if your application ISN’T in the system yet, it will say “Email ID does Not Exist.” This means the Treasurer has not yet transferred your data into the system, so be patient.
Also, if you haven’t received an email from the Treasurer asking you to come to the new site verify the information there, please remember the message from my previous email: Whatever you do, DO NOT REAPPLY! Doing so could impact your eligibility.
Again, everyone who applied for an ESA before this current registration period, including those families who received an acceptance letter, must verify and/or update their applications through the new ESA portal.
Now, for those who’ve been asked to verify their information, let’s walk through the process…
- Go to the Treasurer’s ESA portal and click “Already a Member?”
- Use the same email address the Treasurer contacted you with as your Username.
- If you already have a password, enter it.
- If you do not remember or never had a password to the ESA portal, click on the “Forgot Password” tab and enter your email address. The Treasurer’s office will send you an email with a Link to reset your password.
Once in the portal, on the first page you will create your main dashboard. This is primarily parent information. This will be your dashboard to later access all your children’s accounts.
- Verify that the information is correct. Make any changes that are needed (address, phone etc.…)
- Upload any missing documents, even if you previously supplied them— after all, we are dealing with technology.
- New documentation will be required to be uploaded for all applicants:
- Report cards, letter from school or attendance record to prove 100 days of enrollment if over age seven
- Proof of income
- Parents should mark themselves as a participating entity in order to receive reimbursements for allowable expenses paid up-front.
- If you want to keep your records private, be sure to checkmark the box indicating such.
- Once you’ve updated your page, locate your child’s name in the “Select Student” drop down list and hit “Update ESA Account” to review that child’s application
- Remember, verify the student information as it was at the time of application!
- Do not change the age, grade, etc… to the current status. For example, if your child is a girl and was age 6 when you applied, but is now 7 years old. Make sure she’s marked Female, but leave her age as 6 years old. That’s how old she was on the date you applied.
- After you have gone through each “next” button and have updated all the student information and uploaded your documents, “Hit Submit.” Okay… the button is actually labeled as “complete,” but I was going for effect. “Hit Submit” just sounds so much better!
- If you have missing information, the system will kick you back so you can correct it.
- Repeat the process for each child. If your child is not listed, it is because they are not yet in the system. (Don’t reapply.)
- If you have applied for multiple children and one or more of your children are not listed, don’t panic! It just means the Treasurer has not yet completed transferring their information into the new system. Once again, do not reapply! The Treasurer will get everyone put into the system shortly.
- If you have any other problems, you can submit a ticket to the Help Desk.
And here’s one last tip to help you through the process: set up your account’s main dashboard right now. Then, come back when you can to complete your children’s applications. Don’t wait until you “have time.” Most days, my “time” comes in spurts. I’m sure yours does also. Getting the Dashboard set up will make the whole process easier when you finally have the time to get everything else finalized.
From all of us NevadaESA.com, we want to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and happy, warm and safe holiday season!
Remember, Hit Submit!
Fiscal and taxes:
As Congress tries to wrap up business for 2016, a group of Democrat lawmakers have said they are determined to “use whatever means necessary” to bail out a private union retirement plan with taxpayer dollars. According to four senators, Democrats are willing to block other bills, and grind business at the capitol to a halt, in order to feed taxpayer money into the United Mine Workers of America pension plan. (Read more)
Over the last 20 years, the investments of Nevada Public Employees Retirement System (NVPERS) have grown from $6.5 billion into $35 billion. It’s certainly a remarkable investment record — and it’s highlighted often by the PERS board as proof of the program’s solvency. But this information reveals literally nothing about whether or not the System’s primary objective — fully funding the cost of retirees’ promised benefits — is being met. In the same time frame, the system’s debt exploded from $2.2 billion to more than $12.5 billion — kicking the costs of retired workers up to record-high levels, which current workers are being required to pay. Oblivious to this phenomenon, the PERS chairman recently derided teachers for expressing legitimate concerns about the future of the program — even going so far as to call them “idiots,” saying they “really don’t understand what’s going on.” (Read more)
Socialism is no way to run a country — or a business. Described as “communistic” by a post on its Facebook page, a Michigan restaurant that prided itself on its socialist management has been forced to close. Run as a collective, the restaurant paid all staff an equal wage, banned servers from collecting tips and even let employees collectively determine the establishment’s hours. All this ultimately resulted in poor service, high prices and very unsatisfied customers. (Read more)
A small town in Maryland has voted to block a federally licensed firearms dealer from opening a small home-based business. The town council rejected Michael Wonsala’s request for a zoning change, which would allow him to repair and sell a small number of collectible and historic firearms out of his home. Furthermore, the council says it now plans to update the town code to prohibit gun sales altogether. (Read more)
Proponents of Obamacare have repeatedly bragged that, because of the reform, more than 20 million previously uninsured adults have gained coverage. But it turns out this number is based off a survey, not actual enrollment numbers — and it includes young adults who have decide to remain on their parents’ existing insurance. The real number of newly insured adults is likely several million people less than the “official” numbers touted by Obamacare proponents. (Read more)
Citizens might have heard earlier this year that Tesla Motors sold $20 million of Transferable Tax Credits — gifted to them by the state of Nevada as part of their $1.3 billion incentive package — to MGM Resorts International. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. As it turns out, there’s a serious amount of money to be made by schemes targeting tax credits from local governments — and a $17 million mansion on the north shore of Lake Tahoe is the proof. (Read more)
A small Hispanic church in rural Nevada won a major victory over the federal government Tuesday. Six years ago the U.S. Government’s Fish & Wildlife Service illegally and deliberately diverted a spring-fed stream to which the Solid Rock Ministry in Nye County had long-vested water rights — a move that resulted in massive flooding to the property. On Tuesday, a judge rejected arguments central to the federal government’s defense. (Read more)
The good news is that there is a record number of people — over 152 million — currently employed in the United States. The bad news, however, is that a record 95 million Americans are currently not in the labor market. Some economists claim the increase in non-working adults could be because baby-boomers are deciding to retire. Such a theory, however, runs contrary to a recent trend identified by the Labor Department showing that older Americans are increasingly remaining in the workforce. (Read more)
A man who inherited a house in Normandy from his deceased relative thought he had found treasure when he discovered thousands of gold coins and two gold bars stashed away on the property. However, what he really discovered was just how cruel taxation can be. Upon learning about the find, the French government levied a 45 percent inheritance tax on the gold, along with three years of back taxes because the man’s deceased relative failed to declare the hidden gold. (Read more)
America is known as “the land of the free” — but that title is slowly slipping away. According to the Cato Institute’s new Human Freedom Index, there are 22 other countries more free than America. Hong Kong, Switzerland, New Zealand and Ireland topped the list for individual liberty. On the other end of the list of 157 nations, Saudi Arabia, Zimbabwe, Venezuela and Iran were among the least free. (Read more)