America: Land of the (mostly) free

Victor Joecks

That’s what the Heritage Foundation concludes in its 2010 Index of Economic Freedom. For the first time, the United States has dropped from the “free” to “mostly free” category.

The Index analyzes just how economically “free” a country is, and this year America saw a steep and significant decline, enough to make it drop altogether from the “free” category, the first time this has happened in the 16 years we’ve been publishing these indexes. The United States dropped to “mostly free.”

The drop in rankings is notable as it comes in the same week that marks the one-year anniversary of President Barack Obama’s inauguration. By any standard, over the last year Americans’ overall wealth and prosperity has continued to decline. Americans, in fact, are more likely than ever to believe that their children and grandchildren will be worse off than the current generation. They believe future generations will live in a less prosperous and less economically mobile America. The traditional American faith in upward economic mobility – widely understood to be the American Dream – seems more elusive now than ever.

The most embarrassing part about this is that Canada is more economically free than the United States. And economic freedom is very important in many areas of life.

Economic freedom is the fundamental right of every human to control his or her own labor and property. In an economically free society, individuals are free to work, produce, consume, and invest in any way they please, with that freedom both protected by the state and unconstrained by the state. In economically free societies, governments allow labor, capital and goods to move freely, and refrain from coercion or constraint of liberty beyond the extent necessary to protect and maintain liberty itself…

Studies in this and previous editions of the Index of Economic Freedom demonstrate important relationships between economic freedom and positive social and economic values such as per capita income, economic growth rates, human development, democracy, the elimination of poverty, and environmental protection. For further information, see especially the Executive Highlights and Chapter 2: Fifteen Years of Advancing Freedom

See the world map of economic freedom here.