America is no longer in the Top Ten for economic freedom

The Wall Street Journal brings word of Barack Obama’s latest triumph:

World economic freedom has reached record levels, according to the 2014 Index of Economic Freedom, released Tuesday by the Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal. But after seven straight years of decline, the U.S. has dropped out of the top 10 most economically free countries.

For 20 years, the index has measured a nation’s commitment to free enterprise on a scale of 0 to 100 by evaluating 10 categories, including fiscal soundness, government size and property rights. These commitments have powerful effects: Countries achieving higher levels of economic freedom consistently and measurably outperform others in economic growth, long-term prosperity and social progress. Botswana, for example, has made gains through low tax rates and political stability.

Those losing freedom, on the other hand, risk economic stagnation, high unemployment and deteriorating social conditions. For instance, heavy-handed government intervention in Brazil’s economy continues to limit mobility and fuel a sense of injustice.

America is actually Number 12 this year, right after Estonia and just ahead of Bahrain.  The big winners on the list – the only countries considered truly “economically free” – are Singapore, Australia, Switzerland, New Zealand, and Canada.  Most of Europe is said to be moving in the direction of freedom, except for the real basket cases like Greece, Italy, France, Cyprus, and (gulp) the United Kingdom.

As the Journal points out, the loss of economic freedom is not only bad news for Americans – who remain trapped in a hyper-regulated economy with double-digit employment, dominated by a President who expects us to believe his rhetoric about “recovery” instead of our lying eyes, and a Ruling Class that cordially invites us to hate each other instead of pestering them for more liberty.  We’re also failing to provide the leadership the rest of the world needs to move in the direction of freedom.

We’re on a long and painful course to discovering that without economic liberty, other freedoms become abstract exercises.  Time is money, as they say, and the reverse is also true: the money our government seizes and controls equates to time, to freedom, that we are not able to spend as we wish.  Overbearing government would be morally offensive, even if it could provide good results… and it clearly doesn’t.  But its failures are not punished as swiftly as the private sector punishes failed business models.  Even when a moment of electoral judgment rolls around every couple of years, there is no guarantee that the Ruling Class will suffer in any meaningful way for what it has done wrong .  A lot of what government does is beyond the reach of voters anyway.  We occasionally get to vote for the people who establish eternal bureaucracies we will never have a chance to vote against.

Things can be a bit rough-and-tumble in a free economy… precisely because freedom grants individuals the power to walk away from bad deals.  Everything abusive we are meant to hate about mega-corporations is standard procedure for government – from price-fixing to anti-competitive regulations.  It’s unfortunate, and sometimes baffling, that people will so willingly surrender the freedom they demand from a marketplace free of scam operations and monopolies, simply because the people demanding their freedom won an election.  How little we have come to value the votes we cast a hundred times a day with dollar bills!