Populism is all the rage these days. This election season we’ve heard it from both sides of the aisle, most despicably from a Democrat, John Edwards, and most dishearteningly from a Republican, Mike Huckabee. As the campaign has moved beyond the early voting states, these candidates have slipped from the public view. I fear, however, that their populist rhetoric—not to mention policies—may be here to stay.
More than at any time in recent memory, troubled citizens want the government to address their most basic problems. Whether it’s healthcare, the economy or the mortgage crisis the common thought process seems as follows: “I have a problem. What is the government going to do about it?”
This is a dangerous, if slightly understandable impulse—and it is one that Washington does nothing to curb. Consider, for example, that Washington’s response to the current economic slowdown consists largely of tax rebates despite the fact that supply-side tax cuts would do more to stimulate the economy by incentivizing work and investment in a way that a check-in-the-mailbox never will. But a rebate, of course, reinforces the notion that government gives and takes as it pleases, and that it can and will cater to the needs of its increasingly dependent citizens.
That brings us to the newly-released Index of Economic Freedom, a joint venture of the Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal. Since 1995, the Index has measured 10 different categories of economic freedom in nearly every country in the world and compared those results on a global scale.
For Americans, the results of the Index are especially important this year. They serve as a barometer, a scorecard in the on-going battle between tax and regulation-heavy populism, and free market capitalism.
The United States scored 80 out of 100 in the Index’s category of investment freedom, tied with four other nations in second place. According to the Index, the U.S. received points because it does not require foreign investors to register with the federal government, nor does it restrict the purchase of real estate on a national level. The U.S. lost points, however, because of its restrictions on foreign investment in banking, mining, defense contracting, certain energy-related industries, fishing, shipping, communications and aviation. While the U.S. allows for relatively free investment, it should move to ease some of these restrictions in order to expand investment opportunities.
Doug Wilson is the the co-author, with Edwin Feulner, of Getting America Right: The True Conservative Values Our Nation Needs Today.
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