Last year, U.S. government expenditures equaled 36.6 percent of gross domestic product. Thus, the U.S. rates 59.81 in the Index’s rankings for size of government; that’s fully 35 points behind Hong Kong, the most economically free nation in the world. Despite the severity of the problem, excessive spending has long been a concern limited mostly to political junkies and economists. No more. In an increasingly global and competitive economy, the U.S. must reduce its spending in order to limit public debt and foster private enterprise.
The Index confirms what many enterprising individuals have long known: America is a great place to do business. Accordingly, the U.S. received a 91.7 rating for business freedom. These high scores result, in part, from the fact that business owners are largely free to launch, maintain and close businesses with impunity. Across the globe, it takes an average of 43 days to start a new business. By contrast, one needs an average of only six days to start a business in the U.S.
A strong rating for labor freedom also contributed to the U.S.’s high business climate score, as flexible, market-driven employment policies bolster expansion, output and employment opportunities.
What’s It All Mean?
The Index’s overall rankings place the U.S. as the fifth-most economically free nation in the world. Clearly, this is a good thing. But, as Thomas Jefferson put it, “the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.”
One way we can remain vigilant in the protection of our economic freedom is to support the extension of the Bush tax cuts. Indeed, my friend Ed Feulner, president of the Heritage Foundation, has noted that if the Bush tax cuts are allowed to expire in 2010, the U.S. will almost certainly fall from its position among the five most economically free nations in the world.
Ultimately, true economic freedom stands in stark contrast to the populist instinct to encourage government meddling in the economy. In light of this, our duty this political season is clear: We must demand nothing less from our candidates than full support for true economic freedom for all Americans.
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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