For generations, people worldwide who yearn for freedom have looked to the United States. Here, every citizen can speak his mind, pursue his passion, and exercise other God-given liberties that are unjustly denied many others around the globe.
But that doesn’t mean we’re above reproach in all areas of freedom. Take economic freedom, which continues to deteriorate a little more each year.
I’m not basing this on hearsay, or on the latest jobs report. Every year, The Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal release a detailed, country-by-country policy guide known as the Index of Economic Freedom. And the news for the United States has been getting a little worse each year over the last several editions.
In the 2013 Index, the U.S. managed to hold onto its 10th place finish from the year before, despite an overall decline in its score. My last Index column concluded with this sentence: “Or is this our last year as a top-10 finalist in the Index?”
According to the 2014 Index, our 20th anniversary edition, the answer is yes.
The U.S. now stands at No. 12 globally. Even among North America’s economies, we have little to brag about: Canada, 6th globally and one of many that improved last year, has a comfortable lead on us.
As recently as 2008, the U.S. ranked seventh worldwide, had a score of 81 (on a 0-100 scale, with 100 being the freest), and was listed as a “free” economy (a score of at least 80). Today, it has a score of 75.5 and is “mostly free,” the Index’s second-tier economic freedom category.
Before explaining why, let’s explain how the editors of the Index determine the scores. Each country is evaluated in four broad areas of economic freedom:
1) Rule of Law. Are property rights protected through an effective and honest judicial system? How widespread is corruption -- bribery, extortion, graft, and the like?
2) Limited Government. Are taxes high or low? Is government spending kept under control, or is it growing unchecked?
3) Regulatory Efficiency. Are businesses able to operate without burdensome and redundant regulations? Are individuals able to work where and how much they want? Is inflation in check? Are prices stable?
4) Open Markets: Can goods be traded freely? Are there tariffs, quota or other restrictions? Can individuals invest their money where and how they see fit? Is there an open banking environment that encourages competition?
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