John Stossel

The good news, says Gwartney, is that economic freedom is increasing. "The average rating of the 99 countries for which data are available continuously since 1980 has increased from 5.5 in 1985 to 6.6 in 2005," he says. "The primary factors underlying this increase are lower top marginal tax rates, more stable monetary policy, lower tariffs and less regulation of international trade and some relaxation of restrictions on the movement of capital."

Gwartney's data also show the relationship between economic freedom and income. As countries get freer, per capita GDP rises. The least-free nations have a per-capita GDP of about $3,300. The next group up the freedom ladder has a per capita GDP of about $6,100; the next, $10,773. The freest group of nations comes in at more than $26,000.

Gwartney's data show that it's better to be poor in a more-free country than in a less-free country. In the freest countries, the poorest 10 percent earn on average more than $7,300 a year versus $905 in the least free countries. And, of course, in a free society, people often move out of the poorest groups.

Finally, the study also finds a strong correlation between economic freedom and environmental quality.

It is beyond dispute. Economic freedom leads to good things, while government coercion leads to poverty and oppression.

It's stunning that some people still find the free market controversial.

John Stossel

John Stossel is host of "Stossel" on the Fox Business Network. He's the author of "No They Can't: Why Government Fails, but Individuals Succeed." To find out more about John Stossel, visit his site at > To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at ©Creators Syndicate