Walter E. Williams

If you're looking for a map of world poverty, check out the "2007 Index of Economic Freedom" jointly published by the Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal. You might think that's a strangely titled source for a poverty map.

The 13th edition of the "Index of Economic Freedom" examines 10 economic characteristics of 157 countries. Among those characteristics are property rights, monetary stability, and freedom from government, trade restrictions, business regulations and government corruption. Using these measures of economic freedom, countries are ranked.

Hong Kong and Singapore, as they have for 13 years, rank as the world's two economically freest countries, with freedom scores of 89 and 86 percent free. Rounding out the top 10 most free economies are Australia (83), United States (82), New Zealand (82), United Kingdom (82), Ireland (81), Luxembourg (79), Switzerland (79) and Canada (79).

At the other end of the list are the least free countries. Ranking 157th, North Korea, with a freedom score of 3 percent, is the world's least free country. Ranking 156th is Cuba, 30 percent free, and in ascending order are: Libya (34) Zimbabwe (36), Burma (40), Turkmenistan (42), Congo (43), Iran (43), Angola (43), and Guinea-Bassau (45).

The "2007 Index of Economic Freedom" displays a color-coded map showing countries that are free, mostly free, moderately free, mostly unfree and repressed. Guess where one finds the world's most miserably poor people? If you guessed the mostly unfree and repressed countries, you guessed correctly.

Some people claim that some countries are rich because of abundant natural resources. That's nonsense! Africa and South America are probably the richest continents in natural resources, but are home to some of the world's poorest people. By contrast, countries like England, Japan and Hong Kong are poor in natural resources, but their people are among the world's wealthiest. Hong Kong even has to import its food and water. Some people use the history of colonialism as an excuse for poverty. That's also nonsense. The United States was a colony. So were Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong, but they're rich countries.


Walter E. Williams

Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of 'Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?' and 'Up from the Projects: An Autobiography.'
 
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