The Decline in Global Economic Freedom

After having risen for decades, global economic freedom has fallen for a second year in a row. That’s according to Economic Freedom of the World: 2011 Annual Report co-published today with the Fraser Institute. The average global economic freedom score rose from 5.53 (out of 10) in 1980 to 6.74 in 2007 and has fallen to 6.64 in 2009, the last year for which data is available.

As the graph below shows, the United States has had one of the largest declines in the past decade. It now ranks in 10th place compared to 3rd in 2000, largely due to higher government spending and lower ratings on “rule of law” measures. The report documents the strong, positive relationship between economic freedom and a range of indicators of standard of living including wealth, economic growth, longer life spans, better health care, lower poverty, civil and political liberties, and so on. Economic freedom is central to human progress. As the response of activist governments to financial and ongoing debt crises fails to address underlying issues responsible for low growth and high unemployment, this report is an important empirical reminder about the wide-ranging consequences of politics or markets in determining the use of resources.