On Friday at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC, I attended the release event of their 2019 Index of Economic Freedom. Heritage, the nation’s preeminent conservative think tank, has been publishing its Index for 25 years.

The authors surveyed 180 countries, looking at things like tax burden, property rights, trade freedom, and regulatory efficiency.  They then assigned a score from 0-100. The average score is 60.8, which they say is the third-highest level in the 25 years of making their Index.

Let’s start with the bottom five countries:

  • Republic of Congo (39.7)
  • Eritrea (38.9)
  • Cuba (27.8)
  • Venezuela (25.9)
  • North Korea (5.9)

It’s probably easy to guess the bottom three, and very timely in the midst of the economic turmoil and widespread citizen revolt in Maduro’s Venezuela. It’s also a continued stinging rebuke to the Bernie Sanders’ and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s of the world who peddle their sanitized version of socialism; the “Socialism WILL work if you just do it THIS way” crowd. Sadly, I don’t think the Heritage Index will sway their “Democratic Socialist” minds.

The top ten are as follows:

  • Hong Kong (90.2)
  • Singapore (89.4)
  • New Zealand (84.4)
  • Switzerland (81.9)
  • Australia (80.9)
  • Ireland (80.5)
  • United Kingdom (78.9)
  • Canada (77.7)
  • United Arab Emirates (77.6)
  • Taiwan (77.3)

The United States just missed the top ten, coming in 12th with a score of 76.8.  This is up six places from 2018, and every speaker at the release event credited President Trump with the increase.  They noted the nation’s low unemployment rate and the Administration’s dialing back and the outright elimination of regulatory burdens. They reminded the audience that when governments do less, companies do more, and that there’s no economic challenge that can’t be solved with free market solutions.

Some of the main findings in the Index include:

  • Citizens of “free” or “mostly free” countries enjoy incomes that are more than double the global average and more than six times higher than “repressed” economies.

  • The link between improvements in economic freedoms and economic growth is robust; expanded economic freedom has contributed to a doubling of world GDP in the years since the Index debuted in 1995.

  • People in economically free societies live longer, enjoy better health, can access higher-quality “social goods” such as education, and have the resources to become better stewards of the environment.

  • Greater economic freedom also correlates with more effective democratic governance and stronger rule of law.

The Index is an easy and fascinating read, filled with colorful charts and graphics. It also has a “Background” section on each of the countries, reminiscent of the World Almanac.  I learned things like that in April of last year, Swaziland was renamed Eswatini, there is a country also in Africa called Comoros, and Kazakhstan is the largest producer of uranium in the world.

To read the 2019 Index of Economic Freedom, download it free here.

The webcast of the release event is below:

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