Eric Siegmund notes that the US is slipping in the rankings of world economic freedom. The US is currently #12 in the annual rankings of economic freedom compiled by the Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal. The entire list can be found here.
It’s interesting to see how many European counties such as Ireland and the United Kingdom actually outperform the US in terms of economic freedom. Ireland in particular has been one of the biggest success stories in the EU, with a per-capita GDP that’s 122% of the EU average. In some ways, EU membership is a major economic boon for member countries — in order to join the EU, member states must make a commitment to fiscal discipline and free trade. However, the EU as a whole is not remotely competitive with the EU, and core EU states like France and Germany are only considered mostly free in the rankings.
Economic freedom is only one aspect of freedom and societal health, but it’s important that the United States continue to expand rather than contract economic freedom for its citizens. There is a direct link between economic freedom and wealth — free economies tend not to be poor and even poor economies can get better by promoting freedom — which is why the former Soviet republic of Estonia has a vibrant economy and competes handily with other EU nations while other former Soviet republics like Belarus and Georgia lag behind in both economic and political freedom.
A more holistic report on both economic and political freedoms would likely change the rankings dramatically — neither Singapore nor Hong Kong have the level of political freedom that the US has. However, when considering actions that would enact new barriers to trade or raise levels of taxation, it is important to remember that correlation between economic freedom and quality of life.