America: Land of the “Mostly” Free

Michael Schaus
Posted: Jul 04, 2014 12:01 AM
America: Land of the “Mostly” Free

America. Home of the brave, and land of the “mostly” free. At least that’s the takeaway from the recent Index of Economic Freedom. For twenty years the Heritage Foundation has ranked the economic freedom of nations across the globe, and America has been slipping from the top. While much of the rest of the world has dedicated itself to ensuring greater economic liberty, America has apparently been dedicated to shackling herself with an increasingly complicated web of regulations, taxes, and government interference.

According to the Index of Economic Freedom, the land of the “mostly” free now ranks number twelve in the world. Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia and even socialist Canada have more financial freedom in their markets than the good old United States. Heck, even Estonia out ranked Obama’s America. And, yes… Obama is relevant to this conversation.

While number 12 is not bad out of a list of 178 (North Korea unsurprisingly came in dead last), it’s the trajectory of America’s ranking that is worrisome. For seven straight years, America has declined in rankings; and it’s not too difficult to see why. (Strangely, this seven year decline coincides roughly with Democrats gaining control of the US Senate. But that’s probably just coincidence. Right?)

The Index is put together using a variety of metrics to judge overall economic freedom. Among these metrics are considerations such as government debt, taxes, amount of government regulations, and property rights. On all of these points America’s adoption of Obamanomics has exacerbated the problem. Even if taxes were increased to 43 percent (did you just hear Grover Norquist have a heart attack?), the government would be unable to rake in enough revenue to finance our current spending habits. Let’s face it: America’s government spends money like a drunken sailor… with someone else’s credit card.

The most worrisome trend, however, has been America’s deterioration of personal property rights. That innocuous one-sentence-amendment legalizing the income-tax has done more to damage America’s economic freedom in the last century than any other single piece of legislation. Not because it perpetuated the funding mechanism necessary for increased wealth redistribution (although, it did), but because it gave the government the right to determine how much of your personal property it can claim as communal property. Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN) made headlines in early 2013 for suggesting that “America’s not broke” because government could still take more of the money that is sitting in the pockets of the wealthy.

Without personal property rights, what is left upon which we can claim our independence from government? No wonder our economic freedom has slipped in recent decades. With the ever expanding executive branch, and the increasingly irrelevant nature of the Constitution, it’s surprising we still rank in the top twenty.

The biggest winners on the Index of Economic Freedom have traditionally been nations that have abandoned communism and socialism in favor of becoming “capitalistic pigs”. The former states of the Soviet Union – such as Estonia, Lithuania, and the Czech Republic – have climbed substantially in recent years. With increased economic freedom, they have seen a decrease in poverty rates, and a noticeable increase in economic mobility.

After all, it is the ability to climb the economic ladder that made capitalistic nations the most productive and luxurious in history. Compared to the age of despots, monarchs and empires, constitutional democratic freedom has liberated more world citizens from the shackles of poverty than any other system known to man. And it did not do so accidently. The right to claim property as one’s own, and the freedom to do with it as one wishes, is the corner stone to personal financial freedom… And ultimately wealth. Economic freedom is the corner stone of individual liberty. It is the foundation upon which wealth is established, and economic mobility is ensured.

While Obama campaigns against “income inequality”, he is willfully ignorant of the fact that his brand of statism has injured America’s ability to produce prosperity. After all, it’s difficult to create a career, or build substantial savings, when your employer cuts your hours to avoid Obamacare fines. It’s difficult to build your wealth, when you are forced to comply with 74,000 pages of IRS regulations. It’s difficult to build up a business when the White House refuses to implement the law of the land with any degree of predictability. And few nations can build widespread prosperity when its citizens are working to finance a 16 trillion dollar national debt.

The global economy has expanded by nearly 70 percent in the last twenty years. Overall economic freedom has increased in conjunction. Even mediocre minds, with objective analysis, should be able to identify a correlating relationship between freedom and prosperity. For being a nation that prides itself on a history of liberty and freedom, America should be embarrassed to not top the world in economic opportunity.