Sunday, November 7, 2010

Economic Freedom of the World: 2010 Annual Report

The foundations of economic freedom are personal choice, voluntary exchange, and open markets. As Adam Smith, Milton Friedman, and Friedrich Hayek have stressed, freedom of exchange and market coordination provide the fuel for economic progress. Without exchange and entrepreneurial activity coordinated through markets, modern living standards would be impossible.

Potentially advantageous exchanges do not always occur. Their realization is dependent on the presence of sound money, rule of law, and security of property rights, among other factors. Economic Freedom of the World seeks to measure the consistency of the institutions and policies of various countries with voluntary exchange and the other dimensions of economic freedom. The report is copublished by the Cato Institute, the Fraser Institute in Canada and more than 70 think tanks around the world.

View an interactive map of economic freedom

This year's report notes that economic freedom suffered its first setback in decades. The average economic freedom score rose from 5.55 (out of 10) in 1980 to 6.70 in 2007, but fell back to 6.67 in 2008, the most recent year for which data are available. Of the 123 countries with chain-linked ratings in 2007 and 2008, 88 exhibited rating decreases and only 35 recorded rating increases. In this year’s index, Hong Kong retains the highest rating for economic freedom, 9.05 out of 10, followed by Singapore, New Zealand, Switzerland, Chile, the United States, Canada, Australia, Mauritius, and the United Kingdom.

This year's report also contains new research showing the impact of economic freedom on unemployment rates and homicides. According to Horst Feldmann, more economic freedom appears to reduce joblessness, and the magnitude of the effect seems to be substantial, especially among young people. Edward Peter Stringham and John Levendis examine the effect of economic freedom on rates of homicide in Venezuela, Colombia, South Africa, Latvia, and Lithuania. The results suggest that increases in economic freedom lead to decreases in homicides.

The first Economic Freedom of the World Report, published in 1996, was the result of a decade of research by a team which included several Nobel Laureates and over 60 other leading scholars in a broad range of fields, from economics to political science, and from law to philosophy. This is the 14th edition of Economic Freedom of the World and this year's publication ranks 141 nations for 2008, the most recent year for which data are available.