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Cato Institute says freedom is on the rise. Yes, really

The Cato Institute’s invaluable index of liberty, compiled along with another free-market think tank, the Fraser Institute, says that liberty, as measured across a variety of fronts, is advancing. It uses a sort of numeric to calculate the overall impact of government rules, and puts Hong Kong at the top, with Ireland and Britain tied at sixth place:

Nations that have made substantial gains in economic freedom since 1985 are Hungary, Iceland, El Salvador, Zambia, Poland, Bolivia, Israel, Ghana, Uganda, Peru, and Nicaragua. Nations that have registered significant losses in economic freedom since 1985 are Myanmar, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe. The bottom ten nations were the Central African Republic, Rwanda, Burundi, Algeria, Guinea-Bissau, Venezuela, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo, Myanmar, and Zimbabwe.

Of course, libertarians would argue that the right to dispose of one’s labour and property is indivisible from other non-economic liberties, which is why I tend to view such exercises as having indicative value only. A country like Singapore, for example, ranks high on the charts for entrepreneurship but operates an-often stifling regulatory regime on personal behaviours, while other countries may allow more freedom in things like drugs, porn or gambling but also have weightier taxes and regulations on activities such as saving and investment.

Even so, it is pretty clear, as the Cato press release states, that places that are economically free and open to entrepreneurial vigor tend to be richer, and also nicer, places to live, while those that seek to freeze the economic status quo are also not just poorer, but tend also to be less pleasant, less tolerant towards minorities, harsher towards women, and generally crappier in the quality-of-life stakes.

Benjamin Friedman, hardly a fire-breathing free marketeer, also points out that wealth begets niceness in his recent book.

4 comments to Cato Institute says freedom is on the rise. Yes, really

  • Your summation is reinforced over here in the east, where the economic progress on the part of the populace has definitely, despite anything read in the western press, increased personal freedom. Plus we have free speech over here – something now rationed in Britain and America [although many don’t yet realize the trend].

  • The Wobbly Guy

    There’re times to be glad of the enforced lack of liberty, or rather, the harsh rule of law. Singapore is hosting the IMF-World Bank conference, and I’m going to pity any anarchist, commie, or useful idiot who tries to hold any form of demonstration here.

    A demeaning strip search, perhaps a caning or two, should be an invaluable lesson for those fools.

  • ResidentAlien

    Would you be so happy if Singapore strip searched and caned people calling for free trade and globalisation?

    It’s always dangerous to allow governments that sort of power.

  • Paul Marks

    One nation where there is less freedom than there was in 1985 (whatever Cato people may say) is Britian.

    Not only is taxation higher (as long as we do not pretend that “tax credits” are “negative taxation” as Mr Brown does) and government spending wildly higher (especially if we include, as we should, “tax credits” and “have now, pay later” P.F.I. projects) but regulation is much greater.

    The rot really set in 1986 – not just with the “Single European Act” which allowed the E.U. to impose endless regulations on domestic affairs in Britian (in the name of the “single market” – the regulations came slowly at first, but then there was a flood which is still continuing), but there were specific British measures as well – such as the Public Order Act of 1986 (which has been used in recent years as a cover for censorship – and not just of placards, even handing out leaflets has been hit, if the leaflet can be held to be “offensive” to some group).

    Of course things got much worse (in tax, spending and regulations) after the coup against Mrs Thatcher in 1990 (and it was a coup – as most Conservative party members and even M.P.s supported the lady, Mrs T. was destroyed by a media campaign and clever manipulation of Conservative party rules). and worse again under the Labour government that took over in 1997.