United States Downgraded Again by Economic Freedom Index

Mark Skousen

Named one of the "Top 20 Living Economists," Dr. Skousen is a professional economist, investment expert, university professor, and author of more than 25 books.

The Fraser Institute’s 2012 Economic Freedom Index was just released last week. The index is compiled by Florida State University Professor Jim Gwartner and other top free-market economists. It ranks 120 countries by five criteria: size of government, legal system, sound money, free trade and regulation.

The latest index paints a negative picture of the United States. Although the data is updated only to 2010, the United States continued its decline in the rankings. Hong Kong and Singapore are still first and second in economic freedom, but the United States has now fallen to 18th. Ten years ago, the United States was #3. But as a result of the Bush and Obama years in the White House, the United States has fallen off of the top-ten list of the world’s freest countries. Even Canada, Finland and Chile are ranked higher than the United States.

Guess what country is ranked the worst of 120 nations covered in the report? Venezuela! That country just elected the man who put them in that bottom-dwelling position: Hugo Chavez. He won for the fourth time, and will be around for another six years, assuming he lives — wrecking economic havoc on the fourth-wealthiest nation in South America. It is a sad commentary for the country to allow this Marxist tyrant to run this natural resource-rich nation into the ground. No doubt the election last week was rigged against the opposition. According to Mary O’Grady in The Wall Street Journal, many Venezuelans were afraid to vote against Chavez because there’s no secret ballot there.

Imagine living in the country that does not offer you the chance to vote your conscience with a secret ballot, that uses intimidation and fear as weapons against its own people, and that continues to be weakened economically by the unwise policies of a corruptly elected leader. America may not be perfect but there is a reason why people from around the world sacrifice to come here. They clearly want freedom.

The United States needs to ensure that the freedom that has attracted so many newcomers never is lost by adopting ill-advised policies and laws that erode that strength. The institute’s latest index rankings should serve as a warning that economic freedom is worth defending.

You Blew It! Christopher Hichens was No Saint

Alex Green, a long-time friend and respected investment writer, recently applauded the life of the infamous atheist Christopher Hitchens in a column ironically called http://spiritualwealth.com. Alex recalls meeting and hearing Hitchens at FreedomFest (www.freedomfest.com) in 2010, when the atheist debated Dinesh D’Souza on religion (D’Souza won the debate 55% to 45%). Alex remembers Hitchens as witty, literary, and “the finest talker of our own era.”

I see Hitchens differently. In my view, Hitchens was one of those tragic figures who wasted his special talents, his mellifluous voice and felicity of expression to destroy rather than to build a good society.

Should reasonable people sing the praises of a workaholic cynic who celebrated heavy smoking and drinking? Indeed, Hitchens touted smoking and alcohol use as virtues in essays and features that he wrote for Vanity Fair magazine. Should we commend a writer who denigrated a great saint like Mother Teresa in a sacrilege entitled, “The Missionary Position,” or his bestseller “God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything,” a work that ignored the contributions that Christianity has made in establishing the great universities, hospitals, and assistance for the poor, the suffering, and the needy? Should we salute a man who defended the Bush Doctrine and the Iraq War? Or should we praise a man who admired Lenin, Trotsky, and Che Guevera, and called himself a Marxist to his dying day?

Should we extend all of those accolades because he was a clever writer, debater and raconteur?

Yours for peace, prosperity and liberty, AEIOU,

Mark Skousen

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