This week we’re examining the concept and practice of “freedom.” Yesterday we introduced the topic with the religious freedoms inherent in the major religious holidays observed this week. (Scroll down to read more on that.)
Today, let’s examine “economic freedom” – considered by many to be essential to a thriving democracy and economy.
Just what does “economic freedom” mean? One take is the Index of Economic Freedom, compiled by the Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal. They define it this way: “The highest form of economic freedom provides an absolute right of property ownership, fully realized freedoms of movement for labor, capital, and goods, and an absolute absence of coercion or constraint of economic liberty beyond the extent necessary for citizens to protect and maintain liberty itself.”
The index includes measures of ten economic freedoms: business freedom, trade freedom, monetary freedom, government size, fiscal freedom, property rights, investment freedom, financial freedom, and freedom of corruption.
Take a look at the color-coded map. Here’s the key: Blue is Free, Green is Mostly Free, Yellow is Moderately Free, Orange is Mostly Not Free, Red is Not Free, Grey is ungraded.
You’ll see that the United States is among the few nations rated as truly free. Most of Europe, in contrast, is not among the freest – at least according to this definition.
Now, the free-market United States finds itself cited at the G20 London Summit as the chief reason for our global economic catastrophe.
Is it time to bury the free market?
The agreement reached by the G20 took steps to curb it, including regulation and oversight of all banks, all financial markets, and all financial instructions. For the first time, hedge funds will be regulated, taming this incarnation of the financial Wild West.
What do you think?
Are you willing to give up economic freedoms to reduce the chances of another global economic disaster? Do you think that democracy needs markets to be free?
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