This week the Wall Street Journal and Heritage Foundation jointly released the 2010 Index of Economic Freedom which measures ten components of economic freedom – from business freedom to trade freedom to monetary and investment freedom, emerging with an index for each country. As was expected, Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand top the chart with ratings in the mid to high 80s. What is always sobering about the figures, however, are the countries that consistently wallow near the bottom: Iran, Democratic Republic of Congo, Libya, Burma, Venezuela, Eritrea, Cuba, Zimbabwe and North Korea – all take up the last ten places. It is no accident that the least politically free countries on earth are also the least economically advanced.
As the Wall Street Journal eloquently stated in an editorial yesterday, the dignity of a human being in our modern world is very much dependent on his ability to control his own destiny. That is tied to the dominion he is able to exert over his property and his livelihood. The 20th Century exampled disastrous experiments in controlled economies which did not allow for the kind of individualism which spurs economic growth. The remnants of those failed experiments can now be viewed in the catastrophic economies of places such as Cuba, Burma and Zimbabawe.
And less you feel that the economic volcano that is China offers a rebuttal to the argument, note that it sits in a middling 135th position on the list, with an index just over 50. No one should be surprised that this burgeoning economy will eventually feel increasing pressure from its prosperous citizens who will demand more control over their private property and more say in how government regulates their lives. It is an inevitable consequence of strong economic growth, reflected as long as ago as July,1789 when the French middle class demanded and took for themselves exactly the same power at the beginning of the French Revolution.