Wednesday, February 13, 2008

We're #5! We're #5! We're #5!

In the WSJ, Mary Anastasia O'Grady replicates the 14th edition of the Index of Economic Freedom (researched and produced by the WSJ and the Heritage Foundation)-- and discusses the connection between economic freedom, productivity and prosperity...


Are the world's impoverished masses destined to live lives of permanent misery unless rich countries transfer wealth for spending on education and infrastructure?

You might think so if your gurus on development economics earn their bread and butter "lending" at the World Bank. Education and infrastructure "investment" are two of the Bank's favorite development themes.

Yet the evidence is piling up that neither government nor multilateral spending on education and infrastructure are key to development. To move out of poverty, countries instead need fast growth; and to get that they need to unleash the animal spirits of entrepreneurs.

Empirical support for this view is presented again this year in The Heritage Foundation/The Wall Street Journal Index of Economic Freedom, released today. In its 14th edition, the annual survey grades countries on a combination of factors including property rights protection, tax rates, government intervention in the economy, monetary, fiscal and trade policy, and business freedom.

The nearby table shows the 2008 rankings but doesn't tell the whole story. The Index also reports that the freest 20% of the world's economies have twice the per capita income of those in the second quintile and five times that of the least-free 20%. In other words, freedom and prosperity are highly correlated.

The 2008 Index finds that while global economic liberty did not expand this year, it also did not contract. The average freedom score for the 157 countries ranked is nearly the same as last year, which was the second highest since the Index's inception. This is somewhat of an achievement considering the rising protectionist and anti-immigration sentiment in the U.S., the uncertainty created by spiking global energy prices, Al Gore's highly effective fear mongering about global warming, and the continuing threat of the Islamic jihad....

Although overall global economic liberty did not expand, there were a few stars. Egypt was the most improved economy in the world, implementing major changes to its tax policies and business regulation environment and jumping to number 85 from 127th place last year. Mauritius was the second-best performer, moving into the top 20 from No. 34 last year. Trade liberalization and improved fiscal policies, including a flat tax, made Mongolia the third-best performer, and put it in the category of "moderately free" economies....

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