NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Less Restrictive Economies Healthier And Stronger

July 17, 1997

A recently published annual report tracking degrees of economic freedom of 115 countries show that less restricted economies are much stronger, healthier and produce significantly higher standards of living than those that are heavily regulated.

The report, "Economic Freedom of the World: 1997," written by professors James Gwartney of Florida State University and Robert Lawson of Capital University, rates economic freedom on a scale of zero to 10, with the freest being a 10:

  • Economic freedom refers to the right of individuals to choose how they engage business, keep what they earn, decide what they will purchase and the extent to which private property rights are protected.
  • Hong Kong is the world's freest economy, earning a 9.3, followed by Singapore at 8.3.
  • The United States came in fourth place, just behind New Zealand and ahead of Mauritius, a tiny island-nation off the coast of Africa.

The differences in output and standards of living between the freest and most restricted economies are significant. The report divided the 115 countries into 5 groups:

  • The 23 freest countries had an average per capita gross domestic product (GDP) of $14,829, followed by the next highest group with $12,369.
  • The average per capita GDP for the group with the least free economies was only $2,541.
  • The freest economies grew at 2.9 percent.
  • The least free economies experienced negative growth rates.

Walter Williams (syndicated columnist), "Economic Freedom the Key to Progress," Washington Times, July 17, 1997.


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