Magazine article Reason

Economic Freedom: China Up, U.S. Down

Magazine article Reason

Economic Freedom: China Up, U.S. Down

Article excerpt

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Since 1995 the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C., has put together the Index of Economic Freedom to "track the march of economic freedom around the world." In January, Editor in Chief Matt Welch sat down with economist Jim Roberts, who co-authored the 2012 edition of the survey. They discussed reasons for optimism about China, reasons to worry about the United States, and the general state of economic liberty around the world. For video of the interview, go to reason.tv.

Q: Why did Heritage start putting out the Index of Economic Freedom?

A: Conservatives felt the American public and the world at large didn't have a good grasp on the fundamentals that underlie the great prosperity we've enjoyed in the United States. So to remind people and to advocate for those policies--limited government, low taxes, strong rule of law, light regulation, and open markets--Heritage started the Index.

Q: Have the last few years been bad for economic freedom?

A: They haven't been great, although we had a little bit of an uptick last year. This year again it's gone down for the world. There are some bright spots in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. But the bad news for America is that for the third year in a row, there's been a precipitous drop in economic freedom in the United States. Economic freedom peaked about seven or eight years ago in the U.S. and has been dropping since then.

Q: What are you measuring in the United States that is dropping?

A: Government spending's score has just gone through the roof. The Keynesian stimulus has failed but has left us heavily indebted, and this administration ([like] the prior one) [is] spending too much money and not getting enough as a result, taking money out of the economy that could be better used for private-sector investment. …

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