Posted on Friday, 06.13.14
There’s no prosperity without economic freedom
BY JOSE AZEL
The good news is that economic freedom is advancing worldwide. That is
the finding of The Heritage Foundation’s 2014 Index of Economic Freedom,
which covers 186 countries encompassing 99 percent of the world’s
population. In measuring economic freedom, the index analyzes countries’
commitment to the rule of law, principles of limited government,
regulatory efficiency and open markets.
Hong Kong and Singapore lead the rankings as the world’s freest
economies and Cuba and North Korea close the ranks as the most repressed
The bad news is that the United States is on an opposite path as the
only country that has registered a decline in economic freedom for seven
A microcosmic example of the regulatory environment that overawes our
entrepreneurial spirit is playing out in our community, and elsewhere,
as ride-sharing modernizers Lyft and UberX are harassed and persecuted.
These visionary ride-sharing companies match passengers with drivers
using technology in an innovative win-win fashion. But the car-for-hire
industry is not happy with these new competitors confronting their
What we have yet to learn, and the political class ignores, is that
economic success is not our natural birthright. Economic liberty must be
defended. Prosperity cannot survive without economic freedom and the
innovations that it spurs. When was the last time anyone rented a movie
from Blockbuster or bought film from Kodak?
The last two years of the Bush presidency and the first two years of the
Obama presidency marked the largest expansion of state power in the
United States since the 1930s. As a result, the United States continues
to lose ground in economic freedom.
Since 2007, the United States has tumbled from one of the top 10 most
free economies to 12th place. According to the index’s rankings, the
United States is now considered “mostly free.” It has earned the dubious
distinction of being second only to Argentina in recording the longest
sustained decline in economic freedom in the 20-year history of the index.
There is a clear and positive relationship between economic freedom and
the level of prosperity in a given country. As documented by the index,
countries with greater economic freedoms reach higher incomes and better
standards of life, whereas governments that take over their countries’
economies impoverish the citizenry. And yet, the economic and regulatory
policy direction of the United States is fast-tracking the loss of our
economic freedoms with a substantial growth in the size and scope of
Moreover, cronyism and corruption — classic byproducts of the expansive
use of government to manage economic activity — are further eroding
economic freedom. The material-prosperity case for economic freedom is
clear cut. The data show that the free-market system has fueled
unprecedented economic growth around the world.
Over the past two decades, as the global economy has moved toward
greater economic freedom, hundreds of millions of people have been
raised out of poverty.
In our small example, upstarts Lyft and UberX offer not only higher
value for consumers, but also a source of income for the drivers.
The moral case for economic freedom is equally clear cut, albeit less
obvious, thus allowing for a specious case to be made for government
controls. The powerful taxi interests claim that they are defending
public safety in their push against Lyft and UberX. That proposition is
close to an oxymoron.
In an essay accompanying the 2014 Index of Economic Freedom, Professor
John Tomasi of Brown University seeks to make the ethical case for
economic freedom as the most moral of societal arrangements and a
societal good in its own right. By protecting economic freedom, he
argues, we respect others as our moral equals and we assert that
governments must respect citizens as responsible authors of their own
lives. “Diminishing personal agency in economic affairs — no matter how
lofty the social goal — may drain vital blood from a person’s life.”
Speaking for this author of his personal life; I must go now, as my Uber
app just notified me that the driver is here to pick me up.
José Azel is a senior scholar at the Institute for Cuban and
Cuban-American Studies, University of Miami and the author of the book
“Mañana in Cuba.”
Source: There’s no prosperity without economic freedom – Other Views –