America has slipped one spot since last year — from earth’s eighth-freest economy in 2010, according to the 2011 Index of Economic Freedom. This 17th annual report, jointly published by the Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal, sifts through the wreckage caused by government’s turbocharged acceleration during the Bush-Obama years. America’s slump in the rankings (we’re down from No. 5 in 2008) confirms the urgent need for Washington to revitalize free markets and restrain government intervention.
Among the 179 countries examined in the Index, Hong Kong is ranked first, followed by Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, Canada, Ireland, and Denmark. These nations all outscored the U.S. across ten categories, including taxes, free trade, regulation, monetary policy, and corruption.
America barely made the top ten. Bahrain was tenth, with 77.7 points, one decimal point behind America’s 77.8 score. Chile reached No. 11 with 77.4, just 0.4 points behind the United States.
Even worse, with a score below 80, the U.S. is spending its second year as a “mostly free” economy. As it departed the family of “free” nations in 2010, it led the “mostly free” category. Even within this less-than-illustrious group, America now lags behind Ireland and Denmark.
How did our once-unassailable country wind up so winded?
“The national government’s role in the economy has expanded sharply in the past two years, and the federal budget deficit is extremely large, with gross public debt approaching 100 percent of GDP,” explain the Index’s authors, Terry Miller and Kim R. Holmes. “Interventionist responses to the economic slowdown have eroded economic freedom and long-term competitiveness. Drastic legislative changes in health care and financial regulations have retarded job creation and injected substantial uncertainty into business investment planning.”