What Are the Most Economically Free Nations?

KristinaW

Member
What does freedom mean as it pertains to economics? Well, ask yourself these questions: Am I in control of my finances? Can I buy what I want to buy? Am I free to make money? As much or as little money as I want? Can I generally do what I want? Can I employ myself anywhere I want (if hired)? If I decide to own a business, can I produce what I want? Can I hire and fire who I want? Are banks free to decide on lending terms and who gets funds and who doesn't? If you answered yes to all of these questions, you live in a very free society, economically speaking. If you answered no, then you may live in quite an oppressive nation. In general, over the past decade or two, countries around the world have become more economically free. More and more people are able to make their own decisions. The spread of free market capitalism is a huge driver of these changes. Less free economies are generally built upon socialism and communism. So basically, if you wanted to open up a computer coding firm or a coffee shop in Boulder, Colorado, in a free society, you would have no problem doing so. In a command driven economy, such as one built upon communism, you might not be. In those types of economies, the government makes many of the economic decisions.

Every year, a report is put out by the Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal. This report lists most of the countries around in the world in order of their level of economic freedom. This report is called the Index of Economic Freedom and it analyzes 50 different categories to determine scores for which countries rate. Another report that's put out by the Frasier Institute does something similar. Ultimately, lists of nations are created that rank them from most to least economically free. It's actually a very interesting list to look at because nations you would never think of rate very highly, while other nations rank very low. I'll give you a hint for which country ranks very high, year after year: Hong Kong. And which ranks very low, year after year? That's right, North Korea.

While most countries are listed, some aren't. This is because they're simply too volatile for the researchers to form any rational opinions on. Some of these countries include Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Somalia.

Let's take a look at some comparisons between a few different years. First, I'll list the twelve most economically free and the least economically free nations for 2015.

2015 Most Economically Free Countries

1. Hong Kong
2. Singapore
3. New Zealand
4. Australia
5. Switzerland
6. Canada
7. Chile
8. Estonia
9. Ireland
10. Mauritius
11. Denmark
12. United States

2015 Least Economically Free Countries

1. North Korea
2. Cuba
3. Venezuela
4. Zimbabwe
5. Eritrea
6. Equatorial Guinea
7. Turkmenistan
8. Iran
9. Republic of Congo
10. Argentina
11. Democratic Republic of Congo
12. Timor-Leste

Now let's look at 2019.

2019 Most Economically Free Countries

1. Hong Kong
2. Singapore
3. New Zealand
4. Switzerland
5. Australia
6. Ireland
7. United Kingdom
8. Canada
9. United Arab Emirates
10. Taiwan
11. Iceland
12. United States

2019 Least Economically Free Countries

1. North Korea
2. Venezuela
3. Cuba
4. Eritrea
5. Republic of Congo
6. Zimbabwe
7. Equatorial Guinea
8. Bolivia
9. Timor-Leste
10. Algeria
11. Ecuador
12. Djibouti

And finally, we'll look at 2020. Instead of twelve for this list, I'll show seventeen. The reason for this is because the United States dropped a few positions and I wanted to include it in the list.

2020 Most Economically Free Countries

1. Singapore
2. Hong Kong
3. New Zealand
4. Australia
5. Switzerland
6. Ireland
7. United Kingdom
8. Denmark
9. Canada
10. Estonia
11. Taiwan
12. Georgia
13. Iceland
14. Netherlands
15. Chile
16. Lithuania
17. United States

2020 Least Economically Free Countries

1. North Korea
2. Venezuela
3. Cuba
4. Eritrea
5. Congo-Brazzaville
6. Bolivia
7. Zimbabwe
8. Sudan
9. Kiribati
10. Timor-Leste
11. Turkmenistan
12. Algeria
13. Sierra Leone
14. Equatorial Guinea
15. Burundi
16. Liberia
17. Iran

Take a look at how the countries shifted around. Also, who knew Estonia, Ireland, and Denmark were so economically free. Very interesting! Also, to find out what's measured to come up with these rankings, check out the How Do You Measure Economic Freedom section on this Q&A page at the Heritage Foundation website.

To review live and up to date rankings for nations around the world, you can take a look at the Heritage Foundation website or you can look at Wikipedia.
 
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