Join 3,496 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Freedom really is on the march?
September 11, 2006 6:34 AM   Subscribe

Economic Freedom of the World: 2006 Annual Report (Summary [PDF], full table [PDF, p.13]). Winners: Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand, Switzerland, and the USA. Losers: Zimbabwe, Myanmar and the Congos. How free are you? And why does it matter anyway? (PDF, HTML)
posted by hoverboards don't work on water (18 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Any index of freedom which lists Singapore at the top is working from a faulty definition.
posted by stammer at 6:43 AM on September 11, 2006


Capitalism: The "If you're not with us, you're against us" path to world peace.
posted by any major dude at 6:45 AM on September 11, 2006


I would assume that economic freedom is different from political freedom, which is presumably why they qualified it and didn't just call it "freedom".

Besides, the two links are from the Cato Institute and the Frasier Institute, both of which are reputed to be slightly biased.
posted by GuyZero at 6:46 AM on September 11, 2006


I would assume that economic freedom is different from political freedom, which is presumably why they qualified it and didn't just call it "freedom".

Make no mistake though - when any Republican speaks of "freedom" the above is what they are talking about - it's got nothing to do with liberty or Rosa Parks. It's the freedom to exploit without regulation. That's "freedom" to the Bush administration and their ilk. Once you understand that you'll understand why they make such seemingly hypocritical statements when the speak of this term.
posted by any major dude at 6:51 AM on September 11, 2006


Somewhat related, Estonia tops the State of the World Liberty Index, whatever that is.
posted by MetaMonkey at 6:57 AM on September 11, 2006


Basically the problem is that they define almost all human rights in terms of property rights, which puts you in a tight spot if you have little or no property. That said, Cato do release some superb stuff, and I think their hearts are mostly in the right place.
posted by stammer at 7:00 AM on September 11, 2006


Not to imply that that definition is in any way complete, but it certainly isn't false. Economic freedom may not be as sexy as other freedoms but it is a crucial part of the porfolio of freedoms that any nation should have.

Economic freedoms imply and require freedoms of association, speech and a level of transparency which we should ignore at our peril. To be sure, they are not sufficient in and of themselves, but to discount them as freedoms to 'exploit' is silly. Trade means communication and the more (powerful, wealthy) people who strongly advocate for solid avenues of communication the better off we will all be.
posted by Skorgu at 7:02 AM on September 11, 2006


Any index of freedom which lists Singapore at the top is working from a faulty definition.

It's an index of economic freedom, not political freedom. And yet the list demonstrates a strong correlation between the two.

Besides, the two links are from the Cato Institute and the Frasier Institute, both of which are reputed to be slightly biased.

Cato and Fraser are quite upfront about their principles. If you don't like those principles, you probably won't like anything else they do, but that's not the same as calling them biased.

It's the freedom to exploit without regulation. That's "freedom" to the Bush administration and their ilk.

Economic freedom has decreased under Bush.
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 7:04 AM on September 11, 2006


Economic freedoms imply and require freedoms of association, speech and a level of transparency which we should ignore at our peril.

I disagree. Many people who propound economic freedoms would deny to workers the right to form unions. This goes against their 'rights' to free speech and free association.

Or would that be a case of implied, rather than actual freedoms?
posted by dash_slot- at 7:35 AM on September 11, 2006


If you don't like those principles, you probably won't like anything else they do, but that's not the same as calling them biased.

Well, I never said whether I liked them or disliked them. I think the Frasier Institute puts out some good research and some absolutely garbage research. However, the fact that they state their bias does not make them any less biased. It's not a pejorative word in this context, though it is sometimes used in that sense.

And yes, by that logic, everyone is biased. It's just that Cato's bias doesn't line up with the bias of most MeFi users.
posted by GuyZero at 7:38 AM on September 11, 2006


The implicit assumption here is that economic freedom = happiness. Or even that economic freedom = freedom.

Neither of these are true.

Cato ranks the United Arab Emirates higher than Japan, Germany, France, Sweden, Norway, etc. in "economic freedom". The UAE is an absolute monarchy; there is no elected government at all. It's a Sunni Muslim government with the standard Muslim practices - flogging is doled out as punishment for premarital sex, women have almost no rights, and so on.

However, it does have "economic freedom" - which means low taxes - because it is sitting on a zillion barrels of oil and that's how it funds government operations.

Low taxes are not the only measure of happiness. I don't even think there's a correspondence.
posted by jellicle at 7:41 AM on September 11, 2006


The Heritage foundation does a similar study (and comes up with almost the same results), but also publishes historical data series for the past 10 years, so you can get an idea of which countries have changed the most.
____________(1996-2006)______________
+++plus change++_______---minus change----
1)Armenia ------------------- Argentina
2)Slovenia ------------------- Indonesia
3)Lithuania ------------------ Belarus
4)Azerbaijan ----------------- Venezuela
5)Malta ---------------------- Nigeria
6)Georgia -------------------- U.A.E.
7)Barbados------------------- Thailand
8)Albania -------------------- Zimbabwe
9)Cape Verde ---------------- Bahrain
10)Cuba --------------------- Guinea
11)Niger ---------------------- Tunisia

What could be seen as interesting is that most of the countries whose economic freedom is eroding are resource-rich, etc., while those liberalizing their economies basically have no alternative to courting foreign investors and *ahem* bending over.
posted by kickback at 9:43 AM on September 11, 2006


To equate "economic freedom" with "greedy capitalism" is not in line with reality. Control of economic freedom has been a staple weapon of mass manipulation for many rulers throughout history. Economic freedom can mean the ability to stand on your own, to change your lot, and to have some reasonable semblance of control over your own fate; for many who struggle with poverty, it's the definition of hope. It doesn't guarantee other freedoms or "happiness," but its lack is oppressive nonetheless. The Burmese Way to Socialism is one of the more straightforward cases.
posted by zennie at 10:06 AM on September 11, 2006


I don't believe anyone is assuming a relationship between any of the topics discussed and happiness. These indexes measure an (arbitrary) quantity of 'economic freedom.' That is, to my reading, all they purport to measure.

This isn't saying 'These countries are Better ®,' merely that they enjoy a certain class of freedoms.

I personally think that economic freedoms such as those to associate freely, engage in commerce without restriction, have valid contracts and property rights that are upheld by a sane and reasonable court system and, yes, a level of taxation that is reasonable are equally important to a functioning democracy as the sexier freedoms.

Will things like this lead to a certain amount of exploitation? Of course. It's the government's job to balance all freedoms against the risks of harm they bring. We can and should debate that balance and where it should lie until we are blue (hee) in the face, but discounting this entire line of reasoning because it's not a complete picture of the Goodness of a nation is silly.
posted by Skorgu at 10:22 AM on September 11, 2006


It's an index of economic freedom, not political freedom. And yet the list demonstrates a strong correlation between the two.

Except that, again, Singapore is at the top, the UAE scores very highly, and Oman, which allows no political parties and whose sultan rules by decree, is tied with Sweden. Where would you feel more free? (Oman, by the way, just recently became party to the US-Oman Free Trade Agreement, which diminishes the power of Oman's already-miserable unions and further "liberalizes" the country for foreign companies to play in; I wonder how this will affect its ranking for Economic Freedom?)

This "economic freedom" is no kind of freedom; it's a measure of how willing the State is to defend property rights. In many cases, the State is willing to deny or restrict freedom in order to protect property. Skirting around Godwin, I wonder how Pinochet's Chile and Greece under the Colonels would have scored in such a ranking?
posted by stammer at 12:20 PM on September 11, 2006


Tangent: Countries ranked by account balance (via reddit)
posted by jaronson at 12:47 PM on September 11, 2006


Here's how it works:

Business-lobby think tanks in the USA make a list in which the USA is lagging, which they then take to politicians with crocodile alarm, saying "OH NOES! OTHER COUNTRIES ARE BEATING US! DE-REGULATED AT EVERYONE ELSES EXPENSE OR THE SKY WILL FALL!".

Then in New Zealand, which is "beating the USA" according to the USA lobbiests, the "Business Roundtable" makes a similar list, in which New Zealand is lagging, so they can go running to policians with crocodile alarm, saying "OH NOES! OTHER COUNTRIES ARE BEATING US! DE-REGULATED AT EVERYONE ELSES EXPENSE OR THE SKY WILL FALL!".

Then some economist with impreccible credendials publishes a study that says "You guys have never had it so good! Seriously - if you can't be profitable in the current climate, the problem is YOU", and all the think tanks and roundtables and business rags all mutter and grumble and say "look at that shiney thing over there!" while they try to get the paper pulled, and then go back to saying "you mark my words son - the sky is gonna fall unless we get our way"
posted by -harlequin- at 2:24 PM on September 11, 2006


I think the word you were looking for is "credenzas." "...some economist with impreccible credenzas..."
posted by jaronson at 3:54 PM on September 11, 2006


« Older News Sniffer....  |  Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle.... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments