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Economic Freedom Index: US Falls From Top 10 as Economic Freedom Fades

By Michelle Smith   |   Wednesday, 15 Jan 2014 07:19 AM

Due to steady erosion of economic freedom, the United States has fallen from the list of the 10 freest economies, according to the 2014 Index of Economic Freedom.

The index, produced by the Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal, has tracked economic freedom around the world for 20 years. Countries are judged by their commitment to the rule of law, principles of limited government, regulatory efficiency and open markets.

The 2014 index shows global economic freedom continues to rise, reaching a record average score of 60.3. While the United States ranks higher, its score of 75.5 is half a point lower than it was last year and puts it in 12th place.

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The United States' decline is "primarily due to deteriorations in property rights, fiscal freedom and business freedom," the report states. The United States has seen "substantial expansion in the size and scope of government," and cronyism has increased with that expansion. Finance and healthcare regulations are also contributing to the nation's erosion of economic freedom.

But this isn't the first time the United States has lost ground. Since 2006, the country has seen a "dramatic decline," losing nearly 6 points due to issues such as declining property rights and its weakening grasp on corruption and government spending.

The United States is the only country to have recorded a loss of economic freedom for seven straight years.

Increasing economic freedom elsewhere makes it inexcusable that a country like the United States pursues policies antithetical to its growth while wielding its influence to encourage other countries to chart the same disastrous course, Terry Miller, director of the Center for International Trade and Economics at the Heritage Foundation, writes in The Wall Street Journal.

Changes in economic freedom are not negligible, he notes.

Countries with higher levels of freedom "consistently and measurably outperform others in economic growth, long-term prosperity and social progress." When freedom erodes countries face risks of "economic stagflation, high unemployment and deteriorating social conditions" Miller explains.

The United States and United Kingdom have seen the most pronounced declines and are classified as "mostly free."

The countries most improved include Lithuania, the Czech Republic and Estonia, which ranks 11th, ahead of the United States.

Hong Kong continues to top the list and is among the mere six countries deemed economically free.

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