U.S. economic freedom has deteriorated so much in the past 15 years that people in countries like Singapore, United Arab Emirates and the former Soviet republic of Georgia have greater liberties, a study says.
America this year dropped in the ranking of economic freedom to 16th place from 2nd place in 2000 as the federal government enacted stricter regulations and legal protections for individuals weakened, says study author Robert A. Lawson, a business professor at Southern Methodist University.
“The United States has experienced a significant move away from rule of law and toward a highly regulated, politicized and heavily policed state,” Lawson says in the Dallas Morning News
. “During the past decade, non-tariff trade barriers, restrictions on foreign investment and business regulations of various kinds have grown extensively.”
Hong Kong was the only region with greater economic freedoms than the U.S. in the 2000 study. Now, New Zealand, Switzerland, Jordan, Ireland and Qatar are among the countries that rank higher
. Venezuela and Congo are in last place because Cuba and North Korea aren’t rated.
The study uses broad indicators of economic freedoms, making precise explanations for the change in rankings difficult to pinpoint, according to Lawson, who co-wrote the report with James Gwartney of Florida State University and Joshua Hall of West Virginia University.
Lawson provides several hints of why the U.S. has fallen in the rankings.
“What of increased environmental, safety and health rules and new acts like Sarbanes-Oxley, Dodd-Frank and the Affordable Care Act? Could they be a threat to property rights?” Lawson writes. “Could it be a factor that local police officers now sport armored cars, assault rifles and body armor, and look more like soldiers at war than cops keeping the peace?”
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