Last year, the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom ranked the United States as the tenth freest economy in the world; in this year’s just-released Index, it comes in at number 12. This sort of slide actually isn’t a new phenomenon; Jesse Walker noted when the Index first dropped the U.S. out of the top ten, which was “partly a matter of other countries getting better, as opposed to the United States getting worse.” Since then, though, the land of the brave and home of the free-ish has been sliding on its own merits, “with particularly large losses in property rights, freedom from corruption, and control of government spending.” Even non-fans of the Heritage Foundation’s number-crunching style should note that an even more dramatic decline in America’s economic freedom is reported by Canada’s Fraser Institute.
According to the 2014 entry for the United States at the Index of Economic Freedom:
The U.S. is the only country to have recorded a loss of economic freedom each of the past seven years. The overall U.S. score decline from 1995 to 2014 is 1.2 points, the fourth worst drop among advanced economies.
Substantial expansion in the size and scope of government, including through new and costly regulations in areas like finance and health care, has contributed significantly to the erosion of U.S. economic freedom. The growth of government has been accompanied by increasing cronyism that has undermined the rule of law and perceptions of fairness.
This is after a gradual rise in the country’s economic freedom ranking relative to other countries during the first ten years of the index. While sniffer-outers of partisanship may wonder why government spending received a better (though sliding) score during George W. Bush’s not-so-frugal years than during Barack Obama’s continuation of those policies, Bill Clinton’s tenure looks like one of moderate improvement.