United States: Land of the Free?

Why the Decline of the Great Beacon of Liberty Matters to Us All

EspañolThe Heritage Foundation, in collaboration with the Wall Street Journal, has recently released the 2014 Index of Economic Freedom. From my perspective, the most concerning revelation from this study is that the United States is no longer among the 10 freest economies in the world. This is the first time we have seen this happen since the index began in 1995.

For the past couple of decades, economic freedom has fluctuated in the Unites States. However, there have been some distinctive and notable trends: during the first 10 years of the index (1995-2006) the US score rose slowly until the country attained the “free economy” category. Since reaching 81.2 points (out of 100) in 2007, the score has declined sharply, to 75.5 points in 2014. Compared to other countries, United States went from being 5th in 2007, among the freest nations in the world, to 12th in just a few years.

The most unsettling fact is that United States is the only country that registered a fall in economic liberties in every one of the last seven years. The most affected areas have been property rights, public expenditures, and corruption. According to the researchers, higher taxes, more public spending, and vicious regulations are to blame for this scenario — including evermore burdensome and costly health care and financial regulations.

Many people around the world may wonder, “Why do I care what happens with the North? How does that even affect my life? It’s just the economy; private businesses and pure self-interest corrupt everything they touch. I, as a humanist, am more concerned with social justice and the fate of the poor.”

Anyone who follows this train of thought is clearly showing his lack of foresight. The truth is that everything that happens in the United States should concern us all, even her bitter enemies. But why?

This is the country where the most prestigious universities are located. US Universities have contributed through their research to an undeniable rise in the standard of living around the world. It is no coincidence that most Nobel Prize winners come from United States.

Also, the newest, sharpest information and communication technologies — with the internet and modern computers as the leading examples — were developed in the United States. And they have revolutionized all areas of human activity.

Finally, the best health centers on the planet are here; so are the best doctors, who are pioneers in treating rare diseases and creating new medicines. All these benefits may not be widely accessible at first, but thanks to large scale production, costs do go down, and everyone else on the planet can have them within their grasp.

There is an intrinsic link between economic and intellectual freedom. All an innovator does is basically experiment; but unnecessary state regulations and oppressive taxes restrict the room these people have to project their creativity, curiosity, and interests. Bureaucracies suppress personal initiative, because they impose security above all else; therefore, they won’t allow anything to change.

Many good things have come from the United States, and it’s no surprise people still call it “the land of the free,” despite its precarious and declining position. Humanity’s future well-being depends on US leadership, particularly as a beacon for economic liberty, and that is why we should all care about what happens in that nation.

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