The latest rankings of trade freedom around the world will be set forth and assessed in the 24th annual edition of the Heritage Foundation annual Index of Economic Freedom (Index), which will be published in January 2018. Today Heritage published a sneak preview of the 2018 Index’s analysis of freedom to trade, which merits public attention. First, though, a bit of background on the Index’s philosophy and methodology is appropriate.
The nature and measurement of economic freedom are explained in the 2017 Index:
Economic freedom is the fundamental right of every human to control his or her own labor and property. In an economically free society, individuals are free to work, produce, consume, and invest in any way they please. In economically free societies, governments allow labor, capital, and goods to move freely, and refrain from coercion or constraint of liberty beyond the extent necessary to protect and maintain liberty itself. . . .
[The Freedom Index] measure[s] economic freedom based on 12 quantitative and qualitative factors, grouped into four broad categories, or pillars, of economic freedom:
- Rule of Law (property rights, government integrity, judicial effectiveness)
- Government Size (government spending, tax burden, fiscal health)
- Regulatory Efficiency (business freedom, labor freedom, monetary freedom)
- Open Markets (trade freedom, investment freedom, financial freedom)
Each of the twelve economic freedoms within these categories is graded on a scale of 0 to 100. A country’s overall score is derived by averaging these twelve economic freedoms, with equal weight being given to each. More information on the grading and methodology can be found in the appendix.
As was the case in previous versions, the 2018 Index explores various aspects of economic freedom in several essays that accompany its rankings. In particular, with respect to international trade, the 2018 Index demonstrates that citizens of countries that embrace free trade are better off than those in countries that do not. The data show a strong correlation between trade freedom and a variety of positive indicators, including economic prosperity, unpolluted environments, food security, gross national income per capita, and the absence of politically motivated violence or unrest. Reducing trade barriers remains a proven recipe for prosperity that a majority of Americans support.
The 2018 Index’s three key trade-related takeaways are:
- A comparison of economic performance and trade scores in the 2018 Index shows how trade freedom increases prosperity and overall well-being.
- Countries with the most trade freedom have much higher per capita incomes, greater food security, cleaner environments, and less politically motivated violence.
- Free trade policies also encourage freedom in general. Most Americans support free trade, and believe its benefits outweigh any disadvantages.
Follow this space for further updates on the 2018 Index.