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Absence of coercion or controls over economic activities

Economic freedom or economic liberty is the ability of people of a society to take economic actions. This is a term used in economic and policy debates as well as in the philosophy of economics. One approach to economic freedom comes from classical liberal and libertarian traditions emphasizing free markets, free trade and private property under free enterprise. Another approach to economic freedom extends the welfare economics study of individual choice, with greater economic freedom coming from a "larger" (in some technical sense) set of possible choices. Other conceptions of economic freedom include freedom from want and the freedom to engage in collective bargaining.

Notable Topics

Economic Freedom Network


The Abstract Concept of Human Liberty, by Robert LeFevre, The Freeman, Dec 1982
Discusses how people may be interested in other people, in events or in material things but only a few are interested in ideas, and how each group of people tends to view liberty from those perspectives
With this melancholy view as background, what is the status of freedom in the United States? It is clear that the grip each individual should have over the products of his own labor is gradually slipping over the last knot in the dangling rope. We still look good insofar as speech and press are concerned, if we compare our situation with conditions abroad in most countries. But economic freedom is almost a thing of the past. The regulators bestride our affairs like the Colossus of Rhodes and few can make reasonable calculations for no one knows what the government will do next.
Albert Jay Nock: A Gifted Pen for Radical Individualism, by Jim Powell, The Freeman, Mar 1997
Biographical essay, including Nock's early life, editorship of The Freeman (1920-1924), and notable books and essays
To better understand the roots of freedom, Nock urged Americans "to resolutely close their eyes to diplomatic exchanges and official pronouncements, and read Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, Thoreau, Wendell Phillips, Henry George." Nock added that "without economic freedom no other freedom is significant or lasting, and that if economic freedom can be attained, no other freedom can be withheld."
Bernie Is Not a Socialist and America Is Not Capitalist, by Marian Tupy, The Atlantic, 1 Mar 2016
Clarifies the meaning of various terms which young people tend to misunderstand, including socialism, communism, capitalism and corporatism, and then discusses the relative levels of economic freedom in the United States and other countries
[T]here has never been a fully free economy. By that measure, both communism and capitalism refer to ideals that have never existed in practice ... It is, however, possible to ascertain relative levels of economic freedom, [to] measure how different countries stack up against each other. The Economic Freedom of the World index, for example, measures economic freedom in individual countries by looking at, among other things, the size of government ...; the strength of the legal system and private-property rights; freedom to trade internationally; and the burden of government regulation ...
Big-Spending Republicans Can Learn from Ireland's Reforms, by Benjamin Powell, 17 Sep 2003
Contrasts U.S. government spending in the 1990's (under Bill Clinton) and early 2000's (under George W. Bush) with the approach taken in Ireland from the late 1980's
Tax cuts alone do not mean less government or more economic freedom ... Ireland's economic growth record is a tribute to the results that can be achieved by even modest increases in economic freedom. The growth rates in Ireland are only the beginning of what even freer markets could generate. While the United States would be well advised to stop increasing the size and scope of its federal government and move in the direction of Ireland's reforms, we could achieve even more if we went beyond them. That will require a fundamental reassessment of what role a government has in a free society.
Don't Blame the Thermometer for the Fever, by Sheldon Richman, Freedom Daily, Jan 1999
Discusses President Clinton's calls for worldwide regulations limiting capital movements and a global regime similar to the New Deal, comparing his views on private property with those of Hitler
Capital flees a country to avoid havoc, which occurs when government pursues irrational economic policies, such as monetary inflation, credit expansion, confiscation, and subsidy. The policies, not the capital exodus, are to blame. Why would investors take money out of a country that had a sound economy? ... The agreement to restrict capital movements is ... an outrageous cartel arrangement by governments to prevent or limit policy competition among themselves. Until now, if a government enacted measures that violated economic freedom and stifled growth, investors could take their money elsewhere.
A Free-Market Constitution for Hong Kong: A Blueprint for China [PDF], by Alvin Rabushka, Cato Journal, 1989
Discusses the draft of the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), expected to be promulgated in 1990 (actually adopted 4 April 1990 and went into effect 1 July 1997), as a "free-market constitution"
To the best of my knowledge, the proposed Basic Law for the HKSAR is unique among contemporary national constitutions in one respect: It enshrines general principles and concrete policies to preserve individual economic freedom. It does so because Chinese authorities recognize that the preservation of economic freedom in Hong Kong is critical to its continued stability and prosperity. The list of economic liberties is in addition to a standard list of civil rights that normally appears in a constitutional document.
Historian Paul Johnson on American Liberty, by Paul Johnson, The Freeman, Jun 1996
Topics discussed include religious freedom, abolishing slavery, the impact of immigration, the Founding Fathers, the U.S. Constitution, individualism, reining in government and the prospects for liberty in America
A model of freedom is tremendously important. Reagan drew inspiration from Thatcher who had become Prime Minister about a year before he was elected President, and she, in turn, could point to his successes as she charted the liberalization of Britain. Although Hong Kong is tiny, its phenomenal success has had an electrifying impact throughout Asia. People could get on an airplane and see for themselves how well free markets work. New Zealand has swept away its welfare state—taxes, subsidies, everything—and embraced American-style individualism. Now they have one of the world's fastest growing economies.
Hong Kong Still Freest Economy, Cato Policy Report, Mar 2000
Brief discussion of Economic Freedom of the World: 2000 Annual Report, including the relationship between economic freedom and economic growth, the freest and least free economies and news coverage around the world
Countries with consistently high levels of economic freedom perform far better, both financially and nonfinancially, than those with low levels of economic freedom. The countries that scored in the top quintile of economic freedom had an average per capita gross domestic product of U.S.$18,108 and an average growth rate of 1.6 percent. As freedom declined, so did per capita GDP and the growth rate. Also, life expectancy in the top quintile is 20 years longer than in the bottom quintile. The four economically freest jurisdictions in the world are Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand, and the United States.
Related Topics: Asia, Economic Freedom Network
Libertarianism Is the Key to Our Future, by Jacob G. Hornberger, Freedom Daily, Jul 2006
Examines three reasons—freedom, morality and pragmatism—that suggest that Americans will eventually return to their libertarian heritage
To appreciate the stark differences between ... our ancestors [and] today ..., consider the following features of life in the United States in, say, 1880: No Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, income taxation, welfare, occupational licensure, immigration controls, travel restrictions ..., paper money, central bank, or drug laws and few economic regulations. People were free to engage in any economic enterprise, accumulate unlimited amounts of wealth, travel and trade wherever they wanted, and do whatever they desired with their own money. That is what was once understood to be economic liberty.
A Libertarian Visits South America, by Jacob G. Hornberger, Freedom Daily, Mar 1999
Relates Hornberger's trip to give lectures and participate in debates at the Instituto de Estudos Empresariais in Brazil and the launching of the Fundación Atlas para una Sociedad Libre in Buenos Aires
The afternoon sessions were devoted to "The Effects of Constitutional Law on the Wealth of Nations" ... In the first session, I explained that the key to rising standards of living, especially for the poor people in a nation, was economic liberty. When government is prohibited from combating poverty by taxing its citizens to provide welfare, housing, education, and the like, standards of living rise as a result of the private accumulation of capital within the nation. And the way to prohibit government from combating poverty was through constitutional restraints on the power to do so.
Pundit in Wonderland, by Sheldon Richman, The Goal Is Freedom, 28 Sep 2007
Criticizes a Washington Post op-ed by columnist Harold Meyerson about the results of a survey showing an increase in those who consider themselves the "have-nots" of American society
[T]hat living standards are climbing pretty much across the board in the United States does not mean we enjoy substantial economic freedom and justice. The market is a potent institution, and people with even a small degree of market freedom are capable of producing a prodigious amount of wealth that is bound to spread throughout society. The test of the justice of an economy is not primarily how great or widespread the wealth is, but whether people can exercise their rights unmolested by the state. To conclude that the economy is just on the basis of rising living standards is to mix categories.
Two-dimensional libertarianism, by Anthony Gregory, Rational Review, 30 Sep 2004
Questions the usefulness of the two-dimensional Nolan Chart and the World's Smallest Political Quiz and advocates instead a one-dimensional liberty vs. power spectrum
All issues fail to fit the model, because there is no such thing, strictly speaking, as a purely "personal" or "economic" freedom. Is gambling a personal freedom? How about speculating in the stock market? What makes one personal and the other economic? Is financial privacy an economic or civil liberty? How about choosing which school to send your kids to? ... [A]ll freedoms stem from self-ownership and the corollary rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness. Everything in life can be called economics, and all economic decisions can be called personal decisions.


Interview with Adam Smith [via Edwin West], by E. G. West, The Region, Jun 1994
Professor Edwin G. West stands in for Adam Smith and answers questions from the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis banking and policy issues magazine
Region: ... Since [The Wealth of Nations] we have had many "experiments" with different approaches to national economies ... In light of the evidence, do you feel vindicated?
Smith: ... In a 1991 article, Scully and Slottje selected a total of 15 attributes of economic freedom. These included freedoms of property, international financial transactions, movement, information, peaceful assembly and communication through the print media ... All the rankings indicated that economic growth and real domestic product per capita are positively correlated with economic liberty. So I do indeed feel vindicated!


Economic Freedom of the World: 2003 Annual Report, by Economic Freedom Network, James Gwartney, Robert Lawson, 8 Jul 2003
Economic Freedom of the World: 2016 Annual Report, by Economic Freedom Network, James Gwartney, Robert Lawson, 15 Sep 2016
2016 edition of the Economic Freedom of the World report, edited by James Gwartney, Robert Lawson and Joshua Hall
Freedom in the 50 States: An Index of Personal and Economic Freedom [PDF], by William P. Ruger, Jason Sorens, 2018
Report published bi-annually since 2009, authored by William P. Ruger and Jason Sorens, originally by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University and currently by the Cato Institute

The introductory paragraph uses material from the Wikipedia article "Economic freedom" as of 30 Jun 2018, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.