How “Economically Free” Would You Consider Yourself?

During law school at Washburn School of Law in Kansas, myself and many other students would take advantage of what the school called “Lunch and Learns”. Lunch and Learns were hour long lectures given by all different kinds of people on a variety of subjects. Naturally all were relevant to a legal education, and many of the lectures I attended were interesting. However, if I am being honest, the lectures were so well attended because lunch was always provided. There is no better way to incentivize a bunch of poor law students, than the prospect of a free lunch. One of the lectures that has always stood out to me however was given by a gentlemen from the Cato Institute. For those who have never heard of it, the Cato Institute is a public policy research organization, or in other words a “think tank”. The Cato Institute focuses on the principles of individual liberties, limited government, free market and peace.

The reason I remember that particular day was that the speaker asked us how “economically free” we all were. I remember thinking to myself, “I have no idea what this yahoo is talking about, I will just sit here and eat my free Jimmy Johns”. But his presentation that followed really made me think and I did learn some valuable information that afternoon.

This morning I came across an article that brought me back to that lecture of a couple years ago, the title read US Slips to 12th in Economic Freedom. Essentially economic freedom is a measurement of how free citizens of the world’s various countries are to engage in business, trade and how much their property and legal rights are protected by the rule of law. The test is made of 5 factors: 1. Size of government; 2. Legal structure and security of property rights; 3. Access to money; 4. Freedom to trade internationally and; 5. Regulation of Credit, Labor and Business. According to these five factors, we can determine which countries do better economically and which ones can create and generate more wealth.

What was even more interesting in the article to me, was the reason for the United States’ decline, which has to do with the country’s legal structure. This is especially disturbing because I had always been taught that our legal system and adhere to the rule of law is one of the things that set the US apart from other places, it was one of the things that made it so great. Now, the US ranks 36th in this category. The report states “to a large decree, the United States has experienced a significant move away from rule of law toward a highly regulated, politicized, and heavily policed state.”

A couple weeks ago I wrote an article entitled, Effects of the Great Recession, many Americans still feel daily the squeeze on their pocket books, they increasingly are less confident in this countries ability to provide the “Dream” it has long promised. Well, just maybe, things like how “economically free” we are have a large impact on you and me. Maybe we need to be a little more vigilant and involved in what goes on in our country. In Mike Flynn’s words, the author of the article, “a balanced federal budget is insignificant and meaningless if the rule of law has been subverted. No single election or administration can repair the damage. That is a task that must be tackled by a generation.” I guess that means you and I need to get started right away.

If you would like to learn more about the yearly Index that measures how economically free we are, click here.