13 November 2019

Quinn Slobodian on right-wing economic freedom rankings: “All rankings hold visions of utopia within them. The ideal world described by these indexes is one where property rights and security of contract are the highest values… and democratic elections may work actively against the maintenance of economic freedom. … According to [the Fraser Institute], the second freest economy in the world in 1975 was Honduras, a military dictatorship. For the next year, another dictatorship, Guatemala, was in the top five. These were no anomalies. They expressed a basic truth about the indexes. The definition of freedom they used meant that democracy was a moot point, monetary stability was paramount and any expansion of social services would lead to a fall in the rankings. … [Thomas Friedman] said in an interview in 1988: ‘I believe a relatively free economy is a necessary condition for freedom. But there is evidence that a democratic society, once established, destroys a free economy.'” In Australia, the IPA publishes one of these silly indices, based on embarrassingly simplistic measures like “the number of pages of legislation passed”. For the IPA, the British Empire was more economically free when the common law allowed slavery than when legislation was passed to end it.