Study Shows America’s No Longer Near Top of Economic Freedom

Published January 14, 2014

The United States is continuing to lose its economic freedom. That is the conclusion of the just-released Heritage Foundation 2014 Index of Economic Freedom. Since President Obama took office, the United States has slipped six spots in the Index, and this year the nation is no longer one of the world’s top 10 freest economies, serving as a cold slap in the face to those who equate Uncle Sam with freedom.

The Heritage report states the drop is “primarily due to deteriorations in property rights, fiscal freedom, and business freedom.”

The report describes the decline of economic freedom in the United States since 2006, stating there have been “particularly large losses in property rights, freedom from corruption, and control of government spending.” 

Losses Seven Straight Years

The United States has earned the dubious distinction of being the only country in the world “to have recorded a loss of economic freedom each of the past seven years,” according to the report.

It should be no surprise to those who have followed the politics and government over the past seven years that the United States has experienced a dramatic expansion in the size and scope of government, even with recent attempts to rein in spending. 

In 2006, the total outlays of the federal government were $2.65 trillion, compared with outlays in the past fiscal year of $3.45 trillion. Over the past three years, spending has dropped by approximately $200 billion, but the cost of government has still increased by more than 30 percent in just seven years. 

In addition, the scope of government has expanded much more rapidly than even the dramatic increase in the budget shows.

Expanding Regulatory Regimes

The Environmental Protection Agency and other environmental regulators have been major culprits in this reduction of economic freedom. These agencies under Obama have engaged in a regulatory war against domestically produced energy with a primary focus on destroying markets for coal, both at home and abroad. 

However, the Obama Administration’s efforts have not been limited to attacks on coal. The Department of the Interior has made domestic energy development on public lands extremely difficult through impossible-to-meet licensing requirements and by taking large swaths of natural resources-rich land out of development.

Interior has also continued its attack on timber and other renewable resource industries under the false guise of species protection. This is exemplified by the federal government’s attempts to dramatically increase the habitats of the northern spotted owl, even though the species thrives on timbered land and its main biological problem is the Horned Owl, not any activity by humans. 

The report also measures whether a government is free from corruption and has an honest electoral system. In this area, it notes that in the United States, “The growth of government has been accompanied by increasing cronyism that has undermined the rule of law and perceptions of fairness.”

Rick Manning ([email protected]) is vice president of public policy and communications for Americans for Limited Government. Used with permission of, where this article originally appeared.

Internet Info

“2014 Index of Economic Freedom,” Heritage Foundation: