Economic freedom indices

Niclas Berggren offers a very useful survey of the economic freedom indices, what they show, and their limitations. The piece just appeared in The Independent Review. The introductory blurb states:

Although not without limitations, the EFI [economic freedom index] supports Adam Smith’s contention that free-market processes, more than any alternatives, can advance wealth and welfare.

If you are interested in another point of view, here is a left-wing critique of the Fraser index, suggesting that economic freedom is not positively correlated with the real quality of life.

My take: Even economists, much less the general public, underestimate the long-run value of economic growth for human welfare. Today’s poor have a higher standard of living than the upper middle class of a century ago. While it makes good sense to discount the dollar returns on investments, there is less of a good normative argument for the positive temporal discounting of human welfare. So we should care greatly about the standard of living in the distant future, which suggests investing in economic growth today. For a lengthy presentation of the argument on discounting, click here.


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