Why U.S. Policymakers Must Make Economic Freedom Their Top Priority

COMMENTARY Conservatism

Why U.S. Policymakers Must Make Economic Freedom Their Top Priority

Mar 7th, 2022 3 min read
COMMENTARY BY
Anthony B. Kim

Research Fellow and Editor of the Index of Economic Freedom

Anthony B. Kim researches international economic issues at The Heritage Foundation, with a focus on economic freedom and free trade.
If we are to have lasting prosperity and flourishing civil societies, we must look beyond just the next political cycle and figure out what we stand for. kieferpix / Getty Images

Key Takeaways

The decline of U.S. economic freedom is serious cause for alarm, as it has real and tangible consequences for American consumers and producers.

Regrettably, ill-guided and counterproductive measures taken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in many countries have undermined economic freedom.

The proven path to preserving and enhancing opportunity, prosperity, and individual well-being is the path of freedom.

Sen. Mike Lee joined Heritage Foundation President Kevin Roberts this week for an important speech and timely discussion about the importance of economic freedom.

In the March 1 event at Heritage titled “America Needs Policies for Prosperity More than Ever,” the two policy experts stressed why preserving and advancing economic freedom should always be a top policy priority.

The Heritage Foundation’s 2022 Index of Economic Freedom—an annual global study that compares countries’ economic governance and competitiveness—highlights the urgent need for America to change policy course.

The U.S. fell to 25th in the 2022 index rankings—its lowest ranking ever. The decline of U.S. economic freedom, which has been driven by our deteriorating fiscal condition and exacerbated by ongoing record inflation, is serious cause for alarm, as it has real and tangible consequences for American consumers and producers.

Yet, the Biden administration is still barreling full steam ahead to implement a big government agenda that would add trillions to the debt, hike taxes, and centralize more federal power over the economy.

In reminding us of what policy action should be taken to address the unfortunate state of the American economy, Roberts and Lee, R-Utah, penned a joint op-ed:

Economic freedom still works. Even amid the social upheaval of a pandemic, there remain strong correlations between countries’ economic freedom scores and their quality of life, as measured in per capita income, health, educational attainment, environmental quality, technological innovation, democratic governance, and adherence to the rule of law.

They further noted:

The COVID-19 pandemic no more redeemed or justified statist policies than other crises past generations of politicians exploited to advance them, from the Great Depression to the Great Recession to the harrowing disruptions globalization visited upon America’s blue-collar communities.

Free enterprise is not the cause of these challenges. It’s the solution.

Regrettably, ill-guided and counterproductive measures taken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in many countries have undermined economic freedom, with the global average economic freedom measurably declining, according to the 2022 index.  

For those who truly appreciate freedom and prosperity, now is not the time to waver. Perhaps the most critical lesson of the recent years is that the proven superiority and value of liberty must be steadfastly reiterated and passed on to succeeding generations.

As Ed Feulner, founder and former president of The Heritage Foundation, has often observed, “there are no permanent defeats or permanent victories, just permanent battles.”

Indeed, the struggle for freedom is one that must be renewed by every generation. If we are to have lasting prosperity and flourishing civil societies, we must look beyond just the next political cycle and figure out what we stand for, what our policy priorities are going to be, and how we will communicate them.

Economic freedom is responsible for more advances in living standards, health, and knowledge than anything else we’ve come up with.

History shows us that freedom and prosperity go hand in hand as the human spirit thrives on virtuous liberty. The proven path to preserving and enhancing opportunity, prosperity, and individual well-being is the path of freedom.

As Roberts and Lee concluded in their joint op-ed, “As Heritage’s 2022 index shows once again, economic freedom is not something Americans should apologize for, but harness, spur and give free rein—for our own sake, and everyone else’s, too.”

This is the year to act on that reminder to restore America’s economic freedom, now more than ever.

This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal