We’re Number One
…in the Global Index of Economic Mentality! The Atlas Network is an umbrella group of free market think tanks. It’s measured how strongly people in different countries favour free markets and personal responsibility. The number one country? New Zealand. Rounding out the top five are (2) the Czech Republic, (3) Sweden, (4) the United States and (5) Denmark.
At The Other End
The bottom five countries, where people believe less in free markets and personal responsibility, are: Bosnia, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Montenegro and Azerbaijan. Lovely places we are sure, but we think life is better with less government and more personal responsibility. In case you are interested, the Aussies came in 9th and the Argentinians 63rd. They’ll have to win a lot of rugby to make up for that.
But A Twist…
The index also splits into over 40s and under 40s. If only the younger people are counted, the top five countries are (1) Czech Republic, (2) Romania, (3) Estonia, (4) Georgia and (5) Poland. It seems growing up with communist parents makes you yearn for free markets. But it works the other way, too. New Zealand boomers ushered in the Rogernomics revolution, and now we have the second biggest gap between young and old.
Why The Difference?
One obvious answer is that the school system is preaching left-wing ideals. There are some great people teaching in New Zealand, but look at the set up. A teacher gets all of their consumables delivered free of charge, doesn’t lose income if their class shrinks (in fact they campaign for smaller classes) and government policy deliberately prevents competition in education. The classroom is hardly a place to learn about free markets.
Every generation since at least the 1930s has had basically the same education. Every generation thinks the next is sliding into indolence, so it’s not obvious that’s it. Free Press readers won’t be surprised to learn we think it’s the combination of loose monetary policy and state control over land development that’s led a whole generation to believe the system doesn’t work for them.
Do These Results Predict Reality?
It’s not perfect, but countries that believe in freedom are usually freer. The Fraser Institute consistently ranks New Zealand third freest behind Hong Kong and Singapore, ahead of Switzerland and Australia. But economic freedom (free trade, small government, free trade, property rights, and flexible labour markets) has stalled. The world is no freer than before the GFC. Dark times.
What About Democracy?
Since the GFC, democracy’s gone backwards too. Freedom House, another think tank, measures how many countries are democratic. It says: Between 1988 and 2005, the percentage of countries ranked Not Free in Freedom in the World dropped by almost 14 points (from 37 to 23 percent), while the share of Free countries grew (from 36 to 46 percent). This surge of progress has now begun to roll back. Between 2005 and 2018, the share of Not Free countries rose to 26 percent, while the share of Free countries declined to 44 percent.
Taking a break from New Zealand’s policy troubles for a week, freedom and democracy are gradually receding globally, and the next generation doesn’t look like it’s going to reverse the trend. We have a lot to fight for. A free and democratic world is also a safe and prosperous one for a small trading nation.
We have lots of evidence that freer societies are better at achieving all sorts of things that even the left agree are worth it. Wealthier, healthier, fairer societies come from freedom and democracy. As F.A. Hayek said: 'We must make the building of a free society once more an intellectual adventure, a deed of courage.'
We’re Up For It
Are you? If you believe in free enterprise and personal responsibility over state control and dependency, we hope you’ll join us. ACT works every day to promote the values of a free society that make our country great. If you agree, please join ACT. If you’re already a member, please donate to our cause.