Profiles in prosperity

"Profiles in prosperity" Continued...

Issue: "Global shame," June 15, 2002

The Index, copublished by The Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal, first appeared eight years ago. "Economic freedom, just like marriage, requires serious commitment and perseverance," reads the preface. Using that hard-boiled approach, each edition scored economic freedom using 50 variables that broadly include tax laws, tariffs, business regulations, government intervention, corruption, and the rule of law. Nine countries are not ranked-including Afghanistan-largely due to war or war-ravaged economies. Researchers gathered most of the material for this year's Index before Sept. 11, but it was published afterward.

For the 2003 Index, editor Gerald O'Driscoll told WORLD he does not anticipate that the events of last September, including the post-attack economic slide, will force significant shifts in rankings. For other reasons more bad news is possible, according to Wall Street Journal editor Robert L. Bartley. He writes in the Index that the U.S. economic boom of the last decade was "the great solvent" sweeping over the Asian crisis and the Russian economic crisis. Now he sees "a will to fail that seems to have gripped policymaking elites"-symbolized by Europe's campaign to curb the boom in Ireland, and a U.S. obsession to spend surplus tax revenue on debt repayment, all adding up to a refusal to invest in economic expansion.

What Mr. O'Driscoll expects may change is how widely the Index is used. It is showing up more on desks of the Bush administration, in congressional testimony, and with investors seeking to expand globally. First taken up by the academic world, Mr. O'Driscoll said he recently discovered the Index in a college syllabus from Serbia.


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