For 20 years the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation has published the Index of Economic Freedom ranking nations according to economic freedom available to their citizens.
The Heritage Foundation defines economic freedom as "the fundamental right of every human to control his or her own labor and property. In an economically free society, individuals are free to work, produce, consume, and invest in any way they please."
The ranking is based on 10 factors including business freedom, property rights and government debt.
The United States dropped to 12th on the Index with an overall score of 75.5 points. According to the Heritage Foundation, "The U.S. is the only country to have recorded a loss of economic freedom each of the past seven years."
The United States scored poorly (48.1 points) on government spendingand received its highest score for labor freedom (97.2 points).
The freest nations in the Index of Economic Freedom are:
- Hong Kong
- New Zealand
Hong Kong enjoys a lower tax rate and smaller government than the United States. "The standard individual income tax rate is 15 percent, and the top corporate tax rate is 16.5 percent. ... Government spending remains equivalent to slightly under one-fifth of the domestic economy."