One measure of a nation’s success is its economic health: how free are a nation’s citizens to pursue their own economic goals, and how wealthy on average are its citizens?
Almost always the wealthy countries are those that enjoy a significant degree of the economic freedom. (See the chart in the image; click to enlarge.) The exceptions are those countries that are less free but happen to be sitting on huge supplies of an essential resource, e.g., oil.
Here is a list of the Top Ten for Economic Freedom:
1 Hong Kong
4 New Zealand
9 United States
The list has significant geographical and cultural diversity — from Oceania to southeast Asia to the middle East to Europe to North America.
Here’s a striking observation, though: 8 out of the 10 have strong British connections. Six are former British colonies: Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the United States. Ireland has its own history of close relations with Britain. Bahrain’s connection is perhaps the weakest, but British India had strong cultural influence on Bahrain in the early part of the the twentieth century, and Great Britain itself had a strong presence in Bahrain until the Bahrainians declared formal independence from Britain in 1971.
So some questions: Is the British connection a coincidence? If not, why have former British colonies done so well economically? What special ideas, practices, and institutions did the British bring that gave countries that adopted them great economic advantages?
The two remaining nations on the list: Switzerland and Denmark. Both are in European, and in the western and northern parts of Europe. Has their path to economic freedom been significantly different?