Canada’s Fraser Institute has published its Economic Freedom of the World: 2009 Annual Report. Written in cooperation with independent institutes from 75 countries, The Report offers a comprehensive look at economic freedom in 141 nations. Once again, Hong Kong has topped the list of economic jurisdictions enjoying the highest degree of economic freedom. The institute uses a wide array of measures to index countries based upon their size of government, legal structure and security of property rights, access to sound money, freedom to trade internationally, as well as regulation of credit, labor, and business. 

New in this year’s report is an examination of the likely impact of the global financial crisis upon economic freedom. The institute confirms fears of a reduction in short-term economic freedom, but does offer a glimmer of hope. While admitting that regulation and trade restrictions are likely in the near future, the authors use Norway and Sweden as examples of countries that were able to eventually implement market-based reforms after banking crises.

Economic Freedom of the World implores world leaders to be mindful of these facts when choosing to address the current financial turmoil. Fred McMahon, Director of Trade and Globalization Studies at the Fraser Institute, asserts:

"To successfully navigate the global financial crisis, nations must focus on policies that support the principles of economic freedom. By choosing this path, the current crisis will be reversed and fade into history. But if we learn the wrong lessons and choose reforms and policies inconsistent with economic freedom, our destiny will be like the generation of 1930; we will face a decade of stagnation and decline."

Especially in times of economic uncertainty, it is all the more necessary to remember that free and open markets offer the best opportunity for economic success. It is no coincidence that the peoples who enjoy the most economic freedom also have stronger individual freedoms, longer lives, and greater prosperity. Countries with less economic freedom, like Venezuela and Zimbabwe, naturally suffer from the opposite.

Property rights amount to an integral aspect of economic freedom. One of the five components used in the Economic Freedom of the World report, property rights are fundamental to ownership and competition. Compare the results of the report with the International Property Rights Index to find the latest research on economic freedom, property rights, and their status in the world.