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Former British colonies top world's freest and most prosperous places; U.S. falls

The Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal's annual Index of Economic Freedom has ranked the former British colony of Hong Kong as the world's freest place to do business, followed by Singapore, which was founded by Stamford Raffles, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Switzerland and Canada. The United States fell to 8th place. The United Kingdom is ranked 11th.

The freedom scores of many are slipping. "The US government's interventionist responses to the financial and economic crisis that began in 2008 have significantly undermined economic freedom and long-term prospects for economic growth." That is one of the reasons for the stunning election we described below.


View of Hong Kong from Victoria Peak
Image: DAVID ILIFF, Wikimedia Commons

People forget what a disaster Hong Kong once was. William McGurn wrote that in the 1950s, Hong Kong was inundated with refugees. The hills were covered with shanties, there was no sanitation and the city depended on trade for food and water. It was 'a humanitarian disaster'. American papers said the city was 'dying'.

There were, however, the very determined people and the inestimable Sir John Cowperthwaite, Financial Secretary of the Crown Colony. Cowperthwaite did not respond as some politicians in Britain and America would respond to this sort of crisis – with promises of big government spending that plunged the government and people into debt.

Under Sir John Cowperthwaite’s British administration, Hong Kong became a city with six million hard-working, prosperous and largely peaceful citizens under a non-interventionist government whose foundation was Common Law. The government protected every person's rights to property and life under just laws. Hong Kong was knit together with the institutions, charities, trusts, schools, associations and societies that helped people to help each other. Today Hong Kong is a special administrative region of the People's Republic of China.

Cowperthwaite was a classical free-trader in a tradition that stretches from Adam Smith to Milton Friedman and Sir Keith Joseph. Like them Cowperthwaite believed that The only cases where the masses have escaped from grinding poverty. . .the only cases in recorded history, are where they have had capitalism and largely free trade. . .There is no alternative way of improving the lot of the ordinary person that can hold a candle to the productive activities of the free-enterprise system. . .and to productive, creative and energetic people ruled by just law.

The quote is Milton Friedman's. The actual proof would appear to be Hong Kong and the Index of Economic Freedom.

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