Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Britain is no longer free….and that’s official

Its official – the UK is no longer a free country. Well, semi-official, because the judgement comes from the independent Heritage Foundation, based in Washington DC, which has been compiling its influential Index of Economic Freedom  for a decade and a half now. It surveys 183 countries, assessing them on ten scores including business freedom, property rights, trade, government spending and corruption. Not definitive but enough measures to give a reasonable gauge one could argue.

This year, though, after the financial crisis and the regulatory clampdown on banks, investment, and finance, both the United States and the United Kingdom have headed down the scale. No surprise there (but had they been effectively regulated in the first place one can only wonder where we'd be) By contrast, Switzerland – which is attracting financial firms and their high-flying employees away from the City of London – has been storming up the league table.  Hmmm....

The most shocking news, though, is that the UK has dropped out of the top ten for the first time in 15 years.

In the view of the Heritage Foundation, in other words, we are no longer a free country. Well, I could have told them that. The Heritage experts say that it is not just a fall in the UK's financial freedom that explains its slippage. They blame high public spending and workplace and civil regulations, which take decisions out of the hands of individuals and empower officials instead (ergo the shady hand of the EU Commissioners with their diktats and regulations). And that growing official power is one reason why the UK is slipping in terms of corruption and the respect for property when compared to other countries. You don’t say!

There is some comfort in that we are better than North Korea, Zimbabwe, Cuba, Eritrea and Burma, which make up the tail end of the Index. But in any index of free countries, it is a bit galling to fall behind Chile.

Galling certainly, but is it any wonder………

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