Economic Freedom in the United States Hits Record Low in 2017

Factors include size of government, higher taxes, debt, and regulations


According to the Heritage Foundation's Index of Economic Freedom, economic freedom in the United States has hit a record low in 2017—the nation dropped out of the top 15 countries and declined to 17th place.

The index ranks countries on 12 metrics that measure four pillars of economic freedom: the rule of law, limited government, regulatory efficiency, and open markets. Each country's economic freedom score is graded on a scale of zero to 100, with 100 indicating the most economic freedom.

Last year, the United States received a score of 75.4 and stood in 11th place among all 180 countries ranked by the index. This year, the United States declined even further to 17th place, receiving a score of 75.1—the lowest score this country has ever received in the index.

The report says that the decline in America's economic freedom is largely due to the increase in the size of government, higher taxes, increasing debt, large welfare programs, and a heavier regulatory burden.

"The United States continued its string of discouraging trends in the 2017 index," the report said. "The substantial expansion in the size and scope of the U.S. government, increased regulatory and tax burdens in many sectors, and the loss of trust and confidence that has accompanied a growing perception of cronyism have severely undermined America's global competitiveness."

The United States ranked sixth for economic freedom when President Obama took office in 2009. Now, in President Trump's first year in office, the United States has fallen behind Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand, Switzerland, Australia, Estonia, Canada, United Arab Emirates, Ireland, Chile, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, Georgia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Lithuania.

"The anemic economic recovery since the great recession has been characterized by a lack of labor market dynamism and depressed levels of investment," the report states. "The substantial expansion of government's size and scope, increased regulatory and tax burdens, and the loss of confidence that has accompanied a growing perception of cronyism, elite privilege, and corruption have severely undermined America's global competitiveness."

"Countries that allow their citizens more economic freedom achieve higher incomes and better standards of living," said Terry Miller and Anthony Kim, who authored the index. "As the global economy has moved toward greater economic freedom over the past two decades, real world GDP has increased by about 80 percent, and the global poverty rate has been cut in half, lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty."

Ali Meyer

Ali Meyer   Email Ali | Full Bio | RSS
Ali Meyer is a staff writer with the Washington Free Beacon covering economic issues that expose government waste, fraud, and abuse. Prior to the Free Beacon, she was a multimedia reporter with where her work appeared on outlets such as Drudge Report and Fox News. She also interned with the Heritage Foundation and Pacific Research Institute. Her Twitter handle is @DJAliMeyer, and her email address is

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