Economic Freedom Basics

The cornerstones of economic freedom are (1) personal choice, (2) voluntary exchange coordinated by markets, (3) freedom to enter and compete in markets, and (4) protection of persons and their property from aggression by others. Individuals have economic freedom when property they acquire without the use of force, fraud, or theft is protected from physical invasions by others and they are free to use, exchange, or give their property as long as their actions do not violate the identical rights of others. Individuals are free to choose, trade, and cooperate with others, and compete as they see fit.

In an economically free society, the primary role of government is to protect individuals and their property from aggression by others. The EFW index is designed to measure the extent to which the institutions and policies of a nation are consistent with this protective function and the freedom of individuals to make their own economic decisions. Put another way, the EFW measure is an effort to identify how closely the institutions and policies of a country correspond with a limited government ideal, where the government protects property rights and arranges for the provision of a limited set of “public goods” such as national defense and access to money of sound value, but little beyond these core functions.

In order to receive a high EFW rating, a country must provide secure protection of privately owned property, a legal system that treats all equally, even-handed enforcement of contracts, and a stable monetary environment. It also must keep taxes low, refrain from creating barriers to both domestic and international trade, and rely more fully on markets rather than government spending and regulation to allocate goods and resources.