In defense of neoliberalism I've often seen conservatives put forward something from the Heritage Foundation, which is a Koch brother's financed conservative think tank. They have something they call an Index of Economic Freedom. Presumably the more free, the more neoliberal.
Before looking at it I think it's useful to first consider what you would expect from it. I think you expect two things. Number 1 you expect crappy countries to be ranked low regardless of the real economic freedom. Heritage is made up of ideologues. They advocate on behalf of neoliberalism, which means policies that are for the benefit of the Koch brothers. Putting forward a poor country as an example for others to emulate doesn't reflect well on neoliberalism. So there's pressure to pretend that a poor country is socialist rather than neoliberal no matter what it really is.
The second thing you expect is that states on the US enemies list would be ranked low. Iran is bad, so it's un-free. Same for Libya, N Korea, Venezuela, Cuba. On the other hand US client states would tend to be pushed higher. So Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, etc.
So let's take a look. Of course I looked at it before offering these expectations, but you can see that it does follow those expectations to some degree. Do these rankings make any sense? I don't think so.
What is the opposite of neoliberalism, assuming neoliberalism is economic freedom? Socialism or communism. What states do you think of when you think of socialism? For me it's Western Europe. So Sweden, France, Norway, Belgium. It happens I was in Belgium a year and a half ago. The people I worked with complained that the welfare state is so extensive and taxes so high that there's no incentive to work.
Where is Belgium ranked? 32 out of 179. Pretty high. Sweden is 22, France 64, Norway 30. Socialist states have high economic freedom.
Really the United States is another case. Enormous regulations on trading, labor, product development. Half of our health care expenditures come via government. We have welfare. We have publicly subsidized high tech. An enormous defense sector. Starting a business isn't easy. My brother tried to start a used car business but quit after dealing with all the red tape. We're in the top 10 most economically free countries in the world supposedly.
I've argued that Haiti is a good example of the effects of neoliberalism. Unlike the United States where the Federal Minimum Wage is $7.25/hr, in Haiti it's closer to $5/day. Low tariffs, limited labor rights, non-existent government spending. Very free, right? Heritage puts them at 133. How is this possible?
Let's take a closer look at their analysis on Haiti. The first problem is "Business Freedom." Haiti has an "inadequate regulatory framework." Inadequate regulations? So the more regulated the more free? I thought Heritage hated all that red tape and regulations. Suddenly up is down. Regulation is freedom.
Next is trade freedom. They have inefficient state run administration at the sea ports, says Heritage. OK, so what would be the solution to that problem? Bigger government? Is that what Heritage regards as more economic freedom? Bigger government?
Heritage is close to right on taxes. Haiti's taxes are good and low. On government spending they rock. Crushing the world average. Way less government spending. Heritage says they are at the mean in terms of monetary freedom.
On financial freedom Heritage complains that regulations on banking remain poor. Huh? I thought limited regulation was a good thing. They complain of weak enforcement of property rights. Wouldn't we need bigger government for that? They talk of corruption and bribes. Are they suggesting more government involvement to prevent bribes?
I agree with the criticisms of Haiti's economic situation. Haitians elected a progressive President to resolve these issues. He was ousted by an American backed coup in order to impose neoliberalism. Heritage wants to pretend Haiti is not neoliberalism. You got what you want in Haiti Mr Koch and Heritage. Now you need to own up to it.