Author: Will Wilkinson

Vice President for Research at the Niskanen Center

45 thoughts

  1. Interesting, though having recently been to Singapore I’m not sure pure “economic” freedom is the best metric for liberty — even with all its shoe-lines, the US is less totalitarian in daily life than Singapore.
    Likewise as an American living in Australia, I’m not quite sure how the two tie.
    But an interesting discussion trigger.

  2. The bottom 5 are seperated by 3 hundredths of a point. That’s well under a half a percent. Just not statisticly significant enough to make any point about relative positions of this group.

  3. You get used to the cold. If Richard Florida can move to Toronto, I’m sure you could handle it. I wore shorts throughout winter here in Saskatchewan, though I’m crazy.
    Even then, you could always go to Vancouver, it’s basically Seattle with universal healthcare.

  4. The #2 rank for Singapore is absurd. Limited free speech is allowed only in a small 2 acre park, and until recently required police permission. Freedom of public assembly and demonstration is limited to no more than 5 people, and at least one judicial ruling said that even that test could be waived, and even 2-3 people could be restrained from assembling in public.

  5. I always find it interesting that it took the US, in spite of a much stricter package of checks and balances, a little over 200 years to return to a comparable level of freedom as the next door “Loyalists” they once violently broke away from.
    I like to think of the two countries as counterweights on each other’s lunatic governments. So if the Canadian Liberals start stealing too much of your money, pick up and move to the States. If the US Republicans look to be committing you to several more generations of global policing, pick up and move to Canada.
    Overall, it’s pretty much a draw when you consider personal freedoms in the two gigantic package deals on offer. I seriously envy those first and second amendments (even if they aren’t much of anything but a legislative speed bump), but I’ll put up with the health care socialism and silly cultural protectionism to avoid the more pronounced police / military fetish and anti-immigrant hysteria.
    As Robert mentioned, Vancouver / Victoria are much warmer than most of the midwest and northeast. People don’t even know how to drive in the rare snowstorm here. It’s quite embarassing, actually.

  6. The list kind of puts the relative importance of economic freedom in perspective though – I’ll take the US or Canada either one over getting caned for spitting on the sidewalk or reading Playboy magazine (with or without my body covered in green Jello) any day.

  7. Yeah, OK, economic freedom isn’t everything, but Canada does pretty well on noneconomic measures as well, according to Freedom House:
    I’m not saying all freedom-lovers should move to Canada. But it’s pretty damned embarassing that in an era when your patriotism is assessed by whether you’ve got a flag pin in your lapel, we can’t even beat Canada on the measure that ought to make us proudest to be Americans.

  8. Anybody who thinks about moving to Canada to be free should do a bit of research on the Canadian “Human Rights” Commissions and Tribunals.
    In any case, the *economic* freedom that I personally experienced in 5th placed Britain is way below what I experienced in 16th placed Netherlands. The reason is that the British housing market is rigged for the sole purpose of making housing as expensive as possible. The Dutch housing market is regulated in a way which leaves most people able to buy or rent, sell or let depending on their needs. Of course, it’s even better here in unregulated Estonia.

  9. Anyone who thinks a country with forced labour in the form of military conscription is second in the world for economic freedom deserves to be taken out and made to shoot people.
    I don’t know whether this is conservative bias (it isn’t slavery if it is in the good cause of national greatness through war!) or stupdidity, but all the “economic freedom” surveys seem to have this blindspot. If you are drafted you don’t even own yourself.

  10. I think there is some confusion in this thread: this is exclusively about economic freedom, not social or political freedom. The objections to the rankings have so far focused on non-economic freedoms, which are not included in this metric. No one denies that Singapore is ruled by a totalitarian regime.

    1. “No one denies that Singapore is ruled by a totalitarian regime”?
      I hate to be nitpicky, but there’s plenty to criticize about Singapore without calling it totalitarian. Its heavy handed government policies are pretty much jmerely Guiliani on steroids. Hardly a sterling recommendation, but calling them totalitarian is a bit of a stretch.

  11. The confusion in this thread is a deliberate device to demonstrate how ridiculous Will’s initial proposition was. If we embrace the same error of conflation as the author, we are led to absurd conclusions.
    “Is it now possible to even half-credibly make the case that the United States, in the age of warrantless wiretaps and the shoeless airport security line, is a freer country than Canadia?”
    I’d start with restrictions on television broadcasting and wander from there into the wider arena of speech. Any honest listener would be convinced long before we reached trivialities like footwear.

  12. I deny that Singapore is ruled by a totalitarian regime. It’s ruled by an unpleasant and illiberal authoritarian regime, but “totalitarian” is a serious word with a specific meaning that should not be thrown around lightly, and Singapore is many miles away from warranting it.

  13. Will, Singapore is authoritarian not totalitarian. Big difference. And it does have rule of law. And little corruption. Maybe the ‘nanny state’ is a better characterization.

  14. +1 Roderick — three cheers for the Anglosphere!
    But I don’t see what Will is so worked up about. Is it really worth moving from the USA to Canada for an increase in economic freedom (this year!) of one-hundredth of a point?

    1. First, I don’t think will is actually moving to Canada, though I’d be fine with it. Second, Will wasn’t saying that Canada’s economic freedom was the deciding factor. He clearly stated that that combined with other freedoms makes Canada as free or freer than the United States.
      And as a dual citizen of Canada/US, I think he’s right.

  15. Isn’t Canada a confederacy, with each province having the ability to secede?
    Such a situation would make it possible for libertarians to congregate in one province and presumable break off into an independent country at some point.
    Unless they’ve done the sensible thing and restricted naturalized citizens ability to vote on such an issue, this seems like one way to get a libertarian country.
    Do you suppose it would have any trouble attracting jobs and industry from the US?

    1. No Canada isn’t a confederacy. Canada is a federation. Though Canada’s formation is called 1867 confederation, it’s not a confederacy. Indeed, Canada adheres strongly to the principles of fusion of powers, as opposed to the US’ separation of powers. That said there is certainly a distinct division between the provincial and federal powers and many battles have been fought over the language in the charter.
      However, there is no formal right to secede in Canada. Indeed there basically nothing in Canadian law which describes the right to separate. Quebec’s attempts to leave with referendum in 1980 and 1995 brought forth just this legal issue. In response, in 1998 the Supreme Court of Canada rule in Reference re Secession of Quebec, 2 S.C.R. 217 that unilateral secession was not legal. They also ruled that Quebec would have the right to a referendum about separation but that would not be enough in itself to ignore the Canadian federal structure.
      Thus, a bunch of libertarians moving to Canada in an attempt to make it secede would probably be a waste of time.

  16. This illustrates the basic problem of libertarianism: libertarianism is for the first-class citizens, not for ordinary people. The first class citizens are the multinational corporations and international investors. They’re the ones who want economic freedoms, and don’t care much about the individual freedoms of ordinary people.
    The modern libertarian movement has been co-opted by these plutocratic interests. The first-class citizens have created and financed the numerous libertarian thinktanks and propaganda mills to churn out a continuous repetition of their talking points. Defense of civil liberties and (heaven forfend!) positive rights just isn’t important to them.

    1. Mike, grow up. You’re not even staying on topic.
      A) libertarians talk about civil rights all time. Does Radley Balko ring a bell?
      B) Will (and Tyler Cowen too) has posted quite frequently about postive rights and how his view doesn’t line up squarely behind the negative rights framework.

  17. Robert S. Porter wrote: “No Canada isn’t a confederacy. Canada is a federation. Though Canada’s formation is called 1867 confederation, it’s not a confederacy.”
    You are quite right that Canada did not start out as a confederation in the modern sense of the word. The English word “confederation” only acquired its modern meaning (a union less centralized than a federation) circa in 1910. In fact, the 1867 constitution barely qualified as a federation: it was a compromise between US federalism and UK style unitary state. In fact, Canada’s first PM thought that the provincial governments would only exist for a short period of time. But Canada is now a long way away from the vision of its founders (which I welcome as an advocate of decentralization). It now IS a confederation and is, in some respects, far more decentralized than the US. The provinces control more of the tax revenue than American states and, in some cases, have quasi-diplomatic representation abroad. Quebec is even represented in international bodies. Moreover, the provinces in Canada have very strong identities. Few Americans fly a state flag from their front porch, yet it is not usual to see provincial flags flown on private residences in Canada. In rural Quebec, one sees more provincial flags than federal: that’s why the former federal government gave out federal flags for free. By most indices of centralization, Canada is very decentralized (and that’s a good thing).
    “Canada adheres strongly to the principles of fusion of powers, as opposed to the US’ separation of powers. That said there is certainly a distinct division between the provincial and federal powers and many battles have been fought over the language in the charter.”
    In American terminology, the separation of powers usually means legislative, executive, judicial. Canada, it is true, fuses the legislative and judicial branches. But this is a totally separate issue from whether it is a federation or a confederation, centralized or decentralized. You can have the separation of powers in a unitary state, you can mix the powers up in a federal state. Separate issue. Moreover, I’m not certain whether the separation of powers has any impact on individual freedom. However, I do think that decentralization does increase the chances of having a free society
    “However, there is no formal right to secede in Canada. Indeed there basically nothing in Canadian law which describes the right to separate.”
    Actually, legislation passed in 2000 does establish the right of provinces to secede, provided that they meet fulfil certain criteria. An important criticism of the Clarity Act, known as Bill C-20, was that the criteria it established were too stringent and thus made secession practically unattainable, even if it said that a province had a theoretical right to secede. This legislation was drafted by the current head of the official opposition.
    Secession, like other exit strategies, has the advantage of keeping the central government honest. The fact mainstream politicians in Canada talk about secession every now and then is very health. Much healthier than uncritical loyalty to the current nation-state boundaries that one sees in the United States.

    1. “However, I do think that decentralization does increase the chances of having a free society.”
      That’s why I mentioned the fusion of powers.
      I also don’t think that the Clarity Act does as much as you say. It doesn’t “establish the right of the provinces to secede, provided they…fulfil certain criteria”. Rather it gives the conditions that a province might enter into negotiations with the federal government.

    2. It is largely correct to say that the founders of Canada intended a centralized union. However, you have to be a bit more careful than the whole Frank Scott-Bora Laskin school was. Not everyone was John A. Macdonald, who basically didn’t want provinces at all. The key parties within the Province of Canada were Brown’s Grits and Cartier’s Bleus, who were both more decentralist than Macdonald. And of course the same is even more true of the Maritimers and other British North Americans.
      What you can say with confidence is that the founders wanted a more centralized union than the pre-Civil War US. They got that.
      As for Canada’s economic freedom, I think the most illiberal healthcare system in the OECD should count for a bit more. Things would be far worse if the US wasn’t so close.

  18. Well, Will, you did say Is it now possible to even half-credibly make the case that the United States, in the age of warrantless wiretaps and the shoeless airport security line, is a freer country than Canadia?
    Since you brought up non-economic freedoms, they must be fair game to discuss.
    And Canada has freedom of speech issues that make it plainly second-rank to the United States in that area.
    Someone already mentioned the “Human Rights Commissions”. There’s also the famous complaint by lesbian sex shops that they can’t import porn from the US because it’s “obscene”; Customs Canada will seize it.
    And then there’s the Notwithstanding Clause, which makes arbitrary government action in the US look like child’s play in comparison; there’s not even any recourse against the Clause, as there can be in the medium to long term against actual overreach against Civil Liberties in the US, since use of the Clause is explicitly permitted.
    And of course, Canadians are drastically less free to be armed for self defense, a fundamental human right.

  19. Fun fact. Toronto is actually further south than Washington state, Montana, and North Dakota. Its very close to being south of all of Minnesota as well. Its also more south than most of Idaho, Oregon (more south than Portland), Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire.
    As someone who has lived in both, the US seems more repressive. Also, I was a student in Canada and I got to write off my tuition, my rent, my textbooks, and my transportation costs, and I could carry my deductions forward in a way that you can’t in the US. If I had stayed past school, I wouldn’t have had to pay any taxes for a couple years from these carried deductions. Although officially, my taxes were higher in Canada, when all was said and done, I paid less there, but this would not hold true for higher tax brackets. That being said, the 15% or so sales tax in Toronto was pretty bad.
    Going from Toronto to Texas, I actually miss the gun laws. Its taken me a while to readjust to the fact that I have to be careful where I walk at night. I got very used to taking my safety for granted. When I first came back the US felt a little like “Mad Max” in comparison at times.

  20. “Is it now possible to even half-credibly make the case that the United States, in the age of warrantless wiretaps and the shoeless airport security line, is a freer country than Canadia?”
    That depends on what kind of “freer.” What do shoeless airport security lines have to do with economic freedom investigated in the report?

  21. Dumbass.
    I’m in Canada and you completely forgot about the 2nd amendment and the Declaration of independence.
    How free are Canadians when they’re all unarmed and their National Police Force is armed to the teeth?
    Americans, don’t ever listen to these
    whiney-accented little brown nosers.
    Canadians sound like this to the world (dumbass)
    We’re better, eeh we are, eeh? we know it eeh? we have to prove it eeh? We have lots of frozen land that’s good for nothing eeh? it looks really big on a map eeh? the actual populated area of Canada amounts to the size of South Dakota eeh? We’er better eeh?
    That get’s old and tiring really fast.

  22. Again, Dumbass.
    Canadians have been having their calls recorded since digital cell-phones
    became common. CSE ( Canadian Security Establishment, CSIS, RCMP
    All the things you accuse of the Americans has been done to you first and you wouldn’t even know it unless an American had told you it was happening.
    Free my ass. Canadians are Pwed by England and the British “Crown” and all the
    European aristocracy that attend Build-a-burger meetings since 1954.
    That’s why you see no unrest in Canada. It’s owned lock-stock and barrel by the corporate elite with the RCMP as a super-armed goon squad as an occupying army against a bunch of “eh?” hillbilly “think we’re elite” retards with no guns to fight back.
    WOW, Canadians are sooo smart.

  23. Whoah. I should have known. cato huh.
    Will Wilkenson, you are exactly the type of man average Americans will have their sights trained on.
    Screw this gay canadian thread

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