Open markets offer the only realistic hope of pulling billions of people in developing countries out of abject poverty, while sustaining prosperity in the industrialized world. Kofi Annan
Africa must be allowed to trade itself out of poverty. Bob Geldof
Human rights do not include a right to have economic freedom or to have a free market. But one can argue that economic freedom is a necessary consequence of human rights and that the absence of economic freedom is an indication of a country’s disrespect for human rights. The right to do with your property as you like, to move freely and to associate freely are all human rights and are prerequisites and causes of economic freedom.
There’s also a strong case in favor of the theory that economic freedom promotes prosperity and hence also respect for economic rights.
Economic freedom consists of personal choice, the ability to make voluntary transactions, the freedom to compete, and security of privately owned property. This is the definition of the Fraser Institute. This institute tries to measure the degree to which the policies and institutions of countries support economic freedom. Their index measures:
- size of government
- legal structure and security of property rights
- access to sound money
- freedom to trade internationally and
- regulation of credit, labor and business.
They conclude that economic freedom has grown considerably in recent decades and that economic freedom is correlated with income.
The complete list of countries is here. I don’t want to suggest that economic freedom should be absolute. There has to be regulation of markets (for health reasons, safety reasons, reasons of fair competition etc.) as well as political corrections of the effects of markets on issues of social justice, poverty and equality.
Moreover, when discussing economic freedom we shouldn’t only think of the internal structure of states but also their interaction: import tariffs, quota, subsidies and other protectionist measures also inhibit free trade, often at the expense of poor traders and farmers in developing countries.