TEXT OF COMMENTARY
Renita Jablonski: While Congress debates the shape of the mother of all government bailouts, Commentator Will Wilkinson says the U.S. is already facing stiff competition as the world's bastion of free markets. Wilkinson says the challenger is a lot closer than you think.
Will Wilkinson: Wanna dodge the draft, get gay-married or smoke a joint without fear of life in the clink. Where do you go? Canada!
The frosty land of curling and Celine Dion has long been a destination for Americans fleeing the puritanical, war-mongering excesses of the States. And now, according to a new study, our hockey-loving, socialized-health-care-having neighbors to the north have surpassed the U.S. in its degree of economic freedom. Not only can Canadians more accurately pronounce laissez faire, they have more of it. And that was before the U.S. government nationalized half our mortgage industry and bought the world's largest insurance company.
In last year's Economic Freedom of the World Index, published by an international consortium of think tanks (including my employer), Canada and the U.S., the so-called "land of the free," were running neck and neck. But in this year's study -- which tracks things like the size of government, burden of economic regulation and free trade -- Canada squeaked out a tiny advantage: it ranked seventh compared to eighth place for the U.S. Strictly speaking, it's a statistical tie. But if the U.S. doesn't have the freest economy in North America, much less the world, what do freedom-loving Americans have to keep us from running for the border?
Economic freedom isn't everything, right? The U.S. does more to protect free speech and the right to bear arms in self-defense. And Canadian medical socialism surely benefits from the fact that most Canadians are only a short drive from the slightly more market-based American system. But if the United States of warrantless wiretaps, secret courts, militarized drug busts and mass minority imprisonment is not clearly more economically free than Canada, then it probably has no claim to being a freer country overall.
And now the U.S. government is about to commit hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars to bail out financiers who made a series of terrible decisions, in effect socializing just the downside of financial risk. America's revolutionary founders pledged their lives fortunes, and sacred honor for this?
Vancouver's not that cold, you know.
Jablonski: Will Wilkinson is a research fellow at the Cato Institute.