0.1. Welcome to the blog of our Institute for Economic Freedom.

0.2. The objective of the Institute is to promote economic freedom, economic democracy. Liberty to choose. That is, a market (of goods, services, labor) characterized by:

0.2.1. private property;
0.2.2. competition; and
0.2.3. based on merit (quality; price; delivery).

0.3. Thus we oppose:
0.3.1. the ever growing state and taxes;
0.3.2. trusts, oligopolies and the several barriers to competition; and
0.3.3. corruption.

0.4. We are also in favor of:

0.4.1. personal responsibility (which is the price of freedom); and
0.4.2. a culture of excellency, merit (to lift markets upward).

0.5. In short: we aim at complementing the political freedom (obtained with the April 1974 revolution), with greater economic freedom (a field where - as shown below - there is a long way for Portugal to go).

0.6. And thus solving the present paradox that:

0.6.1 All the countries the Portuguese emigrate to, have greater economic freedom than Portugal (including the Scandinavian countries) - with the exceptions of France and of Angola, whose exports are 98,2% raw materials.

Economic freedom speaker, Economic freedom speaker Brazil, Economic freedom expert, Economic freedom expert Brazil

Economic freedom speaker, Economic freedom speaker Brazil, Economic freedom expert, Economic freedom expert Brazil

0.7. Our institute's activities are:
0.7.1. Conferences on the power of economic freedom (Professor Sá is an economic freedom speaker);
0.7.2. Publication of articles and diagrams;
0.7.3. Bi-annual newsletter; and
0.7.4. Blog.

0.8. As reading the material below remember that:

“The opinions expressed in the Institute for Economic Freedom (Institute) project are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of any financial supporters of the Institute or the website and project”.

0.9. We hope that you enjoy our blog:

0.9.1. And please remember: If you wish to see the diagrams and figures of our blog in a larger size, please click on top of each figure/diagram; If you use any of our material, do not forget to mention our institute; and If you wish to receive our newsletter, or if you have any suggestion or enquiry, we can be contacted at economicfreedom@mail.telepac.pt.

0.9.2. Thank you for visiting us and remember:

Economic freedom expert, Economic freedom speaker Brazil, Economic freedom expert, Economic freedom expert Brazil

1.1. First: there is a strong correlation between economic freedom and development, be it evaluated in small samples and countries (diagram 1.1.1 below) or large samples and all types of countries (diagram 1.1.2 and 1.1.3 below): economic freedom speaker brazil

Economic freedom speaker, Economic freedom speaker Brazil, Economic freedom expert, Economic freedom expert Brazil

A comparison of Economic Freedom and Wealth

1.2. Second: Portugal has been decreasing in the ranking of economic freedom:

1.2.1 Portugal lost sixteen places from 2004 to 2019.
Economic freedom speaker, Economic freedom speaker Brazil, Economic freedom expert, Economic freedom expert Brazil

1.2.2 And Portugal lost 24 places since 1995.

Economic freedom speaker, Economic freedom speaker Brazil, Economic freedom expert, Economic freedom expert Brazil

1.3. And (third) as a consequence:

1.3.1. Portugal is at the European bottom in terms of economic freedom:

Portugal is at the European bottom in terms of economic freedom

        1.3.2. Has also been losing ranking in competitiveness:

            Since 2004 lost seven places;

Economic freedom speaker, Economic freedom speaker Brazil, Economic freedom expert, Economic freedom expert Brazil

         And since 1997 Portugal lost also seven places.

Economic freedom speaker, Economic freedom speaker Brazil, Economic freedom expert, Economic freedom expert Brazil

     1.3.3. Finally on transparency Portugal has also been losing ranking:

Economic freedom speaker, Economic freedom speaker Brazil, Economic freedom expert, Economic freedom expert Brazil

1.3.4. Indeed there is a strong correlation among all three variables: economic freedom; competitiveness; and transparency.

Economic freedom speaker, Economic freedom speaker Brazil, Economic freedom expert, Economic freedom expert Brazil

1.3.5. As well as, between economic freedom, and Gross Domestic Product per capita (in top of competitiveness).

Economic freedom speaker, Economic freedom speaker Brazil, Economic freedom expert, Economic freedom expert Brazil

1.3.6. Thus, it should come as no surprise the sluggish economic situation of Portugal (on this see next section, please).

Economic freedom speaker, Economic freedom speaker Brazil, Economic freedom expert, Economic freedom expert Brazil

Economic freedom speaker, Economic freedom speaker Brazil, Economic freedom expert, Economic freedom expert Brazil

Economic freedom speaker, Economic freedom speaker Brazil, Economic freedom expert, Economic freedom expert Brazil

Economic freedom speaker, Economic freedom speaker Brazil, Economic freedom expert, Economic freedom expert Brazil

3.1 In 1974 the Portuguese revolution brought political freedom to the country.

3.2 But, that freedom was not extended to the economic sector.

3.3 Consequently 
in the 44 years since the revolution, Portuguese convergence towards the European Union has been very slow (only 12,2%).

Economic freedom speaker, Economic freedom speaker Brazil, Economic freedom expert, Economic freedom expert Brazil

Our institute has four main activities, which are:

4.1. Conferences on the power of economic freedom all over the world, as Professor Sá is an economic freedom expert (see example below);

Economic freedom speaker, Economic freedom speaker Brazil, Economic freedom expert, Economic freedom expert Brazil

4.2. Articles (editorial columns) and diagrams published in major newspapers.

Economic freedom speaker, Economic freedom speaker Brazil, Economic freedom expert, Economic freedom expert Brazil

Economic freedom speaker, Economic freedom speaker Brazil, Economic freedom expert, Economic freedom expert Brazil

4.3. Bi-annual newsletter:

4.3.1. Until now our institute has published twenty one newsletters: the most recent one in June 2019 (see cover below). The link for the newsletter is the following:

Economic freedom speaker, Economic freedom speaker Brazil, Economic freedom expert, Economic freedom expert Brazil

4.3.2. If you wish to receive our periodical newsletter, please contact us at: economicfreedom@mail.telepac.pt

4.4. Blog which is updated regularly.

In this section we introduce you to the five themes (whose data we continuously update):

5.1. The non competitiveness of the European Union;
5.2. Lessons from the USA for the European economic convergence; 
5.3. The second revolution in need in Portugal: the revolution work. Not more, but better, work: thus Delivering the Letter to Garcia (fourth article below);
5.4. Socialism (in american politics), the meaning of economic freedom and the empirical evidence of its power from Europe.
Economic freedom expert Brazil



Today, one mentions frequently the failure of the Lisbon Agenda, that is the European Union Prime Ministers meeting in Lisbon (2000), which “decided” to make of Europe the most competitive world region, within ten years.

We shall divide the numbers of such failure into three categories:
- the result (gross domestic product per capita)
- the immediate causes; and
- the initial/original causes (the causes of the causes).

 The result

Figure one presents the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita of the three major economic blocks: U.S.A.; E.U.; and Japan.

While the world average is 17300 dollars, the Japan average is 174% that value; EU-15 is 192% and the USA is 252% (2,5 times).

Economic freedom speaker, Economic freedom speaker Brazil, Economic freedom expert, Economic freedom expert Brazil

Thus, as figure two shows, the EU per capita is 23,8% below the USA level and Japan is 30,9% below. So Europe is per capita 7,1% better off than Japan.

There are further bad news for Europe: at the rates of growth of the last 38 years (1980-2018), they will never reach the USA average.

Economic freedom speaker, Economic freedom speaker Brazil, Economic freedom expert, Economic freedom expert Brazil

So, not only is Europe poorer than the USA, but also is not converging and will never catch up USA.

Why? To find the causes, let’s first look into the immediate causes.

The (immediate) causes

The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita is the product of four variables:

1 – The GDP per hour (productivity per hour); multiplied by
2 – The number of hours worked; multiplied by
3 – How many people are in the labour market (either working or looking for a job: the active population); and multiplied by
4 – The rate of employment (100% minus the rate of unemployment).

What happens is that the USA are better off than Europe, regarding three variables. Indeed, Americans:
1 – Produce more per hour;
2 – Work longer hours; and enjoy
3 - Lower rates of unemployment.

And so, it is the joint effect of the variables that make americans enjoy a standard of life 33% superior to europeans.

Indeed, in terms of productivity per hour (figure three), europeans are 13% less productive than americans and Japanese are 37% below.

Economic freedom speaker, Economic freedom speaker Brazil, Economic freedom expert, Economic freedom expert Brazil

Then, not only do americans produce more per hour, but also they work longer hours (figure four): 1750 per year against 1578 in the EU, less 10% on average.

Economic freedom speaker, Economic freedom speaker Brazil, Economic freedom expert, Economic freedom expert Brazil

But, then the USA presents a smaller % of working force: 50% against 50,4% in Europe. The champion here is Japan (54,9%): figure five.

Economic freedom speaker, Economic freedom speaker Brazil, Economic freedom expert, Economic freedom expert Brazil

And finally (figure six) the rate of unemployment is lower in the USA (3,9%=100%-96,1%), than in Europe (7,5%=100%-92,5%). Again, it is minimal in Japan: 2,4%.

So, when we ask ourselves: why are the USA so much better off than Europe, the answer must be: because America
1st – Is more productive per hour;
2nd – Works more hours; and
3rd – Has more people working (due to a lower % of unemployment).

Here arises a new question. Why is it so? Does this happen by accident, or are there some root (initial) causes? And in such a case, which are they? The answer respects to the initial causes.

The initial (original) causes

No, it is no accident that the USA works better and more than Europeans. The reasons are immersed in US society and can be found in the fabrics of its population and culture.

Let us concentrate in just a few.

First: Americans are younger than Europeans. The median average is 38,1 years against 42,9 years in Europe and 47,3 years in Japan.

Second: a larger % of women are in the active (working) population in the USA than in Europe or Japan (46% against 45,9% and 43,6%). That is important. It happens that women are different (not better, not worse) from men. So they bring to the working place different attitudes and qualities. And diversity is a source of wealth.

Third: then, the American mind is… different. That is what Alexis de Tocqueville in the 19th century called: the American excepcionalism.

Americans are more motivated. When asked (by the Pew Research Centre): are you very proud of your nationality? 56,1% of Americans answer yes.

The Dutch? Only 20,7%. Japanese? 25,1%. Germans? 23,7% (approximately one in five). This is obviously important. It is harder to be motivated, when you believe you were born in the wrong place.

Fourth: Americans believe in themselves. They have self-confidence. When asked (again, by the Pew Research Centre): does your success depend upon yourself?, 57% of Americans answer yes. But in Europe only 36% agree (56% say it all has to do with forces “outside” their control). So, Americans are inner directed. Europeans are outer directed.

Fifth: the USA enjoys more freedom
Commercial freedom. 
Fiscal freedom (lower taxes). 
Investment freedom (openness to foreign investment). 
Market freedom (lower regulation and lower black market). 
Property freedom (stronger property laws). 
Banking and prices freedom.

And freedom is at the root of economic development. The Heritage Foundation (in Washington) prepares a ranking of the countries with more and less economic freedom.

The IMD (in Switzerland) has another ranking, this time of the more and less economically competitive countries.

How both rankings compare? Not surprisingly the countries which top one list, also top the other: Singapore; Hong Kong and of course the USA; also countries at the bottom in the both the economic freedom list and the competitiveness list tend to be the same. The statistical correlation is +0,74 (significant at a 0% level), indicating that beyond any doubt: freedom works.

As it happens, some European Union countries are well placed in both lists (Luxembourg; Denmark; Holland; Ireland). But then others destroy the average: France, Italy, and of course, Greece and Portugal.

Also Europe is worse off in yearly migration (% of immigration minus emigration in the total population): 2,2% in Europe, against 3,9% in the USA and 0% in Japan.

In short, it is (among other variables) the conjunction of A) youth; B) diversity (higher in women but lower in migration); C) motivation; D) self-reliance; and E) freedom, which explains that Americans are 15% more productive than Europeans (the GDP per capita is 31% above – figures two and three before).


The creation of the Euro currency raised the expectations regarding the Competitiveness of the European Union. That was further enhanced by the Lisbon Summit in 2000 when the Prime Ministers of all EU-15 countries announced their aim of making of Europe, within 10 years, the world most competitive region.

Reality however is far different from, either the citizens expectations, or the governments announcements.

Indeed, not only is Europe far from the USA, in terms of competitiveness, but also (what is far more serious for Europe), it is not closing the gap (figure two).

And so, if the past (1980-2018) is prologue, EU 15 will never reach the GDP per capita of the USA.

What that means? Basically that more of the same is not the solution for Europe. And so, structural reforms are necessary. Even because, the best guarantee of a strong social protection system, are high levels of productivity



One of the great economic objectives of the European Union is to achieve real convergence among its member states. By that it is meant to bring poorer countries (measured in terms of gross domestic product per capita) into the European average.

For such a purpose the European Commission in Brussels (the equivalent to the federal government in the USA) has for the last two decades invested year after year considerable amounts into the economy of four poorer European countries: Spain, Ireland, Greece and Portugal.

These investments have come under different forms: costs sharing of major public work programs; financing of education; subsidising private companies under special programs.

Also, the values of these transfers into poorer countries have been significant. Both for the European budget where they represent 33% of the total budget and in terms of each country’s economy: at 2004 prices (between 2000-2006) what Portugal, Greece, Spain and Ireland (the four poorer European countries when they joined) received in transfers represent respectively 2,2%, 1,6%, 1,3% and 0,33% of their gross domestic product.


Nevertheless, progress among poorest European countries has been relatively slow.

Portugal joined the European Union in 1986. At that time its GDP per capita was 56,3% of Europe’s average. In 2018 it is 71,6%. Thus a progress of (71,6% - 56,3%) 15,3% in 32 years, for an annual convergence rate of 0,8%. At this trend Portugal will reach European GDP average only after 45 years; in 2063 (see figure one). And the European Union will need to keep on pumping funds at the present rate (2,2% of Portugal’s GDP).

Greece has been diverging. Greece joined the European club in 1981. At that time its GDP per capita was 89,2% of Europe’s average. Thirty seven years later it is at 62,8%. A decrease of 26,4% in 37 years: -0,9% per year. At this rhythm Greece will never reach the European GDP average (see figure one).

Spain joined in 1986. At that time its GDP per capita was 72,1% of Europe’s. Thirty two years later, in 2018, it is at 85,8%. A progress of 13,7% in 32 years, that is 0,55% per year. If the trend is kept, another 28 years, will pass by before Spain reaches the European average (figure one).

Ireland is the only previously poor country (when it joined the European Union) that has achieved fast convergence. It joined in 1973 with GDP per capita of 64,8%. In 1997, twenty-four years later its GDP per capita reached Europe’s average. In 2018 it is 74,2% above that average.

So what is the outcome of the European Union process of economic convergence? At best, a mixed outcome. Ireland achieved a fast convergence. But for Portugal and Spain convergence was slow: another 45 years will be needed before Portugal reach the European average. In spite of the fact that all countries received in central transfers over one per cent of their GDP, year after year (except Ireland).

Should this come as a surprise? In part. We knew from economic theory that there are forces in favour and against economic convergence (figure two).

In general, in favour of convergence of a poor region there are three variables:

1. transfers from the central government
2. lower salaries; and
3. it is not necessary to innovate, only to imitate (the so called Krugman effect).

Then, against convergence, that is in favour of more developed regions, there are two factors:

1. More money, therefore a larger market making possible greater specialization and company scale economies, without the onus of transport costs; and
2. greater dynamism, thus more opportunities (the rhythm of a chain, is the rhythm of its slowest link).

So, we knew from economic theory that there were factors for and against economic convergence.

However, it was thought that in the long run, forces in favour would outweigh those against. That this is not the case, comes somewhat as a surprise. But that should not be so if one had looked at the example of the United States.


The U.S.A. is an economic union (no internal trade tariffs) for more than 200 years (Europe started, slowly in 1957). It has been a monetary union for long, too (single currency). And has a federal budget over sixteen times larger than Europe’s. And what is the result? What economic convergence has been achieved by the U.S.A.?
The answer is: much lower than could be expected. There are two ways of seeing this. The first is by looking at the difference in the standard of living among the fifty-one U.S.A. states. The other is by comparing the level of that difference with the difference among the fifteen countries of the European Union.
Indeed, among the fifty-one U.S.A. states there are great differences. The average GDP per capital (PPP) (1) in 2010 (2) of the U.S.A. was 47.131dollars (see figure three). But the state of Mississippi is 30,5% below (GDP per capita equal to 70% of the average of the U.S.A). West Virginia is 28,4% below. And South Carolina 25,7%.
There are the riches states: District of Columbia is 257% above the average; Alaska is 50% above; and Delaware 48%.
Comparing the richer states with the poorer, the differences are enormous. In relation to the average of the three poorest states (South Carolina, Mississippi and West Virginia) the GDP per capita of the District of Columbia (capital Washington) is 400% times superior, Alaska is 109% superior and Delaware 106% superior.
So, there is a large economic divergence. There are a few states very much above the average. And others well below. After two hundred years of an economic and monetary union. This is illustrated in figure three.

This happens despite the existence of a large number of states with a GDP per capita close to the average, forming a solid nucleus of convergence: Texas, Nebraska, Hawaii, Oregon, Louisiana, Iowa, etc. But afterwards there are extreme cases. Of richness. And of poorness. Here, apart from the above mentioned three states (South Carolina, Mississippi and West Virginia), there are other poor states: Idaho (23,4% below the average of U.S.A.), Alabama (23,6% inferior), Montana (23,8% below) and Arkansas (25,4% below). Among others.

Then, there is a major surprise. When one compares how similar they are among themselves, all fifty-one U.S.A. states with, how similar are all fifteen European countries, in terms of GDP per capita, one reaches the conclusion that European countries are more similar (have greater convergence) than U.S.A. states!

Two measures indicate that much. The Gini Index and the GDP per capita variance divided by its mean.

As figure 4.1 shows the Gini Index is greater for the U.S.A. (0,22) than for Europe (0,16) (3). Thus the economic divergence is greater in the U.S.A. Convergence is larger in Europe. There is a six per cent difference.

That is represented in figure 4.2 where the U.S.A. Lorenz curve (the geometric representation of the Gini Index) is below that of Europe.

Indeed, the higher the economic divergence is, the flatter over the horizontal axis the curve would be. On the contrary, in the case of no divergence whatsoever (total convergence), the curve would be equal to the straight line linking the southwest and northeast corners.

Another indication that U.S.A. economic divergence is higher than Europe’s is provided by the GDP per capita variance divided by its average. The fifteen European countries rate here far below the fifty-one U.S.A. states: 4,6 against 7,7 (see figure 4.3). Indicating that variability is far greater in the U.S.A. (1,7 times ) than in Europe.


The example of the U.S.A. indicates that it should come as no surprise that the economic convergence of some poorer European countries has been slow in some cases (Portugal) and  non-existent in others (Greece).

Two hundred years of economic, monetary and political union were not able to achieve that convergence in the U.S.A.: South Carolina, Mississippi and West Virginia stand out as the most important non-convergence cases.

However, what is most surprising is that, at present, economic divergence is greater in the U.S.A. than in Europe (figure four).

That indicates that contrary to the wide spread belief, time and transfers of central funds will not do it all.

Thus the conclusion that the sole way of achieving and speeding up the process of economic convergence, is through structural reforms in the economy of each state or country. Without them, all regions may equally benefit from the transfer of central funds, but in the end, some will be more equal than others.


(1) Purchasing Power Parity.
(2) Most recent data available for international comparisons.
(3) The Gini Index ranges from zero (total economic convergence, that is, no difference in GDP per capita) to one (total economic divergence, very large GDP per capita differences among states or countries). So, the higher the value of the index, the greater the difference in GDP per capita.


There are several wars in this world of ours: between men and women, which are condemned to misunderstand each other since they want different things: men want women and women want… men.

Another war is between rich and poor. And then a third one is between those driving a Ferrari and those who say: I shall still be driving a Ferrari too (on the same side); and those who on the contrary say: you shall be walking by foot, as I do, some day.

Father António Vieira, the great Portuguese thinker of the 17th Century, distinguished between two kinds of people: those of the steps (passos) and those of the court (paço). The former attack the ball at a penalty kick with all their strength. The latter, face to face with the ball, opt for theorizing about how to do penalty kicks.

The former are “can do Joes” following Nike’s slogan: “Just do it”… they are those which… deliver the letter to Garcia.

Let us give the word to the marvellous leaflet by Elbert Hubbard (40 million copies):“When war broke between the USA and Spain, the leader of the Cuban revolutionaries, general Garcia, had its base in the mid of the Cuban mountains but nobody knew for sure, where.

There was no way to communicate with him by mail, telegraph, whatsoever. The USA President, MacKinley, had to obtain, urgently, its cooperation. But: what to do?

MacKinley called for Rowan (an assistant to him) and gave him a letter to deliver to Garcia.

Rowan took the letter and put it in his pocket. Four days later he disembarked from a small boat in the Cuban coast. He went into the wilderness. And three weeks afterwards, he appeared on the other side of the island, after having crossed at foot an hostile country and having delivered the letter to… Garcia.

This is the point I wish to stress: President MacKinley gave a letter to Rowan for him to deliver it to Garcia. Rowan took the letter and did not ask: where can I find him?

Here is a man whose figure should be engraved in bronze and put in all the schools of the world. The youth needs neither book learning, nor vague instruction on this and that, but rather to temper their nerves, be loyal, act promptly, concentrate energies and deliver the letter to Garcia.

There is no one who has not felt frustrated and demoralized in some occasions in the face of men he/she relied upon, only to find in them inaptitude and lack of will to focus on and finish a given task.

You, dear reader, try it. Call an employee and ask him: “please, be as kind as to check on an encyclopedia and write a brief note on the life of Correggio”.

The employee will look at you, with dum, lifeless eyes, and throw a long list of questions such as:

  • Who was Correggio?
  • Which encyclopedia do you recommend I look into?
  • Where is the encyclopedia?
  • Are you sure you do not mean Bismarck?
  • Why didn’t you ask this from Carlos?
  • Is he already dead?
  • How urgent is it?
  • Shall I bring the encyclopedia for you to take a look?
  • What is it for?
  • When I started working here, I thought you would be giving me different types of tasks…

Recently, I did hear statements of sympathy for those who unemployed look for an honest job.

However no word was said, nobody mentioned the boss who ages before time, trying in vain that his/her employees perform a diligent and intelligent job, in a daily struggle against those who do absolutely nothing as soon as he/she turns the back on them.

Every shop, every company, are constantly depurating itself from the bad elements. The boss, in order for business to prosper must let go some elements and hire new ones. The incompetent and unworthy will always be asked to leave. It is in the boss own interest to keep the best those who can deliver the letter to Garcia.

Did I express myself to harshly? Perhaps. But while most show pity for those who fail, my sympathy goes to those who prevail, against all odds, those who make things happen.

To the men who when given a letter to Garcia, obediently takes it, asks no unnecessary questions and just delivers it, this men never will be without a job and he needs not to go on strike to ask for better salaries. My heart is thus, with this type of man. It is of these men that civilization needs and progress is made of.”

Moral of the history? Two.

First: this is the explanation for the failure of communism. Asks E. Hubbard: “If men lack diligence, what will they do when benefits are to be shared by all?”

Answer: very little as M. Tatcher put it: “There were two systems and two results. It is not with impunity that one ignores human nature.”

Second: between progress and misery stands only those who every single day, make a point of being, not part of the problem, not even of the landscape, but of the solution.

Their daily motto is “if there is a will there is a way”. They follow the marines as they say: “nothing will happen during my watch”. And they understand what Lord Nelson transmitted to the British sailors of Trafalgar: “Great Britain expects that each one will do his duty.”

Military? No. Neither military, nor civilian. Just a fundamental attitude before life. These men are the true civilization heroes, anonymous or well known, rich or poor, bosses or employees. Because they assure that every single day will bring progress.

By delivering the letter to Garcia, these men are those the Bible has in its mind when it says: “By their fruits, you shall recognize them” (Mateus 7:16).



Now that both, charges of socialism have entered the American political lexicon and economic freedom is under attack, it seems to be an excellent time to:

- Reflect on the concept of economic freedom; and
- analyze some (European) data on its power.
The Concept

Economic freedom finds its counterpart, its equivalent, in the political arena, in democracy.

That is why economic democracy is frequently a synonym for economic freedom.

Democracy means essentially power to the people. Economic freedom, signifies power to the consumer.

In politics, we have parties. In the market, there are firms. In politics we must have free flow of information. In markets, we require transparency, that is competition based on 1) price and/or 2) quality and/or 3) delivery and not on other factors: “reasons that reason ignores”, as Camões, the Portuguese national poet said. In politics we have % of votes. In the economy, the name of the game is market share. Political parties gain power. Companies seek profits.

 Democracy, economic freedom and regulation

Since my freedom ends where that of others start, it is rather obvious that in order to have political freedom we need a minimum of laws and rules. Otherwise the strong will have more freedom than the weak. Power will concentrate. Power will lead to power. And dictatorship (or dominant power) will follow.

Thus, the old saying that “eternal vigilance is the price of freedom” (Wendell Phillips).

Vigilance in the economic arena receives the name of (a certain degree of) regulation (and antitrust). Simply, to assure 1) high levels of competition; 2) with transparency (based on price/quality/delivery).

So, hands off does not guarantee either political or economic freedom.

Sure, that too much regulation will stifle both. Just as too little will replace democracy and markets with jungles. Where everything goes.

Here, as frequently (Aristotle) “the virtue lies in the middle: not at either extremes”. In just the enough amount of regulation (for economic freedom) and laws (for political democracy).

And of course that, when thinking about the recent financial crisis, we should always keep in mind that banks are very special institutions. Different from all others. From consumer products companies to industrial goods manufacturers. Banks create (and destroy) money: the so called money/credit multiplier. Then they also receive deposits. And they manage pensions. Not like my beer supplier or favorite hotel chain. That is, banks are different institutions and different institutions require different policies.

The sources of economic freedom

So, what does economic freedom (democracy) depend upon? (Just) enough regulation. Low state and taxation (both are coercive powers). Free labor markets. A good justice system (a country without a fast justice is not free). Free international trade. Low corruption. Low black markets.

All these variables are summarized in the Economic Freedom Index (of the Heritage Foundation). That index rates countries all over the world in terms of economic freedom. The 2017 index has Hong Kong as the freer and North Korea as the worst (180th).

The power of economic freedom

But does (economic) freedom really work? Does it pay off? What does the empirical data say?

Figure one, next, shows the relation between economic democracy and GDP per capita. The relation is statistically significant. As can be seen, freer countries are also richer.

And what about if we compare (economic) freedom with (country) competitiveness (not GDP per capita as above).

The International Institute for Management Development in Switzerland publishes a list of the more and less competitive countries in the world. The relation between this (competitiveness index) and the (economic freedom index) of Heritage Foundation is also statistically significant as the figure two, next, shows, meaning that the (economic) freer and most competitive countries share the top of both indexes. Just as the less free and less competitive are the same, are at the bottom in both indexes, too. Thus, the conclusion: competitiveness and economic freedom are related.

Small countries? Take Portugal, Ireland, Iceland and Luxembourg. Again there is a strong relation between economic democracy and GDP per capita (figure three).

And if we compare just two countries? Portugal and Ireland, for instance? Well twenty-seven years ago both those countries had similar GDPs per capita. Then Ireland underwent a freedom revolution in the middle and late nineties. Portugal on the contrary passed from a ranking of 38th (in 1995) to 46th (in 2004) to 62nd (in 2019) in the economic freedom index. The result? Figure four speaks for itself: the GDP per capita of Ireland is now 243% that of Portugal.

Comparing industry to industry? Well, let’s take the case of the pharmaceutical industry where Ireland has lower taxation, companies enjoy greater freedom in setting the prices, etc. Again twenty nine years ago the pharmaceutical industry of both countries, Portugal and Ireland, were similar. Today? Let us just let figure five speak.


I do not wish to burden your time, so let’s just extract together a few major conclusions.

First: economic freedom is not zero regulation, but rather high levels of competition in the markets. With transparency what requires a minimum amount of regulation. Just as political democracy in order to work demands a few laws.

Second: economic freedom works. It pays off. It creates wealth. Where freedom is scarce, prosperity is absent.

Third: consequently, economic freedom is a supreme (important) value. But that does not mean that it is the only, single, oneStability is also important. Just as solidarity. So, after a certain (high) level of the first, room must be made for the latters.

Fourth: Capitalism has defects? My friends: please..., tell me something perfect in this world.

The bottom line is simple. As the data (that is, reality) shows, we better rather live with the defects of capitalism than with the virtues (?) of state economies.

In other words, capitalism is the worst economic system, with the obvious exception, of all others. Of course.