For going on 20 years now, the Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal have been putting together an annual Index of Economic Freedom by evaluating countries the world over based on ten criteria along the lines of property rights, government spending, freedom from corruption, trade freedom, and the like. They released the 2014 edition of their annaul Index today, and here’s the good news: Worldwide economic freedom has reached record levels, huzzah! The various governments of 114 countries took steps in 2013 that increased their citizens’ economic freedom, and 43 countries all over the world have now reached their highest ranking in the Index’s history. Awesome, right?

But, here’s the bad news: The United States is no longer among the relative elite of these economically free nations. Oof.

Countries achieving higher levels of economic freedom consistently and measurably outperform others in economic growth, long-term prosperity and social progress. Botswana, for example, has made gains through low tax rates and political stability.

Those losing freedom, on the other hand, risk economic stagnation, high unemployment and deteriorating social conditions. For instance, heavy-handed government intervention in Brazil’s economy continues to limit mobility and fuel a sense of injustice.

It’s not hard to see why the U.S. is losing ground. Even marginal tax rates exceeding 43% cannot finance runaway government spending, which has caused the national debt to skyrocket. The Obama administration continues to shackle entire sectors of the economy with regulation, including health care, finance and energy. The intervention impedes both personal freedom and national prosperity.

http://www.heritage.org/index/images/book/2014/in-2014-region-map-web-world.jpg

Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, Switzerland, New Zealand, Canada, Chile, Mauritius, Ireland, Denmark, and Estonia all outrank our new 12th-place spot, with Venezuela, Zimbabwe, Cuba, and North Korea bringing up the very rear […shudders].

As I mentioned earlier today, the Obama administration is currently prepping for the president’s fifth State of the Union address by touting all the sweet executive actions they’ve freshly come up with to spur along the economy should Congress fail to act on their legislative proposals. Yet again, however, the Obama administration’s ideas all seem to center around ways to spend more taxpayer money, increase top-down federal intervention, and layer the regulations on even more thickly — i.e., take our economic freedom even further down the drain — and their only regret seems to be that this spitefully obstructionist ‘Republican’ Congress of ours hasn’t permitted them to do even more of the same.