Economic Freedom in the Middle East
If it matters, measure it. The Fraser Institute has long worked with a network of think tanks around the world to measure economic freedom, country by country.
Market economists claim that improving economic freedom within political boundaries enables and encourages entrepreneurs and enterprises to create wealth and improve living standards. If true, this economic reality should encourage the U.S. government and international organizations to appreciate and promote economic freedom reforms (or at least not to oppose economic freedom reforms).
To find out if the claim is true, the Economic Freedom of the World report each year measures how economically free each country is, and over time compares degrees of economic freedom with measures of economic well-being.
Here is a short video to illustrate of why economic freedom to operate a business matters, drawing from an ongoing enterprise dispute in the United States. Across the Middle East similar restrictions on enterprise lock everyday people out of a thousand everyday enterprises, keeping them locked in the “informal economy.”
Moving from Mississippi to the Middle East, here is the trailer for Locked Out: The Roots of Arab Spring, which looks a similar government restrictions on everyday enterprises that make it difficult or impossible for people to escape poverty. Reducing or eliminating such restrictions should be at the center of U.S. policy toward the Middle East (not to mention at the center of economic reforms in the U.S.).
There is more to economic freedom than the ease of launching new enterprises, but this is a key measure, especially across the Middle East. Here is an excerpt from an introductory essay in the 2013 report on Economic Freedom of the Arab World:
The “Arab Spring” continues to inspire both hope and fear. A denial of economic freedom sparked the turmoil that spread across the region, beginning in 2010, when a Tunisian fruit vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi, set himself ablaze after he was denied freedom to sell his wares. Thus far, however, the policy focus of the Arab Spring has been on personal and political freedoms, government reform, reduction of corruption, and democracy, though this is often lost in the ongoing turmoil and, in some places, violence. The Arab Spring also reveals a very human yearning for greater prosperity and opportunity. But, a clear economic agenda has not emerged.
Yet, economic freedom is vital for those seeking these freedoms and democracy in peaceful, stable, and prosperous society, as evidence discussed later in this report shows. Economic freedom supports these goals directly and by boosting prosperity. The drive and ingenuity of individuals and families have simply proved to be more productive than government planning. Prosperity, in turn, supports both democracy, stability, and the further growth of freedom. [Source.]
More on the Economic Freedom of the World report is at www.freetheworld.com. The country ranking from the Economic Freedom of the Arab World report is below, and discussion and analysis is in the report.