In each of these 10 categories, more than 50 independent economic criteria are used to develop a snapshot of the level of economic freedom in each country.
The index demonstrates unequivocally that countries with the highest levels of economic freedom also have the highest living standards. Similarly, countries with the lowest levels of economic freedom also have the lowest living standards. Though the index doesn't measure political freedom, there is a crucial link between it and economic freedom. It's no accident that the world's biggest offenders of human rights show up near the bottom of the Index of Economic Freedom.
A comparison of scores from the first and second editions of the index demonstrates an interesting phenomenon: Wealthy countries tend to reintroduce restrictions on economic freedom over time. As they become rich, countries begin adding extensive welfare and other social programs that were not affordable when they were poorer. Protecting the people whom rapid economic growth has left behind is important, but in Europe in particular it has been carried to levels that impede growth and depress living standards.