IN THESE trying times of market turmoil, high unemployment and great inequality, economic freedom is touted as the panacea for all the world’s wrongs by outfits such as South Africa’s Free Market Foundation (FMF) and the US’s Heritage Foundation.They argue — and I largely agree — that if you leave people to their own devices and allow them to make the most of their talents and abilities and free them, as far as possible, from the encumbrances of red tape, they will do well individually. Society will then, as a whole, be better off economically.But is this hypothesis borne out by the data?The Washington-based Heritage Foundation has a clear ideological founding principle, encapsulated in the opening statement on its website which states that "when institutions protect the liberty of individuals, greater prosperity results for all".The FMF has a far less impressive website, but its tag line of "progress through freedom" says pretty much the same thing.To test the hypothesis, I use per...

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