economic freedom

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Over fifty years, observers have become inured to troubling reports of Atlantic Canada's economic difficulties.

Even the most jaundiced observer would recognize, however, that data for the last two years describes something different. The regional economy is not experiencing continued slow decline: it is starting to implode.


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"Travel", said Francis Bacon, "is part of education for the young and a part of experience for those who are older." But there is an additional benefit from a journey outside of one's own borders: a reminder of why certain places function better than others.

In a recent trip to Hong Kong, I met with a plethora of civil servants, some politicians and a few business people, all with an obvious interest in the future of that territory. My purpose was simple: to get a sense of how that territory has held up in the face of massive change occurring in China proper.


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The ongoing debate over the three Canadian telecommunications giants and the possibility of U.S-based Verizon entering the Canadian market has once again brought consumer issues to the fore.

I shall beg off addressing that particular issue it has been covered in detail by others, but the fact so many have passionate views is a reminder that consumer issues matter. This is unsurprising, given that almost everyone outside of some fellow in a remote cabin in North Korea is a consumer. Almost everyone then has an interest in such pocketbook issues.


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Existing attempts to measure economic freedom have long been imperfect — blurring various definitions of freedom, using subjective rather than objective measures, and either failing to account for economic freedom or focusing exclusively on it. That helps explain the rationale behind the Fraser Institute’s new book, Towards a Worldwide Index of Human Freedom.


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“In ancient times, the opulent and civilized found it difficult to defend themselves against the poor and barbarous nations,” Adam Smith observed in 1776. “In modern times, the poor and barbarous find it difficult to defend themselves against the opulent and civilized.” It seems the 21st century is more ancient than modern. What else could be said of an era when failed and failing states generate far more worries for the international community than powerful states?


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On a recent trip to Kenya, my friend and his family crashed head on into an example of why some developing countries cannot grow and prosper.

As they were about to board their flight from Nairobi, the clerk at the exit gate said there was a problem with their boarding passes. Before she returned them and before they could board the flight, they were told they must pay $800 to correct the “problem.”