Connecting Religious and Economic Liberty

From Dylan Pahman at Public Discourse:

New data suggest that countries that value and protect religious liberty offer fertile soil for economic liberty to flourish.

In a recent article in the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion, Brian Grim, Greg Clark, and Robert Edward Snyder published their findings that “religious freedom contributes to better economic and business outcomes and that advances in religious freedom are in the self-interest of businesses, government, and societies by contributing to successful and sustainable enterprises that benefit societies and individuals.” Grim et al. demonstrate a strong connection between religious freedom and economic growth. This raises another question: does religious freedom also correlate with economic liberty?

In this essay, I compare data from the Heritage Foundation and Wall Street Journal’s 2014 Index of Economic Freedom with the Pew 2012 Government Restrictions on Religion Index and the 2012 Social Hostilities Toward Religion Index, which can be found in Appendix 2 and 3 of the report “Religious Hostilities Reach Six-Year High.” Every measure of this kind has its limits, of course, but both sources use clear and consistent methods to determine their ratings. They reliably reflect the concrete realities in the countries they rate.

The economic freedom index put together by Heritage and the Wall Street Journal uses the following five ratings (from best to worst): “free,” “mostly free,” “moderately free,” “mostly unfree,” and “repressed.” These ratings are based on average scores in ten quantitative and qualitative measures, divided into four equally weighted categories: the rule of law (property rights and freedom from corruption); limited government (fiscal freedom and government spending); regulatory efficiency (business freedom, labor freedom, and monetary freedom); and open markets (trade freedom, investment freedom, and financial freedom). Thus, countries with a “free” or “mostly free” rating do well in maximizing these measures, whereas countries with a “mostly unfree” or “repressed” rating lack most if not all of them.

Read more: Public Discourse