The United States gained a higher score in the 2018 Index of Economic Freedom published Friday by The Heritage Foundation.
The score of the United States improved by 0.6 points, the first overall gain since the 2015 index.
Calling himself a “big Trump fan,” Ed Feulner, founder and former president of The Heritage Foundation, noted the United States’ score was improving, although the index only took into account the first half of 2017.
“The United States has not only stopped a decline, [but] it’s moving in the right direction,” Feulner said in an interview with CNBC Friday. “Our cutoff for data is June 30, so we don’t include the tax plan that just went into effect a month ago, so the United States has been doing better.”
Hong Kong and Singapore received first and second place in the “free” category, with the United States coming in at 18th place in the “mostly free” category. China took the 110th place in the “mostly unfree” category, and North Korea came in last among all countries.
>>> Check out the full 2018 Index of Economic Freedom
Feulner said the economic policies of countries are directly reflected in the scores the countries receive.
“I remember the very first issues [of the index], 24 years ago, and No. 4 was Bahrain,” Feulner said, adding:
Right now, Bahrain is down to No. 50. So the countries really can make a difference and can either do the right kind of economic policy or the wrong kind.
And the right kind, of course, doesn’t just look good for the government or for big business—the right kind of economic policy means the average person’s income, per-capita income, is going up.
The yearly Index of Economic Freedom was launched in 1995 and uses four main categories—rule of law, government size, regulatory efficiency, and open markets—to calculate economic freedom.
There are also 12 specific categories that are used in the evaluation: property rights, judicial effectiveness, government integrity, tax burden, government spending, fiscal health, business freedom, labor freedom, monetary freedom, trade freedom, investment freedom, and financial freedom.
The scores the countries receive in these categories are averaged to create an overall score.
On average, the Americas region has an average score of 60.1, and no “free” economies.
“We’re very upbeat about the U.S., where it’s going and the reason why it did so much better in this year’s ranking is because of the early deregulation from the Trump era,” Feulner said. “So it’s looking good there and of course the U.S., like it or not, is still the engine that pulls the whole train.”