Land of the Free

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WASHINGTON: Its new status as the jewel in China's crown may be keeping droves of tourists away, but Hong Kong still reigns supreme as the freest economy in the world, according to an annual survey by the Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal.

The United States had to settle for joint fifth place with Switzerland, no less in the rankings of trade, tax, banking policy and amount of government intervention in the economy. Hong Kong, Singapore, Bahrain and even New Zealand were judged more monetarily "free" and as the survey authors remind us, "countries that have the most economic freedom also have higher rates of economic growth and are more prosperous." Alright, already.

The fact that the rankings are unchanged from last year despite Hong Kong becoming a Special Administrative Region of China last July can be seen as a victory for Jiang Zemin, who went out of his way to preserve the former British colony's status under the dictum of "one country, two systems." China itself, strangely enough, is ranked Number 120, and deemed "mostly unfree." Beijing investors, evidently, have much to learn from their brothers to the south: like the thrill of watching the bottom drop out of the Hang Seng index, for example.