Economic freedom is frequently taken as a given in the United States and most of the developed world.
But, what if economic freedom is a luxury that arises only in the presence of something even more fundamental: religious liberty?
In a new working paper, and summarized in a recent op-ed, Christos A. Makridis shows that religious liberty is a prerequisite to economic freedom.
Using a sample of over 140 countries between 1996 and 2018, he shows that improvements in religious liberty pre-date improvements in economic freedom, but not the other way around, even after controlling for macroeconomic indicators, such as employment and gross domestic product growth. The logic is simple: since religious freedom fundamentally involves granting individuals the autonomy to think and worship in whatever form they wish, it is arguably the most basic of all freedoms. Property rights are of little use if those who retain them do not have the freedom to think what they wish and practice what they believe.
Christos also documents several new facts about religious liberty across countries and over time. Most importantly, it has declined substantially between 2010 and 2020, dropping by 29.6% in the United States, 16.2% in the United Kingdom, and 36.7% in France just to name a few prime examples. In general, religious liberty has declined more in countries that traditionally rank high in their economic freedom, especially property rights.
These new results highlight the importance of preserving religious liberty, especially now, across all layers of society. Once the freedom to think and worship freely slips, all other freedoms will shortly vanish.
See Christos’ other research on his website or connect with him on LinkedIn.