In the latest ranking of countries based on economic freedom by the Fraser Institute, the United States has fallen lower than ever.
Fifteen years ago, the U.S. ranked second, behind Hong Kong.
But overregulation, civil asset forfeiture, eminent domain, and other factors have combined to make the country much less business-friendly, according to Per Bylund of Oklahoma State University.
Bylund is Records-Johnston Professor of Free Enterprise and Asst. Professor in the School of Entrepreneurship at OSU.
He tells KRMG he’s blowing the whistle to draw attention to what he sees as major obstacles to economic growth and freedom in the country, but admits there are few easy solutions.
“The problem is not only that we’re doing worse compared to other countries, but that we’re actually doing worse, objectively speaking, compared to 15 years ago,” he said Tuesday.
“There is more regulation. There is undermining of property rights quite a bit through asset forfeiture and eminent domain, where the government steps in to basically take private property and give it to private businesses because the government thinks it’s a better use of this property.”
He told KRMG that in terms of economic freedom, Oklahoma actually ranks fairly high.
“The problem is we’re one of the top sailors on a sinking ship,” he said. “I think it’s better to be a mediocre sailor on a ship that floats and has plenty of wind… really, the federal government is taking us down with it.”
He did note that while Oklahoma has low personal income taxes and a low government debt burden, it does have some issues to tackle.
“Compared to other states, we have a very bloated government in terms of staff numbers compared to the private sector, for instance,” he said. “We have a corporate tax that is far higher than Texas and Colorado for instance, and it is at par basically with Missouri and Arkansas. And that corporate tax is a big problem for business and for job creation in the future, simply because the government is taking the profit from these companies, profit that they could use otherwise to expand their businesses, and employ more people, and innovate.”
Still, Oklahoma’s problems pale with the issues at the federal level, Bylund says, and he’s not optimistic about easy solutions.
“I’m blowing the whistle on this, more than advocating anything specifically. What I can do as a researcher and professor is really shed light on what’s going on, and what research tells us this is going to lead (sic), and undermining property rights for instance – we know that this could have a disastrous effect on society, especially on economic growth, and the whole country’s wellbeing in the future, simply because we’re undermining how the market works, how the economy works, and that means it’s going to have a terrrible effect probably on jobs, on new businesses and so forth, and I think it’s my responsibility as a scholar to share my knowledge on this.”
By Russell Mills for krmg.com