Of special interest to me are the rankings that are emphasized above: primarily third place New Zealand, but also fourth place USA, and eleventh place Chile. Each of these nations have had a reputation among classically liberal circles for years as being freer places, although each has recently elected a center left (socialist) government. New Zealand has less than 4 million people and Chile has about 15 million people, each of which are dwarfed by the USA's nearly 280 million people.
March 22, 2000
Bay of Islands, New Zealand (northern end of the North Island)
The USA's high rank has always been inflated in my view, perhaps reflecting the wishful thinking of the report's authors. (Ditto for Canada for sure, and likely for some top ten nations like the UK, Australia, and Switzerland too.) At any rate, I would like to add some informed commentary.
I recently (Spring 2000) completed a 15-day tour of New Zealand during which I was able to see the countryside, driving about
3,500 kilometers, and spending considerable time in the largest cities (five days in Auckland, four days in Wellington, and a day in Christchurch). I met with people in business, government, universities, and think tanks. Based on the Heritage Foundation ranking, I expected to find a very free society. What I found instead was quite surprising. The following is a summary of my observations New Zealand. In n some cases I contrast what I saw there with conditions in the USA and Chile.
The Bright Side
New Zealand is a nation of spectacular natural beauty which at points rivals southern Chile and the best places of the USA. Everything is clean and "tidy" with no pollution evident except a tad in downtown areas. The crime rate seems low. People seem nice and are always helpful too. There is freedom of religion. Property rights are relatively "secure", probably on par with rights in Chile, and they are ahead of the USA on account of the takings, environmentalist, and drug war crazes.