The index, the 20th published by the two organizations, rates countries by 10 criteria. In the 2014 edition released Monday night, the U.S. fell two spots to 12th place, leapfrogged by both Ireland and Estonia. Hong Kong ranked first, as it has every year.
America's score on the index has fallen for seven straight years, and the conservative Heritage Foundation now ranks the U.S. as only "mostly free." The top countries on the index -- Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, Switzerland, New Zealand and Canada -- all rank as "free." The decline in America's ranking was driven by slipping scores in the categories of "fiscal freedom, business freedom and property rights."
America's decline came amid an overall uptick across the world in economic freedom as measured by the index, led by improvements among countries in in the Asia-Pacific region such as Burma, Malaysia and Samoa, and in sub-Saharan African nations, including the post-conflict countries of Sierra Leone and Liberia.