Gene Epstein‘s latest “Economic Beat” column for Barron’s analyzes various explanations for the nation’s sluggish economic growth since mid-2009. Epstein finds most of the explanations fall short of the mark. Then he concludes his piece with the following observation:

This brings us to a final explanation that deserves more recognition than it so far has received. Research has shown that a nation’s economic performance is strongly influenced by its degree of economic freedom. The Vancouver, British Columbia-based Fraser Institute is about to publish updated economic-freedom indexes for 144 countries for the year 2010. Based on advance data I obtained, Fraser has found that the noticeable decline in economic freedom in the U.S. from 2008 to 2009 was confirmed by a further ticking down in 2010 — an acceleration of a long slide that began in 2000.

One virtue of Fraser’s methodology is that it’s based strictly on publicly released data, avoiding subjective judgment calls.