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Does Economic Openness Lead to Better Food Access?


By Sterling T. Terrell 

Maybe better access to quality food leads to obesity and related health problems for much of the developed world.  That, however, is a non-issue for the bulk of nations and people that lack access to quality food. My question is:  On average, would a more open nation lead to better food access, quality, etc.?

To get at this, I looked at national data rankings published by The Economist, called the Global Food Security Index.  The index considers:  “the core issues of affordability, availability, and quality across a set of 107 countries. The index is a dynamic quantitative and qualitative scoring model, constructed from 27 unique indicators, that measures these drivers of food security across both developing and developed countries.” For example, countries with great access to food include: Switzerland, Singapore and the USA.  At the bottom of the list are nations like:  Congo, Chad, and Tongo.

To measure the other side of the coin, I used country by country ranking data from The Heritage Foundation found in their latest Index of Economic Freedom.  Heritage says:  “We measure economic freedom based on 10 quantitative and qualitative factors, grouped into four broad categories, or pillars, of economic freedom.” The freest nations are listed as:  Hong Kong, Singapore, and Australia.  The most repressed nations are listed as:  Zimbabwe, Cuba, and North Korea. The methodology of the Global Food Security Index is here, the same for the Index of Economic Freedom is, here, under Q.3. Nations that did not appear in both series were omitted.

So, is an open economy associated with better food access and quality?  I would have guessed yes, but what does the data say? It turns out that a 1% increase on the Index of Economic Freedom equates, on average, to about a .53% rank increase on the Global Food Security Index. Take a look.


Rwanda, of all places, seems to be a bit off its culinary track, with a #65 freedom ranking and a #97 food security ranking. Nations like Brazil though, (ranked 114th in the world in terms of economic freedom) do not seem to fair too badly in their access to quality food.  Brazil comes in at 29th in the world on the Global Food Security Index. France too is ranked 70th globally on the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom while coming in at number 7 on The Economist’s Global Food Security Index. I can almost recall the smell of a French bread shop as I type.

On the spirit of economic openness and better food access, maybe Orson Welles had it right.  He supposedly said: “Ask not what you can do for your country.  Ask what’s for lunch.” I’ll buy that.

Sterling Terrell has written for Taki's Magazine and Cotton 247, among others. Follow @sterlingterrell on Twitter.


Contact Peter G. Klein

Peter G. Klein is Carl Menger Research Fellow of the Mises Institute and W. W. Caruth Chair and Professor of Entrepreneurship at Baylor University's Hankamer School of Business.

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