Oh boy, if Mike Huckabee or Sarah Palin or Michelle Bachmann said it, you could write it off as just wilful ignorance or batshit looniness, but when Mitt Romney says that we are "only inches away from ceasing to be a free market economy," you'd just have to write it up as an arrogant, insolent, baldfaced lie. Which is pretty much what they are calling it over at Politifact, the Poynter journalistic fact-checker (sourced, ironically, in large measure, to those bomb-throwing insurrectionists at the Heritage Foundation).
Poynter confers particular attention on the Heritage economic freedom index for 2011, on which the US ranks ninth from the top "freest") out of 179 (actually 183, adding four more "states" where government is so chaotic they cannot be ranked--a kind of freedom itself, of course). None of this is surprising to anyone of even mildly wonky sentiments, a group which clearly includes Romney himself. But here's an extra irony I hadn't noticed before: health care. Namely that every one of those top eight has some kind of universal public health care. And they virtually all get better results than the US has, and at substantially less cost.
Local mileage may vary, of course, and each of the eight eight solves the problem in differnt ways. I suspect that Singapore (number two on the list) provides relatively the smallest amount of direct government cash. But (as Bryan Caplan makes clear, in a generally approving review) there is nothing remotely "free" about the Singaporean health care system: shorthand, it's a mix of compulsory savings and means-tested backup, plus a (dare one say it?) public option.
I dunno, maybe Romney (who can clearly say anything with the same schoolboy grin) will soon be telling us that Singapore and Hong Kong (and Switzerland, and Denmark, and Canada, and Ireland, and New Zealand, and Australia) are just mired in post-Leninist purgatory. Others might say otherwise: they might say it shows that freedom can be enhanced (even on a Heritage definition) by the right kind of government intervention. Like, say, in Massachusetts.