(CNSNews.com) -- In its 2017 Index of Economic Freedom, the conservative Heritage Foundation ranked 180 countries around the world based upon economic freedom, the ability of citizens in those countries to control their own labor and property. Hong Kong ranked first and at the bottom of the list, the lowest ranks in descending order were Eritrea, the Republic of Congo, Cuba, Venezuela and North Korea.
Those countries, along with 18 others, were designated "repressed" by the Heritage Foundation.
The United States was in the "mostly free" category and ranked 17 out of 180; the U.S.A. was behind such countries as Canada, Ireland, England, and the Netherlands in terms of economic freedom. The top five countries, considered "free," were Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand, Switzerland and Australia.
In explaining its annual index, the Heritage Foundation site said, "Economic freedom is the fundamental right of every human to control his or her own labor and property. In an economically free society, individuals are free to work, produce, consume, and invest in any way they please. In economically free societies, governments allow labor, capital, and goods to move freely, and refrain from coercion or constraint of liberty beyond the extent necessary to protect and maintain liberty itself."
"Economic freedom brings greater prosperity," said Heritage. "The Index of Economic Freedom documents the positive relationship between economic freedom and a variety of positive social and economic goals. The ideals of economic freedom are strongly associated with healthier societies, cleaner environments, greater per capita wealth, human development, democracy, and poverty elimination."
The economic freedom ranking by country for 2017 is printed below: