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The Globalization Index 2007: Baltic Tiger

Milton Friedman would be at home in Estonia. That’s because the small former Soviet republic has put many of the late Nobel Prize-winning economist’s ideas to the test. The result? Estonia, having shaken itself free from its communist-era shackles, may now qualify as the first Baltic Tiger; it debuts this year at number 10 in ...

Milton Friedman would be at home in Estonia. That’s because the small former Soviet republic has put many of the late Nobel Prize-winning economist’s ideas to the test. The result? Estonia, having shaken itself free from its communist-era shackles, may now qualify as the first Baltic Tiger; it debuts this year at number 10 in the index.

In keeping with Friedman’s free-market philosophy, the country’s government has moved aggressively to open itself up to the outside world. For all practical purposes, Estonia has no corporate income tax, and shareholder dividends are subject to a simple flat tax. Bureaucracy isn’t a problem, either; the government just steps aside to let investors do their thing. The World Bank ranks Estonia 17th among 175 economies in ease of doing business, and sixth in ease of trading across borders. Additionally, the government places no restrictions on foreign ownership of real estate, which has fueled a property investment boom among overseas buyers.

Although the index ranks Estonia 21st in technological connectivity, the country seems poised to pounce higher. The country, dubbed by some as "E-Stonia," has launched a large online government initiative and even declared Internet access a fundamental human right. In March, it held the world’s first general election that allowed e-voting over the Web.

Former Prime Minister Mart Laar, who stepped down in 2002, is widely credited with introducing most of the policies that have helped his country roar ahead of the pack. But among his many awards and accolades, one seems particularly apt: the Cato Institute’s Milton Friedman Prize.

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