Tuesday 24 September 2013

Third in freedom, last-equal in Cinnabon

New Zealand again ranks third in the 2013 Economic Freedom report, after having caught first place in a more comprehensive index of human freedom (both personal liberties and economic freedoms) earlier this year. Here's the Fraser Institute's latest report. New Zealand's been third in the Economic Freedom rankings since 2004 and in the top 5 since 1995.

But there are a few different conceptions of freedom.

The Economic Freedom index captures an important one: the freedom to engage in economic transactions without coercion, secure in the knowledge that your property rights will be enforced, that money is sound, and that taxation's burden doesn't weigh too heavily. This measure of freedom tends to be a pretty strong predictor of economic well-being. If the regressions that my honours student is working up are right, people mostly value economic freedom instrumentally: they migrate from one country to another based on the differences in income that economic freedom generates rather than because of economic freedom per se. Personal freedoms seem to be driving rather a lot. But I'll post on that work when we're a little farther along.

But another important freedom is the freedom to purchase a Cinnabon. And while I am not banned from here buying one, there exists not a single Cinnabon anywhere in Australia or New Zealand. I expect that somebody's bought the franchise rights and hasn't bothered doing anything with them. Here's an alternative freedom ranking, based on the number of Cinnabons in a country. I haven't weighted by population yet: that is left as an exercise for some future student. Ideally, you'd want a measure of the time cost for the average trip to a Cinnabon. For New Zealand, you'd need to fly to the Phillipines or to Los Angeles. If you lived in Ramallah, in the Palestinian Territory, you might be able to just walk next door.

Here is the Cinnabon Freedom Index (crude). I hope someone improves upon it. We simply here have the number of outlets per country, as listed on their website today. I wonder whether some of the numbers are out of date: their website stopped adding news stories back in December 2012. But here are the numbers.

Country Rank Number of Outlets Econ Freedom Rank
United States 1 531 17
Saudi Arabia 2 144 60
Russia 3 56 101
United Arab Emirates 4 36 5
Egypt 4 36 108
Venezuela 6 31 152
Mexico 7 23 94
Canada 7 23 8
Philippines 9 22 56
Kuwait 10 19 55
South Africa 11 18 88
Panama 12 14 67
Ecuador 13 12 134
Honduras 14 11 56
Bahrain 14 11 8
Colombia 14 11 96
Japan 17 9 33
Puerto Rico 18 7
Malaysia 18 7 68
Costa Rica 18 7 63
Romania 21 6 45
Aruba 21 6
United Kingdom 23 5 12
Guatemala 23 5 56
Dominican Republic 23 5 61
Qatar 26 4 23
El Salvador 26 4 73
India 26 4 111
Jordan 26 4 13
South Korea 30 3 33
Thailand 30 3 94
Trinidad 30 3 79
Oman 30 3 46
Austria 30 3 27
Cyprus 30 3 18
Peru 36 2 22
Greece 36 2 85
Kyrgyzstan 36 2 102
Lebanon 36 2 38
Malta 36 2 21
Palestinian Territory 41 1
Poland 41 1 59
Syria 41 1
Turkey 41 1 68
Germany 41 1 19
Guam 41 1
Italy 41 1 83
Latvia 41 1 46
Nicaragua 41 1 54
Azerbaijan 41 1 117
Chile 41 1 11
Curacao 41 1

See New Zealand or Australia on that list? No. We're last equal at zero. Tied with Antarctica. And Greenland. And Iran.

I wonder whether adding per capita Cinnabon density to any of Chris's migration regressions would improve fit.

It's four years ago that Prime Minister John Key appeared on the David Letterman show announcing that New Zealand now had a Cinnabon in the Auckland Airport. It wasn't true then and it isn't true now. I blame Letterman's writers. But I'm still disappointed.


  1. Disgusting "food" that is a sign of a decayed society rather than freedom of any kind. Why not use coffee shops, or books published, newspapers read or milk litres sold? The answer is that they are all flawed. But at least choose something good for us..

  2. Note the "fun" tag, Lance. I was hardly being serious that we can divide all of freedom into "Economic freedom" and "Ability to get a Cinnabon".

    I do really really like Cinnabon though.

  3. Pleasure is good for you Lance. If you think of food as nothing more than fuel to keep you alive you miss out on one of the truly important things in life.

    Which leads me to ask Eric, just how good is Cinnabon? I've taken your advice on Heinz Ketchup before (without regret), so exactly how delicious are Cinnabon's products? I can infer something from the fact you were inspired to create an index in its honour, but it doesn't take a lot to provoke an economist to make an index about something.

  4. Pop out to the Ohoka Farmers Market on a Friday morning and I will happily sell you a cinnamon bun to rival the Cinnabon (according to my various North American customers). Of course if you can tell me how to become a squilluionaire with a Cinnabon franchise I would trade.

  5. Other Cinnabon-esque metrics where NZ falls short:

    Zero Costco hot dog meals available ($1.50US for a hot dog or Polish sausage and a medium fountain drink).

    Zero Ikeas, making for a distinct difficulty in sourcing Scandanavian-designed flat-pack furniture after a nice meal of Swedish meatballs and lingonberries.

    Zero In-N-Outs.

    However, I've still yet to find a quality flat white back here in the States, and meat pies are non-existent, so maybe NZ wouldn't do so poorly on the composite.

  6. I will be there one Friday when the teaching is done!

  7. Instant:short black :: cinnamon scroll : cinnabon

  8. I have finally started finding acceptable US style hotdogs. Dill pickles are rare.
    Carl's Junior in Auckland now though...maybe someday in Christchurch. ..

  9. Christian BjørnskovWed Sept 25, 11:47:00 pm GMT+12

    If you measure freedom as the availability of cinnamon buns instead of Cinnabon outlets, Sweden and Denmark would be top of the world! There are no outlets, but you can get cinnamon buns (Kanelbullar) or cinnamon 'snails' (Kanelsnegle) at any decent bakery in both countries. Perhaps availability of sweets and 'unhealthy' food is not a bad freedom measure?

  10. I see, that is pretty enticing.

  11. For some of us, Cinnabon imposes a significant negative environmental externality: the smell. Data would be needed to evaluate the importance of this

  12. They're mostly in malls so no externality: if it imposes net costs on customers, the mall will only rent to them at higher rates, making other stuff cheaper...

  13. You can get New York deli style gherkins from On Trays in Wellington. They may deliver if you sound desperate enough. :)