A five-minute primer on an issue making headlines Hong Kong has been voted the freest economy in the world for the 11th consecutive year by the Heritage Foundation. What is the foundation exactly? The Washington-based foundation describes itself as a 'research and educational institute, a think-tank'. It says its mission is to 'formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values and a strong national defence'. Basically, it generates 'solutions' for America that are in line with its right-wing beliefs and sends them to politicians, policymakers and journalists. Where does America come on its free-economy list? After dropping out of the top 10 last year, it climbed back to ninth place. But it seems its limited government, traditional values and strong national defence are not working as well there as they do in Hong Kong or Singapore in creating a mega-free economy. So, who's in this think-tank? It was founded in 1973, just after then president Richard Nixon was ousted, by Joseph Coors, of Coors beer, and right-wing activist Paul Weyrich. Its current president is Edwin Feulner, who received the Presidential Citizens Medal from Ronald Reagan for his work as 'a leader of the conservative movement'. Prominent members include former presidential candidate and chief executive of Forbes Inc, Steve Forbes, and Reagan's attorney-general, Ed Meese. What do people say about it? Some observers say the foundation has played an influential role in forming American domestic and foreign policy since the Reagan era, during which it was often ominously described as a 'shadow government'. The Economist, in a 2003 article, wrote: 'At their most organised, the right-wing think-tanks often seem more like businesses than universities. Heritage, for instance, has a carefully defined mission: influencing Capitol Hill ... Heritage is as passionate about selling conservative ideas as Coca-Cola is about selling gaseous drinks.' So, back to this Index of Economic Freedom that Hong Kong tops. How does the foundation define 'free'? The annual index, which the foundation prepares jointly with The Wall Street Journal, measures 161 countries against a list of 50 variables divided into 10 broad factors of economic freedom. Low scores are more desirable. The higher the score on a factor, the greater the level of government interference in the economy and the less economic freedom a country enjoys. However, critics say that while it may measure how free an economy is from government interference, it fails to measure other forms of interference such as those by big businesses and cartels, and therefore does not reflect how truly free an economy may be.