Historically, no nation has ever had a completely authentic free-market economy. In this sense, it is purely a theoretical concept. However, given contemporary usage by economists and other specialists, such as those at the Heritage Foundation, Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand, Switzerland, and Australia are thought to rank among "Free" economies. The United States, along with many remaining Western nations, is considered to be "Mostly Free."
In traditional theory, a pure free-market economy is one where no outside intervention affects its functioning, either by the state or any other entity. In reality, such an ideal situation has never materialized. Thus, contemporary researchers use the term to refer to nations where such intervention is optimally limited, where private property is most highly valued and where impediments to trade and investment are to the greatest extent quantifiably non-existent.
Research entities, such as the Heritage Foundation (in league with the Wall Street Journal), assign ratings to different nations after evaluating their strengths and weaknesses in related categories. In an index offered by the aforementioned entity, the highest scorer, Hong Kong earned an 89.8 out of 100, while the United States came in 17th earning a 75.1. Singapore earned an 88.6, New Zealand an 83.7, Switzerland an 81.5, and rounding out the top 5, Australia earned an 81.0 out of 100. The United Kingdom received a 76.4, while France, with its comparatively higher frequency of government programs and controls, only earned a 63.3, thus categorizing it only as "moderately free." Other nations considered under Mostly Free status include but are not limited to Chile, Ireland, the Netherlands, Germany, Botswana, Qatar, Macau, Saint Lucia and Columbia. Alternatively, the lowest scoring countries are deemed "Repressed" and include North Korea, Haiti, Equador, and Chad, among others.