Speaking two decades before The Wealth of Nations was published in 1776, Smith said, "Little else is requisite to carry a state to the highest degree of opulence from the lowest barbarism but peace, easy taxes, and a tolerable administration of justice: all the rest being brought about by the natural course of things."
If ever there was a system that made following Smith's recipe look easy, it's the Danish economy's mix of low inflation and low unemployment, emphasis on entrepreneurship and lower taxes. These qualities combined with high marks for innovation and technological savvy lift Denmark to the top of our third annual ranking of the Best Countries for Business (formerly the Forbes Capital Hospitality Index).
To find the best, we analyze business climates in each of more than 120 national economies, focusing on degrees of personal freedoms, like the right to participate in free and fair elections, or freedom of expression and organization.
Investor protection examines the recourse held by minority shareholders in cases of corporate misdeeds, while corruption looks at the number and frequency of similar misuse of corporate assets for personal gain. Together with economic policies supportive of free trade and low inflation, these key points form a snapshot of countries' suitability for capital investment.
Topping the list for 2008: Denmark, which rose three slots from last year, Ireland (up 19 places to No. 2), Finland (up four to third place), the U.S. (down three to fourth) and U.K. (up five to fifth). Big movers like Ireland, Estonia (No. 10, up 24 spots) and Saudi Arabia (No. 47, up 37) have limited bureaucracy standing in the way of entrepreneurs hoping to do business within their borders.