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, Canada, Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and Switzerland are thought to rank among "Free" economies, as of 2014. 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 a 2014 Index offered by the aforementioned entity, the United States earned a 75.5 out of 100, as opposed to Canada's 80.2. Hong Kong, the highest scorer, earned a 90.1, whereas Great Britain received 74.9. France, with its comparatively higher frequency of government programs and controls, only earned a 63.5, 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, Burma, Equador and Chad, among others.