A new study on human freedom in the world has ranked the United States as only the 20th most free country, reflecting a long-term trend of decline.
Jointly published by the Cato Institute, the Fraser Institute (Canada), and the Liberales Institut (Germany), and written by Cato’s Ian Vásquez and Tanja Porcnik, the study ranks 152 countries by freedom based on voluntary exchange, speech, religion, movement, women’s freedoms, safety and security, and rule of law, among others.
Hong Kong, Switzerland, and Finland take the top three spots. The United States is 20th, above Czech Republic and just below Mauritius.
In the introduction, Liberales Institut Director Detmar Doering explained the usefulness of the index.
“The Human Freedom Index may help us to understand some of the complexities of freedom in this world. It is an intellectual challenge we must confront so that freedom will prevail. And it is part of a process of learning how to preserve our freedom,” he wrote.
Vásquez and Porcnik note that “there appears to be a strong relationship between the level of freedom and income” and “there is a strong correlation between freedom and democracy.” They pull data from a variety of sources between 2008 and 2012.
The top 20:
-United States of America
Explaining the decline of the United States, Vásquez states that “the U.S. performance is worrisome and shows that the United States can no longer claim to be the leading bastion of liberty in the world. In addition to the expansion of the regulatory state and drop in economic freedom, the war on terror, the war on drugs, and the erosion of property rights due to greater use of eminent domain all likely have contributed to the U.S. decline.”
Political campaigns remain rife with slogans about the United States being the greatest, freest, strongest country in the world.
When the issue is examined closer, however, America lags behind a cluster of western Europe, and post-communist Europe approaches parity.
Czech Republic (21), Estonia (22), Lithuania (26), Poland (27), Latvia (29), and Slovakia (30) all have higher levels of personal freedom than the United States.