Let’s Take a Look at the Latest World Rankings for Liberty

By Daniel J. Mitchell

America’s score has improved, but not enough.

Last September, Economic Freedom of the World was released, which was sort of like Christmas for wonks who follow international economic policy.

I eagerly combed through that report, which (predictably) had Hong Kong and Singapore as the top two jurisdictions. I was glad to see that the United States climbed to #11.

The good news is that America had dropped as low as #18, so we’ve been improving the past few years.

The bad news is that the U.S. used to be a top-5 country in the 1980s and 1990s.

But let’s set aside America’s economic ranking and deal with a different question. I’m frequently asked why European nations with big welfare states still seem like nice places.

My answer is that they are nice places. Yes, they get terrible scores on fiscal policy, but they tend to be very pro-market in areas like trade, monetary policy, regulation, and rule of law. So they almost always rank in the top-third for economic freedom.

To be sure, many European nations face demographic challenges and that may mean Greek-style crisis at some point. But that’s true of many developing nations as well.

The Humans Freedom Index.

Moreover, there’s more to life than economics. Most European nations also are nice places because they are civilized and tolerant. For instance, check out the newly released Human Freedom Index, which measures both economic liberty and personal liberty. As you can see, Switzerland is ranked #1 and Europe is home to 12 of the top 16 nations.

And when you check out nations at the bottom, you won’t find a single European country.

Instead, you find nations like Venezuela and Zimbabwe. Indeed, the lowest-ranked Western European country is Greece, which is ranked #60 and just missed being in the top-third of countries.

Having now engaged in the unusual experience of defending Europe, let’s take a quick look at the score for the United States.

As you can see, America’s #17 ranking is a function of our position for economic freedom (#11) and our position for personal freedom (#24).

For what it’s worth, America’s worst score is for “civil justice,” which basically measures rule of law. It’s embarrassing that we’re weak in that category, but not overly surprising.

Anyhow, here’s how the U.S. score has changed over time.

Let’s close with a few random observations.

Other nations also improved, not just the United States. Among advanced nations, Singapore jumped 16 spots and is now tied for #18. There were also double-digit increases for Suriname (up 14 spots, to #56), Cambodia (up 16 spots, to #58), and Botswana (up 22 spots, to #63). The biggest increase was Swaziland, which jumped 25 spots to #91, though it’s worth pointing out that it’s easier to make big jumps for nations with lower initial rankings.

Now let’s look at nations moving in the wrong direction. Among developed nations, Canada dropped 7 spots to #11. Still a very good score, but a very bad trend. It’s also unfortunate to see Poland drop 10 spots, to #32. Looking at developing nations, Brunei Darussalam plummeted an astounding 52 spots, down to #115, followed by Tajikistan, which fell 46 spots to #118. Brazil is also worth highlighting, since it plunged 23 spots to #120.

P.S. I don’t know if Moldova, Ukraine, and Russia count as European countries or Asian nations, but they all rank in the bottom half. In any event, they’re not Western European nations.

P.P.S. I mentioned last year that Switzerland was the only nation to be in the top 10 for both economic freedom and personal freedom. In the latest rankings, New Zealand also achieves that high honor.

Reprinted from International Liberty.

Sourced from FEE.org.

Daniel J. Mitchell is a Washington-based economist who specializes in fiscal policy, particularly tax reform, international tax competition, and the economic burden of government spending. He also serves on the editorial board of the Cayman Financial Review.

Top image credit: The Anti-Media


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5 Comments on "Let’s Take a Look at the Latest World Rankings for Liberty"

  1. I travel anywhere I want to in Russia and have never been harrassed by the police. I can go to any large city and never worry because there are No ghettos, no gangs, no drug pushers on the street corners. I could never say that about the US and many countries/cities in Europe and latin america – yet none of this was taken into consideration? Another Fake survey , brought to you by the Usual Western Suspects.

  2. If you’re suspicious of this, you’re probably right. “Freedom” means different things to different people. To a Silicon Valley venture capitalist or exec like Peter Thiel, freedom means the ability to do whatever the hell he wants regardless of the consequences to the rest of us; in other words, libertarianism for the capital classes. This is what he and his ilk complain of. Not freedom for any of the rest of us. Judged from that point of view, the US may look low on the human freedom scale. This looks like Libertarian propaganda.

  3. Personally I believe that the US should be ranked a great deal lower when it comes to freedom. The government seeks to control many aspects of our lives supposedly for our own good but actually simply to exercise more control over We the American People. Of course the elite class has more freedom to do as they please.

  4. semper veritas | February 11, 2018 at 4:19 pm | Reply

    I don’t know what the criteria was in arriving at the the conclusions shown, but one thing for certain there is no personal freedom in any place that does not allow people to own and possess firearms. When you get down to it, I doubt there is any place on this earth where people really have personal freedom, or economic freedom.

  5. America … Australia and personal freedom?! That does not mix.

    Any country that mandates vaccination and, in the case of Australia, deprives needy families of child support / income support payments unless they fully comply with the massive vaccination schedule cannot be deemed to grant their citizens personal freedom.

    Any country, such as the US, that forces some of its employees to accept vaccinations or else be sacked, likewise does not grant its citizens personal freedom.

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