by Kevin Bliss
Personal freedom on the planet has been on the decline since at least 2008. The Cato Institute in the U.S. and Canada’s Fraser Institute place New Zealand at the top, while the U.S. and the United Kingdom tie at 17th in the latest rankings announced in December 2020.
They are featured in the Human Freedom Index 2020, which focuses on 162 countries and measures personal, civil, and economic freedoms.
Human freedom is a social concept that plays a role in human progress and well-being. The report states that there exists a strong, positive relationship between freedom and prosperity.
Published by Ian Vasquez and Fred McMahon, the index used 76 indicators to measure personal and economic freedom. This is the sixth and, thus far most comprehensive, index formulated. It takes into consideration such factors as the size of government, rule of law, legal system and property rights, access to sound money, and religion. It measured countries worldwide utilizing data gathered in 2018.
The index found that the average human freedom rating was 6.93 on a scale of 10, up .01 from the previous year but down .04 from the first index rating reported in 2008.
Vasquez said that freedom of religion, identity and relationship freedoms, and the rule of law saw the largest decreases.
In addition to New Zealand, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Denmark, and Australia rounded out the top five countries for personal freedom; the five worst were Iran, the Yemen Republic, Venezuela, Sudan, and Syria.
The regions of North America, Western Europe, and Eastern Asia saw the highest levels of freedom while North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, and South Asia saw the worst.
Women-specific freedoms were strongest in North America, Western Europe, and Eastern Asia.
Of the U.S. and the United Kingdom. Vasquez said the drop in economic freedom exceeded a decline in personal freedom. “The United States ranks 17th and has begun a decline in its level of freedom in 2018 after years during which it had been regaining lost ground from a previous decline,” he wrote.
The report stated that 15 percent of the world’s population lives in a country that has an average per-capita income of $50,340 and enjoys the highest freedom while 34 percent live in countries with the lowest freedom index rating and an average per-capita income of only $7,720.
The gap in freedom between the most free and the least free has “been increasing since 2008.”
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