America is the land of the free and the home of the brave. Or so Americans think. We actually rank 23nd in the world, under one new ranking of the freest countries.
The Cato Institute and the Fraser Institute just released their 2022 Human Freedom Index. Their annual analysis ranks how free countries are based on a variety of factors, including personal liberties, economic freedom, and civil liberties. It used data from 2000 to 2020.
The results are jarring. The US dropped seven spots from 2019 to 2020, going from 16th to 23rd—and saw a precipitous decline in its raw score as well. It saw declines in both economic and personal freedom. And, while we fared worse than some other nations, it wasn’t just us: overall, “94% of the world’s population saw a fall in human freedom from 2019 to 2020.”
The top 10 most free countries, per the analysis, are:
- New Zealand
The 10 least free countries, per the analysis, are:
- Saudi Arabia
Another important finding from the index is yet more confirmation of the close relationship between economically free countries, with less restricted markets, and freer societies in terms of personal liberties. The two types of freedom aren’t always found hand-in-hand, but strongly correspond with each other, because when people are dependent on the government for their livelihoods, the government has more leverage to oppress them.
Also, yet again, the index reveals that freedom and prosperity are also closely linked. (Which is no coincidence).
The index’s main results point to a new question: Why did global freedom plummet in 2020?
Well, things were already trending slightly downward, but the COVID-19 pandemic—and governments’ subsequent authoritarian policies—drove a huge decline in freedom. From mask mandates to lockdowns, the ways the government restricted peoples’ freedom in 2020 are too vast to put into words.
“The pandemic was a catastrophe for human freedom,” Cato’s Ian Vásquez said. “The decline set global freedom back more than two decades, erasing any gains during that period. Time will tell to what extent the world will regain its lost freedoms as the pandemic moderates.”
What’s one to make of all this? Well, it brings to mind a famous quote from Ronald Reagan: “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.”
Many Americans take our country’s relative freedom for granted. They assume things will always be this way. But that simply isn’t the case. Authoritarians are slowly chipping away at our freedom, and if we don’t arrest this decline, future generations will grow up in an America we wouldn’t recognize.