January 25, 2018 11:18AM

New Human Freedom Index: A Decline in Global Freedom

The new Human Freedom Index is out today. For a third year, the annual report—published by Cato, the Fraser Institute in Canada, and the Liberales Institut at the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom in Germany—paints a broad picture of personal, civil and economic freedom in the world. It uses 79 indicators in 12 areas ranging from freedom of religion to freedom to trade.

Here are some highlights. Global freedom has declined slightly compared to last year’s report and compared to 2008, the first year for which we have complete data. Switzerland is the freest country in the world, followed by Hong Kong, which fell from first place for the first time since the rankings began. The United States is ranked 17th, up from its ranking last year of 24th, but down from its ranking in 2008 when it was in 11th place. Other noteworthy countries rank as follows: the United Kingdom (9), Canada (11), Germany (16), Mexico (73), Russia (126), China (130), Egypt (155), Venezuela (158). See the top and bottom five in the chart below.

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The areas that saw the largest global declines were the rule of law; freedom of movement; association, assembly and civil society; and expression and information. As a region, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is the least free and Western Europe the most free. MENA also saw one of the largest declines in freedom among all regions. While global freedom is slightly down, there is a lot of movement in the ratings, with about half the countries improving, and half doing worse, compared to 2008. The index captures significant declines in freedom in many countries that moved toward authoritarian populism including Russia, Venezuela, Turkey, Hungary and Argentina. The figure below shows Russia’s decline, but also Taiwan’s improvement (East and South Asia are the two regions with the greatest improvements).

There is a strong relationship between freedom and prosperity, with countries in the top quartile enjoying an average per capita income ($38,871) that is far higher than that of the bottom quartile countries ($10,346). Find out much more here about the state of global freedom.