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Free Minds & Free Markets

Are Freer Countries Just Better?

The public thinks so, and with freer countries having higher incomes, longer lifespans and lower rates of infant mortality, why wouldn't they?

The Overall Best Country Ranking is a fascinating new list from US News & World Report that ranks 80 countries in relation to one another. A set of 65 country attributes—including great food, rich history, fun and a pleasant climate—were identified by researchers at BAV Consulting and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Those "attributes" were then presented in a survey of more than 21,000 people from around the world. Participants then assessed how closely they associated each attribute with a particular nation. Interestingly, freer countries did very well. Freedom, it turns out, makes countries, in the eyes of the public, better.

A country's position in the Overall Best Country Ranking correlates strongly with its score on the Human Freedom Index, which is the most thorough measure of personal, civil and economic freedom yet created for a large set of countries. In fact, a quick look at both the Overall Best Country Ranking and the Human Freedom Index shows that eleven of the top fifteen countries in each ranking are identical. Switzerland, for example, ranks number one on the Overall Best Country Ranking and comes in second place on the Human Freedom Index. Canada takes second place on the Overall Best Country Ranking and ties for sixth place on the Human Freedom Index, and so on.

Human ProgressHuman Progress

In fact, 40 percent of the variation in a country's place on the Overall Best Country Ranking can actually be explained by its Human Freedom Index score, according to an analysis using statistical software. Moreover, my colleague Chelsea Follett and I have found that there was less than a 0.001 percent likelihood of our analysis results occurring if there were no relationship between the two. Put differently, a country may move up in the Overall Best Country Ranking by offering more freedom to its people.

That makes for a nice talking point, but, as libertarians know, freedom is good for more than simply improving a particular country's position in an inconsequential ranking list. The benefits of freedom are manifold: higher incomes, longer lifespans and lower rates of infant mortality, etc. You can explore the incredible progress that ordinary people have created wherever they have been given the freedom to do so on HumanProgress.org.

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  • Libertarian||

    "A country's position in the Overall Best Country Ranking correlates strongly with its score on the Human Freedom Index, . . . "

    Phew! Finally, a scientific survey that shows socialism is bad. Now that the science is settled, socialist groups can disband and start advocating for more freedom.

  • Libertarian||

    Aw, crap. Never mind.

    "Membership triples for the Democratic Socialists of America"

    http://touch.latimes.com/#sect.....-92749003/

  • ChipToBeSquare||

    I almost puked when I read that. The KKK has like 6000 members at the most and everyone agrees they stand for terrible, outdated values that we've moved on from. Those 6000 are getting more negative coverage about their growing influence than the 18000 morons endorsing the deadliest ideology of the 20th century

    Hearing them say "Look at Sweden!" while advocating for policies closer to Venezuela is just like a Klansmen saying they're "not racists, just a race realists"

  • Kefka||

    "Hearing them say "Look at Sweden!" while advocating for policies closer to Venezuela"

    Really wish the far left would actually bother to look at Sweden and some of the other Nordic countries and see how they are actually run, not how they think they are run. They have strong (and generally more efficiently run) social safety nets but at core they are free market economies often more free market than the U.S.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Asking people loaded questions and leaving out questions about freedom is not a quality study about "best" country anything.

    Did they ask about freedom of speech and factor that in? Every country in the top 15, minus the USA does NOT have free speech guaranteed. How about being able to protect yourself against the government and thugs with weapons? How about open and affordable land?

    The survey was supposed to register good weather and countries like Norway, Sweden and Finland have arctic weather.

    This survey has Garbage in=garbage out

  • SQRLSY One||

    But what about my freedom to tax you so that I can get more free shit?!?! Hunh?!??!

  • ||

    Asking people loaded questions and leaving out questions about freedom is not a quality study about "best" country anything.

    +1 Crushing your enemies, seeing them driven before you, and hearing the lamentations of their women.

  • Robert||

    Every country in the top 15, minus the USA does NOT have free speech guaranteed.


    They my not have it guaranteed, but they have it in most cases. Don't count only the extreme; the relative matters. That is, if you're in a country where all above-ground communications are censored, that's a lot less free than a country that bans only certain narrow classes of communication (e.g. hate speech). If one country's less free, that means others are more free. Think quantitatively.

  • gclancy51||

    Most countries don't think any moron owning a gun is a right, so they're clearly judging on how free people feel. How about my right not to have psychos with guns living next door?

    Freedom of speech is almost everywhere in western Europe but you don't recognise it because it doesn't cover incitement of violence.

    As for the government, I can only talk about my case (Ireland). We elect the government so we don't need to protect ourselves from them. If they make awful decisions that mobilize enough people, those policies are usually dropped. Plus, we could definitely take 'em in a fight, and they know it.

    Thugs with weapons? Less guns make this a lot easier. Nothin' wrong with keeping a baseball bat (or hurley, in Ireland's case) in your bedroom. It helps knowing the assailants have no gun, too.

    Land is limited. That's not anyone's fault. Freedom means having vast tracts of land to yourself? Not an option in many countries, but is not related to freedom, unless you're mad, that is.

    Plus every TV channel can say fuck. That's a bonus.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Canada takes second place on the Overall Best Country Ranking and ties for sixth place on the Human Freedom Index, and so on.

    Their Human Rights Commission begs to differ.

  • ||

    "...including great food, rich history, fun and a pleasant climate..."

    Looks at list. Re-reads.

    I may have struggled watching Sesame Street, but something doesn't jive.

  • Libertarian||

    Perhaps I'm brainwashed, but how is the U.S. not in the top 15 countries for freedom?

  • SIV||

    Too much negative liberty and not enough positive liberty.

  • Robert||

    No, Cato wouldn't rank them that way.

  • Thomas O.||

    I'm more perplexed at Hong Fucking Kong topping the Human Freedom Index. A place under control of Communist China, with no legal recognition for gay marriage, and you can face 7 years in prison for drug possession? Granted, prostitution (if not organized) is legal, but I'm still scratching my head over this ranking.

  • John Titor||

    Try starting a business in the U.S., then try starting a business in Hong Kong.

  • Robert||

    Very few people want to marry someone of the same sex, few people want to use drugs illegally, and hardly anyone in Hong Kong is affected by Red China's gov't. You have to weight things according to their effects on the avg. person.

  • Merl3noir||

    Have you ever been to Hong Kong or China? I'll grant you, and if you look at the data it supports this, Hong Kong does very well because it is Safe, It is small, and The Chinese Communists mostly leave it alone. But most importantly opportunity to improve yourself financially is very good. While I am somewhat inclined to think it is over weighted on this regard, In many ways Economic freedom is some of the most important freedom. After all if you are able to become more financially independent (and living in an economically free country would not in and of itself guarantee this, but it makes it easier) you can avoid many of the other losses of freedom.

  • Ron||

    because of Trump what else

  • SIV||

    The United States is ranked in 23rd place.

    The US is downgraded based on our poor ranking in the freedom of not to be offended and the freedom not to fear legal guns.

  • american socialist||

    What is the freer based on exactly? It doesn't elaborate

    Hopefully it isnt this notion of free stuff and being take care of equates to freedom

  • Robert||

    No, just look at how Cato ranks them. Too long & involved to keep repeating in detail each time it comes up here. Cato'll tell you more than you want to know about it.

  • gaoxiaen||

    Taiwan's pretty high up there. I consider national health insurance as a positive instead of a negative. It's very cheap, the medical care is very good, and it's a subsidy to business that increases labor mobility. Unfortunately, the government has enacted prescription laws, making it *more* difficult to obtain Valium (and its analogs) and opioids. However, a little internet research can show you which symptoms to display at the clinic or hospital.

  • gaoxiaen||

    + more economic freedom (7% income tax rate) and less gun violence. Yes, I like guns but they're banned, and the police cannot carry off-duty.

  • gaoxiaen||

    American cigarettes are one quarter of the American price, and liquor is cheaper.

  • gaoxiaen||

    -1 dip is not available. Not by law, but because it's not popular.

  • Rational Exuberance||

    Well, yeah, there is a strong correlation between position on the freedom index and position on the HDI index. Duh.

    But obviously, neither causes the other. There is a complex set of underlying factors that are a common cause of both.

  • Robert||

    That last bit is true, & very path-dependent.

  • Robert||

    This is news? I'd expect all but commu-nazis to know it, and even they are likely to think it true but the causality running the opposite way.

  • W. Manly Firmness||

    Read USNews's methodology. It's laughable. .../best-countries/articles/methodology. Look at the politically-correct criteria they use under, for example, "Heritage" and "Citizenship." Rather selective and questionable, no? Look at the aggrandizing terms under "Power." I am not sure USNews could more plainly reveal its modern-left / modern-progressive / pro-big-government / interventionist bias.

  • zazoo||

    I've been skeptical about Switzerland ever since I head the Margaret Thatcher had a holiday home there.

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