Free Minds & Free Markets

Stossel: How Free Are You?

Where does the United States land on the 2017 Freedom Index? Not as high as you think.

Are you living in the freest country? Not if you live in the United States.

The new "Human Freedom Index" by the Fraser and Cato Institutes ranks countries by both economic freedom–like freedom to trade, amount of regulations, and tax levels–and personal freedom–such as women's rights and religious freedom.

America rose seven spots in the latest report, to number 17. But it's still far from where it once was.

Report co-author Ian Vasquez tells John Stossel that America "used to be a two, three, or four. And then government started to grow. It started to spend more." President Bush signed the Wall Street bailouts and increased regulations. Obama continued increasing regulations and upped America's top tax rate.

Stossel says a good ranking matters, not just because it's good to be free, but because freedom allows people to prosper.

The countries near the top of the rankings, like Switzerland and Hong Kong, tend to have less government. Stossel says places with less government are better places to live.

The top of the list:
Hong Kong
New Zealand

The bottom:

You can see the entire ranking here.

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  • SIV||

    The UK outranks the USA?


  • Rhywun||

    Well, it is Cato.


  • Quixote||

    Who wants to be included in a fake-news list? At least here in America we had the guts to crack down hard on the "free speech, it's all just parody" nonsense being used to poison the Internet. Now we should work together to make our nation even stronger, and to do so we should start by penalizing certain inappropriate "opinion" pieces like this one:

  • Curt2004||

    Ah yes, freedom to be tracked on CCTV 24/7. Yay!

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    Well trump said mean things about some friends of ours which is totally worse than enforced hate speech and stricter libel laws.

  • Quo Usque Tandem||

    Same reaction here; we see daily cautionary tales from the mother country that we should heed lest bigger brother should migrate here.

  • Half-Virtue, Half-Vice||

    Gunna have to agree.

  • Aloysious||

    How free am I? I'm free for lunch...

  • Libertymike||

    You buyin'?

  • TheHeathen||


  • $park¥ leftist poser||

    Venezuela proves to the world that they, in fact, could be worse.

  • Mongo||

    Free to lay down my rap:

    keep your eyes on the prize/and your hands on the stash/I say fuck dat/keep your eyes on the money/ your hands OFF the 'Stache

  • Incomprehensible Bitching||

    I define freedom as being free of pesky decisions, so the list just looks backwards to me.

  • Michael Cook||

    Why didn't the DPRK make the bottom three?

  • Veritas et Libertas||

    It was not ranked or included in the study at all. Why that is I have not been able to find but my guess would be that they don't have enough data available.

  • Sometimes a Great Notion||

    Freedom from American imperialist?

    But serious they aren't even on the list so I'd assume that there are no stats to even bother to check to officially rank.

  • lap83||

    Well, duh. We're pretty much Nazi Germany now

  • OpenBordersLiberal-tarian||

    More precisely, we're a mix of Nazi Germany's racism and fascism, and The Handmaid's Tale's misogynistic theocracy.

  • Incomprehensible Bitching||

    Our cultural wokeness is not match for old fashioned Hitlering.

  • sarcasmic||

    My entire state is within the 100 mile constitution-free-zone where border patrol can demand papers from anyone at any time.

    "Show me your papers!"

    It's real.

  • sarcasmic||

    I've been through border patrol checkpoints, hours from the border. Federal agents demanding proof of residency. Whenever and wherever they want.

  • Mongo||

    I brought over some comic books and had to get grilled over bringing propaganda across the border by those shitpigs.

  • Quo Usque Tandem||

    In which direction were you interrogated? Was it the Canucks who didn't want the prop or the US? And just what type of comic book [or graphic novel] would excite their frenzy?

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    He was reading Louis Riel, the comic so revolutionary it changed the author into a libertarian.

  • Mongo||

    Coming back in to the US, though we've had our mail rifled through by Canadian customs.

    I don't do respectable graphic novels -- strictly dope comix or French bd.

  • Mark22||

    My entire state is within the 100 mile constitution-free-zone where border patrol can demand papers from anyone at any time. "Show me your papers!" It's real.

    So, your state is just like the 16 nations that are ahead of the US in the Freedom Index, then. Those 16 nations also are far more selective in the kinds of immigrants they admit and far stricter in their immigration enforcement.

    Altogether an indication, perhaps, that having a free society actually requires reasonable immigration restrictions and enforcement after all.

  • ||

    "...having a free society actually requires..." an enlightened populace that demands freedom.

    Any govt. will enslave the society as much as the society will allow. For example, Nazi Germany had the permission from almost all to rule as they did. The film of millions cheering Hitler on was not faked. I see this happening in the U.S. Empire, e.g., sports games preshow. You can see where a lot of the loot (stolen income) goes with all the cop and paramilitary shows that blatantly glorify and humanize population enslavement. For example, warrants are no longer bothered with. Federal agents go anywhere they want without permission, guns drawn, threatening death and ordering people around. As bad as this looks, it is worse in practice. Swat teams storm innocent unarmed people in their houses and murder them in cold blood, "for failing to follow a command". Imagine what would happen to you in a bad neighborhood where home invasions are common and you came to the door with a weapon. The command would be deleted and so would you. Open carry in your house creates open season on you.

  • lap83||

    doesn't NZ have stricter gun control than the US?

  • sarcasmic||

    Yeah, but they filmed Lord of the Rings there. Freedom!

  • Quo Usque Tandem||

    I'm guessing since the UK, among others, is rated more highly than the US, that those who authored this study see gun rights as an impediment to freedom.

  • Rhywun||

    Freedom of speech, too.

  • ||

    doesn't NZ have stricter gun control than the US?

    More than a couple of the countries above us have explicitly state-run healthcare systems. Plenty of nations that rank higher than the US are generally less protective/respective of actual individual sovereignty, free speech, RTKBA, etc. This is repeatedly pointed out as a blind spot on Cato's list. Pretty much any metric of freedom is going to contain a significant amount of editorializing.

  • Doug Heffernan||

    Wouldn't most here say that Switzerland is a slaver's prison because of this;

    "Swiss citizens are universally required to buy health insurance from private insurance companies, which in turn are required to accept every applicant. While the cost of the system is among the highest, it compares well with other European countries in terms of health outcomes; patients who are citizens have been reported as being, in general, highly satisfied with it."

    But even if it Switzerland is a slaver's prison, Americans are as free because Americans are free to immigrate to Switzerland, and Switzerland has liberal immigration policies.

  • SIV||

    Everywhere has stricter gun control than the US. There are a few shitholes where nobody obeys or enforces the laws though.

  • EscherEnigma||

    I think there are some places that (on the books) have more lax gun control laws that us. But no where I'd want to live.

    And the part that folks complaining about gun laws tends to forget is that "America 20 years ago" isn't on that list of "more lax gun control laws". Even with the ever-present fear-mongering over "gun grabbers", the laws have been liberalizing a lot since the 80s.

  • Migrant Log Chipper||

    Is that you Shannon?

  • ||

    Yes, but this is where it gets tricky. How do you rate the importance of right's infringements? In principle, any right violated is tantamount to all violated.

    In the US Empire, many property rights are legally violated, e.g., eminent domain, taxation. Lately, it has become known that (YouTube video taken by citizens) unarmed citizens may be murdered by a cop for failing to follow orders in a stop. How does Cato rate that? Or do they at all?

    Would you want to live where you feel in mortal danger when you see a cop on the street or get pulled over? What kind of society sees this and accepts it or justifies it? When did a badge or uniform give license to murder? Was it even this bad in Nazi Germany for the average citizen?

  • OpenBordersLiberal-tarian||

    I'm assuming the rankings haven't yet been updated to reflect the United States' recent Net Neutrality reversal? Of all the horrible things Drumpf has done to make us less free, that decision is among the worst.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    And the 1.8 million amnesty offer. I don't see how we become canada at this rate.

  • Migrant Log Chipper||

    This is too stupid to merit a response....oh, wait.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    Remind me what the immigration policies are for NZ and Switzerland. I forget...

  • lap83||


  • Kivlor||

    The HFI and other "Freedom" indexes / reports are always heavily biased against the US. I guess the authors don't want to put us at the top (or right below it) every year for fear of being criticized as Amerocentric or some such nonsense.

    It's like reading reports on Freedom of Speech. Places like the UK and Canada are routinely placed above the US. This is patently false. The US doesn't prosecute "hate speech" or otherwise ban political speech that is considered icky while the nations placed above us on such reports all do.

  • ||

    I gotta say the, "Freedom is important to me, freedom relates to other things that matter." clip from one of the authors sounds pretty fucked up. I hope there's something lost in translation there but I'm dubious.

  • Pro Libertate||

    While I think the U.S. is a hot mess, we're freer than most of the "free" world.

  • Kivlor||

    Yeah, America could easily be the "Most Free" nation on Earth, and that wouldn't make us all that free. We only have to be slightly less Authoritarian than the least Authoritarian of our competitors. "Most Free" doesn't preclude "need to get rid of these infringements on the rights of the people."

  • ||

    While I think the U.S. is a hot mess

    That's the part that really irks me. There are legitimate reasons not to put the US at or near the top (interventionist foreign policy, incarceration rates, surveillance state, etc.). At least popularly or publicly, those are eschewed in favor of redundant laws against gender-based pay discrimination and marriage equality.

  • Kivlor||

    Incarceration and surveillance seem to make sense to me, but I don't really see an "interventionist foreign policy" as really limiting my freedom in the US. Maybe that's me.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm opposed to military adventurism and constant intervention abroad...

  • ||

    If we were pure gold when it came to human rights within our borders but instilling and propping up violently oppressive regimes around the world (pumping cheap labor into our "free shit"-based economy) I could see how you would be reserved about putting us at the top of the list. You're point in disagreement is valid, but I could see how a slightly less free country that was totally or even just much more isolationist might bump us out.

    However, point being, neither/none of these criteria are the reasons why the top 10 on this list are the top 10 in any order.

  • Eric||

    It depends on what criteria you associate "freedom" with. Our gun laws are much more free, and on this commentariate that freedom is given heavy weight. But a few trips to other countries shows you other freedoms you didn't realize you were missing. Open container laws come to mind. So does most of our populaces automatic deference to 'FUTW' law enforcement.

  • Cloudbuster||

    So does most of our populace's automatic deference to 'FUTW' law enforcement.

    FUTW law enforcement is pretty much the global standard. I'd say certain regions of the U.S. are notably less deferential to law enforcement than the rest of the world.

    I've more than once sent sheriffs and other official representatives packing off my ranch with the equivalent of "I've got nothing to say to you. You don't like that, you come back with a warrant." They never have.

    Both Bundy standoffs displayed a fine American frontiersman contempt for arbitrary government authority.

  • Eric||

    "FUTW law enforcement is pretty much the global standard."

    Not necessarily everywhere. I was talking with an Argentine co-worker about the constant protests in Buenos Aires that close down half the city. My observation was that if that happened here, our LEOs would be cracking skulls and tear gassing the crowd. When I asked him why that didn't happen there, his answer was that LEOs in Argentina are terrified of being seen as heavy handed. Their recent past has made everyone very sensitive to government abuse of power (at least physically so).

  • DarrenM||

    Freedom to pee on the sidewalks in public.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    I think the big thing we need to improve on is business freedom, on which we have the most improvement possible I think. We've increasingly gotten worse and worse in our stranglehold in businesses.

  • lap83||

    What about the government's freedom to stick its nose into our business?!? SMDH

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    Not the drug war? Not micromanagement of abortion clinics and criminalization of related decisions? Not gay-bashing or racism? Not nativism and xenophobia? Not government secrecy or surveillance? Not massive military spending and misadventurism? Not strenuous incarceration? Not seizure and forfeiture systems? Not abusive and militarized policing?

    Business regulation is the "thing we need to improve" most?

    That is an unpersuasive assertion.

  • Migrant Log Chipper||

    You know artie poo, you sound stupid enough to be a Kamala Harris sock.

  • ||

    Maybe we should focus on business freedom like they did in Nazi Germany. Businesses flourished there for a decade, and then those pesky bombs started to fall.

    To hell with those drugees and civil rights troublemakers. If they won't stay in their "free speech zones" we should beat/arrest them. Don't they know they are bad for business? As long everyone is getting a paycheck they should be glad to keep their mouths shut and do what they are told.

  • ||

    Only if you have experienced complete freedom can you gauge your freedom in the US Empire. I am not ready to grade the govt. here on a curve. I remember a much better country. I'm 75. That said, I would point out that all countries are without freedom, in principle. Therefore, we are less-enslaved than most at #17 but still enslaved.

  • Eric||

    I won't take much away from Switzerland as it is an amazing country both for its beauty and its people. But I seriously question its economic freedom. The Swiss state heavily regulates its citizens economic choices. And those who think that Swiss gun laws are so liberal don't really know how they work. Yes, all members of the military are issued firearms that they (can) keep at home. But the ammunition is counted and sealed, and if a citizen-soldier shows up for duty with opened ammunition containers, there is explaining to do. Unlike the U.S. they take the "well-regulated" militia thing seriously.

  • IceTrey||

    The problem is the government initiating force. The solution is to limit government authority to the retaliatory use of force.

  • sarcasmic||

    How does one limit government? Government is the people who do whatever they want because no one will stop them. Rule of Law is supposed to do the trick, but when those who enforce the law ignore it, what can you do?

  • IceTrey||

    Step one, amend the Constitution.

    "The government is prohibited from initiating force against any persons self or property."

  • ||

    Wow! Why has no one thought of that? All we need is ANOTHER law! Yea, that's the ticket.


  • DarrenM||

    Yay! Something else for officials to ignore.

  • Cloudbuster||

    Despite its libertarian pretensions, Cato has a very collectivist view of what constitutes "freedom." It's an interesting report to look at, but I take the U.S.'s ranking with a grain of salt.

  • DarrenM||

    I wonder how much "freedom" varies from state to state, too.

  • gormadoc||

    Unlike other commenters, I can see how the US did not score as high as we'd like. We have an enormous government; it spends more than the gdp of every country except the US and China. Knowing Cato, they consider that very important.

    Our federal regulatory state is relatively lax, but our states and cities are often terrible. The more populous ones tend to be worse. Negotiating patchwork of laws is weird and arcane and limits businesses almost as much as the regulations.

    Countries in the EU also have good trade arrangements with most of the world. The US is starting to lag there.

    We've got good gun laws, but again, that's primarily federal. Some states or cities still suck.

  • Azathoth!!||

    They send police around to your house to arrest you--or worse-- for saying the wrong thing on Facebook in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.

    That's game over right there. If your state does not protect your right to free speech and expression, then it is oppressive. The USA's failings on this subject--even though the US is far better than anywhere else in the world on this-- are slowly destroying us.

  • Michael Cook||

    The major thing that puzzles and concerns top Democrats is that Republicans and the Trump administration happily renewed the FISA despite the likely voluminous documentation that will eventually be flooding the fruited plane with incontrovertible evidence that FISA misdeeds by some FBI and DOJ officials in 2016 essentially weaponized the American intelligence service to unleash unimaginable unmasking and snooping into the affairs of Republicans and allied conservatives.

    Think about that. Why would Repubs still love FISA authority?

    Could it be that a dead-serious Right Wing Deep State probe is underway to unmask all of Hillary's communications from early 2016 onwards? Could it be that her most critical missing emails might come tumbling out? Could former officials in the Obama administration be unmasked and snooped on?

    Hillary, after all, is the originator and sole cause of the mess that the rabidly Democrat mainstream media is in over the failure to prove any Trump collusion with Russia or even obstruction of justice, in light again of the reality that the "justice" processes we are talking about were corrupted and fraudulent from the get-go?

  • Sanjuro Tsubaki||

    Is this "freedom" in Hong Kong, Mr. Stossel?

  • Migrant Log Chipper||

    To be fair, it's from Cato, not the 'stache. That said I was just reading a piece in the WSJ about eroding civil liberties in HK. They must give a lot of weight to business climate which is advantageous to the Chicoms,at least for now. I'd say Xi is a far bigger threat to world freedom than any hack we come up with.

  • tommhan||

    BS, we have the freedom of speech and the freedom to bear arms. Those two alone puts us far above anywhere and that includes Europe where anti freedom so called hate speech is criminalized.

  • Michael Cook||

    Perhaps the greatest assault on the Constitution ever took place in 2016 when embedded Democrats at the highest levels of the FBI and the DOJ abused the FISA court to death with phony evidence (Hillary paid $12 million to procure from Christopher Steele.) Steele in turn used his many Russian contacts to whip up a fantastic story and even put a little plausible flesh on it.

    There are at least 40K good public servants at the FBI and the DOJ. At most Repubs will call out 6-10 at the highest levels for attempting a coup. The reason these guys rose to such prominence is because Obama was prez for 8 years and George W. Bush, in a pathetic attempt to make Democrats love him, failed to purge the DOJ during his two terms (something Bill Clinton did thoroughly!)

    Now we have a big mess. Dems, with all those MM robo-goons on their side, will manage to confuse the public mind for a time, but in the end they lose. The law is a great, ponderous machine. It grinds slowly, but with unstoppable momentum. For a brief time the Repub or "Nunez" memo will be parried with the Dem memo (anybody remember the horror movie MINORITY REPORT?)

    In March the Inspector General of the FBI will reveal all the agents who complained to them that McCabe, Struzk, Comey, and crew were forcing them to change interview reports that in theory are sacred, to be written immediately afterward and never never modified in any way. The compete IG report coming in March will have many other revelations.

  • Michael Cook||

    And Obama as well thoroughly purged all he could with suspected conservative tendencies from the federal workplaces.

  • Michael Cook||

    Nunes, no z

  • Lester224||

    Switzerland is a capitalist social democracy with a robust welfare state. It has a lot of anti-monopoly regulation. Is Stossel aware of these inconsistencies with his beliefs? I agree it's a pretty "free" society.

  • ||

    How free? Wrong question.

    How enslaved are people living under the boot of the US Empire?

    Are right's protected? Or, are people expendable assets to exploit? Does the populace expect politicians to tell the truth? What happens when they don't? Does the govt. serve the people or do the people serve the govt.?

  • Azathoth!!||

    The US Empire?

    You've jumped reality lines--the US Empire is at least eleven reftwhen from here. You need to find some fog.

  • JuanQPublic||

    Does the govt. serve the people or do the people serve the govt.?

    That isn't important anymore, at least to our "representatives" in Washington and state capitols. The only obligation government should have is protecting the rights of its people and letting them flourish.

    That doesn't bode well with ideological purists in government, in college administration and in the mobs on Twitter.

  • TGoodchild||

    Those Venezuelans flour baggers have NOTHING on us 'Muricans come Black Friday at the local Walmart.

  • Michael Cook||

    Speaking of Black Fridays, February 2nd 2018 will be remembered as Fireworks Friday. You know why.

    Of course a four page memo summarizing an investigation is only a summary. The body of evidence will emerge and it will be massive. Try to remember that 25,000 people work at the FBI. The memo will name maybe 6-10 people at the very highest levels of that agency who went off the rails in a spectacular display of unprofessionally and basically assuming that they were justified to disregard established law and take the history of the nation into their own hands.

    Also keep in mind that much of the evidence which will surface are the reports of troubled whistleblowers within the FBI who absolutely witnessed and comprehended the magnitude of the misdeeds their superiors were committing. It is the testimonies these brave agents gave to the Inspector General that will ultimately tip the scale in the battle for public opinion.

    The scabs will be torn off some old wounds. The Uranium One deal will have to be investigated. The Hillary email investigation will shout for a do-over which this time will prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that access to the State Department under Hillary passed first through a donation to the Clinton Foundation portal.

  • Michael Cook||

    How free am I as an American. Well, I am apparently living in a country where the FBI/DOJ feels comfortable using a longish and fictional press release from the Clinton 2016 political campaign as the main ingredient to totally blow away the privacy rights of any American citizen who stands in the path of Hillary's ambition.

  • vek||

    As mentioned by others, these ranking things are always bunk. You have to choose SOME methodology, and they all seem to choose whack ones.

    Economics is fairly quantifiable, more or less. I imagine those rankings are close to reality. Some small mico nations/special zones like Hong Kong, Singapore etc are less restrictive there I would say. But they also seem to not pay attention to things like socialized medicine, which is a big violation in taxes & freedom.

    Everything else is bunk. The weighting of things is where it's all at. The fact that you can be locked up in jail in basically all of Europe for saying things that are only barely bad at all about Muslims, like stating facts like they're responsible for ~90% of global terrorism, immediately disqualifies any country from being towards the top. I would put gun rights probably even higher, because gun rights can SAVE free speech rights if need be. Our criminal justice system if borked, but better protections than anywhere else I know of. Etc.

  • vek||

    I have thought seriously about leaving the USA if things ever get too bad here, and the truth is there is no other country that come close on the BIG THINGS. Maybe you can't drink beer at 16 like in Europe, or smoke crack like in Portugal, and we have slightly higher taxes than some micro countries... But on the BIG stuff, where the real meat is at, nobody else compares.

    We have endless room for improvement, and I hope we do get better, but sadly there is nowhere better to run to as of now. It's all a downgrade overall. Some would be barely acceptable, like the rest of the Anglosphere, but not better. The only places that are really significantly better in any particular way, mostly economic, are micro countries like Lichtenstein, Andorra, etc. But they're janky on some personal freedoms, gun rights, etc. You just can't beat the USA overall when you look at the big picture, especially if you choose a good state.

    If there ever is a country that is actually better than the USA (Come on Australia/UK/Germany become Libertopia please!!!) I would strongly consider moving there, but it ain't happening anytime soon by my reckoning.

  • ||



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