October 24, 2016 Print

The movement to advance personal and economic freedom is flourishing in Portugal. Contraditório, an Atlas Network partner based in Lisbon, held its inaugural Lisbon Liberty Forum on Oct. 15 at Universidade Nova de Lisboa to discuss the state of freedom in Portugal.

Lisbon Liberty Forum featured several sessions, opening with an examination of privacy in combating terrorism by Diogo Duarte, a lawyer and researcher at Contraditório. Other sessions included a presentation on freedom of choice in health care and a debate on whether Brexit will lead to greater nationalism or greater freedom.

Luis Faria, co-founder and president of Contraditório, explained the organization’s upcoming “World Libertarian Index” (WLI), which he characterized as “a unique approach to a comprehensive list of 155 factors representatives of libertarian ideas — covering both economic and personal liberties — never documented before in a systematic manner.”

The index will be officially launched in November, but Faria gave forum attendees an advance look at its methodology and Portugal’s rankings in relation to other countries throughout the world.

“The presentation of the World Libertarian Index highlighted the fact that Portugal’s position regarding economic freedom is not good (34th out of 159 countries),” Faria said. “But this result hides something more serious. The WLI uses a novel and sophisticated methodology (Euclidean Distances) and through that approach we are able to measure the distance between countries and also the distance from each country to the optimum level of economic freedom. By applying this methodology we can see that Portugal is approximately at the same distance from the top country (champion of economic freedom) and the country at the bottom (the most totalitarian country). These conclusions were never reached before and highlights what urgently needs to be done in Portugal.”

Although Portugal has an elite ranking in personal freedom in the WLI (5th out of 159 countries), its economic freedom does not rank as highly. Several factors contribute to this, particularly poor showings in “Legal enforcement of contracts,” “Capital controls,” “Bureaucracy costs,” and “Hiring and firing regulations.” The WLI is exhaustive in its methodology, and its goal to demonstrate how individual rights are violated by “the legitimacy of coercion.”

Key index conclusions include the observations that “economic freedoms are persistently violated by war, kleptocracies, theocracies, and the socialism of the 21st century” and that “personal freedoms are consistently violated in extremely religious countries, where religion is not a private matter, and countries devastated by war. In the 21st century, war, religion, and socialism, are still the major causes of … rights violations.”