January 10, 2019 Print

As a new year begins, it is important to pause and take a look at the state of global liberty. The Human Freedom Index makes it possible to do just that. Through a holistic range of categories, the Human Freedom Index measures aspects of human freedom including the size of government, freedom of movement, identity, and relationships, as well as security and safety among others. A total of 76 individual indicators from these categories are used to paint a picture of the overall state of human freedom across the globe. New Zealand, Switzerland, and Hong Kong rank the highest. While the Republic of Yemen, Venezuela, and Syria, bottomed out the 2019 Human Freedom Index.

The state of global liberty declined slightly in 2018. “Of the 12 major categories that make up the index, all except 3 saw some deterioration since 2008,” says the report. On the whole, there was an improvement in economic freedom. However, this was overcome by a greater decline in personal freedom, which dropped the global average, albeit all movement was marginal.

High levels of human freedom are associated with higher levels of prosperity. This is shown by the freest quarter of the countries having an average per capita income that is more than 3 times the income of those who live in countries in the least free quarter. Despite the benefits of freedom, most of the global population has been excluded. According to the 2018 report, less than 15 percent of the world’s population lives in these top countries. Meanwhile, almost half of the world’s population — 42 percent — lives in countries that fall into the bottom quarter on the index.

“Until now, no index on freedom as comprehensive or consistent with a negative liberty definition — the absence of coercive constraint  — existed,” said Ian Vásquez, co-author of the report and director of the Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity at the Cato Institute. “The index allows people to objectively gauge the level of liberty in their countries and around the globe over time and to see the links between freedom and a host of other social, political and economic phenomena such as prosperity, innovation, or democracy, for example. By providing a tool that enables a more objective and rigorous way of thinking about freedom, the index is a credible resource that is promoting the concept of freedom and its importance in public policy discussions, the media, and academic forums.”

Publications such as the Human Freedom Index, provide the foundational information from which to craft policy that can increase human flourishing. While almost half of the population currently lives with low levels of freedom, indexes such as these provide the groundwork needed to change that and increase human flourishing.

This publication is produced by three organizations, two of which are Atlas Network partners: the Cato Institute and the Fraser Institute.