The Land of the (Mostly) Free

It’s official: under Republican rule, the United States has dropped to 35th place on the list of free nations in the world from 22nd in 2005; this according to the Worldwide Governance Indicators Report and last Friday’s TIME Magazine.

The report ranks nations by the amount of freedom citizens have to voice opinions, choose their government, and the amount of restrictions on the 4th Estate.  The US dropped due to increased restrictions on the press and a decreased trust in public officials (hear that Republicans!).  We come in at 83.7 percent, trailing Canada at 94.7 percent and Australia at 93.8 percent and the UK at 92.8 percent.

Worst country: Burma with a perfect score of zero.  Iraq, in spite of all the progress the surge is making in this new Democracy, scores zero to 10 percent range.  Even Iran and Afghanistan are in the 10 percent to 25 percent range.

Tops in Freedom: Denmark with 100 percent.  Citizens pay high taxes, government runs many industries.  Citizens get universal healthcare, housing and education subsidies.  They have low crime rates.  No other countries are pissed off at them for invading a sovereign nation that didn’t attack (NOTE TO STEVEN GREENHUT — please read more about Denmark’s government and the nation’s society and try to make sense of how heavy taxes and large government run programs somehow equates to #1 in Freedom worldwide; not being snarky, but would love your take on it. 

Other Scandanavian countries scored significantly higher in the category of “freedom” than the US.  Iceland beat us.  Iceland. Now I love my country, but to lose out on freedoms to Iceland is a low blow. 

And yes, Republicans, this has all happened on your watch.  You can’t blame Bill Clinton for this.  He’s been out of office for seven years now.  As I titled this post, Land of the (Mostly) Free, and I’m not sure I’d consider the current administration very brave.  Brazen yes.  Brave, no.

Are their lessons we can learn from these nations to improve our lives and our freedoms and get US back into the top ten?  It may require a change of parties at 1600 Penn. Ave to do so.

  10 comments for “The Land of the (Mostly) Free

  1. Steven Greenhut
    September 15, 2007 at 9:32 am

    I’ll address this on Orange Punch when I get time. I agree that the US is becoming much less free, especially following 9/11. Although countries that have huge governments can have significant freedoms in the civil liberties area, bigger government roles in any area of life, by definition, mean less freedom. If the government takes 70 percent of my income, then I am only free to spend 30 percent of it as I choose to spend it. If government provides health care and other welfare-state benefits, government officials set the rules and tell me what doctors I can see and tell doctors who they must treat and how they must treat them. You might argue that’s OK, but you cannot argue that it amounts to freedom, which is the ability to make one’s choices — not be told what to do by those with power over you (i.e., government officials). That said, I need to read the study to which you refer!

  2. Chuck DeVore
    September 15, 2007 at 9:54 am

    Taxes and redistributive social programs take liberty by removing what is naturally ours (the product of our labor) and giving to others who have no claim on our labor. This is one of the worst forms of tyranny. That Time magazine decided to ignore that in favor of a socialist paradise like Denmark is no shock at all.

    All the best,

    Chuck DeVore
    State Assemblyman, 70th District

  3. Dan Chmielewski
    September 15, 2007 at 11:04 am

    The statistics and report are sourced to the World Bank. Time only reported it. Don’t shoot the messenger Chuck

  4. September 15, 2007 at 3:14 pm

    Chuck;

    “Drowning government in a bathtub” as the neo-cons recommend may have been a good idea in the Soviet Union, but the United States is a constitutional representative democratic republic where our government is, literally, us. It was designed to work for us, be owned by us, exist solely by virtue of our ongoing approval, and must answer to us.

    The shared commons of our nation – including our air, water, transportation routes, airwaves and cable networks, communication systems, military, police, prisons, fire services, health care infrastructure, and courts must be held either by locally-controlled non-profit corporations or by government responsive to its citizens.

    It is these commons, particularly public services, that establish and secure the freedoms of our society. The constitutions of the United States and California provide for the establishment of our commons to protect our common liberty, not take it away. Our constitutions provide for majority rule with checks and balances to prevent the tyranny of majority rule.

    Corporations are taxed because they use public services, and are therefore expected to help pay for them – the same as citizens.

    Corporations make use of a work force educated in public schools paid for with tax dollars. They use roads and highways paid for with tax dollars. They use water, sewer, and power and communications rights-of-way paid for with taxes. They demand the same protection from fire and police departments as everybody else, and enjoy the benefits of national sovereignty and the stability provided by the military and institutions like NATO and the United Nations, the same as all residents of democratic nations.

    In fact, corporations are heavier users of taxpayer-provided services and institutions than are average citizens. Taxes pay for our court systems, which are most heavily used by corporations to enforce contracts. Taxes pay for our Treasury Department and other governmental institutions which maintain a stable currency essential to corporate activity. Taxes pay for our regulation of corporate activity, from assuring safety in the workplace to a pure food and drug supply to limiting toxic emissions.

    The freedom to enjoy the benefits of our own labor is paid for by our taxes, our contributions to the commons and the common good.

    Chuck, we live in a representative democracy where our elected officials decide what is in the best interest of the common good. Those decisions are not tyrrany, they are DEMOCRACY. Such decisions are what you get from a Republic, as guided by elected representatives. The people of Denmark have a representative democracy, as do we.

  5. Chuck DeVore
    September 15, 2007 at 9:44 pm

    Chris, you wrote, “Those decisions are not tyrrany, they are DEMOCRACY.” I suggest you study up on the history of the ancient Greek city states. When the masses took over and confiscated the property of the wealthy, the state collapsed into a dictatorship. My argument is not with taxes, it is with a progressive tax system designed to transfer wealth from one group to another. This cannot be sustained in the long run.

    All the best,

    Chuck DeVore
    State Assemblyman, 70th District
    http://www.ChuckDeVore.com

  6. Anonymous
    September 15, 2007 at 10:24 pm

    From the world bank website, here are the factors they used to develop the list.

    Voice and Accountability
    Political Stability and Absence of Violence
    Government Effectiveness Regulatory Quality
    Rule of Law
    Control of Corruption

    First of all, I wonder why the world bank has deemed itself expert in these issues. Maybe they should stick to banking.

    Second of all, where is economic freedom on this list. Where is freedom to choose my own health care provider. Where is the freedom to start a business. This is hardly an exhaustive list but neither is the the list used by world bank.

    Any survey or research project can be skewed to project the views of the researcher and the world bank has done this here.

  7. RHackett
    September 16, 2007 at 6:00 pm

    First of all, I wonder why the world bank has deemed itself expert in these issues. Maybe they should stick to banking.

    Maybe one of the conservatives on this board can ask Paul Wolfowitz.

  8. RHackett
    September 16, 2007 at 6:08 pm

    If the government takes 70 percent of my income, then I am only free to spend 30 percent of it as I choose to spend it.

    Steve. I keep asking and you keep refusing to answer. Where is your outrage over private companies that have government enforced monopolies (i.e. utilities, cable TV, trash service)? At least when I have a complaint with a civil servant or a city department I have the ability to complain to the city staff or campaign against the elected officials. I don’t have the same option with the CEO of SoCal Edison or Sempra Energy. I have to take the service level provided at their price with minimal or no recourse if I am not satisfied.

    When you voice the same level of outrage against those entities I’ll believe your statements about government excess.

  9. Dan Chmielewski
    September 17, 2007 at 10:31 am

    RHackett — we have a problem with incoming replies from the Register; I will check the queue to see if Steve replied, but it may likely be our fault on delayed responses and not his.

    Steve — I think we should look at Denmark’s structure a bit more; it is possible we should reconsider how we define freedom or at least be open to the Dane’s definition of how they define freedom. Again, this is a World Bank report but its an excellent discussion topic.

    Chuck — you’re an excellent student of history and we appreciate you taking us back to middle school to review our world histroy lessons. So I’m surprised that the extensive history of failed invasions of countries in the Middle East didn’t register from our decision to invade Iraq So while we’re looking up more details on the Greek City-States, most of whichwere dirt poor, perhaps you can look other failed entries into Middle Eastern wars and occupations so see where we went wrong.

  10. RHackett
    September 25, 2007 at 4:46 am

    If the government takes 70 percent of my income, then I am only free to spend 30 percent of it as I choose to spend it.

    Not true Steve. You have complete freedom to make several choices. One is to not pay the taxes and accept the consequences. The other choice is to relocate to a place that taxes you less or not at all.

    I’ve been to nations with lesser taxation. I doubt those people would consider themselves to be more “free” than Americans.

Comments are closed.