Centre for Civil Society, a New Delhi-based public-policy think-tank advancing personal, social, economic, and political freedoms, reports:
India ranks 92nd among 123 countries ranked in the most complete index of human freedom yet available, released by the Fraser Institute, Canada’s leading public policy think-tank, and Germany’s Liberales Institut. New Zealand leads the world in human freedom, followed by the Netherlands then Hong Kong with the United States and Denmark tied for seventh.
The index was created by Ian Vásquez of the Cato Institute and Tanja Stumberger of the Atlas Economic Research Foundation. They developed the initial draft of an objective measurement of overall human freedom, combining for the first time economic freedom with other forms of freedom. Such a measure will enable researchers to answer important questions on the impact (good and bad) of negative freedom and what supports freedom or undermines it.
India’s position on the index is quite worrying. Contrary to what we might predict, India’s score on personal freedom is 5.6 and that on economic freedom is 6.48-making the overall score 6.06 on a ten-point scale. India does particularly poorly on measurement of freedom of expression, which creates a score based on press killings, freedom of speech, laws & regulations that influence media content, political pressures & controls on media content and dress code in public. It also does very poorly on security and safety, a key ingredient in maintaining personal freedom and a significant factor in economic growth.
The index is contained in a new book, “Towards a Worldwide Index of Human Freedom”, which examines the characteristics of “freedom” and how it can best be measured and compared between different nations. “Our intention is to measure the degree to which people are free to enjoy classic civil liberties-freedom of speech, religion, individual economic choice, and association and assembly-in each country surveyed. We also look at indicators of crime and violence, freedom of movement, legal discrimination against homosexuals, and women’s freedoms,” said Fred McMahon, Dr. Michael A. Walker Research Chair in Economic Freedom (Fraser Institute) and editor of Towards a Worldwide Index of Human Freedom.
“The classical ideas of freedom from the time of the Enlightenment included economic freedom as essential to other freedoms, yet all the indexes available up to now either measure civil and political freedoms, often confusing what freedom actually is, or economic freedom. This is the first index that brings together these classic ideas of freedom in an intellectually consistent index.”
The book is the first publication of the Human Freedom project sponsored by the Cato Institute (United States), as well as the Fraser Institute and the Liberales Institut. The initial freedom index ranks New Zealand as offering the highest level of human freedom worldwide, followed by the Netherlands then Hong Kong. Australia, Canada and Ireland tied for fourth spot, with the United States and Denmark tied for seventh, Japan and Estonia tied for ninth overall. The lowest-ranked countries are Zimbabwe, Myanmar, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Syria.
Towards a Worldwide Index of Human Freedom also highlights the evolution of economic, political, and social freedoms from the ancient world to the present day over the course of 10 chapters by 13 academics and economists from Canada (Fraser Institute), the United States (Cato Institute, Emory University), Germany (Liberales Institut, Goethe-University Frankfurt am Main), and Russia (Institute of Economic Analysis).
Fred McMahon of Fraser Institute says, “The idea of freedom is one of the most contested in political and philosophical discourse and one of the most vital. Our book lays the foundation for a rigorous analytical framework and measurement to improve the objective measurement of human freedom worldwide.”
Chapters of note include:
“From Pericles to Measurement” by Fred McMahon (Fraser Institute):
This article traces the concept of freedom back to the classical world and examines modern discussions of freedom from the Enlightenment through to modern analytical scholarship. McMahon concludes that modern indexes are incomplete and often inconsistent. He argues for a complete measure of freedom that is consistent with the most common sense idea of freedom-Isaiah Berlin’s concept of “negative” freedom, meaning the absence of restraints on individual actions.
“A Compact Statement of a Cost-based Theory of Rights and Freedoms” by Michael A. Walker (Fraser Institute):
The author draws a distinction between two types of freedoms: those that are costless or low cost for a society to provide and those, which require the expenditure of resources to provide. The first set simply requires government to refrain from acting. Costly rights include security of property and persons and some aspects of freedom of speech, the latter because government needs to actively protect those who say unpopular things.
The “China, India, and the West” by Erich Weede (former professor University of Bonn):
The focus of this chapter is to explain the divergent economic performance of Asia’s giants, China and India, and the West with special reference to economic freedom and the roots of limited government in political fragmentation and interstate competition. The author argues that “Ultimately, institutions matter because they structure permissible actions and incentives. They affect technological progress as much as they have an impact on economic performance. Individual liberty to theorize and to experiment as well as decentralized instead of collective decision making have been background conditions of progress.” The author posits, “Unless people enjoy fairly safe property rights in the fruits of their labor, there are insufficient incentives to work. The most fundamental cause for the divergence between China and India on the one hand, and the West on the other, is safer property rights and thereby better incentives in the West than in Asia.”