Category Archives: Cato

27/1/18: Human Freedom Index 2017: U.S. Exceptionalism vs Irish Example

Cato released their 2017 Human Freedom Index. The link is here: and all data is available here:

Two things worth noting:

Ireland: the country ranks in top 5 in the overall Index, in the 4th place overall, which is unchanged on 2016 report. This compares against 3rd place ranking in 2013-2014 index. One key area of strength - Economic Freedom sub-index. This is a problem area for the Index, which relies on GDP-based metrics and, thus, significantly overstates Irish economic performance. Aside from this, in many other areas, the index presents a correct picture of the country.

The U.S.: the index consistently debunks the myth of American exceptionalism. The country is ranked lowly 17th in 2017 overall, with Personal Freedom ranking of disastrous 24th and with a respectable 11th rank in Economic Freedom.

Here is what is going wrong the U.S. side of the Index:

  • In the Rule of Law section, the U.S. scores below 7.0 (poor showing for an advanced economy) in both civil and criminal justice systems assessments;
  • In Religious Freedom, the U.S. scores low 7.3 in Harassment and Physical Hostilities category;
  • In Expression and Information, the country scores 7.5 in Political Pressure, Control Media;
  • In Identity and Relationships, the U.S. score is 7.0 for Legal Gender
  • The country scores below 9.0 in overall Rule of Law grouping, in Homicide category, in overall Religious Freedom grouping, and in Laws and Reg. That Influence Media category.
  • Sadly, there are no rankings relating to the extent of personal lives control by the 'Deep State' or security forces. Neither do Cato folks measure access to healthcare, quality of public services, education etc - the key aspects of the functional society that are clearly sub-standard in the U.S. case. Nor does the Index address the extent of bureaucratic over-reach into the lives of the residents. Were these aspects to be considered, I doubt the U.S. would be ranked anywhere near top 30.
When it comes to Economic Freedom, in absolute terms, the U.S. is not exceptional by any measure, either. In fact, the country scores above 9 only in the following categories/groupings:

  • Sound Money, a grouping that includes: Money Growth, Standard Deviation of Inflation, Inflation: Most Recent Year, Freedom to Own Foreign. Currency
  • Black-Market Exchange Rates category, and
  • Credit Market Regulations and Labor Market Regulations categories
This is hardly the stuff of legends. The U.S. ranking performance is mediocre for a nation that promotes itself as a bastion of personal and economic freedoms and the leading light for liberty. 

Just take this last number into consideration: when it comes to rating the U.S. on freedom of movement of capital and people, Cato gave the nation a miserly score of 3.7/10. And in Freedom to Trade Internationally, the nation that claims moral leadership across the WTO, TPP, TTIP, Nafta and beyond, the 'guardian of the seas' scores 7.5/10, with sub-8.5 scores in Tariffs and Regulatory Trade Barriers categories.

 Irony has it, the 2017 ranking for the U.S. (at #17) is vastly better than 2016 ranking (at #24).  Neither is, however, good enough. Data wrinkles aside, tiny Ireland offers more grounds for global leadership-by-example than the U.S. does.