The United States has fallen from 17th to 20th on a list of the world’s freest countries, according to a new in-depth survey by a group of respected think tanks.
Disturbingly, America now has less freedom than such nations as Canada, Chile, Malta, Germany, the United Kingdom and Sweden, researchers Ian Vasquez and Tanja Porčnik concluded in their report, dubbed the Human Freedom Index.
The two looked at 76 indicators in 12 broad categories that ranged from the rule of law to freedom of religion to size of government to property rights.
“The Human Freedom  Index presents a broad measure of personal, civil, and economic freedom around the world,” Vasquez wrote.
The study was co-published by the Cato Institute, the Fraser Institute (Canada) and the Liberales Institut (Germany) and is considered by the authors the “most comprehensive index on freedom yet created for a globally meaningful set of countries.”
It used data from 2008 to 2012, the most recent data available for all the countries. Next year’s report will include data from 2013.
The United States fell from 17th in 2008 to 20th in 2012.
“The decline reflects a long-term drop in every category of economic freedom and in its rule of law indicators,” Vasquez wrote “The U.S. performance is worrisome and shows that the United States can no longer claim to be the leading bastion of liberty in the world. In addition to the expansion of the regulatory state and drop in economic freedom, the war on terror, the war on drugs, and the erosion of property rights due to greater use of eminent domain all likely have contributed to the U.S. decline.
Iran finished last, at 152. The study did not rank every country in the world.
The Countries Ahead of America
The top 20 nations for freedom  were:
- Hong Kong
- New Zealand
- The United Kingdom
- The Netherlands
- United States
The countries with the most freedom enjoyed a higher standard of living, the authors said. The residents of the countries with the most liberties had an average per capita of income of $30,006 a year. Residents of the least free countries had an average income of $2,615 a year.
There were a few surprises on the list. Israel was ranked 51st, while Mexico finished 100th.
Europe, North America and Australia/New Zealand were the freest regions.
Some nations with constitutional monarchies did surprisingly well – Denmark, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands and Luxembourg all have monarchs. Canada and New Zealand, where Queen Elizabeth II is still the head of state, also made the top 10.
No African or Middle Eastern nation appeared in the Top 20, but one Latin American nation, Chile, made the grade at No. 18. Chile perhaps could win an award as the world’s most improved nation. Less than 35 years ago it was ruled by brutal military dictator Augusto Pinochet , who was notorious for murdering his own people and plagued by Communist guerrillas.
Are you surprised the United States fell to No. 20? Share your thoughts in the section below: