Whoops! U.S. Slipped in Four Freedom Rankings This Year.

It’s not yet time to break out the phony passports or head for
the secret compound in the mountains, but the United States is
taking a bit of a drubbing this year when it comes to assessments
of the country’s freedom and, more specifically, the direction in
which the government is moving in terms of its respect for
individual rights. While the U.S. still gets high marks relative to
the vast majority of the world for the degree to which it respects
the liberty of the individual, those standings are slipping. In two
major rankings of economic freedom, one of Internet freedom, and a
report on freedom of the press, the land of the free has been
called out this year for being a little less free than it has been
in the past, and for signs of a troubling trend toward greater
surveillance and control.

In the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom, the
United States had already slipped out of the Free and into the
Mostly Free
category even before further losing ground
this year

The United States, with an economic freedom score of 76, has
lost ground again in the 2013 Index. Its score is 0.3 point lower
than last year, with declines in monetary freedom, business
freedom, labor freedom, and fiscal freedom. The U.S. is ranked 2nd
out of three countries in the North America region, and its score
remains well above the world and regional averages.

Registering a loss of economic freedom for the fifth consecutive
year, the U.S. has recorded its lowest Index score since 2000.
Dynamic entrepreneurial growth is stifled by ever-more-bloated
government and a trend toward cronyism that erodes the rule of

Index of Economic Freedom: USA

The Fraser Institute’s Economic
Freedom of the World: 2013
Annual Report
(PDF) agrees that
the country is on the wrong path.

Throughout most of period from 1980 to 2000, the United States
ranked as the world’s third-freest economy, behind Hong Kong and
Singapore. As Exhibit 1.5 indicates, the chain-linked summary
rating of the United States in 2000 was 8.65, second only to Hong
Kong. By 2005, the US rating had slipped to 8.21 and its ranking
fallen to 8th. The slide has continued. The United States placed
16th in 2010 and 19th in 2011. The 7.74 chain-linked rating of the
United States in 2011 was nearly a full point less than the 2000

What accounts for the decline of economic freedom in the United
States? While the US ratings and rankings have fallen in all five
areas of the EFW index, the reductions have been largest in Legal
System and Property Rights (Area 2), Freedom to Trade
Internationally (Area 4), and Regulation (Area 5). The plunge in
Area 2 has been huge. In 2000, the 9.23 rating of the United States
was the ninth highest in the world. But by 2011, the area rating
had slid to 6.93, placing the United States 38th worldwide. The
2.30-point reduction in the Area 2 rating of the United States was
tied with Venezuela as the largest reduction among the countries

Unshockingly in the year of Edward Snowden, the United States
also won a booby prize for its treatment of Internet freedom.
Freedom House’s Freedom on the Net 2013

The United States has a robust legal framework that supports
free expression rights both online and offline, and the U.S. does
not typically prosecute individuals for online speech. The broader
picture of user rights in America, however, has become increasingly
complex as a series of U.S. government practices, policies, and
laws touch on, and in some cases appear to violate, the rights of
individuals both inside the U.S. and abroad. Government access to
phone and internet records is a major concern, especially following
newly revealed information about NSA surveillance practices.
Aggressive prosecution under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act
(CFAA) has also been criticized. In addition, the privacy of NGOs,
companies, and individual users is threatened by a growing number
of cyberattacks initiated by both domestic and international

Not just NSA surveillance, but also the prosecution (really,
persecution) of Aaron Swartz rated
mention in the report. As a result, the U.S. suffered a
“significant” loss in ratings of Internet freedom—an assessment
that put it in the company of India, Brazil, and Venezuela in terms
of slippage, though not (and, hopefully, never) in final

Internet freedom

Freedom House still gives the United States high marks in

press freedom
, but that review predates revelations this year
secretive Justice Department investigations
of reporters at the
Associated Press, Fox News and elsewhere, and controversy over
targeting of whistleblowers and other assaults on transparency by
the Obama administration. Reacting to those developments, the
Committee to Protect Journalists issued a not-so-rosy assessment


U.S. President Barack Obama came into office pledging open
government, but he has fallen short of his promise. Journalists and
transparency advocates say the White House curbs routine disclosure
of information and deploys its own media to evade scrutiny by the
press. Aggressive prosecution of leakers of classified information
and broad electronic surveillance programs deter government sources
from speaking to journalists.

The developments former Washington Post executive
editor Leonard Downie Jr. highlights in his report aren’t new, nor
are they unique to the Obama administration. But they have worsened
with time and seem to be hitting critical mass, representing a sea
change in the federal government’s treatment of aggressive scrutiny
by journalists and of government employees who talk to the press.
Downie describes the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 as a
“watershed” that triggered growth in the security state and
hostility to independent scrutiny.

Again, the United States still ranks higher than most countries
in terms of civil liberties, economic freedom and overall
government respect for individual rights. But, across-the-board
slippage in these areas, especially when it seems to be a
continuing trend, isn’t exactly a good sign.

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/11/05/us-slipped-in-four-freedom-rankings-this

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