The eighth annual Human Freedom Index is the most comprehensive measure of freedom ever created for many countries around the globe. The index, co‐published by the Cato Institute and the Fraser Institute in Canada, ranks 165 countries based on 83 distinct indicators of personal, civil, and economic freedom, using data from 2000 to 2020, the most recent year for which sufficient data are available.
The coronavirus pandemic was calamitous for human freedom. From 2019 to 2020, 94 percent of the world’s population saw a fall in overall freedom, including significant declines in the rule of law and freedom of movement, expression, association and assembly, and freedom to trade. The precipitous decline in 2020 came after years of slow descent and affected every region of the world, including rich and poor countries and democracies and nondemocracies, setting global freedom to a level far below what it was in 2000, previously the lowest point in the past two decades.
Switzerland tops the rankings again this year, followed by New Zealand. The United States ranks 23rd, down seven spots from last year’s report. It ranked sixth in 2000.
The findings in the HFI suggest that freedom plays an important role in human well‐being, and they offer opportunities for further research into the complex ways in which freedom influences, and can be influenced by, political regimes, economic development, and the whole range of indicators of human well‐being.