Photo Credit: Sten Hankewitz

One of the freest countries in the world

According to the Human Freedom Index 2022, compiled by the Cato Institute, an American libertarian think tank, Estonia is one of the freest countries in the world, ranking the third freest among 165 jurisdictions.

Estonia is scoring very high in the Cato Institute’s Human Freedom Index 2022 – which covers 165 jurisdictions for 2020, the most recent year for which sufficient data are available – in every category. Its personal freedom score is 9.28 out of 10; its economic freedom score is 7.95 out of 10; and its human freedom score is 8.73 out of 10. All in all, Estonia has moved up two places compared with the previous index, compiled for the years 2019-2020.

Also, in Eastern Europe, Estonia is considered by far the freest country – the next one in the Eastern Europe geographical category is Latvia that’s ranked 15th; Lithuania is ranked 17th and the Czech Republic 18th.

The countries considered freer than Estonia are Switzerland and New Zealand in the Human Freedom Index 2022. The countries coming after Estonia are Denmark, Ireland, Sweden, Iceland, Finland, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.

Photo Credit: Cato Institute

Freedom deteriorated severely during the pandemic

Estonia is also way ahead of Germany (18th, together with the Czech Republic), the United Kingdom (20th) and the United States (23rd).

At the bottom of the index – the least free countries in the world – we will find Syria, Yemen, Venezuela, Iran and Egypt. Russia is ranked 119th among the 165 jurisdictions evaluated.

According to Cato, the Human Freedom Index presents a broad measure of human freedom, understood as the absence of coercive constraint. “This eighth annual index uses 83 distinct indicators of personal and economic freedom in the following areas: rule of law; security and safety; movement; religion; association, assembly and civil society; expression and information; relationships; the size of government; legal system and property rights; sound money; freedom to trade internationally; regulation.”

“Human freedom deteriorated severely in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Most areas of freedom fell, including significant declines in the rule of law; freedom of movement, expression, association and assembly; and freedom to trade,” Cato says in the executive summary of the index.

Photo Credit: Tallinn Convention Bureau, Kaupo Kalda

An unequal distribution of freedom

“On a scale of 0 to 10, where 10 represents more freedom, the average human freedom rating for 165 jurisdictions fell from 7.03 in 2019 to 6.81 in 2020. On the basis of that coverage, 94.3 per cent of the world’s population saw a fall in human freedom from 2019 to 2020, with many more jurisdictions decreasing (148) than increasing (16) their ratings and 1 remaining unchanged.”

“The sharp decline in freedom in 2020 comes after years of slow descent following a high point in 2007 and sets global freedom to a level far below what it was in 2000, previously the lowest point in the past two decades,” Cato said.

According to the index, the data show there is an unequal distribution of freedom in the world, with only 13.4 per cent of the world’s population living in the top quartile of jurisdictions in the Human Freedom Index and 39.9 per cent living in the bottom quartile.

The Cato Institute is an American libertarian think tank, headquartered in Washington, DC. It was founded in 1974 to focus on public advocacy, media exposure and societal influence.


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