Measuring Freedom - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Measuring Freedom

This week Freedom House released the scores for its annual Freedom in the World survey (the full reports by country will be released in a few months). They rank political rights and civil liberities on a scale of 1 to 7; based on an average of the two figures, countries are ranked either Free (1.0-2.5), Partly Free (3.0-5.0), or Not Free (5.5 to 7.0). Jen Rubin and Christian Whiton are cross with Freedom House over some of the rankings; frankly, they’re being a little silly. “[Whiton] muses that Iraq might have earned at least a ‘partially free’ rating because ‘Iraqis actually choose their government,'” Jen writes. But Iraq does earn a Partly Free ranking (5) on political rights; it still comes out Not Free because its civil liberties ranking is 6.

Similarly, the complaint “that Colombia is still in the same ‘partially free’ category as Venezuela” ignores the details in the data Freedom House has released; Venezuela’s score is dropping and Colombia’s score is rising, just as they should be. On page 8 of this .pdf, it’s clearly laid out:

Venezuela’s civil liberties rating declined from 4 to 5 due to a raft of legislation that granted President Hugo Chávez wide-ranging decree powers, tightened restrictions on civil society and the media, and attempted to vitiate opposition gains in September 2010 parliamentary elections.


Colombia received an upward trend arrow due to an improved equilibrium between the three branches of government and the end of surveillance operations that had targeted both civil society and government figures.

Maybe when the full country reports come out there will be something to quibble with, but the knee-jerk accusation of left-wing bias in the rankings strikes me as misplaced.

The real story in Freedom House’s report is in a pair of maps showing the trends in scores from 2003-2007, then from 2007-2011. Countries that got freer are blue, countries that got less free are red. There’s a lot more blue on the first map and a lot more red on the second map. I would posit that the quality of American leadership played a role in both of these trends, and that Freedom House provides a valuable service in quantifying the failures of the Obama Administration on this front.

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