American Consequences - March 2021

– like China. Indeed, free enterprise can exist in conditions that are repugnant to any idea of freedom – like the African slave trade. Poverty negates freedom... Yet neither the wealth that brings some freedom nor the freedom to create that wealth are adequate measures of freedom itself. So how do you measure freedom? There’s an institution that has been struggling with this problem for 80 years. Freedom House is a bipartisan, non-profit, non-government organization devoted to promoting global freedom and democracy. Freedom House is so bipartisan that it was founded in 1941 by Eleanor Roosevelt and Wendell Willkie, the Republican who had run against her husband in the previous year’s presidential election. Try to think of something that Jill Biden and Donald Trump agree on... That’s how amazingly agreed-upon Freedom House is about freedom. Freedom House began issuing ratings of freedom in countries around the world during the 1950s. In 1978, the ratings were formalized in a highly detailed annual book-length report called Freedom in the World , covering every independent and semi- independent nation and territory on Earth. A staff of more than 125 analysts and 40 advisors sets out to find the answer to 10 principle questions about each country’s political rights and 16 principle questions about its civil liberties. Each principle question entails as many as a dozen sub- queries. What the analysts are asking ranges

Try to think of something that Jill Biden and Donald Trump agree on... That’s how amazingly agreed- upon Freedom House is about freedom. Trustees in the 1990s, and I remain a diligent reader of Freedom in the World , but even I wouldn’t be surprised if somewhere in all those questions there’s a “Who is your nation’s favorite Beatle?” Anyway, the report is very thorough. in scope from the broad and general... “Was the current head of government or other chief national authority elected through free and fair elections?” To the personal and specific... “Do individuals enjoy equal rights in divorce proceedings and child custody matters?” I served on the Freedom House Board of The analysts and advisors then quantify the information. I put a certain amount of trust in the quantification because I’ve met and talked to the quantifiers. They’re down-to-earth people even though – for this old liberal arts major – their math seems to be from Mars. Each country is given a Political Rights score from 0 to 40 (for example, China’s is -2, and Australia’s is 40) and a Civil Liberties score from 0 to 60 (Syria’s is 4, Canada’s is 58). Then the numbers are added together for a total score from 0 to 100 (North Korea’s is 3, Norway’s is 100... game, set, match), and countries are given a rating of “Free,” “Partly Free,” or “Not Free.”


American Consequences


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