by Tyler Cowen
on July 4, 2014 at 11:28 am
in Data Source, Philosophy, Political Science
93% of that country is satisfied with the degree of freedom in that country, ranking it #3 in the world (New Zealand is #1 by that standard).
There is more here. U.S. is #36.
Happy Fourth of July!
OT but interesting Older people of Reddit, what do you think is BETTER about today’s youth?
Some people are satisfied with just a little freedom… like some are ok with beans.
The article and referenced Gallup poll are about the sharp decline in Americans’ satisfaction with freedom since 2006, when Americans were still among the world’s most satisfied with their freedom. So, this seems to be a story about the political environment over the last 8 years, not a story about a long-term trend or a cultural difference between, say, the US and Cambodia.
Over this period, liberals, conservatives, and independents have all had reason to become dissatisfied with their freedom, albeit for possibly different reasons. Liberals may be dissatisfied by the adverse effects of the War on Terror, Patriot Act, etc. on civil liberties. Conservatives may be dissatisfied by what seems to be an alarmingly pervasive view on the Left that individual liberties and rule of law are mere inconvenient obstacles to welfare state expansion and wealth redistribution. Independents have reason to find all of these developments dissatisfying.
The article also discusses the decline in Americans’ belief in American Exceptionalism over the last three years. This shouldn’t be that surprising since the sense in which America is exceptional has always been in the founding principles of the nation that we celebrate today: the principle that the purpose of government is to protect individuals’ liberties. Decline in satisfaction with freedom is decline in American Exceptionalism.
Although all of these developments are worthy of concern, we should also maintain some perspective. Throughout history, defense of liberty has required many people to make tremendous sacrifices, including the ultimate sacrifice. In the case of most present-day Americans, we are called on to do nothing more than make blog posts, vote, file some lawsuits, and pass or repeal some legislation. We are actually the most fortunate generation because our freedom, for the most part, requires only that we choose freedom.
One of the reasons America is so free is because Americans are constantly dissatisfied with their level of freedom. That dissatisfaction encourages people to fight for their rights (to abortion, to less taxes, to gay marriage, to party, whatever). Paradoxically, dissatisfaction with the current level of freedom in your country is a healthy sign of freedom.
I wonder what the North Korea response to this question would be. 99%? 100%?
I don’t know that we are that free. For example, other countries couldn’t dream of total information awareness except where they can buy it from us. Everyone seems free to the extent they only want the median existence.
1st & 2nd amendment rights still holding up well relative to other nations. Especially the 2nd.
Abortion is rather injurious to the liberty of parties ruled out of consideration and no one’s ‘freedom’ is enhanced by ‘gay’ ‘marriage’, just someone’s claim on a bauble they would like.
The world is changing, my man. I hope you have the pleasure of one day becoming friends with someone who is in a committed, long-term, same sex relationship–even a marriage.
Would that change his claim that gay marriage has nothing to do with freedom? Gays have been free to get married in this country for a long time. Getting the state to recognize it is another thing, but that has nothing to do with liberty. If the government tomorrow ended recognition of everyone’s marriage nobody would have lost any freedom.
I think it probably would change his claim. Freedoms are often measured by whether and to what extent government and those in positions of authority recognize them as well.
For example, freedom of religion is more than theoretical. Employers must make reasonable accommodations for religious practice in the workplace. An owner of a 24/7 service center that fields a large volume of calls on Sundays may not make accommodations for a Muslim to schedule paid time off during Friday prayers without a similar effort to grant a Christian time off during Sunday church services. Of course each of the employees is technically free to worship when he wants, but that doesn’t translate to real freedom if the boss preferentially accommodates the Muslim’s schedule because Fridays are a slow time in the office.
I hope that helps.
@Jan, government forcing the private sector to accommodate religion is an impingement upon freedom, not an example of freedom.
It is an example of equal application of freedoms.
Government forcing me to not hire willing 8 year olds to work 14 hour days is also freedom killing, I guess.
@Jan It is. The argument here is not over what is better, but what is a move toward freedom along the “government telling you what to/what not to do vs. freedom” axis. Things which make society more equal might make it less free. (Luckily, that isn’t always the case.)
We have arguably made progress along the equality axis but have surely regressed along the freedom axis over the past few decades. We aren’t yet a police state, but we are headed in that direction.
And thinking of it in those terms, I suppose my position would be that if the Court takes a decision that increases freedom, but at the expense of increasing inequality, it is very unlikely to be positive move on the whole.
I agree about the unfortunate direction things have taken for some liberties, but you’ve gotta like the no cell phone search w/out warrant ruling.
I was thinking things are getting worse. Last night, driving on the highway, I was amazed at the number of ‘click it or ticket’ signs. I can’t imagine what lawmaker thought my seat belt was any of his business.
You are out of your mind if you think Americans have more freedoms today than they did 25 years ago.
Not sure. It does seem that federal prosecutors and federal courts have an ever expanding franchise to ruin people (e.g. Conrad Black). At the state level, you see as far as I can see conflicting tendencies: technology which makes it more difficult to railroad people but rococo process and a collapse of institutional ethics which makes it easier. John Grisham published a non-fiction book a while back on a homicide case in Oklahoma where two innocent men were railroaded into prison by an unscrupulous prosecutor (who was still in office as of 2008) in cahoots with a fraud working in the crime lab at the state police and two others. He said in ten years of practicing law in Mississippi (1975-85), he had never seen such dishonesty from police and prosecutors. That’s small town Oklahoma, 1987-99. Now we’ve got a major scandal in Brooklyn which may invalidate scores of convictions and appears to manifest systemic abuses under the DA, Charles Hynes.
Did you get that whole mess in Sanford, Fla.? An 18 month process with seven digit legal fees to demonstrate to a jury what the Sanford police department knew after some days of making inquiries (and what an ordinary person would know if they listened to a tape of the calls to the police, looked at a scaled map of the housing complex, and looked at the photographs taken at the scene and the autopsy report). It was all done for political reasons, the trial prosecutor was blatantly trying to withhold evidence from the defense, and the 1st trial judge was so biased the appeals court tossed him off the case.
The lead investigator wanted Zimmerman tried for 2nd degree murder. (I watched his testimony.) His boss wanted him released. Zimmerman was released. The Justice Department threatened to get involved. Now the boss wanted him tried for 1st degree murder. The investigator disagreed: there’s not enough evidence for 1st degree murder. The boss rewarded the investigator for his insolence by demoting him to patrol cop.
In Florida, a 2nd degree murder trial has a jury of 6 but a 1st degree murder trial has a jury of 12. Getting 6 people to agree would have been much easier than getting 12 people to agree. Would Zimmerman be in jail right now if they’d gone with 2nd degree murder?
No, of course not. You can read Jerilyn Merritt’s commentary on the case if you need an education. You’ve also misrepresented the testimony of the police in Sanford. All the salient prosecution witnesses ended up being helpful to the defense at the trial. George Zimmerman shot a youth who was pummeling his head into the concrete. Timing the calls to the police dispatcher and examining a map of the complex make it plain that that youth returned home, turned around, marched 75 yards up the bloc, and attacked Zimmerman as he loitered around on a public walkway. None of this incorporates anything that difficult to understand.
commemoration of the world’s landmark, violent overthrow of a tyrannical government would seem to merit a bit deeper posting in a blog such as this
The colonists overthrew King George?
That’s deep, alright. Deep something.
I wonder if Cambodians are comparing their situation with that a generation ago. Freedom House’s rankings put Cambodia at below the 25th percentile of this world’s people as regards civil and political liberty. You know, though, reading this critique of political practice in Cambodia, it sounds strangely familiar…
Compared to life under the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot, life today in Cambodia is a bowl of cherries.
Ultimately, perceived freedom maps to two factors: my belief (reasonable or unreasonable) that I can do what I want without fear of repercussion and my belief that nothing I don’t want done to me is likely to happen without my consent. Reasonable bounds and the perception thereof play a huge role.
Having lived in the US, Europe and briefly SE Asia (actually including Cambodia), I can see why people there would feel more free:
In the US, I fear the long tail of consequences of traffic stops, IRS audits, law suits, health emergencies etc – there is a constant awareness that factors outside of my control could have a severe, longterm downside impact on my quality of life. In Cambodia, any conflict with police/thugs/officials was something that might result in small immediate downsides (pay a fine/bribe), but that was everyday business and would be addressed right away.
In the US, many everyday interactions require substantial process overhead: have an infection, go make an appointment with a doctor, get there, wait, get a prescription, find a pharmacy, wait, receive meds. Cambodia: go to a pharmacy, buy whatever you need. Get caught in a speed trap, say 5 over a ridiculous limit: spend time with officer, wait, get court date or hire lawyer, go to court, spend time in court, pay fines, take classes. Cambodia: rarely happens, if it does, pay cop a few dollars.
Net-net, small infractions tend to have small consequences in SE Asia, but they tend to take lots of my time and money in the US.
Of course, all that is now that overall safety (food/shelter/protection from harm) has equalized to the point that I felt no safer in a large metropolitan neighborhood in the US then in Cambodia. 10/20 years ago, with people being executed/robbed on the streets, that would have been a very different comparison.
Read Mark Steyn on the palpable experience of dealing with the court system in this country as opposed to Britain or even Canada. There’s a general acceptance in this country of being stomped on by lawyers.
Yes as long as you don’t threaten someone powerful being rich or even moderately wealthy in a less organized society such as Cambodia is the way to go for freedom lovers. I live in another Asian country similar to Cambodia and the only time you see the police is when they are providing a service (you can hire them to escort your car through traffic) or they want a bribe, or there is someone more powerful looking to get something.
Cambodia was ruled by a horrible dictator, Pol Pot (“Asia’s Hitler”), a little more than 30 years ago. 1/3 of the country were killed or starved to death under his ruling. Coming from that, just having permission to live and eat will feel like total freedom. Everything is relative.
I’ve always felt that this is the only test for “self determination.” If a majority think they have it, then they do. (Anything else is “mandate.”)
Having lived in Cambodia, I call bullshit. How did gallup conduct this poll anyway?
The country also ranked incredibly poorly on corruption perceptions indices until recently, and things have not gotten enormously better in perceptions.
Are things really getting as much better as the data appears to show? Seems to be so. When will perception of corruption collapse then? Many of the requisite structures are in place for this to happen.
The Freedom House sketch described generalized crookery, and, what was most salient for their rankings, vote fraud.
America is the best so the survey must be wrong.
I visited a local Vietnamese Buddhist monastery in Florida. The head of the monastery told us “The US is such a wonderful country! You can worship any way you please.”
In presumably unrelated news, 7% of the population of Cambodia mysteriously disappeared…..
Ha, I was thinking: “the other 7% were unavailable for comment.”
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