By Christina Taskevich

Source: The Messenger
Author: Christina Taskevich
Date: August 11, 2006

The new State of World Liberty Index, prepared by a libertarian think tank and measuring individual and economic freedom in 159 countries, puts Estonia as the freest country of the world, while North Korea is the least liberal country on the list.

The former Soviet states, the index specifies, showed a range of different results, with several countries in the first half of the list, and others rather at the very bottom.

Lithuania (16th place) and Latvia at 21st place made in the top 25 of the list after having the free market liberalization reforms.

Belarus (153), Turkmenistan (154) and Uzbekistan (152) are at the bottom of the list, as well as Russia (124), Kazakhstan (132), Tajikistan (141) and Azerbaijan (137). Georgia is around the middle, holding the 58th place.

“Authoritarianism still reigns in these countries, which are Soviet in everything but name. The good news is that many former Soviet bloc countries of Eastern Europe have made significant progress towards free liberalism, with free liberal parties gaining power and influence,” the index summary says of former Soviet countries.

Explaining the good result Estonia showed, the index says the country has a solid government, liberalized trade and expanded individual freedom.

“The Estonian Reform Party, a free market liberal political party, is also gaining influence and has made a significant impact on Estonian politics, controlling about 18 percent of parliament,” the report says.

It notes although Estonia is still far from a “libertarian paradise” (with a score of 85.3 percent), it is closer than any other country on the list. The “State of World Liberty Index” ranks countries based on individual freedom, economic freedom and government size/taxation.

It also used the Heritage Foundation/The Wall Street Journal’s the 2006 Index of Economic Freedom,” Freedom House’s 2005 Index of Freedom in the World and Reporters Without Borders’s Press Freedom Index.
“The world is very far from free,” the index concludes blaming big governments with centralized power of maintaining policies of war, corruption, genocide and authoritarianism.

“Centralized market control usually results in government monopolies of capital, creating widespread poverty and humanitarian crises by limiting food supplies, infrastructure and healthcare from the citizens who need those things most,” it says.

The report also says the problems do not exist just in the developing world, but also the top ten countries need significant improvement before they can be considered truly free countries.

Although the report says there is a cause for hope in the future despite such a negative assessment.

“Clean and honest governments have always been rare and pro-liberty governments have been even rarer, but there are global signs of a political sea change, from Mongolia to Panama to even Cuba,” the summary says.