Is Freedom in Trouble?

Author:Smith, Patricia

Every year for the past four decades, Freedom House has rated all nations on how free they are. The 2018 report raises alarms

Democracy is in crisis. That's the conclusion of a 2018 report by Freedom House on the state of freedom around the world. Freedom House, based in Washington, D.C., was founded in 1941 by a bipartisan group that included First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and Wendell Wilkie, who'd been the 1940 Republican presidential nominee. The organization has published the Freedom in the World report yearly since 1973.

The latest report found that 71 countries showed declines in political rights and civil liberties over the past year, while just 35 showed improvements.

In fact, this is the 12th consecutive year that freedom has declined overall across the globe, Freedom House says. The report, which rates countries on a scale of 0 to 100, with 100 being the most free, finds that 39 percent of the world's population is free, with the remainder living in countries classified as either "partly free" or "not free" (see map).

At the end of the Cold War, it looked as if totalitarianism had been defeated by democracy, says Michael Abramowitz, president of Freedom House. But "today, it is democracy that finds itself battered and weakened," he says.

The report's other key finding is that freedom is slipping in the U.S. (seegraph). The U.S. score began to decline in 2010 and has dipped more dramatically since 2016. Sarah Repucci, who oversees reports for Freedom House, says the decline reflects concerns about money in politics, whether election districts are fairly drawn, growing polarization, and the impact of race in our justice system. The problems that caused the more noticeable recent score drop are a reason for concern, she says, but not alarm: "The U.S. is still a very robust democracy."

Who's Free, Who's Not

Freedom House divides nations into three categories--not free, partly free, and free-based on their score on a scale of 0 to 100. Scores are based on ratings of various factors relating to political rights and civil liberties.

The U.S. scored 86 out of 100. That's a decline from 94 in 2010, and much lower " than Canada's score of 99.

Venezuela, which was a functioning democracy 15 years ago, has sunk into crisis, with the...

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