In last couple of years, surveys to measure freedom have constantly placed Estonia among the top in terms of personal, economic, press and internet freedom.
People have been seeking freedom for millennia but not freedom for all. Slaves, serfs, women, outsiders, and the defeated were not included. That changed in the last few centuries as the circle of those deserving freedom expanded. Evolution continues. Two centuries ago, slavery was alive in many nations, not just the United States; a century ago, women lacked full citizenship and the freedoms that go with it; more recently, sexual orientation is being removed as a barrier to freedom.
Yet, efforts to measure freedom have only emerged in the last quarter century or so. Unfortunately, these efforts have been flawed: blurring various definitions of confusing “other good things” with freedom, using subjective rather than objective measures, and either failing to account for economic freedom or focusing exclusively on it.
Worldwide Index of Human Freedom
Sponsored by Canada’s Fraser Institute, Germany’s Liberales Institut, and the United States’ Cato Institute, it focuses on creating the first comprehensive and conceptually consistent index of freedom, including economic freedom, and is based on the “negative” definition of freedom—in other words, the absence of barriers or coercion that prevent individuals from acting as they might wish.
In its latest report this week, it placed Estonia on the 10th position, after New Zealand, Netherlands, Hong Kong, Australia, Canada, Ireland, USA, Denmark and Japan. Both personal and economic freedoms were taken into account. Estonia’s personal freedom was exceptionally high, although economic freedom was also strong.
# 1 For Internet Freedom
Separately, US-based Freedom House this week placed Estonia as the country with the most internet freedom in the world, ahead of the US. According to Freedom House, Estonia “ranks among the most wired and technologically advanced countries in the world.”
“With a high internet penetration rate and widespread e-commerce and e-government services embedded into the daily lives of individuals and organizations, Estonia has become a model for free internet access as a development engine for society,” reads the report.
Estonia’s commitment to technological innovation in government is especially remarkable considering the former Soviet state’s weak economy following the breakup of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. Freedom House credits the country’s first independent leaders with putting the country on a track towards economic development through technology and innovation.
“The country’s new leadership perceived the expansion of information and communication technologies (ICTs) as a key to economic growth and invested heavily in their development,” reads the report.
Freedom House ranks countries’ “Internet Freedom Status” in three main ways: obstacles to access, limits on content and violations of users’ rights. It also factors in tertiary factors, including internet penetration and blogger arrests. Estonia got high marks in almost every category.
# 3 For Press Freedom
Reporters Without Borders placed Estonia 3rd for its last, 2011/2012 report on press freedom around the world, just behind Finland and Norway. By comparison, it’s worth noting that the UK was 28th and the US 47th on the same list, not to mention Russia at 142. Reporters Without Borders noted that “The index finds countries such as Finland, Norway, Estonia and Netherlands at its head – countries that respect basic freedoms. This serves as a reminder that media independence can only be maintained in strong democracies and that democracy needs media freedom.”
Photos: VisitEstonia/Jarek Jõepera/Kaarel Mikkin
Fraser Institute Worldwide Index of Human Freedom:
Freedom House for Internet Freedom Index:
Reporters Without Borders for Press Freedom Index: