Thursday, May 31, 2012

A map of the free and non-free countries of the world

Here is the 2012 world map from Freedom House showing the free, partly free, and non-free countries of the world. The first thing that strikes me is how freedom or lack thereof is largely contiguous. Europe and the Americas tend to be free; Asia and Africa tend not to be free. Also, in general, free countries tend to be wealthier than non-free countries. (India is a notable exception!)

The evidence suggests that these are not coincidences. First, as Fareed Zakaria points out in The Future of Freedom, when a country becomes a democracy its per-capita GDP largely determines whether it will remain a democracy or revert back to dictatorship.

Second, historically, ideas about both political freedom (John Locke) and free-market capitalism (Adam Smith) came from Great Britain. The map below is largely a map of the influence of Great Britain and later the United States. The ideas about freedom, democracy, and capitalism spread from Great Britain to Western Europe and British colonies around the world. You can see below that the former British colonies of the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, Botswana, and South Africa are all green, indicating that they are free countries. The United States in turn has influenced the Americas (the Monroe Doctrine and the Cold War), Western Europe (the Cold War), Japan (we effectively wrote their constitution after World War II), South Korea (the Cold War), and Taiwan (the Cold War). At the southern tip of Africa, South Africa and Botswana were both British colonies, and Namibia was previously controlled by South Africa. All three are green, indicating freedom.

I also find it interesting to see how the number of free countries has changed during my lifetime.

1972: Free - 29%, Partly Free - 25%, Not Free - 46%
2012: Free - 45%, Partly Free - 31%, Not Free - 24%

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