Staunton, January 25 – According to the third annual Human Freedom Index compiled by the Cato Institute and its partners, the state of human freedoms in the Russian Federation has deteriorated sharply since 2008, while the level of economic freedoms rose by an insignificant amount (cato.org/human-freedom-index).
As a result, Russia’s ranking on the overall scale of human freedom (a combination of the two, the report said, fell from 99th place in the world in 2008 to 126th in 2017. The scholars who compiled these rankings, Moscow economist Andrey Illarionov says, considered 79 different indices of personal and economic freedoms (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5A698AAF440D0).
These 79 indices involved 12 different areas, he continues: the supremacy of law, security, freedom of movement, freedom of religion, freedom of association, freedom of expression and information, freedom of choice of identity, the size of the state, the quality of the legal system and the defense of property rights, access to reliable currency, freedom of international trade, and regulation of business, labor and credit.
“Russia today,” Illarionov says, “occupies a relatively higher position in the world on the index of economic freedom than it does on the index of personal freedom,” and that combination is “characteristic as a rule for the countries of the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia,” rather than for the developed West.
What makes this finding about Russia so important is that some governments care far more about economic freedoms in other countries than they do about personal freedoms there and consequently they may be inclined to overlook repression in the area of personal freedoms if economic freedoms are greater, thus allowing more foreign involvement in those economies.
But it is also important because it serves as a reminder than those who assumed that an expansion of economic freedoms would inevitably lead to a growth of personal ones or the reverse were wrong. Russia and countries like it have demonstrated that it is entirely possible to have more liberal economy and a decidedly and even increasingly illiberal society.
Of course, it should be remembered at the same time that the Russian economy is no model of a free one. As Transparency Institutional reported this week, only 84 percent of thte larges Russian firms are currently transparent in their operations (znak.com/2018-01-25/transperensi_interneshnl_84_krupneyshih_rossiyskih_kompaniy_ne_prozrachny).
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