Weighing Freedom

This yearbook, prepared by Freedom House—a private nonprofit foundation from New York—is the tenth in the series of annual comparative surveys of political and civil liberties in the world. Started in 1972, the Freedom House project to assess the status of freedom around the globe has become an indispensable gauge for anyone interested in the progress of liberty.

The heart of the survey is a table rating each country on a seven-point scale for political and civil freedom, then providing an overall judgment of each as "free," "partly free," or "not free." A rating of one indicates the freest, of seven the least free.

Such tables, however, are not flawless. Putting Argentina, for example, in the same category as the United States ("free") will undoubtedly offend many, as should the placement of dynamic Taiwan alongside still-Communist Poland and increasingly pro-Soviet Nicaragua (all "partly free"). To consider Iran and Zimbabwe, as the survey does, "partly free," alongside South Korea and Singapore, is also peculiar—suggesting a need for finer distinctions.

In addition to the table itself there are brief summaries of the human rights situation in every country. While less detailed than the State Department's annual Country Reports on Human Rights, the survey summaries offer an evaluation of every nation's attitude toward the...

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