Methodology of Freedom Barometer: Measuring Freedom

I often say that when you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind; it may be the beginning of knowledge, but you have scarcely in your thoughts advanced to the state of Science, whatever the matter may be. 


Lord Kelvin, Electrical Units of Measurement, 1883.


Why measure liberty?


Liberty, in the sense of freedom to live one‘s life according to their own preferences as long as it does not infringe freedom of others,  is an important normative category,  obviously very important to liberals (the term ―liberal‖ hereby used in its European meaning, which is close to its historical roots in classical liberalism, while distinguished from its contemporary meaning in America where it rather depicts social democrats). However, besides its intrinsic value, liberty also has an instrumental one: societies with more economic freedom are more affluent, providing their citizens with higher standards of living; freedom of speech and media fosters dialogue and social consensus on what the most important contemporary problems are, and how to solve them, etc. Of course, as Cicero noted (sub leges libertas), freedom has its meaning only when coupled with the rule of law: fair, independent and impartial courts which deal justice efficiently, and where citizens can protect their rights. All this shows that liberty is at the core of modern political polities and that more freedom is beneficial for both social and economic progress of a society. Therefore, it is important to measure the current status of the level of freedom in different countries, thus allowing for the external country to country comparison or regional analysis, but also internal scrutiny by identification of areas where improvements have been made or are lagging.


How to measure liberty?


Freedom Barometer is a composite index, which means it consists of data from secondary sources, namely other indices that measure specific aspects of freedom. Freedom Barometer measures freedom in 3 wide areas:


    Political Freedom (Free and Fair Elections; Absence of Unconstitutional Veto Players; Press Freedom)


    Rule of Law (Rule of Law; Corruption; Protection of Human Rights)


    Economic Freedom (Security of Property Rights; Size of Government; Regulation of

Credit, Labour and Business; Freedom to Trade Internationally)


These 3 broad categories are further divided into 10 subcategories, measuring more specifically different levels of freedom. The subcategories used in creating the Index are weighted in such a manner that each has a maximum of 10 points, and therefore the overall total score is measured on a scale with the maximum of 100 points, where more points indicate higher degree of freedom.


Data sources and period covered


Bearing in mind that Freedom Barometer is a composite index, it uses other freely available indices to calculate its components. These indices have been long established and are considered to have passed the test of time and are widely used both by academics and policymakers. These indices have a built-in time lag, which influences the final time lag by Freedom Barometer. The latest publicly available index is used to compute Freedom Barometer, so the existing temporal lag is minimized,  but still present.  This basically means that time coverage of  Freedom Barometer, although published in 2019, mostly represents the state of affairs in the previous year. Therefore, the texts following the Freedom Barometer data could serve as a useful tool to further elaborate findings on respective countries. The texts cover the first half of the year in which Freedom  Barometer is published and the second half of the previous year.  For example, Freedom Barometer 2019 illustrates situation from July 2018 to June 2019.


Data sources used to compute Freedom Barometer are Freedom in the World, Press Freedom Index (Reporters without Borders), Index of Economic Freedom (Heritage Foundation and Wall Street Journal), Global Competitiveness Report (World Economic Forum), Corruption Perception Index (Transparency International), World Governance Indicators (World Bank) and the Human Rights Index (Friedrich Naumann Stiftung für die Freiheit).


Political Freedom Subcategories:


Free and Fair Elections


-     Scores from Freedom House Freedom in the World: (A) Electoral Process and (B) Political Pluralism and Participation


(A+B / (max A + max B)) * 10


Absence of Unconstitutional Veto Players


-     Scores from Freedom House Freedom in the World: (C) Functioning Government


(C / 12) *10


Press Freedom


-     Score from the Press Freedom Index of the Reporters Without Borders

(A) (100 – final score) / 10



Rule of Law Subcategories:


Rule of Law


-     Scores from World Banks' World Governance Indicators (WGI), section Rule of Law (A).


5 + A




-     Transparency International‘s Corruption Perception Index


Final score / 10


Protection of Human Rights


-     Score from the Friedrich Naumann Stiftung‘s Human Rights Index




Economic Freedom Subcategories:


Security of Property Rights


-     Data from World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report and World Bank Doing Business Report


Judicial Independence (A): (A-1)/6*10


Intellectual Property Protection (B): (B-1)/6*10


Protection of Property Rights (C): (C-1)/6*10


Reliability of Police (D): (D-1)/6*10


Legal    Enforcement     of     Contracts     (E):    ((725-score     time)/(725-62)*10)+((0,823-score costs)/(0,823-0)*10) /2


Regulatory Costs on  Sale  of  Real  Property (F):  ((265-score time)/(265-0))*(10+(0,15- score cost)/(0,15-0)*10) / 2


Final score: A + B + C + D + E +F / 6


Size of Government


-     Heritage Foundation, Index of Economic Freedom, Government Spending (A) and Fiscal Freedom (B)




Regulation of Credit, Labour and Business


-     Heritage Foundation, Index of Economic Freedom, Financial Freedom (A), Business Freedom (B) and Labour Freedom (C)




Freedom to Trade Internationally


-     Heritage Foundation, Index of Economic Freedom, Trade Freedom (A) A/10



Data changes in the 2019 edition


Due to the fact that some of the previous data sources which we had used in the previous editions of the Freedom Barometer meanwhile stopped being published, we had to make changes to our methodology. The biggest changes could be found in the Global Competitiveness Index, which had stopped publishing data on Impartial Courts and Business Costs of Crime, thus impacting both the Independence of the Judiciary and Security of Property Rights segments of the Freedom Barometer. Therefore, we decided to broaden the segment of Security of Property Rights by including one more variable (Intellectual Property Rights, Global Competitiveness Report) and supplant the previous Independence of Judiciary segment with a broader Rule of Law indicator (World Governance Indicators, World Bank). Since the Freedom of the Press also stopped being published in recent years, we had to exchange it with the Press Freedom Index (Reporters without Borders). In order to enable comparisons through years, we recalculated all the data from 2010 onwards through the new methodology.



Methodology of the Human Rights Index


Human  Rights Index (HRI) has a task to quantify the level of protection of human rights in European countries. Its final score is represented on a 1 – 10 scale, where 1 means that human rights are least protected and 10 that they are most protected.


The Human  Rights Index (HRI) scores countries in 4 wide areas:

1) Personal Safety

2) Education

3Tolerance and Inclusion

4) Personal Rights


Each of these sub-indexes consists of several variables, whose values have been transformed to represent a 1 -10 scale. Apart from one variable (LGBT Rights), all the data were taken from other reputable sources that are in the public domain.  In that case, any potential bias stemming from the authors was minimized, while it is also possible to cross-check the HRI data.  The total number of variables used to construct the HRI is 11.


Personal safety

  •  Societal safety and security (Fragile State Index, Fund for Peace):  10 - Value


  • Human trafficking (Trafficking in Persons Report, US Department of State): Tier 1 = 10, Tier 2 = 6.66; Tier 2 Watch List = 3.33; Tier 3 = 0


Access to Education


  • Education Index (Human Development Index, UNDP):   Value * 10


  • Secondary School Gross Enrollment Rate (Global Competitiveness Report, World Economic Forum): Value / 10; if Value larger than 100, then 10.


  • Inequality of Attainment of Education (Human Development Index, UNDP):  (Max Value – Value) / (Max Value – Min Value) * 10; Max=40, Min= 1.4


Tolerance and Inclusion


  • Group Grievances (Fragile State Index, Fund for Peace): 10 - Value


  • LGBT rights (Qualitative analysis of LGBT legislation, FNF): Value / 14 * 10


  • Equality of Women (Gender Inequality Index, Human Development Index, UNDP): (Max Value – Value) / (Max Value – Min Value) * 10; Max=0.66, Min= 0.016


Personal Rights


  • Personal Autonomy (Freedom in the World, Freedomhouse): Value / 16 * 10


  • Freedom of Expression (Freedom in the World, Freedomhouse): Value / 16 * 10


  • Freedom of Assembly (Freedom in the World, Freedomhouse): Value / 12 * 10