Navigating Mexico: Mexico’s Ever-Eroding Freedoms

Photo: Cato Institute


Each year the prestigious Washington-based public policy Cato Institute think tank publishes its worldwide country-by-country review of just how free personal and economic freedoms rank.

This annual index measures 83 indicators of personal and economic freedom in the following areas: rule of law; security and safety; movement; religion; association, assembly and civil society; expression and information; relationships; size of government; legal system and property rights; stable currency; freedom to trade internationally; and regulation.

The bottom line: Cato’s definition of freedom is understood as the absence of coercive constraint.

Freedom also implies that individuals have the right to lead their lives as they wish, as long as they respect the equal rights of others.

Anyone who has lived in Mexico for some time knows this is only true for a very small part of the population, and the Cato numbers bear this out.

In short, 2022 was not a good year for the world as a whole, largely attributed to the still ongoing covid-19 pandemic, but Mexico lost some serious ground, going from the 95th to the 98th place of the 165 countries reviewed by the Cato Institute — clearly approaching the bottom third of the world’s countries.

Mexico’s neighbors on this ranking include the likes of Kenya, Liberia and Sierra Leon,  not countries that most would consider as terribly desirable.

Specifically, in the case of the 26 countries of Latin America and the Caribbean reviewed, only Nicaragua and Venezuela ranked lower than Mexico.

That is a challenge to get one’s mind around.

The top 10 places for respect of individual freedoms were no great surprise: Switzerland, New Zealand, Estonia, Denmark, Ireland, Sweden, Iceland, Finland, Netherlands and Luxembourg.

So why does all this matter?

There is a very direct statistical connection between countries high on the freedom index and those having a strong democracy.

More than financial strength, freedom, in this amplified definition, allows for social stability and political continuity.

Such indices also help define with precision what is meant by freedom.

A low score on the freedom index impacts everything from tourism to bank interest rates.

In terms of personal freedoms, Mexico ranks lower than half of the world and, in its economic freedoms, even worse, clearly in the bottom third.

While Mexico scores well on some of Kato’s sub-measures — such as freedom to divorce, same-sex protections or freedom to form political parties — Mexico scores horribly on key measures such as homicide at 1.8, reliability of police at 2.5 and criminal justice at 2.9 on a scale of one to 10!

The index confirms that Mexico basically has a dwindling rule of law.

Mexico did not always have failing scores on the Kato Index.

At the turn of the century, Mexico actually had sevens and eights in some of its most challenging issues of today.

As citizens’ constitutional protections have eroded and autonomous institutions are being weakened or dismantled by the current administration of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) and his leftist National Regeneration Movement (Morena), this downward trend, unfortunately, seems likely to continue.

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