TALLINN - Estonia is the world's most free and liberal country, according to a recent study on global liberty. The 2006 State of World Liberty Index, published online by libertarian analyst Nick Wilson, found the Baltic states all ranked in the top 25 most free nations.
Wilson compared each country's individual freedom, economic freedom, government size and taxation.
He found that, since regaining independence, Estonia's steps toward liberalization placed it ahead of all other nations, according to libertarian economic and social criteria.
"Estonia has established a solid government, liberalized trade, and expanded individual freedom. While Estonia is far from a libertarian paradise, it is closer than any other country on this list," Wilson said.
The United States of America, which considers itself the standard of global liberty, ranked eighth, behind Estonia, Ireland, Canada, Switzerland, Iceland, the Bahamas, and the United Kingdom.
Lithuania was 16th and Latvia 21st, while its neighboring autocratic government in Belarus ranked near the bottom of the list, coming in 153rd.
Unsurprisingly, North Korea was deemed to be the least free nation.
The index used already-available economic and social data, rather than studying each nation afresh.
"No comprehensive global index combines economic freedom and personal freedom," Wilson said. "Our goal was to rectify this, and to factor in government size and taxation as a third category so one can get a gauge of a country's libertarianness."