Justice is a key value for Americans.
After all, one of our key mottoes is:
“Liberty and justice for all”.
But the World Justice Project – a bipartisan, independent group with honorary chairs including Supreme Court Justices Kennedy, Breyer, Ginsberg and O’Connor – just released a report saying that Americans have less access to justice than most wealthy countries … and many developing nations.
The group’s “World Justice Index” ranks countries’ faithfulness to the rule of law based upon 9 factors (we’re paraphrasing so that they’re easier to understand):
1. Whether there are checks and balances on the power of government officials
2. Absence of corruption
3. Order and security
4. Due process, freedom of speech and other fundamental rights,
5. Transparency of government operation
6. Due process in regulatory enforcement
7. Access to civil justice
8. Access to criminal justice
9. Availability of informal dispute resolution systems
Among high-income countries, the U.S. ranked near the bottom in access to civil justice … behind Estonia, United Arab Emirates, the Czech Republic and other countries:
For example, Germans sue equally whether they are rich or poor … but in America, only the wealthy have the resources to protect rights using the court system:
Indeed, the report ranks developing countries such as Botswana and the former Soviet nation of Georgia as having more access to the civil justice system than the U.S.
Americans have experienced more unfair physical abuse by police than in Kazahkstan, Russia, Chile, the Czech Republic, Romania and other countries:
When compared to other countries in North America and Western Europe, the U.S. ranked third to last in checks and balances on the power of government officials and absence of corruption, and second to last in protection of due process, freedom of speech and other fundamental rights, access to civil justice, and access to criminal justice:
World Justice Project is not alone in this assessment.
As we pointed out in July:
Economic historian Niall Ferguson notes:
The World Economic Forum’s annual Global Competitiveness Index and, in particular, the Executive Opinion Survey on which it’s partly based … includes 15 measures of the rule of law, ranging from the protection of private property rights to the policing of corruption and the control of organised crime.
It’s an astonishing yet scarcely acknowledged fact that on no fewer than 15 out of 15, the United States now fares markedly worse than Hong Kong. In the Heritage Foundation’s Freedom Index, too, the U.S. ranks 21st in the world in terms of freedom from corruption, a considerable distance behind Hong Kong and Singapore. [Transparency International puts the U.S. at 24th.]
Perhaps the most compelling evidence of all comes from the World Bank’s Indicators on World Governance, which suggest that, since 1996, the United States has suffered a decline in the quality of its governance in three different dimensions: government effectiveness, regulatory quality and the control of corruption.
Compared with Germany or Hong Kong, the U.S. is manifestly slipping behind.
Indeed – as we’ve extensively documented – the rule of law is now as weak in the U.S. and UK as many countries which we would consider “rogue nations”. See this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this and this.
This is a sudden change. As famed Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto notes:
In a few short decades the West undercut 150 years of legal reforms that made the global economy possible.
Given that a country’s economic health is correlated with a strong rule of law more than any other factor, that lawlessness in America is even more epidemic than the World Justice Project indicates – look here and here – and that 2 U.S. supreme court justices have warned of dictatorship … we’re in real trouble.