As our political maelstrom has stirred both wheat and chaff into a frenzy, I have, like many, listened for the gentle whispers of wisdom. It is difficult to discern wisdom within the rantings of our presumptive leaders. I have, more intentionally this election year than others, inclined my ear to listen to people who find nothing admirable in the popular candidate of the political party of my forebears. I find myself often in agreement with their criticisms. I have also, more intentionally this election year than others, attempted to find something admirable in the popular candidate of the other party. In this age of social media, we also have the opportunity to hear counsel from other frequently wise, and unwise, counselors who cite many compelling reasons for both action and inaction during this season.

Wisdom is needed but elusive.

Among the gusts in this storm have been the decisions of some to protest the flag, anthem, and Pledge of Allegiance of the United States. The stated reasons for these protests are many, and they often seem to trigger reflexive defense by others for completely unrelated reasons.

Behind both offense and defense are often questions of “liberty, and justice, for all.”

For many in the USA, justice seems absent.

For many in the USA, liberty seems to be rapidly declining.

It is hard to argue against subjective experience. But my own experiences living and working in other nations often makes me wonder about the objectivity of these perceptions. It may be possible to gain some objective perspective on these.

I recently found something called the State of World Liberty Index (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/State_of_World_Liberty_Index). You can drill into the links to learn more about how the index works. There is room to question its methodology, but at least it provides a consistent comparative measure among nations.

During the period from 2006 to 2016, the USA composite liberty ranking has fallen from 8th to 19th.

So, at least in terms of the variables in this index, liberty in the USA is declining in comparision to eleven other countries.

Here is the World Justice Index (http://data.worldjusticeproject.org/). Due to changes in their methodology, it isn’t possible to compare trends over time, but it does provide some comparative data between nations.

During 2015, the USA ranked 19th globally, but it scored low in the area of discrimination.

So, at least in terms of this index, justice is in question.

It is an interesting coincidence that while we have some reason to sense a subjective decline of liberty and justice, in terms of comparative liberty and justice, the USA still ranks higher than 80% of the world.

To say it another way, for many generations, including the current one, people around the world have flocked to the USA to improve their personal share of liberty and justice.

This is neither cause for complacency nor necessarily helpful in choosing a candidate for whom to vote. But, for me, it is a helpful reality check during the political maelstrom.

Beyond arguing about candidates, the deeper disagreement may be about symptoms and causes. I suspect that finding objective indices for these will be more difficult.

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