"America is the greatest country in the world!"
That belief will be proclaimed in some form or fashion by millions of Americans on this 237th anniversary of the approval of the final wording of the Declaration of Independence.
But it's not true.
At least not if your definition of "greatest" has anything to do with economic freedom, individual liberty and freedom of the press, anyway.
Several think tanks and government oversight organizations have attempted to quantify freedom. Judging by those studies and rankings, America -- the supposed "land of the free" -- is not nearly as free as many of us believe.
The 2013 Index of Economic Freedom, a joint study produced by the Wall Street Journal and The Heritage Foundation, found that the United States ranks tenth in the world in economic freedom. Based on scores on 10 components of freedom -- from property rights to entrepreneurship -- in 185 countries, America tallied 76 points. Hong Kong, the most economically free country, scored 89.3 points. Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and Switzerland round out the top five. Canada and Chile both scored substantially higher than the U.S. on the economic freedom index, as well.
America doesn't just lag behind in economic freedoms. The Fraser Institute, a Canadian think tank, found that the U.S. doesn't lead the way in personal freedoms, either.
In the Fraser Institute's ranking of personal freedom, which measures "Security and Safety;" "Freedom of Movement;" "Freedom of Expression;" and "Relationship Freedoms," America managed an 8.7 out of 10. The Netherlands earned a 9.5, and New Zealand, Ireland, Japan, Norway and Iceland all tallied scores above 9. In fact, citizens of Malta, Costa Rica and Estonia all have greater personal freedom than Americans, according to Fraser.
The U.S. fares even worse in freedom of the press, according to Reporters Without Borders annual World Press Freedom Index. This year, Reporters Without Borders ranked America 32nd in the world when it comes to freedom of the press. Governments in countries such as Namibia, Slovakia, Uruguay, Ghana and Suriname are more transparent and allow greater access for members of the press.
So, if freedom is, as many of us believe, what makes America great, and America isn't all that free -- at least in relative terms -- is America still great?
The United States remains the single greatest and most important country in the history of the world. No country has done more to improve the lot of every life than America. Because of the Founding Fathers' commitment to liberty, and more recent generations' willingness to uphold those principles, the living standards of almost every human in the world has improved vastly; longevity has never been greater; war, disease and famine, while still present, are not nearly as prevalent as in centuries past; and even those considered desperately poor enjoy comforts not available to the wealthiest people on the planet a few decades earlier.
But the United States has been so successful popularizing the ideas of freedom and self-governance that almost every other developed nation around the globe has followed in our footsteps. That's a great thing. But, as a result, America's liberty, economic success and stability are not unique.
In fact, as these rankings prove, America is actually "less American" than many other countries.
While that may not mean that we should be less proud to be Americans, it should make us all work harder to make the U.S. better -- and more American.
Our great nation will only once again become the beacon of liberty it once was if Americans join together to protect liberty. By working to reduce the size and scope of government, demanding that government be more transparent and more accountable, and valuing the primacy of individuals, the United States can again become the freest -- and greatest -- country in the world.