The indenpendent organization Freedom House came out with the "Map of Freedom in the world" (2006) (see above). The map displays countries filed under 3 categories: free, partly free and not free. There are shades of "freedom" between the 3 categories as explained in the methodology of scoring "freedom" points. I am always a bit suspicious of anyone naming something freedom since they decided to call "French Fries" "Freedom fries" and "French bread" "freedom bread". (This was as childish as it gets. I am not sure if they also switched to "Freedom kiss" and Freedom Connection" :) ).
Still, I perused through the report for the countries of interest to me and this is what I found: (as you can see on the map)
Madagascar: partly free, Zambia: partly free ....(In fact, all of Africa is not free except for South-Africa and Senegal).
If what is meant by free is that we are not "free" to purchase everything we want, then I can see their point :( ( Freedom, as we all learned in the dreaded philosophy class in Terminale, is a complicated concept).
However, freedom here is scored based on 2 criteria: Personal Liberties and Civil Rights.
If those 2 concepts are the real factors taken into account, I am going to go out on a limb and affirm that the USA should be in the "partly free" category. Either that or move Madagascar in a "superfree" category because when it comes to civil rights.....well, no further comment.
In fact, I will let the freedomhouse.org report about the USA make the argument for me. Here are a few notes form the report:
"A serious and increasing problem for American democracy is the widespread practice of drawing districts for the House of Representatives and for state legislatures that are designed to maximize the election of a particular party or to protect incumbent legislators of either party. The practice, known as gerrymandering, has been a part of the American system since its inception. [...]
Criticism was directed at the Bush administration for having given grants to several journalists, who in turn gave favorable publicity to administration education and social programs in news columns. The administration was also criticized for the widespread dissemination of government-produced videos that were then aired by local televisions stations without identification of the government as the program source."
You may want to check your country report card on freedom and ranking here and see how well you fared. ;).
I think I know why they put Madagascar in the "not so free" category but I will let you be the judge.
PS: We had a bit of snow last week here in Indiana. It was Oct. 12th.... I need to move south pronto.
PS #2: Since Russia is still flagged as "not free", it kind of brings back memory of 80's cold war: anyone remember this ? ( hint: Sting sings "... we share the same biology, regardless of ideology")