United States of America
[Country Profile Page]
|Social and Moral Index||32nd best|
|Land Area||9 147 420km21|
|Location||North America, The Americas|
|Life Expectancy||79.22yrs (2017)3|
|GNI||$53 245 (2017)4|
|ISO3166-1 Codes||US, USA, 8405|
The USA does relatively well in ensuring human rights and freedom, compared to many other countries. The USA comes in the best 20 when it comes to its success in fighting anti-semitic prejudice9 (one of the lowest in The Americas). It does better than average for supporting personal, civil & economic freedoms10 (amongst the best in The Americas), commentary in Human Rights Watch reports11 (amongst the highest in The Americas), supporting press freedom12, LGBT equality13 and in opposing gender inequality14 (one of the best in The Americas). The USA has aggressively supported human rights in many parts of the world15 and hosts (and encourages) a large number of international human rights organisations. This persisted in not only the Clinton and Obama administrations (where it was a central concern) but even in the Bush eras16. The USA does not succeed in everything, however. It does worse than average in its nominal commitment to Human Rights17 (amongst the worst in The Americas) and in speed of uptake of HR treaties18 (amongst the highest in The Americas). The country is deeply divided; 1% of the population draws 20% of the country's entire income19. Trump-era politics has driven back human rights concerns, and is ushering in an era of intolerance and inequality, especially for LGBT folk, the poor, women and other minorities20 and has been vocally supportive of authoritarian strong-man regimes that also have poor human rights records. Despite Trump, on some occasions, the USA still manages to encourage human rights, most notably in cutting $100 million and holding back another $195 million of its aid to Egypt, citing human rights violations21 and 'threatening targeted sanctions against the Burmese military officials behind the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya minority'20.
|Human Rights, Equality & Tolerance (2020)22,23|
|Pos.||Lower is better|
|47||Bosnia & Herzegovina||58.8|
The best countries in the world at ensuring human rights, fostering equality and promoting tolerance, are Denmark, Sweden and Norway22. These countries are displaying the best traits that humanity has to offer. The worst countries are Tuvalu, The Solomon Islands and Palestine22.
The data sets used to calculate points for each country are statistics on commentary in Human Rights Watch reports, its nominal commitment to Human Rights, speed of uptake of HR treaties, supporting personal, civil & economic freedoms, supporting press freedom, eliminating modern slavery, opposing gender inequality, the year from which women could participate in democracy, its success in fighting anti-semitic prejudice and LGBT equality. The regions with the best average results per country are Scandinavia, Baltic States and Europe22, whereas the worst are Micronesia, Melanesia and Australasia22.
The USA does not always (especially since Trump) support international systems of conciliation or human rights16, and Americans have always struggled to see that the way they do some things "is not necessarily what international human rights norms require"24. In particular, the commercialist nature of USA civic life means that those in poverty are, in reality, being deprived of human rights and access to the justice system on account of being unable to afford bail and sensible health care20. Trump's battle against the Accordable Care Act ('Obamacare') will only make this worse.
The USA has a "strong civil society", allowing people to collaborate, congregate, assemble and protest. But actual influence is much harder to achieve, as the American political system has fundamental flaws.
“The individuals most likely to suffer abuse in the United States - including members of racial and ethnic minorities, immigrants, children, the poor, and prisoners - are often least able to defend their rights in court or via the political process. Many vulnerable groups endured renewed attacks on their rights during the year. Other longstanding US laws and practices - particularly related to criminal and juvenile justice, immigration, and national security - continued to violate internationally recognized human rights.”
|Human Rights Watch Comments (2017)11|
|Pos.||Higher is better|
Human Rights Watch comments concentrate mostly on negative issues, however, they also make positive comments for those countries that engage in human rights defence around the world, or who make improvements at home. By adding up positive and negative comments (including double-points for negatives that involve large scales and crimes against humanity), the Social and Moral Index turns HRW commentary into quantified values. Some countries may be unfairly penalized because HRW have not examined them, and, some countries "get away" with abuses if they manage to hide it, or if it goes unnoticed - a negative point has been given for those countries in which HRW specifically state that access to investigators has been barred. The points were limited to a minimum of -10 because there are some points at which things are so bad, with abuses affecting so many, it is difficult to be more specific about the depths of the issues.
|Nominal Commitment to HR (2009)17|
|Pos.||Higher is better|
There are many international agreements on human rights, and, many mechanisms by which countries can be brought to account for their actions. Together, these have been the biggest historical movement in the fight against oppression and inhumanity. Or, putting it another way: these are rejected mostly by those who wish to oppress inhumanely. None of them are perfect and many people object to various components and wordings, but, no-one has come up with, and enforced, better methods of controlling the occasional desires that states and peoples have of causing angst for other states and peoples in a violent, unjust or inhumane way. Points are awarded for the number of human rights agreements ratified by the country, plus the acceptance of the petition mechanisms for disputes. The maximum possible score in 2009 was 24.
|HR Treaties Lag (2019)18|
|Pos.||Lower is better|
Human Rights (HR) Treaties Lag is a count of how long it took each country to sign each of 11 key HR treaties. From the date of the first signatory of each treaty, all other countries have one point added to their score for each day they delayed in signing. Results are presented as average time in years to sign each one. The lower a country's score, the more enthusiastically it has taken on international Human Rights Treaties - which are, of course, minimal standards of good governance. The slowest are the countries of Micronesia, Melanesia, Australasia and Polynesia all lagged by over 12 years per treaty. The best regions are The Americas, Scandinavia and the Mediterranean.
|Personal, Civil & Economic Freedom (2014)10|
|Pos.||Lower is better|
The Human Freedom Index published by the Fraser Institute is...
“... a broad measure of human freedom, understood as the absence of coercive constraint. It uses 79 distinct indicators of personal and economic freedom in the following areas: Rule of Law, Security and Safety, Movement, Religion, Association, Assembly, and Civil Society, Expression, Relationships, Size of Government, Legal System and Property Rights, Access to Sound Money, Freedom to Trade Internationally, Regulation of Credit, Labor, and Business. [...]
The highest levels of freedom are in Western Europe, Northern Europe, and North America (Canada and the United States. The lowest levels are in the Middle East and North Africa, South Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa. [...]
Countries in the top quartile of freedom enjoy a significant higher per capita income ($37,147) [compared with] the least-free quartile [at] $8,700). The HFI finds a strong correlation between human freedom and democracy.”
|Press Freedom (2013)12|
|Pos.||Lower is better12|
The freedom to investigate, publish information, and have access to others' opinion is a fundamental part of today's information-driven world. Scores on the Press Freedom Index are calculated according to indicators including pluralism - the degree to which opinions are represented in the media, media independence of authorities, self-censorship, legislation, transparency and the infrastructure that supports news and information, and, the level of violence against journalists which includes lengths of imprisonments. The index "does not take direct account of the kind of political system but it is clear that democracies provide better protection for the freedom to produce and circulate accurate news and information than countries where human rights are flouted".
It must be noted that press freedom is not an indicator of press quality and the press itself can be abusive; the UK suffers in particular from a popular brand of nasty reporting that infuses several of its newspapers who are particularly prone to running destructive and often untrue campaigns against victims. The Press Freedom Index notes that "the index should in no way be taken as an indicator of the quality of the media in the countries concerned".
“President Trump repeatedly criticized journalists and posted comments andvideos denigrating them during the year, prompting concerns over the chilling of freedom of speech. In August 2017, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed concern that “freedom of the press” in the United States was “under attack from the President.””
In many Western countries, the free press is itself immature and irresponsible, often seeking out stories for shock value, no matter that they are inaccurate or fabricated. Mainland Europe has some of the best legal and administrative systems in place for managing broadcast media in a sensible manner, which has required a cautious, careful and wise approach, developed over time. Trump is not following this route. His attacks on mass media are akin to the defensive attacks on critics seen in totalitarian and oppressive regimes such as Turkey, Russia and Kazakhstan.
|Pos.||Lower is better|
The taking of slaves has been an unwholesome feature of Human cultures since prehistory27. Private households and national endeavours have frequently been augmented with the use of slaves. The Egyptian and Roman empires both thrived on them for both purposes. Aside from labourers they are often abused sexually by their owners and their owners' friends28. The era of colonialism and the beginnings of globalisation changed nothing: the imprisonment and forced movements of labour continued to destroy many lives except that new justifications were invented based on Christian doctrine and the effort to convert non-Christians. By 1786 over 12 million slaves had been extracted from Africa and sent to colonial labour camps, with a truly atrocious condition of life29. But they were not the only ones to blame; in Africa internal nations such as the Asantes sold and bought tens of thousands of slaves30.
The abolition of the slave trade was a long and slow process. Until a relatively modern time, even philosophers, religious leaders and those concerned with ethics justified, or ignored, the problem of slavery31. The first abolitionists were always the slaves themselves. Their protests and rebellions caused the industry to become too expensive to continue. After that, it was the economic costs of maintain slave colonies that led the British to reject and then oppose the slave trade globally. Finally, the enlightenment-era thinkers of France encouraged moral and ethical thinking including the declaration of the inherent value of human life and human dignity32. A long-overdue wave of compassionate and conscientious movements swept across the West, eliminating public support for slavery, until the industries and churches that supported it had no choice but to back down.
'Modern slavery' includes forced labour (often of the under-age), debt bondage (especially generational), sexual slavery, chattel slavery and other forms of abuse, some of which can be surprisingly difficult to detect, but often target those fleeing from warzones and the vulnerable.33. Some industries (diamond, clothing, coal) from some countries (Burundi26, Eritrea26, Indonesia34) are a particular concern. The Walk Free Foundation, say that in 2016, 40.3 million people were living in modern slavery35.
The USA is on the way towards ending gender inequality but women are still in an unfavourable position much of the time.
Under the Trump era, progress towards gender equality and women's rights have been reversed, as Christian extremists are making progress in blocking access to family planning services for huge numbers of people (especially those who need it most):
“President Trump, his cabinet appointees, and the Republican-controlled Congress rolled back some important women´s rights protections, domestically and in foreign policy, and pledged to dismantle others. Some state governments also eroded women´s rights by introducing new laws with absurd restrictions on women´s reproductive rights. [...]
Trump also issued an executive order on “promoting free speech and religious liberty,” which will cut women off from access to reproductive health services. [...]
Several states adopted highly restrictive laws on abortion and reproductive health. These include new bans on abortion in some circumstances or other restrictive measures in Texas, Arkansas, Kentucky, Iowa, Tennessee. Some states increased efforts to deny public family planning funds to providers who alsooffer abortion services. [...]
On his first full day in office, President Trump reinstated and dramatically expanded the Mexico City Policy, or “Global Gag Rule.” This strips US health funding from foreign nongovernmental organizations if they use funds from any source to supply information about abortions, provide abortions, or advocate to liberalize abortion laws [...] restricting some $8.8 billion in foreign assistance for health services such as family planning, maternal healthcare, and services to treat HIV, malaria, and tuberculosis in 60 countries.”
|Gender Inequality (2015)14|
|Pos.||Lower is better14|
The UN Human Development Reports include statistics on gender equality which take into account things like maternal mortality, access to political power (seats in parliament) and differences between male and female education rates. Gender inequality is not a necessary part of early human development. Although a separation of roles is almost universal due to different strengths between the genders, this does not have to mean that women are subdued, and, such patriarchialism is not universal in ancient history. Those cultures and peoples who shed, or never developed, the idea that mankind ought to dominate womankind, are better cultures and peoples than those who, even today, cling violently to those mores.
|Year Women Can Vote|
|Pos.||Lower is better|
Women now have equal rights in the vast majority of countries across the world. Although academic literature oftens talks of when a country "grants women the right to vote", this enforces a backwards way of thinking. Women always had the right to vote, however, they were frequently denied that right. The opposition to women's ability to vote in equality with man was most consistently and powerfully opposed by the Catholic Church, other Christian organisations, Islamic authorities and some other religious and secular traditionalists.
#antisemitism #christianity #germany #indonesia #israel #jordan #judaism #laos #morocco #netherlands #pakistan #philippines #religion #religious_violence #saudi_arabia #spain #sweden #turkey #UK #vietnam
|Anti-Semite Opinions (2014)9|
|Pos.||Lower is better|
Anti-Semitism is the world given to irrational racism against Jews. It is not the same as anti-Judaism (involving arguments against the religion) nor the same as anti-Zionism (arguments against Israel). In history, influential Christian theologians concocted the arguments against Jews that led, very early on, to widespread Christian action against Jews36,37,38,39. As Christianity rose to power in the West and presided over the Dark Ages, there were widespread violent outbursts against Jews of the most persistent and horrible kind. The Crusades were frequently aimed at them and the feared Spanish Inquisition paid Jews particular attention. The horror of the holocaust instigated by German Nazis in the 1940s was followed (finally) by the era of European human rights and a movement against racism in general.
The places that are the least anti-Semitical are a few countries of south-east Asia (Laos, the Philippines and Vietnam) and some of the secular liberal democracies of Europe (Sweden, the Netherlands and the UK). The worst countries for antisemitism are Islamic states of the Middle East40, which are undergoing their own Dark Age. Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Morocco, Indonesia, Pakistan and Turkey see the most oppressive and violent actions towards Jews41,42. Jews in Muslim countries face a host of restrictions and "ceaseless humiliation and regular pogroms"43. In 2004 the European Union Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia reported on violent anti-Jew crimes in the EU and found that that largest group of perpetrators were young Muslim males44.
Same-sex marriage only became possible nation-wide in 2015, although it was legal in some particular states before then - Massachusetts was the first in 200445. Despite that, legal discrimination is still too pervasive. Jack Donnelly in "Universal Human Rights in Theory and Practice" (2013)46 states that sadly, the following old description was still mostly accurate:
“Our society forbids gay people to marry, denies us equal pay for equal work, throws us off the job, forbids us from serving our country in the armed forces, refuses us health insurance, forces us into the closet, arrests us in our bedrooms, harasses our daily associations, takes away our children, beats and kills us in the streets and parks, smothers images of ourselves and others like us, and then tells us we are irresponsible, unstable, and aberrant.”
Evan Wolfson (1991)47
Not only that, but Trump-era politics has seen the government force a top-down assault on LGBT rights, although some progress has still continued in some states.
“In the first five months of 2017, legislators in several states introduced more than100 bills that would attack or undermine LGBT rights.”
|LGBT Equality (2017)13|
|Pos.||Higher is better|
Discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) folk is rife across the world. Legal restrictions co-exist alongside social stigmatisation and physical violence48. LGBT tolerance and equal rights have been fought for country-by-country across the world, often against tightly entrenched cultural and religious opposition. Adult consensual sexual activity is a Human Right, protected by privacy laws49. Despite this, homosexual activity is outlawed in around 80 countries48. The Social & Moral LGBT Equality Index was created to compare countries and regions, granting points to each country for a variety of factors including how long gay sex has been criminalized and the extent of LGBT legal rights. Graded negative points are given for criminality of homosexuality, unequal ages of consent, legal punishments and for not signing international accords on LGBT tolerance. The signs in many developed countries are positive, and things are gradually improving. Europe is by far the least prejudiced region (Scandinavia in particular being exemplary). The Middle East and then Africa are the least morally developed, where cultural bias goes hand-in-hand with state intolerance, all too often including physical violence.
“Racial disparities permeate every part of the US criminal justice system, including in the enforcement of drug laws. Black people make up 13 percent of the population and 13 percent of all adults who use drugs, but 27 percent of all drug arrests. Black men are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of white men.
Police continue to kill black people in numbers disproportionate to their overall share of the population. Black people are 2.5 times as likely as white to be killed by police. An unarmed black person is five times as likely to be killed by police as an unarmed white person.”
Despite some truly worrying and racist trends, President Trump has been removing oversight mechanisms on police behaviour, and has been vocally encourage severe methods (including torture), although thankfully on multiple issues there are more moral and conscientious politicians who have held him back or managed to side-step his commandments50.
“.... scaling back or altogether removing police oversight mechanisms. The US Department of Justice began to discontinue investigations into, and monitoring of, local police departments reported to have patterns and practices of excessive force and constitutional violations. [...]
In a speech in July , President Trump encouraged officers to use unnecessary force on suspects. Congress introduced the “Back the Blue Act,” which would severely restrict civilians´ rights to sue police officers who unlawfully injure them. [...]
President Trump made statements during the presidential campaign and once in office supporting the use of torture of detainees and other counterterrorism policies that would amount to violations of US and international law. Trump later backtracked on these proposals saying he would defer to Defense Secretary James Mattis, who was outspoken against torture, on interrogation matters.”
The anti-immigrant rhetoric and intolerance of non-whites has defined Trump-era USA migration politics; even those who arrived as children are being targeted for deportation (as of 2017 August)20, no matter how long they have lived and settled in the USA. This kind of instability and social disruption can only ever serve to increase crime and poverty, leading to worse problems over time.
Other social law is being threatened including those that protect disabled-people, women's rights and LGBT rights20. Family planning, women's rights and gender equality are all being driven backwards, especially in those areas where the Trump administration is heavily influenced by the intolerant campaigns of powerful conservative Christian organisations. American culture is being driven backwards towards an environment of hostility towards many kinds of minority groups.
“In November , Trump traveled to Asia, visiting China, Japan, South Korea, and Vietnam while in the region for the ASEAN summit in the Philippines. During the trip, Trump boasted of his good relations with authoritarian leaders and did not publicly comment on core human rights concerns, including the Rohingya crisis.”
Popularism: The Trump presidency is one of "popularism", where "gut reactions", including instinctive dislike of anything that is not mainstream, is given prominence over well-thought-out policy. The election of Donald Trump has epitomized this modern anti-liberal movement, but, it has caused a visible backlash, and many are rallying behind moral and ethical organisations to try to protect them against dismantling.
“Trump won the presidency with a campaign of hatred against Mexican immigrants, Muslim refugees, and other racial and ethnic minorities, and an evident disdain for women.”
“In politics, popularism is the effect of uninformed mass opinion on governance. It can transpire through the government being too sensitive to the loudest voices of the masses, through grassroots movements that are too narrow in scope to represent the entire population, through nasty forms of nationalism and jingoism. Popularist slogans are often catchy policies based on simple one-line policies that do not have a proper depth of research or meaning; hence, they appeal to 'the masses' and it is the job of politicians to convince the populace to pursue wiser courses of action than they would if left to their own devices. In the modern world, Internet-based and social media campaigns are becoming the most important source of public pressure on governments51 and this is giving enemies of democracy powerful new tools of interference52. The worst aspects of popularism are a disregard for minorities53 and any unpopular subcultures (wherein popularism becomes 'the tyranny of the majority')54 and the other main disadvantage is the pursuit of shallow and short-sighted policies that harm the nation in the long-run55,56,57; issues that require strong international co-ordination and long-term planning such as environmentalism and protecting biodiversity are suffering as the result of selfish nationalism58. The solution to popularism is to ensure the politicians are professional, well-trained, well-educated, and who are not afraid to engage in long-term strategy that is unpopular in the short term.”
Thankfully, tolerance and equality are a core part of a large part of American culture amongst its people.
“In reaction to the election of Donald Trump, the United States saw a broad reaffirmation of human rights from many quarters. ... A powerful response came from civic groups, journalists, lawyers, judges, many members of the public, and sometimes even elected members of Trump´s own party.”
7. Freedom of Belief and Religion
As far as developed countries go, the USA has particular problems with religious tolerance. Although the legal system is fair in many ways and you should expect tolerance, "the actions of local governments and private businesses suggest otherwise"59 and the amount of discrimination is "massive" (according to a congressional report in 1999)60.