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Lifelong citizens of the United States report that they are accustomed to hearing that the US is the "Land of the Free" and most patriotic celebrations seem to emphasize freedom as one of the unique qualities of life there.

Another question already asked about freedoms that are unique to the United States, but I am asking for the opposite: are there freedoms that another country has, that the US is missing?

Clarification: Is there an activity which is

  • not allowed in (most states of) the USA
  • allowed in at least one other country
  • and people in that other country really do that activity in 2019?

(The last point added to ignore ancient laws that technically still hold but are not relevant anymore.)

  • Just in the constitution, or in general? – Steve Melnikoff Aug 8 at 7:40
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    I guess it depends on what one considers a freedom. Are you looking only for things specifically named as such in some law, or that exist practically but aren't specifically enshrined? Are you asking only about positive freedoms (group A, such as the government, can't stop you from doing this; "freedom of speech, freedom of religon") or negative freedoms (group A has to do this for you; "freedom from want") or something more vague and aspirational ("freedom from fear")? – Obie 2.0 Aug 8 at 7:51
  • @Obie2.0: I guess that I mean in the same vague sense as the description "land of the free", but I'll try to clarify the question a bit. – Pakk Aug 8 at 8:01
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    Comments deleted. Please don't use comments to answer the question. If you would like to answer, please write a real answer. – Philipp Aug 8 at 9:08
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    This question shows no (re-) search. One could easily read a bit on the constitutions of a couple of democratic countries outside of the US and compare them to the US constitution. They are probably all on Wikipedia. – Trilarion Aug 8 at 20:32

18 Answers 18

146

Yes, definitely

I'm limiting this answer to only freedom of something. That is, freedoms where the government or other powerful groups do not interfere, or are prohibited from interfering, with something a citizen does by themselves. I'm not dealing with from negative things, such as freedom from hunger, which is basically the same as a right to be fed. Further, this answer deals with what governments permit citizens to do; as such, said permission might allow individuals or companies to infringe upon people's freedom more broadly: for instance, if kidnapping is legal in a country, the populace has the freedom to kidnap, but the kidnappers are then able to restrict the freedom of movement of their victims unopposed.

And of course, just because people are free to do something, does not mean it's a good idea. In fact, some of these freedoms are things that I think definitely should be illegal, but they're freedoms nonetheless.

  • Drugs. In the United States, marijuana is illegal at the federal level and in most states. Drugs such as cocaine are illegal everywhere in the country except under very narrow conditions. Many countries permit drugs that the US does not. Mexico, Colombia, and Peru all permit the use and possession of small amounts of cocaine. I do not distinguish here between decriminalization and legalisation, which can be effectively indistinguishable with respect to the freedom of the end user to use and carry drugs. Until recently, small amounts of fentanyl were legal in China. Many countries have either legalized or decriminalized marijuana, such as Canada and Uruguay.
  • Traffic laws. In the United States, every public road has a speed limit. However, in Germany, you can go as fast as you want on most portions of the Autobahn system, although it may increase your liability in case of vehicular accidents. In addition, apparently there is no speed limit on rural two-line roads on the Isle of Man, although they seem to be introduced for certain periods.
  • Speech. Although the US has more freedom of speech than many countries, fighting words are not protected. This is an unusual doctrine, which I don't believe is present in most nations, although it may be subsumed under other restrictions in some places. In addition, several US states have criminal defamation statutes for private individuals. It does not appear that this is the case in all nations. For instance, it appears that Romania repealed its criminal defamation statutes for individuals in 2014.

  • Prostitution. In the United States, it is illegal to exchange money for sex in all but one state. However, in a number of other countries, prostitution and other forms of sex work are legal under some or all circumstances.

  • Gambling is illegal in most states in the United States, with various exceptions involving Native American nations, rivers, which effectively make it possible to find legal gambling in many areas. However, in some countries, such as the United Kingdom, there are apparently fewer restrictions on casinos.

  • Abortion is restricted by many states in the United States. Case law around abortion seems to permit it to be heavily restricted after the first trimester (about 12 weeks). This constrast to some other countries: for instance, abortion in Norway is legal up to 18 weeks.

  • Ages of consent. Ages of consent in the United State vary, being 16 minimum and 18 maximum, although there are often exemptions for couples close in age. As such, sex between a minor (under 18) and someone over the age of 18 is frequently illegal. By contrast, in Europe most countries have an age of consent between 14 and 16.

  • Immigration and freedom of movement is an interesting case, since it doesn't always apply directly within the United States but between the United States and other countries. However, the US does not allow unrestricted immigration from even its neighboring countries, Canada and Mexico. Most people need a visa to stay indefinitely in the US. However, some countries have open borders with certain other countries. Particularly notable is the Norwegian territory of Svalbard, where foreign nationals can stay indefinitely.

  • Discrimination is another example. In the United States businesses, including housing providers, are often prohibited from discriminating on the basis of characteristics such as race, gender, or religion. However, in some countries, such as Israel, discrimination on some of these bases is permitted. Of course, the specifics of discrimination can easily involve restrictions on freedom: for instance, refusing to rent to someone restricts their freedom of movement and freedom to live where they choose (as private property in general does, but over and above this). Similarly, refusing service to someone doesn't always just entail personally not doing anything to help them, but frequently entails invoking these same private property laws to kick them out of a business (again a restriction on freedom of movement) or to prevent one's employees from giving them service, thus restricting the employees' freedom to serve who they like.

  • Voting. Various states in the US have voter ID laws, which prevent people without an ID from legally voting. Many other countries do not have this requirement. Further, people convicted of a felony are not permitted to vote in many US states. By contrast, in many other countries people convicted of crimes and even in prison may vote.

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    You might add alcohol to this list. US states have some of the most restrictive alcohol laws in the world. – DJClayworth Aug 9 at 14:56
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    @Michael J. - I'd say it fits in at least one instance. Anti-discrimination law prohibits an individual employee from not providing service to someone. This is a good thing, but I'd still call it a restriction on freedom. Remember, this answer is emphatically not a list of the freedoms that should exist. – Obie 2.0 Aug 9 at 17:55
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    @IceCreamToucan - Part of the point of this answer is that freedom isn't always a good thing, contrary to the American slogan. I was actually trying to find some countries that permitted forms of what would be murder in the US for a stronger example, but I wasn't able to. – Obie 2.0 Aug 9 at 18:06
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    @T.E.D. Isn't forcing someone to bake you a cake when they don't want to effectively a form of coercion? Yes it is. If they were free, every private individual would have the right to discriminate anyone else, in any context, for any reason. If they can't, it means their freedom is restricted. Freedom doesn't mean "what T.E.D. likes". – Demonblack Aug 9 at 20:11
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    @Demonblack, if you are legally entitled to vote, but are unable to obtain voter ID, the laws infringe on your freedom to vote. This is not a hypothetical. – Harry Johnston Aug 9 at 22:15
130

Freedom to roam. (Right of public access to privately owned land.)

In Sweden you have the right to walk, cycle, ride, ski and camp on any land with the exception of private gardens, near a dwelling house or land under cultivation.

It is somewhat more detailed in its own section of the law but generally this is how it goes:

  • You are allowed to access any land, except private residences, the immediate vicinity (70 meters) of a dwelling house and cultivated land.
  • You can put up a tent.
  • You are allowed to collect flowers, mushrooms and berries.
  • Driving on private roads is allowed unless there’s a sign saying otherwise.
  • Swimming in lakes is allowed.
  • You can access any beach as long as you stay away from private residences.
  • You are allowed to catch fish in the five big lakes and along the entire coastline.

Source: The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Other countries:
Similar freedom exists in Scotland, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Austria, Czech Republic and Switzerland.

This Wikipedia page is a good start for more detailed information: Freedom to roam

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    Entering private property in the US would be a good way to get shot. – Daniel Aug 9 at 0:03
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    @Daniel do people really consider that "good" - do people consider life worth less than ownership? I can't believe that that is even joked about. – paul23 Aug 9 at 20:42
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    @paul23 good as in reliable, I suppose. – muru Aug 10 at 5:39
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    @BalinKingOfMoria it's more of a different understanding of what real estate ownership means - instead of sanctioning an infringement of the landowner's rights, it asserts that there's nothing to infringe, that the set of rights granted by ownership of nonresidental land doesn't include the right to exclude others; the traditional idea is that getting to be "owner of field/forest X" esssentially means that you get an exclusive right to the harvest of that field or timber from that forest, and not much more; you can buy/sell the economic rights to the "fruit" of that land but not total control. – Peteris Aug 10 at 9:59
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    There is a similar "Right to Roam" in Norway. And to protect it, there are lots of restrictions regarding building close to the shoreline/beachfront, fencing in beaches, and putting-up fences around mountain-cabins (traditional grazing-land). – Baard Kopperud Aug 10 at 14:20
81

The freedom to cross the road

Jaywalking is criminalised in the US on a state-by-state basis. You are permitted only to cross roads on a designated crossing, if such a crossing exists.

Many countries such as the UK do not regulate this, and pedestrians have the right to cross the road wherever they want if they can cross safely. Crossings exist and are widely thought to be safer and more sensible where traffic is busy, but this is not mandatory.

Edit to clarify: Motorways in the UK are not legal to cross on foot, as with interstates in the US. And where no crossing exists, of course you can cross anywhere. The difference is in towns and cities. It is legal to cross the road anywhere, at any time, in any town or city in the UK, whereas it is illegal in all states of the US if there is a crossing nearby.

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    Is that why European chickens are so smug? I've always wondered – Sidney Aug 9 at 14:24
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    @Sidney "Europe" is not a country, and each European country has different laws and different local customs, and laws can even vary within a country. In Germany, crossing a road when there is a red light for pedestrians is illegal and can lead to heckling by passers by. In France, it is also illegal, but commonly ignored. In England, Wales and Scotland, it is legal. In Northern Ireland, it is illegal for pedestrians to "endanger their own safety": legislation.gov.uk/nisi/1995/2994/article/38/made – Robert Furber Aug 9 at 16:05
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    As Robert pointed out, "Europe" is large. In Italy theoretically you can't cross outside of crossings if they're closer than 100m, although literally no one has ever abided by this law and a policeman trying to enforce it would probably get stoned to death or something. – Demonblack Aug 9 at 20:14
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    This blows my mind, I've lived in the UK and one or two other countries and never realised that it was technically illegal in other countries to cross roads away from designated crossings. In the UK you just cross wherever you feel like as long as there isn't too much traffic. – Tom Aug 10 at 18:12
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    The second sentence of this answer could stand to be clarified. In California, if a designated crossing exists, then there is a 300 foot zone on either side of the designated crossing where it is illegal to cross. There are lots of ways that a crossing can be designated, including the intersection of a driveway (which is technically a small private road) with a street. Of course, the 300 foot zone is the lesser of 300 feet or the distance to the next designated crossing. If there are no designated crossings within 300 feet, it is legal to cross when it is safe to do so. – Jasper Aug 11 at 2:19
49

The freedom to vote

As Wikipedia tells us:

According to the Sentencing Project, as of 2010 an estimated 5.9 million Americans are denied the right to vote because of a felony conviction, a number equivalent to 2.5% of the U.S. voting-age population [...]

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    Just imagine if Australia had had such a restriction in its founding time :) – Hagen von Eitzen Aug 10 at 22:42
43

The right not be killed by the government (aka death penalty). This is outlawed in all European countries but still rampant in the USA.

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    If you mention the US justice system, then it might also be worth mentioning that no other country in the world takes away essential freedoms from such a high percentage of their population by putting them into prison and that the US constitution explicitly allows slavery as punishment for a crime. – Philipp Aug 9 at 10:46
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    This is not really a "right". It's just a difference in punishments. – Evorlor Aug 10 at 2:48
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    @com.prehensible What does "very strong evidence" have to do with it? That death penalty cannot be undone in case of judicial error is not hte only reason against it (you cannot really undo years of prision either) . Perhaps a big difference (and your window suggestion seems to support that) is that in the US, penalties have a much larger vengeance aspect (apart fro a cynical business aspect of prisons) – Hagen von Eitzen Aug 11 at 6:51
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    @Evorlor "Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person." - Art. 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. – Martin Schröder Aug 11 at 19:58
40

Labor rights and healthcare

USA is a bit unusual compared to other countries regarding its laissez-faire attitude towards labor rights and healthcare. It turns out that the difference is not just in the laws and practices, but it's also reflected in fundamental rights and freedoms.

For example, if I look at the constitution of Latvia (there are probably other examples as well, but I'm looking at this one, and it will suffice to demonstrate a 'proof of concept') then we see things like minimum wage (which, if I understand correctly, USA implemented as federal law just in 2009) as an inalienable constitutional right; "the right to weekly holidays and a paid annual vacation" and "Employed persons have the right to a collective labour agreement, and the right to strike" and "Everyone has the right to social security in old age, for work disability, for unemployment and in other cases as provided by law" aren't just laws granting specific privileges, but fundamental constitutional rights - just as the right to bear arms in USA. If we look at maternity leave, in almost all countries worldwide mothers have a freedom to give birth and take care of their newborn kids while still being paid - the only exceptions are United States, Suriname, Papua New Guinea, and a few island countries in the Pacific Ocean, where not all employed mothers have this freedom.

Then there's the universal healthcare issue - USA has some public healthcare such as Medicare/Medicaid, but it doesn't really have universal healthcare, which is considered a core freedom in many countries and (at least) in Latvia the right to universal basic healthcare is explicitly listed in the constitution; the position of some USA politicians wanting 'small government' that doesn't provide such services could literally be unconstitutional elsewhere.

Privacy

Privacy is another domain with important policy differences between EU and USA. In USA, there are and can be all kinds of regulations that protect privacy (and a lot of fundamental restrictions on how the state can/can't invade privacy) but in commercial relations between people and corporations, it's essentially treated as some privilege that's subject to contract law.

EU, however, has privacy and personal data as a fundamental right. Articles 7 and 8 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights hold privacy as part of core freedoms; and it's treated comparably to your physical freedom - just as you can't sign away your freedom and sell yourself in slavery in some contract because your freedom is an inalienable right, the same applies to privacy, you can't just sign it away in some service contract, the rights still apply. This difference in treatment (privacy as a separate fundamental right/freedom) is the basis for substantially different regulation, such as GDPR.

"Freedom to" instead of "Freedom from"

The abovementioned examples (and various comments below) illustrate a fundamental difference in how the notion of "freedom" can be interpreted. The philosophy predominant in USA generally defines freedom mostly as freedom from interference ("freedom from") and from that perspective USA generally tries to grant all the things that fall under this definition.

However, the community and legislation of some other countries is fundamentally different, and considers certain abilities or entitlements ("freedom to") as core inalienable parts of the definition of "freedom"; and asserts that freedom in this wider definition requires implementing many things (such as the ones above) that USA would not generally consider "freedoms" but EU explicitly does, enumerating them in the charter of human rights.

It's likely also the reason why these things are provided - western countries generally try to provide as much freedoms as is reasonable, but they have a different understanding of what freedom means, so countries do/don't provide for certain rights depending on whether their communities consider these rights as part of "freedom-as-they-understand-it". One community believes in the freedom to own guns without restriction, and another community thinks of it as a restriction on their freedom not to get shot. One community considers the right to paid vacation as a freedom, and the other considers it as a restriction on their freedom to make arbitrary contracts about work. These seem to be not really differences in legislation as much as differences in philosophy and values - different, incompatible, subjective views on what the word "freedom" means.

23

In Spain, I buy whatever dosage of Metformin or levothyroxine I need (or want) without a prescription and at a far lower price than my co-pay in USA.

  • Prescriptions are an interesting example. – Obie 2.0 Aug 9 at 0:59
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    Nice example of the rare single-line SE answers that are complete and great despite brevity. +1 – Aaron Aug 9 at 19:06
  • On some stacks, I have been reprimanded for not wasting words. – WGroleau Aug 9 at 19:31
  • Levothyroxine restriction in Europe is something I cannot undersatnd. It has zero value outside of the population who needs it daily and everywhere I went you need a prescription to get a refill. Go Spain! – WoJ Aug 11 at 12:06
  • I used to also take liiothyronine (T3) which is not available in Spain, though the pharmacist apparently knew what it was and helped me figure out how to change the T4 dose to compensate. T3 was available in Italy, but a doctor did not know it was! – WGroleau Aug 11 at 18:57
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ALCOHOL: Here in New Zealand I can legally own a still and distill and drink up to 25 litres of alcohol per adult in the household per year (one of the few benefits of having university-age offspring living at home). Shops in my suburb sell various flavourings to make the result palatable.

This activity is illegal for individuals in the United States (thanks to @Obie for making me check):

Distilled Spirits Plants cannot be located in a residence, or in a shed, yard or enclosure connected to a residence, vessel or boat.

A person may not produce distilled spirits at home for personal or family use.

[Alcohol and Tobacco Trade and Tax Bureau]

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    It's not totally illegal, but you do need to obtain a permit: clawhammersupply.com/blogs/moonshine-still-blog/… – Obie 2.0 Aug 8 at 21:40
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    So wait, my high school teacher who had us put raisins, sugar, yeast, and water in a milk jug for two weeks, bring it to school and distill it to 95% alcohol was legal since it wasn't in a residence? – CramerTV Aug 9 at 2:21
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    US is also very restrictive about what age you can buy alcohol at. – DJClayworth Aug 9 at 16:40
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    This is news to me and warrants further research. I live in one of the more oppressive states in the US, yet I know plenty of people who make their own alcohol of various types. I don't think any of them have any permits. If this answer is correct, this might be one of those things that are technically a law but which everybody ignores. – Aaron Aug 9 at 19:03
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    @Aaron perhaps a distinction should be made here about distilled alcohol. Most home brew laws allow beer, mead, and wine, etc., but not spirits. This is possibly related to the dangers of improper distillation that can create poisonous results. – Nathan L Aug 10 at 14:46
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Euthanasia

Disallowed in all US states, allowed in the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland and Canada. Basically the flip side of the death penalty, as it involves the government forbidding you from taking your own life. Hence it's probably no surprise that the death penalty is banned in all countries that do allow euthanasia.

  • Terry Pratchett arranged to travel to Switzerland for euthanasia when his alzheimer became too advanced, way before becoming unable to change cloths and perform basic functions probably. – com.prehensible Aug 10 at 8:51
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    Euthanasia is legal in multiple states in the US, including California. Also what is the basis for your claim about the death penalty? Perhaps your source is a bit old. – A Simple Algorithm Aug 11 at 5:12
  • @ASimpleAlgorithm: this means that in these states you can ask to be killed (or get the means to kill yourself) freely? I am sure there would be some paperwork, I am asking for the ability to do so. – WoJ Aug 11 at 12:09
  • @ASimpleAlgorithm: That would be assisted suicide, specifically. But you've got a point, it's a common form of euthanasia and it shows there is no full ban in the USA. – MSalters Aug 11 at 18:57
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The most basic and important freedom that comes to mind is participation in direct democracy. Initiatives and referendums exist at the state level in some states, but not federally. Other countries like Switzerland have them at the federal level. Within the Swiss Confederation there are also some states which provide even more direct participation, like actual in-person meetings where all people who have political rights in that state can go and debate, vote and decide on how that state should be run. In the case of Glarus, people can participate in this meeting starting at the age of 16 and public transport is free on the day of the meeting so everyone no matter how poor can go (see previous link).

Please note that no matter the huge size disparity, the comparison is between equivalent political constructs. In both cases there are sovereign states which form a federation together. There are no sovereign entities below state level and no sovereign entities above federal level. If you consider language and cultural differences between states, Switzerland is probably more diverse than the USA, within individual states it's probably less diverse on average.

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    Yeah, the question then becomes whether direct democracy is really a "freedom." The people who created the United States felt quite strongly that it was a danger to freedom, which is why they created a republic and not a direct democracy. Their goal was to protect minority rights from "tyranny of the majority" (i.e. essentially mob rule.) – reirab Aug 8 at 18:21
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    @MartinBonner There are rarely votes as problematic as Brexit in Switzerland. It's stupid to have a 51% vote which is allowed to determine the future of a country for decades. We have frequent votes on incremental changes and if a decision turns out to be stupid it's possible to reverse it. And I know people who have been really active in politics since before they were 16. – Nobody Aug 8 at 18:24
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    @Nobody Yeah, I'm not saying that Switzerland has mob rule, just saying that it's not clear (to me, at least) that direct democracy is itself necessarily a 'freedom.' The less divisive politics, though, likely has a lot more to do with the Swiss population being much smaller and more homogeneous than the USA and not having an entrenched two-party system. The whole country of Switzerland is about 1/3 the size of my U.S. state... which is only the 36th largest state. Working in a relatively small, homogeneous country doesn't necessarily mean it wouldn't cause mob rule in a large, diverse one. – reirab Aug 8 at 19:26
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    The Swiss and U.S. government structures are more identical then not (Direct Democracy and the nature of who is the executive are the the real big differences. The U.S. judiciary is a bit more powerful). Also, below the national government, the next level is called a Canton in the swiss system, but is fundementally the same. All 50 states in the United States have some mechanics of Direct Democracy as well as many small town governments (mostly in New England and New Jersey). – hszmv Aug 9 at 14:42
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    Additionally, national referendums in Switzerland solved the fears of the US founders by requiring measures to pass with a double majority. This means that of all the ballots cast, 51% must support the measure and at least 14 of the 26 Cantons must support the measure with 51% or more of Canton's popular vote. A measure can lose if it passes popular support but only in the largest Cantons Or if it passes in 14 or more Cantons, but doesn't get popular support nationally. – hszmv Aug 9 at 14:47
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The Right to Keep Your Earnings

All U.S. citizens, regardless of where they choose to reside, are still legally obligated to file U.S. income taxes in the same way as if they were living in the U.S.

4 Countries Without Income Taxes

Every U.S. citizen must pay a certain portion of their earnings (if their income is over a certain threshold) to the U.S. government.

Some countries (e.g. UAE, The Bahamas, Bermuda, and Monaco from the article above) do not have income taxes.

Also, this takes makes it harder for Americans to pursue career opportunities abroad because they would have to pay double the tax (both to the country in which they decide to go work and to the US). This calculator and this one show that if an American citizen moves to Canada for work and earns the equivalent of $75K USD (~$99K CAD) a total of ~45% of their earnings would have to go towards taxes, compared to ~17% if a Canadian went to the US for the same pay. The freedom to work abroad is not taken away, but it is made very inconvenient.

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    Is this really an activity per the qualifications of the question? – Obie 2.0 Aug 8 at 20:46
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    @Obie2.0 perhaps not, but it's an activity you're not obligated to do. The original post only mentioned freedoms, not activities. The clarification about activities was only added to prevent answers that include rights which aren't taken advantage of in practice. I don't think OP only wanted actions, more just rights in general. – Alexandre Aubrey Aug 8 at 20:53
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    A less-obvious case of the US citizens paying US taxes is: citizens by decent born overseas who have never resided in the US, and who are obliged to pay US taxes. I've met a few. – Jason Aug 8 at 23:53
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    This is generally only a technicality though. Places with no income tax will generally still have taxes, they are just in other forms. For most people the method of taxation is irrelevant and some other non-income-based tax is equivalent to the income based tax. So this answer is only correct in theory, not in reality. – Aaron Aug 9 at 19:11
  • @Jason only people actually paying tax to the US would be those who earn hundreds of thousands of dollars per year and live in a low tax territory. – JonathanReez Aug 13 at 19:29
9

Freedom from Gerrymandering

Electoral districts in the US are drawn up by governing parties, and are often drawn in a way that is explicitly and openly designed to give good results for the party in power, at the expense of fair representation and common sense. Other countries have neutral parties that draw up electoral maps.

Freedom to have politicians whose primary motivation isn't money.

It's well known that US politicians spend a huge amount of their time fundraising, and that making (or preventing) laws that will help them obtain donations of money are a focus for every politician, meaning that people with money have a disproportionate effect on what politicians do. Other countries have restrictions that prevent this.

Freedom from extraterritorial restrictions. Most countries have laws that apply only when you are in them. When you are elsewhere you follow the laws of the country you are in. The US has by far the most laws about what you can do outside the country - for example it can punish companies that do things the US doesn't like (such as trading with specific countries) even if the company is based outside the US and doing something that is entirely legal where they operate.

The US also taxes its citizens wherever they are in the world, even if they have no financial activity in the US. I believe it is the only industrialized country to do so.

Freedom to consume alcohol

US states have some of the highest minimum ages for purchasing and consuming alcohol in the industrialized world.

9

There is an entire category of rights that barely exists in the US: Economic, social and cultural rights. The US is very keen on rights than merely require the government or other people not to do things (negative rights), but very unkeen on rights that place an obligation on governments and other institutions to take action (positive rights). Examples of these rights are the right to education (which the US generally does provide, but doesn’t recognise as a right), health care, housing, a job, and so on, regardless of whether or not your personal financial circumstances allow you to pay for them.

  • You may consider to add guaranteed internet access (Finland), pensions, etc. – Anixx Aug 10 at 15:00
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    These are not freedoms. – Ben Voigt Aug 10 at 18:26
  • @BenVoigt Freedoms and rights are two sides of the same coin. A right to education is freedom from ignorance. A right to a job is freedom from abject poverty. A right to health care is freedom from illness and crippling bills. – Mike Scott Aug 10 at 18:34
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    @MikeScott: Every one of those can be trivially disproved. You can still get sick (even terminally ill) even if you are eligible for healthcare. You can still be impoverished even if you have a job (perhaps someone stole your pay). No amount of education eradicates ignorance. That's why in fact none of your examples are actually freedoms, let alone freedoms related in any way to government, even though you abused the word "freedom" four times in your comment. – Ben Voigt Aug 10 at 18:40
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    @MikeScott: Indeed something is a freedom ("freedom to X") if you're allowed to take action, whether or not that action is successful. That doesn't hold for "freedom from Y", which only exists when Y is completely eliminated from your life. You're also wrong to think that freedom ever includes forcing others to do things to your benefit. "Freedom from" includes preventing others from doing you harm, but they can still abstain from taking any action regarding you. – Ben Voigt Aug 10 at 19:08
9

Freedom to download movies, music, and other copyrighted works for personal use:

In Switzerland you are free to download (i.e. torrent or file share) any and all copyrighted content — including movies, TV shows, music, etc. — as long as the content is used for personal use (i.e. cannot be used for commercial or business purposes). Same for Spain, Canada and Russia. France gives you 3 strikes of warning and hasn't brought charges very much, but my friend in Germany received a 1000 euros fine, which he had to pay to avoid a criminal record for 1 movie torrent.

Demonetized politics

It costs 1.6mn/10.2mn to run for senate/congress in the USA, which means that you only have 4 big telecoms providers, and the money comes from people like them, who take citizen's freedoms away.

Freedom to send your children to school in a gun-free neighborhood and to live in a gun free city.

Everyone wants their children to go to school in an area where there are less school shootings. The EU had 58 school shooting deaths since 2000 vs 290 deaths in US schools, that's more than in all the rest of the world. While responsible people can responsibly hold a weapon, I don't see any reason for a jobless student with no assets or work experience to buy two semi automatics and pistols during studies.

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    In the Netherlands, it's no longer legal to download copyrighted works from unlawful sources (i.e. most torrents and file shares) since ACI Adam v Stichting De Thuiskopie in 2014. See an interpretation of that ruling here. – JJJ Aug 10 at 13:24
  • You'd also need to provide sources for the other countries with a specification of how the law allows it. For example, in the Netherlands there was no law explicitly allowing it, so no Dutch law had to be changed for the downloading from so-called unlawful sources to be illegal per that ECJ ruling. I'd be interested to see how other countries dealt with that and if the ECJ ruled on it. – JJJ Aug 10 at 13:27
  • According to Todd Gardiner's Quora answer, the Republic of the Marshall Islands has no copyright law. – Keith McClary Aug 10 at 16:03
  • @JJJ, Spain assumes that everyone is a pirate and so has a special tax on digital storage media, which is distributed to rightsholders by a corrupt organisation called the General Society of Authors and Editors (SGAE). – Peter Taylor Aug 10 at 20:52
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    @PeterTaylor yea that was the reasoning in the Netherlands too but then the ECJ ruled agianst that. See point 2 at the very bottom of the ruling. – JJJ Aug 10 at 21:03
6

Freedom from widespread Gun Crime

One of the big freedoms that is very important to some Americans is the right to bear arms. That right is incompatible with the right to walk around without fear of other people carrying fire arms.

Comparing the numbers for the United Kingdom and United States on gunpolicy.org, shows a consistent gun homicide rate around 0.05 per 100,000 people in the UK, compared to around 4 per 100,000 people in the USA.

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    I downvoted this answer because while protection from bodily harm is an important human right and defending that right is considered an important duty of the state, it is usually not considered a "freedom". Certain freedoms are human rights, but that doesn't mean that all human rights are freedoms. – Philipp Aug 9 at 12:41
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    @Philipp yet by not having guns everywhere I could for example much more directly state what I want, without fear of a gun being drawn. This fear is hence limiting my freedom and in turn it is hence the fact that there is no restriction on guns that I would be limited in freedom. It all boils down to the grant freedom of not living in fear: in the US I'd always live in fear and never be free. – paul23 Aug 9 at 16:34
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    If you use logic like this, then there can be an infinite amount of freedoms that any country has that any other country does not have. This argument only sounds valid because you pick on guns specifically. In most other western countries, you have the same problem, or worse - many others, such as UK, have crime statistics suggesting more violence, and it just happens to be with weapons other than guns. I could slay "In the US we are more free to roam without fear from death by knife." – Aaron Aug 10 at 17:09
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    This is just taking a freedom and claiming its opposite is the freedom. E.g., freedom from second-hand smoke, freedom from being propositioned by prostitutes, freedom from becoming addicted to recreational drugs or gambling. Also, crime is by definition illegal. So something ceases to be a right if a criminal violates it at some rate greater than 0.00005 percent, but less than 0.004 percent of the population? – A Simple Algorithm Aug 11 at 5:25
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    You can hardly use this example as the act of shooting you, even though it happens to be more likely, is not endorsed nor allowed by the US and the shooter will be prosecuted (unless perhaps you happened to stand on their lawn). – Hagen von Eitzen Aug 11 at 7:06
4

If we are listing examples, there is the thing people consider often "most important":

Freedom of speech

No country has full freedom of speech, but the US is particularly limited in freedom of speech. Even something silly like blasphemy is an offense in certain states, and I can say that "Forest Gump was a stupid person who lacked intelligence". Yet saying "Jesus was a criminal who scammed the whole world by building a pyramid game called religion with him on top. Hence he's the biggest asshole." is a crime in several states in the US.

Thus I cannot freely voice my opinion, and am limited in speech due to other laws/no protection against those laws.

  • Could be improved by adding references and specifying which states have such laws. – Alexandre Aubrey Aug 9 at 17:37
  • I'm pretty sure saying the same thing about Allah would get you murdered in most Muslim nations. Their blasphemy laws are a lot harsher than America's. – F1Krazy Aug 9 at 18:55
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    @F1Krazy indeed, but that's not what hte OP asks. There are "less free" countries than the US, and I think it's hard to argue there aren't. – paul23 Aug 9 at 18:56
  • @AlexandreAubrey I haven't studied law, so I find it difficult to come up with direct sources.. But a general overview on wikipedia: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… states already quite clearly the extend of these laws. – paul23 Aug 9 at 18:58
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    Those laws exist, but are not enforced, due to having been held unconstitutional in Joseph Burstyn Inc. v. Wilson. – Obie 2.0 Aug 9 at 20:03
3

Several good ones have been mentioned but I haven't seen Freedom of Information mentioned. In many other countries for instance the tax returns are public documents that can be read by anyone. As the issue with Trump refusing to publish them shows that is not the case in the US. Other types of documents available are things like birth certificates, grades in school et.c. For instance in Sweden you have the right to request any public record (unless it's classified as secret), aka "Offentlighetsprincipen".

  • That's very interesting, though it's important to note when a lack of transparency is due to a conflict with privacy rights, versus simply govt hiding its doings. Many people in the US are unaware one does have the right to request a public record (defined so as to exclude "private" records, which require permission). On the other hand I've seen the US criticized for publicly releasing the identities of people arrested. – A Simple Algorithm Aug 13 at 4:23
  • IOW, the things that most people would prefer to keep personal are not protected in the EU but the things that nobody should have any expectation of being secret, like stuff they willingly enter onto websites are vehemently protected by the EU. Why on earth would you list that as something supposedly good? – Dunk Aug 14 at 23:40
-1

The right not to be shot by a neighbour or a policeman or a random guy walking down the street just because they don't like the look of you.

There are countries where this happens too, but it is not allowed in theory. (Except maybe the Philippines.)

But "Stand your ground"? Shoot random people because you claim to feel threatened by them, and then get away with it? And be treated like a hero.

edit: So I claim the freedom to go about my daily business without worrying about being shot legally by some random idiot.

edit 2: No, I will not self-delete. I cite the tragic death of Trayvon Martin.

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    I downvoted this answer because while protection from bodily harm is an important human right and defending that right is considered an important duty of the state, it is usually not considered a "freedom". Certain freedoms are human rights, but that doesn't mean that all human rights are freedoms. – Philipp Aug 9 at 12:41
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    I read that twice and still didn't get it... three times... – RedSonja Aug 9 at 12:56
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    OK, I will try to phrase it differently. The question is asking for "Freedoms". "The right to not get shot" is not a "freedom". It is an important human right, but it is not a human right which is categorized as a freedom. The right to shoot someone, however would be a "freedom". It is not a freedom anyone should have, but it would be a freedom nevertheless. So a country which allows anyone to shoot anyone would be "more free" than one where nobody is allowed to shoot anyone, even if it would be a country you might not want to live in. – Philipp Aug 9 at 13:00
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    Look at it this way: here in Germany I can walk down the street dressed any way I like, expressing any opinion I like, with any skin colour and style combination...whatever, no-one is going to shoot me. Well, they might, but the German state would come down on them like a slow ton of bricks. – RedSonja Aug 9 at 13:02
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    Show me the law in the US that states people are allowed to shoot you because they don't like your hair style and I'll remove my downvote. – Alexandre Aubrey Aug 9 at 14:46

protected by Philipp Aug 9 at 12:37

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