The World Justice Project is out with its most recent global ranking measuring the respect individual nations have for the rule of law.

The group broadly establishes that the rule of law provides people with: 1) public and private sector accountability 2) just laws that ensure “human rights as well as property, contract, and procedural rights” 3) open government in which “law is adopted, administered, adjudicated, and enforced are accessible, fair, and efficient” and 4) “accessible and impartial justice.”

How does the United States rank? Number 27 out of 139 countries. In 2021, the U.S. lost ground in four areas: constraints on government powers, absence of corruption, open government, and fundamental rights.

At the top of the global list for adherence to the rule of law? Denmark was no.1, followed by Norway, Finland, Sweden, and Germany. Venezuela was in last place.

As Dan Mitchell wrote, the ratings matter because of what they show about a nation’s ability to respect liberty and free markets:

…rule of law is akin to the foundation of a building.

It needs to be solid in order for the rest of the building (fiscal policy, trade policy, regulatory policy, and monetary policy) to be livable.

One final point is that you don’t necessarily get more rule of law by enacting additional laws. Indeed, that may actually reduce the rule of law because politicians and bureaucrats then can engage in capricious enforcement.

All of which means the U.S. has work to do if it really wants to live up to its ideals, and truly embrace the rule of law.