Category: 

What Does the "Leader of the Free World" Mean?

The "leader of the free world" can mean the United States as a whole and its ideals.
The president of the United States is sometimes referred to as the leader of the free world."
Map of the world.
The American flag.
Though powerful, the U.S. president must still have any treaties he negotiates approved by the U.S. Senate.
Article Details
  • Written By: Venus D.
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 09 December 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
  • Print this Article
Free Widgets for your Site/Blog
The Queen of England legally owns about one-sixth of all of the land on Earth.  more...

December 20 ,  1860 :  South Carolina seceded from the US.  more...

The term free world originated from the Cold War, when it was used to distinguish between democracies, specifically the United States and Western European countries, and the communist Soviet Union and its allies. As the United States led the war against communism, the President of the United States came to be known as the “leader of the free world.” This term is often used today because of the hegemony exercised by the United States and the power of the presidency itself. As president, a leader can begin a war, overturn legislation, and build diplomatic relations among countries.

Much of the power inherently understood within the term revolves around the president’s role as commander-in-chief of the military. The US army currently has over 1.4 million personnel on active duty. US bases are found in Japan, South Korea, Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom.

The US also has the largest military budget in the world, which, as of 2012, is $680 billion US Dollars. This budget is much larger than that of China, the country with the second largest military budget in the world. The number of troops within the US military is not as high as that of other countries, simply because conscription is no longer used.

Ad

Referring to the president of the United States as the “leader of the free world” is debated by other countries that also fought for democracy during the Cold War. There are also concerns about the use of the word "free." During the Cold War battle between ideologies, African, Asian, and South American countries, which cannot clearly be defined as democracies and therefore "free," supported the United States and Western Europe. Currently, countries with non-democratic governments can be considered free.

Nevertheless, the term is still associated with the United States, although the international use of the term “leader of the free world” often refers to the country rather than the presidency. In addition to the military power that the United States has, the term also applies to the values and ideals for which the country stands: equality among all, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and the right to pursue happiness. Therefore, the phrase refers not only to the president, but also to the people who maintain America’s loftier ideals, such as Martin Luther King, Susan B. Anthony, Ralph Nader, and Hillary Clinton.

Ad

More from Wisegeek

You might also Like

Discuss this Article

anon981017
Post 13

I find the term,"leader of the free world,'" arrogant and offensive.

I live in Canada, which is part of the free world, and we elect our own leaders. I'm sure people in Australia, England, Australia, France, and the rest of the world feel the same way.

It pains me to be rude, but FrogFriend's post suggesting that only people "who live in a country with absolute propaganda from a fascist government, don't believe America is the leader of the free world" is astoundingly arrogant and stupid. --A happy and free Canadian

anon939503
Post 12

You guys are kidding yourselves if you think the rest of us consider America to be the leaders of the free world. If you are Native Americans, I might take what you say seriously, but until you return the country to its rightful owners, you are just another country that has oppressed its indigenous people and stolen their wealth.

Native Americans live in an occupied country where they are forced to assimilate to their oppressors rules. I don't see a Native American as president or a majority of them in leading positions of power and wealth. They get by on what their captors grudgingly bestow on them.

anon351681
Post 11

I actually watched a news report calling the current president "the leader of the free world." I was shocked to hear this so decided to check up on it and came to here. I think I am less angered by the post than the comments that followed.

The free world is an ideal. Americans aren't free, you're just not publicly oppressed in the way communists are. No one, nowhere is free. "Freedom: Noun; The power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint." Those of you who are truly free can go out and do whatever you want whenever you want to. The difference between communism and democracy is that communism has one man calling the shots based on his own interests, and democrats band together to call the shots of the interest of the highest bidder. If you have the money and want a bill passed, it will be. That's reality.

As for the rest of the world, I believe in a way they are more free as we are -- free from the egotistical patriotism instilled into us from an early age that makes us believe we are better than everybody else.

In a democracy, you are free to do what you are allowed to do. Freedom is only a matter of perspective.

anon347498
Post 10

Please keep your freedom to yourself, and stop sending your oppressive army to kill people.

anon250437
Post 7

I came to this site seeing if anyone had any specific understanding on what the free world is.

After reading the article and the comments I might add I'm from New Zealand (living in Australia). Our country was the first true, modern democratic country in the world allowing votes to all citizens (gender and race). We are a dominion with a Westminster government, while. America is a presidential republic.

Our way of life has not been, or is influenced at all by American ideasls, values or government. We are largely agricultural not industrial (So define free world?) The so-called free world I understand is confined to the USA and western Europe, (against the Warsaw pact) though when I went to Europe, it didn't seem they had any more civil liberties than we do. (If that's what being "free" means). If America is the "leader" why can't Europeans vote on the next US president?

Maybe I'll go to the US and see what all this freedom is all about because strictly speaking, I'm not in this world. Better be good I'm going to wreak havoc.

anon141842
Post 6

The leaders of the free world are just little boys throwing stones.

FrogFriend
Post 4

America could be considered a great leader of the free world. When you're the prime example of an excellent democracy in this world. What other nation, has demonstrated absolute ability to have the longest running true democracy on earth. While other forms of democracy have excellent operations and definitely do well in governing their people, I think that America has actually strived and shown its worth as a world leader.

It's fairly obvious to me that most people in the world except the United States as the dominating player in the industrial nations on earth. Because of this I think it's a given that we are considered the leader of the free world. Unless you live in a nation where there is absolute propaganda from a fascist government, only then do I think could you consider American not the leader of the free world.

JoseJames
Post 3

Many people have mixed feelings about America's role as leader of the free world. I think because the term comes from the era of the Cold War, we can come up with new academic principles and ways to describe our actual position in the world. Instead of looking at ourselves as the dominator or leader I think what we need to consider ourselves as a partner of the rest of the world. Only when America sees itself as on a level playing field with other countries in the industrialized world, can we truly accept what our brothers feel.

Is this elevated an elitist way of thinking that leads to other people not liking us and especially liking this from a position above and or what others perceive as a leadership role.

Either way we need to take responsibility for our reputation and also for the capabilities that we have helped everybody that is on this planet.

jeancastle00
Post 2

I think it is absolutely critical that we do as Americans look at ourselves as leaders of the free world period the reason for this is because people look to us strength as well as stability and military protection. Because people do idolize our abilities in this sense we must take responsibility for them and act that way.

Often our foreign and international policies do not represent our need to take up the leadership position of the free world needs. Sometimes we get selfish and desire our own personal wealth and well-being over the fact that our whole globe can be sick around this. What is the point of living in a free country of the world around you isn't free. We should always strive to help create more free world that way we can ensure the safety of our own free living.

Post your comments

Post Anonymously

Login

username
password
forgot password?

Register

username
password
confirm
email