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How Democratic?

by ask Thu Nov 23rd, 2006 at 08:30:44 AM EST

Crossposting below from Booman Tribune:

I don't know if the Tribbers will have much energy to discuss the linked article on a day like this.  But I thought that it should be brought to everyone's attention.

The Economist's Intelligence Unit has just published an article (pdf) on 'how democratic' various nations are:

Defining and measuring democracy

There is no consensus on how to measure democracy, definitions of democracy are contested and there is an ongoing lively debate on the subject. The issue is not only of academic interest. For example, although democracy-promotion is high on the list of American foreign-policy priorities, there is no consensus within the American government on what constitutes a democracy.

As one observer recently put it, "the world's only superpower is rhetorically and militarily promoting a political system that remains undefi ned--and it is staking its credibility and treasure on that pursuit"

(Horowitz, 2006, p 114).


The Economist Intelligence Unit has developed an index based on 60 indicators, broadly grouped in the 5 following categories:

  • free and fair competitive elections
  • civil liberties
  • political culture
  • functioning of government
  • participation

The methodology is fully explained at the end of the linked article.  A total of 167 countries were evaluated (micro-states were not included) against all the indicators.  The ranked countries were divided into the below groups:
  • Full Democracies (the top 28 countries)
  • Flawed Democracies (the following 54 countries)
  • Hybrid Regimes (30 countries)
  • Authoritarian Regimes (53 countries)

It is worth noting that the 5 Nordic countries + Netherlands (also a welfare state) block out the top 6 spots.  The US is 17th, the UK is 23rd, France is 24th.  Italy is 34th, in the "Flawed Democracies" group!

Here's the ranking of all the "Full Democracies" (doubt that the table will reproduce well):

Economist Intelligence Unit democracy index 2006
Category scores
Overall I Electoral process II Functioning of Government III Political Participation IV Political Culture V Civil Liberties VI

Full democracies       I    II    III    IV     V    VI
Sweden           1   9.88 10.00 10.00 10.00 9.38 10.00
Iceland          2   9.71 10.00 9.64 8.89 10.00 10.00
Netherlands      3   9.66 9.58 9.29 9.44 10.00 10.00
Norway           4   9.55 10.00 9.64 10.00 8.13 10.00
Denmark          5   9.52 10.00 9.64 8.89 9.38 9.71
Finland          6   9.25 10.00 10.00 7.78 8.75 9.71
Luxembourg       7   9.10 10.00 9.29 7.78 8.75 9.71
Australia        8   9.09 10.00 8.93 7.78 8.75 10.00
Canada           9   9.07 9.17 9.64 7.78 8.75 10.00
Switzerland     10   9.02 9.58 9.29 7.78 8.75 9.71
Ireland        11=   9.01 9.58 8.93 7.78 8.75 10.00
New Zealand    11=   9.01 10.00 8.57 8.33 8.13 10.00
Germany         13   8.82 9.58 8.57 7.78 8.75 9.41
Austria         14   8.69 9.58 8.21 7.78 8.75 9.12
Malta           15   8.39 9.17 8.21 6.11 8.75 9.71
Spain           16   8.34 9.58 7.86 6.11 8.75 9.41
US              17   8.22 8.75 7.86 7.22 8.75 8.53
Czech Republic  18   8.17 9.58 6.79 7.22 8.13 9.12
Portugal        19   8.16 9.58 8.21 6.11 7.50 9.41
Belgium        20=   8.15 9.58 8.21 6.67 6.88 9.41
Japan          20=   8.15 9.17 7.86 5.56 8.75 9.41
Greece          22   8.13 9.58 7.50 6.67 7.50 9.41
UK              23   8.08 9.58 8.57 5.00 8.13 9.12
France          24   8.07 9.58 7.50 6.67 7.50 9.12
Mauritius      25=   8.04 9.17 8.21 5.00 8.13 9.71
Costa Rica     25=   8.04 9.58 8.21 6.11 6.88 9.41
Slovenia       27=   7.96 9.58 7.86 6.67 6.88 8.82
Uruguay        27=   7.96 10.00 8.21 5.00 6.88 9.71

It seems that the US scores comparatively low primarily because of low political participation.  The score is also low on civil liberties.  Not a good combination.

So there we have it.  
Are we all focused on turkey today?

Display:
Interesting survey.

I'd be curious the EIU's methodology for evaluating political culture and functioning of government. These seem squishier to me than most such measures. Certainly they refer to something important. But its not hard to imagine that what constitutes a good functioning government to the "journalists" at the Economist is nothing more than a government which facilitates delocalisations, keeps capital gains taxes low and strips workers of their rights.

Ditto "culture".

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Thu Nov 23rd, 2006 at 09:43:11 AM EST
You can actually read the methodology in the linked article.  
Now, I can share your suspicious nature with regards to such surveys, but neither methodology nor the outcome of the study support your suspicions with regards to the EIU.
by ask on Thu Nov 23rd, 2006 at 11:24:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You can actually read the methodology in the linked article.

I think their categories are too much open to interpretation. A single example:

15. Is there an effective system of
checks and balances on the exercise
of government authority?
1: Yes
0.5: Yes, but there are some serious
flaws
0: No

One's opinion might depend on one's political sympathies (to the government or to the opposition), including foreign evaluators. (For example, for Hungary, I don't understand how they got such a low score for political participation based on the criteria.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Nov 23rd, 2006 at 05:01:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So, does the US score more than 0,5 on this one?

The mention of "checks and balances" makes this sound like an exercise in US high-school civics.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Nov 23rd, 2006 at 06:42:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I take umbrage at Italy's way-too-low classification - agreed there can be some justification for knocking a few points off us in the "Functioning of Government" column, but what about the second low score (6.11)? The Economist team apparently can't even decide what to ascribe it to: according to the table it's for allegedly-poor "political participation" - which is totally ridiculous as we not only have an extremely high electoral participation rate, we're crawling with both national and local-level political activism of all kinds... not only the main parties but a huge range of very lively pressure-group/good-cause associations, newly founded mini-parties etc etc!!  The commentary-text instead ascribes our second low score not only to flawed "participation" but also to flawed "electoral processes"(???? dunno why, apart from Berlusconi's bad-loser hysterics????) and flawed "political culture" - whatever that means...???

And having lived both in Italy and in the US, I have come to the conclusion that Italy, with all its faults, is in many significant ways a lot more democratic than America - nevertheless, we get classified as a "flawed democracy" and the US as a "full" one, what a joke! ... as despite those decades-long "Atlanticist" attempts to de-democratise us by Gladio-hook or Berlusconi-crook,  Italy has nonetheless chosen to remain stubbornly democratic in both spirit and practice. So I suspect at least a trace of some kind of anti-Italian bias may be at work here?

"Ignoring moralities is always undesirable, but doing so systematically is really worrisome." Mohammed Khatami

by eternalcityblues (parvati_roma aaaat libero.it) on Thu Nov 23rd, 2006 at 10:55:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
agreed there can be some justification for knocking a few points off us in the "Functioning of Government" column, but what about the second low score (6.11)?

Indeed that's totally inexplicable. The low percentage of women in parliament could be a factor (both for Italy and Hungary), but it is just one point. I think the other low score is justified for the Berlusconi era, based on what de Gondi reported on what went on.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Nov 24th, 2006 at 03:06:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Economist has a documentable anti-Italian bias. It is as bad as their anti-Gallic bias, comes out whenever talk turns to things Italian, even on the business page.

Just check their Parmalat coverage, and while Berlusconi got his just desserts in their coverage, it was often over the top and completely out of line with their coverage of other similar European buffoons (eg Aznar).

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Fri Nov 24th, 2006 at 11:31:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I checked before I responded.

Can't see anything solid at all.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Thu Nov 23rd, 2006 at 08:34:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The idiocy of turning everything into an index number.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Nov 24th, 2006 at 03:14:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'll avoid giving a rating that that comment!

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Nov 24th, 2006 at 04:12:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Now, I can share your suspicious nature with regards to such surveys, but neither methodology nor the outcome of the study support your suspicions with regards to the EIU.

Really?

Just one example of loaded dice: having low levels of confidence in government or political parties is considered a sign of dysfunction.  Down here in New Zealand, we regard it as a healthy way of keeping the buggers honest!

(At least they try and point to publicly available survey data such as the World Values Survey in determining their scores though, even if you disagree with the interpretations they put on it).

by IdiotSavant on Fri Nov 24th, 2006 at 04:52:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's like the corruption index that is bases on surveys of perceptions of corruption. So, a country where people don't realise there is corruption is classed as "less corrupt".

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Nov 24th, 2006 at 04:54:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I find the article and the index lacking something. I have been giving a bit of thought to what is a democracy over the last couple of years. My thought is that it is necessary that new political parties form with reasonable possibilities of achieving the reigns of power. The US definition is not that bad: Of the people, by the people, for the people.

This does not seem to mesh well with what the Economist has published. Canada at 9 seems to be questionable. It is true that in Canada it is possible to form new political parties, and to achieve some success in exercising the reigns of power, but it is not easy. First past the post should tell it all. There is additional problems with change, in spite of a wide agreement that it is needed - the current system provides more power to Quebec (and possible Quebec separatism) than a functional representative system. It is even worse than first past the post if one digs into it with guaranteed seat for provinces meaning that a vote from a person in Toronto is worth far less than a vote from a person in Prince Edward Island or Nunivet.

In the US, it is almost impossible to form new political parities with reasonable possibilities of achieving the reigns of power. "Democracy" is limited to a narrow window between right wing (Democrat) and fascist (Republican). It does not matter if your views are in the majority - or even large majority. There is no democratic outlet for views unless they fit the establishment views. As was shown by the amen crowd, the only real way to engage in political change is to engage in a hostile take over of one of the political parties. The US as a full democracy is a piece of propaganda.

I find it difficult to imagine as accurate any survey ranking that does not reflect the difficulties of actually bringing in new ideas and people into government as opposed to recycling the old ideas and people endlessly.


aspiring to genteel poverty

by edwin (eeeeeeee222222rrrrreeeeeaaaaadddddd@@@@yyyyaaaaaaa) on Thu Nov 23rd, 2006 at 12:03:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Why the obsession with Turkey? Croatia and Israel are also not on the list.

EU members not on the list: Italy, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, Cyprus, Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania (and Romania and Bulgaria). How do they rank, and why?

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Nov 23rd, 2006 at 11:51:08 AM EST
Why the obsession with Turkey?

Um, I think he means the bird.  (Remembering that this diary was crossposted from a US-oriented site... on the US Thanksgiving holiday....)

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Thu Nov 23rd, 2006 at 12:41:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Got you there ;) - though unintentionally.  
Turkey=Thanksgiving

You can se the ranking of all 167 countries in the article.

Israel is 47th @ index 7.28, Croatia is 51st @ 7.04.

by ask on Thu Nov 23rd, 2006 at 01:12:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I've been out of the US for too long...

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Nov 23rd, 2006 at 01:23:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Here's a map of the EIU's results, coded green for full democracies, yellow for flawed, orange for hybrid, and red for authoritarian. Microstates and countries with no data are left in grey; Singapore is MIA (I should really fix that).

(Click for a bigger version).

by IdiotSavant on Thu Nov 23rd, 2006 at 06:34:08 PM EST
Thanks, quite useful.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Nov 23rd, 2006 at 06:38:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks IS,
Good visual.  Did yoy make it?  I did not see links to anything like this in the article.
by ask on Thu Nov 23rd, 2006 at 08:28:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
With Paint and the blank world map from Wikimedia Commons. I do these things sometimes.
by IdiotSavant on Thu Nov 23rd, 2006 at 09:14:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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