Who Are The Mortacracies? Part IV

December 7, 2008

<first published on May 4, 2006] So far, I have suggested that mortacracies be defined by their democide (Part I), and also by their LE—the life expectancy of a people from birth—(Part II), and their LE within the context of a peoples’ HDI—general well being—(Part III). While some free countries may have a very low HDI and LE that they inherited from their previous rapacious thug regimes, I expect that their very low LE will be moving upward. And those thug regimes whose people have moderately high LEs should show them falling as the regime’s rapaciousness and corruption affects the people’s well being.

So, what does the difference in LEs for all countries look like for a reasonable length of time, such as nine years? I calculated this for the difference in LE between 1998 and 2006 and got for this period an average world increase in LEs of 1.6 years (median of 1.8 years), with a standard deviation of 4.4. I then converted the differences to standard scores, which makes comparing these changes from one country to another much easier. The average of the standard scores then = 0, with a standard deviation =1. The plot of these standardized differences is quite revealing, as shown below (if it is unclear or does not show, click here):


The best fitting curve to the plot is the fifth degree polynomial shown, which has a squared correlation of R^2 = .95, and thus accounts for 95 percent of the variance. To best understand this chart, you should know that a standardized difference of -2.0 is two standard deviations below the average of 0. Now, in the plot the changes in LE hover around the average at the standardized difference of zero, and then plummet. Those countries whose changes in LE thus fall below the average at least by one standard deviation are obvious candidates to be mortacracies. They are listed along with their freedom scores in the table below. Differences are ranked ordered high to low (if it is unclear or does not show, click here):


The column of Z differences, are the standardized differences (Z customarily stands for a standardized variable).

Among the 18 countries with LEs falling by at least one standard deviation, five are free for 1998 and 2006. I have discussed Botswana and South Africa in PART III, but now we have Dominica, Nauru, and Grenada. While Dominica is relativel high in LE at 77.8 for 1998, it has undergone considerable financial difficulties, a downturn in the market for its major crop of bananas, a resulting 20 percent unemployment, and destructive hurricanes. All this has required the democratic government to impose harsh austerity measures.

The 8-square mile island republic of Nauru also had a relatively high LE of 66.7 in 1998. The country has been undergoing a severe political crises, and the increasing loss of the major source of its income, which is phosphate mining. Its phosphate beds are almost entirely exhausted. To make matters worse, over 80 percent of the island is uninhabitable, which means that with phosphate almost gone, there is little land on which to develop exportable crops.

Finally, there is Grenada, which while avoiding hurricanes for 49 years, has been devastated by two of them in recent years. In November 2004, Hurricane Ivan destroyed around 80 percent of Grenada’s infrastructure and left 90 percent of its homes in ruins. Then in July of 2005, Hurricane Emily struck causing USD $110 million in destruction, or 1/4th of its gross domestic product.

As shown by the different colors, the remaining 13 countries are not free, partly free, or have changed from one classification to another over the five years. Many of these meet well our understanding of what a mortacracy is, such as Afghanistan before the American invasion, Angola, the Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.

What country has had its LE change the greatest over the five years? North Korea, so the statistics tell us. Its LE jumped from 51.3 in 1998 to 71.65 in 2006, or an increase of over 4 standard deviations, and the largest increase in the world. It is that highest blue dot standing alone on the left in the above plot of these changes. If you believe these statistics, however, than I want to tell you about how good a tennis player I am.

An article in The Korean Times “Life Expectancy in NK Falls” has this to say about the North’s LE:

“North Korea’s life expectancy dropped by 5.5 years to 67.2 years in 2002 from 1993….”The decreases in the average life span seem to result from deaths by famine occurred in between 1995 and 1998,” the South’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) said. “As of 2003, the North’s life expectancy was estimated at 64.9 years for males and 69.3 years for females, some 11-12 years shorter than that of the South.” …. “The maternal death ratio was some three to four times higher than the South,’ said an official at the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affaires in the South.”

In Parts I-III and here I have now defined several different lists of mortacracies. In Part V on Monday, I will present a definitive list based on all this research, and then deal with the question as to what can be done about these thug regimes that enslave their people, murder them, and hasten their death.

Links of Note

“Longer Life in the USA”:

“This decline in [American] death rates was so big it offset the increase in population, so the number of total deaths actually dropped by about 50,000 to 2,398,343 in 2004 from 2,448,288 recorded for 2003. Declines are rare — the last one was in 1997 — and this one was huge — the biggest decline in 6 decades. The important thought to take away from this news is the fact that we’re not reaching any limits on life expectancy — the preliminary estimate of life expectancy at birth for the total population in 2004 rose again to reach a record high of 77.9 years….”

“Life expectancy at birth (2003)”: Colored Maps showing countries at specified levels of life expectancy.

“Big fall in African life expectancy”:

“The Aids crisis has slashed the life expectancy in some parts of Africa to less than 33 years, according to the UN’s Human Development Report 2004.”



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Who Are The Mortacracies? Part III

December 7, 2008

[First published on May8, 2006] In Part II, I used a people’s life expectancy from birth (LE) as an indicator of whether they were ruled by a mortacracy or not. But is LE enough?

Perhaps, in addition to LE, I should consider a wider measure of human development that takes into account LE’s social and economic context, and its high and low. We have this from the UN’s Human Development Report for 2005 It used a human development index (HDI) based on a people’s income, education and health. Its purpose is not to give a complete picture of human development, but to provide a measure of human well-being (see here for the indices involved, and their calculations). This is precisely what is impacted by mortacracies.

The report also provides a Life Expectancy Index (LEI), which among other indices goes into calculating the HDI. It is:

(a country’s life expectancy minus the world low) / (world high minus world low).
Thus, the lowest LEI would be 0, and the high would be 1.0. As to calculating the HDI, each of the indices that go into it is determined as is LEI above, and HDI is an average of them all. Thus, HDI also varies from a low of 0 to a high of 1.0. The 2003 HDI plotted against LEI is shown in the chart below (If it is unclear or does not show, click here)


Since LEI is a linear transformation of LE, the same curve would obtain even if LE were used in place of LEI.

The best fitting curvilinear function for the plot is the natural logarithmic one shown, with a correlation R^2=.82. It accounts for 82 percent of the variance between HDI and LEI. As the well being of a people increases as measure by HDI, there is an increasingly close relationship between this well being and their life expectancy. This is clear from the chart, where along the fitted log curve, the distribution of countries (blue dots) around the curve tightens into a cone at the highest level. I would argue that something is causing the wide distribution of countries at the low end of HDI and LEI, most likely the mortacracies.

Now, through inadequate health services, forced impoverishment, and extensive violence, thug regimes repress their subjects’ well being such that they die at an early age. That is, HDI and LEI should both be low. This can be determined by averaging them together (since one-third of HDI is calculated from the LEI, averaging LEI and HDI means that 50 percent of the average is owed to LEI). When this is done, the ten countries with the lowest averages are shown below (If the table is unclear or does not show, click here):

<img src=” http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/AVG.HDI_LEI.2003.GIF&#8221;
Clearly, a study of such countries would show corrupt, and in many cases tyrannical regimes, run by leaders who give to their relatives, tribesmen, henchmen and sycophants the best businesses, and the millions from exports and international aid they receive. Little is left over for the welfare of  their people. Little is left over for the welfare of its people.

This raises the question as to the overall relationship of freedom to the average HDI & LEI. To answer I will use the Freedom House ratings for 2003 on the political rights (rated 1-7) and civil liberties (also rated 1-7) of all countries. When I add these two ratings together, the result ranges from a “2” for the freest to a 14 for the most unfree. When I plot these ratings against the average HDI & LEI, I get the plot below (If it is does not show, click here):

<img src=” http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/HDI_LEI_FREE.GIF
The linear fit is, as a freedomist would predict, inclined downward. That is, the greater the decrease in a people’s freedom, the greater the decrease in their well being. The correlation is r =.50 (r^2=.248), and although this is a good correlation, it accounts for only 25 percent of the variance, the cutoff for what I consider a meaningful social science correlation.

A study of the plot shows that the average HDI & LEI tends to rise at free and not free ends, but less at the latter, and thus creating a dip in the middle. This is a lopsided U-distribution (one side is lower than the other) and suggests a third degree polynomial regression would best fit the points. The best fitting one is shown in the plot. It increases the correlation considerably to R=.61 (R^2 = .367), or 37 percent of the variance.

This is fascinating. For taken at face value, the worst mortacracies are in the middle range between free countries and not free ones. How can this be? Research on democide shows well that the tendency of a regime to commit democide increases as the freedom of its people decreases. While this also shows for mortality (the dipping straight line), the relationship is not as tight as for democide.

I believe the reason for this is totalitarian control over the statistics submitted to the UN. From a variety of memoirs, media stories, UN reports and refugee reports, and those of human rights organizations, we know that life in Sudan, North Korea, Burma, Libya, Ethiopia, and other such countries is dismal, not only with widespread democide, but with high mortality as well. Yet, this is not shown in their average HDI & LEI. To see this, consider the worst of the worst dictatorships, the most totalitarian ones, as rated by Freedom House (If it is unclear or does not show, click here):

<img src=” http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/NOT_FREE.HDI.LE.GIF&#8221;
I am using LE, rather than LEI, since the former is simply how many years from birth that people live on the average, it is easier to understand. As can be seen, some of the HDI and LE are surprisingly high. For comparison, I provide the HDI and LE for different groups of countries, and for the world (If it is unclear or does not show, click here):

<img src=” http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/WORLD_HDI_LE.GIF&#8221;
That for the U.S. is .94 and 77.4, respectively.

So far, based on LE alone I have defined a potential group of mortacracies, which however included two liberal democracies. I have refined this by selecting the lowest average HDI & LEI, none of which were free. But the problem with this group is that it did not include what we know to be among the worst mortacracies, such as North Korea, Sudan, and Burma.

Perhaps another approach will work better, such as the change in LE over time, and I will analyze this in Part IV.



A novel about two lovers who travel in time back to 1906 to foster the democratic peace and prevent the world wars and mass democide.
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