Who Are The Mortacracies? Part VI—The Answer

December 8, 2008

[First published May 9, 2006] I think I solved the puzzle of why my posted images always showed on the Mac and only sometimes on PCs, thus requiring me to provide alternative links. It has to do with leaving empty the height and width containers for an image, e.g., putting nothing after the equality for height= and width=. If the dimensions of an image are okay as is, these containers should be omitted. I haven’t been doing that, but will do so now.

Before providing a final list of mortacracies, there is one more term to add to those I’ve been using. As you know, I use “democide” for murder by government, and I’ve used “mortality” for the unintentional deaths resulting from the negative, life endangering effects of government policies or actions, such as corrosive top to bottom corruption, the nationalization of farmlands, the encouragement of communal violence, and the deterioration of health and education services.
The verb would be “mortalize” as in Mugabe of Zimbabwe is mortalizing his subjects by his devastating economic policies.

But, as I worked the data on mortality, I have felt these terms to be incomplete. I needed something comparable to democide, and “mortalize” does not seem right. At first I rejected “mortacide” as doubling “to kill,” but then I rechecking the definitions of “mort” in the world’s greatest authority on English, the Oxford English Dictionary. The most relevant definitions are:

1. The condition of being subject to death.
2. The loss of life on a large scale.
3. Abnormal frequency of death.

Now, adding the Latin suffix “-cide” (killer, or act of killing) to “mort” to get “mortacide,” makes the causes of death active, as though the result of policies and actions that were so life threatening that they caused large scale deaths, although unintentionally so.

Thus, I will use three terms:

Democide: murder by government.
Mortacide: death by government.
Mortacracy: A government that is committing sizable democide and mortacide.

Also, one more thing. I’ve mentioned here and in some of the previous blogs the devastating effect of corruption on the welfare of a people. Corruption plays a large role in defining mortacide, but I suspect that not many readers living in democracies have a sense for what true corruption of this kind is like. In comparison to the corruption in many thug regimes, that in democracies is as a candle to a forest fire. Perhaps the following on such corruption in Angola will help (from Martin Meredith, The Fate Of Africa: From the Hopes of Freedom to the Heart of Despair, p. 616):

“[T]he Economist Intelligence Unit in 2003…reported that there were thirty-nine individuals in Angola worth at least $50 million and another twenty reportedly worth at least $100 million. Six of the seven wealthiest people on its list were longtime government officials, and the seventh was a recently retired official. Overall, the combined wealth of these fifty-nine people was at least $3.95 billion. By comparison, the total gross domestic product of Angola, with a population of about 14 million, was about $10.2 billion in 2002.

“The stark contrast between the rich elite and the mass poverty of the rest of the population was nowhere more evident than in [the capital of] Luanda. Its streets were packed with the latest models of Mercedes-Benz and Toyota Land Cruisers; jet skis circled the bay; prices in air-conditioned shopping malls were equivalent to those in London. But milling around on street corners were groups of street children and mutilados [Portuguese for the mutilated] begging from the passing traffic. Half of the city’s population of 4 million had no access to clean water and survived on untreated water from the Bengo River bought by the bucketful from informal vendors. Most Angolans subsisted on less than seventy cents a day.”

So, who are the mortacracies? I have defined possible candidates in the following blogs:

“Who Are The Mortacracies? Part I”: Candidate mortacracies based on democide.
“Who Are the Mortacracies? Part II”: Candidate mortacracies based on life expectancy at birth.
“Who Are the Mortacracies? Part III”: One group of candidate mortacracies based on the average of a Human Development Index and Life Expectancy Index; another group based on my intuitive judgment of who were the mortacracies.
“Who Are the Mortacracies? Part IV”: Candidate mortacracies based on the fall in life expectancy from 1998 to 2006.
“Who Are the Mortacracies? Part V”: Candidate mortacracies based on 8 indicators of failed states.

Thus, I have 5 tables of candidate mortacracies from which to pick. To make this selection systematic and as objective as possible, I will use the frequency of occurrence of a state across the 5 groups as my criteria. Surely, if a state is listed in only one table, it would not be a good choice, although it may have the potential to be a mortacracy. I present below this group:

I eliminated the free states of Grenada, Mali, Namibia, Nauru, and Trinidad and Tobago from this list, as there were reasons for their death toll beyond the capacity and policies of their governments, such as the effects of hurricanes, deep impoverishment due to previous unfree regimes, and rampant HIV. It would be misleading to characterize such states as potential mortacracies.

Then there is the group of states that appeared in 2 tables of candidates out of the five. I show the list below:

Here also I eliminated free states—Botswana, Lesotho, and South Africa—for the same reasons given above, with the exception of hurricane caused mortality.

Finally, after all this work I hope that your patience is rewarded with the final list of mortacracies that appeared in 3 or more tables of candidates. I give it below (if this does not appear or is hard to read, see:

There you have it.

This list is complete; I removed no free states. That the deadly Central African Republic appeared in all 5 tables is consistent with what we know about the country, and similarly with Chad and Sierra Leone. And we have North Korea, Burma, and Sudan on the list, as well as the bloody Congo (Kinshasa—formerly Zaire). Corrupt Angola also appears.

Although this list was arrived at systematically, it is a list that surely contains those states that would most likely be chosen by those familiar with the human cost of the world’s worst thug regimes.

So, what do we do about these mortacracies? I will try to answer this in the next blog.

Links of Note

“An Incomplete Peace: Sudan’s Never-Ending War With Itself”

“[Chad:] Fear of ‘Disappearance’ and extrajudicial execution “

“Thousands flee from [Central African Republic] violence”


“Equatorial Guinea: Further Information on Torture/Health concern/Fear for Safety”

“Mozambique: Deaths of 80 people in custody must be investigated by independent experts”

“Nigeria: Deaths rise in Lagos clashes, thousands flee”


“Congo death toll up to 3.8m”

“Revealed: the gas chamber horror of North Korea’s gulag”

“ZIMBABWE: Death rate mounts in political violence”

“Corruption undermines relief to Angola”

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Who Are The Mortacracies? Part V

December 8, 2008

[first published May 8, 2006] I lied. I wrote that this would be the concluding part of this series on defining the world’s mortacracies, with my identification of the final list and what to do about them. But, I came across the Fund For Peace webste on failed states with beautiful data for my purpose here. So, never one to let good data rest in peace, I will exploit them to further define mortacracies.

The data comprise the 12 indicators of a state’s failure listed below:

1 – Mounting Demographic Pressures,
2 – Massive Movement of Refugees and DPs,
3 – Legacy of Vengeance – Seeking Group Grievance,
4 – Chronic and Sustained Human Flight,
5 – Uneven Economic Development along Group Lines,
6 – Sharp and/or Severe Economic Decline,
7 – Criminalization or Delegitimization of the State,
8 – Progressive Deterioration of Public Services,
9 – Widespread Volition of Human Rights,
10 – Security Apparatus as “State within a State,”
11 – Rise of Factionalized Elites,
12 – Intervention of Other States or External Actors.

The definitions of each of these variables is here, and the methodology for scoring nations in a range from 0 for least intensity on an indicator to 10 for the highest intensity—greatest failure—is here. The actual scoring is done though special software, which:

“indexed and scanned tens of thousands of open-source articles and reports using Boolean logic. The data are electronically gathered using Thomson Dialog, a powerful data-collection system that includes international and local media reports and other public documents, including U.S. State Department reports, independent studies, and even corporate financial filings. The data used in each index are collected from May to December of the preceding year. The software calculates the number of positive and negative ‘hits’ for the 12 indicators. Internal and external experts then review the scores as well as the articles themselves, when necessary, to confirm the scores and ensure accuracy.”

Before going on, I have to clarify a possible confusion of terms. In line with my source, I will have to use the term “state” for the sovereign nations or countries of the world. In previous parts, I have been using the term “country,” which is a more general term for both a state and the non-sovereign territories of a state, although by context it should have been clear that I meant states. Sometimes, because of my background in international relations, I also may unthinkingly use the term “nation” for state, or “nation state.”

Now, keeping in mind that I am not focused on defining failed states in order to assess the risk of conflict, as is The Fund For Peace, but on defining mortacracies, not all 12 indicators are relevant t this purpose. So, I excluded indicators 1, 5, 11, and 12, and recalculated the total sum of the remaining eight indicators. The maximum possible failure is a total sum of 80 on these eight indicators, and the minimum is 0. The worst failure, then, is Sudan with a total of 74.6, and the least failure is Norway with 9.8 (these are the same lowest and highest failures on all 12 indicators). The U.S. is at 21, just above the U.K., which is 20.7. The average is 45.9, with a median of 50.3 and a standard deviation of 16.7.

The next step is to standardize these totals to get a relative picture of what nations are high in failure and to plot the result. The plot is shown below (if the plot is unclear or does not show, see here:

The distribution of states is a uniform curve that is nearly perfectly fitted (correlation squared = .998!) by a fourth degree polynomial. There are two inflection points on the curve, one approximately at a standard score of 1.00 (which means the states at this level states are about one-standard deviation above the mean = 0), and the other at about the mean itself. The implication of this is that a good list of mortacracies would be those at or above one standard deviation on the total for the eight indicators.

These comprise the 21 states shown below (if the list is unclear or does not show, see here):

This is quite a list. Unlike some of the other lists of possible mortacracies, this one has virtually all the states I would have included intuitively, especially the top ones. Even North Korea and Burma are captured by these indicators.

Now, from all I have done, it is time to choose a final list of mortacracies. I promise.

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