Political Freedom Vs. Economic Freedom and Wealth

June 18, 2009


[First published March 20, 2005] A natural question is about the relationship between democracy (as Freedom House rates freedom) and economic freedom, and this is shown in the chart below.

To create the chart, the ratings for each index were standardized before making the plot.

Obviously, there is a close relationship, as by theory there should be. One cannot dominate a free market with a government dictated economy without destroying freedom in the process. Note that even the so-called “people’s republic of Sweden” is indexed as being economically free in the Heritage Foundation/Wall Street Journal index. So is Denmark, and so-called “socialist” Israel is indexed as mostly economically free.

Then, what about the economic development, or what I prefer to call the wealth of a nation, and welfare of a people. The next chart shows the close relationship between the Freedom House ratings and various measure of wealth and welfare.

In the chart, HDI = the UN human development index (a measure of general welfare); HPI = UN human poverty index; GNP = gross national product; and PPP = purchasing power parity (currencies are normed such that they will buy the same goods from one country to the next).

There you have it. Political and Economic freedom not only go together, but also they are an engine of a people’s wealth and welfare. Add this to the fact the democratically free countries never have had a famine, virtually never murder their own people, have the least internal violence, and never any wars between them, and you have freedom as the closest thing to a general solution to humanity’s ills.

Three cheers for freedom. Okay, you freedomists out there, to work.

Link of Note

”Testing Whether Freedom Predicts Human Security and Violence (2001) By R.J. Rummel, Appendix to Saving Lives, enriching Life: Freedom as a Right and a Moral Good

In this appendix, I did a variety of mathematical and statistical operations to test the hypothesis that freedom predicts to human security and violence. The conclusion:

For all nations 1997 to 1998, the human security of their people, their human and economic development, the violence in their lives, and the political instability of their institutions, is theoretically and empirically dependent on their freedom–their civil rights and political liberties, rule of law, and the accountability of their government. One can well predict a people’s human security by knowing how free they are.

Moreover, just considering the violence, instability, and total deaths a people can suffer, the more freedom they have the less of this they endure. This is to say:

Even if we just improve the human rights of a people, even if we promote some democratization of their political institutions, it will improve their human security, and reduce the violence that inflicts them.

Freedom And Human Security

June 17, 2009

[First published March 22, 2005] Freedom Saves and Enriches Life

I have included the figure shown below [in the charts on the sidebar. Study it. It is one of the most important in the literature. For it shows, empirically, the consequences of freedom: purchasing parity per person goes up, as does overall wealth (development), and poverty goes down. Moreover, deaths from famine go down (none in democracies), democide goes down, as does the number killed in international and civil wars.

In other words, to sum up [the charts], to advance freedom is to advance human security. If this were widely known, there would be far more support for the [an] American foreign policy of promoting freedom and ending tyranny. Okay, you freedomists out there, we have our work cut out for us.


I’ve tried to minimize the size of the tables and figures whenever I’ve presented them. Many visitors likely are working with a modem, and the more and larger the tables and figures in the blogs for a week, the more time it will take a blog to show. Patience among internet users, particularly students, is not a virtue.

Now, I’m working on a 17” Apple flat screen at resolution 1280×1024. However, what appears readable on my screen apparently is not on others, even at the same size (as Brian H informed me). The problem, I think, is that the Apple screen is so clear that what appears legible to me may not be on some CRT’s, even at the same resolution.

In any case, the bottom line is legibility. For that reason I near doubled the size of the figures I displayed in [a former] blog, as you see above, and enlarged the above table over what I normally would have shown.

Now, if you still have a problem reading the notes or numbers, reduce the resolution of your screen (monitor) until you can. Also, some computer systems now have the capability to enlarge a portion of the screen for the visually impaired.

Do let me know if you have any problem with whatever images I present. I am showing them because I think they are very important, and I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t want you to read, digest, and understand them. Cheers! RJR

Link of Note

” A Free Market Economic Development Strategy” The Heritage Foundation

Abstract: economic assistance, whether from countries or through international financial institutions like the World Bank, has failed to help poor nations to develop. Countries that adopt good policies, including economic freedom, experience stronger economic growth than those that seek to thwart the market through regulatory hurdles and policy restrictions. Foreign aid cannot replace good policy. The only proven method for improving the economies of developing nations is not through blanket economic assistance, but through policies that encourage economic freedom and the rule of law. To achieve this goal, the United States must eliminate poorly performing organizations and programs such as the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and support aid programs like the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA), which require countries to demonstrate a commitment to good policies in order to qualify for assistance.

How Freedom Is Won

May 21, 2009

[First published September 11. 2005] Freedom House has published a study on “How Freedom is Won (link here). The study covers all transitions to democracy that have occurred in the last 33 years, 67 of them, and shows that:

Far more often than is generally understood, the change agent is broad-based, nonviolent civic resistance—which employs tactics such as boycotts, mass protests, blockades, strikes, and civil disobedience to de-legitimate authoritarian rulers and erode their sources of support, including the loyalty of their armed defenders.

It goes on to say:

The central conclusion of this study is that how a transition from authoritarianism occurs and the types of forces that are engaged in pressing the transition have significant impact on the success or failure of democratic reform.

The study lists each transition, the factors involved, and provides a narrative on the transition. It concludes that the top down attempts at democratization is less successful than bottom up, nonviolent coalitions. Thus, the best way of aiding democratization from the outside is to:

aid the creation of “civic life,” broad based coalitions,
“transfer knowledge on strategies and tactics of nonviolent civic resistance,”
“provide enhanced resources for independent media and communications,” and
“expand space for nonviolent action through targeted sanctions.”

This is to say:

work to constrain insurrectionist and state violence and to expand the political space for nonviolent civic action. This means that in the cases of civil wars, governments and international organizations should seek solutions that lead to an end to hostilities and to internationally supervised or monitored elections. Democracies also should engage in preventive diplomacy to avert violence and support policies that prevent or limit the spread of violence in its earliest stages.

Because of Freedom House’s intensive and extensive analysis of freedom, nonfreedom, and their transitions for all the world’s countries, as shown in its annual Freedom In the World annual report (the 2005 Report is here), this study on how freedom is won is especially credible.

Does the study have anything to say that is relevant to Iraq and Afghanistan? Yes. I have pulled out the two relevant passages below:

. . . in the cases of civil wars, governments and international organizations should seek solutions that lead to an end to hostilities and to internationally supervised or monitored elections.

Efforts to restore personal security in extremely violent environments in countries that have suffered from war or civil war, therefore, can contribute in the long term to the emergence of civic coalitions for democratic change.

I believe that the American Coalition Iraq and Afghanistan is doing precisely this, while fighting the insurrectionists and terrorists. It is helping and aiding he process of creating a civic society with Iraqis and Afghans having the freedom to form political parties, businesses, educational institution, and other organizations that satisfy diverse interests (this is the invisible part of the war you don’t read much about in the opposition media). And the Coalition has brought in the UN and other international organizations to monitor and supervise democratic elections. The upshot of this Freedom House study is that if the insurrection and terrorism is defeated, the long run success of democracy in these countries looks promising.

A chart
of the democratic peace

Are Free People Happier and More Satisfied?

May 6, 2009

[First published November 14, 2005] One of the best sources for how values are distributed is the World Values Survey (here), and I have consulted its results a number of times, such as providing evidence on how Arab peoples view democracy (xx). Here, I want to provide their results on the relationship between freedom and subjective well being — happiness and satisfaction. I think all of us assume that the more freedom a people have the greater their happiness and satisfaction with their lives. If this is true, the utilitarian argument — policy should promote the greatest happiness and least pain — alone justifies promoting freedom.

Is it true?

The World Values Survey has published a study by Ronald Inglehart and Hans D. Klingemann, ” Genes, Culture, Democracy, and Happiness,” (in pdf; go here, and search under Hans Klingemann) which answer tries to question. Utilizing surveys done by the European Union over 25 years about respondents well being in 11 European nations, the authors first show that national language differences are not responsible for different survey responses on happiness and satisfaction. They moreover establish that there is not much change within nations over the 25 years. The correlation between earliest and latest EU survey in 1998 is .80. For the World Values Survey sample of 64 nations, it is .81, an amazing stability.

That out of the way, the author’s show that subjective well being is highly correlated with economic development (.70) as measured by GNP. No surprise there. But, they point out:

This process is not linear, however. The correlation weakens as one moves up the economic scale. Above $13,000 in 1995 purchasing power parity, there is no significant linkage between wealth and subjective wellbeing. The transition from a subsistence economy to moderate economic security has a large impact on happiness and life satisfaction, but above the level of Portugal or Spain, economic growth no longer makes a difference.

Another factor in subjective well being is so commonsensical to many of us that I hesitate mentioning it. But it is commonsensical to all but the Marxists out there, who won’t believe it anyway. That factor is whether a nation was communist or not:

Virtually all societies that experienced communist rule show relatively low levels of subjective well-being, even when compared with societies at a much lower economic level, such as India, Bangladesh, and Nigeria. Those societies that experienced communist rule for a relatively long time show lower levels than those that experienced it only since World War II.

Religion also plays a role, especially Protestantism. The author’s show that:

Virtually all historically Protestant societies show relatively high levels of subjective well being. A similar effect persists today in countries (the United States being an exception) where only small minority of the public regularly attends church. As Max Weber pointed out, Protestant societies were the first to industrialize, and although economic development now has spread throughout the world, Protestant societies still are relatively wealthy in large part because of this early lead.

Now for the most relevant part. Subject well-being is critical to the stability of a nation’s political institutions and particularly the stability of democracy. The authors measure freedom using the Freedom House annual freedom ratings (here), which they added together for 1981to 1988. Since the ratings summed for both civil liberties and political rights for a nation for a year vary from 2 to 14, with 2 being the freest, they subtracted the summed ratings for a nation from the highest total rating to reverse the freedom scale. This way so the highest total rating is the freest. They then plotted freedom against the percent of a nation’s people happy and satisfied with their life. It is below (click it to enlarge)

The correlation between well-being and freedom (liberal democracies, in effect) is .78. This is liner. The curvilinear (polynomial or logged correlation would be higher, since it would account for the slight sag in the middle of the distribution) of a number of partially free nations, some being electoral democracies such as Mexico and Turkey. Although the plot seems to imply that freedom is the cause of well-being (it can’t be the other way around), the author’s believe that this is in question, and that other factors may better account for well-being.

So, they did a multiple regression of well being against measures of a nation’s economic development, whether it was historically rule by Protestant elites of not, its years under communist rule, and its measure of freedom. These variables account for 80 percent of the variation in well being, a remarkable fit. They then removed independent variables with low significance in stages to achieve of fit of 78 percent of the variance with three significant variables in the order of their significance: GNP per capita, years under communist rule, and freedom. Aside from applying sample tests of significance to a universe of cases, a problem with their analysis, is the high multicollinearity among these three variables (on this problem, see my blog here). Without eliminating this intercorrelation, it is impossible from this regression alone to determine what variables are dominant.

They conclude:

These findings in no way refute the evidence that genetic factors play an important role in subjective well-being; we find that evidence compelling. But these findings do indicate that genetic factors are only part of the story. Happiness levels vary cross-culturally. Since cultures are constructed by human beings, this suggests that the pursuit of happiness is not completely futile. Genes may play a crucial role, but beliefs and values also are important. Our findings also indicate that varying levels of well-being are closely linked with a society’s political institutions: sharp declines in a society’s level of well-being can lead to the collapse of the social and political system; while high levels of well-being contribute to the survival and flourishing of democratic institutions.

We now know that a nation’s past communism, economic development, and freedom are closely related to well being. We still don’t know whether it is freedom that is the strongest factor. That it has the highest correlation with well being suggests that it is, but a proper analysis of this has yet to be done. I will do it, and give the conclusions here.

see the regression of human security on freedom

Understanding the Spontaneous Society

February 6, 2009

Understanding the Spontaneous Society

[First published July 25, 2005] In my blogs I’ have tried to lay bare the incredible ability of the spontaneous society, that between free people, to provide a social order that allocates goods, runs a family, rules a neighborhood, and governs the relationship among friends, and thus satisfies the desires and values of millions of people. How can this be? So many people, so many diverse interests, so many different values, and yet the spontaneous society, does all this automatically — seemingly untouched by human hands. Certainly, it does it much more efficiency, and with the greater happiness of the greater number, than does the command society.

And how do we understand the role of conflict and cooperation among individuals in such a spontaneous society where people are free to do whatever? Nobody is telling them what to do. Nobody is establishing the framework within which they can interact without conflict. In those social spaces where no boss, government official, or chairman rules, how can people get along? They do, and wonderfully — better than anyone can dictate. What achieves this is a universal process of conflict and cooperation I call the conflict helix. It is shown in the figure below. All its aspects are described in the chapters I’ve posted on my Freedom’s Principles blog, and that have been summarized in the chapter I just posted there.

In sum, the conflict helix is a general process whereby individuals in a free society establish and maintain the understandings, accommodations, and agreements that enable them to cooperate and satisfy their interests. Within this process conflict itself is a means through which they adjust to their different interests, capabilities, and wills; it is a trial-and-error, mutual learning process that achieves an accommodation of some sort between what they want, can get, and are willing to pursue. These accommodations, whether forced or negotiated, explicit or implicit, written or unwritten, constitute a social contract: a structure of expectations defining who owns, controls, influences, gets, or does what. And this structure of expectations is based on a balance of powers (such as the capability of individuals to persuade, bargain, use authority, threaten) achieved by the conflict, such as in a family who chooses the TV programs, takes out the garbage, does the dishes, or how this is decided (flipping coin?).

The social contract that is an outcome of such conflict is initially congruent with the balance of powers established between individuals and defines their social order: it establishes and permits cooperation between them and delineates for them an oasis of peace. Unfortunately, what individuals want, can, and will get changes in time and causes the balance of powers to shift away from the structure of expectations. As the balance becomes less congruent with expectations, a gap is formed between the social contract and the underlying balance of powers. As the gap gets larger it becomes an increasing source of tension until some trigger event surfaces the disparity between power and expectations; new conflict then erupts, as it often does between people who have lived together for a short time, and their structure of expectations — social contract — is disrupted.

This new conflict establishes a more realistic balance of powers and associated social contract; a new phase of cooperation and peace is determined. And eventually, this peace will likewise breakdown into conflict as for this structure of expectations a gap between power and expectations also develop.
Although this process seems cyclic–conflict to cooperation to conflict to cooperation, and so on — and unending, conflict actually can become less intense and frequent. As the two parties learn more about each other through successive conflicts and periods of peace and cooperation, and assuming no change in the fundamental conditions of their relationship, their conflict becomes less intense and shorter, their periods of cooperation more friendly and durable. Thus the helix is an upward spiral in learning as the relationship between individuals progresses through conflict and cooperation.

Link of Note

“Why is F A Hayek a Conservative” (1987 pdf) By Dr. Madsen Pirie

Pirie says:

If there were those who thought from Hayek’s earlier work that he wanted to distil the essence of liberty and use it to build a society anew, his later writing must have changed their opinion. Hayek seeks, as conservatives do, a spontaneous society in which individual actions produce an unplanned order. He rejects, with them, the attempt to construct a rational order and impose it upon people in place of their own decisions. He stresses, as they do, the value of culture in its broadest sense as a repository of wisdom greater than can be retained by any one mind.

Hayek recognizes that societies change; that is what evolution is all about. But it is evolution, not revolution which makes change take place successfully. This, too, is part of the conservative political tradition. In Hayek’s earlier works, we saw, as he did, the differences between his own outlook and those of conservative disposition. He saw the contrast between those who wanted to win back ground for freedom and spontaneity, and those who did not. In his later work we see how his ideas mesh with the political ideas which conservatives have stood for and worked for.

Hayek searched to find a name for the party which would represent people who thought as he did. His search is over. There already is a name for the party which stands for freedom of choice, and which seeks to preserve the spontaneity of outcome which those individual choices accumulate toward. It is a party which recognizes the role played by traditions and cultural inheritance in the safe evolution of society. It is the party which rejects the pretensions of central planners, collectivists, and advocates of a preconceived design. If Professor Hayek has avoided knowing it hitherto, he should know now that the name of this party is Conservative.

The name for such a party that Hayek sought is freedomist. See “Why the Freedomist Network?”
Social Fields and
Types of Societies

Women’s Freedom In The Middle East

January 26, 2009

[First published May 31 2005] We tend to speak of freedom in national terms. There is so much freedom in country x or y, or little human rights in country z. We should promote democracy in w. And so on. We tend to ignore the treatment from one country or region to another of segments of the population. We should not, for in some parts of the world where human rights are denied, it especially bad for women, who are virtually enslaved, in some Muslim ruled nations such as Saudi Arabia.

Finally, we have a detailed survey of this, with each Middle Eastern and North African nation rated on the degree to which women enjoy nondiscrimination, against, access to justice, autonomy, security, freedom of the person, economic rights and equal opportunity, political rights and civic voice, and social and cultural rights. The survey, with data and essay on the results, is here..

The source gives separate ratings for each nation of five aspects of their freedom. These are not totaled, so I did so below. The best score — women’s freedom comparable to the United States and Western Europe, would be a total of 25, or close to it; the absolute worst is a total of 5. As you can see, Saudi Arabia treats its women worst of all with a score of 6.3, very close to the bottom 5, with a little jump in ratings up to Libya. Oman, and UAE. The best treatment of women among this group is by Tunisia, with Morocco not much worse. But, even for Tunisia, its score is only 16.2 out of 25 possible.

A Freedomist View of Liberarianism

January 19, 2009

[First published January 25, 2006] When I wore my heart on my sleeve as a youth, I was a democratic socialist and a Democrat, but in the early 1970s, I gave up socialism for democratic libertarianism under the hammer blows of von Mises, Hayek, and Milton Friedman. Libertarian is what I called myself until recently. I remain libertarian in domestic policy, which is to say the more domestic freedom from regulation, government controls, taxation, and oppressive laws, the better up to a point. I am not an anarchist, but believe social justice means minimal government consistent with protecting and guaranteeing all have equal civil and political rights, even against majorities.

However, on foreign policy the libertarian, with some exceptions, is a raving isolationist, starkly opposed to foreign involvements and interventions. Let international relations also be free, the libertarians say, which means free trade and commerce, and freedom for other countries to do whatever they want with their people. Not our business.

Lest you think I exaggerate, look at the “National Libertarian Party” platform:

The Issue: Intervention by the government in Washington in the affairs of other nations is an attempt to impose our values on those nations by force. 

 The Principle: The important principle in foreign policy should be the elimination of intervention by the United States government in the affairs of other nations. Solutions: We favor a drastic reduction in cost and size of our total diplomatic establishment. We would negotiate with any foreign government without necessarily conceding moral legitimacy to that government.

Then on foreign intervention, the platform reads :

End the current U.S. government policy of foreign intervention, including military and economic aid, guarantees, and diplomatic meddling. Individuals should be free to provide any aid they wish that does not directly threaten the United States.

I don’t know how one can read this platform in any other way than isolationist, and this is the NATIONAL Libertarian Party.

On foreign policy and fostering democracy, even peacefully, the libertarians are blinded by their desire for freedom here and now, not realizing that everything, including freedom demands contextual qualification (should those with a dangerous infectious disease remain free, when they could spread it far and wide, killing maybe hundreds with it?). By their isolationism, libertarians are making the world safe for the gangs of thugs (euphemistically, called dictatorships) that murder, torture, rape, enslave, and thus rule by fear.

Not our business, the libertarian still will say, although his fundamental belief in freedom is being violated in the most horrible ways. By implication, his isolationism is declaring that since it’s somebody else that’s suffering, not me, or my loved ones, it’s okay.

But besides this basic human me and mine, it is also a blindness to his own welfare. For in an age of state supported terrorism, readily transportable biological weapons, such as anthrax, and nuclear weapons, no longer can a country like the U.S. sit back and ignore terrorism, and what goes on elsewhere in the production and deliverability of WMD, as with North Korea and Iran. In the hands of those who hate the democracies and their libertarian values, terrorism and WMD make democracies too vulnerability to attack and blackmail. Intervention by the democracies in the rapacious affairs of such thug regimes, therefore, is ultimately to protect ourselves, not to mention to advance as a by product the human rights and the very freedom libertarians praise. Quite simply, no thug regimes can be trusted with either the possession or the capability to produce such weapons.

Feeding into libertarian isolationism is an apparent distrust, if not outright hatred, of democracy. They put this in various ways, some pointing out how questioning our classical liberal forefathers were of democracy when they opted instead for an American constitutional republic. Other libertarians simply point out that democracy is a disguised tyranny by a majority. Leaving aside their vast misunderstanding of what democracy means today, which includes the traditional definition of a republic, libertarians generally offer no alternative form of government. The anacho-libertarians among them throw government out altogether, not realizing that any anarchy will evolve into a democracy, gang rule, or a system of self-governing, independent groups, like international relations today.

Then there is the democratic peace, which one libertarian after another has tried to attack, but ended up misrepresenting its propositions, ignoring the relevant literature, doing incompetent empirical analysis, or making illogical claims. All have been wrong in detail, and if anything, their attempts to topple this edifice have only left it stronger. Why they do this is beyond me, except that what appears to aggravate them the most is that the democratic peace proclaims the value of . . . . democracy.

Not able to deal with the democratic peace directly, some take a side path — it is wrong to make war for democracy, they say. The innocents that die don’t care if it be for democracy or by a dictator’s hand. They are dead nonetheless. But, then, who is saying we should spread democracy though war? Not President Bush, not Vice-President Cheney, not Secretary Rumsfeld, not Secretary Rice, not my colleague Pro Forma, and not me. We all argue for doing so through nonviolent methods. The wars against Afghanistan and Iraq, and the other wars before our time that ended with the democratization of Japan, Germany, and Italy were not fought to spread democracy, but democratization was the best answer to the question as to what to do with these countries once they were defeated.

On a different path, a few libertarians argue that most attempts to democratize countries have failed. Okay, say it has failed in 70 percent of the cases, the most pessimistic argument. But, that would mean success in 30 percent of the cases. And consider the happiness of these millions freed from the enslavement and possible torture and murder at the hands of some dictator. With so much at stake, better to have tried and failed, then not try at all.

And perhaps the final argument — there is a stage of democratization where partial democracies are more dangerous to the peace than dictatorships. This view is gaining prominence among libertarians due to the publication of Jack Snyder and Edward Mansfield’s book Electing To Fight: Why Emerging Democracies Go To War. I have reviewed the book, and pointed out that their empirical claims for this are faulty. What is most amazing about the libertarian’s reliance on this work, however, is that they ignore its support for the major democratic peace proposition that democracies don’t make war on each other.

So, my libertarian friends, often admirers of my book Death By Government have been upset with my apostasy. I’ve gone conservative, they claim. NO way. I’m as hard on the conservative’s repression of social freedom, as I am on the liberal’s socialism and the libertarian’s foreign policy.

Then, am I still a libertarian, although an insurgent one? No, I no longer accept that label. Instead, I am a freedomist (ist is a suffix meaning a follower or believer in certain beliefs, such as in socialist or feminist). This is one who believes not only in maximum freedom at home, but also unlike the libertarian, in fostering democratic freedom abroad. This is to protect our own freedom, to end war and democide, and to further human security.

Let freedom ring.

Another of my democide paintings. This is of the Croatian fascist Utashi genocide during WWII. Original here.