The More Democratic, And The More Human Rights, The Less Terrorism

January 9, 2009

[First published March 15, 2006] So far, there is considerable empirical support for the argument that promoting global freedom, if successful, will make the world generally more peaceful, and possibly end war and democide. However, there has been little empirical work that bears specifically on terrorism in the context of the democratic peace. So, I will do that here.

A relevant scale for doing this is the Purdue Political Terror Scale (PTS) shown below. It attempts to measure the degree to which governments terrorize their citizens and deprive them of human rights.

Mark Gibney and Mathew Dalton developed the Political Terror Scale. An article on it, plus “Political Terror Scale Notes” and the actual scoring on it each year for all nations, 1980-2004 is available on Gibney’s personal website . He is Belk Distinguished Professor 
and Professor of Political Science at the University of North Carolina Ashville.

I know, I know, this is not the terrorism that is focused on today, which is that of small groups of terrorists, their murder and genocide bombing, and their insurrections. But, behind it all are level 4 or 5 PTS states, such as Iran, Syria, and North Korea, as were Fatah’s Palestine Authority, Saddam’s Iraq, and the Taliban’s Afghanistan. Democratize these states and individual and group terrorism will dry up for want of resources and bases, at least as implied by the Forward Strategy of Freedom. But, we’ll see.

The PTS scale values for all nations were coded from the annual Amnesty International (AI) and United States State Department (State) Country Reports on Human Rights. Because of these sources, Oona A. Hathaway and Daniel E. Ho used the PTS scale for “Characterizing Measurement Error in Human Rights.” (CME — in pdf): They say:

We illustrate a method for accounting for measurement error in human rights studies — an area of research plagued by difficulties of measuring concepts that cannot be directly observed. We focus on the widely used Purdue Political Terror Scales (PTS), which quantify political terror experienced in a country based on independent qualitative narrative reports compiled by the United States Department of State and Amnesty International. A simple Bayesian measurement model systematically incorporates these two independent codings and directly models the uncertainty of a latent measure of political terror. This reveals that attenuation bias due to lagged PTS estimates can be severe, leading conventional estimates to be conservatively biased by an absolute order of roughly two. Substantively, this means that explanatory variables such as democracy may have roughly twice the impact on human rights as currently believed. We conclude that measurement methods illustrated here hold much promise for addressing concerns about measurement error in empirical scholarship. [Bold italics added]

As to the two politically antagonistic sources — State and AI — the above CME report finds that the correlation between them across all the countries in their report is .83, which means that in their reporting of human rights these two sources are at variance across 31 percent of the data (1-correlation squared).

CME shows the variation of these two sources in the chart below:

Now, my empirical question is this: How well does the degree of liberal democracy of a nation predict its scale level on the PTS, which is to say, terrorism and lack of human rights. I took the PTS values for 2004 and the Freedom House freedom ratings for the same year on both civil liberties and political rights, where the lower the average rating on both, the more liberal democratic a nation. Then, I did a bivariate regression, and found that the degree of freedom predicted 32% of the variation in terror/human rights (R squared = .32, a very conservative finding, given the CME conclusion about democracy and human rights given above). That is, the more liberal democratic a nation, the less its government terror and the more its government respects human rights [PTS = 1.51-27(Freedom rating); signs on both scales reversed].

Since the relationship may not be linear, I should note that the analysis of variance is very good (F-stat = 81.6, p <.0001) In my next post, I’m going to explain what this sometimes mysterious “p” that appears in so many quantitative studies means, and its pitfalls. Just take my word today that “p” here is not a sampling probability (it cannot be since I am dealing with all countries and not a sample in any meaningful statistical sense), but a combinatorial one.

Anyway, my plot of the two is shown below, where -HR is the reversed PTS, and the X-axis is the reversed freedom ratings. For -HR, 1 is the most terroristic nations with the least human rights, and 5 reverses this; for the -FREE average ratings, 1 is the least free, 7 the most. Thus, as one moves to the right on the X-axis and up on HR (PTS) Y-axis, the greater the freedom, and the less the terror and the more respect for human rights.

Obviously, there is considerable variation around a trend of decreasing terror/increasing human rights as freedom increases. To see this, I averaged the PTS scores for each freedom rating. I show the result in the plot below, where the axes are the same as above (sorry, the X-axis label is cut off).

The bottom line should be clear. To eliminate the terrorism of governments against their people and guarantee their human rights, foster democratic freedom.And this is now the American foreign policy, which judging by all the empirical analyses that support it, is one of realistic idealism.

The Ameriican Push For Human Rights And Democracy

December 10, 2008

[First published April 25, 2006] The U.S. Department of State has published “Supporting Human Rights and Democracy:  The U.S. Record 2003-2004” in compliance with the 2003 Foreign Relations Authorization Act that requires the Department to report on actions taken by the U.S. Government to encourage respect for human rights. If you are a freedomist, as I am, it is a fascinating read. It reveals much activity on human rights and democratization of which I was unaware, and which I am profoundly happy to see being done.

Of course, all such publications by a government agency have to be approached with caution. Bureaucracies will be bureaucracies, you know. The question is then where to look for an honest and probing review of the report. I look to Freedom House, which has been active in promoting democracy, and has a team of country experts that do their country freedom ratings. So, here is their review, in the format of a press release:

 Annual Democracy Report an Improvement This Year
Freedom House noted with interest the just-released report, Supporting Human Rights and Democracy: The U.S. Record 2005 – 2006, issued by the Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. The report is an improvement over previous iterations, but it still lacks a sense of clear U.S. strategy towards the expansion of freedom around the world, Freedom House said today.

The report describes U.S. government activities encouraging democratic growth around the world, and includes accounts of country-specific diplomatic statements and actions, trade policies, and embassy-level interventions, as well as formal “democracy promotion” program activities. However, the 272-page report provides no indication of how the $1.4 billion in democracy and governance work in fiscal year 2005 was actually allocated, nor does it provide any other indication of the Administration’s strategic prioritization among countries, challenges and opportunities.

“The report is an improvement over previous iterations. It documents an impressive collection of programs and policies promoting democracy and human rights around the world,” said Jennifer Windsor, executive director of Freedom House. “When one examines country allocation figures available from other parts of the U.S. government,  however, it becomes apparent that the real winners are countries in crisis like Iraq and Afghanistan. U.S. programs still frequently fail to follow through with funding to those countries that are out of crisis but not yet fully democratic.”

Democracy funding for programs in Africa in particular remains meager. As Freedom House highlighted during its March 29th conference, the continent still has more countries rated “not free” than “free,” yet the region received only 14 percent of total U.S. funding for worldwide democracy programs last year.

Ms. Windsor pointed out other troubling trends. “We have already seen disturbing cuts to democracy programs in 2006. Funding for human rights programs in Central Asia have been cut, Latin American programs have had funding reduced, and even democracy programs in Iraq are facing serious cutbacks,” she said.

Freedom House did note that U.S. programs and policies in some countries have been well-funded and unequivocal in their objectives. The Administration’s push for competitive elections in 2005 in Egypt, for example, and its suspension of free trade talks with officials because of the imprisonment of an Egyptian democracy activist, have been commendable first steps towards a clear U.S. policy to promote democracy in that country.

In other countries, however, dialogue on the importance of democracy has not been matched by sufficient actions. Pakistan, for example, has not been criticized by the Administration for its conspicuously undemocratic behavior, and U.S. relations with Russia have not been significantly affected by the democratic deterioration that has occurred in that country.

Links of Note

“US Report Distorts Human Rights Status in China” It you want a good laugh, read this response by China to the above report on its abysmal human rights record.

“Never Forget Flash Animation.” This is an excellent flash animation of 9/11, available for your website or blog.

“Are Facts Obsolete?” By Thomas Sowell:

What is more frightening than any particular policy or ideology is the widespread habit of disregarding facts. Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey put it this way: “Demagoguery beats data.”

RJR: I find this so true in the commentaries/editorials/speeches on democracy, democratization, and the democratic peace.

“Arts for Democracy”:

Arts for Democracy started, when I realized the Left, a group which I used to identify with, seemed to have lost the perspective of its views when observing the conflict between the West and Islam. Rather than joining either group in a never-ending blame game, I use art and text as tools to communicate my beliefs.

“School Of Democracy” Did not know one existed, did you? And in France!

“Democracy Digest” A periodic digest of issues and progress of democracy around the world, and to which you can subscribe.

“Foundation for Defense of Democracies”:

Fighting terrorism and promoting freedom through research, communications, education and investigative journalism.

RJR. For your bookmarks.

Click for a free pdf downloadable alternative
history series emphasizing the democratic peace.

Unchaining Human Rights, Not Imposing Democracy

November 28, 2008

[First published December 17, 2004] Amair Taheri has an excellent article, “Eye of the Storm: 7 Arab excuses against reform,” in <I>The Jerusalem Post</>. The seven excuses are:

  • Economic development must precede political change.
  • Democracy is a Western system and hard to sell to the Arabs.
  • Most Arabs are poor and cannot understand democracy, let alone practice it.
  • Democracy would require the Arabs to abandon cherished ancestral values and traditions.
  • Because most Arabs are afflicted by illiteracy, reform should first focus on education
  • Democracy cannot be imposed by force.
  • There can be no democratization in Arab countries until the Palestine-Israel problem is solved.

Taheri does an good job of demolishing these excuses, but it would be easier if in place of democracy, he used the term freedom—even better, human rights. Then the ridiculousness of these excuses becomes self-evident. Try it. Replace democracy in political change in each case with freedom of speech, religion, and organization (such as creating a political party), and from fear.

For example, 

Economic development must precede freedom of speech, religion, and organization, and from fear.

Freedom of speech, religion, and organization, and from fear, is a Western system and hard to sell to the Arabs.

Most Arabs are poor and cannot understand freedom of speech, religion, and organization, and from fear, let alone practice it.

And so on. What we who foster democracy are doing is not exporting it, but unchaining people’s human rights. Period.

Limited Democratic Peace Glossary

November 23, 2008

This is a glossary of the major concepts I will be using in the following blogs, and a place for reference as I blog along.

Democide:  A governments intentional murder for whatever reason. Genocide is democide, but a democide is not necessarily genocide, as the democide by the Cambodian Khmer Rouge, or by Stalin. Also, governmental assassinations, massacres, atrocities, mass murder, or government caused disappearances involve democide.A HREF=””>here

Democracy: Includes two meaning of democracy. One is a procedural democracy involving regular, open and fair competition for leadership, a near universal franchise, and secret ballots. The other meaning is of a procedural democracy that guarantees the human rights of its subjects. This is a liberal democracy.

Democratic peace: The peace within democratically free states and between them. Peace should be understood broadly as the absence of war, minimal violence, and the existence of human security. This not an either-or concept, but a continues one assuming various degrees of a democratic peace. It is best defined here.

Genocide: Government intentional murder of any people because of their race, religion, ethnicity, nationality, or language. It does not include murder by virtue of a people because of their politics, political actions, party membership, or ideology. Murder for this reason is democide.

Government: The institution or person that monopolizes power over a territory and its people. This is not limited to national states, but also includes the governments of gangs, tribes, clans, and some terrorist groups. 

Human rights: Conventionally, and basically, the right to one’s life and liberty. But, also the right to freedom of speech, religion, organization, and legal equality. This will be my meaning here. Others, as has the UN, may add to this sociocultural and economic rights, such as food, employment, and a decent wage.

Human Security: Freedom from social and political violence, as well as the UN’s definition that includes economic security and assured access to food, good health, and safe and protected environment.

Mortacracy:  A government that commits large scale and continuous democide, as did Hitler, Stalin, and Mao.

Murder: The intentional taking of a life, except in self-defense, or military combat; or by a fair and open legal and constitutional process, as in a judicial execution.