ArticlePDF Available

Political and ideological aspects in the measurement of democracy: The Freedom House case

Authors:
  • Università degli Studi della Campania "Luigi Vanvitelli"

Abstract

While several studies have dealt with methodological aspects of measuring democracy, little attention has been devoted to the political and ideological issues that affect the construction and structure of these measuring instruments. The aim of this study is twofold: in analysing the cultural and economic dimensions of the Freedom House (FH) organization, it seeks to delineate the political background of FH, thus underlining its neoconservative bias. Secondly, by focusing on the changes over time in the checklists used by FH to measure democracy, this study aims to analyse to what extent these changes are ideologically driven, in particular, to what are they linked to the neoliberal paradigm. Indeed, the hypothesis is that the construction of FH's scales has been affected by the neoliberal climate in which they were conceived. In the first part, the work reconstructs the academic debate about FH's scales and the historical and political context which brought to the affirmation of neoliberal democracy. It also provides a discussion regarding the importance of measurement as a political tool. In the second part, the study provides an analysis of FH through the reconstruction of its political-ideological profile, beginning with the formation of FH to its current internal culture. The third part provides an analysis of the checklists used by FH for measuring democracy. Our findings show that because of the changes in methodology and the strict interconnection between methodological and political aspects, FH data do not offer an unbroken and politically neutral time series, such that their use for cross-time analyses both for research and policy is questionable.
68
To cite this Article: Giannone, Diego (2010) “Political and
ideological aspects in the measurement of democracy: the
Freedom House case”, Democratization, 17: 1, pp. 68-97
Political and Ideological Aspects in the Measurement of
Democracy: The Freedom House Case
Diego Giannone
Department of Sociology and Political Science, University of Salerno,
Fisciano, ITALY
Email: dgiannone@unisa.it
(Submitted 19 June 2009; final version submitted 27 October 2009)
While several studies have dealt with methodological aspects of measuring
democracy, little attention has been devoted to the political and ideological issues
that affect the construction and structure of these measuring instruments. The aim of
this study is twofold: in analysing the cultural and economic dimensions of the
Freedom House (FH) organization, it seeks to delineate the political background of
FH, thus underlining its neoconservative bias. Secondly, by focusing on the changes
over time in the checklists used by FH to measure democracy, this study aims to
analyse to what extent these changes are ideologically driven, in particular, to what
are they linked to the neoliberal paradigm. Indeed, the hypothesis is that the
construction of FH’s scales has been affected by the neoliberal climate in which they
were conceived. In the first part, the work reconstructs the academic debate about
FH’s scales and the historical and political context which brought to the affirmation
of neoliberal democracy. It also provides a discussion regarding the importance of
measurement as a political tool. In the second part, the study provides an analysis of
FH through the reconstruction of its political-ideological profile, beginning with the
formation of FH to its current internal culture. The third part provides an analysis of
the checklists used by FH for measuring democracy. Our findings show that because
of the changes in methodology and the strict interconnection between
methodological and political aspects, FH data do not offer an unbroken and
politically neutral time series, such that their use for cross-time analyses both for
research and policy is questionable.
Keywords: Freedom House, Measuring Democracy, Democracy Indicators, Neoliberalism,
Checklist.
Introduction1
While several studies have dealt with methodological aspects of measuring
democracy,2 little attention has been devoted to the political and ideological issues
affecting measuring instruments and databases. It is as if these instruments
69
have been designed and developed in an ideological vacuum, and have not
suffered, therefore, the effects and influence of the dominant paradigm.
This is also the case with the Freedom House (FH) index, which is the most used
tool for measuring democracy. Analyses conducted by several scholars on the
validity and reliability of FH’s indexes have highlighted many methodological
weaknesses. For example, Landman and Häusermann3 have pointed out that the
index by FH has been used as a tool for measuring democracy, good governance
and human rights, thus producing a conceptual stretching which is a major cause
of ‘losses in connotative precision’:4 in short, an instrument used to measure
everything, in the end, is not able to discriminate against anything.
Furthermore, criticisms have been made regarding the reliability of the index and
its aggregation procedure. While Diamond states that ‘there is inevitably some
arbitrariness in where one draws the line to establish the threshold for a concept’
and that ‘however, there are real differences even between the average scores of
3.0 and 2.5, which is the cutoff point for liberal democracy’,5 it is true that
‘the sum of a civil liberty score of 4 and a political liberty score of 2 is the same as
the sum of a civil liberty score of 2 and a political liberty score of 4 even though the
substantive interpretation of these different combinations is different’.6
Criticism has also been made both to the lack of specificity and rigorousness in
construction,7 and to the inadequate level of transparency and replicability of the
scales.8 Because no set of coding rules is provided, and the sources of information
are not identified with enough precision, and because disaggregated data have not
been made available to independent scholars, ‘the aggregate data offered by
Freedom House has to be accepted largely on faith’.9
A few scholars have pointed out the ideological biases of the FH methodology.
For instance, Scoble and Wiseberg10 stated that the scales are influenced by the
conservative ideology of FH. Bollen11 underlined their Cold War and pro-market
biases, while Bollen and Paxton12 emphasized that the index of FH systematically
favours Christian and Western countries, and tends to adversely codify Muslim
and Marxist-Leninist countries. Mainwaring et al. pointed out that FH
measurements ‘contain two systematic biases: scores for leftist governments were
tainted by political considerations, and changes in scores are sometimes driven by
changes in their criteria rather than changes in real conditions’.13 Gastil responds
that ‘generally such criticism is based on opinions about Freedom House rather
than detailed examination of survey ratings’.14
The aim of this study, then, is twofold. First, in analysing the cultural and
economic dimensions of the FH organization, it seeks to delineate the political
background of FH, thus underlining its neoconservative bias. Secondly, by
focusing on the changes over time in the checklists used by FH to measure
democracy, this study aims to analyse to what extent, in contrast to what Gastil
states, these changes are ideologically driven, in particular, to what are they linked
to the neoliberal paradigm. These elements would help focus on serious, but often
neglected,
70
concerns in relation to FH indexes used by scholars, journalists and politicians,
both for research and policy making purposes.
The hypothesis of this paper is that the construction of the FH measuring
instrument has been affected by the political and ideological climate in which it
was conceived: that is, in addition to the provision of solid knowledge and data on
the state of democracies, it has also been developed to respond to political-
ideological motives, in line with the rise, over the 1970s, of a new hegemonic
paradigm, neoliberalism,15 developed in leading Western countries and aimed at
strengthening their power in international relations.
In accordance with the theoretical positions expressed at different times by
Gramsci and Wallerstein about the function of scientific knowledge, we assume
that FH measuring instruments have come to be part of those structures of
knowledge that are an essential element in the functioning and legitimacy of
political, economic and social structures of the existing world-system.16 In fact,
they (also) provide a scientific justification for the distribution of power and the
legitimacy of the status quo, hinging on the twofold characteristic of their vast and
‘necessary’ use and their alleged neutrality. Thus the development of these
instruments is fully linked to the battle for ‘the creation of a hegemonic apparatus,
because it creates a new ideological terrain, leads to a reform of consciousness
and methods of knowledge’.17 One can consider measuring instruments as genuine
methods for understanding social reality, however, they are not politically and
ideologically neutral. Therefore, to the extent that they are not neutral, they can be
used as tools for acquiring and/or strengthening such a hegemony.
In the case of FH we have to underline an additional risk: since it has become the
global pattern-setter of democracy, i.e. the real creator of models throughout the
world for the discourse on democracy, its indexes are often considered as a
condition (i.e. a sort of natural order of things) rather than a narration (i.e. a
product of human action). Consequently, they are often used uncritically as the
way to describe the state of democracy in the world, blurring over the fact that
their underlying political and scientific framework is questionable. In the first
part, the study reconstructs the historical-political context within which the
conditions have developed for the success of a specific neoliberal definition of
democracy. It also provides a discussion regarding the importance of
measurement as a political tool. In the second part, the study provides an analysis
of FH through the reconstruction of its political-ideological profile, beginning
with the formation of FH to its current internal culture. The third part provides an
analysis of the checklists used by FH for measuring democracy. Finally, some
concluding remarks are made about the interconnection between neoliberalism
and FH and the advisability of using this instrument.
Neoliberalism, democracy and freedom
The FH index was launched for the first time by Raymond Gastil in 1973. It was
an annus horribilis for democracy and capitalism, because of the oil and inflation
crisis, the fourth
71
Arab-Israeli war, and the conclusion of the Chilean democratically elected
socialist government of Salvador Allende, with a coup organized by the national
economic elites and actively supported by major US companies, the CIA and the
US Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger. It was the ‘first great experiment with
neoliberal state formation’.18 An experiment which became, within the space of a
few years, ‘hegemonic as a mode of discourse, and has [had] pervasive effects on
ways of thought and political-economic practices to the point where it has become
incorporated into the commonsense way we interpret, live in, and understand the
world’.19 In 1973 the Trilateral Commission was set up by a group of private
citizens of Western Europe, Japan and North America with the purpose of
fostering closer cooperation among these three regions on common problems and
to support proposals for handling them jointly.20 Two years later, three members
of the Commission, Michel Crozier, Samuel P. Huntington, and Joji Watanuki,
published a report on the governability of Western democracies: The Crisis of
Democracy.
Western democracies, they argued, had been in crisis for ‘the inherent working of
the democratic process itself’21 because the vitality of democracy had raised
questions about the governability of democracies. Democratic systems are
‘threatened by entropy’,22 because decision-making systems had been overloaded
with participants and demands which they had increasing difficulty in mastering:
the paradox is that ‘the more decisions the modern state has to handle, the more
helpless it becomes’.23 ‘Some of the problems of governance [...] stem from an
excess of democracy [...]. Needed, instead, is a greater degree of moderation in
democracy […] some measure of apathy and non-involvement on the part of some
individuals and groups’.24
In other words, the welfare democracy model was in crisis not only because of its
prohibitive costs, but also because it was delegitimized on a political-ideological
level. In a few years, neoliberalism has redefined the political, cultural, social and
normative coordinates of the discourse on democracy, reversing the existing
balance in the relation between individual and society, economy and politics,25
public and private.26
‘The founding figures of neoliberal thought took political ideals of individual
liberty and freedom as sacrosanct - as the central values of civilization. […] Such
values were threatened, they argued, not only by fascism, dictatorships, and
communism, but also by all forms of state intervention that substituted collective
judgments for those of individuals set free to choose. They then concluded that
without “the diffused power and initiative associated with (private property and the
competitive market) it is difficult to imagine a society in which freedom may be
effectively preserved”’.27
Neoliberalism has suggested a version of democracy completely tied down to the
concept of freedom, to the detriment of the other substantive value of democracy:
equality. Neoliberal democracy has resulted in the substantial overlap of
democracy with respect for civil and political rights (the rights of individual
freedom)
72
and the consequent discrediting of the economic and social rights (those rights
aiming at reducing socio-economic inequalities). From the neoliberal perspective,
democracy has come to coincide with formal freedom, but precisely because of
neoliberalism, and especially in the wake of the events after 1989, freedom
underwent a rather significant ‘twisting’ in meaning, overlapping a certain kind of
freedom: that is free trade, free market, and freedom of enterprise, as the sole
legitimate guarantors of the various individual freedoms.
As Harvey, citing Polanyi (1944), states: ‘the idea of freedom [is] “thus
degenerated into a mere advocacy of free enterprise”, which means “the fullness
of freedom for those whose income, leisure and security need no enhancing, and a
mere pittance of liberty for the people, who may in vain attempt to make use of
their democratic rights to gain shelter from the power of the owners of
property”’.28
The political importance of measurement
Measurement as a tool for evaluating democracy can be used to shape the
citizenry’s perception of governmental leaders as being accountable.29 To the
extent that the policies implemented by the democratic system seem to be
consistent with the information available to citizens at the international level,
measurement functions not only as a justification for international relations and
who receives financial aid, it also establishes hierarchies, organizes and
legitimizes the priorities of state’s action.
However, the measurement framework used influences perception, and as a result
determines which rights may be perceived as being demandable and which are
not. In the case of democracy, for example, the choice of indicators that measure
only the acknowledgement of civil and political rights, works for the construction
of a liberal-democratic framework, in which social rights are considered as
‘secondary rights’, or social services provided only to particular categories of
users.30
Consequently, the choice of specific indicators, which are at the core of the
structuring of the measuring instruments, also affects the perception of democracy
by the community of citizens. Indeed favouring some indicators over others also
services to enable and shape a specific definition and measure of democracy.
Therefore, the underlying methodology of measurement is determined by its
theoretical and political relevance. That is why methodological issues cannot be
considered from a politically neutral point of view, but they have to be analysed in
their strict interconnection with political and ideological issues.
Freedom House as a global pattern-setter of democracy
The analysis of an instrument for measuring democracy must first deal with two
issues. The first relates to the characteristics of FH, the historical-political profile
of which we must describe (What kind of political actor is it? How is it financed
73
and how does it operate? What are its purposes? What is its impact on
international debate?). Indeed, as Bollen states,
‘the characteristics of the judges can affect subjective ratings of political liberties
and democratic rule. […] The political orientation of a judge, the relation of the
rated country to the judge’s home country, the interests of the agency that is funding
the ratings, or other political, social, economic, and personal factors could affect a
judge’s ratings. […] Even if judges were totally objective, a second factor could
create method factors in their ratings. This is the incomplete information that is
available to a judge’.31
These factors could produce systematic errors in measurement, such as a pattern
which favours Western democracies, or a tendency to underestimate the values of
Islamic countries.
The second issue concerns the evaluation of the measuring subject’s decisions. In
fact, if this process was reduced to a ‘mere academic exercise’ and did not matter
politically, then it would make no sense. Measurement isolated from decision-
making process loses its meaning. Beyond the methodological issues, it is the
extensive use at the political level to explain the success of the FH’s scales. The
reasons for this broad use can be traced to at least three characteristics of FH: its
(presumed) neutrality, its capacity for political conditionality and the international
reach of its actions.
The FH identikit
The American society Freedom House defines itself as ‘an independent
non-governmental organization that supports the expansion of freedom in the
world’. It was established in 1941, emerging from an amalgamation of two
groups that had been formed to encourage popular support for American
involvement in World War II, thus breaking the isolationist front. From the
beginning, the organization’s leadership was convinced that ‘American leadership
in international affairs is essential to the causes of human rights and democracy’
and that ‘the spread of democracy would be the best weapon against totalitarian
ideologies’;32 a belief conceived as a genuine ‘mission […] to expand freedom
around the world [and to] struggle against the other twentieth century totalitarian
threat, Communism’.33
Since the end of the Cold War, the mission of FH has evolved towards a
more active role on the expansion of freedom and religious freedom in society
under dictatorial regimes. According to Chomsky and Herman, in the performance
of these tasks, the FH ‘has long served as a virtual propaganda arm of the
government and the international right wing’,34 interlocked with US government
bodies such as Radio Free Europe and the CIA.
In 1995 with the merger of the Puebla Institute with FH the Center for
Religious Freedom was formed as a self-sustaining division, allowing FH to be
more active on the issue of religious freedom. Although by 2006 this Center
separated from the
74
organization, FH continues ‘to ensure that religious freedom remains a core part
of its analysis, advocacy, and action portfolio’.35 The Center, in fact,
‘insists that U.S. foreign policy defend Christians and Jews, Muslim dissidents and
minorities, and other religious minorities in countries such as Indonesia, Pakistan,
Nigeria, Iran, and Sudan. It is fighting the imposition of harsh Islamic law in the
new Iraq and Afghanistan and opposes blasphemy laws in Muslim countries that
suppress more tolerant and pro-American thought’.36
In 1997 the merger with the National Forum Foundation enhanced FH’s
capacity to conduct on-the-ground projects in fledgling democracies in Central
and Eastern Europe, the Balkans, and the former Soviet Union. After 11
September 2001, FH expanded its on-the-ground presence particularly in the
Middle East and in areas of Central Asia.
Although from the outset FH claims to be bipartisan, its Board of Trustees
is composed in large majority by members of the American conservative or neo-
conservative wing. The Board is now chaired by William H. Taft IV, an attorney
who has served in the US government under several Republican administrations.
Under President Reagan he was appointed Deputy Secretary of Defense and
served from January 1984 to April 1989; in 2000, after the first election of George
W. Bush he was appointed to serve as chief legal advisor to the United States
Department of State under Secretary of State Colin Powell. In 2004 he was a
dissenter concerning the policy of interrogation techniques for military detainees
and resigned to return to private practice.
One of the two vice-chairmen is Tom Dine, an active supporter of many of
the foreign policy initiatives of the G. W. Bush administration and the former
head of AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee), one of the most
important pro-Israel lobbies. One of the two ‘chairmen emeriti’ is Max M.
Kampelman, a diplomat in the Cold War era, with important roles especially
under Reagan presidency, and currently a member, among others, of the Jewish
Institute for National Security Affairs and the Committee on the Present Danger
(CPD).37
The Board includes Kenneth L. Adelman38 (a former Reagan
administration official and also a member of the CPD) and Joshua Muravchik39
(member of the CPD and resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute).40
They are also on the Board Ruth Wedgwood (vice-chairman), an expert in law
and a former member of ex-Pentagon chief Rumsfeld’s Defense Policy Board and
also a supporter of many of the policy initiatives of Bush administration after
September 11 (invasion of Iraq, Patriot Act), the conservative satirist P. J.
O’Rourke (fellow at the CATO Institute), the Ambassador Mark Palmer (member
of the CPD).
Among the known names that in the recent past were members of the FH’
Board we may recall R. J. Woolsey,41 the former director of the CIA (from 2001
to 2003 he was the Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Board), then
replaced by Peter Ackerman (former Director at the Cato Institute until 2003), and
also Donald Rumsfeld (1997-99), Paul Wolfowitz (1997-99), Nina Shea (director
75
of the Hudson Institute Center for Religious Freedom and a member of the CPD),
Jeane J. Kirkpatrick (1926-2006), a former resident fellow at the AEI, and, along
with Woolsey, member of several ‘neocon’ committees and foundations,42 and
Samuel P. Huntington (1927-2008), perhaps the most influential conservative
intellectual in recent decades (member of the Board from 1997 to 2005). Other
prominent, more liberal, figures, who do not fundamentally affect the
neoconservative profile of FH, are Zbigniew Brzezinski (member until 2003) and
Lawrence Lessig (since 2008).
An analysis of the financial dimension of FH reveals substantial backing
by the US government. In recent years the funding of FH has steadily increased:
from nearly $11 million in 2001 to over $26 million in 2006 (+241%). In
particular, it is worth noting the exponential increase from 2004 ($18 million in
total) to 2005 (nearly $27 million in total, +50%), due almost entirely to the strong
increase in federal donations (from $12 to $20 million, +66%). This is unusual,
especially when one considers that the organizations involved in the assessment
and monitoring of human rights, democracy and freedom in the world refuse on
principle - as a guarantee of their independence and credibility - government
funding.43 Therefore, while recording over the last year available (2007) a halving
of federal funds,44 still 80% of FH funds derive from the US government. Thus, it
is a misnomer to label FH as a ‘non-governmental’ organization, because it is
institutionally and financially related to the US government and provides a source
of legitimation and validation for American hegemony.45
The impact of measurement
In order to evaluate the impact of FH’s measurement it is necessary to
make a list of users of its publications, particularly the Freedom in the World, the
annual report published for the first time in 1973 by Raymond Gastil and updated
annually by the team of experts of the FH, in which the countries of the world are
classified according to their level of political rights and civil liberties. This
overview can be helpful to explain why today, in this field, FH is the most cited,
influential and listened source, the true global pattern-setter of democracy.
FH’s advocacy on the core issues of freedom and democracy has produced
a series of global initiatives. Among them one of the most prominent was the
Millennium Challenge Account, an American government’s initiative launched in
2003, which promised economic aid to countries that were proceeding on the road
to democracy and free market.46 USAID, an independent American government
agency supporting long-term and equitable economic growth and advancing US
foreign policy objectives,47 uses the FH’s ratings to evaluate progress in the
democratization of the countries to which it allocates its aid.48
As a consequence, the authority of these institutions creates credibility for
the FH ratings, driving the media too to use them uncritically. For example, The
Washington Post has used the ratings by FH to contextualize the political rhetoric
76
of the Bush administration on the democratization of Middle East.49 All this
confirms that the indexes by FH are now used indiscriminately as a yardstick for
the measurement of democracy.
Even at a scientific level, despite considerable criticism of its
methodology, the index is used by many authors,50 which deal with rather diverse
issues, often not directly related to the specific problem of measuring democracy.
In all these studies, the index by FH is presented as a background, a fact on which
to argue and articulate speeches, conduct research, support interpretive
assumptions.
The authoritativeness of FH, however, receives its seal from the United
Nations51 and the World Bank’s52 use of its ratings. Indeed, in the 2002 annual
report by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the main UN’s
global development network, specifically dedicated to democracy, after having
solemnly affirmed that ‘for politics and political institutions to promote human
development and safeguard the freedom and dignity of all people, democracy
must widen and deepen’,53 one can find in the methodological appendix to the
first chapter a different definition of democracy, based on 5 indicators, 3 of them
using FH as the source.54 Similarly, the World Bank places the FH scales among
the privileged sources for the construction of its instrument for measuring good
governance.55
The impact of FH has international reach, as seen with its involvement in
global initiatives. Furthermore, given the FH ratings’ assumed authority and
credibility, it is cited in several publications. As such, the function of FH as the
democracy global pattern-setter has been clearly outlined. Next, in order to
understand what today’s international discourse on democracy is based on, we
need to analyse the checklists FH uses to measure the state of democracy in the
world.
The ‘checklists’ of democracy
The descriptive framework
The FH instrument is based on two checklists to measure political rights
and civil liberties. They were conceived by Gastil in the early 1970s in order to
compare the variation in the levels of freedom in the world. Over the years,
however, although the comparison continues to use the word freedom, ‘its author
understood that the survey was essentially a survey of democracy’.56 Freedom is
conceived by FH essentially as an individual requirement (‘freedom as
experienced by individuals’) and is defined as ‘the opportunity to act
spontaneously in a variety of fields outside the control of the government and
other centers of potential domination’.57 According to FH an electoral democracy
includes: 1) a competitive, multiparty political system, 2) universal adult suffrage
for all citizens, 3) regular, secret, competitive and free elections, 4) significant
public access of major political parties to the electorate through the media and
through generally open political campaigning. This definition is narrower than
Dahl’s one for polyarchy.58 The minimum criterion required by FH to classify a
state as a ‘democracy’, that is an
77
‘electoral democracy’, is highly unsatisfactory on a theoretical and
normative level. In fact,
‘electoral democracy merely entails that the election of the ruling elite be based on
the formal, universal right to vote, such that elections are general, free and regular.
In general, fair and correct execution of elections is difficult to determine
empirically. Although these factors are highly disputed in many of the electoral
democracies, Freedom House does not take this problem into account in its large
country sample’.59
In the definition of FH the formal-procedural aspects of democracy are
emphasized, conceiving of freedom exclusively in the negative form (as freedom
from) and critically considering any form of government interference or
intervention.
While conceiving the checklists, Gastil stated that their ‘categories are
developed not so much out of any theoretical understanding of democracy as from
the experience that these were headings under which information relevant to the
rating system has most often been available’,60 thus running into one of the most
important methodological (but also political and ideological) problems: data-
driven research, i.e. research driven only by the data available to the researcher.
The checklists by Gastil remained more or less unchanged while he dealt
first-hand with the ratings: the few amendments were incremental and mostly
related to the availability of new information, but they did not alter the
methodological framework. Moreover, we still have to emphasize that, while in
the last version of FH’s scale the analyst should assign a score (0-4) as a response
to each question of the lists, Gastil resolutely refused this solution: ‘the deeper
reason for avoiding numerical grading of subfactors is that every aspect we might
wish to grade has a slightly different meaning within different countries’.61
In his analysis, therefore, he preferred to consider the contextual, political
and cultural variables, thus relying primarily on the subjectivity, the sensitivity
(but also the arbitrariness) of the researcher. When in the early 1990s a team of
experts was entrusted the task of preparing the annual report, this approach was
changed. In order to stem an analyst’s subjectivist bias more objective criteria
were introduced and summarized in a score. But, as we will see, the main
framework of the checklists created by Gastil, despite some substantial changes,
has remained unaltered in its logical structure. Therefore, the current
measurements are still based on the logical schema conceived by Gastil in the
1970s. The checklists will be analysed both in their content (indicators, value
dimensions, underlying key concepts) and in their evolution through time, to
highlight the changes that have occurred over time.
In order to do this, they were taken at different times: in 1990, when Gastil
was preparing the report, in 1993, when the report was assigned to a team of
experts, in 2002 and 2003, the years immediately following the attacks of 11
September and the years 2005 and 2006, when the latest changes were made.62 A
broad look at both the checklists allows some preliminary considerations: the
number of
78
questions has remained more or less unchanged over time (11-10-10-12-12-12 for
political rights and 14-13 -14-15-15-15 for civil liberties), the structuring of the
lists was first transformed into a series of questions (1993) and then each of them
subdivided into more specific sub-categories.
They are for political rights: a) Electoral Process, b) Political Pluralism
and Participation, c) Functioning of Government; and for civil liberties: d)
Freedom of Expression and Belief, e) Associational and Organizational Rights, f)
Rule of Law, g) Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights. In 1993, two
additional discretionary questions were introduced into the political rights
checklist. The first question was about the level of political freedom in traditional
monarchies and the second question was about the government’s respect for the
ethnic composition of a country.
There are several factors and trends in the checklists that confirm the
hypothesis that neoliberalism has affected the evolution over time of the FH
instrument for measuring democracy, including:
(1) Centrality of the value of liberty.
(2) Centrality of civil and political rights to the detriment of socio-economic
rights.
(3) Tendency to the formal rather than substantive acknowledgement of rights.
(4) Declination of freedom mainly in negative terms (freedom from), especially
referring to government intervention, and to individual (rather than social)
protection, above all in the market sphere (protection of private property and
free enterprise rather than public goods).
(5) Gradual vanishing or lack of relevance of the value of equality.
The analytical framework
Regarding the first two points, they are already confirmed by the general
theory of the instrument, which was created as a freedom gauge and aims to
assess the state of political rights and civil liberties in the world. However it is
interesting to note from the lists (Tables 1 and 2) how this focus has not only
increased over time but has also been increasingly associated with the decline of
other dimensions of democracy.
One can see the shift from substantive to formal acknowledgement of
rights both in the political rights (PR) and in the civil liberties (CL) checklists. In
the PR checklists the items of the ‘Electoral Process’ have remained essentially
unchanged over time, apart from question no. 3, that has been simplified in 2006
and thus is less specific, and no. 4 in Gastil’s list, about the fair reflection of voter
preferences in distribution of power, which was first erased in 1993, then
presented again (amended) in 2002 and finally removed in 2003. The ‘Political
Pluralism and Participation’ category, which has remained essentially unchanged
in both the number of questions (4) and in their content, however has undergone
some important deletions. In the item no. 5 things have gone from
79
Table 1. Comparison between the political rights checklists used by Freedom House in 1990, 1993, 2002, 2003, 2005 and 2006.
1990, GASTIL 1993 2002 2003 2005 2006
A. ELECTORAL PROCESS A. ELECTORAL PROCESS A. ELECTORAL PROCESS
1. Chief authority recently
elected by a meaningful process 1. Is the head of state and/or head of
government or other chief authority
elected through free and fair elections?
1. Is the head of state and/or head of
government or other chief authority
elected through free and fair elections?
1A. Is the head of state and/or head of
government or other chief authority
elected through free and fair elections?
1A. Is the head of state and/or head of
government or other chief authority
elected through free and fair elections?
1A. Is the head of government or other
chief national authority elected through
free and fair elections?
2. Legislature recently elected
by a meaningful process 2. Are the legislative representatives
elected through free and fair elections? 2. Are the legislative representatives
elected through free and fair elections? 2A. Are the legislative representatives
elected through free and fair elections? 2A. Are the legislative representatives
elected through free and fair elections? 2A. Are the national legislative
representatives elected through free and
fair elections?
3. Fair election laws,
campaigning opportunity,
polling and tabulation
3. Are there fair electoral laws, equal
campaigning opportunities, fair polling
and honest tabulation of ballots?
3. Are there fair electoral laws, equal
campaigning opportunities, fair polling,
and honest tabulation of ballots?
3A. Are there fair electoral laws, equal
campaigning opportunities, fair polling,
and honest tabulation of ballots?
3A. Are there fair electoral laws, equal
campaigning opportunities, fair polling,
and honest tabulation of ballots?
3A. Are the electoral laws and
framework fair?
4. Fair reflection of voter
preference in distribution of
power parliament, for example,
has effective power
4. Are the voters able to endow their
freely elected representatives with real
power?
B. POLITICAL PLURALISM AND
PARTICIPATION B. POLITICAL PLURALISM AND
PARTICIPATION B. POLITICAL PLURALISM AND
PARTICIPATION
5. Multiple political parties
- only dominant party allowed
effective opportunity - open to
rise and fall of competing parties
5. Do the people organize freely in
different political parties or other
competitive political groupings of their
choice, and is the system open to the rise
and fall of these competing parties or
groupings?
5. Do the people have the right to
organize in different political parties or
other competitive political groupings of
their choice, and is the system open to
the rise and fall of these competing
parties or groupings?
1B. Do the people have the right to
organize in different political parties or
other competitive political groupings of
their choice, and is the system open to
the rise and fall of these competing
parties or groupings?
1B. Do the people have the right to
organize in different political parties or
other competitive political groupings of
their choice, and is the system open to
the rise and fall of these competing
parties or groupings?
1B. Do the people have the right to
organize in different political parties or
other competitive political groupings of
their choice, and is the system open to
the rise and fall of these competing
parties or groupings?
7. Significant opposition vote 6. Is there a significant opposition vote,
de facto opposition power, and a realistic
possibility for the opposition to increase
its support or gain power through
elections?
6. Is there a significant opposition vote,
de facto opposition power, and a realistic
possibility for the opposition to increase
its support or gain power through
elections?
2B. Is there a significant opposition vote,
de facto opposition power, and a realistic
possibility for the opposition to increase
its support or gain power through
elections?
2B. Is there a significant opposition vote,
de facto opposition power, and a realistic
possibility for the opposition to increase
its support or gain power through
elections?
2B. Is there a significant opposition vote
and a realistic possibility for the
opposition to increase its support or gain
power through elections?
11. Informal consensus; de facto
opposition power
8. Free of military or foreign
control
7. Does the country have the right of self-
determination, and are its citizens free
from domination by the military, foreign
powers, totalitarian parties, religious
hierarchies, economic oligarchies or any
other powerful group?
7. Are the people free from domination
by the military, foreign powers,
totalitarian parties, religious hierarchies,
economic oligarchies, or any other
powerful group?
3B. Are the people’s political choices
free from domination by the military,
foreign powers, totalitarian parties,
religious hierarchies, economic
oligarchies, or any other powerful group?
3B. Are the people’s political choices
free from domination by the military,
foreign powers, totalitarian parties,
religious hierarchies, economic
oligarchies, or any other powerful group?
3B. Are the people’s political choices
free from domination by the military,
foreign powers, totalitarian parties,
religious hierarchies, economic
oligarchies, or any other powerful group?
9. Major group or groups denied
reasonable self-determination 8. Do cultural, ethnic, religious and other
minority groups have reasonable self-
determination, self-government,
autonomy or participation through
informal consensus in the decision-
making process?
8. Do cultural, ethnic, religious, and
other minority groups have reasonable
self-determination, self-government,
autonomy, or participation through
informal consensus in the decision-
making process?
4B. Do cultural, ethnic, religious, and
other minority groups have reasonable
self-determination, self-government,
autonomy, or participation through
informal consensus in the decision-
making process?
4B. Do cultural, ethnic, religious, and
other minority groups have reasonable
self-determination, self-government,
autonomy, or participation through
informal consensus in the decision-
making process?
4B. Do cultural, ethnic, religious, or
other minority groups have full political
rights and electoral opportunities?
C. FUNCTIONING OF GOVERNMENT C. FUNCTIONING OF GOVERNMENT C. FUNCTIONING OF GOVERNMENT
10. Decentralized political
power 9. Is political power decentralized,
allowing for local, regional and/or
provincial or state administrations led by
their freely elected officials? (For entities
such as tiny island nations, the absence
of a decentralized system does not
necessarily count as a negative in the
80
Survey.)
1C. Do freely elected representatives
determine the policies of the
government?
1C. Do freely elected representatives
determine the policies of the
government?
1C. Do the freely elected head of
government and national legislative
representatives determine the policies of
the government?
2C. Is the government free from
pervasive corruption? 2C. Is the government free from
pervasive corruption? 2C. Is the government free from
pervasive corruption?
3C. Is the government accountable to
the electorate between elections, and
does it operate with openness and
transparency?
3C. Is the government accountable to the
electorate between elections, and does it
operate with openness and transparency?
3C. Is the government accountable to the
electorate between elections, and does it
operate with openness and transparency?
6. Recent shift in power through
elections
ADDITIONAL DISCRETIONARY
POLITICAL RIGHTS QUESTIONS A
DDITIONAL DISCRETIONARY
POLITICAL RIGHTS QUESTIONS ADDITIONAL DISCRETIONARY
POLITICAL RIGHTS QUESTIONS ADDITIONAL DISCRETIONARY
POLITICAL RIGHTS QUESTIONS
A. For traditional monarchies that
have no parties or electoral process,
does the system provide for
consultation with the people,
encourage discussion of policy, and
allow the right to petition the ruler?
A. For traditional monarchies that have
no parties or electoral process, does the
system provide for consultation with the
people, encourage discussion of policy,
and allow the right to petition the ruler?
A. For traditional monarchies that have
no parties or electoral process, does the
system provide for consultation with the
people, encourage discussion of policy,
and allow the right to petition the ruler?
A. For traditional monarchies that have
no parties or electoral process, does the
system provide for consultation with the
people, encourage discussion of policy,
and allow the right to petition the ruler?
1. For traditional monarchies that have
no parties or electoral process, does the
system provide for genuine, meaningful
consultation with the people, encourage
public discussion of policy choices, and
allow the right to petition the ruler?
B. Is the government or occupying
power deliberately changing the ethnic
composition of a country or territory
so as to destroy a culture or tip the
political balance in favor of another
group? (Note: This question appears
for the first time in the 1992-93
Survey.)
B. Is the government or occupying power
deliberately changing the ethnic
composition of a country or territory so
as to destroy a culture or tip the political
balance in favor of another group?
B. Is the government or occupying power
deliberately changing the ethnic
composition of a country or territory so
as to destroy a culture or tip the political
balance in favor of another group?
B. Is the government or occupying power
deliberately changing the ethnic
composition of a country or territory so
as to destroy a culture or tip the political
balance in favor of another group?
2. Is the government or occupying power
deliberately changing the ethnic
composition of a country or territory so
as to destroy a culture or tip the political
balance in favor of another group?
Source: Raymond D. Gastil, ‘The Comparative Survey of Freedom: Experiences and Suggestions’. Studies in International Comparative Development
25, no. 1 (1990): 25-50; Joseph E. Ryan, ‘The Comparative Survey of Freedom 1992-1993. Survey Methodology’, in Freedom in the world: The
annual survey of political rights and civil liberties, 1992-1993, ed. Bruce R. McColm, 71-8 (New York: Freedom House, 1993);
www.freedomhouse.org/template.cfm?page=35&year=2002; www.freedomhouse.org/template.cfm?page=35&year=2003;
www.freedomhouse.org/template.cfm?page=35&year=2005; www.freedomhouse.org/template.cfm?page=35&year=2006.
Label to Table 1:
On a black background: questions or parts of questions deleted in later versions.
In bold: questions or parts of questions new with reference to previous year version.
81
Table 2. Comparison between the civil liberties checklists used by Freedom House in 1990, 1993, 2002, 2003, 2005 and 2006.
1990, GASTIL 1993 2002 2003 2005 2006
A. FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION
AND BELIEF A. FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION
AND BELIEF D. FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION
AND BELIEF D. FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION
AND BELIEF
1. Media/literature free of
political censorship
a. Press independent of
government
b. Broadcasting independent of
government
1. Are there free and independent media,
literature and other cultural expressions?
(Note: in cases where the media are state-
controlled but offer pluralistic points of
view, the Survey gives the system credit.)
1A. Are there free and independent
media and other forms of cultural
expression? (Note: in cases where the
media are state-controlled but offer
pluralistic points of view, the Survey
gives the system credit.)
1A. Are there free and independent
media and other forms of cultural
expression? (Note: in cases where the
media are state-controlled but offer
pluralistic points of view, the survey
gives the system credit.)
1D. Are there free and independent
media and other forms of cultural
expression? (Note: in cases where the
media are state-controlled but offer
pluralistic points of view, the survey
gives the system credit.)
1D. Are there free and independent
media and other forms of cultural
expression? (Note: In cases where the
media are state-controlled but offer
pluralistic points of view, the survey
gives the system credit.)
10. Free religious institutions
10. Are there free religious institutions
and free private and public religious
expressions?
2A. Are there free religious institutions
and is there free private and public
religious expression?
2A. Are there free religious institutions,
and is there free private and public
religious expression?
2D. Are there free religious institutions,
and is there free private and public
religious expression?
2D. Are religious institutions and
communities free to practice their faith
and express themselves in public and
private?
3A. Is there academic freedom, and is
the educational system free of
extensive political indoctrination?
3D. Is there academic freedom, and is the
educational system free of extensive
political indoctrination?
3D. Is there academic freedom and is the
educational system free of extensive
political indoctrination?
2. Open public discussion 2. Is there open public discussion and
free private discussion? 1D. Is there open and free private
discussion? 4A. Is there open and free private
discussion? 4D. Is there open and free private
discussion? 4D. Is there open and free private
discussion?
B. ASSOCIATION AND
ORGANIZATIONAL RIGHTS B. ASSOCIATIONAL AND
ORGANIZATIONAL RIGHTS E. ASSOCIATIONAL AND
ORGANIZATIONAL RIGHTS E. ASSOCIATIONAL AND
ORGANIZATIONAL RIGHTS
3. Freedom of assembly and
demonstration 3. Is there freedom of assembly and
demonstration? 1B. Is there freedom of assembly,
demonstration, and open public
discussion?
1B. Is there freedom of assembly,
demonstration, and open public
discussion?
1E. Is there freedom of assembly,
demonstration, and open public
discussion?
1E. Is there freedom of assembly,
demonstration, and open public
discussion?
4. Freedom of political or
quasipolitical organization
4. Is there freedom of political or quasi-
political organization? (Note: This
includes political parties, civic
associations, ad hoc issue groups and so
forth.)
2B. Is there freedom of political or quasi-
political organization? (Note: this
includes political parties, civic
organizations, ad hoc issue groups, etc.)
2B. Is there freedom of political or quasi-
political organization? (Note: this
includes political parties, civic
organizations, ad hoc issue groups, etc.)
2E. Is there freedom of political or quasi-
political organization? (Note: this
includes political parties, civic
organizations, ad hoc issue groups, etc.)
2E. Is there freedom for
nongovernmental organizations?
(Note: This includes civic organizations,
interest groups, foundations, etc.)
7. Free trade unions, peasant
organizations, or equivalents 7. Are there free trade unions and peasant
organizations or equivalents? 3B. Are there free trade unions and
peasant organizations or equivalents, and
is there effective collective bargaining?
Are there free professional and other
private organizations?
3B. Are there free trade unions and
peasant organizations or equivalents, and
is there effective collective bargaining?
Are there free professional and other
private organizations?
3E. Are there free trade unions and
peasant organizations or equivalents, and
is there effective collective bargaining?
Are there free professional and other
private organizations?
3E. Are there free trade unions and
peasant organizations or equivalents, and
is there effective collective bargaining?
Are there free professional and other
private organizations?
9. Free professional or other
private organizations 8. Are there free professional and other
private organizations?
C. RULE OF LAW AND HUMAN
RIGHTS C. RULE OF LAW
F. RULE OF LAW F. RULE OF LAW
5. Nondiscriminatory rule of law
in politically relevant cases
a. independent judiciary
b. security forces respect
individuals
5. Are citizens equal under the law, do
they have access to an independent,
nondiscriminatory judiciary, and are they
respected by the security forces?
1C. Is there an independent judiciary? 1C. Is there an independent judiciary? 1F. Is there an independent judiciary? 1F. Is there an independent judiciary?
2C. Does the rule of law prevail in civil
and criminal matters? Is the
population treated equally under the
law? Are police under direct civilian
control?
4C. Is the population treated equally
under the law? 4F. Is the population treated equally
under the law? 4F. Do laws, policies, and practices
guarantee equal treatment of various
segments of the population?
2C. Does the rule of law prevail in civil
and criminal matters? Are police under
direct civilian control?
2F. Does the rule of law prevail in civil
and criminal matters? Are police under
direct civilian control?
2F. Does the rule of law prevail in civil
and criminal matters? Are police under
direct civilian control?
6. Free from unjustified political
terror or imprisonment 6. Is there protection from unjustified
political terror, imprisonment, exile or 3C. Is there protection from political
terror, unjustified imprisonment, exile, 3C. Is there protection from police terror,
unjustified imprisonment, exile, or 3F. Is there protection from police terror,
unjustified imprisonment, exile, or 3F. Is there protection from political
terror, unjustified imprisonment, exile, or
82
a. free from imprisonment or
exile for reasons of conscience
b. free from torture
c. free from terror by groups not
opposed to the system
d. free from government-
organized terror
torture, whether by groups that support or
oppose the system, and freedom from
war or insurgency situations? (Note:
Freedom from war and insurgency
situations enhances the liberties in a free
society, but the absence of wars and
insurgencies does not in itself make an
unfree society free.)
or torture, whether by groups that support
or oppose the system? Is there freedom
from war and insurgencies? (Note:
freedom from war and insurgencies
enhances the liberties in a free society,
but the absence of wars and insurgencies
does not in and of itself make a not free
society free.)
torture, whether by groups that support or
oppose the system? Is there freedom
from war and insurgencies?
torture, whether by groups that support or
oppose the system? Is there freedom
from war and insurgencies?
torture, whether by groups that support or
oppose the system? Is there freedom
from war and insurgencies?
D. PERSONAL AUTONOMY AND
ECONOMIC RIGHTS D. PERSONAL AUTONOMY AND
INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS G. PERSONAL AUTONOMY AND
INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS G. PERSONAL AUTONOMY AND
INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS
2D. Is there personal autonomy? Does
the state control travel, choice of
residence, or choice of employment? Is
there freedom from indoctrination and
excessive dependency on the state?
1D. Is there personal autonomy? Does
the state control travel, choice of
residence, or choice of employment? Is
there freedom from indoctrination and
excessive dependency on the state?
1G. Is there personal autonomy? Does
the state control travel, choice of
residence, or choice of employment? Is
there freedom from indoctrination and
excessive dependency on the state?
1G. Does the state control travel or
choice of residence, employment, or
institution of higher education?
8. Free businesses or
cooperatives
9. Are there free businesses or
cooperatives?
3D. Are property rights secure? Do
citizens have the right to establish
private businesses? Is private business
activity unduly influenced by
government officials, the security
forces, or organized crime?
2D. Do citizens have the right to own
property and establish private
businesses? Is private business activity
unduly influenced by government
officials, the security forces, or organized
crime?
2G. Do citizens have the right to own
property and establish private
businesses? Is private business activity
unduly influenced by government
officials, the security forces, or organized
crime?
2G. Do citizens have the right to own
property and establish private
businesses? Is private business activity
unduly influenced by government
officials, the security forces, political
parties/organizations, or organized
crime?
11. Personal social rights:
including those to property,
internal and external travel,
choice of residence, marriage
and family
11. Are there personal social freedoms,
which include such aspects as gender
equality, property rights, freedom of
movement, choice of residence, and
choice of marriage and size of family?
4D. Are there personal social freedoms,
including gender equality, choice of
marriage partners, and size of family?
3D. Are there personal social freedoms,
including gender equality, choice of
marriage partners, and size of family?
3G. Are there personal social freedoms,
including gender equality, choice of
marriage partners, and size of family?
3G. Are there personal social freedoms,
including gender equality, choice of
marriage partners, and size of family?
12. Socioeconomic rights:
including freedom from
dependency on landlords,
bosses, union leaders, or
bureaucrats
12. Is there equality of opportunity,
which includes freedom from
exploitation by or dependency on
landlords, employers, union leaders,
bureaucrats or any other type of
denigrating obstacle to share of
legitimate economic gains?
5D. Is there equality of opportunity,
including freedom from exploitation by
or dependency on landlords, employers,
union leaders, bureaucrats, or other types
of obstacles to a share of legitimate
economic gains?
4D. Is there equality of opportunity and
the absence of economic exploitation? 4G. Is there equality of opportunity and
the absence of economic exploitation? 4G. Is there equality of opportunity and
the absence of economic exploitation?
13. Freedom from gross
socioeconomic inequality
14. Freedom from gross
government indifference or
corruption
13. Is there freedom from extreme
government indifference and corruption? 4C. Is there freedom from extreme
government indifference and corruption?
Source: Raymond D. Gastil, ‘The Comparative Survey of Freedom: Experiences and Suggestions’. Studies in International Comparative Development
25, no. 1 (1990): 25-50; Joseph E. Ryan, ‘The Comparative Survey of Freedom 1992-1993. Survey Methodology’, in Freedom in the world: The
annual survey of political rights and civil liberties, 1992-1993, ed. Bruce R. McColm, 71-8 (New York: Freedom House, 1993);
www.freedomhouse.org/template.cfm?page=35&year=2002; www.freedomhouse.org/template.cfm?page=35&year=2003;
www.freedomhouse.org/template.cfm?page=35&year=2005; www.freedomhouse.org/template.cfm?page=35&year=2006.
Label to Table 2:
On a black background: questions or parts of questions deleted in later versions. In bold: questions or parts of questions new with reference to previous
year version. In italics: questions belonging to other sections of the checklist (as indicated by the letter next to the number), compared to those in which
I placed for greater clarity.
87
the check of a substantive right (1993: ‘People are free to organize in different
political parties...’) to the verification of a formal right (2002: ‘People have the
right to organize in different political parties...’); in item no. 6 the expression
‘power of de facto opposition’ has been erased since 2006; in item no. 7 the right
to self-determination of countries disappears, while ‘citizens free from
domination’ (1993) becomes ‘peoples free from domination’ (2002) and ‘people’s
political choices free from domination’ (2003); item no. 8 underwent a
simplification in 2006 when the reference to the right to self-determination of
ethnic, cultural, religious and other minority groups was dropped, and substituted
by a more general ‘full political rights and electoral opportunities’.
The ‘Functioning of Government’ category has undergone the most
changes over time. Gastil’s item on ‘recent shifts in power through elections’ has
been erased, as well as, in 2002, the item on the decentralization of power. In their
place there are three new items including: 1) the power of elected representatives,
2) the absence of government corruption, 3) the government’s electoral
accountability, openness and transparency. Notably until 2002 the lack of
government corruption was part of civil liberties, while from 2003 it became an
indicator of political rights. Finally, compared to the original structure developed
by Gastil, two new discretionary questions related to specific cases were added.
The CL checklist retained the items relating to ‘personal social freedoms,
including gender equality’ (CL no. 11), and the item: ‘equality of opportunity and
the absence of economic exploitation’ (CL no. 12), although with many
simplifications in the latest versions.
From this analysis it is possible to draw a trend in the composition of the
checklists toward a progressive simplification and generalization of some issues
(PR no. 3 and 8, CL no. 11 and 12), the deletion of important, but perhaps
controversial, issues (PR items no. 4 and 6 by Gastil and no. 7 and 9), with a
definition of political rights which is increasingly characterized by the verification
of their formal presence (PR item no. 5) and a greater emphasis on procedural
aspects of democracy (PR items no. 1, 2, and 3 of 2005 related to the ‘Functioning
of Government’).
The definition of freedom mainly referred to the private and economic
sphere and the negative role of public power and government is visible above all
in the civil liberties (CL) checklists. In the 2003 CL checklist a question about the
academic and education system’s freedom from ‘extensive political
indoctrination’ was introduced. The issue of the ‘indoctrination and excessive
dependency on the state’ is present in the ‘Personal Autonomy and Individual
Rights’ category (until 2002 named ‘Personal Autonomy and Economic Rights’);
it is in 2003 item no. 1 in this section, however it was removed in 2006. It is the
same thing for ‘personal autonomy’: it is present until 2005, and deleted in 2006.
In 2002 a limit to unduly influence by government officials, the security forces,
organized crime and, since 2006, political parties/organizations in private business
activity, was added (CL no. 9). The role of political organizations changes also in
the section on ‘Associational and Organizational Rights’. Here the item on the
‘freedom of political or
88
quasi-political organizations’ (CL no. 2, 2005) was substituted in 2006 by the
freedom of non-governmental organizations: the focus moves from political
parties to foundations and interest groups, from the protection of public or quasi-
public groups to the protection of private interest groups.
With regard to the civil liberties (CL) checklists, many items on freedom
have changed over time. In 1993 literary freedom was deleted from item no. 1 on
the freedom and independence of the media. The item on religious freedom in
2006 underwent a seemingly minor change, but with rather significant
consequences. Up until 2005 it referred not only to the freedom of religious
institutions, but also to the ‘free private and public religious expression’.
However, beginning in 2006 ‘religious communities’ was introduced as the
subject of this free public and private expression, thus defining explicitly freedom
of religion as a community right rather than as an individual right.
From 2002, the CL item no. 2 (‘Is there open public discussion and free
private discussion?’) was split into two parts: the reference to ‘free and open
private discussion’ is inserted in the ‘Personal Autonomy and Economic Rights’
category, while the ‘public discussion’ is located in the ‘Associational and
Organizational Rights’ (no. 1, 2002). From 2003 onwards, the reference to ‘free
and open private discussion’ was repositioned in the ‘Freedom of Expression and
Belief’ category. Since 2002, a general principle of prevailing rule of law in civil
and criminal matters and the civilian control over police have been introduced.
It is also very interesting to note the continuing amending of the CL item
no. 6 relating to the protection from ‘unjustified political terror’ (1993), which
became the protection from ‘political terror’ (2002), ‘police terror’ (2003 and
2005), and finally returned to protection from ‘political terror’ (2006). The only
depiction of freedom is as freedom from rather than freedom to. The main
criterion-grid of the checklist is to limit the intrusion, interference and control of
public (state, government) in the freedom of individuals (citizens, organizations,
businesses).
As for the decline of the value of equality, there is the deletion of Gastil’s
CL item no. 13 on ‘freedom from gross socioeconomic inequality’: this is a
requirement peculiar to a substantive democracy that would in fact have a
negative influence on the principle of free business governed only by ‘market
law’. Accordingly there is the deletion of CL item no. 9 on the presence of ‘free
businesses or cooperative’, which was replaced in the 2002 list by the citizens’
right to establish private business: any reference to cooperatives vanished. Only in
2003 (CL no. 3), is there a reference to the presence of effective collective
bargaining. Specifically, the core of the checklist is the protection of ‘property
rights’, which seems to be taken for granted in 2002 (the question is: ‘Are
property rights secure?’), and becomes more explicit in 2003 (‘Do citizens have
the right to own property?’). Note, incidentally, that the item does not make any
distinction between the subjects that are potentially able to influence private
business activity: according to this indicator, government officials, security forces
and organized crime have the same functional role. The guiding principle is the
protection of free private business against any form of interference.
89
Finally, the section first named ‘Rule of Law and Human Rights’ (2002)
and then just ‘Rule of Law’ (2003) aims to investigate the general respect for the
rule of law, independence of judiciary and equality before the law. This formal
equality is first referred to ‘citizens’ (no. 5, 1993), then to ‘population’ (2002,
2003 and 2005), and then to ‘various segments of the population’ (2006).
Neoliberalism and Freedom House: concluding remarks
Despite numerous methodological flaws, the dominance of the FH instrument can
be attributed to the historical and political context in which it has been developed.
Among the reasons for its growing authority, we find that the concept of freedom
has been redefined by the rise of neoliberalism. In addition, the idea (and the
ideal) of equality symbolically collapsed in 1989. We also find a perfect
coincidence between FH changes and the strategies of US foreign policy
implemented in 1990s, and above all after 11 September 2001 by the Bush
administration, to spread freedom and export democracy.
These political and ideological issues have affected also the checklists to
measure democracy, so that methodological and political aspects are strictly
interconnected and can only be separated theoretically. The diachronic
comparison of the checklists of political rights and civil liberties shows the
possibility of a dual key reading. On the one hand, a substantial continuity and
persistence of the structure of the two checklists, remained broadly unchanged
over more than thirty years; on the other hand, a shift in the structure of the
instrument tending to accentuate the formal and procedural dimension of
democracy, simplifying complex issues with a rather general wording of
questions, and especially emphasizing the protection of private and business
freedom to the detriment of the role of public institutions.
The changes are justified by FH with the need to reword some questions
slightly or move them within each checklist to provide greater clarity and to adapt
them to evolving ideas about political rights and civil liberties.63 Perhaps it is
precisely to cope with the difficulties that this generalization has brought to the
team of experts in the evaluation process, that since 2006 more specific questions,
serving as guidelines for the evaluator, have been included for each item.64
Regarding the verification of factors and trends in some way linked to
neoliberal ideology, we can highlight the following:
(1) FH’s scales are an instrument for measuring freedom; in FH’s view, freedom
is fully equivalent to democracy.
(2) Freedom is defined almost always in a negative way, with particular reference
to the role of the state, accused of undue intervention, indoctrination, and even
equated with criminal organizations as obstacle to private economic activity
(CL items no. 1G and 2G, 2005), as well as the protection of the freedom of
public or quasi-public associations and political parties is being replaced by
the protection of foundations and interest groups; since 2006
90
political parties are part of those factors that unduly influence private business
activity (CL item no. 2G, 2006).
(3) In the checklists there is a tendency to consider and evaluate only the
existence of formal rights and not substantive rights. See, for example, as
regards political rights, the transition from ‘Do the people organize’ to ‘Do the
people have the right to organize’, as well as the deletion, since 2006, of the
reference to the ‘de facto opposition power’. In the civil liberties checklist the
simplification of the item on equality of opportunity (12) is symbolic, since
2003 it has been connected only to the absence of economic exploitation,
without indicating, as it did until previous year, the subjects potentially
capable of such exploitation.
(4) The freedom of individuals declines in a distorted way: since 2005 the
reference to personal autonomy vanishes, but also the right to religious
freedom, an individual right until 2005, becomes a community right since
2006; the individual has to be free above all to take a private business activity.
On this point, the tendency is opposed by the deletion of reference to
cooperatives (since 2002) and the strong protection of free economic initiative
and private property right.
(5) Socio-economic rights, the basis of substantial equality, are present only in the
original version by Gastil (CL no. 13); they reappear at least in part as Section
in 2002 (‘Personal Autonomy and Economic Rights’), and finally vanish
entirely in 2003 (in which the section is renamed ‘Personal Autonomy and
Individual Rights’); the two checklists, moreover, are explicitly designed to
measure the spread of political and civil rights, those rights at the heart of
liberal democracy.
In short, anywhere one looks, FH’s scale has huge gaps. In any event the
prevalent utilization of the index continues as a source of data on democratization
by journalists, essayists, scholars, politicians, international organizations, non-
governmental organizations, and representatives of governments. This feat is no
doubt exacerbated by the free online availability of data, and the fact that they are
expressed in numerical form or in simple labels which are easily usable in terms
of political rhetoric.
Underlining FH’s methodological shortcomings, Merkel states that the
‘Freedom House data are sufficient for trend reports and the development of first
hypotheses, but for in-depth comparative analyses with a small sample, they are
not refined enough’.65 However, this study shows that because of the changes in
methodology over time and the strict interconnection between methodological and
political aspects, the FH data do not offer an unbroken and politically neutral time
series, such that they should not be used for cross-time analyses even for the
development of first hypotheses. The internal consistency of the data series is
open to question. Another risk is that even scholars openly critical of
neoliberalism come to unknowingly endorse its political thought, since the use of
the scales of FH is equivalent to an implicit acceptance of their
91
political-ideological background. As we have tried to demonstrate, there are, in
fact, many points of connection between the neoliberal political thought and the
direction of change that the checklists have been subject over the last twenty
years. The neoliberal ideology shaped a new commonsense of public-private,
individuals and society, and politics and economy relations. This has had
enormous consequences on the interpretation of the model of liberal democracy,
as well as on structuring its measurement tools. These were affected by the
political climate within which they were developed. With its ability to be a
paradigmatic vision, neoliberalism has innervated the theoretical structure of FH’s
measurement instrument, in which the strong attention given to the dimension of
freedom is reflected by an almost complete disregard for the dimension of
equality, with the emphasis on the formal and procedural aspects of democracy to
the detriment of the substantive ones and a strong interest in the protection of
individuals as private economic actors.
Therefore, beyond the methodological and political-ideological issues, the
function of this instrument for measuring democracy is also to legitimize
‘scientifically’ the (neo)liberal democracy model for which it was developed,
providing a kind of impartial support to its advocates. Based on specific
methodology and indicators, FH places countries in rankings of democracy, which
generate, at a structural level, a profound impact on international relations,
humanitarian policies, development aid, and foreign policy of governments, while
at the individual level they produce an interpretive grid that defines the field of
human rights considered due.
FH’s index’s success, in terms of duration, can be explained at least in part by its
inextricable interweaving with the basic theoretical paradigm that has generated it:
as long as the latter will remain dominant and will have the ability to reproduce
itself, it is unlikely other measurement instruments will supplant (or at least
compete with) it as for distribution, authority and use.
92
References
Adcock, Robert, and David Collier. ‘Measurement Validity: A Shared Standard
for Qualitative and Quantitative Research’. The American Political
Science Review 95, no. 3 (2001): 529-46.
Beetham, David. ‘Market Economy and Democratic Polity’. Democratization 4,
no. 1 (1997): 76-93.
Bollen, Kenneth A. ‘Liberal Democracy: Validity and Method Factors in Cross-
National Measures’. American Journal of Political Science 37, no. 4
(1993): 1207-30.
Bollen, Kenneth A. ‘Political Rights and Political Liberties in Nations: an
Evaluation of Human Rights Measures, 1950 to 1984’. Human Rights
Quarterly 8, no. 4 (1986): 567-91.
Bollen, Kenneth A., and Pamela Paxton. ‘Subjective Measures of Liberal
Democracy’. Comparative Political Studies 33, no. 1 (2000): 58-86.
Brusis, Martin. ‘Assessing the State of Democracy, Market Economy and Political
Management in Southeastern Europe’. Southeast European and Black Sea
Studies 6, no. 1 (2006): 3-24.
Chomsky, Noam, and Edward S. Herman. Manufacturing Consent. The Political
Economy of the Mass-Media. New York: Pantheon Books, 1988.
Coppedge, Michael. ‘Defining and Measuring Democracy’. Working paper for the
Political Concepts. A Working Paper Series of the Committee on Concepts
and Methods, 2005, http://www.concepts-methods.org.
Crouch, Colin. Post-Democracy. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2004.
Crozier, Michel. ‘Western Europe’, in The Crisis of Democracy. Report on the
Governability of Democracies to the Trilateral Commission, ed. Michel
Crozier, Samuel P. Huntington, and Joji Watanuki (New York: New York
University Press, 1975), 11-58.
Crozier, Michel, Samuel P. Huntington, and Joji Watanuki. The Crisis of
Democracy. Report on the Governability of Democracies to the Trilateral
Commission. New York: New York University Press, 1975.
Dahl, Robert A. Polyarchy. Participation and Opposition. New Haven: Yale
University Press, 1971.
Diamond, Larry J. Developing Democracy: Toward Consolidation. Baltimore:
Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999.
Finkel, Steven E., Anìbal Pérez-Lìñán, Mitchell A. Seligson, and Dinorah Azpuru.
‘Effects of U.S. Foreign Assistance on Democracy Building: Results of a
Cross-National Quantitative Study’. Final Report, January 12, 2006.
www.usaid.gov/our_work/democracy_and_governance/publications/pdfs/i
mpact_of_democracy_assistance.pdf.
Freedom House. Annual Report. New York: Freedom House, 2000-2008.
http://www.freedomhouse.org.
Freedom House. Freedom in the world. New York: Freedom House, 2000-2008.
http://www.freedomhouse.org.
93
Gastil, Raymond D. ‘The Comparative Survey of Freedom: Experiences and
Suggestions’. Studies in International Comparative Development 25, no. 1
(1990): 25-50.
Gradstein, Mark, and Branko Milanovic. ‘Does Liberté = Egalité? A Survey of the
Empirical Links between Democracy and Inequality with Some Evidence
on the Transition Economies’. World Bank Policy Research Working
Paper no. 2875, 2002. http://econ.worldbank.org.
Gramsci, Antonio. Le opere. La prima antologia di tutti gli scritti. Edited by
Antonio A. Santucci. Rome: Editori Riuniti, 1997.
Guilhot, Nicolas. The Democracy Makers: Human Rights and the Politics of
Global Order, New York: Columbia University Press, 2005.
Hadenius, Axel, and Jan Teorell. ‘Assessing Alternative Indices of Democracy’.
Working paper for the Political Concepts. A Working Paper Series of the
Committee on Concepts and Methods, 2005. http://www.concepts-
methods.org.
Harvey, David. A Brief History of Neoliberalism, Oxford and New York: Oxford
University Press, 2005.
Harvey, David. ‘Neoliberalism as Creative Destruction’. The ANNALS of the
American Academy of Political and Social Science 610, (2007): 21-45.
Held, David. Models of Democracy. Cambridge: Polity Press, 1996.
Huntington, Samuel P. ‘The United States’, in The Crisis of Democracy. Report
on the Governability of Democracies to the Trilateral Commission, ed.
Michel Crozier, Samuel P. Huntington, and Joji Watanuki (New York:
New York University Press, 1975), 59-118.
Kaufmann, Daniel, Aart Kraay, and Massimo Mastruzzi. ‘Governance Matters V:
Aggregate and Individual Governance Indicators for 1996–2005’. World
Bank Policy Research Paper no. 4012, 2006. http://econ.worldbank.org.
Landman, Tod, and Julia Häusermann. ‘Map-Making and Analysis of the Main
International Initiatives on Developing Indicators on Democracy and Good
Governance’. Final Report, University of Essex – Human Rights Centre,
2003.
Lobe, Jim, and Adele Oliveri, eds. I nuovi rivoluzionari. Il pensiero dei
neoconservatori americani, Milan: Feltrinelli, 2003.
Mainwaring, Scott, Daniel Brinks, and Aníbal Pérez-Liñán, ‘Classifying Political
Regimes in Latin America, 1945–1999’. Studies in Comparative
International Development 36, no. 1 (2001): 37-65.
Merkel, Wolfgang. ‘Embedded and Defective Democracies’. Democratization 11,
no. 5 (2004): 33-58.
Morlino, Leonardo. ‘What Is a “Good” Democracy?’. Democratization 11, no. 5
(2004): 10-32.
Munck, Gerardo L. ‘Monitoreando la Democracia: Profundizando un Consenso
Emergente’. Revista De Ciencia Política 26, no. 1, (2006): 158-68.
Munck, Gerardo L., and Jay Verkuilen. ‘Conceptualising and Measuring
Democracy: Evaluating Alternative Indices’. Comparative Political
Studies 35, no. 1 (2002): 5-34.
94
Muravchik, Joshua. ‘Bomb Iran’. Los Angeles Times, November 19, 2006.
Paxton, Pamela. ‘Women’s Suffrage in the Measurement of Democracy:
Problems of Operationalization’. Studies in Comparative International
Development 35, no. 3 (2000): 92-111.
Polanyi, Karl. The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of
Our Time. Boston: Beacon Press, 1944.
Pritchett, Lant, and Daniel Kaufmann. ‘Civil Liberties, Democracy, and the
Performance of Government Projects’. Finance & Development, March,
1998.
Przeworski, Adam. ‘The Neoliberal Fallacy’. Journal of Democracy 3, no. 3
(1992): 45-59.
Ryan, Joseph E. ‘The Comparative Survey of Freedom 1992-1993. Survey
Methodology’, in Freedom in the world: The annual survey of political
rights and civil liberties, 1992-1993, ed. Bruce R. McColm (New York:
Freedom House, 1993).
Sartori, Giovanni. ‘Concept Misformation in Comparative Politics’. The American
Political Science Review 64, no. 4 (1970): 1033-53.
Scoble, Harry, and Laurie Wiseberg. ‘Problems of Comparative Research in
Human Rights’, in Global Human Rights: Public Policies, Comparative
Measures and NGO Strategies, ed. Ved Nanda, James Scarritt, and George
Shepherd (Boulder, CO: Westview, 1981), 147-171.
Turner, Rachel S. ‘The “Rebirth of Liberalism”: The Origins of Neo-Liberal
Ideology’. Journal of Political Ideologies 12, no. 1 (2007): 67-83.
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Governance Indicators: A
Users’ Guide. 2004. http://www.undp.org.
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Human Development Report
2002: Deepening Democracy in a Fragmented World, New York: Oxford
University Press, 2002.
Wallerstein, Immanuel. European Universalism: The Rhetoric of Power. New
York: The New Press, 2006.
1. I would like to thank the two anonymous reviewers and the editors of Democratization for their
helpful comments and suggestions.
2. Robert Adcock, and David Collier. ‘Measurement Validity: A Shared Standard for Qualitative
and Quantitative Research’. The American Political Science Review 95, no. 3 (2001):
529-46; Kenneth A. Bollen. ‘Liberal Democracy: Validity and Method Factors in Cross-
National Measures’. American Journal of Political Science 37, no. 4 (1993): 1207-30;
Martin Brusis. ‘Assessing the State of Democracy, Market Economy and Political
Management in Southeastern Europe’. Southeast European and Black Sea Studies 6, no. 1
(2006): 3-24; Michael Coppedge. ‘Defining and Measuring Democracy’. Working paper
for the Political Concepts. A Working Paper Series of the Committee on Concepts and
Methods, 2005, http://www.concepts-methods.org; Axel Hadenius, and Jan Teorell.
‘Assessing Alternative Indices of Democracy’. Working paper for the Political Concepts.
A Working Paper Series of the Committee on Concepts and Methods, 2005.
http://www.concepts-methods.org; Gerardo L. Munck, and Jay Verkuilen.
‘Conceptualising and Measuring Democracy: Evaluating Alternative Indices’.
Comparative Political Studies 35, no. 1 (2002): 5-34; and Pamela Paxton. ‘Women’s
Suffrage in the Measurement of Democracy: Problems of Operationalization’. Studies in
Comparative International Development 35, no. 3 (2000): 92-111.
95
3. Landman and Häusermann, ‘Map-making’.
4. Sartori, ‘Concept Misformation’, 1035.
5. Diamond, Developing Democracy, 12.
6. Landman and Häusermann, (note 3), 10.
7. Scoble and Wiseberg, ‘Problems of Comparative Research’.
8. Hadenius and Teorell, ‘Assessing Alternative Indices’, 17.
9. Munck and Verkuilen, ‘Conceptualising and Measuring’, 21.
10. Scoble and Wiseberg, (note 7).
11. Bollen, ‘Political Rights and Political Liberties’
12. Bollen and Paxton, ‘Subjective Measures’.
13. Mainwaring et al., ‘Classifying Political Regimes’, 53-54.
14. Gastil, ‘Comparative Survey’, 26.
15. Harvey, Brief History.
16. Wallerstein, European Universalism.
17. Gramsci, Le Opere, 285, my italics and translation. The quote is taken from notebook no. 10,
part II, paragraph 12.
18. Harvey, ‘Neoliberalism as Creative’, 26.
19. Ibid., 23.
20. See http://www.trilateral.org for an updated list of members and activities of the Commission.
21. Crozier, Huntington, and Watanuki, Crisis of Democracy, 8.
22. Crozier, ‘Western Europe’, 12.
23. Ibid., 13.
24. Huntington, ‘United States’, 113-114.
25. Beetham, ‘Market Economy’.
26. Harvey, (note 15); Przeworski, ‘Neoliberal Fallacy’; and Turner, ‘Rebirth of Liberalism’.
27. Harvey, (note 18), 24. The citation of the author is from:
http://www.montpelerin.org/mpsabout.cfm.
28. Harvey, (note 15), 37.
29. Munck, ‘Monitoreando la Democracia’.
30. Crouch, Post-Democracy.
31. Bollen, (note 2), 1212.
32. This and the preceding two quotations are all from
www.freedomhouse.org/template.cfm?page=2.
33. www.freedomhouse.org/template.cfm?page=249.
34. Chomsky and Herman, Manufacturing Consent, 27.
35. www.freedomhouse.org/template.cfm?page=249.
36. www.freedomhouse.org/template.cfm?page=136 (italics added).
37. The Committee on the Present Danger defines itself as a non-partisan organization with one
goal – to stiffen American resolve to confront the challenge presented by terrorism and
the ideologies that drive it. It was a Cold War-era, anti-Soviet group, resurrected in June
2004 by a group including many neoconservatives and figures who were part of Freedom
House (Woolsey, Kampelman, Muravchik, Adelman, Palmer, and Shea), to support an
aggressive war on terror. See www.committeeonthepresentdanger.org.
38. Adelman was one of the main supporters of US intervention in Iraq until 2006, when he started
to criticize, together with Richard Perle and Joshua Muravchik, the policies adopted by
the Bush administration in this area, to the extent of supporting the democratic candidate
Barack Obama in the presidential election of 2008.
39. Muravchik is one of the most influential neo-cons. In particular, he is a staunch supporter of
the American military intervention in the Middle East; in November 2006, he wrote an
editorial on the Los Angeles Times beginning with these words: ‘We must bomb Iran’
(Muravchik, ‘Bomb Iran’).
40. ‘The influence of AEI on the policies of the [American] administration is clear in the President
Bush’s speech at the annual dinner of AEI, in February 28, 2003. Before presenting his
strategy for establishing democracy in Iraq and bring peace to the Middle East, Bush said:
“Some of the best minds of our country are working in the AEI on some of the biggest
challenges to our nation. You do so a good job that my administration has borrowed
twenty of these brains”’. Nuovi Rivoluzionari, ed. Lobe and Oliveri, 149 (my translation).
41. To be the CIA director does not involve any political-ideological conduct. However, Woolsey
is one of the signatories of a public letter of 26 January 1998 to the US President Clinton
in which, by deploring the failure of American political ‘containment’ in Iraq and the
Middle East, they were urging the adoption of a new strategy aimed at removing Saddam
96
Hussein, accused of producing chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction. The
letter also expressed concern at ‘that if Saddam does acquire the capability to deliver
weapons of mass destruction, as he is almost certain to do if we continue along the
present course, the safety of American troops in the region, of our friends and allies like
Israel and the moderate Arab states, and a significant portion of the world’s supply of oil
will all be put at hazard’. The new strategy should be focused on ‘a willingness to
undertake military action as diplomacy is clearly failing. In the long term, it means
removing Saddam Hussein and his regime from power. That now needs to become the
aim of American foreign policy’. This objective had to be achieved without too much
worry about the United Nations resolutions, because the ‘American policy cannot
continue to be crippled by a misguided insistence on unanimity in the UN Security
Council’. Among the other signatories of the letter: Kenneth Adelman, John Bolton,
Francis Fukuyama, William Kristol, Richard Perle, Donald Rumsfeld and respectively the
former and the new President of the World Bank, Paul Wolfowitz and Robert B. Zoellick.
A copy of the letter is available on the website of the Project for the New American
Century, at http://www.newamericancentury.org/iraqclintonletter.htm. Furthermore,
Woolsey is a member of CPD and Avot (Americans for Victory Over Terrorism), as well
as co-founder of the Coalition for Democracy in Iran.
42. Among others, the Center for Security Policy, The Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, The
Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, The Jewish Institute for National Security
Affairs.
43. This is, for example, the position of Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and
Statewatch.
44. Nowadays it is only possible to make some assumption about the causes of this reduction. It
might have been caused by an incidental trend, or by the economic crisis. However, the
most striking and intriguing hypothesis relates the halving of Government funds to the
loss of influence of the neo-cons over the American government. The end of the idyll,
dating from 2006, in addition to criticisms towards the Government by Adelman, Perle
and other neo-cons in the management of the Iraqi war, is confirmed by the removal from
positions of government of Wolfowitz (2005) and the resignation of Rumsfeld (2006), the
two ‘hawks’ of the neo-conservative right wing.
45. See Guilhot, The Democracy Makers, for a similar analysis of the NED and the World Bank.
46. See www.mcc.gov. In order to assess recipient countries, Freedom House is one of the
authoritative sources of the initiative, together with the World Bank, the International
Monetary Fund, the World Health Organization and the UNESCO, as well as the Heritage
Foundation, an American neo-conservative organization.
47. www.usaid.gov/about_usaid/.
48. Finkel et al., ‘Effects of U.S. Foreign Assistance’. The authors of the report show that 10
million dollars invested by USAID between 1990 and 2003 in promoting and supporting
democracy produced an average increase of 0.25 points in FH’s measurements for the
countries involved.
49. ‘Rice Limits Rhetoric, and Maybe Impact’, The Washington Post, June 24, 2005.
50. Jairo Acuña-Alfaro, ‘Measuring Democracy in Latin-America (1972-2002)’. Working paper
for the Political Concepts. A Working Paper Series of the Committee on Concepts and
Methods, 2005. www.concepts-methods.org; John Bacher, ‘Oil and Dictatorship’. Peace
Magazine 14, no. 8 (1998); Robert Barro, Determinants of Economic Growth.
Cambridge, MA: M.I.T. Press, 1997; Ross E. Burkhart, and Michael S. Lewis-Beck,
‘Comparative Democracy: The Economic Development Thesis’. American Political
Science Review 88, no. 4 (1994): 903-10; M. Steven Fish, and Matthew Kroenig,
‘Diversity, Conflict and Democracy: Some Evidence from Eurasia and East Europe’.
Democratization 13, no. 5 (2006): 828-42; Joe Foweraker, and Roman Krznaric,
‘Constitutional Design and Comparative Democratic Performance’. Paper presented at
the ECPR Joint Sessions of Workshops, Mannheim, Germany, 27-31 March, 1999;
Davide Grassi, ‘La globalizzazione della democrazia: transizioni e consolidamento
democratico agli albori del XXI secolo’. Rivista Italiana di Scienza Politica 33, no. 1
(2002): 3-29; Axe Hadenius, and Jan Teorell, ‘Cultural and Economic Prerequisites of
Democracy: Reassessing Recent Evidence’. Studies in Comparative International
Development 39, no. 4 (2005): 87-106; Samuel P. Huntington, The Third Wave.
Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press,
1993; Roland Inglehart, La società postmoderna. Mutamento, ideologie e valori in 43
Paesi. Rome: Editori Riuniti, 1998; Stephen Knack, ‘Does Foreign Aid Promote
97
Democracy?’. International Studies Quarterly 48, (2004): 251-66; Wolfgang Merkel, and
Aurel Croissant, ‘Conclusion: Good and Defective Democracies’. Democratization 11,
no. 5 (2004): 199-213; Alina Mungiu-Pippidi, ‘Eu Enlargement and Democracy
Progress’. In Democratisation in the European Neighbourhood, ed. Michael Emerson,
15-37. Brussels: Centre for European Policy Studies, 2005; Eric Neumayer, ‘The
Determinants of Aid Allocation by Regional Multilateral Development Banks and United
Nations Agencies’. International Studies Quarterly 47, (2003): 101-22; Hans-Otto Sano e
Lone Lindholt, Human Rights Indicators. Country data and methodology 2000. Danish
Centre for Human Rights, 2001.
51. United Nations Development Programme, Human Development; United Nations Development
Programme, Governance Indicators.
52. Kaufmann, Kraay and Mastruzzi, ‘Governance Matters’; Pritchett and Kaufmann, ‘Civil
Liberties’; Gradstein and Milanovic, ‘Does Liberté’.
53. United Nations Development Programme, Human Development, 1.
54. Ibid., 37 ff.
55. Kaufmann, Kraay and Mastruzzi, ‘Governance Matters’.
56. Gastil, (note 14), 26.
57. www.freedomhouse.org/template.cfm?page=35 & year = 2005.
58. Dahl identifies two dimensions of polyarchy, participation (or inclusion) and opposition (or
contestation), which are based on eight institutional requirements: freedom of expression,
right to vote, alternative sources of information, free and fair elections, freedom of
association, the right of political leaders to compete for the consensus, electability in
public office, institutions that make the government dependent on votes and other forms
of political preference (Robert A. Dahl. Polyarchy. Participation and Opposition. New
Haven: Yale University Press, 1971).
59. Merkel, ‘Embedded and Defective’, 34.
60. Gastil, (note 14), 30.
61. Ibid., 31.
62. For ease of comparison, I made some operations: in putting in a column the checklists for each
year, I placed side by side similar items and retained beside each of them the numbering
of item’s placement in the original list. Sometimes, e.g. when an item was later divided
into two questions, it was necessary to place both them beside the original item.
63. www.freedomhouse.org/template.cfm?page=35 & year = 2006.
64. For example, for item no. 1 of the political rights checklist, one of the questions is: ‘Can
candidates make speeches, hold public meetings, media access and enjoy throughout the
campaign free of intimidation?’, while for item no. 1 of the civil liberties checklist one of
the questions is: ‘Does the government directly or indirectly censor print, broadcast,
and/or internet-based media?’.
65. Merkel, (note 59), 35.
... FHI is one of the most widely applied indexes in comparative research on political regimes and democratization (Denk, 2013). Yet, as all indexes measuring democracy raise conceptual and methodological issues (Munck and Verkuilen, 2002) and potential biases (Bush, 2017;Giannone, 2010), we tested FHI with an alternative index, V-Dem liberal democracy index, and found they yielded similar results. Assessment of the independent variables using the variance inflation factor (VIF) did not reveal collinearity among them (i.e. ...
Article
Full-text available
Covid-19 has shocked governance systems worldwide. Legislatures, in particular, have been shut down or limited due to the pandemic, yet with divergence from one country to another. In this article, we report results from a cross-sectional quantitative analysis of legislative activity during the initial reaction to this shock and identify the factors accounting for such variation. Exploring legislatures across 159 countries, we find no relation between the severity of Covid-19 and limitations on legislatures’ operation, thus suggesting that legislatures are at risk of being shut down or limited due to policy “overreaction” and that a health risk may serve as an excuse for silencing them. However, we find that legislatures in democratic countries are relatively immune to this risk, while those in frail democracies are more exposed. In partially free countries, the use of technology can mitigate this risk. We also find that the coalitional features of the government may lead to legislatures’ closing.
... FHI is one of the most widely applied indexes in comparative research on political regimes and democratization (Denk, 2013). Yet, as all indexes measuring democracy raise conceptual and methodological issues (Munck & Verkuilen, 2002) and potential biases (Bush, 2017;Giannone, 2010), we tested FHI with an alternative index, V-Dem Liberal Democracy Index, and found they yielded similar results. Assessment of the independent variables using the variance inflation factor (VIF) did not reveal collinearity among them (i.e., we found an acceptable level of vif at 2.5). ...
Article
Full-text available
Covid-19 has shocked governance systems worldwide. Legislatures, in particular, have been shut down or limited due to the pandemic, yet with divergence from one country to another. In this paper, we report results from a cross-sectional quantitative analysis of legislative activity during the initial reaction to this shock and identify the factors accounting for such variation. Exploring legislatures across 159 countries, we find no relation between the severity of covid-19 and limitations on legislatures’ operation, thus suggesting that legislatures are at risk of being shut down or limited due to policy “overreaction” and that a health risk may serve as an excuse for silencing them. However, we find that legislatures in democratic countries are relatively immune to this risk, while those in frail democracies are more exposed. In partially-free countries, the use of technology can mitigate this risk. We also find that the coalitional features of the government may lead to legislatures’ closing. [note: This is a pre-print. the final version will be published in Political Studies (2022)]
... For the same reasons, indicators from Judith Kelley's (2012) Quality of Elections Data, Bishop and Hoeffler's (2016) Free and Fair Elections Database, and the BMR political regime indicator (Boix, Miller and Rosato 2014) were not used to measure this or other subattributes. Data from Freedom House was also excluded because the disaggregated scores provided by this organization only go back a few years, and the Freedom House data has faced allegations of bias (Bollen and Paxton 2000;Giannone 2010;Steiner 2016) and other methodological problems (see Munck 2009: Ch. 2). ...
Book
The Global State of Democracy is a biennial report that aims to provide policymakers with an evidence-based analysis of the state of global democracy, supported by the Global State of Democracy (GSoD) Indices, in order to inform policy interventions and identify problem-solving approaches to trends affecting the quality of democracy around the world. This document revises and updates the conceptual and measurement framework that guided the construction of Version 5 of the GSoD Indices, which depicts democratic trends at the country, regional and global levels across a broad range of different attributes of democracy in the period 1975–2020. The data underlying the GSoD Indices is based on a total of 116 indicators developed by various scholars and organizations using different types of source, including expert surveys, standards-based coding by research groups and analysts, observational data and composite measures.
... Most of them did not dedicate too much attention to political and ideological issues that can be found in the background of constructing and the structure of these indicators, which have influence on the order, as well as the regularity of the received assessments. Among many studies, our attention was attracted to an analysis (Giannone D. 2010) in which the emphasis was on these issues. Our interest was further reinforced by the fact that that study analyzed the methodological merits of indicators of the Freedom House, which we used in our research. ...
Chapter
Full-text available
This paper seeks to look at the basic features of Taiwanese economic development and at the same time, it attempts to connect these elements to theoretical questions of economic development. While doing so, it compares the development process of the Taiwanese economy to those of other advanced economies in the region. Thus, the paper includes South Korea and Japan in the analysis. Although Singapore and Hong Kong have very different historic backgrounds and dimensions in terms of population and size leading to dissimilar maneuvering rooms, at certain questions the analysis refers to special experiences of the two economies as well. Keywords: China, Taiwan, Europe, economic structure, institutions
... We can refer to U.S. foreign aid agencies such as the Millennium Challenge Corporation, a poverty reduction mechanism, which consider the findings of the Freedom House Index as an indicator for evaluating aid eligibility of developing countries ("Freedom in the World," 2018). This index has been subject to criticism for its ideological content that creates a bias and affects measurement (Gianonne, 2010). ...
... Ao contrário, a lógica do outsourcing tornou-se um elemento característico da produção de conhecimento nas ciências sociais contemporâneas, cada vez mais propensas a usar dados de instituições econômicas, como o Banco Mundial (CAMMACK, 2002;SANTOS, 2006), ou agências responsáveis pela elaboração de rankings sobre diversos aspectos da vida social (COOLEY; ALEXANDER; SNYDER, 2015). Exemplos importantes referem-se ao uso de dados da International Transparency (BUKOVANSKY, 2015) no tocante à corrupção e da Freedom House para a liberdade de imprensa (GIANONNE, 2010). Essa tendência é reflexo do papel cada vez mais importante que a Economia passou a ocupar como modelo acadêmico para outras disciplinas -um fenômeno que, por vezes, tem sido descrito como "imperialismo econômico" (FOURCADE; OLLION; ALGAN, 2015) -em um contexto em que a agenda acadêmica tem sido, cada vez mais, capturada pela lógica do neoliberalismo. ...
Chapter
Full-text available
The »return of great power competition« between (among others) the US, China, Russia and the EU is a major topic in contemporary public debate. But why do we think of world politics in terms of »competition«? Which information and which rules enable states and other actors in world politics to »compete« with one another? Which competitive strategies do they pursue in the complex environment of modern world politics? This cutting-edge edited collection discusses these questions from a unique interdisciplinary perspective. It offers a fresh account of competition in world politics, looking beyond its military dimensions to questions of economics, technology and prestige.
Article
Large resource extraction projects may give rise to significant environmental, social, and public health externalities. While the environmental impact of extractive projects is regularly considered prior to implementation, few countries have established legal requirements for other forms of impact assessments, including health impact assessments (HIA). Despite the lack of legal requirements, we find that some mining companies operating across Africa are going beyond what is required of them to consider the health impact of their operations. What explains this divergent behaviour? Using qualitative comparative analysis (QCA), we test key explanations of companies’ self-regulating behaviour based on host country, home country or company related conditions. The results confirm that higher performance on HIA is not due to one or two single conditions but a combination of conditions that motivate mining companies to go beyond what is required by them. Our theory-testing contributes to the larger literature discussing companies' propensity to self-regulate. It offers a first step in testing relevant explanations for companies' self-regulatory behaviour in the HIA space, and offering an empirical foundation for future studies wishing to either scale up or scale down to add further granularity to this question in the future.
Article
Full-text available
In the literature on democratization the mainstream of theoretical and empirical conso- lidology uses the dichotomy autocracy versus democracy. Democracy is generally con- ceived of as 'electoral democracy'. This simple dichotomy does not allow a distinction between consolidated liberal democracies and their diminished sub-types. However, over half of all the new electoral democracies represent specific variants of diminished sub-types of democracy, which can be called defective democracies. Starting from the root concept of embedded democracies, which consists of five interdependent partial regimes (electoral regime, political rights, civil rights, horizontal accountability, effective power to govern), the article distinguishes between four diminished sub- types of defective democracy: exclusive democracy, illiberal democracy, delegative democracy and tutelary democracy. It can be shown that defective democracies are by no means necessarily transitional regimes. They tend to form stable links to their economic and societal environment and are often seen by considerable parts of the elites and the population as an adequate institutional solution to the specific problems of governing 'effectively'. As long as this equilibrium between problems, context and power lasts, defective democracies will survive for protracted periods of time.
Article
Full-text available
Does diversity endanger democracy? Ethnic composition is often thought to affect democracy by means of its influence on the probability of violent civil conflict. According to such thinking, more diverse societies are more prone to conflict, which in turn makes them less hospitable to democracy. How sound is this idea? This article tests it, performing quantitative analysis on data from the post-communist region. The study finds that conflict is negatively associated with democracy, but finds no empirical evidence that social fractionalization influences civil conflict or democratization. In fact, a concluding case study on Bulgaria suggests that diversity may actually ‘impose’ certain opportunities for – not just obstacles to – the emergence of practices and institutions that promote open politics.
Article
Introduzione Uno degli aspetti più influenti del discusso processo della globalizzazione, con le sue molteplici ripercussioni economiche, sociali e politiche, è rappresentato dalla propagazione su scala mondiale della democrazia. Sappiamo che la democrazia è oggi il sistema politico più diffuso e che gran parte dell'umanità vive oramai in regimi eletti democraticamente, con ripercussioni ampiamente positive: a livello nazionale i regimi democratici garantiscono, rispetto ai loro predecessori autoritari, una migliore protezione dei principali diritti civili e politici, pur se questa rimane in alcuni casi insoddisfacente. A livello internazionale il prevalere della democrazia garantisce, tra le altre cose, scenari meno conflittuali, riducendo le chances di ostilità o vere e proprie guerre tra Stati (Bonanate 2000, 204-210 per una discussione). Il successo democratico in aree geopolitiche molto diverse, tuttavia, ne rende particolarmente complessa l'analisi: decine di paesi sono impegnati, con alterne fortune, nelle fasi della transizione alla democrazia o in quelle successive del rafforzamento del nuovo regime. E inevitabile, in casi del genere, valutare con maggiore attenzione i processi politici che per primi si sono sviluppati ed hanno attecchito, lasciando in ombra quelli successivi. Dei processi più recenti, anzi, è spesso arduo offrire una descrizione accurata, per il turbinio di eventi e personaggi che spesso ne caratterizzano le vicende.
Book
Neoliberalism--the doctrine that market exchange is an ethic in itself, capable of acting as a guide for all human action--has become dominant in both thought and practice throughout much of the world since 1970 or so. Writing for a wide audience, David Harvey, author of The New Imperialism and The Condition of Postmodernity, here tells the political-economic story of where neoliberalization came from and how it proliferated on the world stage. Through critical engagement with this history, he constructs a framework, not only for analyzing the political and economic dangers that now surround us, but also for assessing the prospects for the more socially just alternatives being advocated by many oppositional movements.
Article
This paper examines the definition and measurement of liberal democracy. Specifically, my purposes are (1) to propose a working definition of liberal democracy; (2) to outline a theory of "method factors" in subjective measures of liberal democracy; (3) to provide the first estimates of the proportion of variance due to systematic error, validity, and random error in commonly used measures; (4) to replicate these results across several years; and (5) to estimate the degree of liberal democracy in more than 150 countries. All but one measure contain systematic error, and in some cases the bias component is large. Furthermore, a new liberal democracy index has a .96 squared correlation with the liberal democracy latent variable and has negligible correlations with the method factors that are present in the individual indicators. The results suggest that the current practice of treating unadjusted democracy indicators as error free can be misleading.
Article
Neoliberalism has become a hegemonic discourse with pervasive effects on ways of thought and political-economic practices to the point where it is now part of the commonsense way we interpret, live in, and understand the world. How did neoliberalism achieve such an exalted status, and what does it stand for? In this article, the author contends that neoliberalism is above all a project to restore class dominance to sectors that saw their fortunes threatened by the ascent of social democratic endeavors in the aftermath of the Second World War. Although neoliberalism has had limited effectiveness as an engine for economic growth, it has succeeded in channeling wealth from subordinate classes to dominant ones and from poorer to richer countries. This process has entailed the dismantling of institutions and narratives that promoted more egalitarian distributive measures in the preceding era.