Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Mapping freedom

DPF pointed to the annual "Freedom in the World" survey from Freedom House. Every year they rate countries for political rights and civil liberties, then divide them into three broad groups: free, partly free, and not free.

While their charts and graphs [PDF] are interesting in showing the growth of freedom in the last thirty years and its distribution around the world, the core table is a little hard to use. So here's a map. Free countries are coded green, partly free countries yellow, and non-free countries red:


(Click for larger version).

What's most apparant is how far we have to go yet. But at least things are generally heading (albeit slowly) in the right direction...


It seems to me that they are being a bit rough on some of those yellow countries.
I also wonder if the GDP is moving in favour of the less free cuntries yet.

Posted by Genius : 12/21/2005 06:11:00 AM

Oh for G-d's sake, c'mon - you can do better than link to this BS. You may as well link to the National Endowment for Democracy while you're at it.. we know how objective those guys are: the democracy and freedom to model your economy and political apparatus on the US.
When the board of trustees is "Freedom House is governed by a board of trustees which includes prominent Republicans and Democrats, business and labor leaders, foreign policy experts, former government officials, and other prominent Americans" you can guess pretty well this is a well-funded piece of propaganda.

Freedom, my ass.

Posted by Anonymous : 12/21/2005 09:43:00 AM

It looks like the usual negative freedom / freedom of US corporations to make profits bollocks we expect out of the US. Many Cubans would be "seeing red" I expect.

Posted by dc_red : 12/21/2005 10:30:00 AM

Re: Afghanistan.

In the story I/S links to below, Khaled El-Masri reports on his toture in that country, and being told he "was now in a country with no laws, and did I understand what that meant?"

Is this map anything more than self-serving American nonsense?

Posted by dc_red : 12/21/2005 10:36:00 AM

How come Iraq isn't green? What have the Americans been doing there but liberating it in the last two years?
Regards personal freedoms and other civil liberties, shouldn't the USA be labelled yellow since you can't make a private phone call there, or borrow a library book without the state wanting to know about it?
It's interesting to compare this map with the gay marriage map, or the Transparancy International rankings, or Human Develoment Index, or the death penalty map

Posted by Hans Versluys : 12/21/2005 10:36:00 AM

For those with questions, the survey methodology is here. While they're American, I don't think they're adopting an American version of freedom at all. Instead, they're basing it on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Basically, the free/partly free/not free rating is based on the average of two numbers: one for "political rights", representing people's ability to participate freely in the electoral process, "including through the right to vote, compete for public office, and elect representatives who have a decisive impact on public policies and are accountable to the electorate"; and one for civil liberties, meaning "freedoms of expression and belief, associational and organizational rights, rule of law, and personal autonomy without interference from the state". These are not measures that Cuba, or China, or Vietnam do well on.

Afghanistan falls at the very bottom of being "partly free". It is reported to have made progress in civil liberties this year, but its still not that great. Singapore rates slightly higher, mainly because their democracy is a sham and there are gross limits on civil rights ("Disneyland with the death penalty", remember?). Iraq rates so poorly because there is institutionalised torture, unions are banned, and people have no security (oh, and the electoral system suffers from significant fraud). I don't think there is too much of a problem with these ratings at all.

As Uroskin points out, there's an interesting overlap between the various maps I've done or pointed at recently - particularly with the death penalty, not signing the CAT, and belonging to the Axis of Impunity...

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 12/21/2005 11:15:00 AM

I/S - "These are not measures that Cuba, or China, or Vietnam do well on." That's precisely the point. The measures are selectively chosen to represent the chosen countries in a favourable light and the demonised countires in a poor one. It's a selective and narrow definition of freedom that suits the surveyor.

But quite apart from that, consider the fact the US scores itself as "1" on both rated values. That's despite the fact there are many documented and credible accusations of election fraud (manipulation of voting results and intentional disenfranchisment of of voters by manipulation of electoral roles amongst the means used), they retain and apply the death penalty, the electoral machine in incredibly unresponsive to voter concerns (but very responsive to paid corporate lobbying). You can't honestly say with a straight face there is really a significant difference between liberty in freedom in the US vs Singapore..

Dissect it by phrase:
"the right to vote" - unless you're black, in which case tens of thousands of you will be erroneously struck from the electoral role
"compete for public office" - as long as you have huge personal wealth and/or corporate sponsorship, else you're dead in the water
"elect representatives who have a decisive impact on public policies" - except the elected officers are currently held hostage by the executive
"and are accountable to the electorate" - remind me the last time someone got held account for other than a sexual indiscretion again?

Posted by Anonymous : 12/21/2005 12:44:00 PM

Huskynut: So, what sort of "freedom" exactly do people enjoy in Cuba, China and Vietnam? The "freedom" to be tortured? The "freedom" to be arbitrarily imprisoned? The "freedom" to have no say in your own government? The "freedom" to be censored, and to be arrested for saying things the government doesn't want said?

These countries are shitty despotisms which abuse fundamental human rights, and they deserve to be labelled as such.

As for the US: yes, I think there are problems with its rating. Not enough to drive it out of the "free" category (things aren't that bad quite yet, and Italy is allowed in), but those problems should at least be noted. But I think the ratings for the rest of the world are broadly accurate.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 12/21/2005 01:09:00 PM

I/S - you could start with the fact that the Cuban poor enjoy far greater access to competant medical care than the poor in the US. This is an important human freedom.
And if the US (the home of the free) didn't continue to strangle the Cuba with an ongoing economic blockade in the name of an ancient idealogical war, then the odds of Cuba becoming more free and open would greatly increase. Do you note the irony in mapping global freedoms while simultaneously practicing repressive international policies?
a) I have no particular love of Castro
b) I admire your consistency of principles and standards

but I do take issue with the way you frequently ignore the practical realities (ie pressures and practical constraints) within given societies and simplisticly judge behaviours against somewhat arbitrary standards.
The US has vast economic and historical advantages over Cuba, and any consideration of "freedoms" needs to reflect how well they've succeeded against what was realistically achievable in the circumstances. To ignore that is to continue to skew the argument in exactly the way this site is doing ie to make the massively economically advantaged look comparatively good, and the massively disadvantaged look bad. And then to pretend the societal circumstances are all the fault and responsibility of the societies themselves, rather than of the collective, wider reality.

Posted by Anonymous : 12/21/2005 02:33:00 PM

to clarify - "this site" being the one you linked to, not NRT :-)

Posted by Anonymous : 12/21/2005 02:34:00 PM

I'd put yellow stripes through Australia and the United States.
Surely Australia's asylum seeker
detention policies, and US anti-
terrorism legislation do not entitle them to a perfect green status.

Craig Y

Posted by Anonymous : 12/21/2005 03:03:00 PM