Measuring Democracy

Start writing your answer after the instructions. Note you can use headers to organize your answer, and do not be afraid to edit other people's writing. This is a wiki! Also, you can use the Discussion page to hash out disagreements.

Do organizations like Freedom House adequately measure democracy and dictatorship? This page is devoted to critically examining the criteria used by such organizations to determine whether a country counts as free/unfree, democratic//undemocratic, etc.

Instructions

  1. Carefully indicate which organization's criteria you are examining and criticizing, and summarize them accurately, making sure to link to the original sources.
  2. Critically assess the strengths and weaknesses of these criteria. For example, are there non-democratic countries that might be classified as "free" by Freedom House by the use of these criteria? Conversely, are there democratic countries that might be classified as "unfree" by these criteria? Does Freedom House's classification of regimes as free, unfree, or partly free serve as a good measure of democracy and dictatorship in the world today, or do are the criteria they use unnecessarily exclusive or inclusive? You may need to explain and justify your own definition of democracy and dictatorship; if so, do not simply use a dictionary, but look at some of the sources below.
  3. You may wish to discuss in greater depth a single example of a country where you think the organization's measures are misleading. For example, you may wish to look at how Freedom House has rated Venezuela, Russia, Italy or some other country over the past decade, and discuss whether these ratings serve as a good measure of democracy or dictatorship. Or you may wish to compare Freedom House's classification with that of other organizations.
  4. Consider the purposes for which you might use a democracy score: policy formulation? scholarly research? political point-scoring? What are these indexes good for?
  5. You may repeat this exercise with other organizations and other sets of criteria (e.g., Polity IV,the DD data by Cheibub, Gandhi and Vreeland, the unified democracy scores, etc.). Which set of criteria and which classifications are best? Why or why not?

Resources

  1. Look at some of the literature on classifying political regimes in our course bibliography (tagged "measurement" and "political regime classification"). Do not simply look at a dictionary to decide what counts as a dictatorship or a democracy!
  2. Some of the major regime classifications are available here:
But there are many others! Look up which organizations/scholars produce democracy scores, and try to figure out which ones are good (and for what purposes).


Start writing here - do not delete the instructions. Note you can use headers to organize your answer, and do not be afraid to edit other people's writing. This is a wiki! Also, you can use the Discussion page to hash out disagreements.