Saturday, 30 August 2014

Notes from "Democracy and Dictatorship: Conceptualization and Measurement"

Chapter 5 of Principles of Comparative Politics (William Roberts Clark, Matt Golder and Sona Nadenichek Golder)

- "Democracy" used to have negative connotations, till mid-20th century.
"Demokratia" is a Greek word meaning "rule by the demos". The word "demos" is often translated as "the people" but refers more specifically to "the common people" (with little/ no economic independence+ politically uneducated).
The earlier debates surrounding the various forms of regime went back to the time of Plato and Aristotle. Plato believed that democracy would be rule by the poor and uneducated against the rich and educated. The mass would be open to demagoguery, leading to short-lived democracies in which the people quickly surrendered their power to a tyrant.
Aristotle, unlike him, believed that there were conditions under which the will of the many could be equal to or wiser than the will of the few, but didn't think highly of democracy either. He believed that regimes come in good and bad forms: the good forms (rulers govern for the good of all) were monarchy, aristocracy and politeia, the bad ones (rulers govern for the good of themselves) were tyranny, oligarchy and democracy; a corrupted monarchy would become a tyranny, a corrupted aristocracy would become an oligarchy and a corrupted politeia would become a democracy. The least dangerous corrupt form, to him, was aristocracy, the most dangerous was democracy.
However, around this time the concept of democracy didn't involve free elections. Instead, leaders were decided by lot (i.e. drawing names from a hat) in democracies. This notion continued all the way into the 18th century, democracy's therefore seen as obsolete.
- Similarly, "dictatorship" hasn't always been a negative word.
A dictator was "an extraordinary Roman magistrate nominated under exceptional emergency circumstances from about 500 BC to the 3th century AD". Machiavelli argued that "dictatorial authority did good, not harm, to the republic of Rome". "Dictatorship" wasn't seen as synonymous with "tyranny", "despotism" and "autocracy".

- How, then, do we classify political regimes?
Robert Dahl, an influential figure, made a distinction between:
+ A substantive view of democracy: "classifies regimes in regard to the outcomes that they produce".
e.g as Aristotle did.
+ A minimalist/ procedural view of democracy: "classifies regimes in regard to their institutions and procedures".
Dahl also identified 2 dimensions:
+ Contestation: "the extent to which citizens are free to organise themselves into competing blocs in order to press for the policies and outcomes they desire."
=> freedom of speech and assembly, freedom to form political parties, extent to which leaders are chosen in free and fair elections, etc.
+ Inclusion: "has to do with who gets to participate in the democratic process". 
=> countries that deny voting rights based on place of birth, gender or ethnicity would rank low in regard to inclusion. 
However, Dahl didn't believe that any country exhibited, or could exhibit, sufficient levels of contestation or inclusion to be considered a true democracy. Instead, he used the word "polyarchy" for a political regime with high levels of both. 

- The book lists and discusses 3 measures of democracy and dictatorship, all of which are based on Dahl's ideas. 
+ The Democracy-Dictatorship (DD) measure: 
~ A country's considered a democracy if all of the following conditions apply: 
The chief executive's elected
The legislature's elected
There's more than 1 party competing in the elections
An alternation in power under identical electoral rules has taken place 
The last point is particularly important because unless the incumbent ruler has demonstrated that he's willing to give up power after losing an election, there's no way to know that the country's a democracy or a dictatorship. Without an alternation in power, it's impossible to distinguish between regimes in which the incumbents are always in power because they're popular (but willing to give up power when they lose) and those in which incumbents hold elections because they know they won't lose. 
~ Based on procedural/ minimalist view of democracy
~ Focuses strongly on contestation
~ Ignores inclusion
~ Dichotomous measure
~ Nominal measure 

+ Polity IV: 
~ Polity score= Democracy score (0- 10) - Autocracy score (0- 10) 
=> ranges from -10 to 10. 
=> democracy: +6 to +10. 
dictatorship: -6 to -10. 
mixed regime/ anocracy: between -5 and +5.
~ Based on procedural/ minimalist view of democracy
~ 5 attributes: 
The competitiveness of executive recruitment
The openness of executive recruitment
The constraints that exist on the executive
The regulation of political participation
The competitiveness of political participation 
~ Both contestation and inclusion
~ Continuous measure 
~ Interval measure 

+ Freedom House: 
~ Freedom rather than democracy 
~ 2 dimensions: 
Freedom on political rights: 10 questions (each: 0-4 points)=> electoral process, political pluralism and participation, and the functioning of government=> the score (possible 40 points) is converted to a 7-point scale.
Freedom on civil rights: 15 questions (each: 0-4 points)=> freedom of expression and belief, associational and organisational rights, rule of law, and personal autonomy and individual rights=> the score (possible 60 points) is converted to a 7-point scale. 
=> Freedom House score is the average. 
~ Based on the substantive view of democracy (takes into account outcomes: whether there is academic freedom, freedom from war, freedom from socioeconomic inequalities, etc.) 
~ Both contestation and inclusion 
~ Continuous measure 
~ Interval measure 

(All these 3 measures, undoubtedly, classify VN as a dictatorship). 

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