Human rights & democracy statistics

About this Video

In this video, made for the Oslo freedom Forum 2009, Hans Rosling discuss the difficulty in measuring progress in Human Rights in the form of comparable numerical statistics. He also shows the surprisingly weak correlation between existing estimates for democracy and socio-economic progress.

The reason may be that democracy and human rights measurements are badly done. It may also be that democracy and human rights are dimensions of development that are in themselves difficult to assign numerical values. But it also seems as much improvement in health, economy and education can be achieved with modest degrees of human rights and democracy. Hans Roslings concluding remark is that Human rights and Democracy maybe should be mainly regarded as values in themselves rather than means to achieve something else.


Related content

Democracy and GDP per capita in Gapminder World


Links:

http://oslofreedomforum.org
http://www.amnesty.org/en/human-rights/human-rights-by-country
http://filipspagnoli.wordpress.com/stats-on-human-rights/
http://www.systemicpeace.org/polity/polity4.htm

 

24 thoughts on “Human rights & democracy statistics

  1. Actually, I’d say democracy is a significant indicator of health and wealth. You just need to account for a few other vairables that skew the direct relationship.

    For some of the middle eastern countries, just extract the massive income they get by selling oil, which won’t be true forever by the way.

    For some countries, in Africa for example, account tribalism/war/corruption that results in not having a true democracy there, only one on paper really.

    Do that and you have a pretty good relationship to democracy and wealth per capita.

    China and India remain in the middle wealth-wise at opposite sides of the spectrum. India with its religious-based resistance to family planning skews things a little, though. China’s wealth is a recent development due to allowing some freedom and capitalism to exist. Otherwise they would fall more in line with the direct democracy-wealth relationship.

  2. Probably they are both true: we are not good in measuring democracy and freedom, AND there is a weak correlation between democracy and (economic) health.

    In any case in the example with Cuba, cuba started much better from an economic point of view and lost all its advantage. So in this case it does seem that the fact of losing democracy had some bad effects.

  3. Thank you ! Even if it is not possible to measure all the human rights in 1 indicator, we can maybe add : freedom of the press, statistics on religion, religious liberty, torture, discrimination…

  4. Thank you for the vedio. I hope I can see and listen more and more. It is very nice to see the world now and before.

  5. In cases like this, you could use a multivariate statistical approach that will use all these indicators for democracy to create a vector that them could be related to another vector for “life quality” or the “human development index”

  6. That brings about what is socio-economic progress. Is it the same as the human objectives? When we have established the overal human objectives, we can say what factors support those objectives. The Human Development Index might give some clues: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_Development_Index
    Also since the method of discussion and voting is commonly used to easblish what is right and wrong in difficult situations, that should part of the process to establish those objectives.
    With todays internet infrastructure, the tools are waiting for the entrepreneur.

  7. These stats also show a correlation between stable regimes and improvements in health measures. This gives democratic countries, with their periodic power-adjustments built in, an advantage. They are likely to maintain stability and peace long enough to make improvements in health care. Undemocratic countries have the potential to make similar improvements, but without the built-in moderating force of democracy, the imbalances of power so often grow and invite radical, destabilizing challenges.

    Thanks for tackling this tricky issue.

  8. I think that there is great skewing of the data based on political opinion of the American collectors of the data. Cuba has never been a paragon of freedom but there have been no indications of Tianamen style massacres there either much less the Tibet and other similar issues. Mexico shows improvement despite such massacres and many Latin American countries also show high levels of democracy when there was none and lower levels when there is more. Israel also rates high despite a large percentage unable to have political expression, and a theocratic state also raises eyebrows.

    That the US can still consider itself a 10 with several disputed elections, abandoned habeas corpus, and the highest incarceration rate of anywhere in the world, is great chutzpa, compared to that Sweden’s Royals are a small matter.

    Indeed I think that the data here is very skewed. Gini or percent of population incarcerated might make more relevant data.

  9. Democracy is not the ultimate good. Humanity is rather stupid, selfish and easily swayed. Their decisions are rather short range. In a democracy the “leaders” have to cater to the people’s vices as well as their virtues.

    America is about to lose their great standard of living because of decades of greedy voters have led the country to this fate. They will lose their democracy to someone who will have to force the people to do what’s right.

    Unfortunately, benevolent monarchs are few & far between. Frankly, only Jesus Christ would be incorruptible in that position.

  10. There is no reason to suspect that there is a correlation between economic growth (or wealth) with democracy or human rights. D & HR are a consequence of wealth not the other way around.
    The real indicator you want to look at is the Index of Economic Freedom. The father of Economics (Adam Smith) has yet to be proven wrong: “When institutions protect the liberty of individuals, greater prosperity results for all”. Prosperity is a result of economic freedom. Democracy is a result of prosperity.
    I have provided for you the link to the data. I do not own the data so it would not be right for me to upload it.

  11. I always enjoy showing the video(s) to my students although I have network playback issues and YouTube is blocked in most K-12 school districts in the U.S. so I stayed with the TED website video repository.

    It would be nice if I could download at gapminder.org…

    I would also be interested in seeing some more of the World Health Docs’ community work featured at gapminder.org such as their lecture repository at Egypt’s Library at Alexandria.

    Finally, Dollar Street. 🙁 Alas, my lab doesn’t run Windows. What happened to the Flash version?

  12. Dear Bob, you are so right, we will make sure to add a downloadable version to all our videos.

    Dollar street 🙁 well there never were a flash-version. And from the looks of it, it wont be, at least not of the existing version of Dollar Street, it was built several years ago, in a time where web-development wasn’t that far advanced. It’s not out of the question though, that we will look into the possibilities to make a new version in the future, in that case obviously for all platforms. We understand it is a popular tool, in spite of it’s obvious technical limitations and we agree that the concept is really god.

    /Staffan, Gapminder

  13. Thanks Staffan. I don’t know if this is a help but I think it used to work in my lab of PPC G5 machines. I believe I was running 10.3 or 10.4 at the time. It’s not a recent memory, at least two years old so I may be confusing running it with watching a video demonstration.

    Dollar street is at least as valuable as the “generations visualization” of the Rosling ancestors.

  14. Dear Hans,

    I was really frustrated by this video of yours. I completely agree with you that human rights and democracy are important by themselves. But I am also convinced that free societies produces better health care and education than un-free societies. The fact that people can voice their criticism when the hospitals or schools don’t work, and elect politicians that are more competent, or has better ideas on how to spend the public money than the old ones, should logically at the end give positive results on the health and education of the citizens.

    You are off course right that democracy is extremely difficult to meassure. But why don’t you try with the Freedom house index on civil liberties and political freedom of the world? Their index goes back to 1973, and it would be extremely interresting to see the correlation with education and health.

    I tried my self the other night to get the stats right with the trendalizer gadget on google docs, but it was to difficult for me.

    You will find the FH index here:

    http://www.freedomhouse.org/template.cfm?page=439

    http://www.freedomhouse.org/uploads/fiw09/CompHistData/FIW_AllScores_Countries.xls

    Best regards

    Erik

  15. Such a strange use of data, one has to wonder if it is ideological. Quantifying human rights–the UN’s “fundamental freedoms”–have been done for more than thirty-five consecutive years. Perhaps this video’s stress upon “democracy,” a notoriously subjective determinant, as a measure of human rights helps explain the poor correlation between democracy and prosperity.

    If, instead of “democracy,” the data used the impartial world-wide measures of economic, civil, and political freedoms, the correlation between a nation’s level of human rights and its relative level of overall prosperity is consistently well above .9 for ALL of the 175 nations in the world which are not city-states, mini-states, or micro-states. REGARDLESS of whether a nation is land-locked or has access to the sea, REGARDLESS of its natural resources, REGARDLESS of its religion, language, or which continent it is on, the 175 largest of the 192 nations in the world have a level of prosperity (as measured by PPP of their GDP) which almost exactly correlates with their level of overall human rights.

    For thirty-five years (since 1972), human rights have been a well-documented correlate to any nation’s prosperity. Repression is, using the same impartial data, a well-documented correlate to impoverishment. Stop using “democracy” as the gauge of human rights, and start using the accumulated actual numerical data of the world-wide measures of economic, civil and political freedoms as the more accurate measure of human rights. You’ll see a dramatic improvement in correlation on your graph, and just as importantly, your accuracy will be non-ideological.

  16. These stats also show a correlation between stable regimes and improvements in health measures. This gives democratic countries, with their periodic power-adjustments built in, an advantage. They are likely to maintain stability and peace long enough to make improvements in health care. Undemocratic countries have the potential to make similar improvements, but without the built-in moderating force of democracy, the imbalances of power so often grow and invite radical, destabilizing challenges.
    Thanks for tackling this tricky issue.

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