Democracy Index

January 10, 2019

Democracy is government by the people. The most common characteristics are legal equality, political freedom, and rule of law. These are promoted by elections, protecting human rights and active political participation. The US is a constitutional democracy with a framework based on a written constitution which elects representatives to govern. Thanks to the Founding Fathers, the US was the first democracy under a written constitution. Despite considerable political corruption, voter suppression, a number of stolen elections (with the election of Rutherford B. Hayes over Samuel Tilden, decided in the House of Representatives in 1876 probably the worst), and any number of potential authoritarians (such as Huey Long in the 1930's or Joe McCarthy), the US after a number of progressive and reform periods proved to be an effective, working democracy post-World War II.

 

A Democracy Index was created by the Economist Intelligence Unit (www.eiu.com) in the UK. It uses 60 indicators (based on pluralism, civil liberties, functioning of government, political participation, and political culture) to create an index from 1-10 (with scores near 10 being a full democracy) and four categories: full democracy (with scores from 8-10), flawed democracies (6-8), hybrid regimes (4-6), and authoritarian regimes (below 4). Norway tops the 2018 list at 9.87, one of 20 countries rated full democracies (11.4% of countries, but on 4.4% of world population). The top 10 democracies all scored above 9 and include Scandinavian countries, Switzerland, Canada, and so on. The next 10 countries (European and other developed countries) scored between 8-9. 

 

The US does not make the cut. It is ranked  25 at 7.96, a "flawed democracy." The US was downgraded in 2016--for obvious reasons.  The US was particularly low on the functioning of government at 7.14; performance was also sub-par on political participation (7.78) and political culture (7.5). A total 75 countries are full (20) or flawed (55) democracies. Thirty-nine are considered hybrid regimes. The rest (53) are authoritarian, with North Korea the worst at 1.08. As expected, North America and Europe, on average, are full or flawed democracies (Australia and New Zealand also full democracies). The remaining continents rate below that. Obviously, much of this analysis is troubling. 

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© 2016 Gary Giroux

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