July 30, 2007EconomyPublic PolicySecurity

Correlating peace and freedom

The most free countries are the most peaceful, the least free ones are the most violent. But we can’t say much about the in-betweens

This is an archived blog post from The Acorn.

On the initiative of Steve Killelea, the Economist Intelligence Unit has compiled a Global Peace Index (GPI), ranking 121 countries’ according to their relative states of peace. It defines peace’ not only to be an absence of war, but also an absence of violence. One result of this definition is that the United States (#96) ends up getting a rather poor rating. India too ends up close to the bottom of the league table (#109).

This blog has a tradition of cross-comparing countries across different indices. So let’s see how things turn out when we compare peace index rankings with the political freedom scores from Freedom House.

Click to enlarge

This chart (click to enlarge) compares the average political freedom of the countries in the GPI rankings taken in groups of ten. For charting convenience, Freedom House political freedom ratings of Free, Partly Free and Not Free are converted to scores of 1, 2, 3 respectively, and plotted on the vertical axis. The GPI ranking is on the horizontal axis.

What does the chart tell us? Well, that the most free countries are also the most peaceful, and that the least free ones are also the most violent. Averaging masks the outliers—unfree Bhutan is peaceful, and free America, India and Israel are less peaceful. But twenty of the world’s most peaceful countries are also the free ones. Around twenty of the least peaceful 25 are either not or partially free. These are correlations, so we cannot conclude that peace causes freedom, or vice versa.

But what about the middle? There’s a big inverted-N shaped kink in the middle of the curve, breaking the trend. Freedom seems to ride on a roller-coaster as peacefulness marches on.

Related Link: Riane Eisler on the dark underbelly of the world’s most peaceful countries’.

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