THE WORLD IN 2OO7
The Economist Intelligence Unit’s index of democracy
By Laza Kekic, director, country forecasting services, Economist Intelligence Unit
Defining and measuring democracy There is no consensus on how to measure democracy, deﬁnitions of democracy are contested and there is an ongoing lively debate on the subject. The issue is not only of academic interest. For example, although democracy-promotion is high on the list of American foreign-policy priorities, there is no consensus within the American government on what constitutes a democracy. As one observer recently put it, “the world’s only superpower is rhetorically and militarily promoting a political system that remains undeﬁned—and it is staking its credibility and treasure on that pursuit” (Horowitz, 2006, p 114). Although the terms “freedom” and “democracy” are often used interchangeably, the two are not synonymous. Democracy can be seen as a set of practices and principles that institutionalise and thus ultimately protect freedom. Even if a consensus on precise deﬁnitions has proved elusive, most observers today would agree that, at a minimum, the fundamental features of a democracy include government based on majority rule and the consent of the governed, the existence of free and fair elections, the protection of minorities and respect for basic human rights. Democracy presupposes equality before the law, due process and political pluralism. Is reference to these basic features sufﬁcient for a satisfactory concept of democracy? As discussed below, there is a question of how far the deﬁnition may need to be widened. Some insist that democracy is necessarily a dichotomous concept—a state is either democratic or not. But most measures now appear to adhere to a continuous concept, with the possibility of varying degrees of democracy. At present, the best-known measure is produced by the US-based Freedom House organisation. The average of its indexes, on a 1 to 7...