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Is democracy measurable?
I was posting this on our securing liberty facebook page and thought it raised some questions that might be worth discussing
Christian Caryl in foreign Policy's Democracy Lab blog questions whether democracy can be measured. There are numerous rankings of countries on all sorts of criteria that are relevant to democracy; perhaps best well known are the surveys by Freedom House into how free countries are. Others concentrate on government and elections and some take a wider range of measurements. However democracy is so complex it is difficult to capture where a country is in a single number.
So why is this question important to securing liberty? Mostly because in order to have democracy you need both security and liberty. We have at times been guilty of portraying a continuum that travels between liberty on one hand and security on the other. We tend to portray security as being bad and liberty somewhat better! The need for liberty is pretty obvious; people need to be free to have their own opinions, to vote, to voice those opinions and try to persuade others etc. But people also need security in order to be able to make use of these liberties. There is no point in being completely at liberty to vote if the voting station gets blown up and those wanting to vote killed by gunmen. Absolute liberty leads to anarchy which is every bit as antithetical with democracy as as absolute 'security', which will almost certainly mean dictatorship, is.
I guess there are two obvious questions that come out of this; do you agree that extreme liberty harms democracy? and do you think that democracy is unmeasurable?