February 07, 2006

Islam and Democracy Reprise

OK, I did some coding last night and obtained the latest Freedom House Indices for 2006 as well as some numbers for the percent of the population that's Muslim for 164 countries. Although I have some fairly consequencial objections to Rusty's methodology regarding this data, I thought I'd go ahead and run some correlations and a quick regression using both of the composite Freedom House indices that I calculated. (Basically it's just the mean of civil liberty and political freedom, so doesn't include press freedom.) I'm not sure how to present the regressions, but since they show essentially the same picture as the Pearson correlation coefficients I'll just post those first.

Correlation between % Muslims and the 2001 Freedom House Index = 0.6044
Correlation between % Muslims and the 2006 Freedom House Index = 0.5650

For those not familiar with correlation, anything over 0.5 is considered large. But things at least seem to be moving in the right direction. As one might expect since the regression is on only one variable it shows pretty much the same pattern as the correlations. The raw coefficient for the percent Muslim for 2001 is 0.031. That means that for each increase of 1% in the percentage of Muslims in the population the level of freedom goes down by 0.031 points on a scale of 7. (Roughly 1 in 200.) The relationship is also highly significant.

In other words, the relationship has positive slope. (Remember that the dependent variable isn't freedom, but repression, because the higher the score the less free the society.)

Now, using the 2006 index the coefficient for the percentage of Muslims goes down a bit, to 0.029. However both numbers are within a 95% confidence interval. For those used to thinking in terms of beta coefficients, the betas are mathematically identical to the Pearson coefficients above, for a simple regression like this. Unlike the raw coefficients these are scaled to variation, which is why they're called "standard coefficients." They provide a little better sense of what's going on: about 0.04 for 5 years, or about 0.01 per year. (I guess it depends on when you start counting.) That's not very much in absolute terms, but it'd be interesting to know whether it's greater or less than the previous 5 year period. Is the trend toward freedom in the Ummah accelerating or decelerating?

I used only one set of numbers for the percent Muslim, because it was all I could find. For anyone who'd like to duplicate this effort, and possibly retain a few more cases, the data are here. They're for 2005 so the change in percent Muslim from 2001 to 2006 probably doesn't explain why the coefficient has dropped, since the percentage of Muslims has been growing. For the 2001 regression the percentage of Muslims is overestimated, so the actual coefficient would he greater relative to the 2006 number that this analysis shows. In other words the resistance to freedom in the Muslim world may be dropping faster than this suggests. It's hard to say how much greater unless one finds the percent Muslim data for 2001, which I don't have. But assuming the drop is real and significant (the coefficient for a "dummy variable" for 2006 is negative and almost significant at the 90% confidence level with a coefficient for the percent Muslim of 0.30) it's reasonable to suppose that the change is either part of a long term trend toward freedom, or it's a result of policies followed by the US. At any rate this analysis certainly doesn't support the Left's notion that Bush is making things worse. (We sort of knew that though, right?)

The bottom line is that Islam puts up considerable resistance to civil and political freedom, but that resistance is at least not increasing over time, and it is probably decreasing.

Well, make of it what you will.

(Cross-posted to The Jawa Report)

Posted by Demosophist at 08:46 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

February 06, 2006

Is Islam Compatible With Democracy?

I started out tapping out a comment to Rusty's post on this topic, but it grew to the point that I decided to publish it as a separate essayette. Rusty graciously establishes the empirical parameters of this thesis, but I don't think they necessarily address the issue:

If one were really interested in seeing whether or not there is a relationship between Islam and liberalism, I would suggest the following. In fact, I dare any one to run the following analysis.

Hypothesis: there is a strong correlation between the percent of a nation's population that is Muslim and the extent to which that country's population is free in the liberal sense of the word.

Null Hypothesis: there is no relationship between the percent of a nation's population that is Muslim and the extent to which that country's population is free in the liberal sense of the word.

Plot a simple OLS regression model with the two variables. The first variable would simply be % Muslim. The second variable would be the Freedom House numbers. Since the Freedom House Numbers are coded negatively the following results should be found.....

If we are agreed that the above is a moderately fair way of empircally testing the relationship between Islam and tyranny, then the gauntlet has been thrown. I personally do not have the time to run the numbers, but perhaps some enterprising blogger with moderate experience using SPSS would like to give it a go?

The problem with this method is that, while it's a reasonable way of testing the relationship between Islam and political freedom, that's not the research question that's being considered.

Dean's question is whether Islam is compatible with democracy, so unless Rusty is willing to propose and support the notion that all of these democratic nations are free only because of their non-Muslim population he isn't actually posing an alternative hypothesis. It's a useful analysis, but not one that's necessarily in opposition to Dean's.

That is, even if the correlation or slope turns out to be negative with respect to the % muslim that only suggests that there's muslim resistance to democracy, not that such resistance will ultimately dominate. In fact, such a finding of resistance would be trivial... since we can almost predict it will exist without doing the analysis. To illustrate what I'm saying, a similar empirical analysis would have supported the notion that Democracy in America was impossible in the late 1700s, since there were no other extant examples on earth where even a Schumpeterian democracy (competition between elites for public opinion supporting their "right to rule") had a foothold. The universe at the time was completely selected against democracy. The incidence was 0. However, one might have looked at some of the precursors, such as the rule of law, parliamentary forms of government, written constitutions with specifically described "negative individual rights," etc., and having seen a positive trend have decided that a breakthrough was more or less inevitable. But there were no correlates of democracy at the time, because there were no democracies. Conceptually it was Everest. Seen in this light the Founders' vision is nothing less than miraculous. That's right, miraculous.

Plus, as a rule data suffering from selection bias tends to underestimate the effect of treatment variables, rather than overestimate those coefficients. That's because the baseline is higher so it's more difficult to get a large positive relationship for the treatment. This isn't always the case, but it's more often true than not. (For those interested in issues of arcane method see Designing Social Inquiry King, Keohane and Verba, 1994.) In this case, though, the treatment variable would not be the percentage of Muslims, but various kinds of interventions or adjustments that neutralize muslim resistance, or even turn it to an advantage. What I'm saying is that precisely because the selected sample is biased with respect to the dependent variable the effect of those independent and instrumental variables will probably be underestimated, if we limit analysis to "less than or equal to 4" on the FH scale.

And finally, Ernest Gellner's analysis in Conditions of Liberty (which, after all, is what we're talking about) basically argues that there's a threshold effect that depends on the process of reformation within the Ummah, or actually on the proximate end of that process and the exponential growth of rationalization (in the Weberian sense). I'd say that what Rusty has identified as "Marxist tendancies" in Islam are actually what Weber would have called (with good reason) "traditionalist." They resist rationalization, but there's no reason to presume that such resistance will ultimately succeed any more than we could have concluded that predominantly Catholic countries in Europe would remain immune to democratic reform indefinitely. In fact, if there's a positive trend toward economic rationalization one can almost predict an eventual democratic outcome, unless everything blows up...

(Cross-posted to The Jawa Report)

Posted by Demosophist at 04:01 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 04, 2006

"House of War"

Histories and commentaries about Islam often mention the ironic labels that Muslims place on the two "houses" that define the two parts of humanity, as they see them. In this cosmology the realm of the infidels is referred to as the "House of War" while the sphere of Islam is called the "Ummah" (roughly, the community of the virtuous and faithful). The implication is that the West is condemned by their failure to "submit to the will of Allah" to a process of internecine struggle. This has been a useful fiction for the Ummah because not only does it provide a sense of moral superiority, but serves as a figleaf to hide the Ummah's private shame. The term "House of War" manages to convey the notion that the long struggle for justice, freedom and responsible government in the West was the mere pathology of an inferior and faithless people. But the current "cartoon crisis" informs the confused that what the Ummah has really been in submission to for these many centuries is not Allah's will, but a long tradition of tyranny that oppresses in the name of Allah. Avoidance by the Ummah of the kind of struggle that, for centuries, plunged the House of War into a bloody-but-purifying crucible has left the "House of Mankind" contaminated with dross.

And threatens to plunge us all, this time, again into the crucible.

(Cross-posted to The Jawa Report)

Posted by Demosophist at 12:46 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

The Moral Middle

All of the appeasers, and at least a few of the agitators, in the comment section of this post at Samizdata (h/t: Wretchard) are missing the point. When the author refers to the editors of UK periodicals who refuse to publish the cartoons as "craven" he doesn't have in mind a matter of whether they're worried about "offending religious believers," because things have gone far beyond that. What he means is that these editors are so far behind the curve that they believe it's still a matter of giving or taking offense. They're craven because they fail to recognize that there's no legitimate moral or ethical ground standing between I am Spartacus" and the illegitimacy of "discretion is the better part of valor." With one possible exception, discretion is cowardice and foolishness.

That exception? There's something largely missing from this debate, because there would seem some ground upon which principled Muslims might have stood. They could have made the argument that the Danish cartoons could not have depicted The Prophet, regardless of the intent, but must have been of a False Prophet honored by Al Qaeda and the Salafists. What does it mean that most of the Ummah assumes Al Qaeda honors Muhammed? Are there any Muslims with the view that the controversy is over a False Prophet and a false Islam? Maybe the few who take this position need an amplifier to be heard over the "street din?" Come to think of it, giving those Muslims a larger voice might still be the better part of valor.

(Cross-posted to The Jawa Report)

Posted by Demosophist at 10:16 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 03, 2006

Kabuki Outrage

Strictly Speaking this sort of thing doesn't bother me all that much. I mean, it's true that western media are kind of bending over backwards, matrix-style, to placate muslin sentiment, but the backdrop is that we're more afraid of what we might do, than what they might do. Consider that human beings, as a rule, are not really that different from one another in spite of modest differences in local and regional culture. We basically all have the same sense of fairness and usually recognize the same constraints against the First Commandment. And the thrust of history that substantiates the reform and progressive movements in Western Culture (individual freedom, anti-slavery, anti-totalitarianism) are not merely "Western" but human, in a sense that's vastly larger than the regional appeal of a Seventh Century Prophet who "shall not be disobeyed." And while the world of Islam has been offended, yet again, by our iconoclasm, we have yet to see the awakened offense of Western Culture to the affront of being challenged and blasphemed by the regional superstition of "low Islam," before it has even awakened itself to a righteous indignation about chattel slavery: a conflict that cost the United States in excess of a million untimely deaths. (And in my own case, almost 50% of the progeny of our Arkansas hillbilly family.) If the sense of Jacksonian offense at being taken for granted by a lesser cultural light is ever genuinely awakened, the modest threats tossed out by the Islamic world as a thin figleaf against its own shameful past will seem anemic and pale by comparison to the wrath that will be loosed on that poor excuse for "progress."

Do not get me started...

(Cross-posted to The Jawa Report)

Posted by Demosophist at 11:12 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Michael Yon Gets Shortchanged

OK, this is just a matter of lawyers getting in the way of sentience. Some senior staff officer had better step in to dispel the insanity, and use a rolled-up newspaper on the JAG's nose while they're at it. Dumber than a bag of rocks...

(h/t: Instapundit)

Posted by Demosophist at 04:14 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack