Monday, March 12, 2007

Arguing with a Commenter Commenting on Matthew Yglesias who is more than half as old as I am.


So the folks who track those freedom index doo-hickies and say Russia is becoming less democratic, they're making it up? I haven't followed this super-closely, but to me, it seems like a lot more journalists have been shut down, put in jail, etc., than under Yeltsin.

There's also the fact that in the early '90s, Russia was not very democratic, but it was moving in the right direction -- it was way, way more democratic than it had ever been before. Things are only slightly worse now, but the place is, as they say, backsliding. Things are moving in the wrong direction.

Posted by: too many steves on March 12, 2007 09:57 AM

Dear Too Many Steves
You ask
"So the folks who track those freedom index doo-hickies and say Russia is becoming less democratic, they're making it up?"
You should examine "those folks" a bit before declaring their index to be authoratative. For example you might find out
who they are. They are "Freedom House." Yglesias's claim is not that the index is completely made up, but that it is
distorted so that Pro US governments are given better ratings than anti US governments even if they are equally (un)democratic.

The fact is that "the folks" changed during the 80s. The original leader of the team that made the political rights index
(Raymond Gastil iirc) came to a parting of the ways with Freedom House (that is decided to spend more time with his family)
immediately after he refused to declare El Salvador a democracy (remember death squads and such). The claim that Freedom
House is a perpatrator of the equivocation between "Pro US" and "Democratic" is not paranoid, it is, more or less, an
established fact. I might be wrong about Freedom House, but you should, at least, know who you are citing as an unbiased
authority.

You say
"There's also the fact that in the early '90s, Russia was not very democratic,
but it was moving in the right direction -- it was way, way more democratic than it had ever been before."
However the Yeltsin administrations lasted a while, so it is not obvious (as you seem to assume) that the direction Russia
was moving was the same throughout. My perception is that Yeltsin's first election (president of Russia then still part of
the USSR) was a great step forward towards Democracy and that the end of the USSR made Russia a democracy for the first time ever.
this was moving in the right direction. However, the direction changed during Yeltsin's two terms in office with the
shelling of parliament, the use of massive force in Chechenia and general contempt for the rule of law and the division of powers
(not to mention a level of corruption which would make Duke Cunningham blush). To be picky and (I admit) Wiki, Yeltsin
was president until 1999, thus progress in the (very) early 90s is not the latest evidence on his devotion to Democracy.
How was the Yeltsin of 1999 more democratic than the Putin of 2007 ? That is the question.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wonderful incisive posts.

anne

Terri said...

Who the heck is Terri, by the way, in these comments?

Robert said...

Hey if Terri doesn't know who Terri is, how can I even try to guess.