Comparative Human Rights Abuses

Via the Monkey Cage (Putting Cuban human rights violations in some context), Erik Voeten notes

In a recent article (ungated) in the American Political Science Review, Penn State political scientist Christopher J. Fariss develops a smart measurement model that captures the common component among different measures of physical integrity rights. Moreover, this model generates measures that are comparable over time.

He provides the following graph that relies on that measure:

 

Two points:

1.  If one is going to argue that the US cannot do business with Cuba because of its human rights record, then those self-same persons need to be calling for an embargo of Vietnam.

2.  Cuba’s current human rights record, at least based on this metric, is roughly the same now as it was before the Revolution (when we had full relations).

FILED UNDER: Latin America, Quick Takes, US Politics, World Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. wr says:

    If one really wants to point out that the US can’t do business with Cuba because of its terrible human rights record, it would probably better to revisit any statements you (not Steven, but Republican senators) insisting that all the torture outlined in that senate report was really a good thing…

  2. @wr: There’s that, too.

  3. DrDaveT says:

    That graphic isn’t from the linked paper — it’s actually based on the data here.

  4. I’m curious to see the US’s line.

  5. Liberal Capitalist says:

    I would have been VERY interested to see where the USA is on that chart.

    Why no red-white-and-blue line displayed ???!!11!~

    Colbert woudda. (… and he would have had BALD EAGLES in gold as well ! )

    See what happens already, once he’s gone?

    It’s hell-in-a-handbasket.

  6. DrDaveT says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    I’m curious to see the US’s line.

    The US curve tracks with Vietnam and North Korea up into the 1970s, then rises steeply to just under 2.0 around 1980, then drops back to dip below the Cuba curve around 2005, finishing just under 0.4 in 2010 (slightly above Cuba).

  7. Dave Schuler says:

    I’m not sure that comparisons like this actually mean anything. There’s no universally-accepted standard for human rights. In, say, Iran allowing people to defame Islam is considered a violation of human rights rather than a protection of them. In Cuba free healthcare is considered a human right—they think we’re violating human rights with our system. The British have a right to cross the land, guaranteed under Magna Carta. We call that “trespassing”.

  8. @DrDaveT: It was my understanding that the metric used to produce the data for the graph derived from the paper in question (but perhaps I misread the relationship).

  9. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Could be, Steven — I’m just saying that if you want a closer look at the graphic (or to, say, highlight the US line), you can’t get it by downloading the PDF of the paper. You have to click through from the Monkey Cage article where it says “the graph above uses this data” to the data source, download the data, and produce the chart for yourself. Presumably the data are the ones described in the paper, but the paper has neither tables nor graphics like the chart shown.

  10. grumpy realist says:

    @Dave Schuler: No, what the Brits have is rather different. It’s that if by custom from time immemorial people have used a track across someone else’s land, then that is a “right-of-way” and yah, they can keep doing it.

    We have similar stuff in US real estate law but usually it’s stuff that gets written down into land deeds when property gets sold (i.e., farmer sells off part of family farm, but still gets to use the private road that goes through it.) But we got ’em, and yeah, I’m gonna be tested on all of that stuff when I take the Bar exam.

  11. Dave Schuler says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Look up “right to roam”. It’s a bit more general than an easement.

  12. Pinky says:

    Charts are nice. Doesn’t matter where the numbers come from.

  13. @Pinky: You are free to accept or reject these things as you like.

  14. @DrDaveT:

    The US curve tracks with Vietnam and North Korea up into the 1970s, then rises steeply to just under 2.0 around 1980, then drops back to dip below the Cuba curve around 2005, finishing just under 0.4 in 2010 (slightly above Cuba).

    If that’s true, I dispute the validity of the chart’s measure.

  15. Rafer Janders says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    If that’s true, I dispute the validity of the chart’s measure.

    What, just because you don’t like the result? You have to actually offer some quantitative or other metric to dispute it, not just because it results in a conclusion you don’t like.

    I don’t like that eating too much makes me fast, but I’m not going to dispute any height/weight charts just because they may tell me something I don’t like.

  16. @Rafer Janders:

    You have to actually offer some quantitative or other metric to dispute it, not just because it results in a conclusion you don’t like.

    1) No, the paper is making the claim that this metric actually measures Human Rights projections. It’s their obligation to prove it’s correct, not other people’s to prove it’s not.
    2) Are you seriously going to argue that North Korea had comparable human rights protections to the US during the 1960s? Are you seriously going to argue that there was a huge increase in human right protections during the Nixon administration? Are you seriously going to argue human rights were better protected during the Reagan administration than they are now?

  17. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Stormy Dragon: So… Who defines human rights? I guarantee that damn near every human being in Europe finds the US health care system a gross violation of the human right to health care.

    Not being snide here. What are “human rights”? What I think they are, may or may not be different from what you do. (my bet is they correlate)

  18. @OzarkHillbilly

    I guarantee that damn near every human being in Europe finds the US health care system a gross violation of the human right to health care.

    And yet the measure claims our human rights were most protected in the late 70s, before medicaid, before HIPAA, before SCHIP, before PACA.

  19. DrDaveT says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Are you seriously going to argue that North Korea had comparable human rights protections to the US during the 1960s?

    Yes. I’m old enough (barely) to remember segregation, and lynchings, and the parents who told their kids to stop playing with me because I played with niggers.

  20. DrDaveT says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    If that’s true, I dispute the validity of the chart’s measure.

    The link to the paper is there. Feel free to offer a critique of the metric they are using.

  21. Grewgills says:

    @DrDaveT:
    I’ve known darker skinned people from Korea and they weren’t/aren’t treated any better than African Americans were here. All of the few I’ve known had stories of being chased by rock throwing children and worse.

  22. lounsbury says:

    Oh bloody hell, silly ideological whinging from both sides.

    So long as the chart’s data is internally consistent over time and between countries as a matter of comparison, the major point is maintained, whether one decides that the actual human right standards re peculiar to ‘the West’ or even USA.

    The major point being that on a comparable basis – if the data is internally consistent over time and between countries – an argument to embargo Cuba on human rights is nonsensical both on current comparative and comparative in time when the Cuban gov’t was a-okay for the USA.

    Whether one agrees with the measurement philosophically or objects to one country or another’s supposed standing is quite another thing.

    I haven’t a direct opinion myself, maybe the data is not consistent over time or between countries at a reasonable level, but the squishy emotional-ideological reactions are quite boring although oh so typical for politics.

  23. Davebo says:

    @Pinky:

    Doesn’t it get old to you after a while? I mean, the whole ignoring data that conflicts you thing?

  24. Ben Wolf says:

    So long as the chart’s data is internally consistent over time and between countries as a matter of comparison, the major point is maintained, whether one decides that the actual human right standards re peculiar to ‘the West’ or even USA.

    Whether a model is intertemporally consistent has no bearing on its relationship to the real world. If it doesn’t accurately describe reality then it’s a logically consistent toy for showing off in the journals.

    Models are only good as the assumptions on which they’re based.