Limiting the Policy Space of Authoritarian Regimes: An Exemplary Analysis of the Effects of the Freedom House Indicators

Monday, 16 July 2018: 15:30
Oral Presentation
Georg MUELLER, Univ. of Fribourg, Switzerland
Candid social reporting is not only of interest for scientists but also for the politically informed citizenry: periodic reports help to control the powerful and to compare their promises with social reality. This also holds for the annual publications of Freedom House (https://freedomhouse.org/) with internationally comparable indicators about political rights and related liberties. They shape the political expectations of the directly concerned national societies as well as an international community of politicians, human rights activists, etc. The latter group is especially important in political situations, where the national society is paralyzed by an authoritarian regime with a poor Freedom House rating.

An obvious and important scientific question is, how successful such reports really are in limiting the policy space of autocratic regimes. With regard to the Freedom House indicators we are especially interested in answering the following questions: i) How effective is the critique of the Freedom House indicators in restricting the violation of political rights by authoritarian national regimes? ii) To what extent is the respective impact of Freedom House paralyzed by counter-strategies (e.g. censorship) of these regimes?

In order to tackle these questions, the author first presents a model of the governmental policy space, which has two major theoretical elements: a) The formation of national/international expectations about political rights by the Freedom House reports. b) The voluntary or politically imposed tolerance of the national/international public for deviations from these expectations. The unknown model-parameters are estimated on the basis of historical Freedom House data by a novel statistical technique, based on iteratively reweighted least squares regression. The extracted parameters are subsequently used in order to answer the above mentioned research questions about the limits of the governmental policy space.