Presentation on theme: "Good Societies Chapter One. Good Societies Our potential constrained by innate talents and kind of society we live in Dire circumstances can limit people."— Presentation transcript:
Good Societies Our potential constrained by innate talents and kind of society we live in Dire circumstances can limit people regardless of natural gifts Premise of text: some countries better than others at creating conditions that permit citizens to realize their potential
Comparative Politics Comparative politics examines why countries are organized in different ways and what effects these differences have Zimbabwe and Botswana Infant mortality rates twice as high in Zimbabwe as in Botswana (2008) Life expectancy 15 years shorter GDP per capita $200 compared to almost $14K Why is the quality of life so much better in Botswana than Zimbabwe? Thailand and Ghana Thirty years ago at roughly same developmental level Thailand has since progressed further and faster Why?
Comparative Politics By making comparisons, we can identify what might explain such divergent outcomes For example, different policies their governments have followed or different historical legacies Comparative politics enables us to compare different countries and appreciate what is distinctive about our own May also counteract ethnocentrism
The Logic and Practice of Comparative Political Analysis Comparative political analysis uses systematic procedures Formation of hypotheses = statements about relationships we expect to find among variables For example, if a country’s wealth increases, its citizens will be healthier Dependent variables What we are trying to explain Independent variables What we believe explains the dependent variable Operationalization Finding specific, concrete alternatives to use in place of abstract concepts like wealth and health Controls Holding other factors constant in order to see whether we still obtain the same results or if they were spurious due to other intervening factors
Comparative Political Analysis: Does Gender Equality Help Girls Do Better in School? Problem: Comparisons of girls and boys in different countries who took same math test found girls on average had lower scores than boys? Why? Socialization? Methods and Hypothesis: Recent study uses comparative analysis of 40 countries to answer whether sexist expectations influence girls’ performance Found great variation in performance – big gaps to no gaps Hypothesis: the more gender equality (I) in a country the smaller the gender gap in test scores (D)
Comparative Political Analysis: Does Gender Equality Help Girls Do Better in School? Operationalizing Concepts: Define what it means to “be better at math” and “gender equality” “math test scores” used results of a math test administered to 15- year olds in 40 countries (2003) Gender equality measured by using World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Index (GGI), which measures economic, cultural and political opportunities for women as compared to men Results: Confirmed the hypothesis. In countries where there is a large gender gap (e.g., Turkey), there is a large gap in math scores between boys and girls. In countries where there is gender equality, such as Sweden, the gap disappears Why do you think this is so?
Three methods to test hypotheses Case study Comparative cases method Comparing many countries instead of just a few or just one
Value of Comparison Insights into how countries’ political conditions differ and consequences of differences Can check intuitions about country’s politics by examining whether they apply in other circumstances Evaluate and form judgments that help us make sense of the world around us Empirical and objective Normative and moral Helps us get to the heart of the question: What constitutes a good society and why are some countries better than others at creating one?
Visions of the Good Society: GNP & Gross National Happiness What general criteria can we use to determine what are “good societies”? What is the merit of using wealth and happiness as criteria?
Visions of the Good Society: GNP & Gross National Happiness Problems with GDP Treats money spent on desirable goods and services as equivalent to money spent on less desirable ones Money spent on prisons and money spent on education Focus on growth ignores hidden costs (inequality, corruption, environmental impacts; e.g., China) Omits behavior many consider desirable (e.g., people caring for aging parents; unpaid work); only measures cold, hard cash Can hide considerable differences in how money is distributed Obscures income and wealth disparities
GNP vs. GNH Economic development and wealth is important but is only a means to an end Happiness is the goal of a good society Wealth can help achieve happiness More is better only if it makes us happier Bhutan, located between China and India New constitution (2008) Government programs judged according to happiness they produce Four pillars Economy, culture, environment, and good governance Developed complex mathematical formula for measuring happiness World Values Survey Investigates how happy people were in different countries
GNP vs. GNH 1.Happiness standard suffers from many of same flaws as wealth standard 2.While happiness is a good thing, it is not the only thing 3.Different cultures attach different value to happiness Reasons to be skeptical of happiness as indicator of good society
In Brief: Criticisms of GNP & GNH as Measures of the Good Society GNP Treats all spending as the same (of equal value) regardless of purpose Not sensitive to issues of distribution and equality Devalues activity that is not bought and sold GNH Indifferent to ways people might find happiness Discounts people’s sense of satisfaction may depend more upon reference group or expectations than actual circumstances Ignores cultural differences in approval or sanction given to happiness
So what is a good standard? Neither satisfactory as standard to evaluate government performance and quality of life of country’s citizens What standard is appropriate to measure the “good society”? Most important goal of governments is to provide individuals with freedom to develop potential A good society “enhances capabilities of people to pursue goals important to their own lives, whether through individual or collective action.” – Hall and Lamont
Capabilities & the Quality of Life Precise concept/measurement required Four dimensions essential to making people free to live life they choose, which apply in all countries: 1.Meet their physical needs 2.Live in safety 3.Make informed decisions 4.Exercise civil and political rights
Capabilities & the Quality of Life Physical well-being Nourishment, health care, and housing – enough to support a long life How to measure? Poverty? Not available across countries and varies across cultures Poor in U.S. might be rich in developing country Infant mortality rates Newborns highly susceptible to poor diet, deadly disease, and extreme weather Sweden and Japan – fewer than 3 newborn babies die per 1,000 births Sierra Leone – 154 deaths for every 1,000 babies born (2006) Afghanistan – 20% of babies die before first birthday
Informed Decision-making Ability to make choices to improve one’s quality of life depends on access to information and the skills to understand its meaning Literate and numerate: without skills individuals are “blind” and cannot make many occupational choices; taken advantage of by others One way to assess informed decision making is to compare literacy rates across countries
Safety Insecurity makes it more difficult for governments to create positive conditions. Poor government performance contributes to instability. Profound differences across countries in terms of security Homicide rates a good means to measure differences in safety War measures impact of violent political conflicts Example from Congo: Only a fraction are combat-related; most loss of life occurred because war ruined economy and health care services; produced starvation and disease
Democracy Without influence over laws that govern them, people cannot press for improvements in any other areas (physical well-being, safety, and education) Improvements in civil rights (such as right to public accommodations) that the state guarantees to all citizens and in civil liberties (such as freedom of speech or assembly) Improvements in political rights, such as holding office or voting By 2000 almost all of world’s people lived in independent countries, as opposed to colonies of others; majority have universal suffrage and multiparty elections
Democracy Still considerable differences across countries Useful indexes to measure democracy: U.S. government’s Millennium Challenge Account program uses various data sets on democracy to allocate aid among foreign countries Indexes vary in terms of quality Best is Polity IV index – Monty G. Marshall and Keith Jaggers Rates countries from zero (highly authoritarian) to ten (highly democratic)
Caveats Four categories represent minimum people need to fulfill potential and enhance their lives May require tradeoffs; may not be able to exist together at the same level at all times Goal of good society is to make it possible for each individual in a country to enjoy a high quality of life, and not just for the average quality to be high Approach does not specify a particular set of economic, political, or social institutions that are necessary for a good society Does not assert it is the state’s responsibility to ensure that all individuals thrive It is the role of the state to create conditions in which persons can choose a flourishing life
In Brief: Operationalizing Capabilities 1.Meeting physical needs: infant mortality rates 2.Safety: homicide rates 3.Informed decision-making: literacy rates 4.Civil and political rights: the Polity IV Democracy index
Responding to Criticisms of the Capability Approach Many scholars and organizations have adopted capability approach U.N. report: “Fundamental to enlarging human choices is building capability: the range of things that people can do or be.” Critics: too idealistic; contrary to human nature. Another view: humans are selfish, but this is a good thing according to some critics
Responding to Criticisms of the Capability Approach Cultural relativism not as innocent or impartial as it appears Legitimizes power of those who have triumphed over others in conflict of prevailing social values Taliban: banned education of girls Concept is difficult to apply with consistency Cultural relativists believe it is inappropriate to try to establish criteria for a good society that apply to all of the world’s countries
Conclusion Comparative politics examines why countries are organized in different ways and what consequences those differences may have Proceeds systematically: hypotheses, operationally defining variables, selecting methods to test hypotheses Methodical approach to answering the question: what is a good society? Capabilities approach: consistent standards to apply in making normative judgments among competing values within and between societies
Critical Thinking Questions What principles does your vision of a Good Society reflect? What prerequisites do you think the Good Society should include? We use concepts, such as democracy or freedom, all the time. Or we often say that workers in some country are more class conscious than workers in another, or that ethnic tensions are greater here than there. But operationally defining these concepts so they can be used in comparative political analysis is tricky and takes a great deal of imagination. How would you operationally define these concepts (democracy, freedom, class consciousness, ethnic tension) so they can be compared across countries?
Critical Thinking Questions What are the advantages and disadvantages of the different comparative methods we reviewed: the case study approach that examines one country extensively; a paired country approach that tries to find countries that are similar to each other so that other variables can be held constant; or comparisons that involve many countries so analysts can test their hypothesis against many cases? Which method do you think is best and why?
Critical Thinking Questions Even if we accept that wealth (GDP per capita) is not sufficient for the Good Society, do you think it is at least, necessary? What criteria do you believe should be used to evaluate how states perform?
The Good Society in Depth Costa Rica : Doing more with less
Wealthier countries are healthier, generally, and have the lowest infant mortality rates Costa Rica is an exception Small democratic country; 4.5 million people in Central America; one of best infant mortality records at its income level and nearly matches the rates in U.S. How do they do it? Government’s role in providing necessities for poor mothers and infants: safe drinking water, adequate nutrition, and basic health care for pregnant mothers and newborns Has one of the oldest, most established democracies in the Americas; competitive political parties and high voter turnout by peasants and workers Government has been controlled by a political party whose leaders were determined to help rural poor Groups opposed to its policies were politically weak; doctors, hospitals, and insurance companies were publically controlled and funded, which weakened their ability to oppose government’s policies