Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Terrorism and Freedom

Alberto Abadie has an elegant paper showing that terrorism is not correlated with (national) poverty and that the important variable is political freedom (of the Freedom House variety). Countries with high and low levels of political freedom are at lower risk of terrorism than countries with medium levels of political freedom. This is interesting.

But the subsidiary claim made in the paper that it is the transition from an autocratic regime to a more liberal one that causes terrorism -- and that this is what the data is picking up -- is less certain. Most countries in the intermediate range of freedom are not countries "transitioning," rather, they are "wallowing" in the intermediate level. Unless the terrorist attacks are concentrated in the few countries that we could consider transitioning, then the conclusion does not follow from the data. All Abadie has shown is that a medium level of political freedom is associated with terrorism, and not that the transition causes terrorism (interestingly, while this claim is made in the paper, in an interview he is more careful to say that the data do not support this conclusion).

Via Instapundit.

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