Correlating peace and freedom

The most free countries are the most peaceful, the least free ones are the most violent. But we can’t say much about the in-betweens

On the initiative of Steve Killelea, the Economist Intelligence Unit has compiled a Global Peace Index (GPI), ‘ranking 121 countries’ according to their relative states of peace. It defines ‘peace’ not only to be an absence of war, but also an absence of violence. One result of this definition is that the United States (#96) ends up getting a rather poor rating. India too ends up close to the bottom of the league table (#109).

This blog has a tradition of cross-comparing countries across different indices. So let’s see how things turn out when we compare peace index rankings with the political freedom scores from Freedom House.

Click to enlarge

This chart (click to enlarge) compares the average political freedom of the countries in the GPI rankings taken in groups of ten. For charting convenience, Freedom House political freedom ratings of Free, Partly Free and Not Free are converted to scores of 1, 2, 3 respectively, and plotted on the vertical axis. The GPI ranking is on the horizontal axis.

What does the chart tell us? Well, that the most free countries are also the most peaceful, and that the least free ones are also the most violent. Averaging masks the outliers—unfree Bhutan is peaceful, and free America, India and Israel are less peaceful. But twenty of the world’s most peaceful countries are also the free ones. Around twenty of the least peaceful 25 are either not or partially free. These are correlations, so we cannot conclude that peace causes freedom, or vice versa.

But what about the middle? There’s a big inverted-N shaped kink in the middle of the curve, breaking the trend. Freedom seems to ride on a roller-coaster as peacefulness marches on.

Related Link: Riane Eisler on ‘the dark underbelly of the world’s most peaceful countries’.

9 thoughts on “Correlating peace and freedom”

  1. “The most free countries are the most peaceful, the least free ones are the least violent. But we can’t say much about the in-betweens”

    Isnt it, “The most free countries are the most peaceful, the least free ones are the most violent. But we can’t say much about the in-betweens”..Check for the typo.

  2. In Italy for thirty years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love; they had five hundred years of democracy and peace and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.

    Orson Welles (1915 – 1985), The Third Man, 1949 [*]


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  4. Riane Eisler just walked of a cliff. What’s next – a society is not peaceful until all people have inner peace?

    Surprising US made the non-peaceful country(I wonder if the violent metric was normalized). India has long way to go before any semblance of peace will prevail with the Goan type sham democracy and UPA type secularism and social justice is continued to be pursued.

  5. High incidence of violence in the US may be explained by the easy availability of firearms. Gun control laws obviously, will have significant impact on peace.

  6. Nitin,

    Interestingly , note that Slovenia and Chile feature high up in the list.

    Also, most of the top are Baltic states..

    Does it have anything to do with low population density?? ( of course there are other factors, this is just a useless theory) Sparsely populated , more free Baltic states rank higher than other densely populated more free states, in general.

    Is it psychological? You see so many people around you that you dont get your space, and you dont bother what is happening to another person, there are so many of them? (case in point, Mumbai) While if you see less people around you, you tend to be happy to see them. A study said that people from sparse populated regions tend to bond stronger.. I then noted that people in Gujarat , Punjab and Rajasthan bond stronger than people in Mumbai or UP. Well, this is just speculation 🙂

    It might even be traced back to evolution. Groups of primates would spread out for resources, while those forced together would not get along well ..

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