Countries' Freedom vs. Countries' Names:

A fabulous item from Social Science++ (Brendan O'Connor); here's the graphic, but read the whole post:

Reminds me of my rule of thumb: If a discipline has the term "science" in it, it's not much of a science. No mathematicians would say they're students of "mathematics science."

Thanks to Language Log for the pointer.

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea has 3 red flags... good to see that someone has "quantified" the irony in that name.
8.14.2007 6:47pm
Very Tired:

Yes, of *course* the Republic of Cuba is oppressive, what with it's leader opposing U.S. imperialism and free healthcare and low infant mortality rates. The irony, of course, is that the U.S. has more illegally held prisoners in Cuba than Cuba does.
8.14.2007 6:50pm
Is this a large enough sample size to show anything? All of the words that appear in a large number of country names hover around the average; it's only the rarer words that skew to the extremes.
8.14.2007 6:52pm
Justin (mail):
The only statistically useful sample here is republic, and it seems like the difference is marginal at best. Freedom house doesn't seem to like state, democratic, or people (all signals that a state either is a very young socialist or communist regime

Obviously, established countries (commonwealth, kingdom) are far more likely to be stable (and far more likely to be European) and thus support political rights. Most communist countries aren't big on political rights, either.

Lots of interesting decisions at the margins - Iran is at 6.0, Ivory Coast, China, and Saudi Arabia at 6.5, and Cuba at 7.0? Russia and Thailand at 5.5, the same as Egypt, Rwanda, and both Congos? And Singapore is only at 4.5?
8.14.2007 6:56pm
steve lubet (mail):
Computer science? Life sciences?
8.14.2007 6:56pm
Justin (mail):
Iraq, btw, is doing fantastic at 6.0. Good thing we're bringing Democracy there.
8.14.2007 6:58pm
scote (mail):

The irony, of course, is that the U.S. has more illegally held prisoners in Cuba than Cuba does.

I'm not a big proponent of Cuba but there is no rational reason why one oppressive Communist regime--one with a powerful military and nuclear weapons--is our biggest trading partner but the tiny one is so dangerous that for a US citizen to smoke cuban cigar anywhere in the world is illegal.

BTW, the US has more prisoners per-capita than anyone. We finally surpassed South Africa. Go USA!
8.14.2007 6:59pm
EKR (mail) (www):
Also, since when is mathematics science?
8.14.2007 7:01pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Steve Lubet: My point exactly. I was a math-computer science major; computer science is important, but most of what is called "computer science" tend to be, in my experience, engineering rather than science (not like there's anything wrong with that). As to "life sciences," biology is a science; as to life sciences minus biology -- and minus whatever other "science"-less disciplines there might be within the "life sciences" -- I'm not so sure. When have you ever heard a scientist call himself a "life scientist"?
8.14.2007 7:02pm
Mr. Impressive (mail):
Mathematics is not a science.

Mathematics is a system of symbols used to communicate logical truths.

Science, in contrast, employs the scientific method. Mathematics, in contrast, does not employ the scientific method, but instead proceeds by way of proof, given a set of assumptions.
8.14.2007 7:03pm
WHOI Jacket:
I'm sure Very Tired is posting this from while flying a kite from Hemingway's Pier and sipping a Mojito in ol' Habana as we speak.

Wouldn't want to be illegally arrested or anything.
8.14.2007 7:08pm
Raffi (mail):
This is fun, but I wonder what the equivalent chart would look like for countries who changed their names. That is, do despots tend to choose more "democratic" sounding names than do revolutions heading in the other direction?
8.14.2007 7:14pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
EKR: Since Gauss, as the link attached to "mathematics" suggested. The Queen of the Sciences, in fact. And if it's good enough for Gauss, it's good enough for me.

By the way, I hope people realize that my post, and the one I'm linking to, is largely (though not entirely) jocular. In particular, I surely can't claim there's some essentialist way in which mathematics must surely be science, though I have a strong esthetic sense of this (as well as a pragmatic feeling that mathematics is usefully thought of as a science, partly because mathematicians are temperamentally similar to theoretical scientists, and often work on similar questions). I'm aware that definitions vary; compare definition 1 from the Random House with "In modern use, often treated as synonymous with 'Natural and Physical Science', and thus restricted to those branches of study that relate to the phenomena of the material universe and their laws, sometimes with implied exclusion of pure mathematics. This is now the dominant sense in ordinary use" from the OED, definition 5.b.
8.14.2007 7:18pm
EKR (mail) (www):
Well, once you've expanded the definition of "science" to cover mathematics, you've pretty much cut loose from any notion of science as an empirical practice. There's nothing wrong with that, of course, but I don't really see how you get to the result that "computer science" isn't science. Sure, plenty of computer science feels like engineering, but a large part of it fairly clearly isn't (cf. cryptography, information theory, complexity theory, etc.).

To take a broader view, the definition you're citing, namely "a branch of knowledge or study dealing with a body of facts or truths systematically arranged and showing the operation of general laws: the mathematical sciences." seems to me to apply equally well to most of the fields with the name "science" that people tend to dismiss as "not science", namely "political science", "computer science", etc. Indeed, I think a strong argument could be made that this definition includes the sweet science. I'd be interested in hearing your proposed definition of "science" that includes mathematics but excludes "computer science"
8.14.2007 7:33pm
Some Mathematician (mail):
What about the guys at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences ( or at the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (

Thats 2 of the top 8 math departments in the US (I'm counting MIT, Yale, Berkeley/MSRI, Chicago, UCLA, Princeton/IAS, Stanford and NYU/Courant as the top).
8.14.2007 7:45pm
Mr. Impressive (mail):
The problem with saying that mathematics is a science is pragmatic. (Really, all arguments about definitions ultimately are pragmatic. Words are symbols that mean what we agree that they mean. To say that word X must absolutely mean such and such while someone else says that word X must instead mean so and so strikes me as both irresolvable and tending towards dogmatism. Those sorts of arguments about definitions are not worth having.)

Many things can be expressed either in words or with mathematics (which is a language for expressing logical truths). Merely expressing an idea with mathematics does not make it scientific. There is a danger that people will think that anything that includes mathematics is scientific, because, why isn't it, if mathematics is science.

The term "science" gets a special respect in our society, and for good reason. But, the reason that science deserves special respect is that its results are verifiable and are thoroughly tested using the scientific method.

Now, granted, research scientists work on uncertain frontiers all the time, and not all ideas that can be said to be scientific are equally respectable or equally solid. But, the body of knowledge established by science is the most respectable and solid body of knowledge we humans have. Compare mainstream physics to mainstream political science and ask yourself which body of knowledge is on more solid footing. (I am not talking about research frontiers here, but rather mainstream bodies of knowledge.)

The language of science, it can correctly be said, is mathematics. And mathematics is important because it extends our deductive power. It is a system of symbols well-suited to unambigiously expressed logical truths. The more powerful our mathematics, the more knowledge we can arrive at through deduction. Mathematics (and by extension mathematicians) are very important and useful. But then again, so are computers. Just because something is useful to science (as are computer science, mathematic and of course engineering -- who do you thinks designs the advanced equipment used by physicists??) does not mean that it is science.

Pragmatically, we don't want people to think of mathematics as science, because they might tend start giving the same sort of deference to works that include mathematics as they give to, say, the discoveries of physics. But such deference (which is warranted when it comes to the discoveries of physics that we rely on everyday) are not warranted merely because an argument includes some mathematics. That your argument includes mathematics does not necessarily make it any better than the argument without mathematics.
8.14.2007 7:50pm
United Arab Emirates, that's a double bad? But wait, didn't the head of the UAE, Sheik Zayed, bestow a humanitarian award along with a check for $500K on our Nobel Laureate ex-prez Jimmy Carter, who in turn heaped praise on his benefactor, who some carpers have complained is an unbridled antisemite. (After 2 years, Harvard Divinity School reluctantly handed the Sheik back the $2M he gave them because he was an embarrassment.)
8.14.2007 7:54pm
Mr. Impressive (mail):
I have to agree with EKR. Once you expand the definition of science to include mathematics, there is really no justification for saying that computer science and engineering are not science. As does mathematics, computer science and engineering allow scientists to learn more information based on existing information.

I wouldn't make too much of this though. Any definition is going to have line drawing problems and that isn't really a decisive argument against a pragmatically useful definition.
8.14.2007 7:56pm
Libertarian1 (mail):
As I have said to my patients on numerous occasions when results were not 100% to their liking: "Medicine is an art not a science"
8.14.2007 7:59pm
Mr. Impressive (mail):

Here is a definition of science for you that includes mathematics but excludes computer science.

Science (noun) - Physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics and their branches, but not computer science.
8.14.2007 8:00pm
frankcross (mail):
Likewise, if people claim to be a conspiracy, they probably aren't.
8.14.2007 8:01pm
Social Science.

'nuff said
8.14.2007 8:10pm
Yes, of *course* the Republic of Cuba is oppressive, what with it's leader opposing U.S. imperialism and free healthcare and low infant mortality rates. The irony, of course, is that the U.S. has more illegally held prisoners in Cuba than Cuba does. [Very Tired]

Do you have any personal experience of Cuba's "free healthcare" or are you relying on sources like Michael Moore to inform you? On a visit to Cuba for a medical meeting some years ago, I spoke with both providers and recipients. The old adage about getting what you pay for certainly applies there. The public health system, something that being a totalitarian country does not hurt, is good, with results like a low infant mortality rate. Cuba does considerably better by "medical tourists," who come there for expensive care at a discount (not "free"), than they do by their own citizens, at least those who aren't officials or appartchiks.

As for "prisoners in Cuba," I am not surprised to hear your claim about those held by the US at Guantanimo. (Too bad we didn't hold on to the 30 who have returned to the war theater to fight with their Islamist brethren against us. Happily, one recently blew himself up in Pakistan.) I am very surprised, though, to hear you allude to prisoners "illegally" held in Cuba by Cuba. Really, that beacon of freedom Cuba holds people in its prisons illegally? Whom do you have in mind, the "librarians" for example? But it all comes down to US imperialism, doesn't it, because were it not for the US, then surely Cuba would realize its full potential as a workers' paradise.
8.14.2007 8:17pm
SenatorX (mail):
How accurately do you need to measure something? (as accurately as needed to solve a problem maybe?)

Philosophy is the King of Science, I thought Psychology was the Queen?
8.14.2007 8:20pm
steve lubet (mail):
The American Institute of Physics (AIP) calls itself "A Federation of the Physical Sciences," including acoustics, astronomy, geophysics, and rheology. And yes, I can imagine someone saying "I am a physical scientist," if only to distinguish himself or herself from a mathematician.
8.14.2007 8:27pm
Brett Bellmore:
I've always figured that, given Cuba's highly restrictive emigration laws, (People don't leave by rafts for yucks!) you had to count most of the population as being "prisoners".
8.14.2007 8:27pm
Elliot Reed:
Re "life sciences", I'd say the term includes biology, ecology, biochemistry, and medical science (which really is science, despite having "science" in the name). Granted, though, that trying to do ecology, biochemistry, or medical science without the biology would be pretty tough.
8.14.2007 8:42pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
They forgot the best indicator of all-- if the country's flag depicts automatic weapons, it is an unfree country.
8.14.2007 8:47pm
pete (mail) (www):
Eugene, I think it was Aquinas who called Theology the "Queen of the Sciences"

And if I remember correctly Nietzsche for some reason thought psychology should be the queen of the sciences.

I had a philospher professor who thought philosophy should still be considered the queen of the sciences and wanted the department to get its own lab which would consist of several armchairs and some brandy.
8.14.2007 9:01pm
Andy Freeman (mail):
Materials Science is at least as much a science as Chemistry.
8.14.2007 9:12pm
Alaska Jack (mail):
Neurodoc -

I don't pretend to be an expert on this, but I do recall reading a fairly convincing paper that even Cuba's much-vaunted infant mortality statistics were highly overstated.

The crux of the issue, as I recall, was that Cuba had a much lower standard for what were considered viable births. That is, NICU docs here in the U.S. would fight to keep alive babies that wouldn't be considered worth the effort in Cuba.

Interesting, if true.

- Alaska Jack
8.14.2007 9:17pm
SenatorX (mail):
Any question originating from a human (brain) is going to be subjected to the physiological and psychological. "Why the truth?" turns out to be one of the best questions of all. I suspect Nietzsche thought this was why psychology was the queen of science. Humans constantly trying to ask questions around their own corner.

Philosophy as the biggest question, the biggest box. Subject to psychology/physiology? perhaps. Popper justified philosophy as non-nonsense by explaining it as a question that seeks an answer. A problem that needs answering and measuring tools to accomplish this. The problems are important and relevant to the questioners.(us).

Math is a very useful tool but I don't view it as more than that. Are there equal things in nature? Can you break a stick into two exact equal parts?

Is science finite? Don't we keep refining and breaking "laws"? I will say it clearly: I believe science will expand infinately.
8.14.2007 9:51pm

Philosophy is the King of Science, I thought Psychology was the Queen?

Not Queen; Psychology is a lady of considerably lower, albeit professional, status.
8.14.2007 11:04pm
RE EV's comment: "When have you ever heard a scientist call himself a "life scientist"?."

Plenty of times, depending on context. When a life scientist is talking among other life scientists, there is a tendancy to narrow the classification to e.g. immunologist, molecular biologist etc. When talking to, say, physicists, we might say "life sciences." The term "biology" seems too "soft," especially if you are involved in the more "hard" life sciences.
8.14.2007 11:15pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail):
life science is to science, as juris doctor is to doctor.
8.14.2007 11:33pm
liberty (mail) (www):

United Arab Emirates, that's a double bad?

No, "United" is a good. Look closer at the chart.
8.14.2007 11:51pm
Mr. Impressive: "Many things can be expressed either in words or with mathematics (which is a language for expressing logical truths)..."

As opposed to other languages, which exist in the service of obfuscation and the manufacture of misleading statements.

It may (or may not, but you don't come across as a particularly mathematically literate person) surprise you to learn that mathematicians communicate the same way everyone who works in a technical discipline does; as best they can within the constraints of their subject. Given the focus of this blog, it's hopefully not much of a stretch to imagine that scenario.

"Mathematics is a system of symbols..."

Not really, no.
8.15.2007 12:04am
Boris A.Kupershmidt (mail):
"EKR (mail) (www):
Also, since when is mathematics science?"
Since the antiquity, at least.
BTW, one of the greatest mathematicians of all times,
Eisenstein (who died at the age of 28), during his
Doctoral examination, was asked to justify the thesis
that mathematics is a science. Whereupon he vehemently
objected, saying that mathematics is BOTH art and science.
A.Weil's Introduction to the 2-volume collection of
Eisenstein's work shows still another facet of Mathematics:
as a poetry.
8.15.2007 12:11am
Duffy Pratt (mail):
Even if the focus is on something like scientific method, discovery in math doesn't need to be that far removed from scientific discovery. If you are interested in the subject, you might want to read Conjectures and Refutations by Imre Lakatos. It's a fascinating dialogue about Kepler's Theorem, and seems to apply much of Popper's ideas about scientific method to mathematical experimentation.
8.15.2007 12:38am
Perseus (mail):
According to Aristotle, philosophy is queen of the sciences while political science is queen of the social sciences.
8.15.2007 1:13am
I agree that Computer Science is engineering. Those parts of Computer Science that are not engineering would be better classified as mathematics than as science.

Mathematics is not a science or an art. It is a language (if you ask me). There is no natural observation involved in math. Science requires observation, and reconciliation of theories to the 'real world'. Math simply is.

Finally, Materials Science IS a science. Sorry, EV, there's your exception.
8.15.2007 2:25am
A Texan:

So, the United Commonwealth State of Federated Principalities is probably democratic (including all five words that tend democratic) while the People's Islamic Socialist Democratic Arab Island Republic is probably a tyranny (using the seven most anti-democratic of the eight words that correlate undemocratic).
8.15.2007 2:42am
Mr. Impressive (mail):

I would be interested if you elaborated on your argument a bit.
8.15.2007 3:12am
theobromophile (www):
Alaska Jack,

The US will count an infant as being born alive if it shows any signs of life. European countries have different standards, such as fetal weight of >500 grams, length of >12", or gestation of at least 26 weeks. (See, here.)

(Babies who are born at 32 weeks are 70 times as likely to die. 40% of all US infants that die do so during the first day of life.)

Supposedly, Cuba does not count infants born under 1000 grams (approx. 2.2 lbs) as being born alive.

The WHO says
, "The reliability of the neonatal mortality estimates depends on accuracy and completeness of reporting and recording of births and deaths. Underreporting and misclassification are common, especially for deaths occurring early on in life."

I've looked for perinatal mortality rates and stillbirth rates. If those are combined with infant mortality rates, the underreporting/misreporting issue goes away (as you can calculate the chance of death until 1 year of age, regardless of classification).
8.15.2007 3:51am
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
People questioning the ranks assigned by Freedom House should go to their site and read the definitions they use. This is a scale specifically of political rights, not of freedom in general. They have another ranking for other rights that is highly correlated but distinct. A country with relatively free elections but, for example, a lot of censorship, might do fairly well on the political scale but not so well on the civil liberties scale.
8.15.2007 4:44am
Climate Science. Wheeeeee.
8.15.2007 6:56am
Debbie (mail):
What about The Republic of Hati or even the constitutional monarchy of Jamacia? They're totally corrupt Country Islands! I think the island graph is abit off. Or is being Democratic nowadays just a "word"! (hee hee, see below).

Mr. Impressive - "Really, all arguments about definitions ultimately are pragmatic. Words are symbols that mean what we agree that they mean."
So true! BUT (the Big Butt!) if you just read any old (pre 60's) dictionaries intro you will learn that words are much more than just "symbols that we randomly define with some pragmatic agreement", the english language is just like math in the sense that 1+1=2 (there is a means for almost every word).
ALSO if we continue as a society to play these "word games" with words and their historical meanings and definitions, SOON 'anything' anyone says WILL just be babel to anyone else!!! (and you know what will happen then! We get the b.s. thats going on today with the Gov. and Corporations changing or making up NEW or 'BUZZ' words to justify and legalize their heinous actions, against us of corse!). I blame the sociopaths!!(which they ALL are!) As my Great Grandma used to tell me- "Just because you say it!, dosent make it so!" -- AND- "But then again, so are computers ("WHA!!?? - Hey remember the greatest physicists of my or any era didnt have computers to use). Just because something is useful to science (as are computer science, mathematic and of course engineering -- who do you thinks designs the advanced equipment used by physicists??- ("AGAIN! Hey remember the greatest physicists of our or any era didnt have computers to use, sooo??--") does not mean that it is science."

Also I thought mathematics was a Law?? Isnt it first a science and then once the consequence or result is proven to be the same every time it becomes a law,- right?? Im going by the classical Greek education they used to teach when I was in school, i.e. the Golden era of education 1940's - 1970's, (which ROCKED! Ha Ha) so I dont know how they 'define' this stuff today!. (Again definitions are important! (refer to A College Logic, part 1, topic 3. Analyzing a Definition)> )
I'm mathematically unenlightened. Sure I know plus, minus, times, division, fractions etc. (those have got to be laws? right??) Anywayz I'm not sure because first I was taught arithmetic then they(school district) switched us in 5th or 6th grade to mathematics and in high school they switched to math,(and they were all taught totally differently from each other???! Yet they are the same?!?). And what they teach now I couldn't even tell ya what its called but, helping my kids (3rd grade!) with their math homework is a joke! They have changed everything!? For example, borrowing is not even 'called' that anymore (see!! word games!!) and its not taught or implemented in the same logical way? Whats up with that? I truely belive its a divide and conquer theme, and what better way - then with basic human communication and understanding?
8.15.2007 7:00am
JunkYardLawDog (mail):
Other "bad" or useless or higly political and anti-USA anti-Capitalist are any organization with the word "World" in its title/name and any organization with the words or initials for United Nations/U.N./UN.

Any organization with World or UN in its name should be viewed with an eye to detecting a strong and virtually irrational bias against freedom and capitalism, with such bias and irrationality principally aimed at the USA.

This has been true for several decades, and is not a recent phenomenon.

Says the "Dog"
8.15.2007 9:21am
Josh Barro:
I'd like to see the r-squared between length of official country name and freedom index. I suspect that most of these words' association with non-democratic countries has mostly to do with the post-revolutionary lenthening of official names (e.g. China to the People's Republic of China.) The content may be less important than the quantity.
8.15.2007 11:45am
Jeff R.:
I'd like to see the r-squared between length of official country name and freedom index.

It's the second graph on the linked article.

"It's not exactly the clearest bubbleplot ever, but if you go ahead and force a linear model (least-squares regression) on it, turns out each word contributes 0.26 points of un-democraticness. And if you viciously remove those lower right outliers (UK and Sao Tome), that coefficient bumps up to 0.39."
8.15.2007 1:18pm
Syd Henderson (mail):
If the monarchy gets overthrown and we get the People's Democratic Islamic Republic of Socialist Arabia, I think we should declare it an 8.
8.15.2007 2:09pm
Orielbean (mail):
What about the World Bank, "Dog"?

They are supremely capitalist. They leverage their loan conditions to create a monopoly situation for thier preferred groups. They are not exactly anti-USA or socialist...
8.15.2007 2:26pm
The Cabbage:
I'll take this opportunity to point out that Lt. Cmdr Tuvok taught Archery Science for several terms at the Vulcan Institute for Defensive Arts.

I would not expect a race as devoted to logic as the Vulcans to improperly name a line of study.
8.15.2007 2:54pm
I doubt Prof. Volokh's rule of thumb would encompass practice on the planet Vulcan.
8.15.2007 3:56pm
A Texan:

No, the World Bank is fascist insofar as they use state-backed funds to create monopoly situations for their preferred groups. Fascism and socialism are both forms of communitarian collectivism, and both are favored by reactionaries who reject the dynamism and rapid progress caused by free market liberal capitalism in favor of "security".
8.15.2007 4:22pm
No, the World Bank is fascist insofar as they use state-backed funds to create monopoly situations for their preferred groups. Fascism and socialism are both forms of communitarian collectivism, and both are favored by reactionaries who reject the dynamism and rapid progress caused by free market liberal capitalism in favor of "security".
When one reads something in The Onion, they know it is supposed to be funny. There no contextual clues, though, to tell us what to think of an "unusual" post here. Please, would those who intend satire make that clear, so we will not be left in doubt.
8.15.2007 8:31pm
SenatorX (mail):
It's a hard call for me to say whether the World Bank is fascist or socialist in nature. My first instinct is fascist but I remember watching a new program a few months ago with a panel of bankers from around the world. At the end of describing what they were about the host asked why an American hearing these plans would be happy because it clearly was not going to benefit them. The world banker raised her hands in the air to describe two levels (one higher than the other) and said something like "Yes but there is an imbalance of wealth. For everyone else to come up America must come down." (she moves the hands till they are equal). They all agreed.

In the end the Texan is right "Fascism and socialism are both forms of communitarian collectivism" so regardless of their label I can't say I am fan of the entire organization.
8.15.2007 10:35pm
Dave Ruddell (mail):
You know, I had (what I thought was a) funny reaction to the end of this post, about a discipline having the word 'science' in it. I kind of chuckled to myself, and thought 'ain't that the truth'. Then I remembered that I have a PhD in materials science, and that I can sometimes be none too bright.
8.16.2007 5:04pm