Freedom in the World, 2003: The Annual Survey of Political Rights and Civil Liberties

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Freedom in the World, 2003: The Annual Survey of Political Rights and Civil Liberties. Edited by Adrian Karatnycky, Aili Piano, and Arch Puddington. Washington, D.C.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2003. Pp. 713. $75; paperback $29.95.

This volume is the thirtieth in Freedom House's invaluable annual survey of political liberties. We should all be encouraged by the positive trends that this report depicts. For the past many months we in the United States have been living with security as the highest value in our hierarchy of values, with all the attendant risks for loss of human rights. That said, however, it appears that tangible progress is being made worldwide.

There are inescapable problems associated with any such report. Specifics are sometimes lost in the need to be comprehensive. Verbal reports go directly to numerical results, often without much, if any, analysis of the data. The ultimate numbers, then, become something of a blunt instrument. The numbers assigned to political rights and civil liberties have been a trademark of this particular publication. Their rationale has been as consistent as the criticisms that are raised against it. The process of quantifying the preselected pieces of information assembled in a coherent fashion is tricky business at best. The consistency with which this has been done over the last thirty years, however, ameliorates at least some of the problems in this approach and offers a credible assessment of what is actually taking place in the world. In other words, the "blunt instrument" might be a necessity of this kind of reporting and should not unduly diminish our appreciation for the Herculean effort needed to assemble such a report. …