Governance: Central Tasks
and Basic Problems
Gerardo L. Munck
National states have long had an interest in producing data on their resources and populations. The generation of statistics on a wide range of economic, military, demographic, and social issues coincided with the development and consolidation of state bureaucracies; indeed, “statistics” literally means the “science of the state.” The body of state-produced data has grown steadily over the years as states have sought to track a growing number of issues and as more states have developed the capability to generate data. Moreover, as a result of the efforts of intergovernmental organizations such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the United Nations’ multiple programs and agencies, data gathered by governments throughout the world have been brought together and used to build cross-national databases. Prominent examples, such as the World Bank’s World Development Indicators and the data published in the United Nations Development Programme’s Human Development Report, are the results of a lengthy collective effort whereby procedures to generate data have been tested, fine-tuned, and increasingly standardized.
The production of data on explicitly political matters and on the political process in particular has been a different story. The generation of data, in particular comparable data, on politics has persistently lagged behind that on other aspects of society (Rokkan 1970, 169–80; Heath and Martin 1997). Some noteworthy efforts have been made by sources independent of states, university researchers in particular, since roughly the 1960s. But it has only been quite recently, with the spread of democracy throughout the globe and the events of 1989 in the communist world, that interest in data on politics has become widespread.