Sunday, January 30, 2011


Almost without really meaning to, I've joined the ranks of the twitterati (partly I wanted to keep up with events in Tunisia and Egypt, partly to have some outlet for the half baked thoughts not worth blogging). I'm at @marquezxavier.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Reflections on the Revolution in Tunisia

I know basically nothing about Tunisia. (It seems that few people do: I tried a search for articles on Tunisia in Google Scholar and a few other places, and there are really only a handful of recent ones that shed any light on Tunisian politics. Perhaps the best thing I read was this piece by Hibou and Hulsey, despite some excessive Foucauldian jargon. I assume most of the important scholarship is in books or in French and Arabic). If you want informed analysis of the events in Tunisia or now Egypt, you should be reading Juan Cole or Mark Lynch. But I do have a professional interest in dictatorships, revolutions, and similar things, and like Joshua Tucker, I think that a comparison of the events in Tunisia to the fall of Eastern European communism in 1989 suggests that Tunisia will not be an isolated event:
...While undoubtedly important for the Tunisian people, the larger question is whether Tunisia could turn out to be the Poland of the Arab world: the first transition away from a regime long thought to be immutable that sets in motion a path of regime change throughout the region. At first glance, this would seem to be extremely unlikely. Prior to Tunisia, it is difficult to remember the last Middle Eastern regime to fall outside of an external invasion (Iran in 1979?). And yet, a quick glance at a Google News search for Tunisia reveals articles linking protests in Tunisia to events in Egypt,AlgeriaJordan and even Gabon and Indonesia.

As I have previously noted, I know next to nothing about Tunisian politics. I have, however, studied the collapse of Communism in East-Central Europe in 1989 in some detail, and so would like to offer the following observations about what lessons 1989 might have to offer those prognosticating about 2011.

1) Almost nobody saw the collapse of communism coming. Despite a plethora of scholarship after the collapse suggesting that it was inevitable, you would be hard pressed to find analysts in the 1980s who thought the Iron Curtain was about to come down. So as unlikely as a serious of democratic revolutions spreading through the Middle East might seem from our current vantage point, the chances that the Cold War would come to a (practically) bloodless conclusion so swiftly seemed equally unlikely.

2) One of the most interesting theoretical pieces I ever read about the collapse of communism was a 1991 World Politics article by Timur Kuran (gatedungated). In this article, Kuran posits that even people living within a regime that is perched on the edge of collapse may not realize it. The mechanism here is to assume that different people have different thresholds for when they will be willing to publicly oppose the existing regime. Imagine a country with 10 people, one person who will protest if there is at least 1 other protesting, 1 if there are 2 other protesting, 1 if there are 3, etc. It is a stable equilibrium for no one to protest. However, if something happens to put just one person out on the streets (say, a particularly difficult interaction with the authorities, or, hypothetically speaking, an emotional response to someone setting themselves on fire), then suddenly everyone ends up protesting. Person 1 comes out because now there is 1 person on the streets. Once person one comes out, then person 2 comes out because there are 2 people on the street, and onward up the chain. The lesson of the story - in my opinion - is that as long as regimes are repressive and we can assume that citizens have accumulated grievances against the regime, then there is always the possibility that the regime could tumble precipitously.

3) While there clearly was a snowball effect during the collapse of communism - with the collapse in one country giving rise to the collapse in other countries - we sometimes forget just how long it took for the first revolution to come to fruition, and how long it then took to spread to the second country. Timothy Garton Ash has this wonderful line in his book The Magic Lantern where he reports having said to Vaclav Havel that "in Poland it took ten years; in Hungary 10 months; in East Germany 10 weeks; perhaps in Czechoslovakia it will take 10 days!". (Rumor has it some subsequently amended this rule to include that in Romania it would take 10 hours.) So one important lesson from 1989 is the fact that snowballs take a while to pick up steam. Events in Tunisia are still unfolding, and may continue to unfold for sometime. This does not necessarily mean they will not eventually spread elsewhere.

4) One fundamental difference that I can not help noting between 1989 and 2011, however, is the lack of a powerful external actor enforcing the non-democratic regimes in the Middle East. East-Central European communist propaganda notwithstanding, few probably doubted by the 1980s the most of the region would throw off communism if Moscow ever gave them the opportunity to do so. Thus perhaps the most crucial information transmitted by the success of the Polish and Hungarian revolutions was precisely the fact that the Russians were not planning on intervening. I'm not sure there is anything analogous in place in the Middle East.

5) There were also direct effects of one revolution on another in the post-communist context, most specifically involving the flow of people. Here the key example is that when Hungary opened its borders, it paved the way for East Germans to get to West Germany. Again, I'm not sure there is anything analogous in the Middle East.
I would add a couple of things:

1. Some people have suggested that since Arab dictators learn from each other, it is unlikely that they will make the same mistakes that Ben Ali made. And there is evidence from other cycles of protest (the so-called color revolutions in Serbia, Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan) of "elite learning" [gated link]: dictators learn the right tactics to suppress or disarm certain forms of contentious politics (e.g., protests after fraudulent elections). "Color" revolutions have not worked in Belarus, Russia, and many other post-soviet regimes.

But communist dictators in Europe also tried learning from each other, and nothing much worked! East Germans first tried repression, and then ditched their hardline leader (Honecker) for a slightly less hardline one (Krenz) and then for a true moderate (Modrow): didn't work. Ceausescu tried just repression: it backfired (and Ceausescu was killed). In general, it will not be obvious to a dictator exactly what combination of repression and concessions will extinguish a protest wave, for reasons that Timur Kuran makes clear in the work cited by Tucker: the dictator does not really know the true distribution of preferences in society. Moreover, factions within the elite might also take advantage of events to undermine the dictator from within. So "liberalizers" in East Germany, Bulgaria, and Hungary seized the opportunity provided by popular mobilization to push aside aging hardline leaders (even if it didn't turn out very well for some of them in the end). The dictator is not the only person that matters when a wave of protest starts: when the revolution constraint binds, so does the coup constraint. (This is the "autocrat's calculation problem," [gated link] and it is nontrivial). So the "learning" process for the dictator should take time, and it is not guaranteed to make him safe.

Furthermore, opposition activists can also learn from and support each other [gated link]. This, it seems to me, is one of the things that social media makes easier: not so much coordinating protests (most people in Egypt or Tunisia are not on Twitter or Facebook), or even getting information out to the public (though there might be something to this), but sharing tips about forms of contention (e.g., ways of avoiding the police, useful media strategies, etc.) across activist networks, propping up morale, etc. (I assume that opposition activists are far more capable of getting around internet censorship, and far more connected across the borders of the Arab world, than other people).

So all in all, it is not clear that the fact that dictators across the Arab world might learn from one another means that they will be safe. they may, eventually, but the "eventually" spells bad news for people like Mubarak.

2. Some people (the link goes to a piece by Josef Joffe that makes this argument better than most) have argued that Tunisia is special: it has a relatively high income among Arab countries (excluding major oil exporters), a highly educated population, a large middle class, etc. Hence, they suggest (going back to the old modernization theory of Lipset and others), Tunisia was "ready" to transition to democracy in a way that poorer countries (like Egypt, for example) are not.

The problem with modernization theory, however, is that it appears to be false. The best systematic evidence we have (see, e.g., here [gated] and here [gated link]) indicates that when appropriate statistical adjustments are made, there is little or no association between the level of income and the likelihood of transition to democracy. A good way to see this is by using two figures from a paper by Acemoglu and Robinson. In the first, we see that cross-nationally, countries with higher incomes do appear to transition to democracy at higher rates:

In the second, however, we look at the variation in income within a country (expecting that, as income increases in a given country, it should be more likely to transition to democracy), and the picture changes: "within-country" variation in income appears uncorrelated with transitions to democracy:

To be sure, this work is not uncontroversial. Other people claim to find more support for the modernization hypothesis (e.g, Boix and Stokes, Epstein et. al; both links gated), but I find these tests less convincing; there is too much variation in income and education levels among countries that do become democratic even for short periods of time (consider, among others, India, the Philippines, Costa Rica, Portugal, Spain, etc.). And this does not mean that Tunisia's advantages count for nothing. But if they do so, they are more likely to be advantages for the consolidation of democracy in Tunisia (if democracy ever emerges there), as Przeworski and his collaborators argued here and elsewhere, than for mere transitions to democracy. In other words, if Mubarak falls and democracy is established in Egypt, it may be less likely to last than any democracy that might emerge in Tunisia (again, not a sure thing).

3. There is also some concern that so far, the Tunisian "revolution" has not been much more than a coup. Members of the old regime are still in charge, the fall of Ben Ali was precipitated by the actions (or lack of action) of general el-Ammar, and at any rate the whole business need not result in democracy, however conceived. There is also precedent for this sort of thing in the revolutions of 1989: the fall of Ceausescu was basically a coup that took advantage of popular mobilization, and it did not immediately result  in a democratic regime. Though Ion Iliescu's National Salvation Front was an improvement over Ceausescu, almost anything would have been, and it was hardly a democratic regime, even in the most minimalist sense. Yet the more liberalized regime of Ion Iliescu, along with various incentives to join the EU, did eventually push Romania in a more democratic direction. "Revolutions" - however defined - take some time, even if they are not guaranteed to lead to democratic outcomes, and the fact that a more liberal faction of the old Ben Ali regime has taken control of Tunisia is no reason to think that they will stay there (see: Krenz, Egon, and Modrow, Hans), especially if the more liberal environment results in a sustained upsurge of mobilization and organization from opposition actors (as has happened time and again: "liberalizers" always think they can remain in power with a few concessions, but often enough they are either displaced in coups by hardliners or forced into fuller negotiations with the opposition. They also fail to have good knowledge of the true distribution of preferences in society).

More generally, if we follow the "democratization" literature of some 25 years ago (summarized in O'Donnell and Schmitter's classic little book of 1984), the key factor here seems to be whether the hardliners control military forces (they do not seem to in Tunisia, at least judging from what I read in the news) and whether liberal elements in the regime can be forced into tacit alliance with the opposition to prevent the return of hardliners to power (I am in no position to judge this).

All in all, though nothing is certain, I would not easily discount the possibility that we will see lots more political change in the Arab world this year, much of it potentially positive. Political change does tend to come in waves (see the posts below).

{Update 1/27: fixed embarrasing mistake referring to Ben Ali as Zine el Abidine]

Friday, January 21, 2011

Visualizing Political Change, now with Coups

Here's a version of the video below, but now with coups d'etat:

For a note on the sources, see my post below.

Visualizing Political Change

I am mulling over a post on the events in Tunisia, but I've been distracted. I may get around to it eventually, but right now I've been busy trying to make some animated maps for use in my "dictatorships and revolutions" class. Here's the first result:

I tried something like this a few months ago, but this is an improvement over the previous map. First, it uses the update to the Alvarez, Cheibub, Limongi, and Przeworski dataset of political regimes by Cheibub, Gandhi, and Vreeland (the "DD" dataset) that covers the entire period 1946-2008 (not just to 2002). And second, it uses a dataset of historical maps of state borders by Nils Weidmann, Doreen Kuse, and Kristian Skrede Gleditsch that allows you to visualize such things as the breakup of the Soviet Union or the reunification of Germany.

The DD definition of democracy is very minimalist: a country counts as a democracy if both the government and the legislature are elected in competitive elections. Thus, some countries are classified as democracies which seem to have all sorts of political problems. Moreover, by "competitive elections" CGV mean that a) the opposition can contest the election, and b) the government actually relinquishes power if the opposition wins. Since in some countries the current regime has never lost an election (e.g., Botswana), it is not always possible to unambiguously code the country as a democracy or a dictatorship given their coding rules. In such cases, they err on the side of classifying the country as a dictatorship (this is their "type II error" rule), which leads to some curious outcomes: for example, South Africa never turns into a democracy (look at the video at around the year 1994), and Botswana is always classified as a dictatorship. But they identify these cases with their "type II" variable, so it is possible to see which countries might be democracies but are classified as dictatorships: these are the "ambiguous" cases in the video.

One thing that comes out very clearly in the animation is that regime types tend to cluster temporally and spatially. There are waves of civilian dictatorships and of military dictatorships (see, for example, Africa in the late 1970s and 1980s), as well as of democracies. Most communist regimes clustered around the Soviet Union, and most absolute monarchies are in the Middle East/North Africa. There seem to be strong "regional" influences on regime change, which suggests that the events in Tunisia are unlikely to remain isolated.

Some people criticize the DD data for conceptualizing the democracy/dictatorship distinction as a categorical rather than a gradual distinction (most of my students, for example, really dislike this categorical distinction when I assign a reading from Gandhi in my class). So most political regime datasets (like Freedom House or Polity IV) have some kind of scale from most autocratic to most democratic. The choice is, to some, extent, pragmatic, but I think there is something to the idea that regimes come in types, not just gradations of a single underlying dimension. So I like CGV's effort to identify different regime types, and I am largely in agreement with many of their criticisms of "graduated" indexes of democracy like Polity IV here. Nevertheless, I've also made a similar animation using Polity IV data:
There is less to note here, except the march of democracy. You miss some of the geographic and temporal patterns visible in the DD data.

I'm thinking of making an animated map that shows coups as they happen (using the Coups d'Etat dataset by Marshall and Marshall) now that I've mastered the process of making these maps (it took a while: R and ArcGIS are not the most easy to use pieces of software). Other ideas?

Update, 1/21/2011: I went ahead and did the animated map showing coups d'etat.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Is oil bad for democracy? (A footnote on Thad Dunning’s “Crude Democracy”)

The view that oil is bad for democracy and freedom has become conventional wisdom. (Any view espoused by Thomas Friedman is by definition conventional wisdom). On this view, the rents produced by oil (and, to a lesser extent, other minerals) tend to provide authoritarian rulers both with incentives to entrench themselves and to give them the capacity to do so; as a result, as Friedman puts it, “the price of oil and the pace of freedom tend to move in opposite directions.”

There is indeed some apparent association between high levels of resource wealth and authoritarianism, as documented in many studies (see, e.g., Michael Ross’ “Does Oil Hinder Democracy?” which has been cited more than 900 times). Qualitative studies of Middle Eastern politics (e.g., Kiren Aziz Chaudhry’s fantastic book “The Price of Wealth”) examine in detail the ways in which oil has served to buttress authoritarianism in some countries. And there are theoretical reasons to believe that democracy is unlikely to emerge or be stable when elites control highly immobile assets (like oil wells) from which they derive large rents (see, e.g., Carles Boix’s “Democracy and Redistribution”).

Yet there have always been apparent outliers: Venezuela, for example, seems to have sustained a relatively democratic regime even during the oil boom of the seventies, and Norwegian democracy did not seem to have been adversely affected by a huge influx of oil. Oil and natural resources seem to be bad for democracy in some countries (mostly in the Middle East and Africa) but good in other regions (Latin America). And some recent studies claim that the statistical evidence actually does not favour the view that oil and natural resources are bad for democracy (see, for example, Stephen Haber and Victor Menaldo’s work, who go so far as to argue that there is a “resource blessing” rather than a curse).

Thad Dunning’s book, “Crude Democracy,” develops a neat argument that makes sense of the conflicting evidence. Resource rents, he concedes, tend to produce incentives for autocrats to hang on to power or for elites to struggle to control these rents. (Sudden oil booms, on this view, might increase the attractiveness of capturing the state). But these incentives are sometimes overridden or at least mitigated by the fact that resource rents also decrease incentives to redistribute wealth in the non-resource sectors of the economy. If the non-resource sectors of the economy are highly unequal (and relatively large), then resource rents are likely to decrease the redistributive costs of democracy for elites and the attractiveness of coups; this has been the case, according to Dunning, in much of Latin America. By contrast, if the non-resource sectors of the economy are very equal (and small relative to the resource sectors), then resource rents are likely to have an “authoritarian effect;” this has been the case in African countries like Equatorial Guinea or Middle Eastern countries like the UAE or Saudi Arabia. In other words, when oil (or other natural resources, like tin in Bolivia) is the only game in town for elites, then oil is bad for democracy; but if elites mostly derive their income from other sources, and the country is overall poor and unequal, then oil can actually mitigate redistributive pressures and make democracy more palatable to elites. 

Dunning uses game-theoretical models, statistical analysis, and case studies to support this thesis. He has a detailed case study of Venezuela that is of particular interest to me. In Dunning’s view, the non-oil sectors of the Venezuelan economy have always been very unequal, which would suggest high levels of class conflict. And indeed we do observe lots of class conflict, but especially so during those periods where oil revenues (or more precisely, the oil “take” of the Venezuelan state; not exactly the same thing) declined. Venezuelan democracy appeared most consolidated, and class conflict was lowest, when the price of oil was highest (i.e., during the oil boom of the 1970s). By contrast, the rise of Chavez (and more class conflict) coincided with a period where the oil take of the Venezuelan state had declined.

Dunning was writing in 2007, so he cannot address every development of Venezuelan politics since then, but he does argue that Chavez’ redistributive rhetoric has tended to “bite” more – there have been more expropriations, for example – when the price of oil declined, and it has tended to remain mere rhetoric when the price of oil was high. (There are some complications here, since the price of oil is not an exact measure of the oil-related resources available to the Venezuelan state, but you should read the book if you are interested in the complications). The upshot is that if the Venezuelan state’s take from oil is declining, perhaps because petroleum production is declining (as it seems most analysts agree: see also chart below) and oil prices decline or fail to rise sufficiently to compensate for the decline in production, we should expect to see more class conflict, and potentially more authoritarianism from the Chavez regime. So high oil prices (so long as there is enough oil production) moderate actual redistribution and authoritarian temptations (though not necessarily redistributive rhetoric), whereas low oil prices increase actual redistribution and authoritarian temptations (on both government and opposition sides: the coup attempt of 2002 is explained by Dunning in part as a result of higher redistributive pressures on the elite due to a fall in oil revenues).

Qualitatively speaking, this seems more or less right to me, though I am no more than an amateur Venezuela-watcher (I play one in my class, though). But I would complicate the analysis a bit. For one thing, the price of oil has been on an upward trend recently (this is the price of West Texas Intermediate, which tends to be a bit more expensive than the heavy Venezuelan crude, but it will do as a proxy), yet it seems that actual redistribution and the authoritarianism of the Venezuelan government have both increased recently, at least in some respects. This could be because the expectations of redistribution have increased (perhaps because of Chavez’ rhetoric) so that actual oil revenues no longer suffice to mitigate redistributive pressures, even if they are on an upward trend, or because the actual amount of resources that the government perceives from oil have actually decreased due to declines in production and unfavourable deals with other countries, I don’t know. Or it could be that there is some other thing going on, not accounted for in Dunning’s model. (A more industrious blogger would actually try to look up the time series of oil revenue that accrues to the government, to see whether this time series is in accord but this seems to be a non-trivial task; Dunning’s own sources for reconstructing the oil take of the Venezuelan state seem quite inaccessible from New Zealand).

It is also worth emphasizing, as Dunning himself does briefly at the end of his book, that though some form of democracy may be supported by high natural resource prices when the rest of the economy is highly unequal, the quality of that democracy is not necessarily great. A rentier democracy may be democratic in the Schumpeterian minimalist sense, but it is a form of politics that often appears inimical to responsibility, and may be accompanied by a great deal of corruption. (I could speak from personal experience, but it’s been a long time since I’ve lived in Venezuela). In this sense, it could be that Friedman is at least partly right: rentierism may be bad for freedom (to some extent), regardless of whether or not it is always bad for democracy. 

Finally, I would have wanted Dunning to say more about how dependence on oil may have long-term “authoritarian” (or “democratic”) effects. Institutions may be hollowed out by state dependence on rents (this is Aziz Chaudhry’s argument in The Price of Wealth, if I remember correctly – it’s been a while since I read it, but basically the idea is that extreme oil dependence means you do not need to collect taxes and can basically give lots of people unproductive jobs in the government bureaucracy, which has all kinds of deleterious effects on other institutions); and the “Dutch disease” may decrease the size of the non-oil sector over time, increasing the “authoritarian effects” of natural resource rents. Dunning does speak a bit about both of these things, discussing some potential countervailing mechanisms, but some additional qualitative evidence would have been nice.

The quality of the analysis in this book – the game-theoretical models, quantitative tests, and qualitative case studies – is consistently high, though like many books that come out of dissertations there is too much cross-referencing and repetition. (Also, I wonder why the game-theoretical formalization of Dunning’s model leads to such ugly math. There’s nothing wrong with it, but isn’t there a way of handling the math of these optimization problems in a more elegant manner?). I wonder what recent detractors of the "resource curse" (like Victor Menaldo) think of it?

Saturday, January 08, 2011

The Weather under Ceausescu

In Romania the temperature never officially dropped below 10deg C, even when there was ice and snow on the ground, because the law said that heating in public buildings had to be turned on when it did.
From Revolution 1989: The Fall of the Soviet Empire, by Victor Sebestyen, p. 165. Many more interesting stories in this book.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

The Decline of Tyranny and the Rise of Dictatorship

Happy new year! I've wanted to blog this for a while, but sickness intervened. May all your new years be free of bacterial warfare. At any rate, here's my small contribution to the burgeoning Ngram literature:

(Link for a bigger picture.)

The Google corpus seems to be pretty sparse before 1800, so I would not take the big spike of "tyranny" of around 1760 as evidence of much. But I'm curious about the slow decline of "tyranny" and the slow increase of "dictatorship" as a catch-all term for the pathologies of political regimes.

"Tyranny" is the older, Greek term. Originally a more or less neutral designation for a "usurper" (as opposed to a legitimate heir in a dynasty) it was later transformed into the term for the worst form of government in Plato and Aristotle, and the sense stuck. Tyranny, however, was never precisely characterized by any institutional features; though there was a loose association between tyranny and "lawless" or "arbitrary" monarchy, ultimately the tyrant was simply the unjust ruler. Thus all regimes can become tyrannical; the distinction between tyrannical and non-tyrannical government is moral rather than institutional.

By contrast, "dictatorship" is a Roman term that is far more directly tied to a particular set of institutions. (For a quick and useful potted history of the term, see Jennifer Gandhi's "Political Institutions under Dictatorship"). The dictator was originally a magistrate chosen by the Senate for a limited time (six months) and formally empowered to act extralegally in situations of crisis. The term acquired a bad connotation after Sulla and later Caesar abused the office in various ways, but it still retained an association with a particular institutional context: the dictator is a sole ruler, typically acting extralegally and commanding substantial force, and so on. It is not used to refer to a distinct political regime by any of the early modern political thinkers I'm aware of, even those like Montesquieu who are interested in classification matters (Montesquieu prefers despotism to tyranny as well), but it is revived by Marx in a sort of paradoxical turn of phrase: the "Dictatorship of the Proletariat." (I imagine the paradox was intentional: in the Roman context, the dictator had often been the instrument of the ruling class to put down revolts from below). What distinguishes the dictator from other rulers is not the justice or injustice of his actions, but the fact that he can "dictate" - impose a command on others.

With Marx we also see a return to the more "neutral" original sense of dictatorship; and though the term still carries a sting - to call someone a dictator is typically to imply something bad about them - it typically needs to be qualified or intensified with some adjective ("brutal" or "totalitarian" dictator, for example). In political science, in fact, some people use "dictatorship" to mean simply non-democracy. (This is not to say that they ignore variation within non-democracy; they use dictatorship as an umbrella term that encompasses everything from Mexico under the PRI to the Soviet Union under Stalin, but they do pay careful attention to some forms of institutional variation within this vast array of regimes).

But why does the more "institutional" term - in fact, a range of such terms, from autocracy and totalitarianism to authoritarianism - seem to displace the more "moral" terms (like tyranny, and to a lesser extent despotism, which also seems to have been popular in the 19th century) as labels for political pathology? Part of this must be the rise of democracy as the recognized "good regime" - even if, in actual practice, democracies often disappoint (but they disappoint less!). If the good regime is institutionally identifiable, then the bad regime might also be institutionally identifiable. Here's another Ngram:

Around 1900, the term "democracy" rises enormously in popularity, while the usage of older terms for different kinds of political regime decrease significantly in English. (Here's the Ngram for the Spanish corpus: some interesting differences, similar broad pattern). It's like the distinctions between non-democratic political regimes "flatten," as Norberto Bobbio argued in his "Democracy and Dictatorship" (though I think he got this from Hans Kelsen): the key dimension of difference we see today among political regimes is whether authority is imposed from above ("dictatorially") or emerges from below ("democratically"). (In social science practice, the key dimension tends to be whether executive recruitment happens through genuinely competitive elections, but it is not clear that this always corresponds well to the contrast between "imposed" authority and "consent" just mentioned).

I also wonder whether this sort of phenomenon is a problem: do the Ngrams tell us anything about the potential loss of conceptual distinction, or merely about words? The conceptual distinctions need not go away: if political scientists start using "dictatorship" as an umbrella term for non-democracy, this does not mean they ignore all variation among non-democracies. (In fact, regime classifications have proliferated in recent years). But if the terms themselves incorporate important conceptual distinctions, their decline suggests a loss of conceptual variety. And then we might ignore, for example, the moral dimensions of variation among political regimes to focus on institutional variations that do not have sufficient moral relevance. But my thoughts on this point are still too muddled, so best to stop here.