Other Methodologies: Failed States and Brand Value

Two indices we can refer to as we calculate State Legitimacy are the Foreign Policy Failed State Index, and the Interbrand Global Brand Index.  I’ve referred already to the Foreign Policy Index here, and I thought I’d mentioned the Interbrand Index here, but I can’t quite put my finger on the link.

The failed state index can be inverted, as we said, to indicate the extent to which states have succeeded,  which is interesting.  The categories too are interesting – demographic pressures, refugees / IDPs, group grievances, human flight, uneven development, economic decline, delegitimization of the state, public services, human rights, security apparatus, factionalized elites, and external intervention.  In truth it sounds like the table of contents for a rather interesting book!  The methodology for the index, which is run in conjunction with the Fund for Peace, outlines how each metric is calculated, though it is most certainly an inexact science.

The criteria for ‘delegitimization of the state’ are acutely interesting of course.  They include corruption, government effectiveness, political participation, electoral process, level of democracy, illicit economy, drug trade, protests and demonstrations, and power struggles.  While the full report can be downloaded here, it does not appear to shed light on how scores in each of these categories are determined.  So I guess I have an email to write, let’s see if we can get some further illumination on the subject.

For now, three of the categories interest me – first, there’s a presumption that democratic structures are required for legitimate government: this seems to be an odd measure for legitimacy, seeing as there are other forms of government that may be less free (subjectively speaking, of course), but that are just as legitimate as democracies.  Second, the illicit economy that pervades Africa and much of developing markets is not necessarily illegal, and may well be an alternate economic structure that we’re simply not accustomed to in the West.  As per my post earlier today indicating that legitimacy could be partially determined by state engagement such as in the form of paying taxes (if not necessarily electoral engagement), it would be better for state legitimacy if there was more formal engagement.  However, it does not immediately follow that independent trading and the avoidance of taxes (which would be miniscule anyway in this informal economy – I have a deck on this, I must post it) is an indictment on state legitimacy.  Third, protests and demonstrations as a measure is unclear – that there are no protests in North Korea doesn’t make them more legitimate; that there is a permanent protest on Wall Street for the last year or so doesn’t make the US State any less legitimate.

The Interbrand Index on the one hand is a very specific, quantifiable thing – it ranks the brands by dollar values.  However, there are subjective metrics in there also, as it describes in its methodology.  Essentially. it takes three values – financial performance, the role of the brand in delivering that performance, and then the brand strength as a kind of guarantee of future performance.  The final component – brand strength – is the most complex, subjective component, and breaks down into ten separate measures, divided into internal and external elements, just like I have argued that State Legitimacy is divided.

Now, states are not brands, and the extent to which they are brands is arguable.  However, if we assess them as such, and take away some of the geographic and scale factors – such as natural resources, and calculating per capita value instead of state value as a whole, we could perhaps leverage some of this methodology too in determining the extent to which a state is legitimate.

Finally, before I sign off for this evening, it appears that I’ve not really outlined my thesis yet.  It’s clear that the establishment of a framework for the measurement of State Legitimacy is important; and the infrastructure for executing some data collection and analysis will be necessary soon as well.  But there is much more to this – I will blog on the thesis in the next few days.  Some is in the initial proposal, but as I work my way through some of the themes, it is evolving.  I think it will be more to do with identity and with sociology than I had originally envisaged.  Onwards and upwards!

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