Variance in Enforcement of Laws by Country

The Country Similarity Index attempts to quantify how similar countries are to each other relative to other countries. The index is a statistically-based way to measure this. 20% of the index is based on politics. 20% of a country’s politics score (4% of the overall Country Similarity Index score) is allocated for how a country enforces its laws. This includes how authoritarian a government is and whether there is a high degree of rule of law. It also includes their legal system and punishments. The following is an explanation on how they were considered:

Political Authoritarianism

The Democracy Index measures how democratic or authoritarian a country’s government is. Scandinavia, Canada, and New Zealand are the most democratic countries in the world. On the other end of the spectrum is of course, North Korea. There are also several African and Muslim countries with very authoritarian governments.

The Economist is the main source of the data:

Countries were categorized into the following Democracy Index scores:
1-2, 2-3, 3-4, 4-5, 5-6, 6-7, 7-8, 8-9, 9-10

Rule of Law

The Rule of Law Index measures how corrupt a country’s government is and whether the country’s officials can be trusted to evenly apply the law. Like the Democracy Index, the Scandinavian countries score very highly. However, on the low end of the spectrum, tend to be countries with anarchic governments, like Venezuela, Afghanistan, and Egypt. To some extent, the rule of law in a country is correlated with how wealthy the country is.

The World Justice Project is the main source of the data:

Countries were categorized into the following Rule of Law Index scores:
25-32.5, 32.5-40, 40-47.5, 47.5-55, 55-62.5, 62.5-70, 70-77.5, 77.5-85, 85-92.5

Censorship of the Media

The Press Freedom Index measures the amount of editorial independence the media has in a country. Yet again, the media in Scandinavia, as well as other Germanic countries, has the highest level of freedom. On the opposite end of the spectrum are many countries in the Middle East, as well as Asian countries where the Communist Party has complete control of the government.

Reporters Without Borders is the main source of the data:

Countries were categorized into the following Press Freedom Index ratings:
Good, Satisfactory, Noticeable Problems, Difficult, Very Serious

Censorship of the Internet

While censorship of the media tends to be similar to censorship of the internet in many countries, it does not always align. In fact, some of the countries with the most media censorship have very little internet censorship. These countries include Equatorial Guinea, Somalia, Laos, and Burundi. This might be because few people are using the internet in these countries so it does not matter or that their governments may lack the technological sophistication to censor it. North Korea, Iran, China, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Syria, Sudan, and Eritrea have all blocked YouTube or Google at one time, two of the internet’s most popular websites.

The Open Net Initiative is the main source of the data:

Countries were categorized into the following ratings:
Little, Selective, Substantial, Pervasive, Blocked

Legal System

The legal systems of the world are categorized into five main traditions: Civil Law, Common Law, Customary Law, Muslim Law, and Jewish Law. Common Law generally considers past decisions of previous courts to make decisions based on precedent. It originated in Britain and is adopted in most of its former colonies. On the other hand, Civil Law originated in continental Europe. It focuses instead on applying codified laws and statues. Most countries in Latin America, Europe, Central Asia, and East Asia use this system. Many countries have a mixture of these different traditions. In addition, there are some subcategories of these main traditions. Nordic Law is practiced in all Nordic countries. Chilean and Napoleonic Law is often seen in Latin America. Central and Eastern European countries often use Germanic Law or a combination of Germanic and Napoleonic Law. Countries influenced by the Communist Party often have Socialist Law, where privacy and private property has decreased protections.

University of Ottawa, Wikipedia, and the CIA Factbook are the main sources of the data:

Incarceration Rate

Some countries put far more people in prison than others. United States has the most prisoners per capita. Turkmenistan, Rwanda, El Salvador, and Cuba all have high incarceration rates as well, with over 500 inmates per 100,000 citizens. Many African countries have very low incarceration rates. Guinea-Bissau only has 10 per 100,000 citizens. Countries as various as India, Iceland, Japan, and Pakistan have low incarceration rates as well. There can be several reasons behind this. Either their citizens commit few crimes, their citizens are not caught committing crimes, their police do not enforce the law, or laws are lenient in regards to sentencing people to prison.

Institute for Crime & Justice Policy Research is the source of the data:

Countries were categorized into the groups by prisoners per 100,000 people:
0-50, 50-100, 100-200, 200-400, 400-800

Death Penalty & Life Imprisonment

The death penalty is predominately used in the Middle East, South Asia, and East Asia, but it is also still used in the United States. The death penalty is banned in most European and Latin American countries. There are also many countries that have not banned the death penalty, but rarely use it. Some countries refuse even to put people in prison for life. This is most common in Latin American countries. Interestingly enough, Portugal and all its former colonies do not allow life in prison, since it was abolished in 1884. Many former countries in the USSR only allow men to be put into prison for life, but not for women. Still, the vast majority of countries allow life in prison sentences.

Wikipedia is the main source of the data:

Countries were categorized into the following groups:
Death Penalty Legal, Death Penalty Rare, No Death Penalty
Life Imprisonment Allowed, Life Imprisonment Allowed for Men, No Life Imprisonment

Obviously there is no one clear way to determine how similar one country is to another. How would you quantify how similar one country is to another?
Please leave any thoughts in the comments section.

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