Azerbaijan Gets Revolt-Indexed
Apparently the current fad in armchair speculation ispredicting who’s likely to revolt next. Tunisia, then Egypt, then Yemen, Jordan, Bahrain, and Libya. And then who? I’m not all that impressed with these “predictions”. Though, to be sure they are sort of fun to play around with. And that’s apparently what Alen Mattich at the Wall Street Journal thought, as well. He just put up his Revolting Index (no, he’s not talking about the Detroit Pistons or the American Belgian industrial rock band):
Amid the wave of rebellion and revolution sweeping across North Africa, investors and autocrats are spending a lot more time these days looking over their shoulders.
To that end I’ve produced an index of likely candidates for (un)civil upheaval on the basis of three equally-weighted criteria: social unfairness; propensity to revolt; and a trigger, in this case the share that food makes up as a percentage of household final expenditure.
He puts 85 countries in the machine and, with some whiz-bang mathematics, ends up with (surprise!) Sweden and Austria having a remarkably low probability of overthrowing their ruthless dictatorships. Yet, towards the high end of the Revolting Index, you have a set of countries that haven’t seen organized rebellion in a few years, at least. It appears this index holds its sweet spot between #8 and #21. And who knew that Azerbaijan would come in at #10? I’ve already written about why I don’t think rebellion in Azerbaijan will be sparked by the current flashes across North Africa and the Middle East.
From the numbers Alen used, though, it’s not so easy to see why Azerbaijan pops up higher on the scale than all the currently-revolting countries excepting Jordan and Morocco. He put in numbers from the Corruption Perceptions Index (Azerbaijan: 2.4/10), the UN Human Development Indicators (Azerbaijan is ranked 67 out of approximately 180), and GINI Coefficient (an “unfairness” index) numbers from the CIA World Factbook (Relatively low, actually). So the only number that really jumps out there is the Corruptions Index number.
All this, and a high percentage of income going to food purchases, apparently lead to a more rebellious state. Not a bad intuition, but Alen got torn apart by commenters and a few other blogs. And the Economist is giving this game a shot, too. Read a brief analysis from the Financial Times blog Alphaville here.
There are two interesting things to note, however. First, Azerbaijan is 10th on Alen’s list. That’s pretty high. Certainly, there is unrest here, but nothing on the scale you’re looking for in an Egypt-style throwdown. And the government of Azerbaijan is doing what it thinks will head off such an endgame. I think it’s probably better, however, to look at this scale that Alen has drawn up not as an indicator of which country is most likely to rise up next, but rather as a scale whereupon if your country is above a certain point value, you may be in the running for a revolt, yourself. To me, it looks like anyone there in the top 30 wouldn’t really surprise the world by overthrowing their government. I’d probably say, according to that, that any country at 65 or higher on Alen’s scale probably has an equal shot at erupting in liberty-seeking glory.
Second, don’t miss what happens in the Comments section. We get to witness a miniature battle royale of comments concerning government stability and standard of living amongst Caucasus-centered readers. I can’t say that they necessarily carry it off in eloquent or convincing fashion, but I do think it’s interesting that the Armenians, Azerbaijanis, Russians, and Ukrainians got in the game, dragging the Georgians in as well. To start, Armenia is left out of the ‘analysis’. Then Azerbaijan is rated 10th, which is probably too high. And the Ukrainian commenter rings up Georgia in the mix. The Russians don’t help matters, either.