January 25, 2019

## Concepts

We saw that concepts are:

### • Have arbitrary labels

• Recall: Democratic People's Republic of Korea

## Scientific Concepts

To be scientifically useful, concepts must be transparent, systematic, predictive …

### • must be ontological:

• clear traits for what it is to be in this category. (transparent, systematic)

### • must be observable:

• defining traits of a concept must be rooted in some objective, empirical standard. (transparent, systematic)

### • must be causal:

• traits of concept related to behavior of cases of this type as causes of effects or effects of causes. (prediction)

## Scientific Concepts: An Example

### a (minimalist) definition of democracy:

#### A democracy is a government in which political decisions are made by people who acquire power through competitive elections, the results of which are respected (losers leave office).

• Do you agree with this definition of democracy? Would Kim Jong-un?

## Scientific Concepts: An Example

Whether we agree with the label or not, doesn't matter. Label could be arbitrary, but concept can still be scientific

## Scientific Concepts: An Example

### Scientific concept:

• clear, ontological definition, not based on a single case

• based on observable traits

• is tied to causal theories about democracy: democracies reduce civil conflict and violent instability

## Scientific Concepts: An Example

### Kim Jong-un would have to accept that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea does not meet this definition empirically:

"a government in which political decisions are made by people who acquire power through competitive elections, the results of which are respected (losers leave office)."

## Motivation: minimalist democracy

### • competitive elections:

• direct elections, multiple parties, party in power could lose, not a one time event

### • political rule/power:

• formal holding of government office and ability to make and enforce decisions

## Motivation: "liberal democracy"/"polyarchy"

### polyarchy

is a country in which political power is:

#### contested:

• right to form parties
• freedom of association
• freedom of the press

#### and participation is high:

• right to vote
• fairness of elections
• extent of suffrage

## Dimensions of a concept:

These "sub-concepts" are dimensions

### dimensions of a concept: phenomena that are

1. traits that define the concept (ontological)

2. but could exist, disappear, change independently of one another. They are not redundant

### Why do dimensions matter?

• Moving from concept to measurement
• Linked to causal aspect of the concept

## Dimensions matter (1):

### Help move from concept to measurement

Dimensions help us use measurement to identify which cases match the concept:

### minimalist democracy is all or nothing:

• Countries must have: competitive elections, winners exercise power, losers leave office, must happen more than one time.
• If any dimension is missing, case does not fit

### polyarchy could be a continuum:

• Some places might have more contestation, less participation; some might have more participation, less contestation, but still "fit" the polyarchy concept.

## Dimensions matter (2):

### minimalist democracy says little about the extent of suffrage

• You ask, "are there more democracies now than in the past?"
• You ask, because you are interested in theory about how democracy reduces conflict (tied to minimalist definition)

## Dimensions: practice

If we wanted to define democracy

### Which of these could not be dimensions?

1. Ruler chosen by election
2. Voting rights for all adults
3. Elections are fair, not fraudulent
4. Elections are competitive
5. No identity-based restrictions on voting
6. Freedom of Speech
7. Private sector investment in innovation

## Dimensions: practice

If we wanted to define democracy

### Which of these could not be dimensions?

1. Ruler chosen by election
2. Voting rights for all adults (redundant)
3. Elections are fair, not fraudulent
4. Elections are competitive
5. No identity-based restrictions on voting (redundant)
6. Freedom of Speech
7. Private sector investment in innovation (consequence)

## Concepts to Measurement:

### Variable(s)

• measurable properties of cases that map onto a concept

### Measure(s)

• procedure to find the values variables take for specific cases

## Concepts to Measurement:

### variable(s):

A measurable property of a case (phenomena, group, or individual) that corresponds to a concept or one of the concept's dimensions and can potentially take on different values across cases and time (it varies) across units.

• Derived to capture a concept
• Variables take on values for each case at a specific point in time
• Variation across cases or over time.
• General (e.g., "number of deaths in a civil war", not "number of deaths in the Syrian Civil War between 2011 and today")

## Concepts to Measurement:

### Measure(s)

A procedure for determining the value of a variable for specific cases based on observation.

• Measures are proposed to determine the value a variable takes for some cases
• They are always for some specific cases want to know about

## A Trivial Example:

### We need to:

• define a the concept of "height"
• create a variable that captures "height" and is measurable
• develop a measure to obtain values of that variable for West Lion and Seymour

## Concept to Measurement:

### Concept: Height (of a mountain)

Prominence of peak from the earth's surface

### Measure:

Use difference in barometric pressure to calculate difference in elevation

## Concept to Measurement:

### We need to:

• define a the concept of "backsliding"
• create a variable that captures "backsliding" and is measurable
• develop a measure to obtain values of that variable for democracies in Western Europe and North America over time

## Concept to Measurement: Democratic Backsliding

### Concept: Democratic Backsliding

Political scientists have given three dimensions

• Loss of cultural support for democracy
• Loss of democratic institutions
• Presence of organized opponents to democracy

## Concept to Measurement:

### Variable: (for cultural support)

fraction of people in a country who believe democracy is the best form of government for their country

### Measure:

Survey people at random and ask: "Would you say having a democratic political system is… a very bad (1), fairly bad (2), fairly good (3), or very good (4) way of governing this country?