human rights facts

Human Rights Facts (75): North Korea Pretends It’s in a Stage Version of 1984

(source) This is very, very 1984-ish: DPRK nationals receive information from the state through “fixed line” broadcasting. The fixed line system operates through the use of speakers in every DPRK household. These speakers are inspected regularly by officials to ensure they are still functioning. These fixed lines are often used for broadcasting “forbidden” news and […]

data, human rights maps

Human Rights Maps (183): North Korean Prison Camps

There are few places in the world that are more depressing than a North Korean prison camp: hard labor, starvation, torture, arbitrary execution and collective punishment (the incarceration of several generations of one family, often for life) are daily occurrences. North Korea is estimated to have between 150,000 and 200,000 of its own citizens in a network […]

human rights violations, most absurd human rights violations

The Most Absurd Human Rights Violations (116): Gendered Bicycle Policy in North Korea

(source) It’s now illegal (again) for women to ride bicycles in North Korea. The country’s leader Kim Jung Un reinstated his father’s absurd law, but only after he lifted the ban last year. The late Kim Jong Il decreed in the mid-90s no woman should ride a bike after the daughter of a top general, the vice-chair […]

human rights nonsense

Human Rights Nonsense (39): North Korea Goes For World Record in Chutzpah

(source) North Korea’s U.N. delegation declared on Friday that it was proud of Pyongyang’s social system and human rights record and rejected as baseless a U.N. monitor’s report that described appalling human rights abuses in the reclusive country. … “We have nothing to hide,” [North Korean delegate Kim Song] said. “We have nothing to be […]

comedy, political jokes and funny quotes

Political Jokes & Funny Quotes (92): North Korea

Two men are talking on a Pyongyang subway train: “How are you, comrade?” “Fine, how are you doing?” “Comrade, by any chance, do you work for the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party?” “No, I don’t.” “Have you worked for the Central Committee before?” “No, I haven’t.” “Then, are any of your family members working […]

horror, most absurd human rights violations

The Most Absurd Human Rights Violations (21): The North Korean Famine

(source) From 1995 to 1997, famine raged in North Korea. According to a report by North Korea’s Public Security Ministry, up to 3 million lost their lives (source). As this isn’t the most neutral observer, real numbers are probably much higher. (See an older post here about not trusting governments with the job of human rights measurement). Still today, the […]

human rights nonsense, intervention

Human Rights Nonsense (4): North Korea Denounces Japan’s Human Rights Abuses

(source) From the Korean Central News Agency, the state news agency of North Korea (notice the quirky diction): Some time ago, the second meeting of the UN Human Rights Council heard a report from the UN special rapporteur on racism and racial discrimination stripping bare Japan’s human rights abuses and discussed it. … It is […]

data, governance, human rights facts

Human Rights Facts (17): What Dictatorship Does to You, A Comparison of North and South Korea

Needless to say that North Korea and South Korea, since the division of the country in 1948, took very different roads. If we take a look at the two countries now, and see how differently they developed since 1948 – when they started off at roughly the same level – we can see what dictatorship […]

cultural rights

Cultural Rights (15): Crimea and the Ethics of Secession

(source) I’m afraid I’m one of those people who can’t remain silent when everyone else is talking about something. So, a few words about the situation in Crimea. The Russian government and some of the Russians in Crimea are making the argument for secession on the basis of national self-determination and the rights of Russian […]

causes of human rights violations, human rights violations, law

The Causes of Human Rights Violations (55): Bad Luck

(source) To what extent does luck determine the level of realization of our human rights? We have our rights, whether we’re lucky or not, oppressed or not, free or not. The level at which we can actually enjoy those rights, on the other hand, is determined by lots of things: for example, the nature and […]

citizenship, data, human rights maps, international relations

Human Rights Maps (180): The Death Toll of Illegal Immigration

The days when border guards deliberately shot and killed would-be migrants are over, with a few exceptions. However, illegal migration remains a risky business in many parts of the world. Border fortifications, unsafe means of transportation (such as containers, inappropriate boats or the wheel storage rooms of aircraft), travel by night, unscrupulous “coyotes” combined with […]


Statistics on Capital Punishment in the U.S.

Content 1. Death penalty laws in the U.S. 2. Numbers of executions, trends 3. Public support 4. Death row numbers 5. Methods of execution 6. Deterrence? 7. Racial discrimination in the use of capital punishment 8. Numbers by age, gender and occupation of the executed 9. Numbers by type of crime 1. Death penalty laws […]

human rights nonsense

Human Rights Nonsense (33): A Very Dirty Pot Calls the Kettle Black

(source) While complaints about respect for human rights in the U.S. are often well-founded, it’s weird when these complaints are issued by the Chinese government: [T]he US released its annual human rights report last Thursday. And in response, China’s Information Office of the State Council released its own report specifically about human rights in the […]

human rights nonsense

Human Rights Nonsense (31): Dalai Lama is Nazi, Says China

(source) I did hear about some similar cases before - for example, North Korea lecturing Japan on human rights, and the late Gaddafi lecturing Switzerland (!) on human rights - but this is the best: A state-run Chinese website has launched a bitter attack on the Dalai Lama, accusing the exiled Buddhist leader of Nazi racial policies and inciting Tibetans to […]

human rights facts

Human Rights Facts (69): What Dictatorship Does to You, A Comparison of East Germany Before and After the Fall of Communism

After a previous post comparing North and South Korea – a natural experiment for assessing the value of political freedom – I stumbled across the work of photographer Stefan Koppelkamm who has done something similar in Germany: During a trip to East Germany in 1990, photographer Stefan Koppelkamm discovered buildings that had survived both the […]

freedom, philosophy, poverty, what is freedom

What is Freedom? (5): Is Poverty a Denial of Our Freedom?

(source) Freedom is commonly, but in my view mistakenly, defined in a narrow way, namely as the frustration of our goals or our choice of goals by the intentional (or, less restrictively, unintentional) actions of other human agents. These actions can be of two types: intervention with or obstruction of our goals or choices, or […]

data, human rights maps, international relations

Human Rights Maps (165): Some of the World’s Most Fortified Borders

All national borders are the locus of strict enforcement: there is no country on earth where foreigners can just come in as they wish, and all states are eager to defend the integrity and completeness of their territory and the security of their citizens against attacks by other states or by terrorist infiltrators. Some authoritarian states […]

measuring human rights, statistics

Measuring Human Rights (18): Guerrilla Polling in Dictatorships

Measuring respect for human rights is most important in societies where respect is a rare commodity. The problem is that it’s not only most important in such societies, but also most difficult. You need a certain level of freedom to measure respect for human rights. And regimes that violate rights also have the means to […]

discrimination, discrimination and hate, economics, equality, justice, law, philosophy, trade, work

Discrimination (8): What’s Wrong With Discrimination?

(source unknown) Let me try out a few possible answers to the question in the title of this post: Is discrimination wrong because it’s differential treatment of persons? That can’t be the case, because we treat people differently all of the time: some people earn more than others, have better grades in school, have a […]

data, equality, international relations, measuring human rights, statistics

Measuring Human Rights (13): When More Means Less and Vice Versa

I’ve said it a few times before in this blog series: human rights violations can make it difficult to measure human rights violations, and can distort international comparisons of the levels of respect for human rights. Country A, which is generally open and accessible and on average respects basic rights such as speech, movement and […]


My Latest Tweets

No North Korean soccer supporters in S Africa. Too much risk of defection. But they did hire a group of Chinese to “act” as supporters. Why is geology an “exact” science when economics is not? Equally lousy predictive skills I say. Hope I’ll make it to Iceland next month. Strange: most people believe bad publicity […]

causes of poverty, data, economics, poverty, war

The Causes of Poverty (36): Overpopulation (Because the Extent of Wrongness in Overpopulation Discourse is an Infinite Number)

(source) I never cease to be amazed by the persistence of overpopulation discourse in the face of irrefutable counter-evidence. The coming explosion of the population bomb is predicted time and again, with the same accuracy as the Christian Apocalypse. The spectacular failure of Paul Ehrlich‘s predictions in 1968, for example, seems to have had the […]

most absurd human rights violations

The Most Absurd Human Rights Violations (42): Child Starves While Parents Play Computer Game

Kim Yoo-chul, 41, and his partner Choi Mi-sun, 25 (not in the photo), fed their three-month-old baby only on visits home between 12-hour sessions at a neighbourhood internet cafe, where they were raising an avatar daughter in a Second-Life-style game called Prius online, police said. Leaving their real daughter at their home in a suburb […]

aid, culture, democracy, economics, freedom, governance, international relations, intervention, poverty, why do countries become/remain democracies

Why Do Countries Become/Remain Democracies? Or Don’t? (12): Arab Democracy, an Oxymoron?

When people look for reasons why countries haven’t made the transition from authoritarian government to democracy, they often mention economic development or culture, or both. And culture usually means religion more specifically. And religion usually means Islam. Now it’s true that if you look at the largest Muslim region, the Arab world (roughly North Africa […]

data, democracy, equality, freedom, globalization, law, philosophy, religion

Religion and Human Rights (24): Why and How Do We Separate State and Church? And What Are the Consequences for Religious Liberty?

A bit more about the proper role of religion in a modern democracy (see here for the original post I’m building on). I know it’s making things more simple than they actually are, but one can see the history of modern democracy as a continuing and progressive effort of the law and government policy to […]

causes of human rights violations, culture, discrimination and hate, equality, human rights violations, law, philosophy, poverty, trade, war, work

The Causes of Human Rights Violations (16)

We usually distinguish between three different origins of human rights violations: The state. States commit rights violations for different reasons. Rulers may believe that such violations are necessary in order to maintain power, undermine or destroy the opposition, and impose some world view or economic organization of society. Or they may think that some types of violations are necessary […]

culture, human rights and international law, law, what are human rights

What Are Human Rights? (20): Universal Rights

A few more words on the universality of human rights (following up from here). Legally, human rights are universal norms and rules. Almost all countries in the world have accepted international treaties that translate human rights into law, or have accepted membership of international institutions which proclaim to respect human rights or work towards the realization […]

democracy, freedom, law

The Recession, the Economics Profession, and the Prediction of the Future

(source) The current economic recession has cast a shadow on the economics profession. Economists are blamed for not having foreseen the recession. There’s for example this famous article by Paul Krugman. Whereas many economists undoubtedly have encouraged wrong policies and harmful trade practices, I think it’s unfair to criticize them for failing to predict the […]

culture, discrimination and hate, education, equality, gender discrimination

Gender Discrimination (18): Missing Women and Gendercide in China and India

Some more data following two earlier posts on the subject of gendercide (see here and here). The word gendercide describes the results of sex-selective abortions that take place on a massive scale in some countries, particularly India and China. These abortions have led to the “disappearance” of perhaps more than 100 million girls and women […]


Maps on Labor Conditions

Content slavery in the U.S. modern slavery North Korean prison camps child labor duration of unemployment benefits in the U.S. minimum wages in the U.S. union membership in the US legally required paid annual leave most dangerous countries for children

human rights facts, statistics, trade, war

Human Rights Facts (39): The Arms Industry in 2008

(source) From SIPRI: Global military spending reached a record $1,464 billion last year with the United States taking up by far the biggest share of the total. Arms shipments were up 4 percent worldwide from 2007 and 45 percent higher than in 1999. The United States accounted for 58 percent of the worldwide increase between 1999 […]

human rights facts, poverty

Human Rights Facts (35): The Recession and Organ Trade

(source, from Flickr user Faraz_Designer) One more way in which the recession affects human rights. From William Saletan: Will the global recession push more people to sell their organs? Apparently, the answer is yes. … You don’t normally think of selling your body’s parts or products. But bad times can make you think hard. One […]


Statistics on Freedom of Movement

Content 1. Visa restrictions 2. Freedom of movement for Aids sufferers 3. National border defenses 3.1. The US-Mexican border 3.2. The India-Pakistan border 3.3. The separation wall between Israel and the Palestinian territories 3.4. The DMZ between North and South Korea 3.5. Borders throughout the world 1. Visa restrictions One way to measure freedom of movement […]

human rights maps, terror

Human Rights Maps (37): Worst Terrorist Attacks

This map, compiled by Wm. Robert Johnston, and last updated 24 August 2008, shows the worst terrorist attacks, worst meaning attacks resulting in 100 or more fatalities: (source, click on the image to enlarge) Legend: 1: 13 Dec 1921: bombing of Bolgard palace in Bessarabia (modern Moldova) (100) 2: 16 Apr 1925: bombing of cathedral […]

human rights cartoon, intervention

Human Rights Cartoon (46): China’s Support for Rogue States

(source) In addition to its widespread disregard for human rights at home, China has now become the main supporter of some of the world’s most loathed dictators. The governments of Zimbabwe, Sudan, Iran, North-Korea, Burma and many others regularly receive Chinese support in many different ways: China uses its veto power in the U.N. Security […]


Statistics on Terrorism

Content 1. Some preliminary remarks 2. US terrorism deaths 3. Global terrorism deaths 4. Worst terrorist attacks 5. Age of terrorists, numbers of plots and attacks 6. Aircraft terrorism 7. Activities of particular terrorist groups 8. Public opinion on the justifiability of terrorism 9. Terrorism and form of government 10. Counter-terrorist actions 1. Some preliminary […]


Human Rights Maps

This page contains links to the different human rights maps which I publish on this blog, now and again. These maps form part of one of my main efforts here: a data and statistical approach to human rights issues. More on this here. The maps here are usually world maps or maps for certain continents or countries. Of course they all contain information on […]

culture, democracy, ethics of human rights, freedom, governance, law, philosophy

The Ethics of Human Rights (5): China, Confucianism and Authoritarianism

Confucianism, the traditional Chinese ethical and philosophical system based on the teachings of Confucius (551 BCE – 479 BCE), is often blamed for the lack of freedom and the authoritarian and anti-democratic form of government in China. This post examines the merits of this attack. Confucianism is not a religion, although many believe it is, perhaps because […]