State Capacity and the US Federal Budget

bush_budget.jpgWe’re currently discussing and analyzing the state, and its important role in comparative politics. One of the dimensions on which we can compare state power is “capacity.” What is capacity? According to O’Neil (p.38-39), “capacity is the ability of the state to wield power in order to carry out the basic tasks of providing security and reconciling freedom and equality. A state with high capacity is able to formulate and enact fundamental policies and ensure stability and security for both itself and its citizens.” We were presented with evidence today of a demonstration of the high capacity of the United States as President George W. Bush unveiled his new 3.1 trillion-dollar (I’m no mathematician, but that’s at least a couple of gazillion dollars, isn’t it?) budget. Any state that can make its citizens cough up that much money, more or less willingly, has to have high capacity.

The photograph is from Yahoo News, click here to see a video clip of the president submitting this year’s federal budget, the first one in American history to be submitted in electronic form. As the president correctly surmised, “this will save a lot of trees!”

Freedom House

Freedom House is an NGO that is prominent in the global movement to expand democracy and economic freedom worldwide. The organization also publishes the well-known (and well-regarded) Freedom in The World rankings annually. These rankings evaluate the countries of the world along various dimensions related to democracy, freedom, and the rule of law. A composite score for each country is then tabulated and each country is placed into one of three categories–free, partly free, not free–as a result. Which color corresponds to which category, do you suppose? Their website provides a vast array of data and resources–and strong analytical country descriptions–on phenomena broadly related to democracy.
(Click on link for large image)