Terrorism and the Varieties of Civil Liberties

Forthcoming in Journal of Global Security Studies

36 Pages Posted: 25 Apr 2019 Last revised: 30 Jun 2020

See all articles by Michael A. Rubin

Michael A. Rubin

University of Connecticut, Human Rights Institute

Richard K. Morgan

Varieties of Democracy Institute

Date Written: June 29, 2020


How do government protections, and violations, of its citizens’ civil liberties influence the country’s exposure to terrorism? Existing research remains divided. We contribute clarity to these debates by examining the distinct effects of specific types of civil liberties: 1) physical integrity (e.g. freedom from extra-judicial torture and killing), 2) political liberties (e.g. freedom of expression and assembly), and 3) private liberties (e.g. freedom of thought and religion and property rights). We distinguish these civil liberties dimensions from the role of institutions for political selection (e.g. elections) and horizontal accountability (e.g. checks and balances; executive constraints). We argue physical integrity rights decrease terrorism, by reducing grievances against and increasing trust in the state, while political liberties increase terrorism, by both incentivizing violence among those with extremist goals and protecting their ability to organize. Empirically, we measure a country’s exposure to terrorism using the Global Terrorism Database. We isolate the effects of government actions on these separable civil liberties dimensions from each other, and from the effects of the state’s political institutions, by leveraging the Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) data. Our sample covers 177 states from 1970 to 2018. We find evidence consistent with our hypotheses regarding the effects of the distinct component dimensions of civil liberties.

Keywords: Terrorism, Political Violence, Democracy, Civil Liberties

Suggested Citation

Rubin, Michael and Morgan, Richard, Terrorism and the Varieties of Civil Liberties (June 29, 2020). Forthcoming in Journal of Global Security Studies, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3361330 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3361330

Michael Rubin (Contact Author)

University of Connecticut, Human Rights Institute ( email )

Richard Morgan

Varieties of Democracy Institute ( email )

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Gothenburg, Gothenburg 405 30

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