It appears (if early reports are to believed) that the Iraqi people have once again turned out in large numbers to demonstrate their desire for political freedom despite the dangers and inconvenience involved in voting. Meanwhile, the drumbeat from many of the usual suspects on the Left continues that either:
a. It's impossible to say if the Iraqis are better off than there were three years ago
b. They most certainly are NOT better off than they were under the rule of Saddam Hussein and the Baath Party
To back up the notion that the Iraqis were better off living in a Baathist tyranny, statistics are usually cited on the number of Iraqis killed in the war, the economic conditions in Iraq, how many hours a day the power is on in Baghdad, the number of children in school, the literacy rate, etc. They're often same sort of "standard of living" stats that these folks love to reference when talking about how Sweden is superior to the United States or how Cuba is a really swell place to live despite the bad rap that Fidel's regime has gotten.
The problem with using such measuring sticks is that without freedom they're meaningless. What good does is it to be literate if you don't have the freedom to choose what to read? What's the value of health and longevity if you don't have the freedom to decide what you want to do with your life? What's the value of having a job if that job is a life-long occupation chosen for you by the government?
Freedom is messy, complicated, unruly, loud, and sometimes chaotic, violent, and dangerous. Tyranny is often organized, simple, orderly, quiet, and safe (at least for those who keep their head in the yoke). There isn't a lot of complaining, protesting, or political bickering. The leaders don't have to concern themselves with approval ratings. The prisons, torture chambers, and mass graves are kept out of sight. The courts run smoothly and efficiently (The People's Revolutionary Court finds you guilty. Next!). The government statistics on unemployment, child care, women's rights, infant mortality, literacy, poverty, housing, and universal health care make the Noam Chomsky crowd drool with envy.
But without freedom, none of it means a damn. I would choose dangerous freedom over safe tyranny any day. And most of the Iraqi people appear to feel the same way.