Easterbrook End of War

May 31, 2009

[First published June 1, 2005] In a blog on the relationship between the decline of violence and the increase in the number of democracies, I quoted from John Tierney about the decline in violence, and he referred to Gregg Easterbrook’s article “EXPLAINING 15 YEARS OF DIMINISHING VIOLENCE — The End of War?” in The New Republic Online (link here). Unfortunately, the magazine has joined the growing trend to make full articles available on to subscribers.

Well, Colleague sent me a copy and I am posting it in full here. It’s long, but for those interested in the sharp drop in violence, the possible causes, and the democratic peace as an explanation will be rewarded by reading this in two ways. One is in the variety of explanations, so you are not stuck with my explanation. And then, how finally, when he has to mention the democratic peace, he does so in no more than a paragraph in this long work. Which in the context of the other explanations gives you a different view of what I have been treating as the explanation.


Daily explosions in Iraq, massacres in Sudan, the Koreas staring at each other through artillery barrels, a Hobbesian war of all against all in eastern Congo — combat plagues human society as it has, perhaps, since our distant forebears realized that a tree limb could be used as a club. But here is something you would never guess from watching the news: War has entered a cycle of decline. Combat in Iraq and in a few other places is an exception to a significant global trend that has gone nearly unnoticed — namely that, for about 15 years, there have been steadily fewer armed conflicts worldwide. In fact, it is possible that a person’s chance of dying because of war has, in the last decade or more, become the lowest in human history.

Five years ago, two academics — Monty Marshall, research director at the Center for Global Policy at George Mason University, and Ted Robert Gurr, a professor of government at the University of Maryland — spent months compiling all available data on the frequency and death toll of twentieth-century combat, expecting to find an ever-worsening ledger of blood and destruction. Instead, they found, after the terrible years of World Wars I and II, a global increase in war from the 1960s through the mid-’80s. But this was followed by a steady, nearly uninterrupted decline beginning in 1991. They also found a steady global rise since the mid-’80s in factors that reduce armed conflict — economic prosperity, free elections, stable central governments, better communication, more “peacemaking institutions,” and increased international engagement. Marshall and Gurr, along with Deepa Khosla, published their results as a 2001 report, Peace and Conflict, for the Center for International Development and Conflict Management at the University of Maryland [reports avaiable here]. At the time, I remember reading that report and thinking, “Wow, this is one of the hottest things I have ever held in my hands.” I expected that evidence of a decline in war would trigger a sensation. Instead it received almost no notice.

“After the first report came out, we wanted to brief some United Nations officials, but everyone at the United Nations just laughed at us. They could not believe war was declining, because this went against political expectations,” Marshall says. Of course, 2001 was the year of September 11. But, despite the battles in Afghanistan, the Philippines, and elsewhere that were ignited by Islamist terrorism and the West’s response, a second edition of Peace and Conflict, published in 2003, showed the total number of wars and armed conflicts continued to decline. A third edition of the study, published last week, shows that, despite the invasion of Iraq and other outbreaks of fighting, the overall decline of war continues. This even as the global population keeps rising, which might be expected to lead to more war, not less.

In his prescient 1989 book, Retreat from Doomsday, Ohio State University political scientist John Mueller, in addition to predicting that the Soviet Union was about to collapse — the Berlin Wall fell just after the book was published — declared that great-nation war had become “obsolete” and might never occur again. [A related article by Mueller is here.] One reason the Soviet Union was about to collapse, Mueller wrote, was that its leaders had structured Soviet society around the eighteenth-century assumption of endless great-power fighting, but great-power war had become archaic, and no society with war as its organizing principle can endure any longer. So far, this theory has been right on the money. It is worth noting that the first emerging great power of the new century, China, though prone to making threatening statements about Taiwan, spends relatively little on its military.

Last year Mueller published a follow-up book, The Remnants of War, which argues that fighting below the level of great-power conflict — small-state wars, civil wars, ethnic combat, and clashes among private armies — is also waning. Retreat from Doomsday and The Remnants of War are brilliantly original and urgent books. Combat is not an inevitable result of international discord and human malevolence, Mueller believes. War, rather, is “merely an idea” — and a really bad idea, like dueling or slavery. This bad idea “has been grafted onto human existence” and can be excised. Yes, the end of war has been predicted before, prominently by H.G. Wells in 1915, and horrible bloodshed followed. But could the predictions be right this time?

First, the numbers. The University of Maryland studies find the number of wars and armed conflicts worldwide peaked in 1991 at 51, which may represent the most wars happening simultaneously at any point in history. Since 1991, the number has fallen steadily. There were 26 armed conflicts in 2000 and 25 in 2002, even after the Al Qaeda attack on the United States and the U.S. counterattack against Afghanistan. By 2004, Marshall and Gurr’s latest study shows, the number of armed conflicts in the world had declined to 20, even after the invasion of Iraq. All told, there were less than half as many wars in 2004 as there were in 1991.

Marshall and Gurr also have a second ranking, gauging the magnitude of fighting. This section of the report is more subjective. Everyone agrees that the worst moment for human conflict was World War II; but how to rank, say, the current separatist fighting in Indonesia versus, say, the Algerian war of independence is more speculative. Nevertheless, the Peace and Conflict studies name 1991 as the peak post-World War II year for totality of global fighting, giving that year a ranking of 179 on a scale that rates the extent and destructiveness of combat. By 2000, in spite of war in the Balkans and genocide in Rwanda, the number had fallen to 97; by 2002 to 81; and, at the end of 2004, it stood at 65. This suggests the extent and intensity of global combat is now less than half what it was 15 years ago.

How can war be in such decline when evening newscasts are filled with images of carnage? One reason fighting seems to be everywhere is that, with the ubiquity of 24-hour cable news and the Internet, we see many more images of conflict than before. As recently as two decades ago, the rebellion in Eritrea occurred with almost no world notice; the tirelessly globe-trotting Robert Kaplan wrote of meeting with Eritrean rebels who told him they hoped that at least spy satellites were trained on their region so that someone, somewhere, would know of their struggle. Today, fighting in Iraq, Sudan, and other places is elaborately reported on, with a wealth of visual details supplied by minicams and even camera-enabled cell phones. News organizations must prominently report fighting, of course. But the fact that we now see so many visuals of combat and conflict creates the impression that these problems are increasing: Actually, it is the reporting of the problems that is increasing, while the problems themselves are in decline. Television, especially, likes to emphasize war because pictures of fighting, soldiers, and military hardware are inherently more compelling to viewers than images of, say, water-purification projects. Reports of violence and destruction are rarely balanced with reports about the overwhelming majority of the Earth’s population not being harmed.

Mueller calculates that about 200 million people were killed in the twentieth century by warfare, other violent conflicts, and government actions associated with war, such as the Holocaust. About twelve billion people lived during that century, meaning that a person of the twentieth century had a 1 to 2 percent chance of dying as the result of international war, ethnic fighting, or government-run genocide. A 1 to 2 percent chance, Mueller notes, is also an American’s lifetime chance of dying in an automobile accident. The risk varies depending on where you live and who you are, of course; Mueller notes that, during the twentieth century, Armenians, Cambodians, Jews, kulaks, and some others had a far higher chance of death by war or government persecution than the global average. Yet, with war now in decline, for the moment men and women worldwide stand in more danger from cars and highways than from war and combat. World Health Organization statistics back this: In 2000, for example, 300,000 people died in combat or for war-related reasons (such as disease or malnutrition caused by war), while 1.2 million worldwide died in traffic accidents. That 300,000 people perished because of war in 2000 is a terrible toll, but it represents just .005 percent of those alive in that year.

This low global risk of death from war probably differs greatly from most of the world’s past. In prehistory, tribal and small-group violence may have been endemic. Steven LeBlanc, a Harvard University archeologist, asserts in his 2003 book about the human past, Constant Battles, that warfare was a steady feature of primordial society. LeBlanc notes that, when the aboriginal societies of New Guinea were first observed by Europeans in the 1930s, one male in four died by violence; traditional New Guinean society was organized around endless tribal combat. Unremitting warfare characterized much of the history of Europe, the Middle East, and other regions; perhaps one-fifth of the German population died during the Thirty Years War, for instance. Now the world is in a period in which less than one ten-thousandth of its population dies from fighting in a year. The sheer number of people who are being harmed by warfare is without precedent.

Next consider a wonderful fact: Global military spending is also in decline. Stated in current dollars, annual global military spending peaked in 1985, at $1.3 trillion, and has been falling since, to slightly over $1 trillion in 2004, according to the Center for Defense Information, a nonpartisan Washington research organization. Since the global population has risen by one-fifth during this period, military spending might have been expected to rise. Instead, relative to population growth, military spending has declined by a full third. In current dollars, the world spent $260 per capita on arms in 1985 and $167 in 2004.

The striking decline in global military spending has also received no attention from the press, which continues to promote the notion of a world staggering under the weight of instruments of destruction. Only a few nations, most prominently the United States, have increased their defense spending in the last decade. Today, the United States accounts for 44 percent of world military spending; if current trends continue, with many nations reducing defense spending while the United States continues to increase such spending as its military is restructured for new global anti-terrorism and peacekeeping roles, it is not out of the question that, in the future, the United States will spend more on arms and soldiers than the rest of the world combined.

Declining global military spending is exactly what one would expect to find if war itself were in decline. The peak year in global military spending came only shortly before the peak year for wars, 1991. There’s an obvious chicken-or-egg question, whether military spending has fallen because wars are rarer or whether wars are rarer because military spending has fallen. Either way, both trend lines point in the right direction. This is an extremely favorable development, particularly for the world’s poor — the less developing nations squander on arms, the more they can invest in improving daily lives of their citizens.

What is causing war to decline? The most powerful factor must be the end of the cold war, which has both lowered international tensions and withdrawn U.S. and Soviet support from proxy armies in the developing world. Fighting in poor nations is sustained by outside supplies of arms. To be sure, there remain significant stocks of small arms in the developing world — particularly millions of assault rifles. But, with international arms shipments waning and heavy weapons, such as artillery, becoming harder to obtain in many developing nations, factions in developing-world conflicts are more likely to sue for peace. For example, the long, violent conflict in Angola was sustained by a weird mix of Soviet, American, Cuban, and South African arms shipments to a potpourri of factions. When all these nations stopped supplying arms to the Angolan combatants, the leaders of the factions grudgingly came to the conference table.

During the cold war, Marshall notes, it was common for Westerners to say there was peace because no fighting affected the West. Actually, global conflict rose steadily during the cold war, but could be observed only in the developing world. After the cold war ended, many in the West wrung their hands about a supposed outbreak of “disorder” and ethnic hostilities. Actually, both problems went into decline following the cold war, but only then began to be noticed in the West, with confrontation with the Soviet empire no longer an issue.

Another reason for less war is the rise of peacekeeping. The world spends more every year on peacekeeping, and peacekeeping is turning out to be an excellent investment. Many thousands of U.N., nato, American, and other soldiers and peacekeeping units now walk the streets in troubled parts of the world, at a cost of at least $3 billion annually. Peacekeeping has not been without its problems; peacekeepers have been accused of paying very young girls for sex in Bosnia and Africa, and nato bears collective shame for refusing support to the Dutch peacekeeping unit that might have prevented the Srebrenica massacre of 1995. But, overall, peacekeeping is working. Dollar for dollar, it is far more effective at preventing fighting than purchasing complex weapons systems. A recent study from the notoriously gloomy rand Corporation found that most U.N. peacekeeping efforts have been successful.

Peacekeeping is just one way in which the United Nations has made a significant contribution to the decline of war. American commentators love to disparage the organization in that big cereal-box building on the East River, and, of course, the United Nations has manifold faults. Yet we should not lose track of the fact that the global security system envisioned by the U.N. charter appears to be taking effect. Great-power military tensions are at the lowest level in centuries; wealthy nations are increasingly pressured by international diplomacy not to encourage war by client states; and much of the world respects U.N. guidance. Related to this, the rise in “international engagement,” or the involvement of the world community in local disputes, increasingly mitigates against war.

The spread of democracy has made another significant contribution to the decline of war. In 1975, only one-third of the world’s nations held true multiparty elections; today two-thirds do, and the proportion continues to rise. In the last two decades, some 80 countries have joined the democratic column, while hardly any moved in the opposite direction. Increasingly, developing-world leaders observe the simple fact that the free nations are the strongest and richest ones, and this creates a powerful argument for the expansion of freedom. Theorists at least as far back as Immanuel Kant have posited that democratic societies would be much less likely to make war than other kinds of states. So far, this has proved true: Democracy-against-democracy fighting has been extremely rare. Prosperity and democracy tend to be mutually reinforcing. Now prosperity is rising in most of the world, amplifying the trend toward freedom. As ever-more nations become democracies, ever-less war can be expected, which is exactly what is being observed.

For the great-power nations, the arrival of nuclear deterrence is an obvious factor in the decline of war. The atomic bomb debuted in 1945, and the last great-power fighting, between the United States and China, concluded not long after, in 1953. From 1871 to 1914, Europe enjoyed nearly half a century without war; the current 52-year great-power peace is the longest period without great-power war since the modern state system emerged. Of course, it is possible that nuclear deterrence will backfire and lead to a conflagration beyond imagination in its horrors. But, even at the height of the cold war, the United States and the Soviet Union never seriously contemplated a nuclear exchange. If it didn’t happen then, it seems unlikely for the future.

In turn, lack of war among great nations sets an example for the developing world. When the leading nations routinely attacked neighbors or rivals, governments of emerging states dreamed of the day when they, too, could issue orders to armies of conquest. Now that the leading nations rarely use military force — and instead emphasize economic competition — developing countries imitate that model. This makes the global economy more turbulent, but reduces war.

In The Remnants of War, Mueller argues that most fighting in the world today happens because many developing nations lack “capable government” that can contain ethnic conflict or prevent terrorist groups, militias, and criminal gangs from operating. Through around 1500, he reminds us, Europe, too, lacked capable government: Criminal gangs and private armies roamed the countryside. As European governments became competent, and as police and courts grew more respected, legitimate government gradually vanquished thug elements from most of European life. Mueller thinks this same progression of events is beginning in much of the developing world. Government and civil institutions in India, for example, are becoming more professional and less corrupt — one reason why that highly populous nation is not falling apart, as so many predicted it would. Interstate war is in substantial decline; if civil wars, ethnic strife, and private army fighting also go into decline, war may be ungrafted from the human experience.

Is it possible to believe that war is declining, owing to the spread of enlightenment? This seems the riskiest claim. Human nature has let us down many times before. Some have argued that militarism as a philosophy was destroyed in World War II, when the states that were utterly dedicated to martial organization and violent conquest were not only beaten but reduced to rubble by free nations that initially wanted no part of the fight. World War II did represent the triumph of freedom over militarism. But memories are short: It is unrealistic to suppose that no nation will ever be seduced by militarism again.

Yet the last half-century has seen an increase in great nations acting in an enlightened manner toward one another. Prior to this period, the losing sides in wars were usually punished; consider the Versailles Treaty, whose punitive terms helped set in motion the Nazi takeover of Germany. After World War II, the victors did not punish Germany and Japan, which made reasonably smooth returns to prosperity and acceptance by the family of nations. Following the end of the cold war, the losers — the former Soviet Union and China — have seen their national conditions improve, if fitfully; their reentry into the family of nations has gone reasonably well and has been encouraged, if not actively aided, by their former adversaries. Not punishing the vanquished should diminish the odds of future war, since there are no generations who suffer from the victor’s terms, become bitter, and want vengeance.

Antiwar sentiment is only about a century old in Western culture, and Mueller thinks its rise has not been given sufficient due. As recently as the Civil War in the United States and World War I in Europe, it was common to view war as inevitable and to be fatalistic about the power of government to order men to march to their deaths. A spooky number of thinkers even adulated war as a desirable condition. Kant, who loved democracy, nevertheless wrote that war is “sublime” and that “prolonged peace favors the predominance of a mere commercial spirit, and with it a debasing self-interest, cowardice and effeminacy.” Alexis De Tocqueville said that war “enlarges the mind of a people.” Igor Stravinsky called war “necessary for human progress.” In 1895, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. told the graduating class of Harvard that one of the highest expressions of honor was “the faith … which leads a soldier to throw away his life in obedience to a blindly accepted duty.”

Around the turn of the twentieth century, a counter-view arose — that war is usually absurd. One of the bestselling books of late-nineteenth-century Europe, Lay Down Your Arms!, was an antiwar novel. Organized draft resistance in the United Kingdom during World War I was a new force in European politics. England slept during the ’30s in part because public antiwar sentiment was intense. By the time the U.S. government abolished the draft at the end of the Vietnam War, there was strong feeling in the United States that families would no longer tolerate being compelled to give up their children for war. Today, that feeling has spread even to Russia, such a short time ago a totalitarian, militaristic state. As average family size has decreased across the Western world, families have invested more in each child; this should discourage militarism. Family size has started to decrease in the developing world, too, so the same dynamic may take effect in poor nations.

There is even a chance that the ascent of economics to its pinnacle position in modern life reduces war. Nations interconnected by trade may be less willing to fight each other: If China and the United States ever fought, both nations might see their economies collapse. It is true that, in the decades leading up to World War I, some thought rising trade would prevent war. But today’s circumstances are very different from those of the Fin de siècle [turn of the century]. Before World War I, great powers still maintained the grand illusion that there could be war without general devastation; World Wars I and II were started by governments that thought they could come out ahead by fighting. Today, no major government appears to believe that war is the best path to nationalistic or monetary profit; trade seems much more promising.

The late economist Julian Simon proposed that, in a knowledge-based economy, people and their brainpower are more important than physical resources, and thus the lives of a country’s citizens are worth more than any object that might be seized in war. Simon’s was a highly optimistic view — he assumed governments are grounded in reason — and yet there is a chance this vision will be realized. Already, most Western nations have achieved a condition in which citizens’ lives possess greater economic value than any place or thing an army might gain by combat. As knowledge-based economics spreads throughout the world, physical resources may mean steadily less, while life means steadily more. That’s, well, enlightenment.

In his 1993 book, A History of Warfare, the military historian John Keegan recognized the early signs that combat and armed conflict had entered a cycle of decline. War “may well be ceasing to commend itself to human beings as a desirable or productive, let alone rational, means of reconciling their discontents,” Keegan wrote. Now there are 15 years of positive developments supporting the idea. Fifteen years is not all that long. Many things could still go badly wrong; there could be ghastly surprises in store. But, for the moment, the trends have never been more auspicious: Swords really are being beaten into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks. The world ought to take notice.


Visualizing democide


Freedom of Speech? Ha!

May 30, 2009


[First published July 6, 2005] Recently a professor returned from China and exclaimed about his freedom there. He lectured in several universities and said about it, “I could say anything I wanted.” This is typical of many Liberals and leftists who visit China and see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil, During the Cultural Revolution when there was blood shed across the land and maybe as many as 10,000,000 died, a member of the Sierra Club came through Hawaii and gave a speech. In it, he lauded what progress China had made and that there was much America could learn from them, especially on controlling population growth. Yes, kill a thousand here and another thousand there and it adds up.

China lovers have dominated discourse on China and since they have played a central role in communications and teaching, the public’s knowledge of the horrors of life under Mao and the massive megamurders of his communist regime, second only to Stalin’s [recent updating of the data has put Mao first], had never really reached public consciousness. Indeed, the general impression has been the communists made life better. No way. People in the later 1950s and 60s were worse off economically then they had been in the 1930s under the corrupt Nationalist regime, even though fascist it still allowed much more liberty than did the communists.

Anyway, here we have another Professor returning to extol his freedom of speech in China, and what do we soon thereafter find out. Bloggers and searchers on China’s internet are limited in what words they can use or search for. Words such as “freedom,” “democracy,” “human rights,” and “Taiwan independence” are forbidden. If one attempts to use them, or any other political speech, they get a popup which says “This message contains a banned expression, please delete this expression.”

Z.CHINA.CARTOON
Users will be fortunate if that is all that happens. Bloggers have been arrested, and now all Chinese websites and bloggers have had to register with the government (keep in mind that the government is the Communist Party) by the end of June, or be shut down.

The communists have created two planes of existence in China, the one hovering over the other. The bottom plane is the economic one, involving a more open and freer market system. Above it is the forbidden plane of political policy and activity run by the communist and military elite. It will be interesting to observe this duality, for by theory much accepted in political science, the lower plane with its growing middle class will gradually dissolve the upper one, like warm water undermining a glacier, or their will be a revolutionary outbreak that will shatter the upper plane.

What am I predicting? A “right wing” palace coup as took place in 1976 against the Gang of Four (including Mao’s widow Jiang Qing and her close associates) that eventually through Deng Xiaoping created the lower plane of economic activity we see now.

Remember. You read it here.


Link of Note

“MSN China Agrees to Ban ‘Freedom’ “ (6/14/05) By Tim Gray

Gray said:

Chinese bloggers are likely choosing their words a little more carefully this week after another American Internet behemoth gave in to Beijing’s restrictions regarding certain politically sensitive words.
Microsoft . . . agreed abide by censors banning the words “freedom” and “democracy” on its Chinese internet portal, MSN China, as well as other potentially politically charged subjects such as “Taiwan independence”, “human rights” and the “Dalai Lama.”

Microsoft is a business out to make money. And China with its huge mass of people, China has always been able to make Western businessmen forget their shame.
Democratic Peace Clock
Proof that More democratic
freedom = less war/violence


Myths About Terrorism

May 29, 2009

[First published July 8, 2005] There are two myths about terrorism that have gripped commentator’s’ minds and won’t let go. One is that poverty is an engine of terrorism and the other is that Madrassas provide the fuel.

In virtually my whole academic career I’ve had to shoot down the belief that poverty causes one problem after another, whether it is war, internal violence, criminality, or unhappiness. Now, it’s the cause of terrorism. Poverty causes none of this. Until recently, the evidence against this has been anecdotal, a matter of unsystematically looking at the background of terrorists. Now, a systematic empirical analysis has been conducted by Alberto Abadie at the Harvard John F. Kennedy School of Government entitled, “Poverty, Political Freedom, and Roots of Terrorism.”. Its abstract follows:

This article provides an empirical investigation of the determinants of terrorism at the country level. In contrast with the previous literature on this subject, which focuses on transnational terrorism only, I use a new measure of terrorism that encompasses both domestic and transnational terrorism. In line with the results of some recent studies, this article shows that terrorist risk is not significantly higher for poorer countries, once the effects of other country-specific characteristics such as the level of political freedom are taken into account. Political freedom is shown to explain terrorism, but it does so in a non-monotonic way: countries in some intermediate range of political freedom are shown to be more prone to terrorism than countries with high levels of political freedom or countries with highly authoritarian regimes. This result suggests that, as experienced recently in Iraq and previously in Spain and Russia, transitions from an authoritarian regime to a democracy may be accompanied by temporary increases in terrorism. Finally, the results suggest that geographic factors are important to sustain terrorist activities.

Then there is the widespread belief that Madrassas breed terrorists. A recent empirical analysis, “The Madrassa Myth” by Peter Bergen and Swati Pandey found otherwise. Its abstract is below:

Op-Ed article by Peter Bergen and Swati Pandey disputes notion that Muslim religious schools, known as madrassas, are graduating students who become terrorists; says madrassas may breed fundamentalists, but they do not teach technical or linguistic skills necessary to be effective terrorist; says that as matter of national security, United States need not worry about Muslim fundamentalists with whom it disagrees; cites examination of educational backgrounds of 75 terrorists behind some of most significant recent terrorist attacks against Westerners, finding that only 9 of them attended madrassas; says World Bank-financed study raises further doubts about influence of madrassas in Pakistan, country where schools were thought to be most influential and virulently anti-American.

Phillip Carter on his blog Intel Dumpdisputes the above conclusions:

It’s true that the madrassas do not generally produce people like the educated terrorists who attacked us on 9/11. However, the madrassas *do* produce many of the the foot soldiers for Al Qaeda (and its affiliates) who are fighting us now in Iraq and Afghanistan, and who have fought in the Balkans, Chechnya, pre-9/11 Afghanistan, and elsewhere.


Link of Note

“Militant Convicted of ‘Propagating Terror'” (6/26/05)

Latimes.com

An Algerian militant considered the mastermind of the 2003 kidnapping of 32 European tourists in the Sahara desert was sentenced to life in prison for helping to form a terrorist group, but his whereabouts remained a mystery.

Amari Saifi, a leader of the Al Qaeda-linked Salafist Group for Call and Combat, didn’t appear in court even though he was captured by Chad rebels and later turned over to Algerian police last fall. Saifi, a former Algerian paratrooper known by his nom de guerre, Al Para, was convicted by the criminal court of “constitution of a terrorist group” and of “propagating terror among a population.”

This is an amusing example of how the LA Times refuses to call terrorists terrorists, even when their own report has to so identify a terrorist. I fell out of my seat with laughter when I read the headline.

Just Published in the alternative history Never Again
Series. Click cover for synopsis and free download.


If Democracies Have No Famines, What About India?

May 28, 2009

[First published July 10, 2005] In response to my empirical claim that democracies have never had a famine, I sometimes get questions about India, particularly about the 1943-1945 Bengal famine when India was under British rule.

First, of the 86,000,000 people who died in famines in the 20th century, not one of them lived in a democracy. Nor has any famine occurred in India while it was a democracy. Consider the work of Amartya Sen, for example, the 1998 Nobel Prize winner in economics from India. He became the youngest chairman of the Department of Economics, Jadavpur University, at the age of 23. He has been the President of the Econometric Society (1984), the International Economic Association (1986-89), the Indian Economic Association (1989), and the American Economic Association (1994). He is now Master of Trinity College Cambridge. So, he should know something about India. Sen says as well that no democracy has had a famine, and as far as India is concerned, its last famine was the 1943 Bengal famine ( Development as Freedom , p. 180) when India was a colony of Britain.

Second, as to the devastating Bengal famine, I’ve put some time into studying the scholarly works on it, including those by Indians. The highest estimate of the famine toll I could find is 4,500,000 dead; the lowest at 1,500,000. After going through these works, I settled on a range of 1,500,000 to 4,500,000 dead, most likely about 3,000,000. I did not mark this famine down as British democide. True, they are partly responsible for it, since it was aggravated by the British taking food supplies for their Burma campaign and to stock up for a possible Japanese invasion.

However, the famine was not intended and once it happened the British took steps to deal with it. This is the same argument I used for not counting the Chinese communist famine of 1959-63 as democide. If the Bengal famine is to be defined as British democide, then the Chinese famine must also so be counted, which would add at least 27,000,000 or more to the Chinese communist of about 35,000,000 murdered.

Link of Note

“Facts About Hunger” From CARE

CARE’s facts:

More than 840 million people in the world are malnourished — 799 million of them live in the developing world.

More than 153 million of the world’s malnourished people are children under the age of 5.

Six million children under the age of 5 die every year as a result of hunger.

Malnutrition can severely affect a child’s intellectual development. Malnourished children often have stunted growth and score significantly lower on math and language achievement tests than do well-nourished children.

Lack of dietary diversity and essential minerals and vitamins also contributes to increased child and adult mortality. Vitamin A deficiency impairs the immune system, increasing the annual death toll from measles and other diseases by an estimated 1.3 million-2.5 million children.

While every country in the world has the potential of growing enough food to feed itself, 54 nations currently do not produce enough food to feed their populations, nor can they afford to import the necessary commodities to make up the gap. Most of these countries are in sub-Saharan Africa.

Most of the widespread hunger in a world of plenty results from grinding, deeply rooted poverty. In any given year, however, between 5 and 10 percent of the total can be traced to specific events: droughts or floods, armed conflict, political, social and economic disruptions.

True, hunger and malnutrition occur even when famines are not present, but famine is the extreme and most deadly case of hunger and is reflected in these “facts.” Then note what is missing. There is no reference to democracy or dictatorships. Yet, the most glaring cause of extreme hunger and poverty is that thugs rule a country. How does one explain this blindness about hunger and poverty? How about ideological blindness and ignorance?
Visualizing democide
Graphical experiments on visualizing democide


Muslim North Africa

May 25, 2009

[First published July 28, 2005] Not all Muslims are terrorists. Dictators do not rule not all Muslims in these nations. Some live in democracies, although one wouldn’t know it from the commentators who exclaim that the Muslim religion is inconsistent with democracy. Although this often appears a sally against the Bush foreign policy in the Middle East, I think many of them believe it. It is helpful, therefore, to look at the status of Muslim nations in what is considered the hard-core, anti-democratic region, of North Africa, including the Horn of Africa. The map below shows the region to which I’m referring.

Now, lets look at these nations in detail. Below are two statistical tables on them, with their freedom status added. All those labeled free are liberal democracies, and those partly free with an asterisk are electoral democracies. As you can see, there are four liberal democracies out of 25 Muslim nations, and eight democracies when the electoral democracies are counted. This is far below the global proportion 44 percent liberal democracies and of 61 percent democratic.

So, for Africa it is clear that the Muslim religious culture appears as a hindrance to democracy. But, this is misleading. For the implication is that Muslims then oppose democracy, which is not true. I went into this on my Freedomist Blog (link here). Muslims place a higher value on democracy than do some people of the democracies. See the chart below

As I concluded my Freedomist Blog, what most clearly distinguishes democracy from nondemocracies is that in nondemocracies people live in fear. We see this in the Arab and North African Muslim countries. Therefore, if the democratization the Muslims value is to come, it must come from pressure from the outside. In this, the Forward Strategy of Freedom of President Bush is well aligned with our understanding of Muslim nations, and it is working.


Link of Note

“Talk By Radwan Masmoudi: “Islam & Democracy:  Between The Past, The Present & The Future”

Dr. Radwan Masmoudi is the Executive Director of Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy. He says:

The old methods of oppression are simply outdated.  More than 50% of the population of Muslim countries is under 30 years old.  They did not witness colonization, and do not care about the independence struggle.  They are highly educated, they speak several languages, and they watch CNN and al-Jazeera.  Many of them even have access to the internet.  They see how other people live, in terms of prosperity and freedom, and they want the same.  They watch other peoples vote and elect their new leaders, while they are stuck with the same rulers for what seems like eternity.  The new generation is fed up with the status quo.  Change is inevitable.  The only question that remains is: What kind of change?

Our answers should be direct and unambiguous: democratize and we will help you in the process and afterwards.
Universal Archive


Hitler Was A Socialist, (And Not A Right Wing Conservative)

May 23, 2009



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[First published August 22, 2005] What is socialism? It is a politico-economic philosophy that believes government must direct all major economic decisions by command, and thus all the means of production for the greater good, however defined. There are three major divisions of socialism, all antagonistic to each other. One is democratic socialism, that places the emphasis on democratic means, but then government is a tool for improving welfare and equality. A second division is Marxist-Leninism, which based on a “scientific theory” of dialectical materialism, sees the necessity of a dictatorship (“of the proletariat”) to create a classless society and universal equality. Then, there is the third division, or state socialism. This is a non-Marxist or anti-Marxist dictatorship that aims at near absolute economic control for the purpose of economic development and national power, all construed to benefit the people.

Mussolini’s fascism was a state socialism that was explicitly anti-Marx and aggressively nationalistic. Hitler’s National Socialism was state socialism at its worse. It not only shared the socialism of fascism, but was explicitly racist. In this it differs from the state socialism of Burma today, and that of some African and Arab dictatorships.

Two prevailing historical myths that the left has propagated successfully is that Hitler was a far right wing conservative and was democratically elected in 1933 (a blow at bourgeois democracy and conservatives). Actually, he was defeated twice in the national elections (he became chancellor in a smoke-filled-room appointment by those German politicians who thought they could control him — see “What? Hitler Was Not Elected?”) and as head of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party, he considered himself a socialist, and was one by the evidence of his writings and the his economic policies.

To be clear, National Socialism differs from Marxism in its nationalism, emphasis on folk history and culture, idolization of the leader, and its racism. But the Nazi and Marxist-Leninists shared a faith in government, an absolute ruler, totalitarian control over all significant economic and social matters for the good of the working man, concentration camps, and genocide/democide as an effective government policy (only in his last years did Stalin plan for his own Holocaust of the Jews).

I’ve read Hitler’s Mein Kampf (all online here) and can quote the following from Volume 2:

Chapter VII:

In 1919-20 and also in 1921 I attended some of the bourgeois [capitalist] meetings. Invariably I had the same feeling towards these as towards the compulsory dose of castor oil in my boyhood days. . . . And so it is not surprising that the sane and unspoiled masses shun these ‘bourgeois mass meetings’ as the devil shuns holy water.

Chapter 4:

The folkish philosophy is fundamentally distinguished from the Marxist by reason of the fact that the former recognizes the significance of race and therefore also personal worth and has made these the pillars of its structure. These are the most important factors of its view of life. 


If the National Socialist Movement should fail to understand the fundamental importance of this essential principle, if it should merely varnish the external appearance of the present State and adopt the majority principle, it would really do nothing more than compete with Marxism on its own ground. For that reason it would not have the right to call itself a philosophy of life. If the social programme of the movement consisted in eliminating personality and putting the multitude in its place, then National Socialism would be corrupted with the poison of Marxism, just as our national-bourgeois parties are.

Chapter XII:

The National Socialist Movement, which aims at establishing the National Socialist People’s State, must always bear steadfastly in mind the principle that every future institution under that State must be rooted in the movement itself.

Some other quotes:

Hitler, spoken to Otto Strasser, Berlin, May 21, 1930:

I am a Socialist, and a very different kind of Socialist from your rich friend, Count Reventlow. . . . What you understand by Socialism is nothing more than Marxism.

On this, see Alan Bullock, Hitler: a Study in Tyranny, pp.156-7; and Graham L. Strachan “MANUFACTURED REALITY: THE ‘THIRD WAY’”

Gregor Strasser, National Socialist theologian, said:

We National Socialists are enemies, deadly enemies, of the present capitalist system with its exploitation of the economically weak … and we are resolved under all circumstances to destroy this system.

F.A. Hayek in his Road to Serfdom (p. 168) said:

The connection between socialism and nationalism in Germany was close from the beginning. It is significant that the most important ancestors of National Socialism—Fichte, Rodbertus, and Lassalle—are at the same time acknowledged fathers of socialism. …. From 1914 onward there arose from the ranks of Marxist socialism one teacher after another who led, not the conservatives and reactionaries, but the hard-working laborer and idealist youth into the National Socialist fold. It was only thereafter that the tide of nationalist socialism attained major importance and rapidly grew into the Hitlerian doctrine.

See also his chapter 12: “The Socialist Roots of Naziism.”

Von Mises in his Human Action (p. 171) said:

There are two patterns for the realization of socialism. The first pattern (we may call it the Lenin or Russian pattern) . . . . the second pattern (we may call it the Hindenburg or German Pattern) nominally and seemingly preserves private ownership of the means of production and keeps the appearance of ordinary markets, prices, wages, and interest rates. There are, however, no longer entrepreneurs, but only shop managers … bound to obey unconditionally the orders issued by government.

This is precisely how Hitler governed when he achieved dictatorial power.

In a previous blog, i referred to John J. Ray’s piece (“Hitler Was A Socialist”, and I was asked who he is. He has a Ph.D. in psychology, but taught sociology for many years. His fulsome bio is here. His article on Hitler is excellent and well researched. He has a blog on “dissecting leftism.”


Link of Note

“Myth: Hitler was a leftist By Steve Kanga

(note: A liberal activist, Kanga apparently shot himself to death outside of the office of anti-Clinton billionaire philanthropist Richard Mellon Scaif, February 8, 1999. It was ruled a suicide.)

Kanga says:

Many conservatives accuse Hitler of being a leftist, on the grounds that his party was named “National Socialist.” But socialism requires worker ownership and control of the means of production. In Nazi Germany, private capitalist individuals owned the means of production, and they in turn were frequently controlled by the Nazi party and state. True socialism does not advocate such economic dictatorship — it can only be democratic. Hitler’s other political beliefs place him almost always on the far right. He advocated racism over racial tolerance, eugenics over freedom of reproduction, merit over equality, competition over cooperation, power politics and militarism over pacifism, dictatorship over democracy, capitalism over Marxism, realism over idealism, nationalism over internationalism, exclusiveness over inclusiveness, common sense over theory or science, pragmatism over principle, and even held friendly relations with the Church, even though he was an atheist.

Here you have a taste for how the left maintains its myth, as in conflating democracy and socialism. That is, true socialism “can only be democratic.” Right, like the Democratic People’s Republic of [North] Korea, or the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
Universal Archive
Democratic peace Q&A/FAQ


Do Republicans Hate Blacks?

May 21, 2009


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[First published in September 7, 2005] In response to my endorsement of Secretary Rice for president in 08, I received this comment: “It will NEVER happen — the GOP would NEVER support an African American for President (well, maybe Idi Amin). Look at all the blacks in Congress – all Dems.

Dream on . . . .”

At the outset, I should say that I am not a Republican, although I strongly support the Bush’s foreign policy. As I pointed out in one of my blogs, I’m a freedomist (link here). Nonetheless, as a matter of promoting nondiscrimination and racial tolerance, I’m troubled by the mythology about Republicans in general and as a Party being anti-Black. This myth has been fostered and nurtured by liberals for over fifty years, especially by the leftist Black leaders. Lets look at the record. If one favors reparations for slavery, which most Black leaders do, then it is appropriate to recall that it was the Republicans — Lincoln — that ended Black slavery. It was a Republican Congress that passed the 13th Amendment outlaying slavery, and passed the 15th Amendment that established the voting rights of all adult males regardless of race.

Until the 1950s and 60s, it was the Democratic Party and Democrats that with their control of the southern states refused to accord Blacks the voting rights that constitutional was theirs, and supported a system of discrimination that made southern blacks third class citizens.

And it is a myth widely believed, even by some Republicans, that it was the democrats that passed President Johnson’s Civil Rights Act of 1964. The act begins:

To enforce the constitutional right to vote, to confer jurisdiction upon the district courts of the United States to provide injunctive relief against discrimination in public accommodations, to authorize the attorney
General to institute suits to protect constitutional rights in public facilities and public education, to extend the Commission on Civil Rights, to prevent discrimination in federally assisted programs, to establish a Commission on Equal Employment Opportunity, and for other purposes.

In effect, it was the Republicans that got this passed. Yes, the R-P-U-B-L-I-C-A-N-S. Republican Everett Dirksen, used his power as minority leader to midwife the bill through Congress, and had to overcome a 83-day filibuster by Democrats.

On the various versions of the bill, the distribution of votes were thus (D= democrats, R=republicans):

Original House version: D=153-96, 38 percent opposed; R=138-34, 20 percent opposed.

Senate version: D=46-22, 32 percent opposed, R=27-6, 18 percent opposed.

Senate version voted on by the House: D=153-91, 37 percent opposed; R=136-35, 20 percent opposed.

Proportionally more Democrats opposed the Civil rights Act than did Republicans. On the final bill voted on by the House and Senate, 113 Democrats voted against the bill, while 41 Republicans did. Moreover, as one can see from the votes, the bill would not have passed at all were it not for the support of Republicans.

You would never know this from the way this has been covered by the media since.

Then also note this. It was Republican Bush, the senior, who appointed Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court, with vigorous resistance from liberal Democrats. It was the House Republicans that elected J.C. Watts, Republican from Oklahoma, to be Chairman of the House Republican Conference. It was President George Bush that appointed General Colin L. Powell as the Secretary of State and Condoleezza Rice as National Security Advisor, and with Powell’s resignation, Rice to replace him. He also appointed Roderick R. Paige as the Secretary of Education; Alphonso Jackson as the Deputy Secretary to Housing and Urban Development; Claude Alien as the Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services; Leo S. Mackay, Jr, as the Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs; Larry D. Thompson as the Deputy Attorney General; and Stephen A. Perry as Adminstrator of General Services Adminstration; Roderick R. Paige as the Secretary of Education; Alphonso Jackson as the Deputy Secretary to Housing and Urban Development; Claude Alien as the Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services; Leo S. Mackay, Jr, as the Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs; Larry D. Thompson as the Deputy Attorney General; and Stephen A. Perry as Adminstrator of General Services Adminstration; and Janice Rogers Brown to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia (which many consider one of the most important courts in the nation — her confirmation had been blocked by Democrats). Not even Clinton, who Black leaders called their first “Black President, appointed so many Blacks to high position.

The comment hat started all this also said “Look at all the blacks in Congress – all Dems.” Yes, and almost 90 percent of Blacks vote for democrats. Two things explain this. One is that Blacks have bought the liberal line about only Democrats supporting their rights. Second, the Black leadership and organizations are almost all on the left, as are blacks in general. Often poor, not well educated, and susceptible to leftist slogans about the rich, the White Republican establishment, the anti-black rapacity of White businesses, many Blacks have come to see themselves as victims, the Democrats as their protectors, and vote that way. That virtually all Black Representatives are Democrats does not reflect on Republicans, but on the power of mythology, liberalism, and its propaganda.


Link of Day

” How Americans Voted [in 04]: A Political Portrait” By Marjorie Connelly

She points out:

A majority of Protestants, particularly white and Hispanic Protestants, supported Mr. Bush. Black voters, regardless of religion, continue to support the Democratic candidate overwhelmingly, giving almost 9 in 10 of their votes to Mr. Kerry. Jewish voters also remained firmly in the Democratic column, though Mr. Bush expanded his share to 25 percent this year from 19 percent in 2000.


Links I Must Share

” Sniping and griping” By Mark Steyn: ”  Anyone watching TV in recent days will have seen plenty of “reprimitivized man,” not in Liberia or Somalia but in Louisiana. Cops smashing the Wal-Mart DVD cabinet so they can get their share of the booty along with the rest of the looters, gangs firing on a children’s hospital and on rescue helicopters, hurricane victims raped in the New Orleans Convention Center. [RJR: Yes, we now hear that Bush is responsible -- I'm waiting for the Islamicist follow up -- It is Bush and the Jews]

“The Suicide Solution” By Christopher Dickey: “To stop the spread of the suicide disease, in other words, we have to stop the spread of the occupation disease. [RJR: He means we should stop occupying Muslim countries, and misses entirely the importance of the war on terror and the democratization solution]

“Iran’s strategy in Iraq” By Arnaud de Borchgrave: ” “If Iran wanted, it could make Iraq hell for the United States.” So said Iraq’s deputy Foreign Minister Hamid Al Bayati last February. Well, Iran not only wants to, it already has.” [Read this to realize that war with Iran probably cannot be avoided, unless the internal democratic movement is successful]

“Feingold Flirts With Anti-War Platform” By issuing an early call for a timetable to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq, Sen. Russ Feingold could emerge as the Democrats’ anti-war candidate of 2008, in the tradition of Eugene McCarthy and Howard Dean” [RJR: Not a candle's chance in a hurricane of his being nominated over Hillary]

Universal Archive
Democratic peace Q&A/FAQ


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