Global Peace And Human Security Are Not Hopeless

June 24, 2009

[First published February 17, 2005.] Yes, There is Hope. Great Hope

With all the mass murder by thug dictators in such countries as North Korea, Burma, Sudan, Congo, Iran, and the like, with terrorists murdering people wholesale, and with the apparent inability to stop or prevent most of it, the post-World War II exclamation, “Never Again,” seems hopeless. Such is the feeling I get from reading news items on the latest democide (murder by government) and murder bombing, and some of the email I receive. And, I must admit, I have contributed to this pessimism with my country-by-county, year-by-year estimates of the world’s democide. Clearly, as I’ve pointed out, a slow motion nuclear war has taken place, with my conservative estimate of 262,000,000 murdered by governments in the 20th Century.

And it continues into this century.

But, it is not hopeless. We are not faced, nor are our children faced with such democide in perpetuity. We do have the ability to turn “Never Again” into reality for all.

We should recognize some facts. One is that democracies by far have had the least domestic democide, and now with their extensive liberalization, have virtually none. Therefore, democratization (not just electoral democracies, but liberal democratization in terms of civil liberties and political rights) provides the long run hope for the elimination of democide. Second, that the world is progressively becoming more democratic, with from 22 democracies in 1950 to something like 121 democracies today (about 89 of them liberal democracies), gives substance to this hope. A third is that democracies don’t make war on each other, and the more democratic government, the less its foreign and domestic violence, AND DEMOCIDE. And fourth, the democratic peace and the fostering of democracies worldwide is now the core organizing principle of American foreign policy.

Already, the growth in the number of democracies has decreased the amount of international war and violence (see my, “Democracies Increase and Ipso Facto, World Violence Declines,” “Democracies Up, Violence Down Again, Media Still Blind”). And this will continue. Eventually, at some point in the future, virtually the whole world will be democratic. Then, perhaps, in the presence of the world’s major presidents, and prime ministers, the President of the Global Alliance of Democracies can uncover a statue of Irene, the Greek Goddess of peace, in Geneva, with these words on its base:

“Now, Never Again”

Link of Note

”Ending Slavery” (2/12/05) By Thomas Sowell

To me the most staggering thing about the long history of slavery — which has encompassed the entire world and every race in it — is that nowhere before the 18th century was there any serious question raised about whether slavery was right or wrong. In the late 18th century, that question arose in Western civilization, but nowhere else.

It seems so obvious today that, as Lincoln said, if slavery is not wrong, then nothing is wrong. But no country anywhere believed that three centuries ago.

Many pessimists feel about ending democide as humanists in the 16th and 17th centuries felt about ending slavery. It always has been and always will be. Moreover, while we now see democide as horrible, a black mark on humanity, and what must be stopped, like slavery, this is only a modern view. Historically, democide has been accepted as an inevitable aspect of war, and a necessity of governance.

Sowell’s article is a good reminder of how we once viewed slavery, and how what we once thought was as natural to society as a division of labor, was virtually eliminated in a century.

Democracies Up, Violence Down Again, Media Still Blind

June 2, 2009

[First published May 30, 2005] In his May 28, 2005, op-ed piece, “Give Peace a Chance,” in The New York Times (link here), John Tierney points out:

The new edition of “Peace and Conflict,” a biennial global survey being published next week by the University of Maryland, shows that the number and intensity of wars and armed conflicts have fallen once again, continuing a steady 15-year decline that has halved the amount of organized violence around the world.

Tierney is at a loss to explain this and first looks to an economist for an explanation, which is the there is less and less to gain economically from war. And then says:

Of course, wars are also fought for noneconomic reasons, but those, too, seem to be diminishing. The end of the cold war left the superpowers’ proxy armies without patrons, and the spread of democracy made nations less bellicose. (Democracies almost never fight each other.) Mr. Easterbrook calculates that the amount of military spending per capita has declined by a third worldwide since 1985. [Easterbook here]

He has pulled aside the shade and looked out the window, but since this is the only mention of the democratic peace in the whole article, he seems unsure, if not doubting, what he has seen. Again, I will provide some of the compelling evidence in a series of charts.

The following two charts show the rapid increase in democracies and liberal democracies since 1900.

The following chart plots the overall non-freedomness of the international system per year. This is the average rating of nations per year in their degree of freedom (the higher the rating, the less freedom).

The above are based on data from Freedom House (link here)

Now, lets look at the changes in regime type, as plotted by the “Peace and Conflict” study Tierney wrote his op-ed about (link here). See below.

The anocracies are akin to partially free, authoritarian, nations. Note that in these charts around 1990 is the critical year when the number of democracies spurt up and autocracies, those lest democratic, dive down in numbers. Now, lets see what happens to violence since 1946.

All forms of violence are headed down, and the crucial years are between 1985 and 1990, which is just the time when after a continual increase (see the first three charts), the number of democracies jump up. The way to understand this is that in the late 1980s, democracies achieved a critical mass in the international system, a tipping point for violence. Decades ago I predicted this point would be reached eventually, and now it has.

The last two charts taken together well substantiate President Bush’s Forward Strategy of Freedom, that it, foster freedom to foster peace. Do you think this might have something to do with the media largely ignoring the democratic peace in action, as shown here?

Link of Note

(Spring 2004) By John Mueller

He says:

It seems to me, though, that the most reliable restraints on violent behavior—both by individuals and by states—stem from human nature. For the most part, following the Rodney King prescription, we all—or almost all—actually do really want just to get along. There certainly is a quota of jerks out there, but most people most of the time are inclined to avoid conflict— certainly violent conflict. Their key goal is to live in peace and security, and they do this in part by adopting a live-and-let-live philosophy and by sharpening their skills from a very early age for determining whom to trust and befriend.7 By and large, their instincts predispose them not to belligerence or aggressiveness or even to stand and fight, but rather to flee conflict by removing themselves from threatening situations and moving from neighborhoods that are, or seem, dangerous. What is remarkable about most societies is how small in number, indeed how little in evidence, are the police forces required to maintain acceptable order. . . .

Thus, international war has declined remarkably since 1945 even while
international anarchy continues, effectively, to flourish: no one, surely, would confuse the United Nations or other international bodies with a Hobbesian

Experience suggests, then, that alarm about international “anarchy” is much
overstressed. Regulation is not normally required, and “anarchy” could become a desirable state.

So, the decrease in violence is due to human nature and learning about violence — it is a natural result of the anarchic international system.

Not only has the democratic peace brought a greater peace to nations, but it has also enabled all kinds of theories explaining this peace to flourish.

Democratic Peace

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

How Freedom Is Won

May 21, 2009

[First published September 11. 2005] Freedom House has published a study on “How Freedom is Won (link here). The study covers all transitions to democracy that have occurred in the last 33 years, 67 of them, and shows that:

Far more often than is generally understood, the change agent is broad-based, nonviolent civic resistance—which employs tactics such as boycotts, mass protests, blockades, strikes, and civil disobedience to de-legitimate authoritarian rulers and erode their sources of support, including the loyalty of their armed defenders.

It goes on to say:

The central conclusion of this study is that how a transition from authoritarianism occurs and the types of forces that are engaged in pressing the transition have significant impact on the success or failure of democratic reform.

The study lists each transition, the factors involved, and provides a narrative on the transition. It concludes that the top down attempts at democratization is less successful than bottom up, nonviolent coalitions. Thus, the best way of aiding democratization from the outside is to:

aid the creation of “civic life,” broad based coalitions,
“transfer knowledge on strategies and tactics of nonviolent civic resistance,”
“provide enhanced resources for independent media and communications,” and
“expand space for nonviolent action through targeted sanctions.”

This is to say:

work to constrain insurrectionist and state violence and to expand the political space for nonviolent civic action. This means that in the cases of civil wars, governments and international organizations should seek solutions that lead to an end to hostilities and to internationally supervised or monitored elections. Democracies also should engage in preventive diplomacy to avert violence and support policies that prevent or limit the spread of violence in its earliest stages.

Because of Freedom House’s intensive and extensive analysis of freedom, nonfreedom, and their transitions for all the world’s countries, as shown in its annual Freedom In the World annual report (the 2005 Report is here), this study on how freedom is won is especially credible.

Does the study have anything to say that is relevant to Iraq and Afghanistan? Yes. I have pulled out the two relevant passages below:

. . . in the cases of civil wars, governments and international organizations should seek solutions that lead to an end to hostilities and to internationally supervised or monitored elections.

Efforts to restore personal security in extremely violent environments in countries that have suffered from war or civil war, therefore, can contribute in the long term to the emergence of civic coalitions for democratic change.

I believe that the American Coalition Iraq and Afghanistan is doing precisely this, while fighting the insurrectionists and terrorists. It is helping and aiding he process of creating a civic society with Iraqis and Afghans having the freedom to form political parties, businesses, educational institution, and other organizations that satisfy diverse interests (this is the invisible part of the war you don’t read much about in the opposition media). And the Coalition has brought in the UN and other international organizations to monitor and supervise democratic elections. The upshot of this Freedom House study is that if the insurrection and terrorism is defeated, the long run success of democracy in these countries looks promising.

A chart
of the democratic peace

Are Democracies Least Corrupt?

May 8, 2009

[First published October 27, 2005] One of the extraordinary characteristics of dictatorships, especially absolutists ones, is their government corruption. This comes out in biographies of those who, for example, have lived in North Korea or in South Vietnam when it was defeated and occupied by the North. And under authoritarian regimes, this corruption seems only marginally less, as under the Chinese Nationalists before their defeat by Mao. My impression, consistent with that of others, has been the democracy is among the least corrupt types of government.

Now, this has been tested. Transparency International has provided for 2005 a perception of corruption index for 146 nations (here). Kenneth Sikorski added to this index the freedom house ranking of nations on their civil liberties and civil rights (from here), which measures their freedom, and found that the index included 67 free, 45 partly free, and 34 unfree nations (excluding North Korea). He then averaged these three political groups on their perceived corruption, as shown below (total scores for all nations in the group/number of nations in the group — personal communication):

Free (2901/67) = 43.3
Partly Free (4076/45) = 96.6
Not Free (3470/34 = 102.05

So, partly free and not free nations are perceived to be over twice as corrupt as democracies. This is another plus for democracies, of course. They don’t war on each other, have the least domestic violence, virtually never kill their own people, experience no famines, and also are least corrupt.

This gets almost embarrassing after awhile in relating this to people who ignorant of research on the democratic peace, as I did in a talk today. It seems that one is obsessed with a one-factor theory of humanity’s major problems. This runs counter to general intuition, and to common sense in the social sciences, which is that the socio-political world is complex with multiple causes and conditions interacting to produce events. No one factor is sufficient, so it is felt. Well, there is one major factor, and that is democratic freedom. The evidence, such as the above, is always available to doubters, if only they will look at it. All I can say is what Galileo Galilei said when his astronomical observations were doubted and he was persecuted for them. “Look through the telescope,” he responded.

Are Free People Happier and More Satisfied?

May 6, 2009

[First published November 14, 2005] One of the best sources for how values are distributed is the World Values Survey (here), and I have consulted its results a number of times, such as providing evidence on how Arab peoples view democracy (xx). Here, I want to provide their results on the relationship between freedom and subjective well being — happiness and satisfaction. I think all of us assume that the more freedom a people have the greater their happiness and satisfaction with their lives. If this is true, the utilitarian argument — policy should promote the greatest happiness and least pain — alone justifies promoting freedom.

Is it true?

The World Values Survey has published a study by Ronald Inglehart and Hans D. Klingemann, ” Genes, Culture, Democracy, and Happiness,” (in pdf; go here, and search under Hans Klingemann) which answer tries to question. Utilizing surveys done by the European Union over 25 years about respondents well being in 11 European nations, the authors first show that national language differences are not responsible for different survey responses on happiness and satisfaction. They moreover establish that there is not much change within nations over the 25 years. The correlation between earliest and latest EU survey in 1998 is .80. For the World Values Survey sample of 64 nations, it is .81, an amazing stability.

That out of the way, the author’s show that subjective well being is highly correlated with economic development (.70) as measured by GNP. No surprise there. But, they point out:

This process is not linear, however. The correlation weakens as one moves up the economic scale. Above $13,000 in 1995 purchasing power parity, there is no significant linkage between wealth and subjective wellbeing. The transition from a subsistence economy to moderate economic security has a large impact on happiness and life satisfaction, but above the level of Portugal or Spain, economic growth no longer makes a difference.

Another factor in subjective well being is so commonsensical to many of us that I hesitate mentioning it. But it is commonsensical to all but the Marxists out there, who won’t believe it anyway. That factor is whether a nation was communist or not:

Virtually all societies that experienced communist rule show relatively low levels of subjective well-being, even when compared with societies at a much lower economic level, such as India, Bangladesh, and Nigeria. Those societies that experienced communist rule for a relatively long time show lower levels than those that experienced it only since World War II.

Religion also plays a role, especially Protestantism. The author’s show that:

Virtually all historically Protestant societies show relatively high levels of subjective well being. A similar effect persists today in countries (the United States being an exception) where only small minority of the public regularly attends church. As Max Weber pointed out, Protestant societies were the first to industrialize, and although economic development now has spread throughout the world, Protestant societies still are relatively wealthy in large part because of this early lead.

Now for the most relevant part. Subject well-being is critical to the stability of a nation’s political institutions and particularly the stability of democracy. The authors measure freedom using the Freedom House annual freedom ratings (here), which they added together for 1981to 1988. Since the ratings summed for both civil liberties and political rights for a nation for a year vary from 2 to 14, with 2 being the freest, they subtracted the summed ratings for a nation from the highest total rating to reverse the freedom scale. This way so the highest total rating is the freest. They then plotted freedom against the percent of a nation’s people happy and satisfied with their life. It is below (click it to enlarge)

The correlation between well-being and freedom (liberal democracies, in effect) is .78. This is liner. The curvilinear (polynomial or logged correlation would be higher, since it would account for the slight sag in the middle of the distribution) of a number of partially free nations, some being electoral democracies such as Mexico and Turkey. Although the plot seems to imply that freedom is the cause of well-being (it can’t be the other way around), the author’s believe that this is in question, and that other factors may better account for well-being.

So, they did a multiple regression of well being against measures of a nation’s economic development, whether it was historically rule by Protestant elites of not, its years under communist rule, and its measure of freedom. These variables account for 80 percent of the variation in well being, a remarkable fit. They then removed independent variables with low significance in stages to achieve of fit of 78 percent of the variance with three significant variables in the order of their significance: GNP per capita, years under communist rule, and freedom. Aside from applying sample tests of significance to a universe of cases, a problem with their analysis, is the high multicollinearity among these three variables (on this problem, see my blog here). Without eliminating this intercorrelation, it is impossible from this regression alone to determine what variables are dominant.

They conclude:

These findings in no way refute the evidence that genetic factors play an important role in subjective well-being; we find that evidence compelling. But these findings do indicate that genetic factors are only part of the story. Happiness levels vary cross-culturally. Since cultures are constructed by human beings, this suggests that the pursuit of happiness is not completely futile. Genes may play a crucial role, but beliefs and values also are important. Our findings also indicate that varying levels of well-being are closely linked with a society’s political institutions: sharp declines in a society’s level of well-being can lead to the collapse of the social and political system; while high levels of well-being contribute to the survival and flourishing of democratic institutions.

We now know that a nation’s past communism, economic development, and freedom are closely related to well being. We still don’t know whether it is freedom that is the strongest factor. That it has the highest correlation with well being suggests that it is, but a proper analysis of this has yet to be done. I will do it, and give the conclusions here.

see the regression of human security on freedom

Arab Freedom Ahoy

May 4, 2009

[First published January 4, 2006] There are many commentators and analysts who assert that Arabs are not interested in democratic freedom, or that the Arab culture is hostile to it. It is important, therefore, to publicize the Arab Human Development Report 2004: Towards Freedom in the Arab World published by the United Nations Development Programme, Arab Fund For Economic And Social Development (link here). It begins with the theme of the whole report:

Of all the impediments to an Arab renaissance, political restrictions on human development are the most stubborn. This Report therefore focuses on the acute deficit of freedom and good governance.

Given its source and funding, the report is surprisingly honest:

No Arab thinker today doubts that freedom is a vital and necessary condition, though not the only one, for a new Arab renaissance, or that the Arab world’s capacity to face up to its internal and external challenges, depends on ending tyranny and securing fundamental rights and freedoms.

Ah, you might think, it must mean something different by freedom than we do in the West. No way. By freedom the report means not only civil and political rights, the rule of law, and an independent judiciary, and therefore, as it says, “freedom from oppression,” but also “the liberation of the individual from all factors that are inconsistent with human dignity, such as hunger, disease, ignorance, and poverty.” These, the report points out, rest upon popular participation, government transparency, accountability, and fair and free selection processes. In other words, democracy as we know it.

Keep in mind this is an Arab report as it also asserts what we all know:

Some Arab governments also violate the right to life extra-legally and extra-judicially. Human rights organizations have observed that official reports on killings tend to be short on facts. In most Arab states, the names of the victims are not mentioned, and no public investigation is conducted.

Extremist groups which perpetrate assassinations and bombings and espouse the use of violence also violate the right to life. Armed confrontations between security forces and armed groups result in civilian casualties that can outnumber victims in the ranks of the combatants.

And more surprising, it also frankly deals with the way Arab men treat their women:

In general, women suffer from inequality with men and are vulnerable to discrimination, both at law and in practice.

Despite laudable efforts to promote the status of women, success remains limited. Greater progress is required in women’s political participation, in changes to personal status laws, in the integration of women in development, and in the right of a woman married to a foreign husband to transmit her citizenship to her children. The inability of existing legislation to protect women from domestic violence or violence on the part of the state and society is another deficit area.

And now for the most important observation of this report — the claim the Arab and Muslim “mind” makes them incapable of democracy. Says the report:

[A] recent research effort, the World Values Survey (WVS), has exposed the falseness of these claims by demonstrating that there is a rational and understandable thirst among Arabs to be rid of despots and to enjoy democratic governance. Among the nine regions surveyed by the WVS, which included the advanced Western countries, Arab countries topped the list of those agreeing that “democracy is better that any other form of governance.” A substantially high percentage also rejected authoritarian rule (defined as a strong ruler who disregards parliament or elections).

Why have Arab countries failed to meet their people’s desire for freedom and democracy?
Undoubtedly, the real flaw behind the failure

of democracy in several Arab countries is not cultural in origin. It lies in the convergence of political, social and economic structures that have suppressed or eliminated organized social and political actors capable of turning the crisis of authoritarian and totalitarian regimes to their advantage. The elimination of such forces has sapped the democratic movement of any real forward momentum. In addition, there are region- specific complexities that have deepened the crisis.

In other words, dictatorships are at fault. There is much to gladden the freedomist in this report. Even if it is projecting on the Arab world a bias toward freedom, this report still contains enough undoubted detail and facts, like the above WVS survey, to question the view that democracy is incompatible with Arab culture, and that President Bush’s Forward Strategy of Freedom for the region is grossly unrealistic.

Link of Note

“The unmentionable Freedom” (5/28/05) By Joseph Loconte, The Heritage Foundation

Joseph Loconte is a research fellow in religion at the Heritage Foundation. He says:

Last month a group of Arab intellectuals released their third report in an unprecedented study of the many failures–economic, social, and political–that plague the world’s Arab states. The latest report, “Towards Freedom in the Arab World,” endorses democracy and laments the “acute deficit of freedom and good governance” in Muslim countries. Its authors are getting high marks from the Bush administration. Too bad they’ve largely ignored the most basic freedom under any democratic government: the guarantee of religious liberty.

Although understandable, given his interest in religion, I think he overdoes his criticism of the report for not explicitly favoring religious freedom. But this is implicit in the report’s general treatment of freedom, and then there are these snippets:

The dominant trend in Islamic jurisprudence supports freedom. Enlightened Islamic interpretations find that the tools of democracy – when used properly – offer one possible practical arrangement for applying the principle of consultation (al-shura). The fundamental principles in Islam which dictate good governance, include the realization of justice and equality, the assurance of public freedoms, the right of the nation to appoint and dismiss rulers, and guarantees of all public and private rights for non-Muslims and Muslims alike. Notwithstanding these key theological and philosophical interpretations, political forces, in power and in opposition, have selectively appropriated Islam to support and perpetuate their oppressive rule.
. . . .
In contemporary jurisprudence, human rights constitute the collection of rights incorporated in international agreements and treaties that guarantee all people, irrespective of their nationality, ethnicity, language, sex, religion, ideology and abilities, the fundamental rights to which they are entitled by virtue of being human. However, in Arab countries the issue of ‘specificity’ is frequently raised to weaken international human rights law.
. . . .
The confusion between religion and state is nowhere more clearly demonstrated than in the Sudanese Constitution, which provides that God, the Creator of humankind, holds supremacy over the State, without specifying the meaning of supremacy. Governance practices apparently sanctioned by God are likely to be immune to criticism and opposition.
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