Visualizing The Democratic Peace

February 3, 2009

[Fist published July 17, 2005] On the destroyed blog, Anonymous posted a comment I’ve taken to heart. He said:

Dean Esm, ay is on an excellent track in seeking to develop a popular pedagogy for the democratic peace. A critical need is to present an easily surveyable synoptic view of the historical facts of the democratic peace. While I am extremely grateful that Dr. Rummel presents his highly detailed expertise on this matter, it is not always easy for a non-scholar to survey his websites and feel armed for argument on behalf of the democratic peace, insofar as Dr. Rummel’s work looks at the democratic peace from various frames of reference and various definitional starting points, and deals with so many complexities and ambiguities of argument and fact. That is essential to do, but nowhere have I so far seen a single overall synoptic diagram of the historical facts of the democratic peace, one including all the relevant details and possible points of confusion and ambiguity. Instead, I have seen on Dr. Rummel’s site numerous partial synoptics. For example, one sees frequently a chart that, as I vaguely and approximately remember, says that since 1816(?), there have been 0 wars between democracies, about 200 wars between non-democracies, and about 100 wars between a non-democracy and a democracy. But the chart doesn’t say if this refers to electoral democracies or liberal democracies, or both. Dr. Rummel might find the answer so obvious as to be not necessary to display on the chart, but to the common ignoramus like me, the answer is not obvious. But the chart is just one example. Another is that it sometimes seems that in one essay Dr. Rummel is starting from different definitions of democracy than he uses in another essay — the facts and arguments of the essays do not contradict each other, but the various definitional starting points — a mark of Dr. Rummel’s wide acquaintance with various scholarly approaches to the subject — sometimes make it challenging for a reader to get a total overview with which to do rhetorical battle on behalf of the democratic peace.

For reading to be challenging is good, but it would also be good, and pedagogically essential, to develop a synoptic diagram on a single page, perhaps using text of half a dozen sizes, the largest expressing main lines, and each smaller size of text a finer level of definitional, historical and quantitative detail. (But any statistical info presented should be easily transparent to persons who are math-challenged.) Perhaps a sort of bullseye shape could be used, following Dr. Rummel’s enumeration of various circles of democracy, from the 25 or so utterly undoubted ones that could be placed in the central circle, to the very slightly doubted ones in the next circle, to the more doubted ones in the third circle, and so on. As many historical states should be included as possible, even all known states, perhaps in quite small text, with accompanying dates and detail as to what elements of democracy those states possessed. Multiple colors should be used in such a way as to clarify the organization of the information.

The ideal is to join maximum simplicity with maximum complexity.

All statements and labels on the synoptic should be made transparent for a complete layman, by use of diminishing text sizes for increasing detail. The main controversies, supposed exceptions, and ambiguities of the democratic peace should be included and explained in the clearest and most immediately understandable form.

The synoptic should be tested to see if an intelligent non-scholar, holding the synoptic in hand, can fairly quickly find the answer to most any objection that might be raised to the democratic peace idea.

RJR: I’ve been trying in various ways to help visitors to my website digest the incredible magnitude of democide by metaphoric visualizations (see here), photographs (see here, or mental visualizations, as in the corpses would circle the earth four times. But, I have not tried to do the same for the democratic peace. As a first try, how about the metaphoric draft plot below?

Empirically, the chart is not correct, since freedom vs. human insecurity (violence & famine & impoverishment & human underdevelopment) all lay on one dimension, not spread across two. See the chart below.

Note the linear relationship in the plot. The better way of simply showing this is in the chart below

If you want more detail as to which countries are where, see the contingency table (link here). It is too detailed to show here with the space available, but it best makes the case. Note that for liberal democracies, there is no low human security and only one low medium (Botswana), while for the unfree nations (no illiberal democracy among them) in no case is human security high. For those of us who have tabular minds, no statistics make a better case for the power of democratic peace than this table.

Anyway, how to best communicate all this in one page? Answers, comments, alternative charts (attach them to an email to me and I can put them up on the blog).

Link of Note

Appemdix: Testing Whether Freedom Predicts Human Security and Violence (2000) R.J. Rummel In Saving Lives, 
Enriching Life:
Freedom as a Right
And a Moral Good (downloadable free in pdf)


For all nations 1997 to 1998, the human security of their people, their human and economic development, the violence in their lives and the political instability of their institutions, is theoretically and empirically dependent on their freedom–their civil rights and political liberties, rule of law, and the accountability of their government. One can well predict a people’s human security by knowing how free they are.
Moreover, just considering the violence, instability, and total deaths a people can suffer, the more freedom they have the less of this they will endure.
These results are fully consistent with work done on war, revolution, and democide in other studies for different years and samples. . . .
As clear from the statistics, I am not dealing simply with the presence or absence of freedom, but with a continuum. . . . [T]he implication of this is profound for the foreign policies of the democracies and democratic activists. It is that even if we just improve the human rights of a people, even if we promote some democratization of their political institutions, it will improve their human security, and reduce the violence that inflicts them.

Visualizing democide
Graphical experiments on visalizing democide