Method, Method, Its All In The Method

May 15, 2009

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[First published September 29, 2005] I don’t see the need to respond to every criticism of my research unless doing so cast more light on the democratic peace, or the incredible democide of the last century, being carried over into our new one by the ruling thugs in Burma, Sudan, and North Korea. For this reason, I will pay some attention to Dr. John Grohol’s item on my research and attendant criticism (here).

I will quote his points and respond to each below:

Rummel’s conclusions have been criticized the lack of definite correlation. He neglects current conflicts between Israel and Palestine as well as India and Pakistan, all of which are democratic nations–although Rummel’s defenders would retort that Palestine was never a real democracy until 2005, and that Pakistan is ruled by a strongman who wields a great deal of undemocratic power.

Moreover, were Israel truly at war with Palestine, Palestine would be destroyed due to the enormous disparity of power, and if Pakistan and India were truly at war with each other then tens of millions would die. Rummel’s real point is that democracies rarely go to war with each other, and liberal democracies (defined by free speech, free press, and universal franchise) never do. Neither Pakistan nor Palestine, at this time, qualifies as a liberal democracy.

RJR: He raises the criticism and then rebuts it himself

Rummel’s conclusions have also been criticized for not considering the number of deaths due to anarchy and the lack of government, through mechanisms such as civil conflict, the breakdown of society, and foreign invasion.

RJR: I do, and my estimates for each country include that for war dead and internal nondemocidal violence. Moreover, the most anarchical system is international relations, wars of which I have tallied and included in my analysis.

Some have found the data that he uses to be questionable.

RJR: This is unhelpful. Details please.

Other people point out that his methods of calculation of the death toll are highly controversial. He compares the statistical data before and after a certain date and derives an estimate about the number of killings that occurred between.

RJR: This is called interpolation, and what interpolation is wrong is not detailed.

However, he fails to establish evidence of actual killing.

RJR. No indication of what estimates of mine were wrong. I use all kinds of documents to establish democide, such as refugee reports, memoirs, biographies, historical analyses, actual exhumed body counts, records kept by the murderers themselves, and so on.

Moreover, his results are based on an absolute trust in statistical data and statistics are prone to errors. However, he himself uses the wider sense of “killed by”, including all kinds of “reason-result” relationships between acts of government and actual deaths. Moreover, in calculating the number of victims, he doesn’t feel he needs evidence of a death; the result of statistical calculation is, for Rummel, effective proof that death occurred.

RJR: Wrong. This deserves a full response: I don’t believe any of my estimates of democide tell the true death toll. Nor do I believe anyone will ever know the precise number of people murdered in any democide, including the Holocaust (estimates in this best of all studied genocides and with the best archival and other records still differ by over 40%). Then what is the purpose of estimating democide? Two reasons dominate: moral assessment, and related scientifically based policy. Democide is a crime against humanity, one of the worst crimes the rulers or leaders of a government can commit. But there are levels of democide, and I see a moral difference between rulers that murder at different orders of magnitude (powers of ten). That is, I find the evil of a Stalin who most probably murdered over 20,000,000 people (and this seems to encompass 99.9 percent of all estimates) greater than rulers who murdered 1,000, 10,000, 100,000, or even 1,000,000. More specifically, my moral gauge clicks in at orders of magnitude. (There are other moral gauges, of course, such as the proportion of a population murdered; how people were murdered, such as randomly or by ethnicity or race; whether the intent was genocide or revenge, etc.) The moral question for me is then whether an estimate captures the order of magnitude. While I don’t think we can ever get a true estimate, I do think we can bracket the range of estimates within which the true value must be found, either absolutely or probabilistically.

As to the second criteria for accepting an estimate, my concern is to forecast the most likely order of magnitude of democide based on the characteristics of a society, nation, culture, ruler, leadership, people, geography, and so on. This is a scientific problem and engages methodological and technical questions inappropriate here. What is appropriate to the question of errors in democide estimates is at what level of error we get meaningful enough results to define the causation involved in democide, when no actual estimate is true. And since the estimates are usually close enough in magnitudes to enable us to rank nations, and divide them into groups of more or less, then we have enough precision to carry out scientific tests as to what causes democide.

For an example of alleged manipulation: Rummel estimates the death toll in the HYPERLINK “”Rheinwiesenlager ( see here) as between 4,500 and 56,000. Official US figures were just over 3,000 and a German commission found 4,532. The high figure of 56,000 also merited the notation “probably much lower” in Rummel’s extracts.

RJR: Misleading. This is about the German POWs that died in American camps after the war due to mistreatment and lack of care. The different estimates I used are record here (lines 228-237). As you can see, the estimates generally are close to the ones given above, and I end up with a range of 3,000 to 56,000, with a most probable estimate of 6,000. Grohol does not understand that the low and high are meant to be the most unlikely low and high, and thus to bracket the probable true count (I did point this out). It is to determine these lows and highs that I include what some others might consider absurd estimates. And in this case, my low and high does bracket the figures he gives.

Another flaw in Rummel’s statistical calculations is that he doesn’t use error margins.

RJR: Of what meaning are error margins when dealing with the universe of data, and not a sample? For example, if one takes a poll of 1,000 people about their opinion on the Iraq war, the result may be 48 percent favorable within a margin (standard deviation) of 2.4 percentage points. But, if the poll is taken of all American adults, this is the universe and there is no error margin or standard error. I am dealing with all estimates available in English for ALL NATIONS over a period of a century, and available in the libraries I worked in, including the Library of Congress. In no way can these estimates be considered a sample, not even a sample of all estimates (say those in the Russian, Chinese, and Korean archives), since then the estimates I used are not random, or selected in some statistical sense.

Link of Day

“5 yrs of intifada: 1,061 Israelis killed”


“Palestinians’ celebrate five years of terror war”

Yes, celebrating the murder en mass of unarmed civilian women and children, mothers and fathers, and sometimes whole families, walking the street, eating in restaurants, dancing in a club, or marketing. Some who survived paralyzed, with lose of their limbs, blinded, or suffering life long internal injuries might envy the dead. And genocide scholars, mainly American and European Jews who tend to side with the Palestinians, refuse to recognize the genocide it was. A case of genocide denial by the very people who are outraged at those who deny the Holocaust. But, there is no denial by the Palestinians, there is celebration.

Links I Must Share

“An Islamic guide on how to beat your wife”
And leave no marks.

” Top U.S. Military Intel Officer: Zarqawi ‘Hijacked’ Insurgency”

“The Mother of All Connections” By Stephen F. Hayes & Thomas Joscelyn. In. The Weekly Standard :

From the July 18, 2005 issue: A special report on the new evidence of collaboration between Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and al Qaeda.

Excellent article. Read and inform yourself.

“Somaliland in first vote for MPs”
Another new democracy. Cheers.

Democide data estimation method