The CATO Institute Gets It All Wrong

March 10, 2009

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[First published September 11, 2005] As a libertarian on domestic policy, I’ve supported, agreed with, and been happy to see much of the policy analyses and recommendations that the CATO Institute has published. It is with sadness, therefore, that I must point out how bad is CATO’s Chapter 2 in their Ninth Annual Ranking of Economic Freedom. Perhaps I can encourage them to be more careful in the future about their publications.

It is more than appropriate to focus a critique on this chapter by the Columbia University Political Scientist, Erik Gartzke , since it is not buried in the report, but given fanfare in CATO’s news release:

Economic freedom is almost 50 times more effective than democracy in restraining nations from going to war, according to the Economic Freedom of the World: 2005 Annual Report, released Thursday by the Cato Institute in conjunction with the Fraser Institute of Canada.

This is not only wrong, but also the Chapter 2 study on which this is based is incompetent. Even the very data Gartzke’s analyzes contradicts the above claim. For example, as I will document below, in his data there are NO (zero) wars between democracies over almost two-centuries. How can economic freedom improve on that, not to mention being 50 times better?

Dean Esmay (blog here) and Colleague had independently pointed me toward the blog by Daniel W. Drezner (here), which favorably reported on this CATO study, repeating not only what CATO says in its press release, but adding Garzke’s conclusion:

The results here suggest that efforts to promote peace in the Middle East and in other regions dominated by autocratic governments through democratization are of particularly questionable worth.

This is the particular danger of the Gartzke’s study, and the reason it was so important beyond CATO’s reputation or it to have been especially careful in including this in their report. It may well lead intelligent and policy-wise analysts and commentators to draw the wrong conclusions about the importance of democratization.

Now, for the details. I’ve gone to the study to see how it arrived at a conclusion that contradicts so much research on the democratic peace. It is here. First, some nitpicking. It is wrong to say, as Drezner does, that: “researchers have found that democracies are less likely to fight each other, while being no less ready to use force generally.” Presumably, the “no less ready” refers to nondemocracies. I published an article on this, “Democracies are less warlike than other regimes,” (here) in which I showed the errors in claims such as Drezner’s, and established empirically that in the 20th Century, democracies engage much less in severe foreign violence than do nondemocracies.

Gartzke says further that: “Democracy is desirable for many reasons but policies that encourage, or even seek to impose, representative government are unlikely to contribute directly to international peace.” There is that misbegotten “impose” again. This is a misunderstanding in what democratization of other countries means. See my blog, “Unchaining Human Rights, Not Imposing Democracy,” on this here.

He also says that, “Developing countries do not benefit from a democratic peace.” Consistently, whether developed or not, developing or not,” the democratic peace of no wars between democracies holds. When there were, depending on the year, 25, 50, 80, or 117 democracies, as of now, the list surely includes all developing democracies as well as those at all levels of development. Yet, no two of them make war on each other. But, he claims that his study finds otherwise. He can only claim this and that democracies are unlikely to contribute to peace by ignoring his own data

So, lets look at his data. These are the Militarized Dispute Data (MID) set on “violence” that is widely available. The particular set he used is for 1816 to 2000. I’ve looked at the original data 1816-1992 in detail, and covered in my own collection the eight additional years to year 2000. (As to the original data set, see Frank W. Wayman’s paper on the “Incidence Of Militarized Disputes Between Liberal States,”) and Daniel M. Jones, Stuart A. Bremer, and J. David Singer, “Militarized Interstate Disputes, 1816-1992: Rationale, Coding Rules, And Empirical Patterns”).

For one, the MID data involves threats, military action (e.g., alerts, mobilization, and hostile movements), and violence short of 1,000 killed. Note that in using these data Gartzke confounds nonviolence with violence, a serious mistake in evaluating the democratic peace since it concerns only violence (some researchers limit this to war, but I do not and consider any combat deaths to be relevant). Still, it may be that his data is capturing enough violence between democracies to be useful.

So how many incidents of violence between democracies are there? In the whole data set, OVER ALMOST TWO CENTURIES, out of 350 cases for all nations (up to 1992), and in the eight additional years, there are ZERO (0) CASES OF WAR, between democracies, and only 3 cases of violence between democracies in which someone was killed. Two of these involved Peru and Ecuador in 1981 and 1984 (26 to 100 killed in the first and 1-25 in the second case of violence). In 1981 Peru was only marginally democratic, as was Ecuador, but less so. This was also true of Peru and Ecuador in 1984. The only other case of violence in the data set was marginally democratic Ecuador (initiator) vs. the U.S. in 1954 in which 1-25 were killed.

Given that this is not the best data set to test the democratic peace against economic freedom, how does he do the test? He uses multiple regression analysis to regress MID on economic freedom, democracy, and a number of other variables. Before evaluating this analysis, I should note from my own study that the correlation between economic freedom and democraticy is high. In fact, they form a common dimension among nations with many other human security and economic variables, and with which democraticy is correlated .83 and economic freedom .85 (table here). Their common , as apart from accidental or random correlation, is therefore, .85 X .83 = .70, which is high. (To better see this relationship, look at the table and figure in my “The Solution to Mass Poverty Blog” here).

This correlation is meaningful for the kind of regression analysis Gartzke did, but he apparently doesn’t know it. A problem in regression analysis is multicollinearity, which is to say moderate or high correlations among the independent variables. If two independent variables are highly correlated they are no longer statistically independent, and the first one entered into the regression, in this case economic freedom, steals that part of the correlation it has with democracy from the dependent variable. Thus, economic freedom is highly significant, while democracy is not. If Gartzke had done two bivariate regressions on his MID data, one with economic freedom and other with democracy as the independent variables, he surely would have found democracy highly significant. (An important statistical point about his use of significance tests — he is not analyzing a sample, but the universe of cases — thus standard significance tests are irrelevant). To protect against multicollinearity in his multiple regression, he should have orthogonalized the independent variables, which is to make them statistically independent of each other. Orthogonalization can be done through factor analysis, and then using the resulting factor scores in the regression.

Thus, his CATO acclaimed results are a result of his misuse of multiple regression and an ignorance of what is in his data. Even then, given his dependent variable, were the regression analysis properly done, I don’ think his data consisting of nonviolent and violent acts would be relevant to what is meant by democratic freedom and violence.

I did my own analysis of democracy, violence, economic development and economic freedom, plus some other human development variables. I asked: Can we predict the level of a nation’s human security (which includes violence) by knowing its level of democracy (analysis here). The final regression is of logviolence factor scores on the factor scores of freedom and human development (thus erasing the problem of multicollinearity), and dummy variables as to whether Moslem or not, or Christian or not (given the purpose of the regression, it did not matter if these two were correlated with the other impendent variables or each other). The regression was excellent, accounting for 74 percent of the variation in violence (with residuals properly dispersed), with democracy (freedom) being far more significant than human development (see Table A.23 here), which includes economic freedom.

How could CATO let such a poor study into their prime report? Was it their libertarian opposition to intervention abroad, even if it is in favor of democracy? Was it their libertarian dislike of the democratic peace, shown by so many libertarian anti-democratic peace articles? Whatever. After reviewing the one study on what I know something about and finding it so poor, it provokes a questioning of their other studies in areas I know less about.

Link of Day

“Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations” (just released by the Pentagon)

Deterrence is live and well. This strategic policy report elaborates on American nuclear policy, including that of preemption or FIRST USE, which bush signed off on in 1992. I consider this the most important document on defense policy issued in the last ten years. For those who are bored by such documentation, consider that it was decisions like this about American strategic policy that brought victory in the Cold War, without a world hot war.

Links I Must Share

“Pentagon Revises Nuclear Strike Plan”:

he Pentagon has drafted a revised doctrine for the use of nuclear weapons that envisions commanders requesting presidential approval to use them to preempt an attack by a nation or a terrorist group using weapons of mass destruction. The draft also includes the option of using nuclear arms to destroy known enemy stockpiles of nuclear, biological or chemical weapons.

[RJR: one view of the above report]

“New Pentagon plans envision possible nuclear strikes”:

A Pentagon planning document being updated to reflect the doctrine of pre-emption declared by President Bush in 2002 envisions the use of nuclear weapons to deter terrorists from using weapons of mass destruction against the United States or its allies.

[RJR: Another view]

Arms Control Wonk:

The Joint Staff hates freedom. What else should I conclude when its staff knowingly place classified material they believe could be harmful to national security on a public webserver?

[A professional arm controller’s view]
Democratic Peace

The Democratic Peace

March 5, 2009

[First published October 21, 2005] In spite of the violence in Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, Angola, and elsewhere, there is a cause for much optimism. World violence has been in sharp decline for over five years, and the march of democratization continues with about 119 [as of 2008] democracies now existing, and 8 [as of 2008] of them liberal democracies. In almost every country where elites have been persuaded of the value of socialism there is now talk of multiparty systems, democracy, and the free market. Even in the classical authoritarian systems, such as those in the Middle East, voices are heard for a free press, legislative power, and political parties.

Obviously, we are riding a democratic wave. The technology of the mass media has brought us all closer together (and who can forget watching the elections in Afghanistan and then Iraq) and in its universal availability and content it has carried implicitly the message of democracy and freedom. And freedom and the rule of law itself has become the most universally accepted political idea and human right, even enshrined in the UN Human Rights Convention

The components of this idea are clear in broad brush although the details, as always, are subject to academic dispute. These are political rights, such as to compete and choose one’s candidates for political power, equal and secret ballot, and freedom to organize and protest against office holders; and for liberal democracies, civil rights, such as freedom of religion, organization, and speech. Often we collectively refer to these rights by the term Rule of Law, a basic constitutional order that protects these rights and that lies above the whims of government, groups, and individuals.

But in our enthusiasm for the global movement toward democracy, we should ask ourselves why we support it. A century and more ago the answer would have been almost automatic, as it was for the writers of the American Constitution. It is a natural law, an inalienable right, and a self-evident principle that people should be free. But natural law is no longer intellectually popular and indeed the idea is now so strange that journalists cannot understand the references to it by conservative nominees to the American Supreme Court. They classify it along with such sayings as, “God wills it.”

A currently more respectable justification for democracy is that freedom is a fundamental human value and desire. People want to live their own lives, pursue their own interests as free from the meddling of others as possible. If such intrusion is necessary, they want to play a role in determining the who, what, and when of it. And since this is what people universally want it is what they should have. Although the non sequitur in this argument is glaring–one cannot derive a “should” from a “want” or “desire” alone–it at least can be made respectable by reference to the Social Contract Theory of justice. That is, if we argue that a just social system is one whose fundamental principles people would universally choose if they were blind to their selfish interests (if they had no knowledge of where they would end up in that system–rich or poor, tall or fat, black or white), then persuasive is the argument that people would choose as their first principle freedom under the Rule of Law.

But this approach to justifying democracy has been unsatisfactory to many. We live in a utilitarian age and it is hardly strange that the major justification for democracy should be in terms of its consequences. Particularly, that where people are free under law that is fair and equally applied to all, they are most happy. Of course, this utilitarian justification itself is subject to question. What is happiness? Although people prefer happiness to sadness, grief, and pain, do they really know what will make them happy?

The democrat argues that we really do not know what makes people happy in general and that this is something that only they can decide for themselves, and if for some issues it must be determined generally, as with regard to pollution or public education, it should be through publicly elected representatives under law. And the democratic individualist has argued further with their democratic socialist friends that the free market is a necessary mechanism through which individuals have the greatest choice as to what will make them happy, both in the relative diversity and cheapness of goods and in the creation and dissemination of wealth.

This utilitarian argument for democracy is what has now won the battle for the minds of men. Democracy, it is widely believed, assures the happiness of the greatest number because it provides freedom and wealth (through economic development). There is much to quibble about this, as can be seen in the arguments between various political parties, and I do not intend to get into these debates. But leaving these details aside, I think that we can accept this as the general argument of the American, Soviet, or Chinese democrat (even those who favor social democracy no longer mean full-scale socialism but now mean a free market qualified by government welfare, safety nets, regulation, and limited government ownership of basic services and production, such as in the public health sector).

But those who make this utilitarian argument for democracy have missed perhaps the strongest possible justification. Democracy preserves human life. In theory and fact, the more democratic two states, the less deadly violence between them; and if they are both democratic, lethal violence is precluded altogether. That is, democratic states do not make war on each other. Moreover, the less democratic two states, the more probable war between them. And also, the less democratic a state, the more likely will occur internal warfare.

This is not all. Perhaps least surprising is that the less democratic a government, the more likely that it will murder its own citizens in cold blood, independent of any foreign or domestic war.

Now, war is not the most deadly form of violence. Indeed, I have found that while about 37,000,000 people have been killed in battle in all foreign and domestic wars in the last century, government democide (genocide and mass murder) have killed about 175 million, most by far by totalitarian governments. There is no case of democratic governments murdering en masse their own citizens.

The point is this. If a utilitarian justification for democracy is to be given, then in addition to the happiness that follows from freedom and the from wealth produced by the free market, democracy preserves and extends human life. It does this through the life extending benefits of the market (as in food production). But most important, it does this through the reduction of deadly violence. Democracy is the successful institutionalization of the forces, culture, and techniques of non-violence.

This is also what we should be shouting from the roof tops. This is also what should be the substance of our utilitarian justification for democracy. Yes, freedom. Yes, development. Yes, happiness. But yes, also life for those saved from murder by their own governments and death from war.

Nothing is certain about the future, but this is true of all predictions based on past events, natural or social. Within this limitation think about this. By fact and theory, we appear to have within the power of democracy the opportunity to end war, genocide, and mass murder, and minimize revolutionary and civil violence. And the epochal movement of our times is toward universal democracy.

It is true that a few political leaders such as President George Bush and practitioners have already pointed out that democracies do not make war on each other. But this has not been a general understanding; virtually no journalists mention this in their analyses of democracy and contemporary trends. I have yet to hear or read about an expert, academic or otherwise, mentioning this in a media interview. Why is this?

First, until recent decades there has been an historic erosion of the tenets of classical liberalism and its faith in democracy and the free market. The pacific nature of democracy is a matter of insight and knowledge gained and lost among liberals. So long ago as 1795, in his virtually now forgotten Perpetual Peace, Immanuel Kant systematically articulated the positive role of republicanism in eliminating war. He proposed that constitutional republics should be established to assure universal peace. The essential idea was this: the more freedom people have to govern their own lives, the more government power is limited constitutionally, the more leaders are responsible through free elections to their people, then the more restrained the leaders will be in making war.

Through the writings of Kant, de Montesquieu, Thomas Paine, Jeremy Bentham, and John Stuart Mill, among others, it became an article of classical liberal faith in the 18th and 19th centuries that “Government on the old system,” as Paine wrote, “is an assumption of power, for the aggrandizement of itself; on the new [republican form of government as just established in the United States], a delegation of power for the common benefit of society. The former supports itself by keeping up a system of war; the latter promotes a system of peace, as the true means of enriching a nation.”

These liberals believed that there was a natural harmony of interests among nations, and that free trade would facilitate this harmony and promote peace. Most important, they were convinced that monarchical aristocracies had a stake in war. In contemporary terms, it was a game they played with the lives of the common folk. Empower the common people to make such decisions through their representatives, and they would generally oppose war.

In the 18th Century, classical liberals wrote about democracy and peace in the abstract, by hypothesis. Reason, the instrument for uncovering natural law, was their guide. Now we have the longer historical record, empirical research, and social theory to show that indeed, their reason and intuition were not misplaced.

Nonetheless, by the middle of the 20th century, this insight became almost completely ignored or forgotten. There are several reasons for this. First and foremost, the classical liberal view itself fell into disrepute among intellectuals and scholars. Essentially, classical liberals believed that the government that governs least governs best. Adam Smith’s An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations was their economic bible. And in current terms, they preached democratic capitalism. But beginning in the 19th century capitalism came under increasing attack by socialists. First, the socialist agreed with the classical liberal that the people had to be empowered, and that this would bring peace. But what the socialist saw when the liberal creed was enacted into law, especially in Britain, was that the bellicose aristocracies were replaced by bellicose capitalists. Democracies and their attendant free market appeared to foster exploitation, inequality, poverty, and to enable a very few to rule over the many. Most important here, capitalism was seen not just to promote, but to require colonialism and imperialism, and thereby war.

But what was to be done? Here the socialists divided essentially into the democratic socialists, state socialists, and Marxists. The democratic socialists argued that true democracy means that both the political and economic aspects of their lives must be under the people’s control, and this is done through a representative government and government ownership, control, and management of the economy. Elected representatives, who would oversee economic planners and managers, and above all be responsive to popular majorities, would thus replace the capitalist. With the aristocratic and capitalist interests in war thus eliminated, with the peace oriented worker and peasant democratically empowered, peace would be assured.

The state socialists, however, would simply replace representative institutions with some form of socialist dictatorship. This would assure the best implementation and progress of socialist egalitarianism, without interference by the bourgeoisie and other self-serving interests. Moreover, the people cannot be trusted to know their own interests, for they are easily blinded by pro-capitalist propaganda and manipulation. Burma today is an example of state socialism in practice.

While agreeing on much of the socialist analysis of capitalism, the Marxists added a deterministic, dialectical theory of history, a class analysis of societies, an economic theory of capitalism, and the necessity of the impoverishment of the worker and the inevitability of a communist revolution. However, the Marxists disagreed with the socialists on the ends. Never far from the anarchists, the Marxists, especially the Marxist-Leninists of our century, looked at the socialist state that would come into being with the overthrow of capitalism as nothing more than an intermediary dictatorship of the proletariat through which the transition to the final stage of communism would be prepared. And stripped of its feudal or capitalist exploiters, and thus its agents of war, communism would mean enlightened cooperation among all people as each works according to his ability and receives according to his need. The state then would wither away, and the masses would live in true, everlasting peace and freedom.

Regardless of the brand of socialism from which the critique of capitalism ensued, the protracted 19th century socialist assault on capitalism had a profound effect on liberalism and especially the theory of war and peace. Falling into disrepute, its program seen as utopian or special pleading for capitalists, pure classical liberalism mutated among western intellectuals into a reform or welfare liberalism that is hardly different today from the programs and views of the early socialists. And this modern liberalism, or “liberalism” as it is now called, has been heavily influenced by the socialist view of war; and became widely influential in scholarly research on international relations, and thus war and peace. It must be recognized that such research was largely the preserve of the social sciences, and an overwhelming number of social scientists were by the mid-20th century modern liberals or socialists in their outlook.

But what happened to the idea that individual freedom promotes nonviolence? With the protracted socialist attack on the classical liberal’s fundamental belief in capitalism, coupled with the apparent excesses of capitalism, such as sweat shops, robber barons, monopolies, depressions, and political corruption, classical liberalism eventually lost the heart and minds of Western intellectuals. And with this defeat went its fundamental truth about democracy promoting peace. Interestingly, in the last decade there has been a resurgence of classical liberalism. Former President Ronald Reagan and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher exemplify this, and their often-expressed views on the positive role of free institutions for peace are straight out of classical liberalism. This renewal, however, has yet to have much influence on the media, professionals, or social scientists.

This is not to say that most democrats view capitalist political-economic systems as the cause of war, as asserted by hard-line socialists. Many who think and write about these matters generally view capitalism as one cause among several. They have moved to a middle position: both capitalism and socialism can be a source of peace or war, depending on the circumstances. In either case, neither is a general factor in war.

Now, capitalism and democracy is not the same thing. Democratic socialist systems exist, as in Sweden and Denmark, as do authoritarian capitalist systems like Chile, and Taiwan, or South Korea of a decade ago. Why then has the peace-making effects of democratic freedoms been tossed out with capitalism? As mentioned, these freedoms were part of an ideology emphasizing capitalism–as the ideology retreated, so did its belief in the positive role of freedom in peace. But there are other factors at work here that are at least as important.

One of these factors causing many to reject democracy’s peacefulness is a misreading of history. It was believed that democracies not only do go to war, but they can be very aggressive. Americans could easily note their American-Indian Wars, Mexican-American and Spanish American wars, and of course the Civil War And even if one argues that the United States was dragged into both World Wars, there are the invasions of Grenada, Panama, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Then, of course, there is Great Britain, which between 1850 and 1941 fought twenty wars, more than any other state. France, also a democracy for most of this period, fought the next most at eighteen. The United States fought seven. These three nations alone fought 63 percent of all the wars during these ninety-two years. Of course, Britain did not become a true democracy until 1884 with the extension of the franchise to agricultural workers, but she was afterwards still involved in numerous European and colonial wars. The historical record of democracies thus appeared no better than that of other regimes; and the classical liberal belief in the peacefulness of democracies seemed nothing more than bad theory or misplaced faith.

But all other types of regimes seemed equally bellicose. The supposed peacefulness of socialist systems was belied by the aggressiveness of its two major totalitarian variants, that of the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany; and other types of regimes, whether authoritarian dictatorships like Japan before World War II, or absolute monarchies like czarist Russia before World War I, appeared no less warlike. The verdict was and largely still is an easy one–all types of political, or politico-economic, systems make war; none is especially pacific. Clearly articulated in Kenneth Waltz’s widely read Man, the State and War, this critique is today the consensus view of American academics and intellectuals. Among students of international relations, it is the major alternative belief to that of the inherent bellicosity of capitalist systems.

How could it be missed that democracies do not make war on each other and are generally more peaceful? For one there has been an unfortunate tendency to focus on the many wars of a few democracies while ignoring the many wars of many nondemocracies. Moreover, to the disadvantage of democracies, there is an inclination to treat all wars equally, such that the American invasion of Grenada, the Falklands War, and World War II, are each counted as one war.

Still, how could it be missed that democracies do not make war on each other? The problem is that many who write and speak about these issues do not ordinarily think dyadically. They think of nations as developed or undeveloped, strong or weak, democratic or undemocratic, large or small, belligerent or not. That is, they think monadically.

Like so much in life, this is a matter of perspective. A shift in focus to bilateral relations shows that when two nations are stable democracies, no wars occur between them. Even going back to the classical Greek democracies, the democratic guilds and principalities of the Middle Ages, the democratic Swiss forest states, or the democratic city-states of Italy, there was no full-scale war between those that were democratic in institutions and spirit; nor has research by political scientists uncovered any wars between stable democracies in the 19th or 20th centuries. And this still holds true today, even though the number of democratic states has grown to at least 117, 88 of them liberal democracies, or about 44 percent of the world’s population.

Just consider that in a world where contiguous nations often use violence to settle their differences or at least have armed borders between them, the United States and Canada have had for generations a long, completely unarmed border. Even in Europe, the historical cauldron of war, once all Western European nations became democratic they no longer have armed against each other. Indeed, the expectation of war among them became zero. That all this should be missed shows how powerfully misleading an improper historical perspective or model can be.

There is one more factor at work in the rejection of the classical liberal view of democracy and peace. Beginning with the First World War and accelerated by the second, there has been a strong antipathy among intellectuals to any hint of nationalism. Nationalism was seen by many non-socialists as a fundamental cause of war, or at least of the total national mobilization for war and ensuing total violence. Internationalism, rising above one’s nation, seeing humanity and its transcending interest as a whole, and furthering world government, became their intellectual ideal. Social scientists have almost universally shared this view. In fact, one of the attractions of socialism for many was its inherent internationalism, its rejection of the nation and patriotism as values.

Internationalists generally have refused to accept that any one nation is really better than another. After all, cultures and values are relative; one nation’s virtues are another’s evils. Best we treat all nations equally to better resolve conflicts among them. As Professor Hans Morgenthau pointed out in his popular and influential international relations text, Politics Among Nations, both the United States and Soviet Union should be condemned for the Cold War; it is their evangelistic, crusading belief in their own values that made the East-West conflict so difficult to resolve.

This two-partyism can be seen easily in reading the peace oriented literature. There is no victim or aggressor, no right or wrong nation, but only two parties to a conflict (when this two-partyism did break down, it was usually in terms of American, or Western “imperialist, aggression”). Consequently, to accept that the freedoms espoused by the United States and its democratic allies lead to peace, and that the totalitarian socialism that was fostered by the Soviet Union and China lead to violence and war, is to take sides. It is to be nationalistic. And this for many internationalists was ipso facto wrong.

There is another psychological force toward two-partyism that should not be underestimated. The statement that democracy fosters peace seems not only nationalistic, but also inherently ideological. After all, freedom was one of the flags in the “ideological Cold War.” No matter that this was an observational and historical statement. To accept it appeared not only to take sides; but what is worse, to be a right wing, cold warrior.

Finally, the peace that the classical liberals had in mind involved not only the absence of war between nations, but also harmonious international relations. They, like our contemporaries, had no conception of the degree to which governments could and would massacre their own people. After all, presumably, mankind had progressed since the bloody Albigensian Crusade in France, Inquisition in Spain, and witch hunts throughout Europe.

Today, we can extend the idea of peace through democracy to cover freedom from government genocide and mass murder. But to do so requires overcoming incredible mass ignorance even about the megamurders for which authoritarian and totalitarian governments have been responsible. Of course, everyone knows about the Nazi genocide. And most consider the near 6,000,000 Jews murdered as a monstrous crime against humanity by Hitler and his Nazi gang of racists. Few know that they also murdered in cold blood an additional near 14,000,000 Poles, Gypsies, Byelorussians, Ukrainians, Russians, Yugoslavs, Czechs, Frenchmen, and others. Few outside of the Soviet Union know about Stalin’s horrors, that he killed people by the tens of millions (I calculate about 43,000,000). Even fewer realize that under the communist regime in China more tens of millions were killed (as shown in Table 1). And virtually no one except Armenians seems to remember the Armenian genocide by Turkey, the Pakistan genocide and mass murder; except Bengalis; and the Japanese atrocities during the Sino-Japanese and Pacific Wars, except the Chinese and Koreans. And now, virtually no one remembers anymore the mass murder of about 10 million Chinese by their Nationalist regime. It is understandable, then, that the global magnitude of murder by governments in this century is almost universally unknown, that it might exceed an absolutely incredible 150,944,000 men, women, and children killed, or more than four times all this century’s battle deaths in all its domestic and international wars. Of course, it must then be unknown that virtually no democratic citizens are among this utterly fantastic number.

Is it any wonder, then, that in this time of democracy’s victory there has been little gleeful shouting about one terribly important value of democracy–the victory of democracy over violent political death, over war, revolution, genocide, and mass murder.


sent to
How can we justify democracy, aside from the standard philosophical argument that freedom is a natural right and democracy is the best way of assuring that? Not widely known are the utilitarian and empirical arguments for democratic freedom: democracies don’t war against each other, they have the least foreign and domestic violence, they don’t murder their own citizens, the don’t have famines, and they enrich their people. Related article (here.

The Wisdom of the Demos

February 24, 2009

[First published January 2, 2006] James Surowiecki’s book, The Wisdom of Crowd (2004) argues that if groups are diverse in membership and their members are independent, then the collective wisdom of the group is often better than that of even the brightest, best informed members. However, there has to be some way of aggregating and organizing the wisdom of the members to arrive at the wisdom of the group.

For example, consider the question as to how many beans (marbles, pennies, etc.) there are in a jar. Now, if each member of large and diverse group independently makes a guess, and then all the guesses are averaged, the average will almost always be closer to the actual number than any one guess. Surowiecki provides many other examples, some real world, such as how the free market illustrates the wisdom of the group (nation). He arrives at the underused concept that I employ for the working of a free market and a democracy, which is Hayek’s idea of a spontaneous society.

Surowiecki concludes his book on democracy, on which he says that democracy:

is not a way of solving cognition problems or a mechanism for revealing the public interest. But it is a way of dealing with (if not solving once and for all) the most fundamental problems of cooperation and coordination: How do we live together? How can living together work to our mutual benefit? Democracy helps people answer those questions because the democratic experience is an experience of not getting everything you want. It’s an experience of seeing your opponents win and get what you hoped to have, and of accepting it, because you believe that they will not destroy the things you value and because you know you will have another chance to get what you want. In that sense, a healthy democracy inculcates the virtues of compromise — which is, after all, the foundation of the social contract — and change. The decisions that democracies make may not demonstrate the wisdom of the crowd. The decision to make them democratically does.

And thus, democracy is a method of nonviolence

A problem with changing one’s mind in public from X to -X, is that it takes a long time for the public to recognize -X, and then one is stuck with saying, “Oh, I no longer agree with myself then.” Thus, regarding Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Anonymous posted a comment yesterday that I should answer now before it confuses visitors. Anonymous says:

With all due respect: Your arguments seem a bit weak and a bit other-wordly.

1) Real people in the real world have to make judgment calls. Your pretending that the millions of lives saved by dropping the bomb – most of them Japanese civilians who would have been killed in the invasion or in continued fire bombings – were speculative and therefore you seem to disregard them altogether. But any real person in a position of real authority would have had to make an estimate of what the costs would have been. They really are not speculative. Based on all the available evidence, it would have been a long, drawn out bloodbath.

2. Your pretending that “maybe Japan would have just surrendered without a large invasion” is a leap into the realm of let’s pretend; maybe such and such could have happened; – but you refused to do any speculating in Issue number 1, above. Not fair.

3. Acoording to Victor Davis Hanson, the Chinese were dying at a phenomenal rate because of continued Japanese occupation. If I recall correctly, they were dying at the rate of 250,000 per month. And the Japanese probably killed about 15 million total. It is difficult to gather much sympathy for a population that supported that kind of slaughter. Plus, your position that they were all brainwashed automatons doesn’t work – they never heard from the soldiers who came home what was happening? And if you insist on the point, are you willing to grant the same to the German population that allowed the extermination of the Jews? Are they totally innocent as well?

4. The very sad part of this is that people who take your position seem to have unlimited sympathy for Japanese children, while speaking not one word about the truly innocent Chinese, Burmese, Vietnamese, Korean, etc. children who were starved to death by the Japanese, used in experiments or just plain murdered. They continued to die every day the war went on. The critical thing about the war was that it be ended as soon as possible.

War is hell. But when an A-bomb saves millions of lives by finally shattering the Japanese war machine it was a very, very good thing. It was the Japanese who put us in a very bad position. They made it very clear they would go on killing Americans and everyone else in their grasp for as long as they could – only American might saved them from becoming one of the most brutal empires ever known.

How odd that it took 60 years – and the deaths of most of the generation who were alive at the time and who actually witnessed these events – for the brave academy to come out in opposition to the dropping of the bomb. And by selectively looking at the conflict from the side of the country that started the entire bloodbath.

RJR: I agree with all that Anonymous says, leaving aside some of the wording. The problem is that Anonymous must have been reading my earlier post, “Hiroshima-Nagasaki was Democide,” where I made the assertions to which Anonymous is apparently responding. He must have missed my reluctant change of mind to accept the bombing in my “Rethinking Hiroshima and Nagasaki”, and especially, my complete acceptance of the bombing, for many of the reasons Anonymous mentions, in “A Just Democide Doctrine?”

While agreeing with Anonymous, I want to be sure that everyone who reads this understands that what is implicitly involved here is a “Just Democide Doctrine. This is to say that under certain conditions, we are faced with the ugly choice of murdering hundreds of thousands of civilians as the lesser of two evils. I want this upfront and faced directly, for it is taken as a moral absolute that one does not commit genocide or democide.

Facing this virtually indigestible moral dilemma even further underlines and capitalizes the moral good of democracy. For as democratic freedom is universalized, then the wars in which such awful choices have to be made will never inflict humanity again.

What Makes Democracy Permanent

February 1, 2009

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[First published August 30, 2005] Sometimes I come across research that is so important, but which is unavailable unless you subscribe to research journals or are near a research library, that I must provide its substance. Such is the article by Adam Przeworski and Fernando Limongi on, “Modernization: Facts and Theories,” (World Politics, vol. 49, no. 2, 1997). It bears directly on the Bush Forward Strategy of Freedom. Published in 1997, it is not written with Iraq and Afghanistan in mind, but we can keep them and China in mind as we read it. (My thanks to Dean Esmay of Dean’s World for bringing to my attention the blog on this by TallDave.
I will include what is most relevant, leaving out the nonessential methodology, and all footnotes: (all bold italics added)

What makes political regimes rise, endure, and fall? Do democracies emerge as a consequence of economic development? Does rapid economic growth destabilize democracies? Is there some level of development beyond which democracies are more likely to fall? Is European history unique or is it repeating itself in contemporary less developed countries?

. . . . We pose the question narrowly, examining exclusively the impact of development, rather than seeking broadly to explain the dynamic of political regimes. Hence, we deliberately ignore factors such as religion, colonial legacy, position in the world system, income distribution, or diffusion, which have been found by others to influence the incidence of democracy. We believe that our question is important in its own right, that it lends itself to divergent answers, and that it raises methodological issues that are not well understood.

I. Economic Development and Democracy

Lipset’s observation that democracy is related to economic development, first advanced in 1959, has generated the largest body of research on any topic in comparative politics. It has been supported and contested, revised and extended, buried and resuscitated.

. . . . Yet there are two distinct reasons this relation may hold: either democracies may be more likely to emerge as countries develop economically, or they may be established independently of economic development, but may be more likely to survive in developed countries. We call the first explanation “endogenous” and the second “exogenous.”

Since we are dealing with only two regimes, democracies emerge whenever dictatorships die. Hence, to assert that democracies emerge as a result of economic development is the same as to say that dictatorships die as countries ruled by them become economically developed. Democracy is then secreted out of dictatorships by economic development. A story told about country after country is that as they develop, social structure becomes complex, labor processes begin to require the active cooperation of employees, and new groups emerge and organize. As a result, the system can no longer be effectively run by command: the society is too complex, technological change endows the direct producers with some autonomy and private information, civil society emerges, and dictatorial forms of control lose their effectiveness. Various groups, whether the bourgeoisie, workers, or just the amorphous “civil society,” rise against the dictatorial regime, and it falls.

The endogenous explanation is a “modernization” theory. The basic assumption of this theory, in any of its versions, is that there is one general process of which democratization is but the final stage. Modernization consists of a gradual differentiation and specialization of social structures that culminates in a separation of political structures from other structures and makes democracy possible. The specific causal chains consist of sequences of industrialization, urbanization, education, communication, mobilization, and political incorporation, among innumerable others: a progressive accumulation of social changes that ready a society to proceed to its culmination, democratization.

Modernization may be one reason the incidence of democracy is related to economic development, and this is the reading most commentators impute to Lipset. His most influential critic, O’Donnell, paraphrases Lipset’s thesis as saying that “if other countries become as rich as the economically advanced nations, it is highly probable that they will become political democracies.” Democracy, then, is endogenous, since it results from development under authoritarianism. According to this theory, the sequence of events one would expect is one of poor authoritarian countries developing and becoming democratic once they reach some level of development, a “threshold.”

Yet suppose that dictatorships are equally likely to die and democracies to emerge at any level of development. They may die for so many different reasons that development, with all its modernizing consequences, plays no privileged role. After all, as Therborn emphasized, many European countries democratized because of wars, not because of “modernization,” a story repeated by the Argentine defeat in the Malvinas and elsewhere. Some dictatorships fell in the aftermath of the death of a founding dictator–a Franco, for instance–who had been uniquely capable of maintaining the dictatorial order. Some collapsed because of economic crises. Some because of foreign pressures.

If dictatorships die and democracies emerge randomly with regard to development, is it still possible that there would be more democracies among wealthy countries than among poor ones? If one is to take Lipset at his own word–“The more well-to-do a nation, the greater the chances it will sustain democracy” –then even if the emergence of democracy is independent of the level of development, the chance that such a regime will survive is greater if it has been established in an affluent country. We would thus expect to observe democracies to appear randomly with regard to levels of development, but to die in the poorer countries and survive in the wealthier ones. Thus, history gradually accumulates wealthy democracies, since every time a dictatorship happens to die in an affluent country, democracy is there to stay. This is therefore no longer a modernization theory, since the emergence of democracy is not brought about by development. Rather, democracy appears exogenously as a deus ex machina. It survives if a country is “modern,” but it is not a product of “modernization.”

Are we splitting hairs?

Examine first some descriptive patterns. The facts we report concern 135 countries between roughly 1950 and 1990. . . . All the regimes that occurred during this period were classified as democracies or dictatorships (we use the latter term interchangeably with “authoritarian regimes”). Altogether, we observed 224 regimes, 101 democratic and 123 authoritarian. . . .

If the theory that democracy emerges as a result of economic development is true, transitions to democracy would be more likely when authoritarian regimes reach higher levels of development. In fact, transitions are increasingly likely as per capita income of dictatorships rises but only until it reaches a level of about $6,000. Above that, dictatorships become more stable as countries become more affluent. Dictatorships survive, or at least succeed one another, almost invariably in the very poor countries, those under $1,000. They are somewhat less stable in countries with incomes between $1,001 and $4,000 and even less so above $4,000. But if they reach the level of $6,000, transitions to democracy become less likely. . . . [T]he probability of any dictatorship dying during any year is 0.0206; for those dictatorships with incomes over $1,000, this probability is 0.0294, over $5,000 it is 0.0641, over $6,000 it is 0.0484, over $7,000 it is 0.0333. Huntington, it seems, was correct with regard to dictatorships: they exhibit a “bell shaped pattern of instability.”

[T]he probabilities of dictatorships falling, . . . predicted by the level of development correspond closely to those observed. They increase until the $5,001-$6,000 range and then decline.

Indeed, dictatorships survived for years in countries that were wealthy. Whatever the threshold at which development is supposed to dig the grave for authoritarian regimes, it is clear that many dictatorships passed it in good health. Even disregarding those countries that derive more than one-half of their revenues from oil, dictatorships flourished in Singapore, East Germany, Taiwan, USSR, Spain, Bulgaria, Argentina, and Mexico for many years after these countries enjoyed incomes above $5,000, which Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Netherlands, and Norway did not have by 1950. . . .
Yet this may not be a fair test of modernization theory. The hypothesis implied by this theory is that if a country develops over a longer period under dictatorship, so that all the modernizing consequences have time to accumulate, then it will embrace democracy. But for most dictatorships this premise is vacuous: only 19 dictatorships–to remind, out of 123–did develop over longer periods of time and reached “modernity.” Let us thus examine more closely these countries, the ones that developed under authoritarianism and became “modern,” which we will take arbitrarily to mean that at some time they had a per capita income of $4,115.)

Gabon, Syria, and Yugoslavia are the three countries that experienced a sustained increase in income over, respectively, twelve, seventeen, and eighteen years, reached the level at which democracy was the more likely regime, and, having remained under dictatorships, experienced a series of economic crises. Singapore and Malaysia are the two countries that developed over a long period, became wealthy, and remained dictatorships until now. In East Germany, Taiwan, USSR, Spain, Bulgaria, and Hungary dictatorships eventually fell, but only many years after they had reached the critical level of income. Given its 1974 income level, Uruguay should never have been a dictatorship. The economic history of the Chilean dictatorship is convoluted: its income in 1974 was $3,561, it climbed with downs and ups to $4,130 by 1981, collapsed to $3,199 by 1983, recovered to surpass the 1974 level only by 1986, and passed the threshold of $4,155 in 1989, exactly the year of transition. The history of Poland is similar: by our criteria, it reached the threshold of democracy in 1974; it experienced an economic crisis in 1979 and a mass movement for democracy in 1980, passed the threshold again in 1985, and became a democracy in 1989. In turn, Brazil, Czechoslovakia, Portugal, and perhaps even South Korea and Greece are the dream cases of a modernization theorist. These are countries that developed under a dictatorship, became wealthy, and threw dictatorships off more or less at the same income levels. But they are few.

This is not to say that democracies did not sometimes emerge because countries became modern; put otherwise, dictatorships do not necessarily fall for the same reasons in all countries. Thus modernization may “explain” why democracy was established in countries that developed over a long period even it these countries had waited for its advent for periods of time that cannot be predicted. But if modernization theory is to have any predictive power, there must be some level of income at which one can be relatively sure that the country will throw off the dictatorship. One is hard put to find this level, however: among the countries that satisfy the premise of the modernization theory, the range of levels at which dictatorships survived is very wide.

Moreover, even if to predict is not the same as to explain, “explaining” can easily entail an ex post fallacy. Consider Taiwan, which in 1961 had a per capita income of $968, which developed rapidly, passing by 1979 our threshold of $4,115, which on the basis of its income level had a probability of 0.10 of being a dictatorship in 1990, and which in 1995 elected its president in contested elections for the first time. Suppose that every year during all this time, the Taiwanese dictatorship faced a probability of 0.02 of dying for reasons not related to development. It thus had about a 50 percent chance of not being around by 1995 even if it had not developed at all. We may therefore attribute to development what may have been just a culmination of random hazards. [And, indeed, the Taiwanese dictatorship most likely democratized for geopolitical reasons, not for economic ones. Thus, the causal power of economic development in bringing dictatorships down appears paltry. Few authoritarian regimes satisfy the premise of modernization theory; that is, few developed over a long period. And even if most of those that did develop eventually became democracies, no level of income predicts when that would occur.

In turn, per capita income, our measure of the level of development, has a strong impact on the survival of democracies. The simple fact is that during the period under our scrutiny or ever before, no democracy ever fell, regardless of everything else, in a country with a per capita income higher than that of Argentina in 1975: $6,055. Thirty-two democracies spent 736 years with incomes above $6,055 and not one collapsed, while thirty-nine out of sixty-nine democracies did fall in countries that were poorer.

. . . . [T]he probability that democracy survives increases monotonically with per capita income. In countries with per capita income under $1,000, the probability that a democracy would die during a particular year was 0.125, which implies that their expected life was eight years. Between $1,001 and $2,000, this probability was 0.0571, for an expected duration of about eighteen years. Above $6,055, democracies could expect to last forever. Statistical analysis . . . confirms that per capita income is a good predictor of the stability of democracies.

These findings cry out for an explanation. Lipset himself thought that the reason democracies survive in affluent countries is that wealth moderates in various ways the intensity of distributional conflicts. This is a plausible explanation but not easy to prove rigorously. The intuitive story is this: Suppose that the political forces competing over the distribution of income choose between complying with the verdicts of democratic competition, in which case each can expect to get some share of total income, or risking a fight over dictatorship, which is costly but which gives the victor all of the income. Now suppose that the marginal utility of consumption is lower at higher levels of consumption. Thus the gain from winning the struggle for dictatorship is smaller. In turn, if the production function has diminishing marginal returns in capital stock, the “catch-up” from destroying a part of it during the war for dictatorship is faster at lower levels of wealth. Hence, in poor countries the value of becoming a dictator is greater and the accumulated cost of destroying capital stock is lower. In wealthy countries, by contrast, the gain from getting all rather than a part of total income is smaller and the recuperation from destruction is slower. Hence, struggle for dictatorship is more attractive in poorer countries.

Obviously, there are always alternative interpretations. One, for example, is that income is just a proxy for education and more educated people are more likely to embrace democratic values. But while the accumulated years of education of an average member of the labor force–the measure of educational stocks we have–does increase the probability of survival of democracies independently of level, the effect of income survives when education is controlled, and indeed it is much stronger.

These observations strongly confirm the exogenous version of Lipset’s theory. Once democracy is established, the more well-to-do a nation, the more likely that it will survive.

The reason we observe the relation between levels of development and the incidence of democracy is that democracies are almost certain to survive once they are established in rich countries. True, dictatorships are less stable when they reach the per capita income of $4,000. But what generates the pattern we observe . . . is that while democracy is terribly fragile in poor countries, it is impregnable in the rich ones. The probability that a democracy will die during any particular year in a country with an income above $4,000 is practically zero: two in a thousand years. And since at such levels dictatorships die at the rate of 5.7 percent, one would expect that independently of the initial distribution, in the long run democracies would constitute 96.1 percent of regimes in such wealthy countries. Even if wealthy dictatorships died at a double, triple, or whatever times higher rate, that is, even if development made transitions to democracy much more likely, all the difference endogenous theory could make is 3.9 percent.

To conclude, there are no grounds to believe that economic development breeds democracies:. . . . [O]nce established, democracies are likely to die in poor countries and certain to survive in wealthy ones.

II. Ups or Downs?

. . . . Rapid growth is not destabilizing for democracy (and neither is it for dictatorship). When democracies face a decline in incomes, they die at the rate of 0.0523 and can be expected to last nineteen years, but when incomes are growing, they die at the rate of 0.0160, with an expected life of sixty-four years. Moreover, democracies that grow slowly, at the rate of less than 5 percent per annum, die at the rate of 0.0173, while those that grow at a rate faster than 5 percent die at the rate of 0.0132.

What is most striking is how fragile poor democracies are in the face of economic crises. In poor countries, those with per capita income under $2,000, of the 107 years during which a decline of incomes occurred, twelve democracies fell the following year: the expected life of democracy under such conditions is about nine years. Even among countries with incomes between $2,001 and $6,000, a decline of incomes resulted in the fall of six democracies in 120 years during which this happened: these democracies could expect to last 20 years. And then, above $6,055 a miracle occurs: in the 252 years during which wealthy democracies experienced economic crises, none ever fell.

Another striking feature of these patterns is that . . . past growth does not matter: one year of economic crisis is enough to produce the political effects.

Thus the hypothesis that rapid growth destabilizes regimes is simply false. In turn, to cite Diamond and Linz, it is true that “economic crisis represents one of the most common threats to democratic stability.” What destabilizes regimes are economic crises, and democracies, particularly poor democracies, are extremely vulnerable to bad economic performance.

III. Kinks: Modernization Theory Revisited

. . . . Is there some level of development beyond which democracies are more likely to die than before? Note . . . . [that the] proportion of democracies to per capita income has a kink at levels between $3,001 and $4,000: the observed values are 42.4 percent between $2,001 and $3,000, 32.6 percent between $3,001 and $4,000, and 72.0 percent between $4,001 and $5,000. But this kink is due to the fact that dictatorships are exceptionally stable in this range, rather than that democracies are less stable. The probability of a democracy dying declines monotonically with per capita income. . . . Argentina is the only country where a democracy fell at an income above $6,000; Argentina is also the only country where one collapsed at an income between $5,000 and $6,000. Only two democracies fell in countries with incomes between $4,000 and $5,000: again one of them in Argentina, and the other in Uruguay. Five democracies fell between $3,000 and $4,000: one of them in Argentina. Indeed, outside Argentina, only five democracies fell in countries with incomes above $3,000: in Uruguay in 1973 at $4,034, Suriname in 1980 at $3,923, Chile in 1973 at $3,957, Fiji in 1987 at $3,398, and Greece in 1967 at $3,176. Thus, Lipset was right in thinking that the richer the country the more likely it is to sustain democracy, except in Argentina.

IV. Does History Repeat Itself?

Since our observations begin in 1950, the regimes we observed came into being as a result of either of two effects: their dynamic or the entrance of new countries into the world, or at least into our sample.

. . . . (1) the levels at which democracies emerged before World War II were highly scattered; (2) they did not differ between Western Europe and other parts of the world; and (3) once established, democracies were more likely to fall in the poorer countries. We are on firmer ground answering the second question. Comparing the “new” and the “old” countries shows that democracies are more brittle in the new countries while dictatorships are more likely to die in the old ones. And, . . . the level of development again has powerful effects. The probabilities of a democracy falling decline dramatically with level in both groups of countries: indeed, this probability is the same once countries reach an income above $2,000. The probability of a transition to democracy increases with level among the old countries. But among the countries that became independent after 1950, dictatorships are as stable when they are wealthy as when they are poor. Among fifteen dictatorships in new countries with incomes above $2,000, only one fell during their 185 years until 1990, in Suriname in 1988 at $2,888, and only one more, in the Seychelles, after 1990.

We may be confusing, however, the effect of levels at which countries were first observed and the effect of development they experienced during the period under scrutiny. And the new countries were much poorer–their average income was $1,103–than the old ones–which had an average income of $2,613–when they were first observed. The effects of the entry level are about the same for the two groups of countries. Democracies are more stable and dictatorships more brittle in countries that were wealthier, either when first observed in 1950 or whenever they became independent. But the effects of development since the time of entry differ greatly between the two groups of countries. The stability of democracy increases much more with development in the old than in the new countries. In turn, while development decreases slightly the probability of survival of dictatorships in old countries, the probability of transitions to democracy declines as new countries develop under authoritarian rule.

Hence, the promise that development would breed democracy proved to be particularly futile precisely with regard to those Third World countries to which it was supposed to offer hope. Development during the postwar period just did not have much of an impact on the collapse of dictatorships: an increase of per capita income of one thousand dollars raised the probability of dictatorship falling by only 1.12 percent among the old countries and lowered it by 1.90 percent among the new countries. But at least “modernization” worked in the right direction in the old countries, where most long-standing dictatorships, including those in Eastern Europe, did in the end fall. Most of the new countries, the great majority of them poor when they became independent, just remained poor; and those few that did develop remained authoritarian.

V. Conclusion

Whether couched in the language of the modernization perspective or the historical perspective, theories of the origins of democracy were deterministic. In the modernization theory no one does anything to bring democracy about; it is secreted by economic development and the corollary social transformations. Class actors do move history in Moore’s theory, but they operate at a distance of centuries: the agrarian class structure of the seventeenth century determines the regimes countries settle on two or three hundred years later. . . . The protagonists in the struggles for democracy could not and did not believe that the fate of their countries would be determined either by current levels of development or by the distant past. They maintained that, albeit within constraints, democratization was an outcome of actions, not just of conditions. Our findings strongly validate this . . . .

The emergence of democracy is not a by-product of economic development. Democracy is or is not established by political actors pursuing their goals, and it can be initiated at any level of development. Only once it is established do economic constraints play a role: the chances for the survival of democracy are greater when the country is richer. Yet even the current wealth of a country is not decisive: democracy is more likely to survive in a growing economy with less than $1,000 per capita income than in a country with an income between $1,000 and $2,000 that declines economically. If they succeed in generating development, democracies can survive even in the poorest nations.

Viewed from this perspective, the vision of the relation between development and democracy that dominated the intellectual mood and served to orient U.S. foreign policy during the cold war years appears strangely convoluted. While Lipset treated development as exogenous, his contemporaries were persuaded that dictatorship is the inevitable price of development. . . . Dictatorships are needed to generate development. Since in this view dictatorships generate development while development leads to democracy, the best way to democracy was said to be a circuitous one. Yet common sense would indicate that in order to strengthen democracy we should strengthen democracy, not support dictatorships. And, even if G. B. Shaw warned that “common sense is that which tells us that the world is flat,” the lesson of our analysis is that this time it is the best guide. With development, democracy can flourish in poor countries.

Okay, what are the implications of this study for democracy in China, Iraq, and Afghanistan? One of the favorite arguments for favoring the Chinese communist dictatorship is that as it pursues economic development it is creating the conditions for democracy. Wrong. Gross national income per capita in purchasing power parity (PPP) for China was $5,600 in 2004. At this level of development and with this growth rate, dictatorships do not fall. China will remain the dictatorship she is, unless there is an economic crisis, or outside shocks, like war. Then maybe democracy has a chance.

As to Afghanistan, it is a poor country with a ppp of $800 in 2003. In 2004, its growth rate was 7.5%, which should be even more under the new democracy the American Coalition husbanded. This means the new democracy in Afghanistan should be able to survive by itself, once the internal insurgency and terrorism is defeated.

Now, for Iraq, which is in the process of democratization, while undergoing an insurrection and terrorism, and occupation by the American Coalition. In 2004, its ppp was $2,100. Its present growth rate is incalculable. If democratization is successful, which now looks highly likely, then with the ongoing reconstruction of its economy now also underway, the removal of all the economic sanctions that were in place against Saddam Hussein, and the efficient development of its oil resources, rapid development seems certain. Just to take power generation as an example, before the war it was unable to keep up with demand and thus retarded development. By October of 2003, reconstruction had been returned to it to the prewar level, which it now exceeds. And with the continued focus of reconstruction on the distribution and generation network, it should enhance development and thus help stabilize Iraq’s democracy.

Human and Economic Development
By Level of Freedom

What To Do About Nukes?

January 31, 2009

[First published May 19, 2005] For a month diplomats gathered in New York about revising the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and wrung their hands over North Korea’s self-proclaimed, and apparently actual, possession of nuclear weapons, and Iran’s intent to develop them. What to do? What to do?

It seems the best that the diplomats can recommend is to guarantee North Korea that it will not be attacked by any power, including especially the United States, and to offer inducements, such as international recognition and the multilateral promise of food and material aid. Regarding Iran, the idea is the same — guarantees of its security, enhance trade, encouraged investment, and reactor fuel for nuclear power. In other words, if the thugs that rule are clever enough, and can get the resources they need to seem on the verge of developing nukes, then most of the world will appease them. Indeed, they will argue among themselves as to how to best appease these thugs.

Of course, something must be done in the short run about their possessing or soon to get nukes. But, I don’t believe appeasement works. It only feeds the thugs hunger for more, and only encourages other thugs to exploit this obvious fear so created to get their own goodies. A fundamental principle is at work here:

Appeasement begets appeasement.
But, what to do in the long run? This is another amazing case of few recognizing what is in front of their noses, such as our ability to produce invisible solids (glass). The solution is obvious, when it is pointed out. Consider: the United States, Britain, France, and Israel have nuclear weapons. (South Africa had six, but then in 1993 the South African Parliament committed the country against developing nuclear weapons, and the six were dismantled — at that time South Africa was on the road from Apartheid to being a full-fledged liberal democracy, which was achieved the following year.) Note that none of these democratic nuclear powers perceive the other as a threat or as a matter of security, and have developed no defenses against the others, ALTHOUGH THEY HAVE NUCLEAR WEAPONS. It is just inconceivable that such democracies would go to nuclear war against each other. The only purpose of their nukes is protection against the thugs of this world, or, in the case of France, as also a ticket to the Big Power Club.

So, what to do for the long run elimination of the supreme danger of nuclear weapons? Pure and simple:

Foster democratic freedom
In a world of democracies, there should be complete nuclear disarmament, for democracies have no need for military forces against each other.

And so an interventionist policy of freeing people from their enslavement to the whims of thugs and ordinary dictators is also to wage peace and denuclearization.

Link of Note

” The anomalies killing nonproliferation” (5/18/05) By Ramesh Thakur

Ramesh Thakur is senior vice rector of the UN University in Tokyo. He says:

Significant gaps exist in the legal and institutional framework to combat today’s real threats. It is impossible to defang tyrants of their nuclear weapons the day after they acquire and use them. The UN seems incapable of doing so the day before: The Security Council can hardly table the North Korean threat for discussion and resolution.

If international institutions cannot cope, states will try to do so themselves, either unilaterally or in concert with like-minded allies. If prevention is strategically necessary and morally justified but legally not permitted, then the existing framework of laws and rules — not the anticipatory military action — is defective.

In other words, international law is an ass, and so is the fundamental legal norm against intervention in the affairs of a state.

Never Again Series

When Democracy Endures

January 29, 2009

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[First published August 31, 2005] Research by Adam Przeworski and Fernando Limongi has shown the importance of economic development and growth in the survival of democracies. In the study, “What Makes Democracies Endure,” they did a second analysis, now with Michael Alvarez and Josà Antonio Cheibub, in which they studied other conditions that enhance the survival of democracy. I need not extensively quote from this article, since it is in the Journal of Democracy (7.1, 1996) available online.

The basis of this study is:

135 countries observed annually between 1950 or the year of independence or the first year when economic data are available (“entry” year) and 1990 or the last year for which data are available (“exit” year), for a total of 4,318 country-years. We found 224 regimes, of which 101 were democracies and 123 dictatorships, observing 40 transitions to dictatorship and 50 to democracy. Among democratic regimes, there were 50 parliamentary systems, 46 presidential systems, and 8 mixed systems.

Their conclusion:

If a country, any randomly selected country, is to have a democratic regime next year, what conditions should be present in that country and around the world this year? The answer is: democracy, affluence, growth with moderate inflation, declining inequality, a favorable international climate, and parliamentary institutions.

I can’t resist mentioning a few gems:

It may seem tautological to say that a country should have a democratic regime this year in order to have a democracy next year. We do so in order to dispel the myth, prevalent in certain intellectual and political circles (particularly in the United States) since the late 1950s, that the route to democracy is a circuitous one. The claim is that 1) dictatorships are better at generating economic development in poor countries, and that 2) once countries have developed, their dictatorial regimes will give way to democracy. To get to democracy, then, one had to support, or at least tolerate, dictatorships.
Both of the above propositions, however, are false.

. . . . An overthrow of democracy at any time during the past history of a country shortens the life expectancy of any democratic regime in that country. To the extent that political learning does occur, then, it seems that the lessons learned by antidemocratic forces from the past subversion of democracy are more effective than the traditions that can be relied on by democrats.

. . . . the survival of democracies does depend on their institutional systems. Parliamentary regimes last longer, much longer, than presidential ones. Majority-producing electoral institutions are conducive to the survival of presidential systems: presidential systems facing legislative deadlock are particularly brittle. Both systems are vulnerable to bad economic performance, but presidential democracies are less likely to survive even when the economy grows than are parliamentary systems when the economy declines. The evidence that parliamentary democracy survives longer and under a broader spectrum of conditions than presidential democracy thus seems incontrovertible.

. . . . For a variety of reasons, however, this is not an optimistic conclusion. Poverty is a trap. Few countries with annual per-capita income below $1,000 develop under any regime: their average rate of growth is less than 1 percent a year; many experience prolonged economic decline. When poor countries stagnate, whatever democracies happen to spring up tend to die quickly. Poverty breeds poverty and dictatorship.
Institutional choice offers a partial escape from this trap: parliamentary systems in the poorest countries, while still very fragile, are almost twice as likely to survive as presidential democracies, and four times as likely when they grow economically. Yet since it appears that poor countries are more likely to choose presidentialism, little solace is offered by the possibility of institutional engineering.

. . . . In sum, the secret of democratic durability seems to lie in economic development–not, as the theory dominant in the 1960s had it, under dictatorship, but under democracy based on parliamentary institutions.

What about Afghanistan and Iraq’s democratic institutions? Afghanistan has a Presidential system of direct election (Constitution here). The President is elected, “by receiving more than 50% of the votes cast through free, general, secret, and direct voting.” The National Assembly consists of two houses. In the House of Representatives, members represent regions by direct election, their number proportional to a region’s population. For the Senate, however, 2/3rds are elected or appointed from provincial councils, and 1/3rd are appointed by the President (50% must be women).

As to the draft Iraq Constitution (here), it creates a parliamentary system. Its legislature consists of two houses, one of which is a Council of Representatives (Parliament) to be elected by a nation-wide direct, secret ballot. A second house is a Council of Union, which will include representatives of provinces and regions. The President of the Republic is to be determined by a 2/3rds majority of the Council of Representatives.

So, in light of the above research of Adam Przeworski and colleagues, the constitutions of Afghanistan and Iraq are positive for the success of their democracies. Although Afghanistan has created a presidential system, it provides in its two houses and regional councils a means for many interests to be represented in the government and, if a significant segment of the population, to make their interests respected. Similarly, with the proposed Iraqi parliamentary system, and even more so. Clearly, small parties will have to be invited to form a collation with the larger parties in order to achieve the 2/3rds necessary to elect a president. As I noted yesterday, although both are at that low level of national income which makes the success of democracy a serious question, both promise rapid development. This, along with their democratic institutions, make their democratic suvival more than a hope.

Link of Note

“Democracy, Cappitalism and Development” By Khandakar Elahi and Constantine P Danopoulos (2004)


In social science, a passionate debate continues about the expected effect of democracy on development. Many authors believe that democracy dampens development. This paper discredits this view by clarifying the debate’s critical conceptions- democracy, capitalism and development. In the non-communist state, private individuals inspire economic development, because they own the major portion of the nation=s resources. Since individuals are selfish by nature, they ordinarily improve their economic welfare if they enjoy ‘fair freedoms’ meaning that the social environment of fair freedom is the key to economic development in the non-communist state. Capitalism guarantees this environment, which suggests that the desirable functioning of capitalism is the clue to economic development. Democracy is the only system of governance that can guarantee long run peaceful functioning of the capitalist economy. Thus, a nation cannot remain poor if she is governed according to the principles of democracy.

This study, along with the two of Adam Przeworski and colleagues, suggest that there will be continued rapid growth of democracies among poor nations, and that democracy in Afghanistan and Iraq will survive as long as we continue to secure them against insurrection and terrorists.

When will the world be least 90 percent democratic? Between 2022 and 2076.

See the last question on the page.

Alliance of democracies—Swedish version

January 24, 2009

[First published January 9, 2006] I’ve included below an article I had written for a Swiss newspaper Dagens Nyheter (thanks to Mathias Sundin for submitting it), but which was rejected. So, I submitted it to myself and decided to accept it for my blog. I’m pleased to publish it for me.

Eliminating Genocide and War
Through an Alliance of Democracies

There are many complex considerations and theoretical issues to the problem of war and democide. There are the questions of general and immediate causation, and of aggravating and inhibiting conditions. There are the practical questions of how to gather timely intelligence about them and inform decision makers about what is known, how to influence the political process through which intervention against democide is decided, and how to give democide and war elsewhere the required prominence in the complex of perceived interests. And with regard to intervening to stop democide, there are the questions concerning the national mix of the necessary troops, their weapons, and the rules of engagement.

Many of the answers to these questions will fall into place if we recognize three facts and one practical necessity that cuts through the jumble of questions and problems involved. The one fact 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 and political rights and liberties) provides the long run hope for the elimination of democide.

The second fact is that democracies don’t make war on each other and that the more democratic two governments, the less the likelihood of violence between them. Not only is democracy a solution to democide, therefore, but globalizing democracy is also a solution to war. That the world is progressively becoming more democratic, with from 22 democracies in 1950 to something like 119 democracies today (about 89 of them liberal democracies comprising about 2.8 billion people) out of 192 nations, makes it increasingly likely that in the long run the twin horrors of democide and war will be eliminated from human society.

The final fact is that democratization is central to the national interest of all these democracies. A fundamental national interest of a democracy is peace—the avoidance of war—and international trade and prosperity. What is the best way overall to avoid war and promote prosperity in the long run? Through the promotion of democratization. Democracies not only don’t make war on each other, democracy is an engine of wealth and prosperity. And no democracy has ever had a famine.

And the practical necessity is this. We must recognize that the United Nations is inadequate to the task of humanitarian intervention to stop democide, the promotion of democracy, dealing with HYPERLINK “”global threats, protecting and advancing HYPERLINK “”human rights, and it has failed in doing that for which it was chartered, HYPERLINK “”peacekeeping. Finally, it treats Israel with such HYPERLINK “”prejudice and hostility, that were it a corporation in a democracy, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan Kofi Annan and his underlings would be now have gone to jail for systematic, hateful discrimination.

How to explain this travesty on our initial hopes for the UN? Simple. The United Nations has become a corrupt weapon and a shield for the world’s thug regimes. And the HYPERLINK “”ambitious UN reforms proposed in March 2005 by Kofi Annan did not deal with this fundamental problem. In Annan’s invocation of freedom, human rights, democracy, and human security, in his call for UN members to support these moral causes, he deserves credit. As to his suggested reforms, such as of the Security Council and Human Rights Commission, I could point to organizational, and process problems, but this would ignore the most fundamental problem of all. It is a fatal fault that Annan refuses, quite understandably, to mention; and the solution was impossible for him to suggest as it was for the 2005 world summit that met in September 2005 to consider Annan’s reforms.

If a family of skunks lives underneath a house, no amount of remodeling of the upstairs will eliminate the stench. Likewise, no amount of remodeling of the UN will change the fact that its membership consists of about 103 partly free and non-free nations, many of which are pure and simple thugdoms (Syria, Sudan, Iran, N. Korea, China, Burma, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Cuba, Vietnam, Laos, etc). They will act together to trash, alter to their advantage, or use the reforms Annan recommends to attack free countries, as has been seen in the recent world summit. Their membership is the fatal flaw. And the related and impossible solution would be to kick them all out.

What to do about it?

I don’t suggest withdrawing from the UN. It has too many useful functions and specialized agencies, such as the Food and Agricultural Organization, World Health Organization, International Monetary Fund, and the Universal Postal Union. The General Assembly and Security Council serve as a forum for contact and communication between adversaries or enemies. When there is general agreement on conflicts, interventions, peacekeeping, refugees, humanitarian aid, sanctions, criminal tribunals, human rights, and so on, the UN saves lives and promotes human welfare and security. Nonetheless, it is clear to me from the UN’s overall record that with the millions dying from war, democide (about 6,000 a month in Darfur, Sudan alone), famine (millions in North Korea), and poverty, the good of the organization is still much too limited by its thug regimes. Understanding all this, two things should be done.

Since democratic societies create among themselves a zone of peace, there should be an intergovernmental organization of all democracies outside of the UN to deal with issues about which the UN cannot or will not act, but particularly to further the promotion of peace, human security, human rights, and democracy — an Alliance of Democracies. Given what I have pointed out about the UN’s problems, the need for such an alliance is obvious. It would not compete with the UN where that body could act to promote democratic values. But, where it could not, particularly because of the opposition of the thug regimes, then the Alliance would serve a most useful cause.

This is now in the works. Democratic activists, practitioners, academics, policy makers, and funders, have come together to cooperate to promote democracy. They call this a World Movement for Democracy (WMD). It has its own website, publications, regular online Democracy News, courses, a steering committee, secretariat, and periodic assemblies. Its first and organizing Assembly was held in India in 1999; its second in Brazil in 2000 involved democrats from 93 countries, and a third meeting in Durbin, south Africa in 2004 involved 600 participants from 120 countries. The stated purpose of the organization is “to strengthen democracy where it is weak, to reform and invigorate democracy even where it is longstanding, and to bolster pro-democracy groups in countries that have not yet entered a process of democratic transition.”

There also is the new Community of Democracies (COD). Foreign ministers and representatives of 106 democratic governments met in Warsaw, Poland, in 2000 and concluded with the “Final Warsaw Declaration: Toward a Community of Democracies”. This expressed their unified “commitment to promote, strengthen and preserve democracy.”

And then there was a meeting in Warsaw of a non-governmental first World Forum on Democracy. “It included 300 democratic activists, current and former political leaders, academics, and nongovernmental organization representatives from 85 countries. Its purpose was to discuss and advance “democratic governance and values throughout the world.” President Clinton’s Secretary of State Albright addressed the forum, and pointed out that, “We need a true democratic community; defined not by what we are against, but by what we are for; enshrined by leaders from every point on the compass; and strengthened by the full participation of civil society.” Its second meeting was held in Seoul in 2003, and a third Ministerial meeting was held in April in Santiago, Chile, to which American Secretary Rice led the American delegation. The Community of Democracies (COD) is Alliance of Democracies yet in its infancy. Now the democracies should strengthen its organization and functions, and better focus its efforts on a forward strategy of freedom (to borrow President Bush’s phrase).

But, all this is outside of the UN. What goes on in the UN cannot and should not be ignored. The democracies must act together on vital UN issues. The COD recognized this, and mandated the creation of a UN Democracy Caucus. Its convening group was Chile, Czech Republic, India, Mali, Mexico, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, South Africa, and the United States. The caucus has a website. But, it still is only a consultative and collaborative group among democracies, and is not like a political party — a Freedom Party. Such the caucus should become, with a program of democratization, peace making, and peace keeping, all overseen by a chairman, whip, and all that. After all, the UN is a world government with a legislature, executive, administration, and judiciary, and well suited to organized politics.

Much progress toward democracy is being made, and increasingly democratic leaders are recognizing that democracy is not only the in the national interest, but also crucial to them. In this, there is the greatest hope of eliminating war, and with it the democide that has become widely recognized as deadlier than war and the world’s worst evil.