Democracy As A Spontaneous Society

January 16, 2009

[First published on February 7, 2006] This is in response to a comment by Gus DeZerega on “The Myth Of ‘The Myth Of Democratic Peace'”. Gus is a 1984 Berkeley Ph.D. in political science and a Visiting Assistant Professor, Dept. of Government, HYPERLINK “”St. Lawrence University. His website is here. He is also into art , as I am. He has written, among others, Persuasion, Power and Polity: A Theory of Democratic Self-Organization, and the article, “HYPERLINK “”Democracy as a Spontaneous Order,” published in Critical Review.

Pro Forma, Gus, and I are the only ones, to my knowledge, who have recognized the critical role that F.A. Hayek’s felicitous term, “spontaneous society,” plays in understanding democratic freedom and the democratic peace. This is very close to the idea of a free market, but involving all of a society and not only its economic system. In my mathematical, and subsequent philosophical development of the theory, I use the idea of a social field instead of spontaneous society, but no matter, although the former is more precise the meaning is much the same.

Now, in his comment, Gus DeZerega (GD) said:

This is an excellent rebuttal of the libertarian position, which unfortunately too often these days puts having the ideologically correct conclusion ahead of good analysis. (Disclosure: I am a former libertarian.)

RJR: As I am. I now call myself a freedomist.


However, I think that Dr. Rummel’s disparagement of anti-Iraq war positions, libertarian or leftist, is tangential to the strength of the democratic peace argument. 

There are two separate issues at stake. First, is there a democratic peace? Some of us have said “Yes” for a long time – in my case pretty much since Cliff Ketzel pointed it out in an IR class at the University of Kansas in the 60s. Alas, he didn’t publish and it took me years to arrive at insights similar to those Dr. Rummel arrived at first. Happily so eventually did many others.

Second, if there is a democratic peace, how do we get more democracies and therefore more peace? Here there are two broad positions, and the answers to this question do not translate into where we stand on the validity of the first. 

The first position is that it is possible to bring democracy to undemocratic areas by means of liberating war. The second does not necessarily oppose that view in every instance, but is skeptical and cautious, emphasizing a country needs certain socio-cultural pre-conditions before it can reliably become democratic. This view argues that stable democracy needs to arise largely within and through the efforts of people in the society adopting the institutions. Democracies can assist this process but they cannot impose or control it under most circumstances. (Germany, Italy, and Japan are seeming exceptions, but I would argue otherwise.)

RJR: As I would.


As I read him (and I may misread him) Dr. Rummel is in the first camp, and I most definitely am in the second.

RJR: While I do not accept that war should be fought to democratize a nation, I do say that if it is fought for other reasons, such as to stop wide scale democide, as it would be in Sudan, than once a country is defeated, I believe its people should be freed from their former enslavement by promoting democratization. Japan, Germany, and Italy are examples of what I mean. It may fail, as it has done in Haiti, but better to fail than not try at all.

A fascinating experiment is taking place in Palestine today that may shed light on the strength of one or the other position, though the real world is always messy enough to make a single case only suggestive, no matter what the issue. I truly hope the Palestinian experiment in democracy works. I am dubious. I am even more dubious regarding Iraq because it is far more divided internally than Palestine and its democratic institutions more obviously imposed.

RJR: Not imposed, but the Iraqis have been freed from a bloody tyrant. If freeing slaves is “imposing” freedom on them, then so is imposing freedom on the prisoners of a concentration camp by killing the guards and throwing open the barbed wire gates for all to leave.


Further. My own analysis, which shares a great deal in common with Dr. Rummel’s, emphasizes the degree to which democracies are unlike undemocratic states in their internal organization as a crucial element in the democratic peace phenomena. War unites democracies behind executive power, weakening those differences. Thus, war that is not truly necessary runs the risk of weakening those systemic elements in a democracy that are most crucial to maintaining the democratic peace.

Which general view is correct? Perhaps the next few years will give us a pretty good test.

RJR: War is always a danger to a democracy in that it more or less creates a garrison state, which after a war is only partially dismantled. It is not as though, however, democracies can pick and choose whether to fight a war because of this danger, since often survival in the short or long run is at stake, as it has been for the U.S. with its wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Vietnam, Korea, and World War II. WWI was an exception and need not have been engaged by the U.S., in my view. Thus, by creating a garrison state that cast a long shadow over the future of a democracy, as Gus points out, fighting a war can weaken those very aspects of the democratic peace that promote long run peace. However, if the war ends in the further spread of democracy, then this garrison state effect is more than offset.

Links of Day

Quadrennial Defense Review Report: This is the once every four years review of American defense policy. Rather, what’s new, what’s old, what’s changed, and what’s to be changed. It starts with this provocative, but correct, statement:

The United States is a nation engaged in what will be a long war.

Liberty vs. democracy: An argument for liberty under an authoritarian regime, rather than for a corrupt and economically unfree democracy. Not a parody.

“Freedom first, democracy after”. Relevant to the Hamas electoral win, this expresses Natan Sharansky’s argument that freedom should come first and then democracy.

Quoting Sharansky, “Germany and Japan didn’t have elections in 1945, either,” he claimed. “Elections are the end of the building process of a free society, not the beginning.”

“Violent Rhetoric or Flush Toilets”:

Democracy may not be a perfect defense against the Mafia — obviously, it is not. American mobsters exist. They intimidate judges in New Jersey, own aldermen in Chicago, and slide cash to congressmen via K Street. Democracies, however, tend to marginalize gangsters, in the same way they tend to marginalize political extremists. With checks and balances like the rule of law, the free press and electoral politics, Al Capones and Jack Abramoffs end up in jail. Even a president can lose his law license for “misleading” a federal judge.

Democracy is no perfect defense against religious and ethnic terrorists, either. Hamas won an election, soundly drubbing secular Fatah.

Democracy is flawed — the other choices, however, are fatal.

“DEMOCRACY AND VIOLENCE GO TOGETHER LIKE BUSH AND LIES”: Re the claim that democracy and violence are incompatible:

it nearly made me choke over my breakfast.
The hypocrisy of it all. . . . As if democracy and violence do not go simply and always hand in hand. Which present day democratic state does not employ violence and terror?

RJR: I give this link just to show that I am not making up the incredibly ignorant, if not ideologically dogmatic, opposition to the democratic peace.

“Facts vs. Fiction: A Report from the Front “ By Karl Zinsmeister, author of Dawn Over Baghdad:

Well, nearly every war is riddled with disappointment and pain, Iraq certainly included. But judged fairly, Iraq has been much less costly and debacle-ridden than the Civil War, World War II, Korea, and the Cold War, each considered in retrospect to have been noble successes.

Warning: a blood and gore democide
painting not for the queasy

Happiness — This Utilitarian Argument For Freedom Is True

January 16, 2009

[First published February 7, 2006] One of the best sources for how values are distributed is the World Values Survey (here), and I have consulted its results a number of times, such as providing evidence on how Arab peoples view democracy (here). Now, I want to provide their results on the relationship between freedom and subjective well being — happiness and satisfaction. I think all of us assume that the more freedom a people have the greater their happiness and satisfaction with their lives. If this is true, the utilitarian argument — policy should promote the greatest happiness and least pain — alone justifies promoting freedom.

Is it true?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They conclude:

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

We now know that a nation’s past communism, economic development, and freedom are closely related to well being, and that freedom has the highest correlation with well being suggests that it is the strongest factor.

see the regression of human security on freedom

Global Corruption And Democracy

January 12, 2009

[First published February, 2006] Kenneth Sikorski has tested whether democracies are the least corrupt compared to other forms of government. He showed they are, using Transparency International’s 2005 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI). Transparency International has just released its Global Corruption Report 2006, which includes Chapter 10 on “Ten years of the CPI: determining trends,” by Johann Graf Lambsdorff. Their global index for previous years is here.

Lambsdorff found that:

Overall, our findings indicate that significant improvements between 1995 and 2004 occurred (in descending order of significance) in Estonia, Spain, Italy, Bulgaria, Mexico, Hong Kong, Colombia, Costa Rica, Taiwan, Australia, Iceland and Russia. Deterioration, on the other hand, was significant in Argentina, Ireland, Poland, Czech Republic, Zimbabwe, United Kingdom, Ecuador, Indonesia, Turkey, Canada, and the Philippines.

In a following chapter, “Governance matters IV: new data, new challenges,” Lambsdorff discusses governance indicators covering 209 countries for 2004. These indicators are based on 352 different underlying variables measuring perceptions of a wide range of governance issues. The variables are drawn from 32 separate data sources constructed by 30 different organizations worldwide. For those of you interested in global performance and the effect of freedom, this report and those discussed and linked below are a bonanza.

One of the findings is:

that there is a strong causal impact of institutional quality on per capita incomes worldwide. Figure 12.1 [shown below]shows a representative set of estimates of this “development dividend” of good governance. These estimates suggest that a realistic one-standard deviation improvement in governance would raise incomes in the long run by about two- to-threefold. Of course, there is variation around these relationships, since governance is not the only thing that matters for development – but it certainly is a very important factor deserving policy-makers’ attention.

The rule of law, as measured on the X axis, is a major indicator of democracy, and as shown is closely related to a countrie’s wealth — its GDP per capita. Note that this is logged, which means that the wealth of countries curves sharply upward with the presence of the rule of law.

Then, there is chapter 13 on “Corruption in the United States of America” by Edward Glaeser and Raven Saks. This is measured by the number of public officials convicted for corruption in each of the 50 US states. They find that “states with higher incomes and a larger share of college-educated population are less corrupt.” States that are most corrupt during 1976-2002 are Alaska, Mississippi, Louisiana, South Dakota, Tennessee, Illinois, New York, Oklahoma, Montana, and North Dakota. States least corrupt are Colorado, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Utah, Iowa, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Vermont, Washington, and Oregon. The authors conclude:

In general, the patterns documented in the data for US states reveal the same basic relationships that have been found using international evidence. This similarity is particularly interesting given that, here, corruption is measured using federal conviction data rather than the type of opinion survey that is the norm in the cross-country literature.


“Wolfowitz’s Corruption Agenda”:

In sum, Wolfowitz’s World Bank presidency, which had seemed to lack an organizing theme, has acquired one. The new boss is going to be tough on corruption, and he’s going to push this campaign beyond the confines of the World Bank; [and he has] persuaded the heads of several regional development banks to join his anti-corruption effort.

RJR: The empirical results mentioned above and in the links below provide strong support for Wolfowitz’s campaign.

“Legal Corruption”:

We undertake to identify general determinants of the pattern of legal and illegal corruption worldwide . . .

RJR: One of the things that the study found is “that fundamental accountability may [play] a clear role in development. This may be a key variable in the determination of corruption in richer societies — policies oriented to its reinforcement may be very fruitful.” What is most important about this is the way accountability was measured — the freedom of the press. This is also a cental indicator of democratic freedom.

“Myths and Realities of Governance and Corruption”

A number of popular notions and outright myths on governance and corruption are addressed in this chapter. We distinguish clearly between governance and anti-corruption, while probing the links between both notions. In so doing we challenge the conventional definition of corruption as being too narrow, legalistic and unduly focused on the public sector, while underplaying the role of the private sector.

“Corruption, Governance and Security: Challenges for the Rich Countries and the World”:

We suggest that the undue emphasis on narrow legalism has obscured more subtle yet costly manifestations of misgovernance, which afflict rich countries as well….Further, we find that governance constraints, and corruption in particular, is a key determinant of a country’s global competitiveness. These findings challenge traditional notions of what constitutes the country’s ‘investment climate’, and who shapes it. It is also found that illegal forms of corruption continue to be prevalent in the interaction between transnationals of the rich world and the public sectors in many emerging countries. Finally, we suggest an empirical link between governance and security issues.

My latest democide painting

World Public Opinion About Democracy

January 12, 2009

[First published February 21, 2006] In September of last year Gallup International released its <A HREF=”; This was a survey of more than 50,000 people conducted in 65 countries, and representing the opinions of 1.3 million people.

It found that:

Among respondents, 79% believe that democracy is the best system of government —almost 10% more than in 2004. See the chart below for responses by region.

As to the United States, “. . . the level of agreement is high (87%) and has increased in comparison with the 2004 figure (81%). The UK (81%) shows figures in line with Western Europe’s average (82%), above the percentage for the world (75%), and when compared to value for 2004, it has increased 3 points (from 78%).”

Also, the survey found that not only do people favor democracy as the best form of government, but 65% of those surveyed say they are satisfied with democracy, whilst 31% feel the opposite. In N. America, 77% are satisfied, while 21% are not; in W. Europe, the division is 69% vs. 29%. See the chart below for how other regions divided on this.

However, only 47% across all regions believe elections are fair and free in their country, while 30% do not think that their country is governed by the will of the people. These low percentages, I’m sure, are due to partisan-party differences, as in the United States where many Democrats claim that Bush “stole the election.”

For democratic peace activists like me, the global results in favor of democracy are very encouraging, and show that the push for world democratization is doing what people desire. To put this another way, everyone wants to be free. It is not a matter of persuading people about the moral goods of freedom — ending war, democide, and famine, and enriching a nation — but of toppling their thug regimes.

Related Links

“Report Card on Democracy: There have never been more democracies in the world, and the average level of human freedom is now the highest ever recorded. Reasons to celebrate? Yes—and no. “ By Larry Diamond (he is a senior research fellow at the Hoover Institution and the coeditor of the Journal of Democracy):

There are dozens of struggling and recently established democracies in the world that have yet to achieve the deep and enduring levels of public and elite legitimacy that signal consolidation. The most common reasons for failure relate to the three crises of governance mentioned earlier: legal, ethnic, and economic. It is too often forgotten that the challenge of building democracy heavily overlaps with that of building the authority and capacity of a viable but restrained state. Whether this broad challenge can be effectively addressed—especially through legal, institutional, and economic reforms of the state’s structure and role—will determine whether democracy continues to prosper in the world or instead gives way to a “third reverse wave” of democratic breakdowns.

RJR: This is an important and informative article, with which I substantially agree.

The World Movement for Democracy:

a global network of democrats including activists, practitioners, academics, policy makers, and funders, who have come together to cooperate in the promotion of democracy.

” E-Democracy around the World” A survey in pdf:

The dawn of e-democracy is changing the way people interact with government and politicians. Across the world, people are using the Internet in new ways to get information, use services and participate in democracy.

World Audit of Democracy Has a table of all countries giving their ranks on democracy, press freedom, and corruption. The U.S. ranks 14, 13, and 14 respectively. The highest on all is Finland, and at or near the bottom on all is Burma (Myanmar)

“After Neoconservatism” By Francis Fukuyama.

Pro Forma says: The article is basically an outline of how the Bush administration went astray with it’s “Wilsonian realism” program of assertively pushing democracy. I see this as the beginning (well, there have been others, but this is a benchmark) of a groundswell of thinking in American foreign policy that will conclude in a few years (before 2008) with the idea that we should “support” democracy, but reject the arrogant, costly, misguided, intemperate, uncertain (did I miss anything?) Bush agenda of forcible regime change and “in-your-face” democratizing. Which means we are back to shunning democratic movements, and continuing to cozy up to “our” tyrants. Will Bush’s campaign to promote democracy end up a footnote in American Foreign Policy?

RJR: I disagree with Fukuyama’s criticism of “naïve” Wilsonianism, and of the Iraq War. I would call his take on Bush’s “Forward Strategy of Freedom (he claims it is now a “shambles”) as neorealism.

Why Foster Global Freedom

January 10, 2009

[First published March 8, 2006] I’ve noticed a trend in the major and alternative media towards a neorealism, which is away from fostering freedom abroad toward accepting the status quo, especially if it means that the Islamicist/terrorists will be denied an election they might win, and we will not be caught in the “quagmire” that is another Iraq. Better the friendly dictator we know than an election of a Terrorist group or Islamicists. Note this rhetoric from Niall Ferguson in the LATIMES:

The Republicans would certainly be foolish to cling to what is left of Bush’s foreign policy. Nearly all of its premises are crumbling before our eyes. The theory of a democratic peace is a chimera; give Muslims the vote and they vote for militants. Regime change in Iraq has not enhanced American security; its principal beneficiary has been Iran. As for the unipolar world….

Therefore, it is appropriate and timely to follow up my posted summary of the “U.S. National Military Strategic Plan for the War on Terrorism” and General Chong’s “This War Is For Real” with a return to the question: Why Freedom?”

President Bush summarized the answer well in his 2006 State of the Union speech. He said:

Dictatorships shelter terrorists, and feed resentment and radicalism, and seek weapons of mass destruction. Democracies replace resentment with hope, respect the rights of their citizens and their neighbors, and join the fight against terror. Every step toward freedom in the world makes our country safer — so we will act boldly in freedom’s cause.

Far from being a hopeless dream, the advance of freedom is the great story of our time. In 1945, there were about two-dozen lonely democracies in the world. Today, there are 122. And we’re writing a new chapter in the story of self-government — with women lining up to vote in Afghanistan, and millions of Iraqis marking their liberty with purple ink, and men and women from Lebanon to Egypt debating the rights of individuals and the necessity of freedom. At the start of 2006, more than half the people of our world live in democratic nations. And we do not forget the other half — in places like Syria and Burma, Zimbabwe, North Korea, and Iran — because the demands of justice, and the peace of this world, require their freedom, as well.

In the past too many have identified power with greatness, thugs with statesmen, and propaganda with results; they have let moral and cultural relativism silence our outrage, while conceding the moral high ground to the utopian dreamers; they have refused to recognize evil as evil; and they have ignored the catastrophic human cost of such confusions, and the natural and moral right to freedom. This cannot be said of Bush, who well recognizes why people should be free.

Today, billions of human beings are still subject to impoverishment, exposure, starvation, disease, torture, rape, beatings, forced labor, genocide, mass murder, executions, deportations, political violence, and war. These billions live in fear for their lives, and for those of their loved ones. They have no human rights, no liberties. These people are only pieces on a playing board for the armed thugs and gangs that oppress their nations, raping them, looting them, exploiting them, and murdering them. We hide the identity of the gangs—we sanctify them—with the benign concept of “government,” as in the “government” of Kim’s North Korea, Stalin’s Soviet Union, or Hitler’s Germany.

The gangs that control these so-called governments oppress whole nations under cover of international law. They are like a gang that captures a group of hikers and then does with them what it wills, robbing all, torturing and murdering some because gang members don’t like them or they are “disobedient,” and raping others. Nonetheless, the thugs that rule nations “govern” by the right of sovereignty: the community of nations explicitly grants them the right by international law to govern a nation when they show that they effectively control the national government, and this right carries with it the promise that other nations will not intervene in their internal affairs.

International law now recognizes that if these gangs go to extremes, such as massive ethnic cleansing or genocide, then the international community has a countervailing right to stop them. However, this area of international law is still developing, and in the current examples of Cuba, Burma, Iran, North Korea, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Syria, among others, the thugs still largely have their way with their victims. This is unconscionable. The people of these countries, and all people everywhere have the right to freedom of speech, religion, organization, and a fair trial, among other rights, and one overarching right to be free subsumes all these civil and political rights. This right overrules sovereignty, which is granted according to tradition based on a system of international treaties, not natural law. Freedom, by contrast, is not something others grant. It is a right due every human being.

For too many intellectuals, however, it is not enough to point out that a people have a right to be free. They will counter by arguing that freedom is desirable, but first people must be made equal, given food to eat, work, and health care. Freedom must be limited as a means to good ends, such as the public welfare, prosperity, peace, ethnic unity, or national honor. These intellectuals also have been allowed to assume the moral high ground. Freedom, they tell us, empowers greed, barbaric competition, inefficiency, inequality, the debasement of morals, the weakening of ethnic or racial identity, and so on.
Sometimes they are so persuasive that even reasonable people will accept their convoluted arguments. Need I mention the works of Marx and Lenin, for example, who provided “scientific” excuses for the tyranny of such thugs as Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot?

To be defensive about freedom in the face of such justifications is morally wrong-headed. No moral code or civil law allows that a gang leader and his followers can murder, torture, and repress some at will as long as the thugs provide others with a good life. But even were it accepted that under the cover of government authority, a ruler can murder and repress his people so long as it promotes human betterment, the burden of proof is on those who argue that therefore those people will be better off

There is no such proof. Quite the opposite: in the twentieth century, we have had the most costly and extensive tests of such arguments, involving billions of people. The Nazis, Italian fascists under Mussolini, Japanese militarists, and Chinese Nationalists under Chiang Kai-shek have tested fascist promises of a better life. Likewise, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot have tested the utopian promises of communism, to mention the most prominent communist experiments; and Burma, Iraq, and Syria, among others, also have tested state socialism. All these vast social experiments have failed, utterly and miserably, and they have done so at the vast human cost that has included global social upheaval, the displacement of millions, the impoverishment of billions, and the death of tens of millions from famine, extreme internal violence, and the most destructive wars—not to mention the many hundreds of millions murdered outright.

These social experiments have involved the mass murder of 262,000,000 Russians, Chinese, Cambodians, Poles, North Koreans, Cubans, Vietnamese, and others, such that were their souls to comprise a land of the dead it would be among the world’s top three in population

In sharp contrast, there are the arguments for freedom. Not only is a right certified in international law (e.g., the various human rights multinational conventions), but a supreme moral good in itself. The very fact of a people’s freedom creates a better life for all.

Free people create a wealthy and prosperous society

When people are free to go about their own business, they put their ingenuity and creativity in the service of all. They search for ways to satisfy the needs, desires, and wants of others. The true utopia lies not in some state-sponsored tyranny, but the free market in goods, ideas, and services, whose operating principle is that success depends on satisfying others. Moreover, it is not by chance that:

No democratically free people have suffered from mass famine

It is extraordinary, how little known this is. There are plenty of hunger projects and plans to increase food aid for the starving millions, all of which is good enough in the short run. A starving person will die before the people can kick out their rulers or make them reform their policies. Yet simply feeding the starving today is not enough. They also have to be fed tomorrow and every day thereafter. However, free these people from their rulers’ commands over their farming, and soon they will be able to feed themselves and others as well. There is an adage that applies to this: “Give a starving person a fish to eat and you feed him only for one day; teach him how to fish, and he feeds himself forever.” Yet teaching is no good alone, if people are not free to apply their new knowledge—yes, teach them how to fish, but also promote the freedom they need to do so

Surprisingly, the incredible economic productivity and wealth produced by a free people and their freedom from famines are not the only moral goods of freedom, nor, perhaps, even the most important moral goods. When people are free, they comprise a spontaneous society the characteristics of which strongly inhibit society-wide political violence. Freedom greatly reduces the possibility of revolutions, civil war, rebellions, guerrilla warfare, coups, violent riots, and the like. Most of the violence within nations occurs where thugs rule with absolute power. There is a continuum here:

The more power the rulers have, and the less free
their people, the more internal violence these people will suffer

Surely that which protects people against internal violence, that which so saves human lives, is a moral good. And this is freedom

Then there is mass democide, the most destructive means of ending human lives of any form of violence. Except in the case of the Nazi Holocaust of European Jews, few people know how murderous the dictators of this world have been, and could be. Virtually unknown are the shocking tens of millions murdered by Stalin and Mao, and the other millions wiped out by Pol Pot, Ho Chi Minh, Kim Il-sung, and their kind. Just omitting foreigners, who are most often murdered during a war, such thugs murdered about 161,000,000 of their own people from 1900 to 1987. Adding foreigners and including the whole twentieth century raises the toll they have killed to nearly the incredible aforementioned 262,000,000.

Even now, in the twenty-first century, these mass murders still go on in Burma, Sudan, North Korea, and the Congo (DR), just to mention the most glaring examples.

What is true about freedom and internal violence is also so for this mass democide:

The more freedom a people have, the less likely
their rulers will murder them. The more power the thugs have,
the more likely they are to murder their people

Could there be a greater moral good than to end or minimize such mass murder? This is what freedom does and for this it is, emphatically, a moral good.

There is still more to say about freedom’s value. While we now know that the world’s ruling thugs generally kill several times more of their subjects than do wars, it is war on which moralists and pacifists generally focus their hatred, and devote their resources to ending or moderating. This singular concentration is understandable, given the horror and human costs, and the vital political significance of war. Yet, it should be clear by now that war is a symptom of freedom’s denial, and that freedom is the cure. First:

Democratically free people do not make war on each other

Why? The diverse groups, cross-national bonds, social links, and shared values of democratic peoples sew them together; and shared liberal values dispose them toward peaceful negotiation and compromise with each other. It is as though the people of democratic nations were one society

This truth that democracies do not make war on each other provides a solution for eliminating war from the world: globalize democratic freedom


The less free the people within any two nations are,
the bloodier and more destructive the wars between them; the
greater their freedom, the less likely such wars become

And third:

The more freedom the people of a nation
have, the less bloody and destructive their wars.

What this means is that we do not have to wait for all, or almost all nations to become liberal democracies to reduce the severity of war. As we promote freedom, as the people of more and more nations gain greater human rights and political liberties, as those people without any freedom become partly free, we will decrease the bloodiness of the world’s wars. In short: Increasing freedom in the world decreases the death toll of its wars. Surely, whatever reduces and then finally ends the scourge of war in our history, without causing a greater evil, must be a moral good. And this is freedom

In conclusion, then, we have wondrous human freedom as a moral force for the good, as President Bush well recognizes. Freedom produces social justice, creates wealth and prosperity, minimizes violence, saves human lives, and is a solution to war. In two words, it creates human security. Moreover, and most important:

People should not be free only because
it is good for them. They should be free because it is
their right as human beings.

In opposition to freedom is power, its antagonist. While freedom is a right, the power to govern is a privilege granted by a people to those they elect and hold responsible for its use. Too often, however, thugs seize control of a people with their guns and use them to make their power total and absolute. Where freedom produces wealth and prosperity, such absolute power causes impoverishment and famine. Where freedom minimizes internal violence, eliminates genocide and mass murder, and solves the problem of war, such absolute power unleashes internal violence, murders millions, and produces the bloodiest wars. In short, power kills; absolute power kills absolutely.

Now, to summarize, why freedom?

Because it is every person’s right. It is a moral good—it promotes wealth and prosperity, social justice, and nonviolence, and preserves human life. And it enables all other moral goods.

Links of Note

The Case for Democracy”> Washington Post Editorial (!):

Those who promote democracy as the best alternative do not imagine that it will succeed quickly, or in all places. It’s important to press autocratic allies such as Mr. Mubarak to create more space for political parties, so that when elections do take place Egyptians can take advantage of them responsibly. Of course elections aren’t enough; of course civil society and prosperity and the emergence of a middle class matter, too; and which comes first, and in what ways, will be different in every country.
But without elections, or the prospect of elections — without some measure of accountability to the people — what will induce a dictator to allow civil society to grow? The “realists” need to answer that question, too.

Does Incomplete Democratization Risk War?

January 7, 2009

[First published March 28, 2006] Perhaps you have come across this argument about promoting democracy: “Yes, maybe once countries achieve a liberal (mature, well-established) democracy, they don’t make war on each other, BUT in the process of democratization, they make more war than do other nations, even more than dictators against each other.” Therefore, it is sometimes concluded, fostering democracy is a dangerous project. And this argument is used against our involvement in Iraq.

A major source for this assertion is the published research by Jack Snyder and Edward Mansfield in their book, Electing To Fight: Why Emerging Democracies Go To War (2005). I’m increasingly finding that academics, commentators, and journalist critical of Bush’s promotion of democratic freedom are supporting their arguments with quotations and “findings” from this book Snyder and Mansfield’s research is often misconstrued and anyway, their research does not support the claims made about it. For a most recent example of this misuse, see “Democracy and Violence”.

Because of the great importance of this issue and getting the facts right, I’m editing and reposting my review of the Snyder-Mansfield book.

They analyze data for over a century of wars, 1816-1992, during which they found (dealing with only their composite index of democratization for simplicity here) 90 incomplete transitions to democracy for 64 nations, and 50 complete transitions for 35 nations. Over this period, there were 79 wars, and for their sample, the probability of a nation going to war in their sample was .037, very small.

Now, using these data, they confirm—that is, further empirically prove— that when democratized, nations do not make war on each other. This is an easy one, since in their data no two democracies made war on each other.

This should be the highlight of any fair use of the Snyder-Mansfield book, since this confirms what Bush says in support of his Forward Strategy of Freedom: “democracies don’t make war on each other.” However, this empirical finding does not agree with the biases of those wanting to use the book against American involvement in Iraq and fostering freedom, and it is ignored.

Second, the authors go though extensive tests to determine whether incomplete democratized nations were most prone to war. Having done such research myself, I have much respect for the effort, time, and thought they put into this, and therefore hate to be a spoilsport. However, it is like two neighbors who build a car in their garage. It’s beautiful, with glittering chrome, comfortable fake leather seats, state of the art dashboard, and a well waxed red paint job. But when they start it up, all the unseen motor will do is put-put a few times, and stop.

Since they are trying to establish whether democratizing nations went to war (1 = yes, or 0 = no) more than others, they used logistic regression analysis, but they did not check if the assumptions of their model were met in order to assess the significance of their regression coefficients (see on the use of “p” and significance). They provide no correlations between the independent variables so that one can assess their multicollinearity (see my
Little Primer” on this here, which is as applicable to logistic regression as it is to multiple regression) and seem unaware of the problem it creates. They put much emphasis on the significance of their index of incomplete transition, but if their twelve independent variables are highly correlated, which I think they are, then the significance of their regression coefficients may be inflated. When they claim that nations with incomplete democratizations are “roughly four to fifteen times more likely to go to war,” this is probably based on highly biased regression coefficients.

Also, the authors provide no justification for their applying tests of significance to a whole population. If this whole sample is meant to represent all nations at all time, then it is not random, and its distribution is unknown. Then there is the problem of the number of cases for which they calculate their significance. As the number of cases (“N”) increases, smaller results become significant until what is significant is meaningless (again, see on the use of “p”). For example, a correlation of .378 is statistically significant for 20 cases, .165 for 100 cases, and .052 for 1,000 cases. Now, square .052, which is .003 rounded off. This says that the two variables only have 0.3% of their variation in common. This is meaningless (would you buy an expensive drug that had a 3 out of a 1,000 chance it would help you? Only if you had terminal cancer), although some unwary researchers might trumpet such significant results. This misuse of significance happens all the time, since the idea is that bigger samples are always better. This is only true if one concentrates not on significance, but on the percent of variation in common. All this being said, what was the sample size in the democratization study? It was 9,229! And the gist of their results depends on significance.

Then there is the question of efficiency. How well does the logistic regression fit (predict, account for, explain) wars, if democratization is incomplete? They provide no measure of this. In regular multiple regression, there is the multiple correlation squared (R^2) which tells us the proportion of variation in the dependent variable accounted for by the regression equation. However, such is inappropriate for logistic regression. So, there is a “pseudo R^2” one can calculate, or for the list of wars, one can count the number of nations correctly placed in the no-war, or war category. The authors do neither.

But, there is one thing we can do. The logistic regression comes out with the likelihood — probability — that war will occur, given the independent variables, among which is incomplete democratization. But this is usually such a small number in logistic regression that the natural log of the likelihood is given. Now, to get the probability of war from their logistic regression, one takes the anti-log of the log likelihood, which is e^(log likelihood). I did this for their log likelihood of -1339.96, and it is an infinitesimal number. It is so small that the google and my Mac calculators could only give it as zero. Just for e^-13, it is 2.26 x 10^-6; for -130 it is 3.5 x 10^-57. That is, the equations they provide in their book are useless.

Then there is their way of measuring war, which is as yes, or no. And this is a methodological mindset that has led many researchers to mistakenly conclude that democracies are as warlike as other regimes (see my published article on this here). It gives the same weight to a war in which a democracy suffers few killed in combat versus a nondemocracy that has millions killed, e.g., the Boxer Rebellion counted as a war for Britain when it had 34 killed versus 7.5 million for the Soviets in WWII. One war each. This biases results against democracies, which by far have the least killed in wars, as they should by democratic peace theory. Rather, it is the number killed in war that should be counted for each country, and not the number of wars.

In sum, the results about the war likeness of democracy in Electing To Fight do not prove (show, establish, indicate) that incomplete democratization is a danger to peace. The results cannot fairly and objectively be used to argue against Bush’s foreign policy, BUT ONLY FOR IT.

Related Links

“He’s started a GOP civil war over foreign policy” By Daniel W. Drezner, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Chicago and a rare Republican one:

ON A VARIETY of recent national security issues — port security, Iran, Hamas, China — President Bush has received as much criticism from conservative Republicans as from Democrats. After a first term in which Republicans were in lock step with their leader, why is the president having trouble with his right flank? …. In the eyes of his party, Bush’s biggest foreign policy sin is not his aims, or even his means. It’s that he has done the improbable — he’s made the Democrats look like a credible alternative.

RJR: I don’t think that Drezner has a firm enough understanding of the democratic peace to criticize Bush in this way, judging among other thing by his apparent support for the shoddy research of fellow political scientist Erik Gartzke (I will soon be posting here my exchange with Gartzke)

“What Brings Peace, Wealth or Democracy”By Martin Sherman in The Middle East Quarterly (1998) After discussing these two paradigms, he says:

historical fact closely bears out the political explanation. Two prominent scholars review almost two decades of study and find a “near consensus” that democratically governed states rarely go to war with each other. In fact, they go further, observing that

the proposition that democracies are generally at peace with each other is [so] strongly supported . . . [it] has led some scholars to claim that this finding is probably the closest thing that we have to a law in international politics.

Sherman concludes that the American emphasis [by the Clinton Adm.] on economic development in the Middle East is stressing the wrong paradigm. Rather: …

American policymakers need seriously to rethink their present course, one which seems certain to foster warfare rather than welfare. [They should favor democratization].

What Is The Democratic Peace?

January 4, 2009

[First published March 31, 2006] Research on the democratic peace, the idea that democracies do not make war on each other, has become a dominant finding in the field of international relations.

What is the democratic peace? In the literature on or referring to the democratic peace, this means the idea or fact that democracies do not (or virtually never) make war on each other. I will call this the war version.

Although this understanding of the democratic peace is extremely important–after all, it implies the end of war–I believe that focusing only on this version is fundamentally misleading. It is as though we had scientifically established that a drug would generally cure or minimize all cancer, while only focusing the drug on lung cancer in our medical advice.

This analogy is not strained, for democracies have not only not made war on each other, but they also have, by far, the least foreign violence, domestic collective violence, and democide (a much greater killer than war by several orders of magnitude). That is, democracy, or to be more precise, democratic freedom is a general cure for political or collective violence of any kind–it is a method of nonviolence. This is truly a democratic peace. I call this understanding of the democratic peace, which is supported by the theory, evidence, and analyses on my web site at, the general version.

To be clear, then:

The War Version of the Democratic Peace is that:

democratically free countries do not or virtually never make war on each other.

The General Version of the Democratic Peace is that:

(1) Democracy is a general method of nonviolence. Democracies:

Do not make war on each other;
minimize the severity of foreign violence and war;
minimize domestic (collective) violence;
don’t murder their own people.

(2) And power kills. Totalitarian regimes (the power opposite of democracies):

make war on each other;
have the most severe foreign violence and war
have the most severe domestic (collective) violence
murder their own people.

Most of the world’s people have been robbed of their freedom by one dictatorship or another. Some, like the regimes of Burma, Cuba, Libya, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, and Turkmenistan, are more than just dictatorships. Their tyrannical dictators are slave masters ruling their people by the their slightest whims and desires and those of their henchmen. These poor people live in constant fear for themselves and their loved ones. And they are murdered by hundreds of millions. In the last century alone 272,000,000 of them were shot, burned, stabbed, tortured, beaten, starved to death, blasted to death, buried alive, or whatever other ways of murdering their slaves these thugs could imagine. This horrific and evil toll of bodies could head-to-toll circle the earth over ten times. It as though a catastrophic nuclear war had happened, but its mountain of deaths spread over each day of the last century.
The existence of these ruling thugs creates an unbridgeable chasm in the world. On one side are such criminal gangs, sanctified by the term “government,” and the United Nations they dominate, enforcing by their guns mass slavery, mass death, mass violence, mass impoverishment, and mass famines. On the other side are democratic countries where people are free, secure, and need never fear mass impoverishment, death at the hands of government agents, and killing famine.
This chasm between life and death, security and fear, on the same planet and at the same time, must no longer be tolerated. Dictatorships, even if benign, are by their very existence a crime against humanity, and must be eliminated peacefully, if possible; by force if they are murdering their people. However, the intellectuals, commentators, analysts, academics, and reporters of the democracies have identified power with greatness, thugs with statesmen, and propaganda with results; we have let moral and cultural relativism silence our outrage, while conceding the moral high ground to the utopian dreamers; we have refused to recognize evil as evil; and we have ignored the catastrophic human cost of such confusions, and the natural and moral right to freedom.
What is so often ignored is that all people, everywhere, want to be free, to exercise their human rights that are theirs by natural and international law, and by an implicit social contract. Were this the only justification for freedom, it would be sufficient to make spreading freedom the ultimate policy.
But there is more to freedom than this. Much more. It provides the most important Moral Goods that humanity can desire. First:

The more people are free, the greater their human development and
national wealth. In short, freedom is the way to economic and social human security.

Still, human security involves more than wealth and prosperity. There is the security of knowing that one’s life and the lives of loved ones are safe from deadly famines. Therefore, second:

Free people never have famines.

But as important as these Moral Goods are, they do not deal with the worst hell to which billions of human beings are still subject — torture, rape, beatings, forced labor, genocide, mass murder, executions, deportations, political violence, and war. With no human rights, these billions live in fear for their lives, and for those of their loved ones. There is a third Moral Good of freedom:

Where people are free, political violence is minimal.

Where people are not free, as in Burma, Sudan, and North Korea, people are only pieces on a playing board for the armed thugs and gangs that oppress them, rape them, loot them, exploiting them, and murdering them.
The gangs that control these so-called governments oppress whole nations under cover of international law. They are like a gang that captures a group of hikers and then does with them what it wills, robbing all, torturing and murdering some because gang members don’t like them or they are “disobedient,” and raping others.
And they murder their slaves by whim, by hatred, by quota, and sometimes for no reason at all. The worst of these gangs are megamurderers with their victims reaching into the tens of millions. Such murder is democide, and its elimination as one of humanity’s plagues is the greatest of all Moral Goods.
Then, fourth:

The more freedom a people have, the more unlikely their government
will murder them. Democratically free governments commit no democide.

This huge moral split in the world between governing thugs that murder their slaves wholesale, and free people that fear no such personal disaster for them or their loved ones, is unconscionable and unacceptable. It is time for concerted nonviolent action to eliminate these criminal thugs and free their slaves.
However, there is still one more Moral Good that even more strengthens this moral imperative. Finally:

The less free the people within any two nations are, the bloodier and
more destructive the wars between them; the greater their freedom,
the less likely such wars become. Free people do not make war on each other.

What this means is that we do not have to wait for all, or almost all nations to become democracies to reduce the severity of war. As we promote freedom, as the people of more and more nations gain greater human rights and political liberties, as those people without any freedom become partly free, we will decrease the bloodiness of the world’s wars. In short:

Increasing freedom in the world decreases the death toll of its wars.
Surely, whatever reduces and then finally ends the scourge of war in our history,
without causing a greater evil, must be the greatest moral good. And this is freedom.

The implications of all these Moral Goods of freedom for foreign policy and international activism are profound.

To promote global human security, to do away with famine, mass impoverishment, democide, and war, and to minimize internal violence, promote freedom.

Since peace, national security, and national and global welfare are the paramount concerns of a democratic nation’s foreign policy, its overriding goal should be to peacefully promote human rights and democratic freedom. This should be the bottom line of international negotiations, treaties, foreign aid, and military action (if necessary for defense or humanitarian reasons, as in Kosovo, Bosnia, Afghanistan, or Iraq). As to defense policy, military planning usually is based on assessments of the intentions and capability of others. What is clear is that the less free the people of a nation are, the more we should beware of the intentions of their rulers. In other words, it is not the democracies of the world that we need to defend against.
Moreover, consider what the peace-creating power of freedom means for nuclear weapons. Many people are justly worried about the ultimate danger to humanity—nuclear war. They protest and demonstrate against nuclear weapons. Some cross the line into illegal activities, such as destroying military property, and risk prison to draw public attention to the cataclysmic danger of such weapons. Were these dedicated people to spend even half this effort on promoting freedom and human rights for the people of the most powerful dictatorships that have or may soon have such weapons—for instance, China, North Korea, and Iran—they would be striking at the root cause of the risk of nuclear war.
The power of freedom to end war, minimize violence within nations, and eradicate genocide and mass murder almost seems magical. It is as though we have a single-drug cure for cancer, but in the case of freedom, it is all true and well established.
Our knowledge of the peace-creating and peacemaking effects of freedom now gives us a nonviolent way to promote a nonviolent world. The ultimate conclusion of all this is:

Power kills, absolute power kills absolutely.


Democratic freedom is a method of nonviolence.

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For the books, articles, papers, data, theory, and tests supporting the above propositions