It’s Not Hopeless — There Is An Antidote

June 4, 2009

[First published May 16, 2005] Ryan Barnard lest this comment on the Thursday, March 03, 2005 Refract Blog:

So many atrocities, both epic and personal. So much sorrow in the world. Two options: turn a blind eye or work to change things. But all of these atrocities repeat, over and over again in the course of human history, in so many different societies. That suggests that it’s not cultural, that it’s human nature. Perhaps an aberration of human nature, but biologically wired nonetheless. And so how can one hope to ever make a difference?

So much suffering. So little of it need ever happen.

I really want some encouragement… I feel so hopeless. What can anyone do…?

This feeling gets to me, since I believe the evidence is persuasive — there is more than hope, there is an outright solution. And one that is desirable in itself. This is fostering global democratic freedom. I wrote a blog on this some months ago, ” Yes, There is Hope—Great Hope” ( Link here)

Rather than repeat that blog, I will present in figures some of the evidence. All are from my “Statistics of Democide” (link here). The first figure is 17.3 below. Note how the number murdered by governments rises at the high centralized power, high totalitarian end, while it’s lowest (virtually zero) at the low power, democratic end (liberal democracies). This already tells us what to do about democide. Diffuse and democratize power.

Figure 1.3 shows the rise and fall of democide with the rise and fall of totalitarian states. There is the slight rise in foreign democide by democracies during World War II (1941-1945), which is a reflection of illegal (Geneva Conventions) Allied urban bombing of German, and later Japanese cities. The others in the plot are authoritarian states, like Italy, Hungary, and China (Chiang Kai-chek).

Figure 17.2 is the best of the lot. It’s the result of a factor (component) analysis of various measures of politics and democide for over 200 nations. The result shows that political power and totalitarianism are aligned with each other and both almost completely with the total genocide, domestic democide, and democide rate (annual per capita). Democracy, however, is completely opposed. It is as though democide forms a tight cone of behavior, and down the center of that behavior, a causal force acting on it is totalitarianism, while democracy is a driving against it.

The easiest to understand figure and by virtue of that, maybe the most powerful is 17.5 below. This is a plot of domestic democide logged against the range of power, where the size of the point in the plot represents the amount of democide. Domestic democide is plainly a logarithmic function of power. That is, as power increases, domestic democide just does not increase additively, but by magnitudes – by a factor of ten.

There is much more I could present, such as what happens when many other variables are held constant. But for my purpose here, which it to prove the existence of an antidote to democide, these figures should serve.

Link of Note

” Can institutions resolve ethnic conflict?” (February 2000) By William Easterly, World Bank


High quality institutions, such as rule of law, bureaucratic quality, freedom from government expropriation, and freedom from government repudiation of contracts, mitigate the adverse economic consequences of ethnic fractionalization identified by Easterly and Levine 1997 and others. In countries with sufficiently good institutions, ethnic diversity does not lower growth or worsen economic policies. High quality institutions also lessen war casualties on national territory and lessen the probability of genocide for a given amount of ethnic fractionalization.

Translation of World Bankanese: Among countries with ethnic divisions, the liberal democracies among them are least likely to commit genocide.

Freedom's Principles
An interactive book-in-the-making blog

Unity? No, Self-Determination

February 5, 2009

[First published May 22, 2005] The passionate cry of the anti-colonialist of the 1960s is now almost forgotten. It was for self-determination — the freedom of people to govern themselves. It is also the cry of a people against their dictators and for democratic freedom. It is the antinomy of the statist ideology — statist unity, or simply statism — that so much infects governing elites, even in democracies .

It is the cause of so much of the internal violence we see in the world. This is the desire of the rulers, or ruling majority, to maintain the boundaries of a state as is, and to forcefully, if necessary, prevent the people of some region, province, republic, or whatever it is called, from breaking off and forming their own sovereign state. Their are many reasons for this statism, such as a strong nationalist belief in the integrity — wholeness — of the state , the belief it would weaken the state, the loss of important resources, and moral imperatives, as in the American Civil War (anti-slavery sentiment mixed with statism).

Just consider the civil and revolutionary wars and widespread internal violence the that resulted from statism: Tibet and China controls by force alone a number of areas that ought to be sovereign on their own, such as Tibet, the rebellious whole Eastern region of Sinkiang (formerly Muslim and Caucasian Turkistan taken over by Mao’s Red Army after its victory over the Nationalists in 1949, as was Tibet). Then there is bloody Chechnya to which Russia refuses to grant self-determination. In Vietnam, the South was never part of the North until seized by North Vietnam; I’m sure if the people were free to separate from the North, they would do so in a moment — over a million fleeing Boat People attests to that. Burma’s war against ethnic groups, such as the Shan and Karens, carried on by military dictators has been ongoing for decades. Giving them their independence would resolve this. Nigeria fought a senseless war against the attempt by Biafra to split off from the country — about a 1,000,000 died or were killed in the civil war. And so on and on.

A special case of this is Iraq, with almost clear division of the country between Sunnis in mid-country, including Baghdad, the majority Shiites in the south, and the Kurds in the north. Ideally, in occupying the country and establishing an Iraqi government, the U.S. should have divided the country into three sovereign parts. This would have avoided much of the present terrorist violence. However, this argument neglects the practical reality. Turkey would not have accepted a sovereign Kurd state on its southern border, for as assuredly as water runs downhill, the Kurds would have aided and provided a safe-haven to their fellow Kurds across the border in Turkey who have been fighting for their own independence for many years. Assuredly, Turkey informed the U.S. that it would not allow an independent Kurdistan, with the implication it would take military action to stop it.
Then there were the Shiites in the south bordering on revolutionary Shiite Iran, and who could tell in 2004 how susceptible they would be to inducements or control by their fellow Muslims in Iran (now it is clear they will follow an independent course). All this is to say that the Bush Administration followed the most practical and politically desirable course (a hat tip to the realists for this).
However, if such political considerations don’t intrude, and they don’t in most cases, a people have a right to self-determination, whether of a colony or of a segment of a state in which an overwhelming majority desire self-determination. What the logic of this?
I argue that the moral justification for the state is an implicit social contract: we give obedience to the state in return for the protection and rights it guarantees us (you will notice a hint of Hobbes in this, with a heavier touch of Rawls). But, when a people no longer wish to abide by this social contract, but to establish a new one, then they have a right to do so that is derived from their fundamental right to freedom (and a bow to Locke). No rulers or democratic leaders have a right to prevent by force a people from exercising their right to self-determination, unless, and the only unless, a democracy is weakened in the face of a foreign enemy by such fission.
So, if the people of California, or Alaska, or my home state of Hawaii, or the liberal North Eastern states want to split off from the United States, and they would support it in a referendum by more than 2/3rds, more power to them.
To me, the right to self-determination, if chosen by an overwhelming majority of a people trumps any but a common defense argument against that freedom. If this bothers you, consider that in wartime, democracies accept that the a common defense supercedes individual liberty via the draft of young men, censorship, and anti-strike laws.

Lets bring back the cry of our fathers, the rallying cry against colonialism that was so successful —

Three cheers for the self-determination of a people

Link of Note

“Self-Determination theory: An Approach to Human Motivation and Personality (nd)

Epigraph: “To be self-determined is to endorse one’s actions at the highest level of reflection. When self-determined, people experience a sense of freedom to do what is interesting, personally important, and vitalizing.”

Nation Building and the History of Force

January 21, 2009

[First published January 19, 2006] Political Scientist James L. Payne is an excellent and thoughtful scholar in the traditional vein (no quantitative methods), and many years ago I used his book, The American Threat: National Security And Foreign Policy, as a text in my national security class. He has recently published an article, “Deconstructing Nation Building: The results are in and the record isn’t good “ in which Payne says:

When plunging into war, hope generally triumphs over experience. The past—the quiet statistical tabulation of what happened when this was tried before—tends to be ignored in the heat of angry oratory and the thump of military boots. At the outset, it is easy to believe that force will be successful in upholding virtue and that history has no relevance. Lately, this confidence in the force of arms has centered on nation building, that is, the idea of invading and occupying a land afflicted by dictatorship or civil war and turning it into a democracy. . . . Nation building by military force is not a coherent, defensible policy. It is based on no theory, it has no proven technique or methodology, and there are no experts who know how to do it. The record shows that it usually fails, and even when it appears to succeed, the positive result owes more to historical evolution and local political culture than anything nation builders might have done.

RJR: Payne identifies 51 cases (and gives the list) of attempted nation building by Britain and the U.S. since 1850, and in which they succeeded in 14 cases — 27 percent. This is the basis of his conclusion. But, he does not take into consideration that “nation building” was not the intent of the intervention or war, but the consequences of military success, as it was for Italy, Japan, and Germany after their defeat in WWI, and Afghanistan and Iraq recently. Then what is Britain or the U.S. to do after winning the battles. Occupy the country and control it, as though by imperial rule? Leave and let some bloody gang take over the country again, with a new possibility of violence down the road? Or democratize? Given the importance of globalizing democracy for eventually solving the horrendous evils of war and democide, that 27 percent of the cases were successful is great. But Payne does not understand this relationship between democracy and violence.

This is clear in his recently published book, A History Of Force: Exploring The Worldwide Movement Against Habit Of Coercion, Bloodshed, And Mayhem (2004). Payne analyzes the role and progress of force in history, and finds that:

As far as we can tell from the historical record, we live in a much more peaceful world than has ever existed. Humans are less vicious, less inclined to inflict physical injury than they used to be. Within this broad picture there are of course deviations and exceptions, cases where certain regimes and cultures have exhibited temporary increases in violence. But these exceptions cannot obscure the larger pattern. As the following chapters show, the evidence for a decline in the use of force is massive, so broad and so obvious as to make the point something of a self‑evident truth. (p.7)

To show this, he presents the chart below (p. 15).

Now, although Payne writes as though he is the only one to discover this, other’s have shown this decline, and I have presented their data in several blogs (“Democracies Increase and Ipso Facto, World Violence Declines,” “Democracies Increase, Violence decreases, Media Still Blind,” and “World Conflict in Sharp Decline”)

About this decline, Payne says:

But, for most people, the observation seems to be wrong — and not merely wrong, but irresponsibly wrong and irritatingly wrong. Swayed by a number of fallacies and distortions, they are convinced that, compared to the past, we live in particularly vicious, bloody times. They therefore are disposed to reject out of hand any study that purports to find the opposite. Even if you can get them to look at some of the evidence and to agree that the facts do indeed indicate a dramatic decline, they are convinced against their will, so to speak. In their minds there remains a bedrock of contrary conviction that will continually reassert itself. For example, they will demand still more data to support the conclusion that force has decline — never noticing that the have no data to support their conviction that is has not declined. (pp. 7-8)

RJR: All true, but then, how does he explain that others don’t see this massive decline? By three factors: people tend to focus on the here and now, there is a “vested interest in perceiving a violent world,” and “sampling bias in the mass media.” And how does he explain the decline?

The routes whereby uses of force are abandoned are often quite unexpected, even mysterious-so mysterious that one is sometimes tempted to allude to a higher power at work. Time and again one encounters violent practices so rooted and so self-reinforcing that it seems almost magical that they were overcome. One is reduced to pointing to “History” to explain how this immensely beneficial policy — a reduction in the use of force — has been gradually imposed on a human race that has neither consciously sought it nor agreed with it. (p. 29)

Mysterious? Hardly. It’s the growth in democracies, which now comprise 121 countries in the world out of 192, and nothing mysterious about this.

Payne sent me a copy of this book in manuscript, which I read, and then pointed out to him that he missed the importance of the growth of democracy. Apparently, he could not accept this, for he made no change in his book, nor will you find anything on the democratic peace in his index. He does, however, address the fact that democracies seem to employ less force than other regimes, but he says that it is not democracy that comes first, but the fall in violence. Violence decreases and this encourages democratization. I suppose he would say that the causation runs from the great decline in force to the great increase in democracies.

Payne writes as though the hundred or so democratic peace articles and books do not exist, and in that sense, his book would fit into the 1950s or 60s, rather than 2004. How could he refuse to recognize the democratic peace, as also does Frank Denton in his Knowing the Roots of War: Analyses and Interpretations of Six Centuries of Warfare, which is on my website. Both are historians who, with the traditional distain of such scholars, refuse to recognize the value and results of scientific research on history. They don’t understand the philosophy and methods of research, they cannot believe that quantitative research is better than their educated mind focused on historical events, and thus they do not recognize the results of such research.

And this goes even more for the commentators, analysts, and editorialists who struggle to explain the sharp decline in violence of the last decades.

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.

Click the icon

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

Leftsville — the American University

December 4, 2008

[First published December 28, 2004] Links suggested and commented on by a “Colleague:”

Two good essays — nothing new, but apparently the “problem” of lack of conservative presence in the academy is becoming more acceptable to write about. The first is a short op-ed by George Will. The second is an excellent critical essay by Mark Bauerlein, “Liberal Groupthink Is Anti-Intellectual,”
in the Chronicle Of Higher Education (November 12, 2004).

Thanks “Colleague.”

Will is only really passing on campus poll results and what Bauerlein has to say. I want to focus on Bauerlein, who is maddening.

First, not a minor point, he says of the dominance of the left on campus: “outright blackballing is rare. The disparate outcome emerges through an indirect filtering process that runs from graduate school to tenure and beyond.” He is wrong, badly wrong. The black balling takes place against conservative students and in faculty hiring. It is a conscious thing, I’ve seen it many times in many ways, and it has operated as well against me.

To give him credit, he well captures the groupthink, and consensus that dominates, but he misses the essential nature of it. He refuses to see that there is a rational, conscious, left wing agenda that underlies much of this. To him, again, it is a natural growth, a social dynamic that as well could happen with a right wing faculty in charge. Bull. The left set out to capture the campus, and have done so. True, they set in motion and were helped along by a certain naturalness in the process, but their conscious effort sped it up.

I remember as a student the days when there were a fair number of conservatives or moderate democrats around (No, I never shook hands with Theodore Roosevelt, although that is rumored). Then, the word was that we should hire a Marxists or so to give the students another side. Can you imagine a Marxist or leftist saying we should hire a conservative for students to get their side?.

Finally, Bauerlein’s solution is like the Hawaii highway engineer: If people drove slowly and carefully onto or off the ramps, there would be no problem with traffic merging.” No thought given to treating human beings as human beings and constructing ramps to compensate for this. Bauerlein’s similar solution is that professors must do this and that, and panels must . . . etc. Nothing should be done by force and coercion or command. Why? “That would poison the atmosphere and jeopardize the ideals of free inquiry.” Ha!! He seems to have no comprehension that it is like telling the North Korea thugs that they should allow more freedom of speech and discussion.

In all, he writes with rational naiveté and a political blindness to the nature of the left. Sure, they should be more accepting of conservatives ideas and faculty in their midst. Sure, when pigs fly.

Link of the Day

Freedom as a solution to war and violence By R.J. Rummel

Freedom lovers, unite. Your beliefs are incredibly more powerful than you realize. The freedom you prize is not only the solution to genocide and mass murder (democide), as I explained in a commentary on the website, but also to war. Yes, a solution to war!