Is The U.S. The Most Violent Of All?

January 18, 2009

[First published February 3, 2006] I’ve had the most respected academics in peace research tell me flatly that the United States is the most violent nation in the world. And after I’ve given lectures and speeches on the democratic peace, some questioners have said or implied the same thing. This myth has been widely believed among peace researchers and is a matter of religious faith on the left.

In response, I would point out the bloody wars in Africa and Asia not involving the U.S., including the Iraq-Iran war which cost about a million lives. Then, I would note the worst domestic democides, including that of Soviet Union, China, Cambodia, Vietnam, and so on, and compare the top annual domestic democide rates (the percent of the population murdered per year of the regime) to that for the U.S. (I always had a special page in my notes with the figures):

U.S. = .000016
USSR = .42
Communist China = .12 (if 1959-1962 famine treated as nondemocidal)
Hitler’s Germany = .09
Pol Pot’s Cambodia 8.16

And, I would add, here are the average overall domestic democide rates (average percent of the population murdered) for types of regimes.

Democracies = .043, of which the U.S. = .001
Authoritarian regimes = 1.1
Totalitarian regimes = 3.9, of which communist = 5.2

Particularly note how small the annual rate is for the U.S. even compared to the average for democracies.

But, the leftist mind assumes that there has to be something bloody wrong with the U.S. (in addition to its raging imperialism, blood sucking capitalism, and ardent support for right wing dictators), and so they fall back on the civil murder rate. They say, “No one is secure in America, since Americans murder each other at a rate greater than any other nation, and that’s why it is the most violent nation in the world.”

Well, this can be easily checked on the Internet, such as through The International Crime Victim Survey and here. From the latter source, I reproduce its rank ordered list of murder’s per nation per capita.

Note that the U.S. is not only 24th, but that its murder rate is tiny compared to the top four nations. It is 6.9% of Colombia’s, 8.6% of South Africa’s, 13.2% of Jamaica’s, and 21.2 % of Venezuela’s.

The next time a so called “anti-war” activist, self-righteous “peace researcher,” or blathering leftist declares that the U.S. is the most violent nation in the world, kindly tell them that their ignorance is only exceeded by their ideological blindness.

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The World’s Most Important Bibliography

December 16, 2008

[First published February 22, 2005] One of the problems that people have in writing about the democratic peace is understanding what it covers and the best sources for reading about it. Here are the five major empirical propositions of the democratic peace, which have been the basis of American foreign policy.

  • Democracies don’t make war on each other.
  • The more democratic a nation, the less its foreign violence.
  • The more democratic a nation, the less its internal violence.
  • The more democratic a nation, the less it murders its own citizens (democide).
  • Democracy is a method of nonviolence.

These are perhaps the most important proposition in contemporary social science, for they show that we have a solution to war and democide, and a way of minimizing political violence.

But, then, what are the sources? I just put on my website a comprehensive bibliography of pro and con papers, articles, and books on the first and second democratic peace propositions above (link here). [link also in sidebar] These propositions are usually considered the core ideas of the democratic peace, but narrowly define it. The other propositions generalize the democratic peace to domestic violence and have been much less investigated. Eventually, I hope to prepare a separate bibliography on them.

Following are among the most important books on the democratic peace.

Kant, Immanuel. Perpetual Peace. 1795.

Moore, John Norton. Solving The War Puzzle: Beyond The Democratic Peace, Carolina Academic Press, 2004.

Ray, James Lee. Democracy and International Conflict: An Evaluation Of The Democratic Peace Proposition. Columbia, SC: University Of South Carolina Press, 1995.

Rummel, R. J. Power Kills: Democracy As A Method Of Nonviolence. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 1997.

Russett, Bruce, Grasping The Democratic Peace: Principles For A Post-Cold War World, Princeton U. Press, 2001.

Weart, Stewart, Never At War: Why Democracies Will Not Fight One Another. Yale U. Press, 1998.

Singer, Max, and Aaron Wildavsky. The Real World Order: Zones Of Peace/Zones Of Turmoil. Chatham, NJ: Chatham House Publishers, 1993.

For an overview, which although outdated is useful for its coverage, see:

Ray, James Lee. “Does Democracy Cause Peace?” Annual Review Of Political Science, Edited By Nelson W. Polsby, 1998 (link here).

Anyone who wants to write an informed commentary on the democratic peace must at least be familiar with theses studies.


Link of Note

”Why Democracy” (2/11/05) By Victor Davis Hanson

“Yet for all its uncertainties and dangers in the Islamic Arab world, there remain some undeniable facts about democracy across time and space that suggest with effort and sacrifice it can both work in the Middle East and will be in the long-term security interests of the United States. So why exactly should we support the daunting task of democratizing the Middle East and how is it possible?”