September 14, 2005Foreign Affairs

Democracy prevents war

And the error in Cato’s conclusions

This is an archived blog post from The Acorn.

It appears that the discrepancy in country rankings was not the only error in Cato’s Economic Freedom of the World study for 2005. Prof R J Rummel, who according to Dan Drezner is one of the godfathers of quantitative research in international relations, comprehensively debunks the report’s conclusion that compared to democracy, economic freedom is fifty times more likely to prevent armed conflict between nations.

So how many incidents of violence between democracies are there? In the whole data set, over almost two centuries, out of 350 cases for all nations (up to 1992), and in the eight additional years, there are zero cases of war, between democracies, and only 3 cases of violence between democracies in which someone was killed. Two of these involved Peru and Ecuador in 1981 and 1984 (26 to 100 killed in the first and 1-25 in the second case of violence). In 1981 Peru was only marginally democratic, as was Ecuador, but less so. This was also true of Peru and Ecuador in 1984. The only other case of violence in the data set was marginally democratic Ecuador (initiator) vs. the U.S. in 1954 in which 1-25 were killed. [Democratic Peace]

Prof Rummel’s analysis fits the post-1947 Indian subcontinent better than Cato’s conclusions, which were questioned on this blog. It has long been The Acorn’s case that for sustainable peace in the subcontinent, it is first necessary to demilitarise the Pakistani state and establish an institutional democracy there. Prof Rummel’s study is a suitable answer to those — from the Bush adminstration to the Indian government to the pragmatic’ sorts among newspaper columnists — who claim that doing business with Musharraf is the only option.

If preventing international armed conflict is the desired end, then it should be democracy first, hamburgers later and no, certainly not those F-16s please.

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