Democracy prevents war

And the error in Cato’s conclusions

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.

8 thoughts on “Democracy prevents war”

  1. Hey, just chanced upon your site. My two quids follows…

    The democratic peace theory has been severely critiqued not least for its ignorance of causality. It is at most a correlation and thats one of the problems with quantitative social science research in general. The liberals seem too caught up in the goodness of economic interdependence, something they might live to regret.

    There is another school of thought (not that I subscribe to it). What keeps two countries away from war is nuclear weapons… deterrence hence is central to this ‘theory’. Kargil doesn’t count as it is more a skirmish than war…

  2. Pakistan under Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif was democratic (or if you like partially democratic), still it fomented terrorism in J&K.
    Now it can be argued that Pakistani army pressurised the leadership towards it, but I don’t think that Pakistani leadership had any scruples (I assume they are like Indian leaders).
    Earlier too, Julfikaar Ali Bhutto indulged in brinkmanship during Pakistan’s earlier tryst with democracy (as opposed to “benign dictatorship”)
    So, to say establishment of democracy in Pakistan (free of army pressure) will achieve anything is doubtful, if anything,it will help fundamentalists to come to power, as has already occured in NWFA and Baluchistan.


  3. Gaurav,

    Pakistan was never a constitutional democracy. It went through some phases where there were civilian politicians in nominal charge; but this did not make Pakistan a democracy.

  4. Nitan, congratulations on your anniversary!! Keep it up – despite those every present domestic concerns! 🙂

  5. Sounds like I’m nit-picking, but I’m not. India is not a democracy – it is a republic with a democratically elected government. There haven’t been true democracies of any size for over 2000 years. The differences are crucial.

  6. Dear libertarian,

    You’ve made my day 🙂 An injection of libertarian fundamentalism is just what India needs.

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