FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Myth of Democratic Pacifism

America’s cooperation with other countries in the name of promoting peace has been marked by a push toward democratization. As President Bush said, “democracies don’t go to war with each other.” The modern view of this thesis was formalized by philosopher Immanuel Kant, whose 1795 essay “Perpetual Peace” suggested that democracies would never vote to go to war, except in self defense, and therefore war would not exist if all nations became democracies. But the idea has always been controversial. American founding father Alexander Hamilton disputed “the paradox of perpetual peace” in his Federalist Papers: “Have republics in practice been less addicted to war than monarchies? Are not the former administered by MEN as well as the latter?…Is not the love of wealth as domineering and enterprising a passion as that of power or glory?”

It is generally true that democracies do not fight each other. But democracies do not necessarily react peaceably to other forms of government. A comprehensive study by political scientists Jack Snyder and Edward Mansfield showed that over the past 200 years developing democracies went to war much more frequently than stable autocracies or established democracies.” Other studies recommend against installing democracies in countries with a large ethnic divide. Based on these conclusions, it would seem unwise to try to force democratization on a nation in any hurried way.

There are many historical examples that challenge the validity of ‘democratic pacifism.’ Historians Thomas Schwartz and Kiron K. Skinner refute the notion with examples such as the U.S. against Mexico in 1848, the American Civil War, the U.S. against Spain in 1898, England against the Boer Republic in South Africa, and even World War 1, in which Britain and France and their opponent Germany were largely democratic.

In recent times, democratization spawned authoritarian leaders in Zimbabwe (Mugabe), Serbia (Milosevic), and Rwanda (Hutus). Yugoslavia and Indonesia were more tolerant as dictatorships than as democracies, and indeed Indonesia’s GDP has decreased almost 50 percent since embracing democracy. Hong Kong and Singapore have fared well without democracies. Relatively well-governed African countries such as Ghana, Malawi, Mali, and Senegal did not experience the type of economic growth realized by countries perceived as corrupt, such as Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, and Pakistan. The Pakistani people generally rejected attempts to form a democratic state, and President Musharraf has pursued social and economic reform unencumbered by the burden of democratic compromise. This appears to be true for Chavez in Venezuela also. Perhaps most significantly, China has seen a burgeoning economy without the need, at least so far, for a democratic government.

While democracies don’t necessarily lead to peace, peace and prosperity may promote democracy. A 1997 study found that rich countries are far more likely to sustain a democracy than poor countries. Certainly the absence of peace can provoke oppressive behavior in otherwise democratic-minded leaders, such as Lincoln in the Civil War, Wilson in World War 1, Churchill in World War 2, and the Bush Administration in the current Iraq War.

In order to better understand the economic differences between democracies and non-democracies, world data tables were merged from three sources:

(1) The Economist’s Democracy Index, which divides the world’s countries into

(a) Democracies (26 nations, total population 832 million)

(b) Flawed Democracies (45 nations, total population 2,370 million)

(c) Hybrid Regimes (28 nations, total population 661 million)

(d) Authoritarian Regimes (48 nations, total population 2,396 million)

(2) The Global Footprint Network, which determines for each of the world’s countries,

(a) Biocapacity (land and resources available per capita, measured in hectares)

(b) Ecological Footprint (land and resources used per capita, measured in hectares (1 hectare = 2.5 acres))

(3) The CIA World Factbook (worldwide Gross National Income figures from nationmaster.com)

The composite table is available at http://www.fightingpoverty.org/2007NationalData.xls.

A summary of the data follows:

Democracies: 26 countries; 832 million people; 27,500 GNI per capita; biocapacity 3.75 hectares; ecological footprint 6.71 hectares

Flawed Democracies: 45 countries; 2,370 million people; 2,030 GNI per capita; biocapacity 1.74 hectares; ecological footprint 1.39 hectares.

Hybrid Regimes: 28 countries; 661 million people; 1,260 GNI per capita; biocapacity 2.43 hectares; ecological footprint 1.87 hectares

Authoritarian Regimes: 48 countries; 2,396 million people; 971 GNI per capita; biocapacity 0.90 hectares; ecological footprint 1.48 hectares

The following observations were derived from the data:

(1) Democracies tend to be wealthy; or perhaps more accurately, wealthy societies tend to be democracies.

– People living in democracies have an average Gross National Income of approximately $27,515.

– People living in flawed democracies have an average Gross National Income of approximately $2,030.

– People living in hybrid regimes have an average Gross National Income of approximately $1,260.

– People living in authoritarian regimes have an average Gross National Income of approximately $971.

(2) The average person in a democratic country uses four times as much land and resources as a person living under a non-democracy. If everyone in the world consumed the same amount as those living in democracies (6.71 hectares), we would need four planet earths to sustain us.

– People living in democracies have an average ecological footprint of 6.71 hectares (13% of the world uses 50% of its biocapacity).

– People living in flawed democracies have an average ecological footprint of 1.39 hectares (38% of the world uses 30% of its biocapacity).

– People living in hybrid regimes have an average ecological footprint of 1.87 hectares (11% of the world uses 12% of its biocapacity).

– People living in authoritarian regimes have an average ecological footprint of 1.48 hectares (38% of the world uses 32% of its biocapacity).

Note: Biocapacity usage percentages add up to over 100 because the earth has a global ecological deficit (overshoot) of 0.25 Earths. According to the Global Footprint Network, “such overshoot leads to a depletion of Earth’s life supporting natural capital and a build up of waste.”

(3) The resource usage in (2) is mitigated by the fact that biocapacities in democratic countries tend to be greater than in other countries (that is, democracies tend to exist in the most resource- rich areas). As a result,

– People living in democracies use 180% of their own biocapacities.

– People living in flawed democracies use 80% of their own biocapacities.

– People living in hybrid regimes use 77% of their own biocapacities.

– People living in authoritarian regimes use 164% of their own biocapacities.

What conclusions can be drawn from this data? First of all, it’s understandable that democracies wouldn’t attack democracies if they’re all so prosperous. It would seem more likely that democracies would be fearful of the 5 billion people living in non-democracies who have much smaller biocapacities and consumption rates than the rich world. This is especially true if, as noted above, developing democracies go to war much more frequently than other political systems.

Secondly, it’s unrealistic for a government to promote democracy in the name of improving the lives of others if a single earth cannot support the democratic lifestyle. If it’s true that democracies are correlated with wealth and prosperity, the expansion of democracy will place a greater ecological demand on our earth unless overall consumption is reduced. The welcome peace dividend of a democratic world may depend on the willingness of current democracies to share the wealth.

PAUL BUCHHEIT is a Professor, Harold Washington College in Chicago. He can be reached at: pbuchheit@ccc.edu

References:

“Federalist No. 6: Concerning Dangers from Dissensions Between the States,” by Alexander Hamilton, for the Independent Journal, 1787

Jack Snyder and Edward Mansfield, “Democratization and the Danger of War,” International Security 20, no. 1 (Summer 1995)

Donald Horowitz, “Democracy in Divided Societies,” in Larry Diamond and Mark F. Plattner, eds., “Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Democracy (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994)

Alvin Rabushka and Kenneth Shepsle, “Politics in Plural Societies: A Theory of Democratic Instability” (Charles E. Merill, 1972)

“The Myth of Democratic Pacifism,” By Thomas Schwartz and Kiron K. Skinner, Hoover Digest, 1999

Amy Chua, “World On Fire” (Anchor Books, 2004)

Transparency International, Global Corruption Report 2004 (London: Pluto Press, 2004)

World Bank Governance Indicators, 2002

“How to Change Ugly Regimes,” Newsweek 06/27/05

Fareed Zakaria, “The Future of Freedom” (W W Norton & Co, 2004)

Adam Przeworski and Fernando Limongi, “Modernization: Theories and Facts,” World Politics, 49, No 2, January 1997

Economist Intelligence Unit: Democracy Index 2006

Global Footprint Network (http://footprintnetwork.org)

Gross National Income, per capita, by country (www.nationmaster.com, from CIA World Factbook)

{missing data filled in from following 3 sources}

World Bank Data & Statistics, 2004

Internet World Stats, Usage and Population Statistics (www.internetworldstats.com)

Information by Country, UNICEF (www.unicef.org/infobycountry)

 

 

 

More articles by:

February 21, 2019
Nick Pemberton
Israel, Venezuela and Nationalism In The Neoliberal Era
Chris Orlet
The Bill and Melinda Gates’ Fair Taxation Scaremongering Tour
Bruce E. Levine
“Heavy Drinking” and the NYT’s Offensive Obit on Herbert Fingarette
Lisi Krall
This Historical Moment Demands Transformation of Our Institutions. The Green New Deal Won’t Do That
Stephanie Savell
Mapping the American War on Terror: Now in 80 Countries
Daniel Warner
New York, New York: a Resounding Victory for New York Over Amazon
Russell Mokhiber
With Monsanto and Glyphosate on the Run AAAS Revokes Award to Scientists Whose Studies Led to Ban on Weedkiller in Sri Lanka and Other Countries
Jesse Jackson
Trump’s Fake National Emergency Moves America Closer to an Autocracy
Alex Campbell
Tracing the Threads in Venezuela: Humanitarian Aid
Jonah Raskin
Mitchel Cohen Takes on Global and Local Goliaths: Profile of a Lifelong Multi-Movement Organizer
Binoy Kampmark
Size Matters: the Demise of the Airbus A380
February 20, 2019
Anthony DiMaggio
Withdrawal Pains and Syrian Civil War: An Analysis of U.S. Media Discourse
Charles Pierson
When Saudi Arabia Gets the Bomb
Doug Johnson Hatlem
“Electability” is Real (Unless Married with the Junk Science of Ideological Spectrum Analysis)
Kenneth Surin
The Atlantic Coast Pipeline: Another Boondoggle in Virginia
John Feffer
The Psychology of the Wall
Dean Baker
Modern Monetary Theory and Taxing the Rich
Russell Mokhiber
Citizens Arrested Calling Out Manchin on Rockwool
George Ochenski
Unconstitutional Power Grabs
Michael T. Klare
War With China? It’s Already Under Way
Thomas Knapp
The Real Emergency Isn’t About the Wall, It’s About the Separation of Powers
Manuel García, Jr.
Two Worlds
Daniel Warner
The Martin Ennals and Victorian Prize Winners Contrast with Australia’s Policies against Human Dignity
Norman Solomon
What the Bernie Sanders 2020 Campaign Means for Progressives
Dan Corjescu
2020 Vision: A Strategy of Courage
Matthew Johnson
Why Protest Trump When We Can Impeach Him?
William A. Cohn
Something New and Something Old: a Story Still Being Told
Bill Martin
The Fourth Hypothesis: the Present Juncture of the Trump Clarification and the Watershed Moment on the Washington Mall
February 19, 2019
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Troublesome Possibilities: The Left and Tulsi Gabbard
Patrick Cockburn
She Didn’t Start the Fire: Why Attack the ISIS Bride?
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Literature and Theater During War: Why Euripides Still Matters
Maximilian Werner
The Night of Terror: Wyoming Game and Fish’s Latest Attempt to Close the Book on the Mark Uptain Tragedy
Conn Hallinan
Erdogan is Destined for Another Rebuke in Turkey
Nyla Ali Khan
Politics of Jammu and Kashmir: The Only Viable Way is Forward
Mark Ashwill
On the Outside Looking In: an American in Vietnam
Joyce Nelson
Sir Richard Branson’s Venezuelan-Border PR Stunt
Ron Jacobs
Day of Remembrance and the Music of Anthony Brown        
Cesar Chelala
Women’s Critical Role in Saving the Environment
February 18, 2019
Paul Street
31 Actual National Emergencies
Robert Fisk
What Happened to the Remains of Khashoggi’s Predecessor?
David Mattson
When Grizzly Bears Go Bad: Constructions of Victimhood and Blame
Julian Vigo
USMCA’s Outsourcing of Free Speech to Big Tech
George Wuerthner
How the BLM Serves the West’s Welfare Ranchers
Christopher Fons
The Crimes of Elliot Abrams
Thomas Knapp
The First Rule of AIPAC Is: You Do Not Talk about AIPAC
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail