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Death by Government

R. J. Rummel has written some great books that everyone in leadership should read and understand. He has a website: www2.hawaii.edu/~rummel/welcome.html. In Death By Government he shows that it is totalitarian nations who kill more people than anything else, even war. He begins by quoting Lord Acton who said, "Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely." Edmund Burke wrote, "Power gradually extirpates for the mind every humane and gentle virtue." Shelly wrote "Power, like a desolating pestilence, Pollutes whatever it touches."

He shows that Stalin, Mao and Lenin killed over a hundred million of their own countrymen. The Founding Fathers knew that government should be limited.

Power Kills

One reviewer said this about Rummel's book, Power Kills: Democracy As a Method of Nonviolence: "This volume is the most recent of a comprehensive effort by R. J. Rummel to understand and place in historical perspective the entire subject of genocide and mass murder, or what he calls democide. It is the fifth in a series of volumes in which he offers a detailed analysis of the 120,000,000 people killed as a result of government action or direct intervention. In Power Kills, Rummel offers a realistic and practical solution to war, democide, and other collective violence. Rummel observes that well-established democracies do not make war on and rarely commit lesser violence against each other. The more democratic two nations are, the less likely is war or smaller-scale violence between them. The more democratic a nation is, the less severe its overall foreign violence, the less likely it will have domestic collective violence, and the less its democide. Rummel argues that the evidence supports overwhelmingly the most important fact of our time: democracy is a method of nonviolence. Another review says: One of the most exciting books in years-- At last, dramatic proof that the only way to secure peace is to achieve liberty

Jim Powell reviews the book saying,

For decades, the most outspoken "peaceniks" were socialists and other believers in powerful government. Many blamed wars on capitalism. But now University of Hawaii political science professor Rummel dramatically demonstrates that the more powerful the government, the more war and other chronic violence there will be. Peace, he makes clear, is always jeopardized by government power.

Conversely, Rummel amasses overwhelming evidence to show that free societies tend to be peaceful. By cutting government power and extending the sphere of liberty, you get a peace dividend. 

Of course, classical liberals have always known that liberty and peace go together. Classical liberalism blossomed after centuries of brutal war. The great champions of liberty all hated war. Mindful of how casually kings had launched so many senseless wars, America's Founding Fathers gave the war-making power to Congress, not to a single person (the chief executive). Peace was a primary passion of Richard Cobden and John Bright as they launched the successful movement for free trade. By giving people on both sides of a border easy access to resources, they believed free trade would eliminate major provocations for war and strengthen the self-interest of nations to get along. The international movement for liberty was a peace movement.

But as statists hammered classical liberalism during the late 19th century, it fell out of fashion, and the vital connection between liberty and peace was lost. Twentieth century statists engineered a vast build-up of government power almost everywhere and convinced multitudes that powerful governments were essential for protecting peace.

Rummel utterly demolishes such claims. In his previous book, the blockbuster Death by Government (1994), he demonstrated that government is the most monstrous killer. He further showed that civil wars and "peacetime" government murders kill more people than foreign wars. Now in Power Kills, Rummel shows: "First, well-established [limited-power] democracies do not make war on and rarely commit lesser violence against each other . . . Second, the more two nations are democratic, the less likely war or lesser violence between them . . . Third, the more a nation is democratic, the less severe its overall foreign violence . . . Fourth, in general, the more democratic a nation, the less likely it will have domestic collective violence . . . Finally, in general the more democratic a nation, the less its democide [mass murder]."

How strong is Rummel's proof? Well, consider this: "If one defines an international war as any military engagements in which 1,000 or more were killed, then there were 33 wars, 353 pairs of nations (e.g. Germany versus USSR) engaged in such wars between 1816 and 1991. None were between two democracies, 155 pairs involved a democracy and a nondemocracy, and 198 involved two nondemocracies fighting each other. The average length of war between states was 35 months, and the average battle deaths was 15,069." Another example: "For the years 1946 to 1986, when there were the most democracies and thus the hardest test of the proposition that democracies do not make war on each other, there were over this period 45 states that had a democratic regime; 109 that did not. There were thus 6,876 state dyads (e.g. Bolivia-Chile), of which 990 were democratic-democratic dyads, none of which fought each other . . . The odds of this lack of war between democracies being by chance is virtually 100 to 1."

How valid can Rummel's statistics be? His definition of a limited-power democratic government applies to about 80 countries; a century ago, there were about only about eight such countries; and at various points during the late 18th century, there were three. "That there have been no wars between democracies since, say, 1816, is statistically significant," he says.

What about other factors which might have influenced results? "A number of studies of whether democracies made war on each other have tried to determine if there is a hidden factor accounting for this, such as economic development, industrialization, geographic distance, trade, alliances, and so on. Always, democracy comes out as the best explanation. Best is meant in a statistically significant sense."

Because Power Kills provides actual proof of the dynamic link between liberty and peace, it is of capital importance -- among the most exciting books in years.


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