07 Jan 2010

Rummel’s Thesis

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I was reading the opening of R.J. Rummel’s Death By Government. I needed to get some stats on the crimes of communist countries, and Rummel’s book came highly recommended.

I have no problems with his figures; he seemed extremely conscientious and acknowledged the limitations of the estimates. But I had trouble with his underlying thesis, which is that Power kills and absolute Power kills absolutely (I agree), and that is why we need more democracies (I don’t necessarily agree).

Specifically, Rummel repeats the standard claim that no democracies have ever gone to war with each other, whereas non-democratic states start all kinds of wars. At this stage I have three questions:

(1) How would Rummel classify the U.S. War Between the States (aka the Civil War)? My historical knowledge is awful, but wouldn’t you classify the Confederacy as a democracy? Jefferson Davis won an election, right? (Though it seems maybe after the war began?)

(2) Wasn’t Hitler elected? (There is some controversy on this point, but even this Google-top critic site starts with, “Hitler never had more than 37 percent of the popular vote…” which is hardly reassuring about democracy’s ability to keep the bad guys at bay.)

(3) Have any communist (fascist) countries started wars with other communist (fascist) countries?

Note that I’m not asking the above questions sarcastically, as if I already know the answers. I am genuinely asking.

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