October 16, 2014


Perpetual Peace : Are democracies less warlike? (Michael Shermer, 10/14/14, Scientific American)

In their 2001 book Triangulating Peace, political scientists Bruce Russett and John Oneal employed a multiple logistic regression model on data from the Correlates of War Project that recorded 2,300 militarized interstate disputes between 1816 and 2001. They assigned each country a democracy score between 1 and 10, based on the Polity Project, which measures how competitive its political process is, as well as the fairness of its elections, checks and balances of power, transparency, and so on. The researchers found that when two countries scored high on the Polity scale, disputes between them decreased by 50 percent, but when one country was either a low-scoring democracy or an autocracy, it doubled the chance of a quarrel between them.

Kant also suggested that international trade (economic interdependency) and membership in international communities (transparency and accountability) reduce the likelihood of conflict. So in their model Russett and Oneal included data on the amount of trade between nations and found that countries that depended more on trade in a given year were less likely to have a militarized dispute in the subsequent year. They also counted the number of intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) that every pair of nations jointly belonged to and ran a regression analysis with democracy and trade scores. Overall, democracy, trade and membership in IGOs (the "triangle" of their title) all favor peace, and if a pair of countries are in the top 10th of the scale on all three variables, they are 81 percent less likely than an average pair of countries to have a militarized dispute in a given year.

How has the democratic peace theory held up since 2001? With all the conflict around the world, it seems like peace is on the rocks. But anecdotes are not data. In a 2014 special issue of the Journal of Peace Research, Uppsala University political scientist HÃ¥vard Hegre reassessed all the evidence on "Democracy and Armed Conflict." He stated that "the empirical finding that pairs of democratic states have a lower risk of interstate conflict than other pairs holds up, as does the conclusion that consolidated democracies have less conflict than semi-democracies."

Posted by at October 16, 2014 6:56 PM

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