Pro Forma as a PD Commissar: We Helped discover America

...And I want to thank the people from the DP discipline from showing us the way to the promised land of democratic peace

A colleague of Professor R. J. Rummelwho is one of the most renowned and respected scholars in the field of political science has attacked me. I'm a political scientist and I do have a lot of respect for professor Rummel, who is not only an accomplished scholar and writer (he even authored very entertaining fiction) but who is also one of the few political scientists who is considered to be a "libertarian." His work is interesting, original and provocative. He is one of the leading figures in the very controversial field of research called "Democratic Peace" and argues (as the title suggests) the the spread of democracy worldwide helps strengthen the foundations for international peace. What can Mini Moi say? I salute Dr. Rummel.
But... Unfortunately, a colleague of the same Dr. Rummel has read my review of a recent study in political science by two leading academics which I had earlier posted on this blog ("The check is in the mail; I'll love you in the morning; and democracies are peaceful...") and launched a very nasty attack on your humble servant here. And it hurts.
So... here is a brief deconstruction of his critique. And let's make one point clear. Neither this post nor my op-ed to which Pro Forma refers is a research paper or a policy analysis. I've published many of those (see "links" on the right) and they were supported by hudrends of foot-notes, including major studies in the political science field. So there's nothing "scholarly" about my comments here:

They have become so predictable. Consider this bio: Dr. Leon Hadar is a research fellow in foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute, where he analyzes international politics and economics with a special focus on the Middle East and East Asia. A former United Nations bureau chief for the Jerusalem Post.

Now, what do you think Hadar's take will be on the democratic peace? With the key words CATO and UN bureau chief, you're right. He'll be totally negative. And so he is in his recent article, "The Myth of Democratic Peace."

Is the above clever, witty or funny? Depends on your taste. My bio. First, my op-ed didn't represent the views of the Cato Institute. They were published as an op-ed piece in a Singaporean newspaper and were re-posted on several U.S. websites. And in any case, there is a serious debate among libertarians, including Cato scholars about the issue of DP. BTW, as the UN correspondent for the Jerusalem Post I was very critical of what the organization was doing. So I'm not sure how "UN bureau chief" are "key words." I suppose that my affiliation with a Singaporean newspaper would have been more relevant for building up Pro Forma's case againt me. Well, never mind...

What is it with these CATO libertarians? It's not incompetence, not when there has to be a conscious avoidance of studies with which they disagree. It has to be a visceral prejudice. Well, my colleague Pro Forma lets rip on them, and he's right. He says:
I think what really annoys me about these bozos are four things:

First, they rely on no actual social science (neither empirical nor theoretical) to make their points -- the paleolibertarian case against the democratic peace is almost entirely rhetorical.

Sorry, Pro Forma, but have you read my op-ed? No reliance on social science? The entire article was a summary/review of a book by two leading American political scientists, Edward D. Mansfield of the University of Pennsylvania and Jack Snyder of Columbia University, Electing to Fight: Why Emerging Democracies Go to War (MIT Press, 2005). Doesn't that count as a reliance on "acutal social science?" Isn't their book part of the vast "DP literature?" Do the two represent the paleolibertarian case against the democratic peace? The two spoke at a book foum at the Cato Institute (not a center of "paleo-libertarianism"), but my guess is that if you asked them, they'll tell you that they consider themselves to be "liberal internationalists."

Second, they completely ignore the vast DP literature. It's not that they say it is flawed and cite any examples...they just don't even deal with it. The DP literature is incredibly rich in all sorts of empirical research, and abounds with theoretical explanations at many levels. Yet, they refuse to engage any of this. It's like studying world geography, and despite Columbus and Magellan and Drake and modern cartography and trips into space and satellite photography, they are still using maps without the Americas, but instead a big vast emptiness between Europe and Asia. You can't do science this way!

Now that's really delicious. As noted, I have a PhD in political science and have taken two courses in DP while studying at Columbia. And some of my best friends are political scientists. But political science is a very primitive scientific field. In fact, I like it better when they call them "Departments of Government." I must say that Pro Forma gives here a bad name to intellectual arrogance. To compare the work that he and his colleagues have done to the scientific research that created the environment in which the discovery of American took place... Give me a big break here. Here is my historical analogy: How about comparing the DP research to the earlier social science studies that had given us the bankrupted social welfare programs of the 1960's? American society turned out of be a huge laboratory to test these ssocial science studies. D-? F? As I suggested in my piece -- and as Dr. Snyder proposed in his address at Cato -- Iraq and the Middle East provide us now with a laboratory to test Dr. Rummel's theses. But when you test the law of gravity all you need is an apple. Here the experiment is proving to be very expensive in terms of lives and dollars.

Third, they seem to dismiss any possibility of democratic peace by arguing that democracy has many definitions, so nobody really knows what it is.... yet they are quick to assert that this thing that no one can define is actually very non-peaceful. This not only is bad science, it denies the possibility of science.

Fourth, the implications -- both philosophical and policy -- of the anti-DP rhetoric by the paleolibertarians is profoundly disturbing for anyone who loves freedom and values liberty. Let's think about this.
If democracy is so bad, then non-democracy should be pretty good. In fact, Leon Hadar concludes his article with a proposal to inquire if non-democracies are actually more peaceful than democracies (note to Hadar: it's been done; they aren't). If peace is a human value, and a good thing (since it favors life and well-being, and democracies were found to be actually less peaceful than non-democracies, we would not want democracy, and should work to establish and spread non-democracy.

Yet, I cannot think of any realistic non-democratic form of government that anyone would rather live under. The core difference between democracy and non-democracy is that you can change democratic governments with ballots (peaceful), while you can only change non-democratic governments with bullets (non-peaceful). This is philosophically very confusing: we want a peaceful government, so, according to the paleos, we want a non-democratic government so we'll have peace. But we can only change this non-democratic government with non-peaceful means.

I'm not going to throw here the names of scholars and authors to demonstrate that there is a serious debate among them over what exactly is "democracy." Fareed Kakaria, for example, has made a distinction between "liberal" and "illiberal" democracies. There is certainly a big difference between a "liberal" government and a "democratic" government. If you don't believe me, ask yourself the following: Would you have preferred to live in British Hong Kong and pre-1971 Switzerland (before it granted women the right to vote or in democratic(?) India? And, yes, I know how to apply social science models utilizing complex statistical formulas. They do help us comprehend our social/political reality. But shouldn't we place our discussion in some historical context. What's wrong with that. Why did Europe enjoy a mostly peaceful era in the 19th century? Why was the rise of democracy as a most powerful ally of nationalism accompanied by some of the bloodiest conflicts of the twentieth century? Shouldn't we apply such variables as culture and religion when discussing why certain forms of governments work in certain places and certain periods in history?

Does this mean we are doomed to renew and alter our government only with bloody means, and that the great experiment the American founders engaged in is a failure? If so, then all this writing about universal aspirations for democracy is false. And Fukuyama was wrong when he argued that over the past few thousand years, in the "marketplace" of history, democracy has been desired by people more than any other form of government.

If all this is wrong, then what form of government should we desire, and work and fight to put into place? On this, the paleos are strangely silent. Which is VERY worrisome. Since you cannot rely on government protecting rights and minimizing its incursions on liberty by either hoping the government will behave, or by putting power in the hands of a benign dictator who promises to keep government small, just how do the paleos think freedom will be protected? Thinking about this -- and of the impossibility in history of establishing an anarchy-country, I'm beginning to think that the paleos, for now only on a theoretical level, are really enemies of freedom, and anti-liberty in their core.

Sorry, but Pro Forma and some of his colleagues in the DP field are sounding more and more like the communist commissars who were monitoing university departments to discover whether scholars are challenging the accepted doctrine. In my book, not unlike Marxism, DP is not the Word of God even it's supported by thousands of footnotes. And political commissars don't usually have a great sense of humor. That explains perhaps why Dr. Rummel has taken the following -- "Perhaps the time has come for an innovative political scientist to conduct research to determine whether – and I know it's not very PC – non-democracies are actually more peaceful than democratic states" -- too seriously.


Gothamimage said…
Interesting post, as always. Political science is sometimes not about politics, and it is often more art than science. It seems some Political Scientists envy the relative certitude of hard sciences and act on that envy. But that's just an amatuer perspective. Many theorists also fail to take into the account, how the ground shifts, as the human drama unfolds during implementation of plans. Behind every grand scheme, people pay a price and too often that is not taken into account, but it always counts - Thanks for your insights again. Always learn new things.
Anonymous said…
You said:

That explains perhaps why Dr. Rummel has taken the following -- "Perhaps the time has come for an innovative political scientist to conduct research to determine whether – and I know it's not very PC – non-democracies are actually more peaceful than democratic states" -- too seriously.

What can be more serious than politics? Given the huge amount of people who are killed *because* of politics, I think it's no laughing matter at all -- especially if you seriously believe that other forms of government are less violent.

If democracy is truly the more brutal way to live, let it be proven so that we can strike down all forms of it and replace it with a better way to live.

But if democracy is truly the most peaceful way to live together in society and it is proven again and again, attacking it without just claims is just dogmatic thinking. Either come to the table with the facts or STEP out of the way of progress. Too many lives hang in the balance to do otherwise.
well, "anoymous" why don't you show your face, or at least tell us your name. By challenging the notion that a free election process lead to universal peace, one doesn't step on the way of process. One steps on the way of the kind of dogmatic ideologues that had turned the 20th century into a bloodbath. L
Anonymous said…
There's nothing wrong with challenging the DP, but challenging it with meritless arguments is dangerous. Do you have a body of evidence to disprove the claims of the DP? If you don't, by all means research away and disprove it. In the meantime, why bother to weigh in without proof?

~ Z

ps. I agree there is a big difference between electoral and liberal democracies.
Dear Z:

First, my earlier op-ed --- as noted in my post -- reviewed a book written by two leading political scientists. Are they good enough for you as "evidence?" So... please, why don't try to "disporve" their thesis? And in any case, DP -- and, hey, ven economics -- are not physics. They deal with human relations and as such even my maid who doesn't have a high-school degree but whose son is fighting in Iraq who pays taxes, can and should be permitted to challenge your view or my view about the value of democracy and whether or not it contributes to world peace. Friedrich Hayek -- is he good enough for you? -- warned us of applying "scientism" to the study of human relations, in general. DP is no more of a "science" than any other field in social science. Even in economics there is major disagreements between leading economists over important issues. And I have to accept Dr. Rummel as some sort of a scientific "authority" whose views I need to disprove before arguing, as I've done, that you, I and everyone we know would have preferred to live in British Hong Kong or in Switzerland before 1971, when women were finally permitted to vote, than in democratic India. Or that authoritarian Spain and Portugal didn't intervene in WWII. Or that Iraq and the Middle East are not ready to become liberal democracies. Get off your high scientific horse, Z. L.

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