This article was published in the Winter 1999-2000 issue of Formulations
by the Free Nation Foundation

R. J. Rummel's Research Shows That Freer Nations

Are More Prosperous and Less Violent

by Roy Halliday

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On War and Libertarianism
On Democide
On Democracy
On Human Rights

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Libertarian scholar Rudolph J. Rummel, Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of Hawaii, has written about two dozen books and more than 100 professional articles dealing with the causes and conditions of collective violence. He was a finalist for the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize. His book Power Kills was nominated for the 1998 Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order. Power Kills extends, reaffirms, and sums up Rummel's research career. His research shows that democracy is a method of nonviolence and that power kills. This is obvious to people with common sense, but these days nothing is scientific unless it is supported by lots of data. Rummel's books and articles provide data and analysis that strongly suggest a free nation would be a good thing.

Now many of Rummel's articles and selections from some of his books are available on his web site:


Links to many of these articles are included in "Free Market Alternatives to the State," which can be reached from the FNF Home page <>.

Some of Rummel's most important conclusions are contained in his book The Miracle That Is Freedom: The Solution to War, Violence, Genocide, and Poverty (Martin Institute, University of Idaho, 1966). The following selections from this book are among those included on his web site:

Chapter 3 "Freedom Solves the Problem of War."

Chapter 4 "Freedom Minimizes the Problem of Political Violence," which includes data that shows:

Chapter 5 "Freedom Virtually Eliminates Genocide and Mass Murder."

Chapter 6 "Freedom Produces Wealth and Prosperity," which includes data that shows:

Chapter 7 "Freedom Promotes Social Justice," which addresses the question whether freedom is moral or merely useful.

Chapter 8 "An Enlightened Foreign Policy," in which Rummel recommends a foreign policy that promotes democracy.

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On War and Libertarianism

Articles available on Rummel's web site show a scientifically significant correlation between liberty and peace. "Libertarianism and International Violence" shows that:

"Libertarianism, Violence within States, and the Polarity Principle" uses data about all violence within states from 1976 to 1990 to verify the proposition "the more libertarian a state, the less intense its violence can and tends to become."

"Libertarian Propositions on Violence within and between Nations: A Test Against Published Research Results" subjects the propositions listed above to systematic tests against the quantitative literature.

"Freedom of the Press—A Way to Global Peace" shows that "creating a universally free press would promote universal peace."

Rummel's speech before the American Bar Association "The Rule of Law: Towards Eliminating War and Democide" provides data for a utilitarian defense of freedom. We live in a utilitarian age in which the natural law argument for individual rights is incomprehensible to many people. Fortunately, we have enough data on the consequences of democratic versus authoritarian and totalitarian regimes to conclude that democratic regimes do a better job of preserving human life. Rummel wants to exploit this fact to encourage utilitarians around the world to favor democracy and individual freedom.

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On Democide

Democide is when the state murders its own subjects at a much greater rate than usual. Rummel is a leading authority on democide, and his web site contains a lot of information about it. "War Isn't This Century's Biggest Killer" shows that "This century's total killed by absolutist governments far exceeds that for all wars, domestic and international."

"Power Kills: Genocide and Mass Murder" tells us that approximately 170,000,000 people have been murdered in cold blood by their own governments in the 20th century. "The most killing was done by the Soviet Union (near 62,000,000), the communist government of China is second (near 35,000,000), followed by Nazi Germany (almost 21,000,000), and Nationalist China (some 10,000,000). Lesser magamurderers include WWII Japan, Khmer Rouge Cambodia, WWI Turkey, communist Vietnam, post WWII Poland, Pakistan, and communist Yugoslavia."

"Power Predicts Democide" shows that the extent to which a regime is empowered along a democratic to totalitarian dimension is a better predictor of mass murder than are such other factors as ethnic, racial, and religious diversity, economic development, levels of educations, and cultural differences.

"The Holocaust in Comparative and Historical Perspective" is the first attempt to fill the void in the literature that compares genocides and mass murders that have actually occurred. It compares genocide to other forms of mass murder and systematically attempts to assess the underlying conditions and causes of genocide.

Rummel's web site also includes an annotated bibliography of totalitarian mortocracies and megamurderers.

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On Democracy

Rummel defines democracy in such a way that it includes some protection for individual rights, which makes it a partly libertarian system. His web site includes the following articles about democratic regimes.

"The Democratic Peace: A New Idea?" shows that political systems are quantitatively related to collective violence and war. Empirical research confirms that "those political systems that maximize and guarantee individual freedom (democracies) are least violence prone; those that maximize the subordination of all individual behavior to state control (totalitarian systems) the most, whether socialist or not; and wars do not occur between democracies."

"What Is the Democratic Peace?" explains that democracy is a general method of nonviolence in that democracies do not make war on each other and democracies have the least severe foreign violence and war, the least severe collective domestic violence, and the least foreign and domestic democide.

"Democracies Are Less Warlike Than Other Regimes" shows that "The degree to which a regime is democratic is inversely correlated with the severity of its wars, 1900-1987."

"Democratization" cites empirical research to support the proposition that democracy institutionalizes a means of nonviolent conflict resolution.

In an interview with Alberto Mingardi in Laissez Faire City Times (Vol. 2 No. 31, August-September 1998, <www.>), Rummel responded to the libertarian arguments against democracy:

"Yes, there are many problems with democracy, but dictatorships of all kinds are worse. But, looking at just current democracies and ignoring this comparison (as many libertarians do), many of the criticisms by libertarians are warranted. There is too much suppression of human rights and freedom, too much control over and intervention in the economy, too much dictation of individual behavior. For economic development, human welfare, and individual happiness, the government that governs least governs best" (to top of page)

On Human Rights

Rummel is also a political philosopher. His article "Human Rights" presents a utilitarian argument for human rights. Human rights, however poorly they may be defined, are very much a part of international relations and law. Given this fact and the large number of alleged human rights that have been the subject of international treaties and United Nations General Assembly resolutions, it is appropriate to ask whether some of these rights take precedence over others. A consensus has emerged among nations that certain rights must not be held in abeyance while achieving other rights. Even the foremost proponents of cultural relativism do not argue that people should be free to violate these rights. Among the generally accepted rights are the right to be free from piracy, racism, torture, summary execution, slavery, starvation, and genocide.

"Among those nations that least observe human rights aggressive war is most common, internal violence is greatest, and genocide and mass murder is most pervasive, often accounting for millions of victims." In his book The Miracle That Is Freedom Rummel sounds more like a proponent of natural rights than a utilitarian when he writes that utility is not the only justification for believing in rights: "Another justification is that there is one core natural right that is self-evident, which is that of each individual to equal freedom, and that any other right must be a derivation or specialization of this right, as are the freedoms of religion, assembly, and speech." Whether you are a libertarian for selfish reasons, humanitarian reasons, moral reasons, religious reasons, or other personal reasons, Rummel's research can provide you with data to support your position. D

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