Why gun control advocates do not compromise

Original title of the book:
R.J. Hype: POWER KILLS: Democracy as a Method of Nonviolence. New Brunswick, N.J .: Transaction Publishers, 1997

Chapter 1: Summary and Conclusions *

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"The lust for power is the most hideous of all passions."

"Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely."
Lord Acton

"It is not power itself that corrupts absolutely, but the legitimation of the will to power."
Richard Howard Stafford Crossman

"Power kills, absolute power kills absolutely."
this book

War has always been a scourge of our species, one of the apocalyptic horsemen. He has destroyed many millions of us and has permanently terrified many more. In the course of my life alone I have seen my own country, the United States, fighting in World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the Persian Gulf, with minor military actions or interventions in the Dominican Republic, Lebanon, Libya, Panama, Grenada , Iraq and Bosnia. That this killing would come to an end for all of us, that one day we could defeat the war, remained a dream.

Peace plans and drafts, worldwide agreements and models of international organizations were forged to end wars. Wars have been carefully studied and researched, their causes and conditions analyzed, and proposed solutions submitted. Education, cultural exchange, economic development, socialism, internationalism, international sport, free trade, functioning organizations, better balancing of power, the art of diplomacy, deterrence, crisis management, gun control, world governance, peace research and much more have their respective proponents. All of this has been tried or achieved to some extent.

If war and other forms of international violence were the only causes of mass deaths, that would be reason enough to make the greatest efforts to eradicate them, but this slaughter is also joined by domestic violence against one's own fellow citizens. Bloody riots, revolutions, guerrilla wars, civil wars, deadly coups, terrorism and the like have also claimed millions of victims. And the approaches to solving this second plague of humanity were no less creative and varied: we should eradicate poverty, promote mutual understanding, teach human values, facilitate changes of government, decentralize the state, strengthen minority rights, institutionalize conflict resolution and much more. But as I write this, we still have bloody conflicts in Rwanda, Burundi, Sudan, Somalia, Angola, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Myanmar (Burma), Iraq, Turkey, and a dozen or more other countries.

Some exemplary cases have burned themselves into the collective memory of humankind, such as the Holocaust and the genocides in Bosnia and Rwanda. But the much greater extent of such violence has so far been misunderstood. Mass murder and genocide, collectively known as democide, has always been the worst plague of humanity. In the 20th century, democide killed not just a few millions, but hundreds of millions of people. It looked like a new version of the medieval plague, only this time death was planned and carried out by people. The knowledge of the extent of this slaughter is so fresh that, apart from the known means against war and internal violence, it is only recently that general solutions for combating this epidemic have been made.

The extent of mass murder in war, domestic collective violence and democide in the present and history is not only devastating, but also gives little cause for hope for improvement. After all, this killing is the stuff of history: the Mongol storms, the Thirty Years War, the Napoleonic Wars, the two world wars, the slaughter of the Crusades, the mass death of slaves, the slaughter of the Taiping Uprising. In some cases we only need a name to bring to mind the horrific images of mass murders: Genghis Khan, Ivan the Terrible, Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot. We only need to exchange names, places and dates in the work of the historian Thucydides “The Peloponnesian War” with those of our time in order to bring the whole thing up to date.

So how can one even assume that there is a remedy for war? All the solutions put forward must seem like mere longings of idealists. For those who take historical knowledge into account, it only seems possible to mitigate a particular war or, in some cases, prevent it. The same applies to the solutions to domestic violence. “Let's be realistic”, one often says, “Violence, whether against external or internal enemies, is an ancient human heritage. We have always had to live with it, and we will always have to live with it. ”And some will argue that wars are sometimes necessary when the alternatives are even more dire, such as when a country threatens to be conquered by a foreign state or ideology become.

And yet it is the difficult task of this book to show that those "realists" are wrong. Wrong about war and minor international disputes. Wrong about violence within a state and wrong about genocide and mass murder. There is a solution to each of these problems, and the solution is always the same: promoting democratic freedom and democratizing state power. Mass murder committed by a state is the result of undivided and responsible central power. Or to put it with the title of this book: Power kills.

This solution had actually been put forward in one form or another for centuries and was part of the classic liberal view of the state: the state that governs the least, governs best. And freedom inspires peace and prosperity. But experts and analysts alike were soon convinced that these were only idealistic ideas, especially since the democracies themselves appeared so warlike even under the hammering of socialists of all stripes that it increasingly seemed as if the very core of this liberal thought was at the core that capitalism is inherently bellicose and the cause of all violence.

There is, however, a resurgent interest in this solution, especially in connection with the concept of democracy, but without the intellectual baggage that classical liberalism has given freedom. This renewed interest is both theoretical and empirical. Both are the result of theoretical work on international relations and democide, as well as attempts to empirically refute the claim that democracies are little more peaceful than other regimes among themselves and in general. This empirical work represents the most intensive and extensive of all studies on war, domestic violence and democide. All documented wars since the time of the classical Greeks, in which democracies were involved, have been studied in detail. All possible historical cases in which democracies are said to have been at war with one another have been examined microscopically. All cases of democide in the 20th century have been the subject of extensive research into power and democracy. Even tribal wars within pre-industrial societies have been studied to see if more democratic societies were less prone to violence. In addition, other possible factors that might play a role in the indirectly proportional relationship between democracy and violence or in the low propensity to war between democracies were also examined, such as geographical distance, i.e. the lack of common borders between democracies. For example, factors such as economic development, a common enemy or structural similarity could also have explained the low propensity to war between democracies. However, careful empirical and comparative research has shown that this was not the case.

The fact that so far there have been only a few democracies in history may stand as a simple explanation for the fact that democracies appear more peaceful. But wherever the data allow a probability calculation - often with regard to war even over two centuries as well as for other types of violence during the 20th century - the results are consistently quite significant. For example, some studies have found an indirectly proportional relationship between democracy and war in some cases at one in a thousand or even in a million. It is also important to note that many of the researchers were initially very skeptical that such a finding would turn out. In fact, some researchers were so convinced that the hypothesis they were investigating was false that their conclusions contradicted their own results.

For philosophers of science, we are dealing here with an ideal case of active science. We have a long dormant hypothesis and, at first, very limited tests of it. We have researchers who independently propose this hypothesis. We have a rebuttal of what was commonly believed about war and other forms of violence. We have one replica after the other, which all in all lead to a consensus and a more systematic scientific explanation of the findings.1) So we have a large number of different studies by different researchers, each using different methods, data and definitions. All of them are generally consistent with one another, as we will show in the first part of the book. **

What has been discovered or verified specifically on the subject of democracy and violence? First: Established democracies do not go to war with one another and rarely use even slight violence against one another. The relationship between democracy and international war is one of the most widely researched areas, and all those who have researched it have agreed that democracies do not fight one another. In the case of possible exceptions to this rule, such as the war between Great Britain and the USA in 1812 or the Spanish-American War, we are dealing with cases in which either these were not real democracies, or at least one of the democracies involved was briefly involved had previously formed or was only marginally democratic. Many questions have been raised about these findings and I have tried to answer the most common ones in Appendix 1.1 of this summary.

Second, the more democratic two nations are, the less likely war or minor violence between them is. There is a scale of democracy at one end of which are two immaculate democracies with no likelihood of mutual war and almost no likelihood of minor violence, and on the other side are the most undemocratic, totalitarian nations with the greatest chance of mutual war and violence . This finding shows that democracy is not just a simple dichotomy - democracy versus non-democracy - but a continuum. The resulting implications go very far and will be discussed later.

Third, the more democratic a nation is, the lower its general propensity for violence. This finding is particularly controversial among researchers, but I will describe in detail in Chapter 4 that there can be no real dissent and that the evidence, even in the studies of the doubters, is clear. Many of these researchers, I shall show, have defined war and violence in terms of frequency and have therefore been misled. You have equated very small wars with total wars like the two world wars, and, depending on the country, you have also equated a few dozen war dead with several million war dead.

Fourth, the more democratic a nation is in general, the less vulnerable it is to internal collective violence. Studies that contain the relevant variables and indicators support this finding empirically. And those studies that I myself have carried out to investigate this question have also all shown positive results for this thesis.

And finally, one can say that the more democratic a nation is, the lower its rate of democide is. Even if democracy has long been viewed in the relevant literature as a means of reducing genocide and mass murder, there was until recently no data that empirically test this thesis. In fact, I am the only one so far who has explicitly examined this question and found that democide is, to a large extent, indirectly proportional to democracy. This finding holds true even if cross-checks are carried out with regard to the degree of economic development, education, strength of the country, culture, as well as ethnic and religious differences. Case studies of the most extensive democides such as those in the Soviet Union, Communist China, Nazi Germany, and Cambodia support this finding.

Overall, I will show that there is overwhelming evidence of this general principle: democracy is a method of non-violence. Democracy is a practical solution to war and all other forms of collective violence emanating from political governments. Democracy will not end violence in itself, but compared to all other forms of government, democracy minimizes violence. And compared to its counterparts, the totalitarian governments, through which millions can die from democide, rebellions and wars of aggression, democracy is a downright preventer of such deaths.

How can this be explained? What theories are there for this finding? A superficial explanation, but probably the most convincing and also quite old explanation, at least going back to Kant, is that where the state consists of representative decision-makers, they shy away from waging a war against the will of the public. After all, it is argued, the public does not want to bear the dire cost of war, at least in terms of human life. Indeed, this can be used as a good reason why democracies cannot start war so easily, even if they sometimes want to protect other democracies from attack. An example of this is the extreme reluctance of the United States to assist Great Britain in times of greatest peril in the Battle of Britain in 1940. But as the history of the United States, Great Britain and France very well show, democratic publics can also become hurrapatriotic and push for or support military action.

A deeper explanation is based mainly on two factors: back pressure and democratic culture. The first factor says that a democratic structure, i.e. the instances of a democratic government, develop and create a system of “checks and balances” (mutual control of democratic constitutional organs) with regard to the use of power and obstacles due to political and social diversity. These shackle decision-makers, and various interests curtail and hinder one another, so that the strong will to use force cannot so easily arise. This is especially true for relationships between two democracies that have a wealth of common ties and interests.

The argument of democratic culture assumes that democracy requires the skills of reconciliation and compromise, an attitude that tolerates differences and is prepared to accept losses. The development of such a democratic culture is what defines a well-established democracy; it influences the internal and external relations of a country. When democrats recognize one another as democrats, then they have recognized that the other is willing to negotiate and compromise, and want to resolve conflicts peacefully. If, however, dictators and totalitarians rule, then rule takes place through coercion and violence, command and ordinance. This type of system not only produces particularly aggressive and domineering personalities, but also rewards fraud, violence and, above all, victories. When a dictator negotiates with a dictator, it becomes a struggle for dominance and victory.

Beyond the appropriate authorities and culture, however, there is an even deeper and more comprehensive explanation for democratic peace. This explanation has to do with so-called social fields and their opposing fields. A social field is a spontaneous society in which individuals interact. Its main characteristic is the freedom of people to pursue their own interests and to build relationships of expectation to one another, i.e. a social order that consists of their needs, abilities and wishes. Rule functions through exchange, the political system is democratic, and the democratic government is only one of many groups and power pyramids in this social field.

Within this field there is a creative variety of small groups, associations and clubs, companies and others. There are thus manifold overlaps and overlaps and counterbalancing relationships that isolate and minimize violence. Such an exchange-based order necessarily creates a culture of exchange, i.e. norms for negotiations, agreements, concessions, tolerance and the will to accept less than one originally wanted. This field is not limited to a single democratic society, but includes all democracies. All are perceived as members of the same universe with the same morals and the same norms of behavior. The forces of a spontaneous society that withhold violence work just as well when it comes to minimizing violence between democratic governments within their social field and making war between them as unlikely as war between IBM and Apple.

The opposite of such an order is the social anti-field. This is a society that has been transformed into a hierarchical and task-oriented organization ruled by command and obedience. It separates its members into those who rule from those who must obey, thus creating a gap between people and areas of life, creating a latent conflict that can lead to outbreaks of violence. Spontaneous behavior can still occur, and there is still such a thing as a social field, but it is limited to the nooks and crannies and loopholes of the organization where the central command can be bypassed. Many political governments have created such societies, and in fact most and most repressive of them have been identified with their creators: Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao. These have completely restructured their societies in order to achieve national greatness, racial purity or the “dictatorship of the proletariat” and communism. This was the task at hand, the reshaping of society was the means, and the great leader at the height of power provided the unquestionable rule.

The basis of such anti-fields and societies transformed into organizations is coercion. The operational framework is repression, control, spying, concentration camps, torture and executions. The driving force of obedience is fear. And the characteristic form of government of such an anti-field is totalitarian. Those totalitarians who rule or officiate in such an anti-field are not used to compromising or negotiating with subordinates. They have a culture of command and unconditional obedience, and their modus operandi is sheer violence. They rule with the help of fear. In all major matters they cannot lose because they can face death or imprisonment. In extreme cases such as under Stalin, Mao or Pol Pot and their henchmen, resistance can also mean the death of the whole family or even of friends and acquaintances. Such a culture does not value democratic negotiations with other governments. Rather, she values ​​disinformation, deception, and aggression.

Furthermore, there is little diversity and no significant government-independent pluralism. All religious and business activity, trade unions, education, trade, sport and cultural activities, as well as all possible sources of independent counterbalances, are controlled from above. In some extreme cases, even laughter, holding hands or endearing words can be dangerous unless specifically allowed, such as in Cambodia under Pol Pot. In such an anti-field there is no contradiction and no competing interests. Everything is a question of "those up there" or "we".

The key to understanding an anti-field is power, that is, the dominance of an undifferentiated and irresponsible central power. It is this power that provokes internal rebellions and violent opposition. It is this power that massacres people by the millions, about 61 million in the case of the Soviet Union alone. In other words, power kills.

So on a fundamental level we have an opposition between freedom and power. This is a contrast between a spontaneous society and a society that has been transformed into a hierarchical organization. It is the contrast between the social field and the anti-field. This does not mean denying the importance of culture and counter-pressure and the influence of public opinion in declaring democratic peace. Rather, it means that these factors represent social forces, the presence or absence of which can best be understood as the freedom of a democratic and spontaneous society or as a commanding power that is tightly organized.

We conclude with this declaration: Democracy is a non-violent method because democratic freedoms create a spontaneous society whose culture promotes negotiation and compromise, and whose social, economic, political and cultural diversity and interrelationships prevent violence. Violence is a product of the opposite of democratic freedom, i.e. the massive use of coercion by totalitarian regimes that organize society and want to mobilize people to achieve certain goals: racial purity, victory in a war, national greatness, economic progress or communism. In between are those societies that are led by authoritarian regimes that grant their citizens more or less freedom and are accordingly more violent than democracies but less violent than totalitarian regimes. So a scale of violence can be set up: the more central power there is, the more extensive the killing. Power kills, and absolute power absolutely kills.

The conclusions to be drawn from this are obvious. If democracy is a method of preventing violence, if it is a means against war, domestic collective violence and democide, then we should promote democratic freedoms.2) This does not mean that democracy should be imposed on other nations through violence. Nor does that necessarily mean that all peoples should adopt democratic freedoms regardless of their own culture or religion. After all, it is also about justice within a society. Even if non-violence should be a central principle of this concept of justice in a society, it may be that some peoples prefer an authoritarian state or a state religion such as Islam to democratic freedom, even if this entails more violence.

I think, however, that what type of society should be decided should not be left to a national elite. I cannot accept when a ruling elite condemns democratic rights as a Western invention that allegedly does not fit the culture of the country in question. This should be decided by the people themselves, but not by their non-representative elite. A plebiscite, a referendum or a democratic election should form the basis for deciding whether a people wants to be governed democratically.

There is one question that will upset many readers: can we really predict that a democratic world will be a more peaceful world? While one cannot exactly deduce the future from past world events, history is the best available basis to empirically have a clue as to what we should do, quite apart from questions of ethics and values. But it may be that a thoroughly democratic world creates new conditions conducive to extreme violence. We don't know the future and we can't rule out such a possibility. But the value of a theory that explains the past is that it also provides good reasons for the future to be extrapolated from the past. Findings in relation to free societies provide compelling evidence that even in a future free society, the level of violence is likely to be minimal.

Then there is Immanuel Kant's argument: If a hypothesis is theoretically and empirically more reasonable than competing hypotheses, and most morally desirable, then we should pretend it is true in our actions and in our politics. As political scientist Bruce Russett writes on the fact that democracies do not go to war, "Understanding the sources of democratic peace can have the effect of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Social scientists sometimes create reality just as they analyze it. To the extent that norms guide behavior, the repetition of such norms helps them to come into effect. Repetition of norms in the form of descriptive principles can help make them true. Repetition of the statement that democracies are unlikely to fight one another can increase the likelihood that they will not fight one another. It is empirical The fact that democracies rarely fight each other - they don't need to do so as they offer alternative methods of conflict resolution solutions that are less costly than violent conflict. A norm that says that democracies should not go to war is cleverly underpinned by it and, conversely, reinforces the empirical finding of rare violent conflicts. "3)

Our long history of war, revolution and mass murder, which goes back to ancient times, has now reached this point. We now have a solution within reach. The question now becomes one of the implementation. How do we best protect and promote freedom? How do we control and minimize power? [For my attempt to answer this, see "An Enlightened Foreign Policy".]


* from the manuscript before publication, Chapter 1 by R.J. Hype, Power Kills: Democracy as a Method of Nonviolence (Power Kills: Democracy as a Method of Nonviolence). To the main reference of Power kills, for the table of contents, figures and tables and the preface, click on the book.

** see table of contents

1) We also have ultimate acceptance of the obviousness of the inherent peacefulness of democracies. An anonymous reviewer of this book for another publisher claimed that it was "nothing new" and recommended that it be rejected.

2) Whether the process of democratization causes greater violence, see footnote 2 in Chapter 7.

3) Russett (1993, p. 136).