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What is the "democratic peace"?

"Waging denuclearization and social justice through democracy"

"The rule of law: towards eliminating war"

"Freedom of the press--A Way to Global Peace"

"Convocation Speech"

Freeman Interview


Bibliography on Democracy and War

Q & A On Democracies Not Making War on Each Other

But What About...?

"The democratic peace: a new idea?"


"Libertarianism and International Violence"

"Libertarianism, Violence Within States, and the Polarity Principle"

"Libertarian Propositions on Violence Within and Between Nations: A Test Against Published Research Results"

"Democracies ARE less warlike than other regimes"


Vol. 2: The Conflict Helix (see Chapter 35)

Vol. 4: War, Power, Peace (see e.g., Propositions 16.11 and 16.27

Statistics of Democide

The Miracle That Is Freedom

Power Kills

City Times Interviews with Laissez Faire Thinkers


Rudy Rummel Interviewed
by Alberto Mingardi*

Lord Acton wrote: "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely." Rudy Rummel adapted the statement for the history of the Bloody (20th) Century: "Power kills; absolute power kills absolutely." Rudy Rummel is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Hawaii University, and was a finalist for the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize. His books have given libertarians powerful instruments in the fight against State oppression: concepts like "democide" (genocide and mass murder) are really weapons opposed to ideological dogmas that see a "holy" role for the State. Rummel's objective is simple: less violence, more freedom. Who can disagree?

Peace and freedom: what is the best path to these objectives in your opinion?

The evidence on this question is persuasive: the best way of eliminating war between nations, of minimizing domestic political violence, and of virtually making genocide and mass murder a horror of the past, is by fostering political freedom. Politically free nations do not make war on each other, have minimum domestic political violence, and virtually no genocide and mass murder. I call this the miracle that is freedom. It is as though we have a cure for cancer. Unfortunately, although that liberal democracies don't make war on each other is now accepted as an axiom in international relations by those who do research on it, and some top politicians are aware of this, few in the public and media know that we have a solution to war and violence.

What would be the role of democracy in 21st Century?

Given the above, the role should be to form an international party of democracies to promote and politically struggle for such freedom elsewhere. Note that I am not saying that democracies should wage a war against nondemocracies. Rather, I see this as the waging of international politics in the same way democratic politicians struggle for the policies within democracies.

How about the secessionist movement in Europe: the "reaction" to the power of the European Union?

I have written a book on social justice (see The Just Peace, and "Freedom Promotes Social Justice for a summary). I conclude that the principles of social justice consistent with minimizing violence require that ethnic, religious, or regional groups that clearly desire their independence and sovereignty (as determined, say, by a referendum of some sort) should have it. I no longer see any ethical rational for forcing a people to be part of a nation when they want to go their seperate way. True freedom means that people should be free to choose how they are governed and by whom. As I see it, if the people of California want to leave the United States and form another county, fine. This is socially just. And it helps further minimize violence.

The "cancer" of violence. You probably know something about the USA's attacks on Islamic terrorism. What is your opinion of these? Do they represent the right choice to "not tolerate the intolerant" (a little quote from Popper) or are they simply a chance for Clinton after sexgate?

I think that terrorism must be retaliated against and therefore applaud the U.S. action. There are questions, as there will always be, about method and timing, but the fundamental idea is sound morally and practical. Terrorists cannot be allowed to commit their killing without fear of what will follow.

Yes, but... How can we state the limits on the actions of government? For example, how can we see clearly when it is that the US is fighting against terrorism, versus when it is that the CIA or other agencies are in fact making terror for particular interests?

The best way of regulating this is by public disclosure-- through democratic processes. I believe in the maximum disclosure of what these secret agencies do, consistent with the security of methods and personnel. If some activity or aspect of this activity cannot be disclosed, then it should nonetheless require approval by the executive and a select group of legislators. Moreover, those officials that violate this, or exceed their authority, should be punished. It is no good to fight terrorism if we become terrorists ourselves and corrupt our democracy.

Corruption and Democracy: one of the most interesting criticisms of democracy was made by libertarians, in particular by Murray N. Rothbard. What do you think about the libertarian criticism of 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.

Then, in your opinion, the model of representative democracy is still topical? Or does it also need some rearrangement?

There are democracies and democracies. Some democracies are mere voting arrangements--that is, electoral democracies--without many civil and political rights. I believe that the best (in terms of minimizing violence and maximizing social justice) political structure for a democracy is minimum government with extensive civil and political rights (such as freedom of organization, of religion, of speech).

Then what is your view of the best electoral system, and why?

Whether a democracy has a parliamentary or presidential system, a single-member district or proportional representation, is more a contextual-cultural-historical question. What is most important for democracy is the degree of civil rights and political liberties. This is not a matter of the electoral system, but of the constitution and its functioning within the political system. The important questions, then, are those such as: "How free are the media?" "How extensive is free speech?" "Are people free to organize a religion and worship?" "Are people free to protest against government and organize opposition?" "Do people have equal rights under the law?" "Are the courts independent?" Etc.

On Social Justice: Are you closer to Robert Nozick (author of Anarchy, State, and Utopia)? Or to John Rawls (author of A Theory of Justice)?

Closer to Nozick, although I accept some aspects of Rawls' theory.

What aspects?

His use of the social contract model to define principles of social justice. And his establishment of a veil of ignorance to cloak the self-interests of those entering into the social contract (although I depart from the specifics of this veil [see below]).

Then, can you briefly comment for us on Rawls' work?

It's heuristically useful, but faulty in detail. Rawls sets up initial conditions from which he attempts to derive his principles of justice, but fails in this. His results are not logically based on his premises. Second, his veil of ignorance is too restrictive, really forbidding his participants from using their morality or knowledge of themselves to decide on the nature of the social contract. Third, his use of game theory is not appropriate to this situation, where people of all cutures, societies, religions, and ideologies are involved. Their differing perceptions, meanings, and norms cannot be reduced to a set of uniform risks or payoffs, as game theory would have it. Fourth, since he denies his participants knowledge of merit or entitlement, a critical aspect of justice is lost, which is that of fairness. Finally, he seeks what I call a first order solution--an actual definition of what is just. But at this level I don't believe a social contract solution exists (and he doesn't prove that it does). There is, however, a solution at the second-level, which is that people should be free to choose their own principles of justice. I've developed my own theory of justice and derived from it two principles, one of which was just given. The other is that people should be free to refuse to live under any principles of justice they do not accept. For my development of this theory and the principles, see my book on peace and justice: The Just Peace.

About this first principle of social justice [namely, that people should be free to choose their own principles of justice]: do you think then of yourself as a "relativist"? If not, can you differentiate between your point of view and the relavitism of, for example, a Feyerabend or a Szasz?

No, I'm not a relativist, in the sense [of believing] that the values of all cultures deserve respect and no one culture's ethics are better than another's. I argue in The Just Peace that some ethics are evil, some are good, and we are responsible for the choice we make between them. To be consistent, the relativist would have to argue that the ethics of a slave-owning society, or one that practices war to capture prisoners to sacifice, or one that commits wide-scale genocide as a matter of its religion, are no worse than that culture that prizes human rights and freedom. I believe there are two basic principles of justice that stand above all others (my establishment of this is in the above mentioned book). The first is that all people should be free to choose the principles by which they will be governed; and the second is that they should be free to exit any society whose principles they don't want to live under.

You live in Hawaii: how do you see the movement for Hawaii's independence?

I'm for it. This position comes from my first principle of social justice--that people should be free to choose their own principles of justice. However, this depends on all ethnic Hawaiians as a group voting for independence from the United States by a strong majority. Were they to do so, then I favor setting aside some part of Hawaii for their sovereignty--what land to be subject to negotiation and final approval by all voters. If ethnic Hawaiians were given all of Hawaii, this would violate the rights of those non-ethnic Hawaiians, a majority, who were born and raised here.

About ethnic matters: how do you view the "spontaneous apartheid" that's occurring some places in the USA? (That is, places in which, without any restrictions, African-Americans live in particular parts of a city, and Whites in another.)

The term "spontaneous apartheid" is contradictory. Apartheid is a system of laws commanding segregation by race. Relations among races cannot therefore be spontaneous. Indeed, in the United States, any segregation of Blacks of any sort is illegal. It is even illegal for a home owner to refuse to rent their apartment to a Black because of their race; or to refuse them a job, or even to refuse to serve them in a store or restaurant. However, a reverse discrimination has been imposed by law. That is, by law, Blacks and other "minorities" are given preference in many kinds of jobs and in education. This is under the label of "affirmative action," which has taken the old laws favoring Whites and turned around to favor minorities against Whites. I'm opposed to any laws that favor any race, religion, or ethnic origin. It is true that there are large neighborhoods in major American cities totally inhabited by Blacks. But they live together by their own choice. And so it is that in other neighborhoods are dominated by Hispanics, ethnic Poles, Koreans, Chinese, Italians, etc. This is not mandated by law, as I mentioned, but is the result of the desire of people to live with their own kind--with people that share their values, language, and norms. I should point out the the population of the United States is becoming very ethnically and racially mixed. My ethnic background is German-English, my wife is Japanese-American, one of my daughters was married to a Black, my sister is married to an Hispanic, and was married to a man from Saipan. In Hawaii this mixture of people has gone the farthest, perhaps, but still there are many neighborhoods where particular racial or ethnic groups choose to live.

Finally, your personal wishes to all the freedom-fighters all around the world?

This depends on what is meant by "freedom-fighter." There is an important distinction here. Some "freedom" movements are aimed at independence and self-determination for an ethnic, religious, or national minority. These I support, and so will, I argue, a close analysis of the meaning of social justice. However, some of these movements are aimed at overthrowing the government and changing the nature of the political system. Of these there are fundamentally two types. One is the movement, as in Myanmar (Burma), to democratize the country. This I also support on grounds of social justice and furthering the democratic peace. The second type is one trying to replace the current democratic or authoritarian system with another authoritarian, or a totalitarian one, as has happened in Afghanistan with the Taliban. These I do not support, for they are trying to impose on a country a particular definition of social justice held by a small minority and also furthering the use of violence.


*This interview took place by email, August-September, 1998. It is on the web at Laissez Faire Thinkers.

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