“Well, democracies do a pretty good job of acting like states in their relations with non-democracies. One reason they don’t attack each other as much is that democracies tend to be more prosperous than non-democracies so it’s riskier to attack one; I think Hoppe is largely right about that.”
Hoppe is simply wrong. For example, Denmark is prosperous. It is also pretty small. Denmark needn’t worry about Germany. Prosperous Kuwait had quite a bit to worry about… As we are learning in Iraq, risk also need not be a function of wealth.
There are many many wars throughout history where the opponents were well enough matched that the outcome was fraught with risk for both sides. Simple risk calculation is in no sense a adequate explanation for why wars are or are not fought. It is an explanation we might expect from an economic reductionist. But it is easily shown to be wrong.
“Still, it happens; most of the “non-democratic” participants in World War I, for example, were in fact largely democratic.”
Take Germany as the best of your counter examples. Its domestic politics was largely democratic and had been for some time. Germany also had well developed political parties. But, and this is crucial, its foreign policy was completely independent of the Reichstag. The Kaiser decided without democratic oversight. Rather like the Bush/Cheney model (which is one reason it is so dangerous). Consequently the democratic processes that are so important in keeping the peace never had a chance to operate.
Democracy is not magic. There are identifiable reasons why democratic processes keep the peace between democracies, as my article on the subject in the Review of Politics explained in some detail after the Independent Review refused to allow the issue to be broached in its pages. It can also be downloaded from my website www.dizerega.com, go to “Politics” and click, then scroll down to the relevant article.
Many of the third-world countries in which the U.S. has intervened were also largely democratic, or at least more democratic before the intervention than after.
I discuss this in my article. At some length. Once you understand the REASONS for why democracies do not fight democracies, you will see that these examples actually support the argument.
And then of course there’s the U. S. Civil War. If you regard the Union and the Confederacy as separate nations, then we have a war between two democracies.
Hardly. The South was not a democracy. Not only was a substantial portion of its population enslaved, its laws made it illegal for Southerners to question that slavery. Books and newspapers were banned. The most basic principles of democratic and republican government were violated on a massive scale in the antebellum South.
That is why the North could be called a democracy even though women did not have the vote. There were no problems in arguing they should, and those arguments ultimately prrevailed. Once women did have the vote there were no radical changes in their legal and social status in sharp contrast to that of Blacks in the South.
Vice President of the Confederacy Alexander Stephens put my point very well when he said “Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its corner-stone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery – subordination to the superior race – is his natural and normal condition.
“Thus our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.“
Democracies are characterized by purely procedural rules. The South was characterized by constitutional rules that reinforced a particular point of view and penalized even its own citizens for questioning this order, potentially with death. Thus, the South established a federation of states with some democratic characteristics inherited from the Founding era, but that were basically slave dependent oligarchies controlled by a slave owning class who made political competition against them impossible and usually illegal. For example, property qualifications in many Southern states made it impossible for non-slaveholders to hold office.
Thus the South was organized around serving a particular interest, and its rules were therefore not procedural but instrumental and teleological, like any instrumental organization. Southern states were states in the strong sense.
Democracies act like this during war time because at that time there is widespread agreement as to what needs to be done and hysteria against those who think otherwise. The South was organized along this line even in peacetime. It was so organized at the state level before secession.
This is separate from the issue of whether they should have been allowed to secede.
"If you regard the Confederacy as an unsuccessful aspirant to separate status, then the Union was a democracy that killed large numbers of its own citizens."
As Sweden and Norway demonstrated, along with the Czech Republic, secession can and does take place peacefully in democracies. In the case of the Civil War three things undermined this happy outcome. First, the demonization on both sides before the secession. Second, the South’s initial resort to violence. Violence does wonders at turning off rational thought. Lincoln also. But had the South been genuinely democratic, I personally think there would have been no war, either because there would have been no secession, or because if Lincoln had invaded there would have been insufficient moral energy on the North’s part to wage it successfully. But no, the South was most definitely not a democracy.
One of the biggest intellectual and historical frauds perpetrated by some Southerners on classical liberals was that they in any sense at all fought for liberty, except for the liberty of those in power to do as they willed.
It hasn’t changed. The South is still the most thoroughly illiberal part of the country – in any sense of the word liberal.
Also, a democratic regime can vote itself into non-democracy and then kill lots of its own citizens, as in the transition from the Weimar Republic to the Nazi regime.
The Nazis never received a majority of the vote. The fall of the Weimar Republic was a complex affair, but this version is not even close. There are many histories of this time, and all agree that the Nazis did not receive a majority of the votes, that in Germany’s last free election their percentage of the vote fell, and that they used extra constitutional means to create their dictatorship.
So I remain unconvinced by the democratic peace hypothesis.
If these are the best counter examples, the hypothesis is in good shape. But please see the major writings on the subject. My piece is a relatively short introduction and the only one outside my book that explicitly makes the connection with spontaneous order in Hayek's sense. But my view is not idiosyncratic. R. J. Rummel, the first to explore this issue using modern statistics and the like, agrees with me, and independently arrived at similar insights.
One reason war is such a problem in democracies is that it turns the political system into an organization. There is one clear goal and all else is subordinated to it. Disagreement is treason. While war may sometimes be unavoidable, it is always a serious threat to democratic institutions because they are incompatible with an organizational approach to politics.
It is no accident that when agreement is most fervent, during wartime, is when democracies act most undemocratically. That should give people a clue that in reality democracies are not defined simply as majority rule.
The deepest criminality of the Republican Party is that they sought to make war permanent, thereby destroying American democracy. Look at how they sought to make every election a referendum on the war - until theor own greed, corruption, and incompetence made it an albatross for them. There are no criteria for when the so-called "War on terror" will be over, and until it is over they and their little Caesar claim war powers, despite war having never been declared. Any American who understood the logic of the Constitution and the principles behind it would see that these people are guilty of treason.