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Though I applaud you for the effort at informed dialogue, I must once again point out that you are conflating economic development with democracy.

As I see it, your argument reads:

A) Wealthy countries have not gone to war with each other.
B) Most wealthy countries are democracies.


C) In the case of Pakistan, increased prosperity will reduce the risk of conflict.
D) In the case of Iraq, establishing democracy will reduce the risk of conflict.

Even if I were to buy (C) which I don't, since, as you point out, political dictatorships are not accountable to their citizenry; D is wholly unfounded - your argument is fundamentally that wealth reduces conflict (D doesn't follow from A and B).

As I pointed out in the comments on the previous post, it is the coincidence of

a) democracies with common cold war objectives and,

b) post-WWII development

that is driving all of your results.

In this age of shifting paradigms, how do we know that the paradigm of democracies with aligned interests will hold?



Very few countries had a per-capita GDP greater than $10,000 a year (today's dollars) before 1950. This absolute number corelates to getting sufficiently high on Maslow's hierarchy.

Just check out the historical HDI of many countries.


And accelerating economic Growth :



Umm, that is exactly my point.

Your suggest that we can predict the behavior of future democratic and wealthy states based on the behavior of a handful of relatively well-off states that had common interests for a brief stretch of recent history.

If this were a pharmaceutical trial, you'd be suggesting that we predict the effects of a heart drug (democracy) on the behavior/health of patients (states) based on a biased sample where you only picked participants in relatively good health (income) for a few trial that only lasted a few weeks (decades). The fact that they all had common interests and enemies and were less likely to go to war with each other would be like picking a soccer team to be your sample - as they all practiced together and got better you'd expect them all to be more healthy - so it goes with choosing the successful states of the West as pretty much your entire sample.

Who are your counterfactuals?

What is the treatment effect of democracy?



Not at all. What you are entirely ignoring is :

1) Prosperity is rising in many parts of the world, and those that cross certain thresholds have never gone to war with each other. These thresholds have been crossed by many more countries today than even in the 1970s.

2) To compare the early 20th century to today in terms of prosperity and trade is absured. In 1900, only 5% of the world's people were literate, and even in the US the average life expectancy was just 47. Look at the HDI jump from just 1975 to 2003.

The US was willing to have wars that cost 50,000 troops as recently the 1950s and 1960s-70s. Today, people whine about a mere 1900 killed to hostile fire in Iraq.

You seem to think that two countries with incomes over $10,000 each, and that are both Democracies, are still likely to go to war with each other. Do you care to name any specific countries? Are you suggesting that the US and France will have open warfare?


I'm not sure the argument has to be statistical DumbMonkey. I mean that it might be possible to argue intrinsic qualities of democratic states that are themselves "stabilizing" (defined by context). If democracies don't go to war with each other, it will not be because they haven't gone to war together recently; that would just be observed evidence that they don't. Not cause.

But this isn't why I wanted to post; I was curious about something:

India is only now realizing how much the world will depend on it.

Can you elaborate a bit?



I have a few other articles on India that may answer your questions :




Essentially, a country with such a large population has managed to sustain a vibrant democracy, despite so many wars and genocides going on in countries surrounding India between 1950 and 1991. That, coupled with rapid economic growth, bodes well for further democratization of other non-democratic states.

What few will disagree with is that the 3 most important countries of the 21st century are the US, China, and India. The first two know this, and have acted accordingly. India appears to have figured this out within just the last few years.


Ha! Invoking the straw man so early?

Have I ever suggested that any Western states would go to war with each other?

No, they have common strategic interests and currently have no incentive for conflict with each other.

The irony is that your own straw man is pointing to your fallacious assumption:

You are assuming that all future wealthy and democratic states will be a "France" or a "United States".

This is precisely the hubris that blinds Western idealists to the realities of conflict. "If only those [Arabs, asians, muslims, blacks, Latinos] were more like "us" there wouldn't be [civil war, crime, violence, genocide]."

How ever, to answer your question, I can certainly come up with scenarios where two states with strong nationalistic populations are wealthy and democratic and decide to go to war.

For example, Iran could very well continue the growth of their fledgling democracy, continue economic growth, and still go to war with Israel in twenty years.

The obstacle to war is the people - to paraphrase: The workers control the means to fighting conflicts.

As Axe rightly points out, it is more difficult for democracies to mobilize armies for unjust wars. That doesn't mean that two democratic nations can't go to war over strategic interests - it is just more difficult.

You are arguing that since wealthy democracies haven't gone to war with each other in the past 60 years, that no wealthy democracies will ever go to war with each other, which doesn't follow.

And, since now you seem to be arguing against what you wish I was saying instead of what I am actually saying, let me clarify:

I never likened early twentieth century prosperity to modern prosperity - I specifically pointed out that openness (trade/GDP) is similar. This is important because in your original argument you suggested that trade was the channel through which prosperity continued and through which the costs of conflict were transmitted.

The irony is that, in the late 19th century, Western thinkers invoked openness (similar to ours) and the absolute level of wealth which had never before been achieved (my God, we have steam engines and telegraphs!) just as you are doing now, to argue that war was inconceivable.

And, I never said that any wealthy democracies are more likely to go to war with each other than autocracies, that would, of course, be preposterous. I very clearly laid out my argument in the comments section of your first post and it still stands - democracy and wealth are not proof positive against states pursuing conflict for their own interests - therefore, it follows, that US efforts in Iraq, State Department money spent in Iran to encourage Democracy and a wealthy Pakistan are no guarantee against war.



1) You are considering relative wealth, but not taking into account absolute wealth and how that ties to Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

2) Iran is not a democracy, as the Mullah's only approve a very narrow category of candidates. Non-Muslims are not able to take Muslims to court there. That is very different from, say, India, where all minorities can vote, and where both the President and Prime Minister are not from the Hindu majority.

3) Openness of trade was certainly NOT similar 100 years ago. Did America have a lot of 'made in China' goods in 1901? The economies were mostly agricultural at the time.

4) A wealthy and democratic state still pursues its own interests, but since such a state will invariable conduct a lot of trade with a state of similar status, the situation would be a LOSE-LOSE, and so would not happen.

5) It is indisputable that that war/genocide deaths have declined vs. just 30 years ago, which itself were less than 60-70 years ago. The sharpest declines have occurred in regions where democracy and economic growth has occurred, and declines have not happened where at least one of these two conditions have not been met.

If you disagree with my reasons for this, please explain why you think warfare is rare today, vs. before.


Iraq is a democracy? Please, give me a break. Having elections and a constitution does not make a country a democracy.

What I would agree is that it has some sort of representative government at the moment. But that is not equivalent to democracy. In political science terms, a country is usually considered a democracy once it has had elections and a democratic government for 5 years + AND if it has had a peaceful transition of power (due to elections) from one political party to another that was previously in opposition. The transition of power in Iraq at the moment is anything but peaceful, that's for sure.

I do agree that Russia is a partial democracy. By the above definition they still have not had an electoral peaceful transition of power, since the Kermlin has been under one wing since 1990.



I said 'Yes, at risk' for Iraq and elaborate further in the text. I think that is a fair assessment. Maybe, in 5 years, it gets to the level you describe. That remains to be seen.

But people of all ethnic groups voting, with high turnout, and with a fledgling constitution, is more than Iran or even Indonesia currently have.


Thanks GK. I'm on it. Really interesting blog, btw.


Here's a big question, because history does make a trend, but a trend does not always predict future.

What happens when all these fancy emerging economies butt up with the established economies over commodities and energy?

(Current account deficits >1trillion, oil at $64 a barrel, commoditity index's over 100% gain in 3 years: could just be the first sign of problems to come)

A protracted worldwide recession brought on by over consumption of global resources will lead to war. It has happened a very significant number of times throughout history.

Do the established economies have the mojo to innovate out of this box? Doesn't look so good these last 2 years. (Bloated deficits, unnecessary wars, corrupt ineffectual government)

Democracy is quite fragile in strong economic recessions/depression. Just ask the Germans.



Good questions.

I do believe that while there will be several shocks in between, we are on the brink of decent advances in energy that may keep this problem from becoming serious enough to cause war or depression. Hopefully the interim shocks don't induce people into doing something rash..


I don't think the US trade deficit is a problem either, as the statistics don't capture the export of US IP, expertise, brand equity, so on. The Chief Economist of Business Week is a strong proponent of this concept as well.


Weimar Germany in the 1930s did not have a per capita income greater than $10,000 a year (in today's dollars), and a signifant fraction of the people did not have basic human necessities. Few countries in the world did at the time. The world, in general, was more prone to war then than today.


There is no question that prosperity does result in a more tranquil and less tribal/sectarian society - which will be better at peace with its neighbors. Prosperity cannot be achieved without commensurate levels of social development. With the prevelance of two-way mass communication, this trend is further reinforced.

Turkey as of the 1980s was a bellierent state, putting military pressure on Iran, Syria, and Saddam. Today with their GDP per cap doubled or tripled, they seem to be more interested in snatching the tourist flow and refurbishing their hotels, instead of blackmailing their neighbors with a disproportionally strong military.


What dumbmonkey fails to understand is that you cannot achieve high levels of economic development without engaging in significant amount of across the border trade. This reduces the incentive for conflict as it becomes obvious to the participants that they will have much to lose for certainty, and an unknown amount to gain, in the case of a conflict. I think dumbmonkey is too stuck in the ideologically geo-political frame of mind that assumes all nations are fundamentally in conflict with one another because of grab for raw resources. This method of analysis is rather weak, IMO, and denies the other material currents of history.

Nationalism is always a source of conflict. But properity, mobility, communication has a damping effect on nationalism. Nationalism is a bankrupt ideology, in other words, dumbmonkey.


"If you disagree with my reasons for this, please explain why you think warfare is rare today, vs. before."

Sure, easy, the Cold War.

Large international wars from the 50s and 60s and even into the 80s (Iran/Iraq) were all fought out of strategic interests, with the US and Western Europe either directly involved or funding one side.

Long civil wars during the same period were often supported, covertly or overtly, by Western and Soviet powers.

Meanwhile, wars in the past 15 years haven't been funded by outside interests (US and Soviets) and have been on the whole shorter and less destructive, simply because they don't have as many AK-47s and retrofitted Bell copters.

Now, to respond to your five points:

1) No, I am saying it is completely dogmatic to argue that the level of absolute wealth and democracy determines peacefulness since no state in the history of human civilization has ever enjoyed the level of prosperity the democratic West enjoys now. It would be like arguing that global warming leads to peace, since both happen to be increasing simultaneously.

2) I never said Iran was a democracy. Until recently, the government was very unpopular and couldn't survive a truly democratic election, but now that Ahmadinejad has made nuclear proliferation into an issue of national pride, the populace is rallying behind him and it could become a functional democracy that is still willing to go to war over nuclear power - if push came to shove - you wanted an example, I gave you one that isn't really that farstretched.

3) This is a laughable retort. I provide you with statistical measures of world trade/GDP that refute your claim and your counterexample is the US/Chinese trade relationship in 1900? Excellent rebuttal, since US and China went to war in 1914, oh, no, wait, it was actually industrialized states in Europe that went to war with each other DESPITE their interdependent trade. Industrialized states which made up the bulk of the volume of trade and the bulk of world output at the time.

4) Ah, agreement, good. So wealthy and democratic states do pursue their own interests - why, then, did the US and UK invade Iraq? Why did the other wealthy and democratic states in Europe not invade Iraq? (Hint - this is a trap - check the country statistics on trade with Iraq before answering)

5) And it is indisputable that countries that border the North Atlantic haven't gone to war with each other in the past sixty years, but nobody is suggesting that we rename all of the oceans "the North Atlantic" for peace.

Spurious correlations do not imply relationships or causality.



All your points avoid the inconvenient fact that once per-capita GDP crosses $10,000/yr for two democratic states, they don't go to war with each other. By ignoring this, you suggest that the chance of Germany and Britain going to war today is theoretically the same as in 1939.

The article already explains this.

The end of the Cold War does, in fact, corelate with more countries moving to free trade in order to gain prosperity and cross $10,000 a year and beyond.

And for 3), which statistical data did you provide? I see none.

Regarding 5), Wars in Asia have also dropped as Democracy and economic prosperity have risen. Read Part I to see how many wars happened in that continent. Not all were corelated to the Cold War.

I agree with moradali. You seem to insist that no matter how much wealth a country accumulates, the guaranteed interlocking with other economies that happens still does not reduce their chance for lose-lose wars.


We are just talking past each other and repeating the same points, now, so let me sum up and explain my motivation:

In 1985 (a year out of a hat) the countries that fit your over "$10k (present 2002 dollars) and democratic" criteria were:

Australia, Austria, Belgium*, Canada*, Denmark*, Finland, France*, West Germany*, Ireland, Israel, Italy*, Japan, Luxembourg*, Netherlands*, New Zealand, Norway*, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom*, United States*.

*Members of NATO

You are suggesting that the reason why Australia, Austria, Finland, Ireland, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, Switzerland and/or NATO didn't go to war with each other was because of their wealth and commitment to democratic principles.

Not just that, but you are suggesting that all future wealthy democracies will behave just like these countries (which represented less than 1/5 of the world population in 1985), just because they become wealthy and democratic.

I suggest that their common strategic interests, including Soviet missiles pointed at or near them, explain why they did not go to war.

And I further contend that future wealthy democracies will not share many of these same strategic interests, since the Soviet Union no longer exists as a threat - therefore, there is no guarantee that future wealthy democracies will not go to war.

I suggest that these countries, which you selected by your criteria, are an unrepresentative sample of the world.

Furthermore, I suggest that your position is entirely dogmatic, since, in the history of all of human civilization, these are the only countries that have ever fulfilled this criteria. It would be like saying that no 125 year old has ever died in a car accident, therefore, 125 year olds must be very good drivers.

I didn't bother responding to Moradali, because it is an imprecise characterization of my argument, I do not disagree with you that trade is part of the strategic interests that determine whether states go to war, I am simply arguing that all future wealthy democracies will not share the same strategic interests that your skewed sample did.

The belief that democracy and wealth cures all ills is, just that, a belief. You are certainly entitled to believe it and I have no objections. What I do object to is people using spurious correlations and statistics to defend their beliefs as factual truths.

Some of your misleading statistics:

1) Trade and economic integration is higher now than it has ever been - I gave you evidence that there is no significant difference between modern openness and pre-WWI levels of trade in my first response in the comments section of Part I.

2) Here and elsewhere you invoke the trends on the HDI as evidence of global development. Let's look at the 57 countries with current scores over .80 :

23 already had those scores in 1975
Of the remaining 34, 19 weren't included in the first sample - many of these are islands, the Bahamas, St. Kitts, Trinidad and Tobago and/or clearly already had scores greater than .80 (West Germany, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia). Most of the remaining ones aren't democracies, so they cant support your argument that democracy is vital to avoiding war. And 14 of the remaining 15 all had scores greater than .689. That is progress!

3) You continue comparing total battle deaths and loss of life from wars and genocides to only U.S. military loss of life in Iraq. If you are going to include genocides and other wars by total battle deaths, than the correct statistic (from your own source - Wikipedia) for the US occupation of Iraq is 36,000 - 120,000 - meaning that it does qualify by your criteria of over "20,000" from Part I as a serious war.

4) The US Occupation of Iraq is not over, so you are in a sense comparing third quarter scores with final scores - but, keep your fingers crossed, with dedication and hard work we might be able to move past the Ethiopean-Eritrean war and right up toward the Liberian or Sierra Leone civil wars, so it will be important enough to "whine about".

Looking back over your previous posts, I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised that you selectively use statistics to prove your point - I mean, by all means point out how many people live in India and love the US and just kinda brush over how many people live in China.

I guess what is most disappointing is that you seem to approach your other topics that are not politically motivated fairly scientifically - why don't you apply the same scientific skepticism to your own obvious political beliefs?

Peter Bessman

But the Cold War is over --- why hasn't warfare sprung up again? Or is that what you're predicting?

In that case, I call France on Sweden in 12. Who wants in on the pool?



The Cold War itself was a predictable condition due to the lower levels of democracy and prosperity at the time. The end of the Cold War coincided with many countries achieving these two things.

Since the trendline of economic growth has been smooth for a long time, studying these corelations could have led to the end of the Cold War being partially predicted 10-15 years before it occurred.


I don't trust China. I've seen some of the saber-rattling coming out of that country's military circles. If the actual people of the PRC come out and demand democracy, I doubt the generals would stand for it - and then they might embark on their lengthy and exhaustive war plans agains the U.S., prosperity or not.

Paul R. Gregory

I wonder at it that no mention is ever made; nor statistics shown; of the Victorian Holocaust, in which nations in 3 continents were starved to submission by the English Empire, or the preceeding 2 centuries in which they dominated the Atlantic Slave Trade. Other than that, this is the best blog I have ever seen.


Paul Gregory,

Thanks for your encouragement. That inspires me to do better.

Yes, the British Empire did many atrocities (although this was normal for the time). Even after the Victorian Era, during WW2, Churchill diverted grain from India to other parts of the British Empire, resulting in 3 million Indians dying from famine in 1942-44. Of course, if Japan had managed to reach India, they would have killed that many as well.

Paul R. Gregory

In the efforts of the great unwashed media our country comes up with the worst reputation on Earth, whereas compared to the million or so starved to death here and there by other powers the U.S. is pure nobility. How does this dichotomy happen? Look what they are doing to Bush. What is it in our media that vilifies us so?
In a free press, one expects criticism but there is a blizzard of accusations and missrepresention with no effective counter argument. This blog is one of the few places that I find intelligent defense of this nation.

Paul R. Gregory

The film, Memoirs Of A Geisha, is of ravishing visual beauty. It is sullied a bit by an overly romantic story line, but the experience of the people, scenery and sound is overwhelming.
But like many films there is the ugly American in a scene that has the visual imact of rape. I think it so that the rape scene helped secure the production money for the film and if it is in the book, then it helped to publish the book. I very much doubt that we shall ever see the plight of the comfort women of South East Asia enacted with such intense emotional strength.

Bill Quick

I think DumbMonkey is winning this one in a cakewalk, for the simple reason he is correct in noting that the sample upon which GK (and others) base their arguments is ridiculously small, unrepresentative, and homogenous. (Yeah, Japan, too).

I can think of at least one wild-card monkey wrench to toss into GK's argument: Posit that current demographic trends continue, and several of those rich European democracies become rich European Islamic democracies. I think you'll see the powderkeg blow like it has never blown before.

As for "wars" decreasing, I'd say that's as much a matter of definition as anything. We know that every border of the Ummah is bleeding in battle. Move some of those borders into the rich democratic minority, and I expect you will see similar results.


Bill Quick,

What you suggest is totally incorrect, because :

1) You assume that Muslims are capable of maintaining the same economy that Europeans are, and that simply by replacing Europeans, they will have the same wealth AND keep democracy. An odd assumption, given the non-assimilation of Muslims in Europe, and the absence of wealthy Muslim democracies elsewhere.

If poor Mexicans replace all of the white Americans, will they maintain the US economy at the same level? What you suggest about Muslims and Europe is even more unlikely.

2) At the same time, you assume all Muslims are more warlike than all Europeans, and that the 'powderkeg blows' even though the Muslims would be as wealthy and democratic as Europeans.

You think Muslims would be wealthy AND democratic AND chaotically warlike all at once, even though there have never been any examples of this in any society.

The point that you fail to grasp is that no two countries that are both democracies and have incomes over $10,000 a year have ever gone to war. This is indisputable. Ther sample size is NOT homogenous or small, as it explains the drop in warfare in Latin America, Eastern Europe, and East Asia. There were only 10 countries with these conditions in 1975, but are over 40 today. There are certain universal human traits that corelate closely with democracy and wealth, that ensure a reduction in the attractiveness of war.

As more countries cross this barrier, the decline in war deaths (also indisputable) is explained. Wars killing over a million people were common at all times in history before the 1990s.

Read both parts of the article again.

Paul R. Gregory

GK is right. It would require a change in zeitgeist or world view for the Muslims of any country to maintain a prosperous economy on the European model with democratic institutions. The existance of such an economy would mean that they had successfully integrated and were functioning within the international economic community.


Well, dagnabit. How utterly disappointing. I dropped in to read incomplete points, partisan misrepresentations, personal attacks by those who suddenly find themselves on the ropes but instead, I find coherent, rational dialog. Reasonably complete thoughts with enough info provided that I don't have to dig too deeply in the ether in order to verify something I don't understand. Enjoyable reading AND thought- provoking discourse. But come on, guys, don't completely fracture my perspective. Can't someone blurt out a "doo-doo head" just once in a while? It sounds beneath you, I know, but try to have some consideration for someone other than yourselves. Try to be more sensitive to the needs of others, such as myself, who, after drifting through an insulting, blatantly partisan, mostly inaccurate and sometimes hate-filled cosmos stumble across what to my disbelieving eyes appears to be gentlemen engaged in debate who are able to counter others in a civil manner. Sorry about the long sentences. 'rithmetic is my strong suite, readin' and writin', well, not so much. Thanks, guys. As someone said....I'll...be...bahck. Best regards, The Uncultured Barbarian

Gary Troup

Well, there's nothing like amateur social scientists acting like real scientists.

I don't have too much experience in world of social science (Math major; CE masters), but it seems to me that just about anyone can pull a statistic out of a hat and use it to predict future events.

GK here has his whole theory, but what he doesn't explain, or understand, is that it doesn't mean crap.

First, he's making two classic social science mistakes:

1. Correlation doesn't mean causation;

2. Mistaking a multivariate situation for a univariate one

For #1, GK needs to prove that economic growth and trade have made war unlikely - not just that an increase in the former has led to a decrease in the latter.

For #2, there could be plenty of other factors involved in a decrease in warfare for rich nations; however, GK is not addressing them or analyzing them. To be so confident that his hypothesis is correct, he needs to address them.

Wow, New Zealand and Britain have not gone to war? Is it because they are rich or because they share a common history? Or is it because they are a world apart? Or the citizens of both countries are pacifists? Lots of other factors there. GK needs to explain why they are NOT important.

Lastly, I tend to smirk whenever I see social scientists bluster like this. Most political scientists and historians have been flat-out wrong when predicting the future.

GK, you have no idea what will happen in the future. An oil crisis could easily turn to democracies against each other. Conflicts over other natural resources could occur as well.

Don't forget that national security concerns will usually trump economic concerns.


Gary Troup,

It appears you didn't read Part I of the article. There has been a dramatic drop in war deaths across the world as more countries have crossed a Human Development Score of 0.800. Plus, no two democratic countries with per capita GDPs over $10,000 a year have ever gone to war.

You say corelation does not equal causation, but you are wrong, as it is obvious that as economies become more integrated, and people achieve more wealth and have more options in life, they have more to lose, and war becomes a lose-lose proposition for all parties. This is visible across the world. The most recent example - India and Pakistan. Both now have booming economies, and have distanced themselves from war to a greater degree than any time in the last 58 years.

Read Thomas Friedman's book, the Lexus and the Olive Tree. He discusses the same point, and how once nations cross certain thresholds, war is no longer profitable between such countries.

If you disagree, why do you think war deaths have dropped exponentially over the last few decades, and two countries with democracies and incomes over $10,000 a year have never gone to war with each other?

Also tell me which two countries with these criteria are candidates for war? Will the US and Canada have a war? How about Japan with Australia? Israel vs. France? Germany vs. Sweden? Name ANY examples that are candidates.


GK: I actually agree with your premise in theory ... but there may be counterexamples: Turkey vs Greece, and Venezuela vs most of the western hemisphere (via fostering leftist uprisings for now ... but they are re-arming massively on growing oil revenue. Trinidad for one is not happy with this.)


"forced to withstand threats that they cannot reciprocate back onto the enemy" - why not? What, precisely, is to prevent the US from engaging in total war along the lines of the firebombing of Dresden or Tokyo? We have done it before.

Certainly, at the moment that will not be tolerated by domestic public opinion, but after another mass-casualty attack or two? If a majority in the US population feels that the survival of the US itself may be threatened, it would be a small step to exterminating (and I mean precisely that) everyone who might be a threat or related to the source of the threat. War doesn't determine who is right, only who is left.


P.S. It certainly appears that Israel is headed rapidly towards that mindset. It is not possible for Israel to exist and function as a country with 100+ rockets per day falling in its cities; and I think there is absolutely nothing that they will not do to stop the attacks. If the other side insist on total war, they will get it. We can only watch in a kind of horrified fascination as events unfold.


The claim that democratic countries with a per-capita GDP do not go to war with each other strikes me as a remarkable one, even more remarkable in that it appears to be true of the last 60 years.

However, the idea that it is predictive and means that all wealthy democracies are safe from each other from here on out strikes me as extraordinarily naive.

According to Wikipedia, "Athenian democracy is the earliest well-documented democratic system, and the word democracy was coined in Ancient Greece in the 5th century BC." I understand that one may quibble on accurate means of measuring per-capita GDP going back centuries ago, but is it safe to say that no wealthy democratic state has ever gone to war with another wealthy democratic state in the 2500 years since democracy was invented?

Perhaps it is, but even that wouldn't prove the point of this article. I do accept the premise that wealthy, democratic countries are less likely to go to war with other wealthy countries that have similar political systems, but I think there are certainly scenarios where this would not be true. Is a political system plus money really a guarantee against conflict? Isn't this a little like saying that rich couples who share the same religion are guaranteed against divorce?


Perhaps it is, but even that wouldn't prove the point of this article. I do accept the premise that wealthy, democratic countries are less likely to go to war with other wealthy countries that have similar political systems, but I think there are certainly scenarios where this would not be true. Is a political system plus money really a guarantee against conflict? Isn't this a little like saying that rich couples who share the same religion are guaranteed against divorce?

Well, countries that are abvoe a certain GDP per capita invariably trade a lot with other of the same or higher GDP per capita. A war would knock off large chunks of their stock markets, disrupt their bond risk ratings, etc. So it is a lose-lose, and the don't do it.

A couple may get divorced if the barrier to divorce is low (no kids, no house, short length of marriage). If the mutual costs are too high (kids, shared mortgage, no other good options), their likelihood of divorce is less, assuming both parties continue to be rational.

And in democratic societies, the government is accountable, so the chance of one leader snapping and pressing the nuclear button is remote.


I agree that "their likelihood of divorce is less", just as I agree with you that sharing political systems, being wealthy, and having connected economies decrease the chances of war. But that's all it does, I think: just decrease the chances. What happens when, say, wealthy democracies start running out of an essential substance they can't buy elsewhere because it's also in short supply everywhere else? Like fresh water?



Then they all invest in basic research to come up with cheaper methods of desalinification, etc. Their free markets offer great incentives to those who come up with a good solution.

I already have an article about emerging water purification technologies too.

It is still not cost-effective to engage in war with another nation that you do a lot of trade with. Read Thomas Friedman's 'The World is Flat' to learn about the concept of multi-nation supply chains essentially forcing all nations in that supply chain to maintain the safety of the whole supply chain.


I find it incredible the number of people who missed (or decided to ignore) the fact that at no point did the author (in the article or comments that follow) suggest that war between two democratic countries with GDP greater than $10,000 was impossible, but simply unlikely.

Countries, like people, analyze conflict and decide courses of action that will provide the best outcome for their personal needs. Democracies reduce the ability of the less rational (emotional or religious) to affect foreign policies. Instead business, which stand to lose a great deal and hold powerful sway in most democratic governments, resist war with nations providing a large percentage of trade. That is not to say that conditions won't exist in the future that would make such a conflict more attractive but as conditions exist today it's just not cost effective or politically sound to wage war with wealthy democratic countries regardless of any military superiority maintained by one party.

By establishing democracies and improving overall wealth (beyond a selct few) an emerging country will be able to increase their participation in the world market making them less attractive for conflict and more likely to receive help (in the form of pressure on the agressor) from nations dependent on trade with said country.

This article is, in fact, a scientific if-then examination of what conditions deter war between countries based on logic and historical examination.

I recently began reading Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond which explores the conditions which lead to success or failure to thrive of cultures and nations on a global scale over the course of 3000 years. While I can't recommend the book as yet having just begun, I look forward to seeing how his hypothsis aligns with the authors above.

Thank you for the well thought out and written article.





Alison actually gets it. By contrast, too many of you truly believe that the US invasion of Iraq is just about the biggest crime against humanity ever committed. Disagree with the war if you want, but by no statistical measure of any sort is it even one of the top 20 wars in the 1945-2006 period.

Bush Derangement Syndrome is real, apparently.


I agree with the premise (re: HDI > 0.8 etc.,) but *nations* going to war is not the only great threat that we face in the near future. Advancements in technology have made it possible for small bands of insane young men to inflict great damage in religio-suicidal acts of mass-murder. Rich kids are vulnerable (maybe even especially so, look at Bin Ladin) to ideologies that help form the John-Walker Lindhs, some of whom (all clean, white and trustworthy) might one day accomplish a mission or two.



Yes, note the last part of the article, on terrorism.

This new war is unusual as it is asymmetrical in both directions. They do damage to us asymmetrically, as is the damage we can do to them.


The coming great depression, starting in 2007, will herald eventual American-European miltary conflict - WW3 - a hegemonic war to be won by Europe.

The depression will lead to anarchy/civil war in China and eventual balkanisation; also revival of military shintoism in Japan - ( omen - AFP, Japan gets first defence ministry since Second World War thepeninsularqatar.com, December 16, 2006).

Likely balkanisation of Great Britain and United States - in the latter a break-away by a "Republican" South

Revival of religion in Europe as a response to depression with prospects looking good for the RCC and Russian Orthodox Church.



I don't agree with that prediction, and think it will be very, very inaccurate.

Anonymous Coward

Thanks for giving Pakistan the rating it truly deserves.


Hi The Futurist,
Can you drop me a quick email at Questions4TFH@yahoo.ca ?

I have some questions for you, but prefer it to be private.



This is certainly a post worth revisiting from the perspective of 2019.

China: The per-capita income is $16,760, but democracy is still a distant dream. "I have stated that China will see a sharp economic slowdown in the next 10 years unless they permit more personal freedoms, and thus nurture entrepreneurship." That seems to occurring as we speak. And as the decline widens and deepens, China is trying to exert more control, and becoming more authoritarian. Sad and foolish. They still have time to turn things around, but the door is closing.

India: "India is catching up, and will soon be a bulwark for democracy and stability for the whole world." per capita income is $7,060, and it is growing at 6.6%. Still hopeful, but not quite a bulwark.

Russia: HDI has improved significantly, but a collapse in the energy sector has retarded growth. Russia is one of the few countries with a negative population growth rate, and its 2019 population is estimated at 143.90 million, a decline from an estimated population of 146.3 million in 2015.

Indonesia: HDI = 0.694. Not bad. 5.1% growth rate. Could be better, but acceptable. They have crossed the $10k per capita threshold just recently, and are now at >$11,900. Your optimism was warranted.

Pakistan: Pakistan has made little progress. It regressed from democracy to dictatorship, and is still teetering on the edge of religious fundamentalism. The economy is growing quickly (5.7%), but HDI is 0.562, and per capita is just $1,469. They seem to be muddling along, but cannot resist the siren song of radical Islam.

Iraq: "If Iraq can succeed, the pressure on its neighbors to adapt will be immense." Hard to define success here. HDI is 0.685, and has been increasing. GDP per capita in Iraq is $5,561. But the current growth rate is essentially zero in 2017, and 2.6% in 2019. Far too slow to make up much ground.

Iran: "Many would be surprised to learn that Iran is actually not all that poor, and the Iranian people have enough to lose that they are not keen on a large war against a powerful coalition. However, the autocratic regime that keeps the Iranian people suppressed has brutally quashed democratic movements." Iran is still a problem child. So much wasted human potential. Iran's HDI value for 2017 is 0.798, and GDP per capita in Iran is $6,700. But growth is 1.1%. There are some green shoots of democracy, but the regime has not yet collapsed. They fall further behind each year.

"At this point, all remaining roads to disastrous tragedy lead to Pakistan." Still true today, although there is a path to Iran as well.



This one is a tough one, since during the elapsed period, I have become far less impressed with the belief that Democracy is the best system (it is in fact the most easily manipulated). Plus, I went from being in favor of US intervention in Iraq at the time, to against all such actions, since it became obvious to me that the US Govt. prefers convert wars into lengthy stalemates, in order to maximize profit for the military-industrial complex. That they deliberately don't win made be disinterested in falling for this pattern again.

But higher per capita GDP always leads to fewer wars, yes.


What we have seen is that for Democracy to work, and work well, we need civil society. By that I mean minimal corruption, laws that mean what they say, good contract enforcement, separation between the military and civilian government, etc.

In some ways civil society = culture. For democracy to work, the culture must support it. Democracy is an outgrowth of culture.

One might argue that our current wars are culture wars - western culture trying to take over and subsume previously isolated tribal cultures. And them resisting that takeover.

I still firmly believe in democracy, but realize that a cultural transformation to support it is the work of generations. And I think that our efforts are yielding salutary effects - many countries look around and realize the strong man game doesn't work.

Heck, look at UAE. Administratively, the UAE is a federation of seven emirates, each with its own ruler. The pace of local government reform in each emirate is set primarily by the ruler. constitution of the United Arab Emirates separates powers into executive, legislative, and judicial branches. It is a bizarre mix of government strategies, and includes democracy, but it does seem to work reasonably well.
HDI is 0.863. It is the ninth freest economy in the world. Per capita income = $74k.

Iraq would do well to organize itself along similar lines.

Weirdly I think we had to fail in Iraq before we could succeed in Iraq, if that makes any sense. We are there now because the government of Iraq invited us back, after the state almost collapsed to ISIS. So this is a bit of a do-over.

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