R. J. Rummel
Rudolph Joseph Rummel
October 21, 1932
|Died||March 2, 2014 (aged 81)|
|Known for||Research on war and conflict resolution|
Rudolph Joseph Rummel (October 21, 1932 - March 2, 2014) was professor of political science who taught at the Indiana University, Yale University, and University of Hawaii. He spent his career studying data on collective violence and war with a view toward helping their resolution or elimination. Rummel coined the term democide for murder by government (compare genocide), such as the Stalinist purges and Mao's Cultural Revolution.
Rummel estimated the total number of people killed by all governments during the twentieth century at 212 million, and he estimated that 148 million were killed by communist regimes from 1917 to 1987. To give some perspective on these numbers, Rummel pointed out that all domestic and foreign wars during the twentieth century killed in combat around 41 million. His figures for Communist regimes are higher than those given by most other scholars, which range from 60 to 100 million. In his last book, Rummel increased his estimate to over 272 million innocent, non-combatant civilians who were murdered by their own governments during the twentieth century. However, Rummel confessed that his 272 million death estimate was his lower, more prudent figure, stating that it "could be over 400,000,000." He concluded that democracy is the form of government least likely to kill its citizens and that democracies do not wage war against each other. This is known as the democratic peace theory.
Rummel was the author of twenty-four scholarly books, and published his major results in Understanding Conflict and War (1975-81). He spent the next fifteen years refining the underlying theory and testing it empirically on new data, against the empirical results of others, and on case studies. He summed up his research in Power Kills (1997). Other works include Lethal Politics: Soviet Genocides and Mass Murders 1917-1987 (1990); China's Bloody Century: Genocide and Mass Murder Since 1900 (1991); Democide: Nazi Genocide and Mass Murder (1992); Death by Government (1994); and Statistics of Democide (1997). Extracts, figures, and tables from the books, including his sources and details regarding the calculations, are available online on his website. Rummel also authored Factor Analysis Understanding (1970) and Understanding Correlation (1976).
In addition to his extensive research and data analysis, Rummel wrote the Never Again series of alternative-history novels, in which a secret society sends two lovers armed with fabulous wealth and modern weapons back to 1906 with orders to create a peaceful century.
Rudolph Rummel was born in 1932 in Cleveland, Ohio to a family of German descent. A child of the Great Depression and World War II, he attended local public schools. He received his B.A. and M.A. from the University of Hawaii in 1959 and 1961, respectively, and his Ph.D. in Political Science from Northwestern University in 1963.
Rummel began his teaching career at Indiana University. In 1964 he moved to Yale University, and in 1966 returned to the University of Hawaii. He taught there for the rest of his active career. In 1995 he retired and became Professor Emeritus of Political Science. His research was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation, DARPA, and the United States Peace Research Institute. In addition to his books, Rummel wrote more than 100 professional articles.
Rummel was the creator of the term democide: "the murder of any person or people by a government, including genocide, politicide, and mass murder". He has further stated: "I use the civil definition of murder, where someone can be guilty of murder if they are responsible in a reckless and wanton way for the loss of life, as in incarcerating people in camps where they may soon die of malnutrition, unattended disease, and forced labor, or deporting them into wastelands where they may die rapidly from exposure and disease."
In his book, Death by Government published in 1987, Rummel estimated that 148 million were killed by communist governments from 1917 to 1987. The list of communist countries with more than 1 million victims included the following:
His research concluded that the death toll from democide is far greater than the death toll from war. After studying over 8,000 reports of government-caused deaths, he estimated that there have been 262 million victims of democide in the 20th century and that six times as many people have died at the hands of people working for governments than have died in battle.
He argued that there is a relation between political power and democide. Political mass murder grows increasingly common as political power becomes unconstrained. At the other end of the scale, where power is diffuse, checked, and balanced, political violence is a rarity. "The more power a regime has, the more likely people will be killed. This is a major reason for promoting freedom." He concluded: "Concentrated political power is the most dangerous thing on earth."
Rummel was one of the early researchers on democratic peace theory, after Dean Babst. He found that in the period between 1816 and 2005 there were 205 wars between non-democracies, 166 wars between non-democracies and democracies, and no wars between democracies.
The definition of democracy used is "where those who hold power are elected in competitive elections with a secret ballot and wide franchise (loosely understood as including at least 2/3 of adult males); where there is freedom of speech, religion, and organization; and a constitutional framework of law to which the government is subordinate and that guarantees equal rights". In addition, it should be "well-established". He stated "enough time has passed since its inception for peace-sufficient democratic procedures to become accepted and democratic culture to settle in. Around three years seems to be enough for this". Regarding war, he adopted the definition of a popular database: War is a conflict causing at least 1,000 battle deaths.
The peace is explained thus: "Start with the answer of the philosopher Immanuel Kant to why universalizing republics (democracy was a bad word for Classical Liberals in his time) would create a peaceful world. People would not support and vote for wars in which they and their loved ones could die and lose their property. But this is only partly correct, for the people can get aroused against nondemocracies and push their leaders toward war, as in the Spanish-American War. A deeper explanation is that where people are free, they create an exchange society of overlapping groups and multiple and crosschecking centers of power. In such a society a culture of negotiation, tolerance, and splitting differences develops. Moreover, free people develop an in-group orientation toward other such societies, a feeling of shared norms and ideals that militates against violence toward other free societies"
According to Rummel, democide requires governmental intention. But he was also interested in analyzing the effects of regimes that unintentionally, yet culpably, cause the deaths of their citizens through negligence, incompetence or sheer indifference. An example is a regime in which corruption has become so pervasive and destructive of a people's welfare that it threatens their daily lives and reduces their life expectancy. Rummel termed deaths of citizens under such regimes as mortacide. He argued that democracies have the fewest of such deaths.
Rummel included famine in democide if he deemed it the result of a deliberate policy, as he and most academics have concluded about the Holodomor. He has said that there have been no famines in democracies, deliberate or not. He also argued that democracy is an important factor for economic growth and for raising living standards. He has noted research showing that average happiness in a nation increases with more democracy.
According to Rummel, the continuing increase in the number of democracies worldwide will lead to an end to wars and democide. He believed that goal might be achieved by the mid-21st century.
Rummel was a strong supporter of spreading liberal democracy, although he did not support invading another country solely to replace a dictatorship. Rummel talked about the "miracle" of liberty and peace, and was an outspoken critic of communism. However, he also criticized right-wing dictatorships and the democides that occurred under colonialism.
He was critical of past American foreign policy: for example, the Philippine War, involvement in the 1900 Battle of Peking, and the bombing of civilians during World War II. He believed that the U.S. under Woodrow Wilson was a domestic tyranny.
He strongly supported the War on Terror and the Iraq War initiated by the George W. Bush administration. He argued for an intergovernmental organization of all democracies outside of the United Nations to deal with issues about which the UN cannot or will not act, but particularly to further the promotion of peace, human security, human rights, and democracy--an Alliance of Democracies.
He also argued that there was a leftist bias in some parts of the academic world that selectively focused on problems in nations with high political and economic freedom and ignored much worse problems in other nations. Related to this, he also criticized the tenure system.
The democratic peace theory is now one of the great controversies in political science and one of the main challenges to realism in international relations. More than a hundred different researchers have published multiple articles in this field, according to an incomplete bibliography. Some critics argue that there have been exceptions to the democratic peace. Rummel discussed some claimed exceptions in his FAQ and he has referred to books by other scholars such as Never at War. There are also various other criticisms as discussed in the democratic peace theory article.
Rummel's first work on democratic peace received little attention. His results were incorporated in a "gigantic philosophical scheme" of 33 propositions in a 5-volume work. It was reviewed in 1992 as having "immoderate pretensions", and demonstrated Rummel's "unrelenting" economic liberalism and "extreme" views on defense policy. Nils Petter thought these elements may have distracted readers from Rummel's more conventionally acceptable propositions. (Quotations from Nils Petter Gleditsch: "Democracy and Peace" (1995), a paper that warmly defends the existence of democratic peace, and asserts that it, and the difficulty distant states have in waging war against each other, fully account for the phenomena.)
Rummel's version of the democratic peace theory has some distinctive features disputed by some other researchers who support the existence and explanatory power of the democratic peace:
Rummel did not always apply his definition of democracy to governments under discussion; nor did he always clarify when he did not. The opening paragraphs of an appendix from his book Power Kills adopt Michael Doyle's lists of liberal democracies for 1776-1800 and 1800-1850. Doyle uses a much looser definition: The secret ballot was first adopted, by Tasmania, in 1856, and Belgium had barely 10% adult male suffrage before 1894.
In 1999, Rummel was awarded the Susan Strange Award of the International Studies Association. This award recognizes a person "whose singular intellect, assertiveness, and insight most challenge conventional wisdom and intellectual and organizational complacency in the international studies community."
In 2003, Rummel was given The Lifetime Achievement Award from the Conflict Processes Organized Section of the American Political Science Association for "scholarly contributions that have fundamentally improved the study of conflict processes."
Rummel wrote the Never Again Series of alternative-history novels. According to the series' website,Never Again is "a what-if, alternative history... [in which] two lovers are sent back in time to 1906 with modern weapons and 38 billion 1906 dollars" in order to prevent the rise of totalitarianism and the outbreak of world war.
What if there were a solution to war and genocide? What if a secret society sent back to 1906 two lovers, Joy Phim, a gorgeous warrior, and John Banks, a pacifist professor of history, and gave them the incredible wealth and weapons necessary to create a peaceful alternative universe--one that never experienced the horrors of world war, the Holocaust, and the other atrocities of the twentieth century? And what if, at great personal cost, they succeed too well and create a peaceful world of complacent democracies?
In Book 2, the clock is turned back to their arrival in 1906. They receive a message from the future of the universe they will create - Islamic fundamentalists have attacked the unarmed democracies with nuclear weapons and enslaved them. It is now up to these lovers to prevent this horrible future.