Democratic Peace Theory

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After World War II, a known characteristic of affluent, liberal, democratic states is that they tend to not not engage in war with one another. The democratic peace theory attributes to this tendency to democracy itself, claiming that it is a key peacekeeper due to the obligatory culture of democracy to cooperate with the regime, both leaders and citizens for their own benefit. The capitalist peace theory justifies the maintenance of peace on the incentive of trade to maintain peace amongst countries.

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The effort and cost of war between states is appealing to capitalist countries with much to lose in engaging in war when their interests can be protected with peaceful resolutions and bargaining. the economics of war are more powerful the politics of war, therefore the capitalist peace theory offers a more practical theory on how the international community is fostering peace through trade and economic power.

The capitalist peace theory provokes the idea that countries that actively engage in trade tend to not take part in war against one another. The theory claims that capitalism is the peacemaker that makes trade possible and that trade serves as an incentive for peace. Trade allows for a surplus of a product. If a state specializes in a good, by sharing their surplus, they can be the producer for a lot of other states. A state sharing their surplus helps everyone involved, it helps the economy of the country providing the good and gives another country what they couldn’t afford to make/acquire enough of on their own. A peaceful bargaining is more appealing to states that trade, therefore they happen more easily than war. War is costly in the sense that if two states that trade with one another enter a war, they can no longer trade with one another and their economic energy (maintaining a surplus) most often shifts in focus of the war rather than their trading partnerships. Surpluses are celebrated all around which takes away the necessity of war.

The democratic peace theory hypothesizes that democratic states do not engage in war with other democratic states. Historically, US political leaders have had a confident understanding that the worldwide support of democracy does in fact instill peace within their country. During both of their times in office, both past US presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush advocated for democracy for peace in world conflict. In his 1994 State of the Union address, Bill Clinton stated that the country’s best interest is to promote worldwide democracy, in order to solidify our country’s own security and peace. In 2004, then President Bush claimed the reason behind the theory is, “people of most societies don’t like war, and they understand what war means,” using his belief to advocate for US’s involvement in the Middle East.

According to statistical and historical trends, democratic states almost never go to war against one another, however there is history of war between a democratic country and a non-democratic country, alongside the amount of two non-democratic states going to war. Democracy creates new culture and incentives. The behavior of citizens and leaders in a democratic regime obligate them to cooperate and oblige their developed laws and agreements, violence is not permitted. There is also a new transparency that follows democracy, this transparency aids some of the fear that states hold when they are unsure how to solve a conflict, they are not paranoid of a sudden uprising of war. And, enemies have access to their public opinion therefore they learn the state’s mode of resolution much earlier. The more transparency the less of a need for war.

The electoral incentives in democracies make those in power listen and work for the people, an autocracy doesn’t disperse the power to those under them and therefore they make decisions based on what the limited elite want, a lot of times war does not seem awful due to the fact that they won’t be engaging in it, their commoners will be. In contrast, the benefit of war is lower for democratic leaders, they have to share the repercussions of war with their people and can lose electoral favor, giving everyone an incentive to prevent war. The presence of democracy is relevant to peace, however both empirical and theoretical data inclines us to believe that the democracy fostered within capitalism is of aid to world peace. Democracy is a more reputable phrase to use amongst our leaders in regards to war prevention, in comparison to capitalism. Although, democracy is more of a component of the capitalist machine that is decreasing war.

In 1996, The New York Times published an article written by Thomas Friedman giving us an expression that encompasses the idea of capitalism in relation to war. Friedman wrote that countries with McDonalds never go to war with one another, leading us two wonder why the second largest food chain in the world has brought peace amongst the international community. This was an interesting perspective considering the main regions without McDonald’s at the time were the Middle East and Africa. Although, George and Russia went to war in 2008, disproving Friedman’s undefeated theory, the message behind the theory has lasted.

This unique theory brings us to acknowledge the major negligence of correlation versus causation in the capitalist and democratic peace theories on war. States that have McDonald’s tend to be more modernized economically and prove to be involved in open trade, therefore capitalism. I believe that capitalism can stand as the forefront for peace. Democracy is a component of capitalism. Capitalism has open trade and open trade is causing the spread of peace. The definition of peace being referred to is not the one that accounts for an acts of violence, human right violations, and crimes against humanity outside of war, because capitalism is perpetrator of these. The peace referenced is only in regards to the outbreak of war. Countries that are open to free trade are proven to have increased standards of living and wealth. Put simply, they are well secured due to the interdependency and knowledge that everyone has something to lose if the balance of cooperation is broken. In regards to cost, free trade and bargaining is more effective in comparison to the price of war. Also, trade comes with interaction allowing countries to exchange ideas and culture with one another, breeding more tolerance and understandings of their differences.

Many criticisms of trade appeared due to the rise in trade flow immediately before World War 1. However, this proved to be a correlation and not causation due to the lower transportation costs at the time. Ships were becoming faster and larger therefore costs were lowered and naturally trade increased. Meanwhile, France, Germany, and Russia individually stepped away from trade, creating barriers that isolated them and decreased interdependence among other nations, this lead to World War 1. Historically, trade has always had mechanisms that installed peace within and between countries.

As the French economist Frederic Bastiat said, “when goods don’t cross borders, soldiers will,” the empirical evidence from the Global Peace Index holds this thought to be true. The Global Peace Index is a measurement of both internal and external peace among nations. Netherlands, New Zealand, and Ireland are a few of the most peaceful nations in the international community, and are also countries with some of the highest trading activity. Ultimately, free trade prospers countries and fosters world peace.

Governments with representatives are less likely to put efforts towards global peace, the politics of war are far less powerful than the economics of it. The switch from statist commercialism to technologically advanced capitalism has changed the economic considerations behind war. The world markets create new economic opportunities that decrease the appeal for war. Territory is no longer the one deciphering factor that leads to a state’s wealth and power. Free trade and globalization has brought states together and changed (increased) the price of war. War hurts a country’s political stability, leading them to lose profits through trade, investments, and sanction efforts.

It is noteworthy to note that economics alone do not solely control war possibilities, but they do much more than democracy. The democratic peace theory acknowledges the lack of willingness democracies have to fight one another, however there is many of alternative government regimes existing today that they are willing to go to war with, there is no pledge against war altogether. Also, less developed or poor democratic countries are not full functioning democracies yet, their activity is still very non-democratic. Democracy is less of a measurable theory for peace, where countries with less economic freedom are proven to be more susceptible to war conflict countries with more levels of economic freedom.

There is a substantial relationship between economic freedom and a decrease in war. While war between democratic states is in fact rare, and this aligns with the democratic peace theory, a broader theory to depend on global war prevention is the capitalist peace theory because technologically advanced trade markets do not tend to engage in war which is an extensively bigger community that isn’t exclusive to a government type.

This does not mean that democracy should not be promoted by the international community, but it should not be the foundational approach to peace for it only has so much power. Capitalism was not created to reduce war, but it is and technological advancements in capitalism have generate liberty and security to many nations. The interdependence that free trade fosters lessens the previous economic appeal (and affordability) of conquering one another. Ultimately, the economics of war are more powerful the politics of war, therefore the capitalist peace theory offers a more practical theory on how the international community is fostering peace through trade and economic power.

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Democratic Peace Theory. (2019, Apr 09). Retrieved from