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Why do Liberals think Democracy can Prevent War

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Why do liberals think democracy can prevent war? What are the limits to their view? Liberals believe democracy can prevent war because they believe that the nature of democratic state is less belligerent than that of more authoritarian and totalitarian forms of government. Since democracy adheres to the principles of popular sovereignty and majority rule in which authority is vested in the people (or their representatives) and a majority is needed to make decisions, agreement on a decision such as deciding if to wage war is not easy and is subject to debate, not to the whims of a monarch or a dictator. Immanuel Kant (1795), a very influential 18th century German philosopher and political thinker, explained this line of reasoning in his essay "Perpetual Peace": If the consent of the people is required in order to decide that war should be declared, nothing is more natural than that they would be very cautious in commencing such a poor game, [ . . . ...read more.


Liberals believe democracies don't fight each other because of their belief in the "democratic peace theory", first formulated by Kant (1795) in "Perpetual Peace". Kant's (1795) theory stated that a majority of the people would never vote to go to war, unless in self-defense. Therefore, if all nations were republics, it would end war, because there would be no aggressors. (as cited in Doyle, 1983, p. 84) Alternate explanations have been proposed since, but the modern theory is principally the empirical claim that democracies rarely or never fight. Although there are few minor exceptions to the theory, such as the Spanish-American War in the late 19th century or the Kargil War between India and Pakistan in the late 20th century, history shows the theory to be very accurate. As in the case of WWII, the countries with democratic governments, which were the Allied Powers, collectively fought against Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Imperialist Japan. ...read more.


Economic interdependence is another significant reason as to why democracies don't go to war with each other. Since democratic states are strong states economically, they acknowledge that to maintain their wealth, they need the trade they interact with other nations - especially other democratic strong states. They cannot do so in a state of hostility or outright war. In the words of 19th century French economist Frederik Bastiat, '"If goods cannot cross borders, armies will."'(As cited in Jervis, 2008, p. 385) Countries prefer to bolster their economic and political wealth through peaceful means, but that doesn't mean that they won't resort to violent means to achieve those ends. This is how the democratic peace theory postulated by liberal theorists is limited: Democracies would fight each other if it is absolutely necessary. Even though democracies waging war against each other has been a rare occurrence throughout history and is always unlikely, there's always the possibility that two democratic states could have some lesser military conflict, if not full-out war. ...read more.

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