But what we in politics wish to know is whether Mr. Minister X understands his business, whether he has initiative, whether he is informed, whether he steals more than is absolutely necessary, whether he lies more than is publicly beneficial, and so on …
— Eric Voegelin
In other words, just tweak a few things here and there and make sure you get the right politician (read: less evil than most) into office. Then the state will work fine — ordered liberty will be achieved; society and market will flourish; Leviathan will be indefinitely averted.
Paradox: How to achieve this when statist political systems favor the unscrupulous, incentivize their seeking and maintaining office and increasing their power, steadily erode what moral fiber they may have, and make useless or harmful to their political careers any truly important knowledge or skills (such as of economics or how to actually be productive in society).
[The following is a revised version of a reaction paper I wrote for a graduate seminar in international conflict back in 2005.]
In Triangulating Peace: Democracy, Interdependence, and International Organizations, Bruce Russet and John Oneal mount the most thorough defense of the democratic peace thesis I have yet seen. Indeed, they go beyond the democratic peace thesis to posit a Kantian peace consisting of the interrelated and reciprocal effects of democracy, economic interdependence, and international law and organizations. I am not without criticism, however.
I have always been skeptical of the democratic peace thesis, which posits that democratic states do not go to war with one another, in part because it seemed to me to be incomplete. Russet and Oneal attempt to shore up that incompleteness by emphasizing the pacifying effects of both bilateral and global economic interdependence as well as (though not unproblematically) international law and organizations.
Despite the impossibility of discovering empirical laws via inductive and statistical methods, it may be true that (liberal) democracies rarely go to war with one another and, ceteris paribus, might be less war prone than other states. But I am not confident this trend will hold for all times and places.1 Moreover, democracies may still be more likely to go to war with non-democracies for ideological reasons. “We’ve” got to make the world safe for democracy, after all.