As an Aristotelian libertarian, I’m not a big fan of Immanuel Kant, his philosophy in general, or his take on world peace. But to say that I’m not a fan of Alexander Hamilton — that statist, bank centralizer, mercantilist, and crypto-monarchist — would be a vast understatement. (For more on what’s wrong with Hamilton, see Thomas DiLorenzo’s “What Hamilton Has Wrought” and Hamilton’s Curse.)
I discussed the democratic peace thesis and problems I see with the Kantian Triangle — resting on republican government, international trade, and international law and organizations — in my previous post, Triangulating Peace? Or, Three Foundations for Oppression? While trade is a peaceful activity and economic interdependence can promote peace among states, it can be perverted and used for corporatist and mercantilist ends by states and international governmental organizations (IGOs), which is why, though it pains me to say it, I must side with Hamilton’s take on the matter, excerpted from Federalist #6 below:
[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.