Rudolph Rummel

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Rudolph Joseph Rummel (October 21, 1932 – March 2, 2014) was professor emeritus of political science at the 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.


  • Our century is noted for its bloody wars. WW1 saw 9 million people killed in battle, an incredible record that was surpassed within a few decades by the 15 million battle deaths of WW2. Even the numbers killed in 20th century revolutions and civil wars have set historical records. In total, about 35,654,000 people have died in this century’s international and domestic wars, revolutions, and violent conflicts. Yet, even more unbelievable than these vast numbers killed in war is a shocking fact. The number of people killed by totalitarian or extreme authoritarian governments already exceeds that for all wars, civil and international. Indeed, this number already approximates the number that might be killed in a nuclear war.
    • “War Isn’t This Century’s Biggest Killer, The Wall Street Journal (July 7, 1986)
  • It is sad that hundreds of thousands of people can be killed by governments with hardly an international murmur, while a war killing several thousand people can cause an immediate world outcry and global reaction.
    • “War Isn’t This Century’s Biggest Killer, The Wall Street Journal (July 7, 1986)
  • In practice, Marxism has meant bloody terrorism, deadly purges, lethal prison camps and murderous forced labor, fatal deportations, man-made famines, extrajudicial executions and fraudulent show trials, outright mass murder and genocide.
    • “The Killing Machine that is Marxism,” WorldNetDaily, December 15, 2004 [1]
  • In my ‘Understanding Conflict and War’ I concluded that the more freedom a state accords its citizens, the less likely it is to be involved in foreign violence; and the more freedom within two states, the less likely there will be violence between them. Moreover, war between free-libertarian-states will not occur, and other violence between them is very improbable… This conclusion about the violence-reducing effect of freedom also extends to conflict within states: ‘the more libertarian a state, the less intense its violence can and tends to become.’
    • “Libertarianism, Violence within States, and the Polarity Principle,” Comparative Politics, Vol. 16, No. 4 (Jul., 1984), pp. 443-462. Published by Comparative Politics, Ph.D. Programs in Political Science, City University of New York. [2]
  • "The Polarity Principle:" The more government, the more violence. By ‘more government’ is meant more centralization of government power, more intervention in personal, social, and economic affairs and activities, more limits on political criticism and competition, and more narrowing of electoral choices. In other words, by ‘more government’ is meant less freedom, less civil liberties, political rights, and economic freedom.
    • “Libertarianism, Violence within States, and the Polarity Principle,” Comparative Politics, Vol. 16, No. 4 (Jul., 1984), pp. 443-462. Published by Comparative Politics, Ph.D. Programs in Political Science, City University of New York.
  • The more libertarian a state, the significantly less internal violence it has, and the significantly and predictably (in variance terms) lower its possible peak violence.
    • “Libertarianism, Violence within States, and the Polarity Principle,” Comparative Politics, Vol. 16, No. 4 (Jul., 1984), pp. 443-462. Published by Comparative Politics, Ph.D. Programs in Political Science, City University of New York.
  • Libertarian states have no violence between themselves. The more libertarian two states, the less their mutual violence. The more libertarian a state, the less its foreign violence.
    • “Libertarianism and International Violence”, Journal of Conflict Resolution, 27, Sage Publications, March 1, 1983, p. 27-71 [3]
  • Libertarian states are by theory not only less violence prone, but when foreign relations includes the perception of other libertarian states, this inhibition becomes a mutual barrier to violence. Their mutual domestic diversity and pluralism, their free and competitive press, their people-to-people and elite-to-elite bonds and relationships, and their mutual identification and sympathy will foreclose on any expectation or occurrence of war between them; violence may occur only in the most extraordinary and unusual circumstances, or at the margins of what it means to be libertarian.
    • “Libertarianism and International Violence”, Journal of Conflict Resolution, 27, Sage Publications, March 1, 1983, p. 27-71
  • Aside from anarcho-libertarianism, there are two contending ideas of libertarianism. In its broad sense, libertarianism is equated with civil liberties and political rights—what we usually mean by democracy. Sweden, Japan, and the United States would thus be almost equally libertarian. In its narrow sense, libertarianism is equivalent to classical liberal democracy, adding to democracy the requirement of a free market. India would then be less libertarian than Japan; Israel less libertarian than West Germany. Theoretically, liberal democracies should have significantly less violence than socialist democracies, but both should have significantly less than nondemocracies.
    • “Libertarian Propositions on Violence Within and Between Nations: A Test Against Published Research Results," The Journal of Conflict Resolution, 29, Sage Publications, (September, 1985): pp. 419-455. [4]
  • Quite simply, a free press promotes peace; creating a universally free press would promote universal peace. The bridge between the two is democracy.
    • “Freedom of the press—a way to peace,” ASNE Bulletin (February 1989), p. 27. ASNE stands for the American Association of Newspaper Editors
  • Since advancing freedom of the press furthers democracy, spreading freedom of the press promotes world peace. And the reverse logic is also true. Without democracies, there will be war; without freedom of the press, democracies cannot exist.
    • “Freedom of the press—a way to peace,” ASNE Bulletin (February 1989), p. 27. ASNE stands for the American Association of Newspaper Editors
  • What is the democratic peace? In the literature on or referring to the democratic peace, this means the idea or fact that democracies do not (or virtually never) make war on each other.
    • “What Is The Democratic Peace?”[5]
  • The evidence on this question is persuasive: the best way of eliminating war between nations, of minimizing domestic political violence, and of virtually making genocide and mass murder a horror of the past, is by fostering political freedom. Politically free nations do not make war on each other, have minimum domestic political violence, and virtually no genocide and mass murder. I call this the miracle that is freedom.
    • “Democide: Rudy Rummel Interviewed” by Alberto Mingardi, The Laissez Faire City Times, August-September 1998 [6]
  • Known for centuries, a tenet of classical liberalism, the pacific nature of democracy has become largely forgotten or ignored in the last half-century. That democracy is inherently peaceful is now probably believed by no more than a few prominent peace researchers. In part this has been due to the intellectual defection of Western intellectuals from classical liberalism to some variant of socialism, with its emphasis on the competitive violence and bellicosity of capitalist freedoms. Many intellectuals, and in particularly European and Third World peace researchers, have come to believe that socialist equalitarianism is the answer to violence; others, particularly American liberals, believe that if the socialist are wrong, then at least democracies are no better than other political systems in promoting peace.
    • “Political Systems, Violence, and War,” chap. 14 in "Approaches to Peace: An Intellectual Map", edit, W. Scott Thompson and Kenneth M. Jensen, Washington, D.C., United States Institute of Peace, 1991, pp. 347-370; and “The Politics of Cold Blood,” Society, Vol. 27 (November/December, 1989) pp. 32-40
  • Socialism aside, there also has been a rejection of Western values, of which individual freedom is prominent, and acceptance of some form of value-relativism (thus, no political system is better than any other). In some cases this rejection has turned to outright hostility and particularly anti-Americanism, and thus opposition to American values, such as freedom. To accept, therefore, that democratic freedom is inherently most peaceful, is to the value-relativist, to say the unacceptable—that it is better.
    • “Political Systems, Violence, and War,” chap. 14, in "Approaches to Peace: An Intellectual Map", edit, W. Scott Thompson and Kenneth M. Jensen, Washington, D.C., United States Institute of Peace, 1991, pp. 347-370; and “The Politics of Cold Blood,” Society, Vol. 27 (November/December, 1989) pp. 32-40
  • It should be underlined that while the democratic or state socialist believes that socialist governments will be peaceloving and nonviolent, the Marxist-Leninist believes this true of only the final, communist stage of stateless anarchy. The socialist transition period may well involve war with capitalist states, but while this inter-state war is to be avoided if at all possible in this age of nuclear weapons, the world-wide struggle against capitalism must be pursued by all means short of inter-state war. This would involve not only the arts of deception, disinformation, subversion, and demoralization, against capitalist states, but also terrorism and domestic wars through ‘national liberation fronts’. For the Marxist-Leninist, then, it is the communist system that is inherently peaceful, not the socialist intermediary state. This socialist stage means the purposeful, aggressive use of force and violence to pursue the final, global stage of communist peace and freedom.
    • “Political Systems, Violence, and War,” chap. 14 in "Approaches to Peace: An Intellectual Map", edit, W. Scott Thompson and Kenneth M. Jensen, Washington, D.C., United States Institute of Peace, 1991, pp. 347-370; and “The Politics of Cold Blood,” Society, Vol. 27 (November/December, 1989) pp. 32-40

Lethal Politics: Soviet Genocide and Mass Murder since 1917 (1990)[edit]

London and New York, Routledge, 2017

  • The citizens of democracies are the least likely to be murdered by their own government; the citizens of totalitarian, especially Marxist systems, the most likely.
    • p. xi
  • The theory is that democratic systems provide a path to peace, and universalizing them would eliminate war and minimize global, political violence
    • p. xi
  • Possibly 20,000,000 were killed in the war against the Nazis and from Nazi occupation, but many more millions were killed in Stalin’s simultaneous war on his own people.
    • p. 152

Death by Government (1994)[edit]

New Brunswick, USA, London, UK, Transaction Publishers, 2011

  • The less freedom people have the more violence, the more freedom the less violence. I put this here as the Power Principle: power kills, absolute power kills absolutely.
    • p. xvi
  • Power kills, absolute Power kills absolutely. This new Power Principle is the message emerging from my previous work on the causes of war and this book on genocide and government mass murder—what I call democide—in this century. The more power a government has, the more it can act arbitrarily according to the whims and desires of the elite, the more it will make war on others and murder its foreign and domestic subjects.
    • pp. 1-2
  • The more constrained the power of governments, the more it is diffused, checked and balanced, the less it will aggress on others and commit democide. At the extremes of Power, totalitarian communist governments slaughter their people by the tens of millions, while many democracies can barely bring themselves to execute even serial murderers.
    • p. 2
  • Saying that a state or regime is a murderer is a convenient personification of an abstraction. Regimes are in realty people with the power to command a whole society. It is these people that have committed the kilo- and megamurders of our century, and we must not hide their identity under the abstraction of the ‘state,’ ‘regime,’ ‘government,’ or ‘communist.’
    • p. 8
  • Then there is the common and fundamental justification of government that it exists to protect citizens against the anarchic jungle that would otherwise threaten their lives and property. Such archaic or sterile views show no appreciation of democide’s existence and all its related horrors and suffering. They are inconsistent with a regime that stands astride society like a gang of thugs over hikers they have captured in the woods, robbing all, raping some, torturing others for fun, murdering those they don’t like, and terrorizing the rest into servile obedience. This exact characterization of many past and present governments, such as Idi Amin’s Uganda, hardly squares with conventional political science.
    • p. 26
  • The way to virtually eliminate genocide and mass murder appears to be through restricting and checking Power, i.e., through fostering democratic freedom.
    • p. 27
  • Killing that is explicitly permitted is not democide.
    • p. 40

Power Kills: Democracy as a Method of Nonviolence(1997)[edit]

New Brunswick, NJ, Transaction Publishers, 2002

  • Democracies don’t murder their citizens.
    • p. 95
  • In sum, theoretical and empirical research establishes that democratic civil liberties and political rights promote nonviolence and is a path to a warless world. The clearest evidence of this is that there has never been a war between well-established democracies, while numerous wars have occurred between all other political systems;…
    • p. 114
  • Recall that democratic regimes in an exchange society are at one corner of the political triangle while totalitarian regimes with the coercive society they have constructed are at another. They therefore are at opposing ends of one side of the triangle, which is a continuum ranging from Freedom to Power.
    • p. 204

“Rudolph Rummel Talks About the Miracle of Liberty and Peace”, (July 1, 1997)[edit]

The Freeman, published by Foundation for Economic Education [7]

  • I conclude that nobody can be trusted with unlimited power. The more power a regime has, the more likely people will be killed. This is a major reason for promoting freedom.
  • Political scientists almost everywhere have promoted the expansion of government power. They have functioned as the clergy of oppression.
  • We have a solution for war. It is to expand the sphere of liberty.
  • In a few cases, regimes have publicized their murders, often to intimidate people. For instance, Communist Chinese government newspapers would report speeches by officials in which one might boast, ‘We killed 2 million bandits in the 10th region between November and January.’ The term bandit was standard lingo for presumed counterrevolutionaries.
  • Power is dispersed through many different families, churches, schools, universities, corporations, partnerships, business associations, scientific societies, unions, clubs, and myriad other associations. There’s plenty of competition, and people have overlapping interests. The social order isn’t controlled by anybody—it evolves spontaneously.
  • By contrast, as Hayek explained in The Road to Serfdom—in his famous chapter ‘Why’ the worst get on top—centralized government power attracts aggressive, domineering personalities. They are the most likely to gain power. And the more power they have, naturally the less subject they are to restraint. The greater the likelihood such a country will pursue aggressive policies. The highest risks of war occur when two dictators face each other. There’s likely to be a struggle for supremacy.

The Blue Book of Freedom: Ending Famine, Poverty, Democide, and War (2007)[edit]

Nashville, Tennessee, Cumberland House Publishing, 2007

  • [There is an] unbridgeable chasm in the world. On one side are such criminal gangs, sanctified by the term government, and the United Nations they dominate, enforcing by their guns mass slavery, mass death, mass violence, mass impoverishment, and mass famine. On the other side are democratic countries where people are free, secure, and need not fear mass impoverishment, murder at the hands of government agents, and killing famines.
    • p. 12
  • Most of the world's people have been robbed of their freedom by tyrants… In the last century alone, 272,000,000 were shot, burned, stabbed, tortured, beaten, starved to death, blasted to death, buried alive, or whatever other ways of murdering their slaves these thugs could imagine. This horrific and evil toll of bodies could head-to-toe circle the earth more than ten times. It is as though a catastrophic nuclear war had happened, but its mountain of deaths spread over each day of the last century
    • p. 11
  • The more people are free, the greater their human development and national wealth. In short, freedom is the way to economic and social human security.
    • p. 13
  • Free people never have famine.
    • p. 13
  • Where people are free, political violence is minimal.
    • p. 13
  • The more freedom a people have, the more unlikely the government will murder them. Democratically free governments do not murder their own people.
    • p. 14
  • The less free the people within any two nations are, the bloodier and more destructive the war between them; the greater their freedom, the less likely such wars occur. Free people do not make war on each other.
    • p. 14
  • Increasing freedom in the world decreases the death toll of its wars. Surely, whatever reduces and then finally ends the scourge of war in our history, without causing a greater evil, must be the greatest moral good. And this is freedom.
    • p. 15
  • Democratic freedom is a method of nonviolence and an antidote to war.
    • p.16
  • Democracy is a metasolution to the problem of diversity.
    • p. 22
  • Democracy says, ‘Govern yourself, but do so in a manner consistent with the same right of others.’ Democracy does not lay down a template for each person’s life, as do dictatorships.
    • p. 22
  • Freedom produces wealth and prosperity.
    • p. 62
  • The more democratic freedom a people have, the less severe their internal political violence.
    • p. 63
  • The social structure of a free, democratic society creates the psychological conditions for its greater internal peace.
    • p. 64
  • In the twentieth century, governments murdered, as a prudent estimate, 272,000,000 men, women and children. It could be over 400,000,000.
    • p. 75
  • Democide is a government’s murder of people for any reason or no reason at all. Genocide is the murder of people because of their race, ethnicity, religion, nationality, or language.
    • p. 76
  • There is a good reason that all of this killing is unknown. The authoritarian and totalitarian thug regimes that do most of the killing usually control who writes their histories and what appears in them.
    • p. 76
  • In total, communist (Marxist-Leninist) regimes murdered nearly 148 million people from 1917 to 1987. For a perspective on this incredible toll, note that all domestic and foreign wars during the twentieth century killed in combat around 41 million.
    • p. 99
  • Communists, when in control of a nation, have murdered more than 3.6 times the number of people killed in combat in all wars, including the two world wars.
    • p. 99
  • Well-established democracies do not make war on each other.
    • p. 106
  • The less democratic a country is, the move intense its foreign violence.
    • p. 109
  • People should not be free only because it is good for them. They should be free because it is their right as human beings.
    • p. 116

Quotes About Rummel[edit]

  • Democracy, according to the political scientist Rudolph Rummel, is a strongly protective feature of modern society, with democratic nations most unlikely to pursue mass killing of their enfranchised populations. This finding of Rummel's extensive quantitative studies has been supported by the quantitative research on the antecedents of genocide by scholars such as Barbara Harff.
    • Deborah Mayersen, Annie Pohlman, edit, "Genocide and Mass Atrocities in Asia: Legacies and Prevention", “Introduction”, Routledge, 2013, p. 20
  • A prominent democratic peace theorist, Rudolph Rummel (1994) has made the point that between four and five times as many were killed by government (in democide) in the twentieth century as were killed in war.
    • Lene Siljeholm Christiansen, Nils Petter Gleditsch, Håvard Hegre, "Democratic Jihad? Military Intervention and Democracy ", June 1, 2007, Post-Conflict Transitions Working Paper No. 15, p. 15
  • According to political scientist R.J. Rummel, citizens’ own governments are the greatest genocidal actors and mass killers of them all. In Death by Government (1994), Rummel showed that citizens have a much greater probability of dying at the hands of their own government than of foreign ones, again, adding credibility to the old adage that governments don’t protect people; people protect governments.
    • L.K. Samuels, “Competing Governments: The Collective Violence of War”, "", April 13, 2013 [8]
  • But the twentieth century turned out to be the bloodiest in human history, confirming the worst fears of classical liberals who had always warned about government power. Perhaps nobody has done a better job documenting its horrors than University of Hawaii political science professor emeritus Rudolph J. Rummel.
    • “Rudolph Rummel Talks About the Miracle of Liberty and Peace”, (July 1, 1997) The Freeman, published by the Foundation for Economic Education
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