Economics Index and Qualifications
By Richard Bruce BA, MA, and PhC in Economics
Former Instructor St. John's University, New York City

If Every Country Was a Developed Democracy We Would Have World Peace

We are reasonable in desiring all regular countries to be developed democracies because we are reasonable to desire peace.

Democratic nations with developed economies have three characteristics that are important to peace. 1, they do not fight wars against one another, 2, they are politically stable, and 3, they are economically stable. So once a developed democracy, always a developed democracy, and a world of developed democracies will be a world at peace.

Nuclear weapons make peace a particularly important objective. I do not believe there is anything in Russian, Chinese, or more generally Asian culture, that can make a massive exchange of nuclear weapons good. Proponents of the Chinese government argue for Chinese or Asian values, while proponents of democracy in China talk about universal values. Well, I would suggest that not blowing the world to smithereens is a pretty universal value.

Definition of Developed

Before proceeding I should clarify and define. The World Bank considers countries with a Gross National Income, GNI, of 12,375 dollars or more in 2018 as high income or developed. It is likely that this is twice as much as the per person economic output of Germany when Hitler took over in 1933 or the German GNI any time before that. So while Germany was certainly an advanced, developed nation by the standards of 1933, Germany would only be considered upper middle income by the World Bank's recent standards. I am also excluding from the developed category oil rich nations like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Libya. The three rules mentioned above apply to non-oil rich democracies that are considered developed by the World Bank.

A Margin of Safety

Actually, the three characteristics also apply to upper middle income countries that are close to the threshold of high income or developed status. One could say that by the time a country is classified as high income there is a nice margin of safety. This is important because there is no magic number beyond which democracy is perfectly safe. It is simply that as income rises democracies become more stable, and by the time they are classified as developed the probability of a dictator taking over is so small it has never happened.

A Millennium of Success?

The political stability of developed democracies stands in contrast to the relative instability of dictatorships. If we add the years that the various developed democracies have held that status, about seventy years for the United States and less for almost 40 other developed democracies with populations over a million, they probably have close to a millennium and a half of experience between them. Dictatorships can not guarantee the world that kind of stability.

The leaders of China seemed reasonable enough when I first wrote this web page. I figured we do not approve of their policies, but we can work out our differences short of war. But I asked will they remain reasonable. The answer seems to be no. Though we have up until this point avoided full military fledged military conflict.

Similarly Putin seemed reasonable but with time became less so. Still the conflicts between Russia and Georgia, and Russia and Ukraine have remained relatively small.

North Korea is a better example of how crazy a dictatorship can be. Dictatorships can not guarantee this will not happen to them.

Avoid Wars For Regime Change

Having said this I would not want to advocate war to promote regime change. We live in a relatively peaceful world. Even dictators rarely launch old fashioned wars of aggression. But while we would not want to fight wars for regime change, we are fully justified in applying more peaceful pressure for the sake of democracy.

How Our Desire to Remake the World Differs

Western nations have long favored democracy and development for all nations. These are ideals that go back many decades. Just as the communists wanted to remake the world in their own image we desire the same. There are however some differences.

First, many people opposed the loss of freedom, intellectual, religious, and economic, that came with communism, relatively few people are against freedom, democracy, and economic development. So we have a more universally popular program than the communists had.

Second, what the West stands for is an ideal that has been realized. When I say that developed democracies have peaceful relations, this is not a theoretical ideal like the withering away of the state and a communist utopia. Rather, we can see from many decades of experience that rich democracies keep the peace among themselves. Similarly abundant experience shows they are politically and economically stable. The communists offered a dream that had never been seen, while the West offers a system that given the right conditions has always succeeded. Failure is always possible, but so far has not been observed.

A third difference is that while the communists often had narrow definitions of what the proper policy or system was, the industrial democracies do not fit into or require a narrow policy spectrum to achieve peace. The United States, Japan, Ireland, Sweden, France, Italy and many others are all doing it right. Furthermore, a nation does not have to strive for the highest possible income. About one quarter of the per person output of the United States seems to be sufficient, and even more than sufficient.

How Much Income Per Person Does A Nation Need?

Tolstoy wrote a short story, "How Much Land Does One Man Need?" It was a tale of greed, suggesting men always want more. Economists like to emphasize that our wants are unlimited. This essay suggests an answer to the question of how rich does a society need to be. Rich enough to maintain a stable democracy, so we can maintain a stable world peace, and avoid nuclear war. We might want more, but this is what we need.

All Will Develop

Many people might see this as unrealistic because they believe that many countries are mired in permanent under developed status. This idea is reflected in a great Brazilian joke, "Brazil is the nation of the future, and always will be." But in recent years the term developing nation, which was invented as a polite fiction, has become an accurate description. The developing countries are developing and considerably more quickly than they did in the past, and Brazil has almost reached developed status. A child born today in one of the world's poorest nations probably has a better than fifty percent chance of dying in what the World Bank has defined as a high income, developed nation.

I have several web pages on this web site discussing the recent trends toward more rapid growth in developing nations. The most popular is here. Where I explain why all of the countries of the Third World will make it to First World status and perhaps sooner than we think. Check out my reasoning. You will find several others on my economics index page.

Today we have a reasonably peaceful world. Extremely peaceful by past standards. A few centuries ago the typical country was at war with one of its neighbors in half of all years. As more and more countries become economically developed and politically democratic we can reasonably hope for an even more peaceful world, and that shrinking arsenals of nuclear weapons will rust in peace.

How will the 3rd world develop? This popular web page lays out the growth path.

Here is an index to my other pages on economics, and a short review of my qualifications in this field.

Tell me what you think. Here is my contact information..

Last updated May 19, 2015

Economics Pages

Democracy, Development, and Peace

List of Free and Developed Nations Has your country made the club?

Developed democracies a grand old alliance.

China vs USA comparing the numbers

Developed and Free, Congratulations Eastern Europe

Irony and Song

How crime makes America richer and helps us assimilate Muslims

Ode to Paul Krugman

Development Economics-Hopeful Views

This is my most popular economics page. A hopeful look at the prospects for the growth of the 3rd World.
How the 3rd World will become 1st World

A newer look at the prospects for 3rd World growth.

The 3rd World is Growing twice as fast in the new millennium

Why low income nations will quickly become middle income

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