The Right to Reason

with Robert Stanley

Identity Politics and Game Theory

Evolutionary Explanations for Liberalism, Challenging Democracy, and a Review of the 2016 Election

In the United States, why do Conservatives and Liberals tend to disagree about every political issue?  Why is it that knowing a person’s position on gun control can often predict their opinion on climate change?  This left and right divide within our country is peculiar when we recognize that people are not so binary; we’re diverse and complex!  It is as odd as imagining e.g. that there existed only two flavors of ice cream.  A person’s opinion on topics such as abortion, Obamacare, refugees, the economy, egalitarianism, and even foreign policy seem to be easily grouped into one of two categories.  I intend to explain this divide, reveal the dangers of the potentially resulting identity politics, prove by game theory that identity politics did not influence the 2016 election, and argue that we can overcome these tendencies by distancing ourselves from our emotional idiosyncrasies.  

Joshua Brook in his’ article, “Red World, Blue World,” published in World Policy Journal says that the divide between the red (conservative right) and the blue (liberal left) can be characterized into four reoccurring themes:

“1) Reds and Blues differ in the ways they construct and think about identity specifically, the grounds upon which they define in-groups and out-groups.

2) Reds and Blues assign different weight to cultural narratives in which the in-group plays the central role.

3) Reds and Blues differ in the conception of the relationship between a community and its values.

4) Reds have a stronger attachment to cultural symbols.” (Brook, 2007)

This way of thinking may cause us to assume that since our political leanings are socially predetermined; they must then be immutable.  According to Brook, this couldn’t be farther from the truth.  Political, polity shifts from Red to Blue (and even the rarer Blue to Red) are historically proceeded by a social development.  Shifts to Blue often occur because of the emancipating nature of the free market: an individual or group is exposed to other cultures through trade and immigration.  Also, a growing middle class in a society can lead many people to questioning the prevailing cultural narrative because they are not so wealthy as to wish to maintain the status quo and are not poor; therefore, likely to be distracted with the constant physical restraints of menial labor and the mental stressors of debt.  Shift from Red to Blue however, tend to arise when the Red group feels smothered by “excessive Blueness” and needs time to breathe before transitioning to the new sociological change.

            Both social stability and social change are rarely accomplished without group unity.  This division of values inevitably leads to people identifying with their color (Red/Blue) rather than with the changes they want to prevent or see occur.  In a recent article in Academic Questions titled “The Pathology of Identity Politics” Nicholas Capaldi argues that identity politics are not the illness; they are a symptom of social dysfunction.  “People drawn to these movements can only be defined in terms of what they oppose, a negative narrative of exploitation and victimization, without any positive alternative of their own.” (Capaldi, 2018).  Capaldi describes a modern example of identity politics emerging from Feminism and the LGBTQ movement: these groups appear to celebrate self-defining modernity but they “demand recognition from others.”  While Capaldi is very helpful in explaining how people falling into the minutia of identity politics can often contradict their own agenda, he makes a logical contradiction of his own, inadvertently revealing his own tendency toward his “group color.”  He grants that they are working toward equal rights and “recognition”, yet he then contradicts this point by saying that in doing so they “demand rights and protections extending to them not as individuals, but as members of a favored class.” (Capaldi, 2018).  He praises movements of the past such as Martin Luther King Jr., Clarence Thomas, Camille Paglia, Deidre

McCloskey, and Zuhdi Jasser but then proceeds to claim movements of today are a result of “dysfunctional people.”  Ironically, it would appear that he would have been Blue in every time period except this one.

            In 2013, social psychologist Jonathan Haidt changed how the general public discussed these differences when he wrote, “The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion.” Here he challenged conventional thinking about morality, politics, and religion in a way that speaks to conservatives and liberals alike by adding a sixth “pillar” to Moral Foundations Theory.  This theory explains the variations of human moral reasoning on the basis of five innate, modular foundations.  These five pillars of morality include: care vs harm, fairness vs cheating, loyalty vs betrayal, authority vs subversion, and sanctity vs purity.  From these five tendencies, Haidt claimed that a person’s political ideologies would cause them to be either conservative or liberal.  He also added the sixth pillar: liberty vs oppression.  He concluded that Libertarians for example were motivated almost entirely on the liberty foundation.

The chart below will compare candidate’s social liberalism and their economic liberalism (with minimum liberal tendencies equaling 0 and maximum liberal tendencies equaling 1).  A candidate like Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders ranks rather high on both the x and y axis, and for contrast Texas Senator Ted Cruz ranks rather low; although, both tend to follow the trend line (even though Sanders may stray somewhat).  You can see that lesser known candidates such as Howard Schultz (fiscal liberal, social conservative), and Gary Johnson (fiscal conservative, social liberal) tend to move away from the trend line leading them to be more obscure.  

[graph missing]

            A potential voter would need to determine their expected utility for voting: which includes two questions:

1)      What do I get if I vote for candidate A/B?

2)      What do I get if I don’t vote at all?

In order to unpack this, we will need to first analyze the basics of Game Theory and then create an expected utility model for voting in the 2016 election.  The best example of demonstrating utility is the Prisoners Dilemma (as shown below):

The Prisoner’s Dilemma

[graph missing]


(Spaniel, 2018)

Here, we can see that the result of both players (prisoners) is to eventually confess because without knowing what the other player is going to do, confession is the best option.  Predicting people choices in this manor has led to the criminal justice system’s methods of interrogation that we see prevalent today.  But this way of anticipating people’s utility becomes even simpler when we convert it to a binary scenario, such as is represented via the U.S. two party system.  In the 2016 election, it could be predicted that a “rational individual” (as defined in game theory) (Spaniel, 2018) that previously had a preference for Bernie Sanders, would not vote (or would vote for a third-party candidate such as Jill Stein) given that Clinton (or Trump) was not their second choice.  This is because the reward for voting in this scenario is small and one voter is unlikely to swing the election outcome.  If we use these symbols to represent gain, loss, and probability, we can construct a model for the Sander’s voter:

G = gain (what you get if your candidate wins)

L = loss (time/effort spent on voting for someone other than your candidate)

p = your candidate wins, and you voted

q = your candidate wins, and you didn’t vote


 p(G-L) + (1-p) (-L) ≥ q(G)

According to Expected Utility theory, a Sander’s-preference voter in the 2016 election would either not vote or would likely vote for a third-party candidate.  This is not a result of identity politics and Clinton becoming the Democratic nominee for the general election was not a result of the social tendencies of the typical United States liberal.

Using the 2016 Presidential Election for an example of expected voter utility, we can recall that Sanders supporters were expected to vote for Clinton after the primaries.  What analysts failed to predict however, was the second choice of a Sanders supporter.  What they would get for voting Clinton, including the cost (effort applied) of voting were not of value to many Sander supporters.  The swing states experienced surprisingly low liberal-voter turn-out in the 2016 election (and an increase in Stein votes), leading to an (Electoral College) victory for Donald Trump.

But how is it possible that our candidates are still so close to the trend line if we are growing more divided as liberals and conservatives?  The reason is not going to be as prevalent from the social but rather from the economic tendencies of the candidate.  This is why liberals’ social values often achieve victory historically (every country tends to become more progressive over time), yet they lose more elections than they win.  The economic tendencies of a candidate and their economy-based policies are influenced and supported by lobbyist groups.  The preference of a voter may be extremely socially conservative or liberal but the options for candidates likely presented to them will be primarily based on corporate, profit incentives.  The highest-paying lobbyist groups are not oriented toward social agendas; they are industry-based companies.  The top 50 lobbyists gave $716 million to the federal government and Congress in the 2016 election.  The top ten spenders were:

US Chamber of Commerce                                                     $103,950,000

National Association of Realtors                                            $64,821,111

Blue Cross Blue Shield                                                           $25,006,109

American Hospital Association                                               $20,970,809

Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America       $19,730,000

American Medical Association                                               $19,410,000

Boeing                                                                                     $17,020,000

Association of Broadcasters                                                   $16,438,000

AT&T                                                                                      $16,370,000

Business Roundtable                                                               $15,700,000    (, 2018)

So, while the social factor of our divide may not be significant to predicting/influencing an election, the entirety of our political divide is essentially based on one, ironically undivided and shared concept: democracy.  Loosing this common idea leads to either totalitarianism (in left-leaning power structures) or authoritarianism (in right-leaning power structures).  This concept of a system by which control is placed in the hands of the majority is typically accomplished by a population (or eligible citizenry) deciding upon their representatives via electoral process.  Winston Churchill is often erroneously quoted (it was actually an author named William Manchester) as saying, “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute discussion with the average voter.”  It is on this topic that Jiwei Ci critiques the concept of democracy as both utopian and ideological.  In his contribution to The Journal of Political Philosophy titled “Political Agency in Liberal Democracy,” he said,  “One crucial difference between utopian desire…” [referring to the desire for democracy] “…and ordinary desire is that ordinary desires, having been satisfied (or belonging to a category of desires that have been satisfied) before, can draw upon past experience of satisfaction in the temporal gap between wish and fulfillment, whereas utopian desire is the wish for a state of affairs that has never been realized.” (Ci, 2006).   This important distinction makes it clear to us that democracy is not something that can be achieved in its entirety.  To even approach doing so would obviously be disastrous for the minority.  Rather than viewing it as a location that we may arrive at, democracy must remain a goal to which we are constantly trying to achieve and to achieve this ideology, we acknowledge that those with which we disagree must share in the control.

In order to find some closure and the understanding to help us explain this phenomenon, we will need to investigate our evolutionary past and evaluate where to go from here.  From where does this tribalistic tendency originate?  In “Sex, Power, and Partisanship” Psychologist Dr. Hector Garcia references a study titled “Are Political Orientations Genetically Transmitted” and claims that our personality traits are predictors of core political values such as economic attitudes, social attitudes, and self-reported ideologies.  “The authors [of this study] found that higher openness was associated with greater liberalism across all three of these means of measuring orientation.” (Garcia, 2019).  Garcia claims that our personalities are a result of evolutionary causes affecting not only our openness to experience, but also our fear of outsiders and the recognition of the dangers of germs.  All three of these characteristics can push someone left or right.  But our reasoning ability is not imprisoned by these political preferences.  Garcia claims that we can “outsmart our genes” by examining the ultimate reasons for our fears and therefore achieving emotional distance: “It is only with distance that we may judge which of our fears continue to serve us and which should be left on the savanna of our ancestors.” (Garcia, 2019).

Works Cited:


Alford, John R., Funk, Carolyn L., Hibbing, John R., (2005) “Are Political Orientations Genetically Transmitted?” American Political Science Review 99, no 2 (May 2005): 153-67

Brook, J. 2007. “Red World, Blue World”. World Policy Journal, Cambridge, MA. 24(2), 55-66.

Capaldi, Nicholas. (2018). “The Pathology of Identity Politics”. Academic Questions, 31(3), 281–288.

Center for Responsive Politics. (2018). Lobbying Spending Database. Retrieved April 7, 2019, from

Ci, Jiwei (2006). “Political Agency in Liberal Democracy.” Journal of Political Philosophy, 14(2), 144-162.

Garcia, Hector. A. (2019). “Sex, Power, and Partisanship: How Evolutionary Science Makes Sense of our Political Divide”. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books.

Haidt, Johnathan. (2013). “The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion.” London: Penguin.

Spaniel, William. 2014. Game Theory 101: The Complete Textbook. 2014-2015 Edition. Charleston, NC: CreateSpace.

The Cuban Missile Crises

Cuban Peace:

A Review of International Relations in Cuba from Revolution to Missile Crises


            Throughout history peace has always had to grow through the cracks in the cement of whatever sociological system existed at the time.  During tribalism, peace required gene altruism.  Agrarian cultures of the Bronze Age could come to peace only by means of religious compromise.  After the Iron Age, peace began to be a monopoly of the state.  This then transitioned into Feudalism, which could not maintain peace with the limitations presented by theocracies and had no safety net in place for plagues.  Eventually the era of Capitalism arose and with it Colonialism, Empiricism, and the Industrial Revolution.  Peace now would be strangled by the thirst for profit.  But peace is analogous to life in the sense that it always finds a way.  This essay will attempt to explain peace and the lack thereof peace during the Cuban Revolution and through the Cuban Missile Crises.  It will also explain what the United States did to promote or detract from peace.  Lastly, this essay will explain positive and negative peace and analyze whether or not US foreign policy aligned with positive peace before and during the Cuban Missile Crises.  To do so we must first review the details of Cuban history.


Now fast forward through this historical timeline to Guatemala in the year of 1944.  The Guatemalan people attained peace within their country via revolution.  Their new form of government instituted universal suffrage, democratic elections, minimum wage, and land reforms.  These changes had a negative effect on the profit of the United Fruit Company, a business that had previously exploited the lack of labor rights within the region.  UFC lobbied the United States to intervene (Cullather, 1994).  Truman and Eisenhower accomplished this task through the public relation strategy of economic fear and took a hard line against the West’s second Red Scare threat: Communism.  The CIA armed and funded approximately 500 mercenaries and successfully ended the apparent democratic threat in Guatemala by replacing Juan Jose Arevalo with the warlord Castillo Armas.  Peace was forced back into the shadows, waiting. 


This coup was criticized internationally, created an anti-US Sentiment throughout Latin America, and resulted in 4 decades of civil war and the Mayan genocide known to historians as “The Silent Holocaust.”  Ernesto (Che) Guevara, an Argentinian, was radicalized by this oppression.  He had been raised aristocratically and therefore benefitted from his parent’s extravagant library from which he particularly studied authors such as Nietzsche, Freud, and Marx.  After acquiring his medical degree, Che became aware of another US-backed dictator:  Fulgencio Battista.  Thanks to the United States’ logistic, military, and financial support, Battista was able to revoke labor rights throughout Cuba, allowing US interests to own 70% of the countries land and creating a monopsony (one buyer) of their sugar export.  Soon Battista would align his administration with the US Mafia, filling the once pristine Havana with prostitution, drugs, and gambling.  Many small, student-organized protests ignited but Battista tightened his grip on the populace via wide-scale public executions, rape, and torture, killing over 20,000 of his own citizens.


Che joined a small 80-man group of revolutionaries and set voyage to Cuba on a small boat the men affectionately referred to as “Granma”.  The old and tattered yacht was only supposed to carry a small crew of 20 people, but the fool-hearty gang of mostly 20 year-olds packed it to the brim with ammo and weapons.  This expedition would be the epitome of misery.  Their navigator fell overboard and drowned, leaving the sea-sick crew lost in the Gulf of Mexico, unsure where to land. 


Che described the moment they finally arrived to the Cuban coast:

"We reached solid ground, lost, stumbling along like so many shadows or ghosts marching in response to some obscure psychic impulse. We had been through seven days of constant hunger and sickness during the sea crossing, topped by three still more terrible days on land. Exactly 10 days after our departure from Mexico, during the early morning hours of December 5, following a night-long march interrupted by fainting and frequent rest periods, we reached a spot paradoxically known as Alegría de Pío (Rejoicing of the Pious)". (Kellner, 1989)


            It was here at Alegria de Pio that Battistas forces were awaiting the crew of the Granma.  They opened fire and only a dozen men evaded death.  During the onslaught of bullets, Che was struck in the neck and went unconscious.  He awoke to the sound of gunfire and stood with one hand on his throat and the other free to grab either his medical kit or a gun.  He chose the gun.  The remaining twelve survivors met within the safety of the mountainside; among this group was Fidel Castro.  Fidel acquired radio equipment and began broadcasting from the mountains his rebel message.  This broadcast swept across the country and radicalized volunteers began arriving in support.  Soon, a new rebel army was attacking military instalments along the south coast.  Simultaneously, college students begin attacking the Presidential Palace in Havana.  Soon the battle is focused to the last major city between the rebels and Havana: Santa Clara.  Battista, in an attempt to protect the city, constructs a military, bullet-proof, assault-train, painted black, armed with multiple turrets, and covered in steel.  While Fidel’s men attack the military outpost of the city, Che takes a small band of men beyond the city and begins to dismantle the train tracks.  After the city had been successfully taken over, the Cuban army retreated within the safety of the steel-sided train.  Soon they spend right into Che’s trap and derailed.  Che’s unit tossed molotovs beneath the train, turning it into an oven, forcing the army out.  This loss ended any hope of Battista’s control over the Island.  Battista fled and Castro assumed the status of Cuban Prime Minister.  Communism had come to the Western Hemisphere.


            Fidel implemented many positive changes to Cuba, such as education reform, healthcare expansion, and economic planning; however, he also continued the typical Communist strategy of suppressing political dissent and implementing a state-operated press.  The US ended all purchases of sugar from the country.  Cuba then found a new buyer with the USSR.  Cuba formed strong political ties with the Soviet Union, who were currently in a nuclear Cold War with the United States.  An inlet within the province of Fidel’s final battle in Santa Clara, was known to the Cuban people as “Bahia de Cochinos.”  This is translated to The Bay of Pigs.  It was here that the United States would respond to Fidel’s resistance to capitalism.  In April of 1961 the CIA organized and sponsored a force in their previously manipulated country of Guatemala.  1,400 paramilitaries descended on the Bay of Pigs and were followed by 8 B-26 bombers that the CIA had painted to look like Cuban air force, so as to deceive the Cuban people into thinking the Cuban military was resisting Castro.  This attack failed after a short three days.  The US then implemented “Operation Mongoose”: a CIA plan to overthrow the Cuban government and assassinate Fidel Castro.  The plan included carefully placed anti-government propaganda and assassination tactics that appear to be straight out of a James Bond film such as exploding cigars, exploding seashells, a fungus-contaminated diving suit, a lover that was supposed to poison Castro’s drink with botulism, a hypodermic needle concealed within a pen, an attempt to dose Castro with LSD before one of his speeches, and of course poisoned pills.


 Author of “Sons and Brothers”, Richard D. Mahoney wrote:

"Late one evening, probably March 13, Rosselli passed the poison pills and the money to a small, reddish-haired Afro-Cuban by the name of Rafael "Macho" Gener in the Boom Boom Room, a location Giancana thought "stupid." Rosselli's purpose, however, was not just to assassinate Castro but to set up the Mafia's partner in crime, the United States government. Accordingly, he was laying a long, bright trail of evidence that unmistakably implicated the CIA in the Castro plot. This evidence, whose purpose was blackmail, would prove critical in the CIA's cover-up of the Kennedy assassination." (Mahoney, 2011)


            These attempts all failed and the US Department of Defense along with the Joint Chiefs of Staff then presented President Kennedy with their next plan: “Operation Northwoods.”  This black-flag operation included the murder of multiple US citizens in the goal of blaming the deaths on Cuba and implementing a war.  These acts of terrorism included, sinking boats of Cuban refugees, blowing up US Naval ships, and high jacking a commercial airliner of US citizens and crashing it (Cullather, 2006).  Although Kennedy rejected this plan, the Cuban Missile Crises had already begun.  According to the NSA Archive, in response to the United States placing nuclear warheads in Turkey, the Soviet Union placed nuclear warheads in Cuba (NSA Archive 2013).  In fairness to the economic-based perspective and theme of this essay, it should be noted that the NSA Archive is primarily funded by both The Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Ford Foundation, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.  These three foundations are owned by the same families that own U.S. Steel, JP Morgan & Chase, Ford Motor Company, and Hewlett-Packard. 


We will now laterally transition from that caveat and return to our historical review.  A U2 spy plane flown by Air Force Pilot Richard Heyser did confirm that a Cuban airbase was in possession of Russian medium-range missiles.  Photos of these missiles were taken to Ex-comm who then suggested quarantining Cuba.  The United States responded to this information by implementing a naval blockade around Cuba, stopping all Soviet vessels from reaching its shore.  Some Soviet ships turned back but many continued toward the blockade where they were inspected and turned around.  None of the ships inspected contained and nuclear weapons.  President Kennedy orders increased flights over and around Cuba.  American Pilot, Charles Maultsby accidently flies into Soviet airspace but is not shot down.  This increases tensions between the two super-powers.  Kennedy begins discussions of invading Cuba.  Soon Khrushchev says that he will remove missiles from Cuba if the United States agrees not to invade and secretly remove its missiles from Turkey.  Kennedy agrees and the Cold War ends.


This concludes the necessary historic review of Cuba’s journey toward peace.  To summarize, it began with democracy, was threatened by “laissez faire” capitalism (allowing the market to function without constraint of regulation or law), these capitalists then lobbied the US government to do as they had done before and establish a dictatorship that would support their financial interests.  The US did and Revolution occurred.  This then escalated into further attempts of capitalist control which pushed Cuba into the arms of the United States economic adversary: the Communist USSR.  Cuba was then in the middle of the already established Cold War.  The game of Russian Roulette and fear of global nuclear war finally ended the standoff, the Cold War, the Cuban Missile Crises, and allowed peace to resume.  The purpose of this essay will now be to identify what led to the initial lack of peace, what caused the conclusion of peace in the end, and how could this have been handled differently by the United States. 


First, we will examine the philosophical concepts of peace with the aid of Hobbes, Locke, Vattel, Spinoza, Luther, Rousseau, and Kant.  Then we will conclude with a perspective appropriate to this particular time in history, by examining peace through the filter of economics and class-struggle with Karl Marx.  One might assume that the natural state of man is to strive toward peace; however, history is full of examples that appear to refute such an assumption.  Typically, these points of conflict are categorized as a result of religious violence, fighting over resources, or ethnic diversity.  Early philosophers wanted to delve deeper into the ethos of war to attempt to filter out the true sociological causes therewith.  Thomas Hobbes argued that war is simply a result of man’s need for power and therefore a nation’s need for cumulative control (Johnson, 2015).  John Locke claimed that this constant battle rages from a lack of liberal education.  He concluded that the cure to the symptom of war could be found through the proper information being delivered to the youth of a civilization.  Vattel stood apart from both of these thinkers by stating that war was the right of a nation.  He wasn’t concerned with a “just war” or even “just peace” for that matter.  Vattel thought that neither of these concepts was worthwhile and that a nation should promote war or peace as it sees fit to do so. 


To understand these philosophers further, we must address the concept of negative and positive peace.  Negative Peace is the absence of violence; it is pessimistic, curative, and not always brought about by peaceful means (such as peace after war).  Positive Peace is structural integration; it is optimistic, preventative, and comes about through peaceful means (Grewal 2003).  Galtung thought positive peace should be a higher ideal than negative peace.  He claimed peace research should not only focus on ending or reducing violence but instead to understand the methods for preventing peace (Galtung, 1996).  Philosophers such as Locke, Spinoza, Luther, and Rousseau would support Galtung’s concept of positive peace.  Hobbes, who argued that peace is simply the absence of war, and Vattel, who said that peace is simply the status that occurs after a war has concluded, would disagree with Galtung.  Spinoza claimed that peace is a virtue and should therefore be our goal.  Luther said that there are two kingdoms: the spiritual and the secular.  This world is that which he referred to as the secular and it is therefore man’s duty and responsibility to keep it peaceful.  Rousseau argued for a European Federation so as to promote positive peace throughout at least one continent.  Finally, Kant argued that the state is composed of the people and should never be controlled by another state.  Could one not make the same conclusion about a state being controlled by the corporations of another state?


“A state is not, like the ground which it occupies, a piece of property (patrimonium). It is a society of men whom no one else has any right to command or to dispose except the state itself. It is a trunk with its own roots. But to incorporate it into another state, like a graft, is to destroy its existence as a moral person, reducing it to a thing; such incorporation thus contradicts the idea of the original contract without which no right over a people can be conceived.” (Kant, 1795)


Karl Marx however views peace as something that is resisted by class struggle.  He begins his Communist Manifesto with:


The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles. Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes. In the earlier epochs of history, we find almost everywhere a complicated arrangement of society into various orders, a manifold gradation of social rank. In ancient Rome we have patricians, knights, plebeians, slaves; in the Middle Ages, feudal lords, vassals, guild-masters, journeymen, apprentices, serfs; in almost all of these classes, again, subordinate gradations. The modern bourgeois society that has sprouted from the ruins of feudal society has not done away with class antagonisms. It has but established new classes, new conditions of oppression, and new forms of struggle in place of the old ones.” (Marx, 1848)


In the Cuban scenario, the United States certainly didn’t follow concepts of positive peace promoted by Galtung.  Their foreign policy seemed to be more in line with pro-war authors such as Hobbes and Vattel.  As far as Locke’s “liberal education” concept: the United States educational system, entertainment, and media primarily promoted anti-communist propaganda.  Spinoza certainly would not find the US actions in Cuba to be virtuous.  Luther would see this as a violation of both the spiritual and secular kingdoms.  Rousseau would have encouraged the US to find some sustainable contract with their neighbors rather than attempting to deplete their resources by nefarious means.  Kant clearly would have opposed corporate control of another state’s resources.  His Categorical Imperative forces one to ask, “What if every country conducted its foreign relations in this manor?”  And therefore, “How would the US respond to another country if they had treated them the way the US treated Cuba?”  Finally, Marx would likely have the most to say about this particular time in history.  He would have seen this behavior as the direct result of capitalistic empiricism.  Marx would have brought attention to how the United States acted as a military force for the corporations of its country and fought against democracy and particularly the labor class.  Here Marx comments to the conflict between industry and laborers:


“The essential conditions for the existence and for the sway of the bourgeois class is the formation and augmentation of capital; the condition for capital is wage-labour. Wage-labour rests exclusively on competition between the labourers. The advance of industry, whose involuntary promoter is the bourgeoisie, replaces the isolation of the labourers, due to competition, by the revolutionary combination, due to association. The development of Modern Industry, therefore, cuts from under its feet the very foundation on which the bourgeoisie produces and appropriates products. What the bourgeoisie therefore produces, above all, are its own grave-diggers. Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable.” (Marx, 1848)


The United States could have avoided inspiring revolutionaries by not toppling South American governments.  They could have supported other democracies no matter what form of economy they chose.  The US could have avoided nearby countries allying themselves with foreign super powers by simply maintaining trade with them.  It seems quite easy to reevaluate what the United States could have done differently but rather difficult to evaluate whether or not this was positive or negative peace.  Clearly the US wasn’t attempting positive peace initially but at the end of the Cold War, the fear of global destruction gave Kennedy (and Khrushchev as well) the immediate necessity for positive peace.  The struggle against this peace seemed to continue however.  Shortly thereafter, Khrushchev was replaced and President Kennedy was assassinated.




Ernesto "Che" Guevara (World Leaders Past & Present), by Douglas Kellner, 1989, Chelsea House Publishers,  pg 40

Cullather, Nicholas (1994). Operation PBSUCCESS: The United States and Guatemala, 1952–1954. Center for the Study of Intelligence, Central Intelligence Agency.

Cullather, Nicholas (2006). Secret History: The CIA's classified account of its operations in Guatemala, 1952–1954. Palo Alto, California: Stanford University Press.

Kozloff, Nicholas (2008). Revolution!: South America and the Rise of the New Left. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Wyden, Peter. 1979. Bay of Pigs – The Untold Story. Simon and Schuster. New York.

Mahoney, Richard D. (2011). The Kennedy Brothers: The Rise and Fall of Jack and Bobby. Arcade publishing, Arizona.

U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, "Appendix to Enclosure A: Memorandum for Chief of Operations, Cuba Project" and "Annex to Appendix to Enclosure A: Pretexts to Justify U.S. Military Intervention in Cuba," U.S. Department of Defense, c. March 1962.

NSA Archive, Washington, DC, December 11, 2013

Grewel, Baljit Singh. (2003). “Johan Galtung:  Positive and Negative Peace.” School of Social Science, Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand.

Galtung, Johan (1996) An Editorial. Journal of Peace Research, 1 (1), 1-4.

Johnson, Laurie M. (2015) Thomas Hobes on the Path to Peace: Love of Glory versus Realist Foreign Policy. The Question of Peace in Modern Political Thought. Wilfred Laurier University Press. Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

Kant, Immanuel. Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch, (1917) English translation by Mary Campbel Smith. Project Gutenburg. Mainz, Germany

Marx, Karl. Engels, Frederick. Manifesto of the Communist Party (1848) Progress Publishers, Moscow.

Evaluating Democratic Peace Theory

A Review of Multiple Quantitative Articles Assessing Militaristic Strategy, Economic Systems, and the Psychology of the Citizenry of Democratic Countries throughout History.


In the annals of political science there exists a peculiar phenomenon referred to as democratic peace theory (DPT): the absence of war between democracies.  Originally presented by Immanuel Kant’s 1795 work “Perpetual Peace,” DPT states simply that Democratic countries do not fight each other.  The concept was that if all nations were Republics, civilization would end war because there would be a lack of aggressors on the world stage.  There are fundamentally three theories of Democratic peace.  The first is the Monadic Theory which states that democracies are inherently more peaceful and less likely to go to war with other states, whatever their political structure may be.  The second is the most popular and states that Democracies are essentially peaceful with one another but likely to fight with other non-democracies.  This is known as the Dyadic Theory.  The third is the Systematic Theory which claims that international systems become more peaceful with the increase of democratic states.  There are a few arguments to defend these theories that deserve attention.  One of these, known as the Normative Argument of DPT, theorizes that Democracies trust one another because they share cultural and social norms.  In addition, in Institutional Logic, leaders of a democracy are believed to respond to the general public and will therefore only go to war when victory is likely.  Lastly, the argument of Interdependence hypothesizes that Democratic states tend to adopt free market economies leading to more international trade.  This trade makes nations more dependent on one another and therefore less likely to declare war. 


Democratic leaders are beholden to voters more so than autocratic leaders.  A bloody and costly war is often avoided by the constituency because the public is generally interested in their economy and fellow citizenry.  This explains why democracies, even if warring consistently with autocracies, behave peacefully in general toward other democracies.  There is empirical evidence that in theory could be explained by stating that democratic citizens prefer peaceful resolutions to interstate conflicts.  In this quantitative literature review I will investigate the validity of this theory as well as offer other explanations therewith by evaluating multiple pieces of peer-reviewed literature, disclosing the dependent variables, theoretical approaches, research designs, and statistical methods.  In order to understand this topic, I will investigate militaristic strategies, economic systems, and the psychology of the citizenry of democratic countries.  My thesis is that DPT is in fact true and the reason for its validity arises from collectivized self-interest.  I believe the literature will conclude that Democracies primarily wish to utilize their resources for the public good and that the acquisition of additional potential resources and land will be less motivating to the democratic populace and therefore war would be less likely between two countries that share this sentiment. 


Tom Ginsburg’s 2014 article in the Chicago Journal of International Law, “Chaining the Dog of War: Comparative Data” utilizes standard probit to investigate international policy according to a country’s constitution.  This is an effective way to analyze how a Constitutional Republic (like the United States) may encourage legislatures to avoid war for the sake of appearing as peaceful politicians.  Surprisingly, his research also reveals how these same members of government may be inclined to support a war-hungry Commander-in Chief for the same reasons.  Ginsburg studies cross-national trends over time and reveals that a major detriment to assigning legislative powers is the region with which a constitution is drafted within.  He summarizes his’ article by stating this about the U.S. Founding Fathers, “Although their specific institutional design has fallen out of favor, their instinct for legislative control over executive war-making has not.” (Ginsburg, 2014, 159). 


Ginsburg’s dependent variable of probit models of legislative involvement in war-making was not significantly impacted by the independent variable of whether or not the country was a democracy or a major power but did see significant effects from the region.  For example, French colonies, Latin America, and eastern Europe (post-Soviet Union) all had legislative involvement in war.  Unfortunately, while Ginsburg was very helpful in showing us what causes a country to restrict its government, he did not show why each region chooses to do so.


While Ginsburg focused primarily on the legal aspects of democratic peace, Michael Tomz and Jessica Weeks team up to study this question from a different angle: the people.  In their article, “Public Opinion and the Democratic Peace” in American Political Science Review, Tomz and Weeks reveal that the common conception that democracies tend to avoid war for financial reasons is flawed.  They deduce, by means of a multi-nominal probit, that the public actually sympathizes with another country based on their shared democracy.  They see other democracies as less of a threat and therefore have a higher level of moral compulsion to avoid militaristic solutions. 


Tomz and Weeks show that people's perceptions of other democracies affects their willingness to go to war.  The effect of democracy on people's perceptions of cost, success, and morality is the dependent variable.  The independent variables that were significant were that attacking another democracy would have a negative effect on our relations with other countries, and that it would be immoral.  The experiment also showed a negative correlation between attacking democracies and the prevention of nuclear war.  In order to further analyze public opinion, this article would have benefitted from a quantitative, comparative study on a countries preference toward sending aid to either autocracies or democracies. 


In “Democratic peace and the norms of the public: a multilevel analysis of the relationship between regime type and citizens' bellicosity, 1981-2008" Jo Jakobsen and Tor Ekevold utilize ordered logit to investigate the dependent variable of a democratic citizenry’s warlike temperament.  A comprehensive multi-level research design is employed studying 72 different countries to present data in support of DPT.  This investigation states that not only international diplomacy is particular within democratic conflict but the people themselves are especial as well: Citizens of democracies are significantly more pacifistic than citizens of non-democracies.” (Jakobsen, Ekevold, 2016, 968) The tables were a bit difficult to follow as they tended to address multiple independent variables simultaneously; however, the data clearly showed that the bellicosity (dependent variable) was lower in countries where the polity (independent variable) was higher.


To take yet another perspective toward the validity of DPT, I present this contribution to Foreign Policy Analysis: “Regime Type and Interstate War Finance” written by Jeff Carter and Glenn Palmer.  Carter and Palmer state,  “Consistent with our expectations, we find that fighting an interstate war is associated with greater reductions in nonmilitary spending in dictatorships than in democracies and that contemporary democracies and dictatorships have largely avoided financing their wars through tax increases and inflation.” (Palmer, 2016, 695).  Here the statistical model OLS is used to study democratic and non-democratic government finance.  They conclude that democratic as well as non-democratic governments typically reduce non-military spending and increase debt in order to pay for their wars.  This reveals that the solution to the question of why democratic peace historically persists is not going to be found in economics.  Dictatorships and Democracies pay for their wars in much of the same manor and neither typically increase taxes. 


Carter and Palmer show that the dependent variable of non-military spending is reduced by the independent variable of war commencing.  The data did show that democracies are initially higher in terms of non-military spending and decrease slightly less.  One weakness of this article is that it presented a false dichotomy of being either democratic or autocratic rather than representing the extent to which a country is more or less democratic.


But perhaps we should not discount the economic perspective before reviewing Mousseau’s take on DPT.  He addresses the overwhelming evidence that DPT tends to coincide with capitalism within the two potentially waring countries and that countries with capitalist markets are less likely to lean toward civil war.  Is this correlated or causal?  In the International Studies Quarterly, Michael Mousseau discusses market-capitalism and utilizes chi-squared tests in his article, “Capitalist Development and Civil War.”  Mousseau shows that a market-capitalist economy—one where most citizens normally obtain their livelihoods contracting in the market—creates citizen-wide preferences for universal freedom, peace, and the democratic rule of law.”  The risk of armed conflict was affected by the independent variable of income.  The reader could have benefitted from Mousseau contrasting market-capitalist tendency for armed conflict with countries who's economic structure leans more communist.


In the Journal of Strategic Security, by use of COW and the Polity Index, Steve Dobransky studies Democratic military strategy in “The Dawn of a New Age? Democracies and Military Victory.”  In this article, Dobransky compares regime types and war outcomes.  He concludes that democracies are more prone to fighting and winning wars.   “This research finds that regime type and alliances are significant variables in winning wars and that democracies win the large majority (84%) of wars that they are involved in.”  (Dobransky, 2013, 1).  This will not be the only article that we will explore that studies the likelihood of democratic victory.  Research from this and the following article both reveal that democracies are far more likely to continue fighting than autocracies, and therefore are more likely to win.  Likelihood of war was the dependent variable.  It was affected by alliances with other democratic countries.  This confirms Kant’s claim that a “league of peace” would be formidable.  It would have been preferable if each figure would have indicated the significant variable for the reader.


Andrew Bausch added his benefaction to the Journal of Conflict Resolution titled “Democracy and War Effort.”  Here, Bausch tackles the question of DPT by approaching it from two angles simultaneously: studying how leaders select into wars and how they fight them.  Democracies are more likely to win war for two main reasons: they select out of difficult wars and they mobilize more resources than autocracies.  He begins by explaining the reason for democratic victories.  This rational conclusion is motivated by the idea that democratic leaders will be replaced if they don’t win.  This is known as “Selectorate Theory.”  It can better be explained by saying that leaders of democracies are more likely to lose office when they lose wars.  Bausch performs a laboratory experiment to determine the likelihood of countries selecting into wars and thereafter fighting them.  Like Dobransky, he also explains why democracies are more likely to continue fighting: “once wars were underway, democratic leaders were more reluctant than autocratic leaders to accept a negotiated settlement to end the war and used more resources in the final stage of the war.” (Bausch, 2017, 832).


 One objection to Bausch’s research is that it does not accurately represent the likelihood of autocratic and democratic leaders to enter into war.  Real-world examples derived from history are a much better predictor of future military campaigns.  For example, Christopher Gelpi’s contribution to the same Journal (Journal of Conflict Resolution) built a cumulative thesis constructed upon historical benchmarks of war.  While Bausch’s experiment showed that democracies would be more likely to engage in war, Gelpi’s “Democracies in Conflict: The Role of Public Opinion, Political Parties, and the Press in Shaping Security Policy” argues the exact opposite.  Here he references multiple examples ranging from World War I to the recent Iraq War, uses multiple domestic audience cost models, and refers to the surmounting literature concerning this topic to defend DPT. 


David Pritchard takes a comprehensive view with “Democracy and War in Ancient Athens and Today" by analyzing DPT from 500 BC to the present.  After confirming that democracies historically tend to not engage in battle with one another, he establishes that democratic regimes are no less war-like than autocracies.  Finally, he confirms the previously stated theories that democracies tend to win more battles throughout history.  Unlike other articles, this study was not derived from quantitative research, but it did finalize the argument as to whether DPT has stood the test of time.


In conclusion, it would appear that there is a consensus that democracies are highly unlikely to go to war with one another.  It is also fair to conclude, based on the referenced sources above, that this is a result of legislators attempting to avoid being replaced by their constituency.  The cause of this is likely that democratic citizens are more likely to empathize with the citizenry of other democracies and are not likely to consider them threatening.  The desire to not waste resources as a catalyst for a peaceful public is in contention; however, democracies and capitalism do tend to be correlated.  Also, there is no evidence that DPT leads to peace between democracies and non-democratic countries; in fact, democracies are proven to be less likely to negotiate peace and more likely to continue fighting until victory is attained. 


Perhaps an appropriate direction for DPT to research in the future would be the clarification of the difference between empirical and normative claims.  To classify DPT as an empirical claim is defended well by academia; however, utilizing it as a normative claim and therefore designing international policy by it has proven problematic if not utterly disastrous.  The best example of using DPT as a justification for war came to us by former President George W. Bush.  In his speech concerning the Iraq War, Bush claimed that spreading “freedom” will decrease terrorism.  We now know this to be a false prediction and can see the danger that DPT may offer as an ideology.

“They know that as freedom takes root in Iraq, it will inspire millions across the Middle East to claim their liberty as well. And when the Middle East grows in democracy, prosperity and hope, the terrorists will lose their sponsors, lose their recruits and lose their hopes for turning that region into a base for attacks on America and our allies around the world.” (George W. Bush, Whitehouse Archives, 2003, 167)

Works Cited

Bausch, Andrew W. (2017). Democracy and War Effort. Journal of Conflict Resolution 61(4): 814-838.

Carter, Jeff, & Palmer, Glenn. (2016). “Regime Type and Interstate War Finance.” Foreign Policy Analysis 12(4): 695-719.

Dobransky, Steve. (2014). “The Dawn of a New Age? Democracies and Military Victory.” Journal of Strategic Security 7(1): 1-15.

Gelpi, Christopher. (2017). “Democracies in Conflict.” Journal of Conflict Resolution 61(9): 1925–1949.

Ginsburg, Tom. (2014). “Chaining the dog of war: Comparative data.” Chicago Journal of International Law 15(1): 138-161.

Jakobsen, Jo, & Ekevold, Tor. (2016). “Democratic peace and the norms of the public: A multilevel analysis of the relationship between regime type and citizens' bellicosity, 1981-2008.” Review of International Studies 42(5): 968-991.

Mousseau, Michael (2012). “Capitalist Development and Civil War.” International Studies Quarterly 56(September): 470-483.

Pritchard, David M. (2015). “Democracy and War in Ancient Athens and Today.” Greece & Rome 62(2): 140-154.

Tomz, Michael R., & Weeks, Jessica L. P. (2013). “Public opinion and the democratic peace.” The American Political Science Review 107(4): 849-865.

White House Archives. Bush Record. 2003. Selected Speeches George W. Bush: (November 26, 2018).

NRA Propaganda Methods

Propaganda Campaign Analysis

NRA Advertisements: 1920’s to Present

“A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” (2nd Amendment to the Constitution of United States of America 1789)

According to Jowett and O’Donnell, propaganda is defined as “the deliberate, systematic, attempt to shape perceptions, manipulate cognitions, and direct behavior to achieve a response that furthers the desired intent of the propagandist.” (Jowett, O’Donnell, 2019) Recently the National Rifle Association has started a video hub named NRATV.  Its bellicose videos are spreading quickly throughout social media.  Gun rights counterpropaganda is prevalent in modern media as well with messages that attempt to refute the implications made by the NRA.  Left-leaning streaming sources have been removing some pro-gun vlogs and many right-wing subscribers claim social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter appear to promote memes and posts that are anti-gun more often than those that are pro-gun.  Main-stream news outlets such as MSNBC and CNN often promote negative journalism concerning gun ownership.

Founded in 1871, the NRA is a non-profit organization that advocates for gun rights.  The association began its political influence in 1975 by lobbying through a PAC’s named “The Political Victory Fund” and “The Institute for Legislative Action” and is now one of the top three most influential lobbying groups in Washington D.C.  Initially, the NRA supported gun regulations: it backed the National Firearms act of 1934, the Federal Firearms Act of 1938, and the Gun Control Act of 1968.  In fact, the NRA President in 1934 (Karl Frederik), during congressional NFA hearings testified "I have never believed in the general practice of carrying weapons. I seldom carry one. ... I do not believe in the general promiscuous toting of guns. I think it should be sharply restricted and only under licenses.” (Zaid, 2015) The goals of the NRA changed during the Carter administration when the NRA supported Ronald Regan’s presidential campaign.  The NRA has come under recent criticisms in the media because of current investigations by the FBI that resulted in indictments of Russian agents on charges of developing and exploiting ties with the NRA to influence US politics.  Maria Butina was arrested on July 15, 2018 and charged with conspiring to act as an unregistered agent of the Russian Federation and funneling money from the Central Bank of Russia, through the NRA, and to the 2016 Trump Campaign.  The NRA has acknowledged it had accepted contributions from 23 Russian nationals since 2015

The ideology of the NRA campaign over the years has transitioned from integration propaganda to agitation propaganda.  The target audiences are conservative males which are old enough to join and donate to the organization.  Its techniques are the repeated use of unifying slogans such as “we the people” and emotional arousal techniques like these questioned asked in pro-concealed carry ads from the 1980’s: “What does a convenience store clerk think before he is attacked?” and “Should you shoot a rapist before he cuts your throat?”  It uses specific techniques to maximize the campaigns effect such as targeting the predisposition of the audience as in a 1920’s ad asking, “Do you belong to a rifle club?” beside a cartoon of smiling men which offers a sense of comradery and the benefit of being part of a group of like-minded peers.

Source credibility is also a useful tool of propaganda.  In the next two examples, we’ll see the value of utilizing the image of the hero to promote an agenda.  In a 2017 NRA advertisement, a marine veteran says, “I didn’t hold dying Marines in my arms, defending freedom, so that corrupt politicians could disgrace their heroic sacrifice.”  In another ad that immediately followed a tragic shooting event that took the lives of 27 people, Stephen Wilford, the hero that shot the Sutherland Springs Baptist Church shooter, is introduced with the description “NRA Member” and tells the audience, “He had an AR-15 and so did I… It’s not the gun, it’s the heart.”  We see the tactic presented of utilizing the influential power of opinion leaders to promote the message as well.  In a 1950’s NRA Safety Comic Book (clearly directed at children) a Catholic Priest offers condolences for the accidental firing of a weapon that injured a boy and then encourages the mother to buy the boy a gun and have an instructor of the NRA over to teach him how to use it.  Appealing to group norms and traditions is helpful for propaganda as well.  For example, in a 1982 magazine ad, the NRA uses the image of an 8-year-old boy wearing a Christmas sweater.  He is accompanied by the slogan, “I’m the NRA.”  Once again in 1986, the NRA released a commercial targeting the traditional American sentiment by showing a carpenter using classical tools to create a rifle butt while the American Flag waves in the background. In a 1920’s Remington NRA ad that was placed in The Boy Scouts of America “Boy’s Life” magazine we see the image of a boy and his father and the message, “Your Dad Will Help You,” providing the young reader with the sense of the reward of getting the opportunity to spend time with his father. 

Verbal symbolization can create fear while simultaneously inspiring action.  In one 2017 NRA ad Dana Loesch uses triggering language by saying that liberals “assassinate real news,” your schools are telling your children that “your President is another Hitler,” “they” (liberals) are “bullying and terrorizing the law-abiding [citizens],” and concludes with the statement “fight this violence of lies with the clinched fist of truth” while violent images of ANTIFA riots flash on the screen.  This conflates the citizens that may disagree with the viewer about gun regulation with violent mobs coming for their 2nd Amendment rights.  In another recent ad she attacks any media that negatively reports mass shootings.  She utilizes the arousal of emotions method combined with hyperbolic language and aggressive metaphors when she utters phrases such as “democrat overlords,” consider this the shot across your proverbial bow,” “we’re going to laser-focus on your so-called honest pursuit of truth,” and finishes by saying, “In short, we’re coming for you.”  The most recent of these NRATV video releases shows a man using a sledge hammer to smash a television playing anti-gun media.  His shirt reads, “Socialist Fear.”  In the NRA Hunting channel, you hear pulsating, dark music accompanied by a dramatic narrator who says, “Death is an undeniable fuel of life.”  NRATV has recently started targeting women with their campaign.  It promotes a woman’s channel named “NRA Women” that airs shows such as “Armed & Fabulous” and “Love at First Shot.”  The channel’s executive producer said that her marketing tactic was, “If you get the woman, you get the family.” 

Since the Parkland shooting of February 14, 2018, where a gunman opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, killing seventeen students and staff members and injuring seventeen others, the following companies have cut revenue ties with the NRA: Avis, Delta, SimpliSafe, United, Allied, First National Banks, Paramount, TRUE Car, Budget, Hertz, MetLife, Lockton, Starkey, National, Symantec, north American, and Alamo.  Apple, Amazon, and Roku continue to offer streaming services to NRATV.



Jilani, Zaid. (2015) "For Most of Its History, The NRA Actually Backed Sensible Gun Regulation". McGregor, New York, NY.

Jowett, Garth S., O’Donnell, Victoria (2019). “Propaganda & Persuasion,” 7th Edition, Sage Publishing, Thousand Oaks, CA.

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