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Perpetual peace refers to a state of affairs where peace is permanently established over a certain area (ideally, the whole world - see world peace).

Many would-be world conquerors have promised that their rule would enforce perpetual peace. No empire has ever extended its authority over the entire world, and thus nothing can be said about the ability of a universal empire to ensure world peace, but several large empires have maintained relative peace in their spheres of influence over extended periods of time. Typical examples are the Roman Empire (see Pax Romana) and the British Empire (see Pax Britannica). However their rule wasn't without incident (see Jewish Revolt, British Raj). Whether such imperial peace is actually good or desirable is another question entirely. In addition, no imperial peace has been permanent, because no empire has lasted forever.

Several religions have prophesied that their divinity would produce perpetual peace at some point in the future. The most famous of these is embodied in bronze at the United Nations headquarters, "They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more." (Isaiah 2:4)

There are also a number of secular projects for a perpetual peace which employ means more subtle, but perhaps more attainable, than universal empire or even democratic world government.

If one state can't reach the power to impose peace on the world, perhaps several can. Henry IV of France attempted to actually create such a confederation. Others were proposed by the abbé de Saint-Pierre and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

Contents

The Kantian view and its descendants

The other modern plans for a perpetual peace descend from Immanuel Kant's 1795 essay, "Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch" (Zum ewigen Frieden. Ein philosophischer Entwurf.). In this essay, Kant described his proposed peace program as containing two steps. The "Preliminary Articles" described the steps that should be taken immediately, or with all deliberate speed:

  1. "No secret treaty of peace shall be held valid in which there is tacitly reserved matter for a future war"
  2. "No independent states, large or small, shall come under the dominion of another state by inheritance, exchange, purchase, or donation"
  3. "Standing armies shall in time be totally abolished"
  4. "National debts shall not be contracted with a view to the external friction of states"
  5. "No state shall by force interfere with the constitution or government of another state"
  6. "No state shall, during war, permit such acts of hostility which would make mutual confidence in the subsequent peace impossible: such are the employment of assassins (percussores), poisoners (venefici), breach of capitulation, and incitement to treason (perduellio) in the opposing state"

Three Definitive Articles would provide not merely a cessation of hostilities, but a foundation on which to build a peace.

  1. "The civil constitution of every state should be republican"
  2. "The law of nations shall be founded on a federation of free states"
  3. "The law of world citizenship shall be limited to conditions of universal hospitality"

Kant's essay in some ways resembles, yet differs significantly from modern democratic peace theory. He speaks of republican, Republikanisch, (not democratic), states, which he defines to have representative governments, in which the legislature is separated from the executive. He does not discuss universal suffrage, which is vital to modern democracy and quite important to some modern theorists; his commentators dispute whether it is implied by his language. Most importantly, he does not regard republican governments as sufficient by themselves to produce peace: freedom of emigration (hospitality) and a league of nations are necessary to consciously enact his six-point program.

Unlike some modern theorists, Kant claims not that republics will be at peace only with each other, but are more pacific than other forms of government in general.

The general idea that popular and responsible governments would be more inclined to promote peace and commerce became one current in the stream of European thought and political practice. It was one element of the American policy of George Canning and the foreign policy of Lord Palmerston. It was also represented in the liberal internationalism of Woodrow Wilson, George Creel, and H.G. Wells, although other planks in Kant's platform had even more influence. In the next generation, Kant's program was represented by the Four Freedoms and the United Nations.

Kant's essay is a three-legged stool (besides the preliminary disarmament). Various projects for perpetual peace have relied on one leg - either claiming that it is sufficient to produce peace, or that it will create the other two.

In August 1914, in the early days of World War I, Wells stated that the war would be, "the war to end all war" Talk:War to end all wars, on the grounds that once Prussian militarism and autocracy was replaced by popular government, European nations would not ever go to war with each other; militarism and armaments resulted from the German threat. (He also suggested other policies, which proved less popular.) This idea was much repeated and simplified over the next four years; at present the idea that democracy by itself should prevent or minimize war is represented by the various democratic peace theories.

In 1909, Norman Angell relied only upon the second leg, arguing that modern commerce made war necessarily unprofitable, even for the technically victorious country, and therefore the possibility of successful war was The Great Illusion. James Mill had described the British Empire as outdoor relief for the upper classes; Joseph Schumpeter argued that capitalism made modern states inherently peaceful and opposed to conquest and imperialism, which economically favored the old aristocratic elites.

This theory has been well developed in recent years. Mansfield and Pollins, writing in the Journal of Conflict Resolution, summarize a large body of empirical work which, for the most part, supports the thesis [1]. There are various exceptions and qualifications which seem to limit the circumstances under which economic interdependence results in conflict reduction. On the other hand, moving beyond economic interdependence to the issue of economic freedom within states, Erik Gartzke has found empirical evidence that economic freedom (as measured by the Fraser Institute Economic Freedom Index) is about fifty times more effective than democracy in reducing violent conflict. [2]

The third leg is the old idea that a confederation of peaceable princes could produce a perpetual peace. Kant had distinguished his league from a universal state; Clarence Streit proposed, in Union Now(1938), a union of the democratic states modelled after the Constitution of the United States. He argued that trade and the peaceable ways of democracy would keep this Union perpetual, and counted on the combined power of the Union to deter the Axis from war.

Jeremy Bentham proposed that disarmament, arbitration, and the renunciation of colonies would produce perpetual peace, thus relying merely on Kant's preliminary articles and on none of the three main points; contrary to the modern theorists, he relied on public opinion, even against the absolute monarchy in Sweden. Many have followed him since.

References

Kant's Project for a Perpetual Peace
Bentham's Plan for an Universal and Perpetual Peace
Peace Plans of Rousseau, Bentham, and Kant
Mansfield and Pollins, The Study of Interdependence and Conflict
Erik Gartke, Economic Freedom and Peace
Stephen Palmquist, "The Philosopher as a 'Secret Agent' for Peace: Taking Seriously Kant's Revival of the 'Old Question'", in Valerio Rohden, Ricardo R. Terra and Guido A. de Almeida (eds.), Recht und Frieden in der Philosophie Kants, vol. 4 of Akten des X. Internationalen Kant-Kongresses (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2008), pp.601-612.

Other uses of "Perpetual peace"

See also

External links

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