“Death by Government”

Rummel, R.J. Death by Government. New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 1994.

R.J. Rummel provides a statistical analysis on the level of democracy in a country and its effects on whether said country will commit acts of mass murder and genocide (or “democide”) against its own civilians. The book provides an analysis with Tables and Figures looking at the historical occurrences of major democides (1 million peope or more) that have happened in the twentieth century from 1900 to 1987. He also discusses governments that will massacre even in times of peace, in which a government “massacres in cold blood those helpless people it controls” (Rummel 3). He talks about the approach that the international community takes when labeling these democides, saying it was a product of the state, or it being the state’s fault. Rummel states that by labeling it as state associated, we are letting the actions of the actual people committing democides to hide behind the façade of the state. By recognizing patterns of democratic instability and their relationship to democide, we can better understand why regimes commit atrocities against their own citizens, how we can prevent and combat these regimes, and how we can identify the individuals responsible in order to make institutionalized violence a thing of the past.

Side Note: I chose this book due to its relevancy and applicable theories on human rights in Latin America. In our talks about Argentina, the Dirty Wars and the disappearances in Mexico, I recognized that Rummel’s research ties directly into why various governments in Latin America have committed atrocities against their civilians, by looking at the patterns of unstable and repressive government regimes that attempt to crush leftist opposition.

I selected this image because it is an example of what Rummel discusses in his book. The massacre of Mexican students at Tlatelolco in 1968 is the very problem that Rummel addresses in regards to governments having absolute power, less of a democracy and repressing leftist movements.

image citation: https://aquevedo.wordpress.com/2009/05/09/tlatelolco-una-gran-manifestacion-estudiantil-convertida-en-masacre-octubre-1968/

~Emily Bruce

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