5 votes

Why World Violence Is Declining

Dear Daily Paul reader,

I would like to request your thoughtful reply, hopefully in a lengthy paragraph or essay, upon the book written by Dr. Steven Pinker.

As you may know, Dr. Pinker is an author, a self described “classical liberal-atheist-evolutionist-philosopher-linguist-humanitarian”. He is the author of several books that I've read. His book “THE BLANK SLATE: The Modern Denial of Human Nature” was very sympathetic to the conservative/libertarian understanding of human nature and very unfavorable to the socialist/Marxist understanding. His other book which I found simply amazing was “HOW THE MIND WORKS”. Notice it was “how”. Most neuro-biologists and evolutionary-psychologists agree, it’s an amazing book and a bold one at that.

Now comes his latest book, the book for which I seek your insightful response, is a masterful 700 page argument. Like his other books, it does not appear to be an “ought” argument, or normative argument. For this reason, libertarians such as you and I should take this work very seriously. This book is called, “THE BETTER ANGELS OF OUR NATURE: WHY VIOLENCE HAS DECLINED”.

Here, he convinces me with fact after fact that indeed, violence has declined and declined on a massive scale. He also convinces me that this is true even despite Rummels documentation of murderous governments, including WWI and WWII. From Pinker’s book, I agree, we are living in a rare but wonderful “Long Peace”. It seems factually true that we are living in a time of unprecedented world peace, and the facts, as presented, force me to agree.

But notice this book title uses the word “Why”. And to answer that, Dr. Pinker marshals his facts and says that the answer is two-fold, A Market Based Economy and a Government. While his market based economy arguments are solid & strong & tight, his arguments for government are troubling because they are also so solid, strong and tight. Its a total rebuke of anarchy because it increases violence significantly. For “Rothbardinan anarcho-capitalists”, this is indeed a challenging book and it deserves a well thought out reply. No doubt this is the kind of book that Dr. Murray Rothbard would, if he was around, answer the call. For what Dr. Pinker has done is show that Hobbes was "mostly right". Pinker even states this several times.

Now if one is a classical liberal/Randian/Friedman “minarchist”, perhaps this is a welcome book. But I am not so sure about that either, because it seems to imply one world govt is the best. Now Pinker addresses that in a sentence or two and then dismisses it, but besides choking on the brevity, I conclude he is not clear on this either and decides to sidestep a landmine.

So, please move this book to the top of your “to read” pile. As a “Daily Paul reader”, I am very curious to read your thoughts after you've had time to fully digest Pinker’s book. Agree or disagree with Dr. Pinker, either way I look forward to your wise thoughts on the subject. (and if you have not read it, read it first!)

In peace & liberty,
Treg



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I remember one time I stayed in Harlem

with a guy that lived there. He told me about how the drug dealers cleaned up the crime and he felt safer having them there. They didn't bother him and he didn't bother them. He could walk down the street without fear of being robbed.

That doesn't lead to the conclusion that we should have drug dealers run our cities.

“Although it was the middle of winter, I finally realized that, within me, summer was inextinguishable.” — Albert Camus

I have not read the book but

I have not read the book but I do read a lot of history and I am insterested in the subject. The topic in itself lends itself to subjectivity. What does "declining violence" mean? You could say, today it is unacceptable to tile Highway 101 from SJC to SFO with crucified people - as it was common in the Roman times - or impale whole armies as Vlad Dracula did. However, mass extermination is more efficient - atomic bomb, Nazis, Stalin - and less visible to other people. So maybe violence is less gruesome.

It is easy for an academic in his cube to reach this conclusions because he is isolated of - let's say - the drug violence or the drone violence. If I find someone in Afganistan that reaches those same conclusions I will definitely read that book.

The conclusion I have reached is a philosophical one. It depends on THE INDIVIDUAL and I think Christianity makes more individuals less violent because of its tenets. You may give counterexamples like Santorum wanting to nuke Iran. However, in this case he is deviating from the principles and it is obvious he is wrong.

In other words, any society with ethical individuals will run well under different systems (except the extrems like Nazism or Communism).

Maybe humankind is just like lemmings driven by the uncouncious. Then violence, economy, and almost anything would be completely random.

Good question deng, and Pinker takes up that question from the

start. Please find the time to at least get your hands on the book and flip through its pages.

Yes, please BUY this wonderful libertarian BOOK! We all must know the History of Freedom! Buy it today!

"The System of Liberty: Themes in the History of Classical Liberalism" ...by author George Smith --
Buy it Here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/05211820

Well what's his arguments for statism?

I don't want to read the book because of time cost--i'd rather you share the specific arguments. Division of labor for increased efficiency :)

It is not so much as an argument FOR statism

Rather, its an argument that says, ...lets look at the factual data concerning just violence when there is no State and lets look at the factual data concerning just violence when there is no market-based economy. So it is an argument "against" anarchy and socialism if YOU are morally against violence.

Moreover, its a data-factual empirical "is" type argument, not an "ought" argument or a moral argument for the good. If you hold nonviolence as the good, then here is the data. Of course you are free to hold up other moral goods which can compel you to choose anarchy or socialism, despite the higher levels of human violence that such a society will bring.

So for 700 pages he shows the results, the empirical results from what happens to violence when a market-based economy and a State under the rule of law work hand in hand -- violence drops significantly, to less than 1%. And that is taking into account the murderous wars that governments commits, including all those right up to the Iraq war.

That is why this is such a powerful book. For the Rothbardian Anarcho-capitalist, to reply they must reply with factual arguments, not moralistic "ought" arguments, but "is" arguments. Can it be done? Perhaps, and if such a book is done that specifically addresses Pinker's work, it would or could advance the cause of liberty.

Treg

Yes, please BUY this wonderful libertarian BOOK! We all must know the History of Freedom! Buy it today!

"The System of Liberty: Themes in the History of Classical Liberalism" ...by author George Smith --
Buy it Here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/05211820

Cyril's picture

Not a lengthy essay, just a pointer to a relevant movie scene

Not a lengthy essay, just a pointer to a relevant movie scene[*], that the YT poster felt compelled to title "Zorg vs. Bastiat" - yet another one illustrating The Broken Window Fallacy - and that I might just as well have titled "Government's Arbitrary vs. Peaceful Peoples" :


http://youtu.be/SnzzWGcdMqY

[*] from The Fifth Element

Indeed.

Doesn't take a genius to find out about THE TRULY MOST ACTIVE, AND DESTRUCTIVE terrorists on this planet :


http://youtu.be/3DOgWuGYGeo

And those ain't from the VAST majority of peoples essentially struggling to go thru their lives, more or less successfully, more or less wisely, more or less luckily; rather, those are to be found among the same who love THE IDEA THAT THEY ARE THE SUPERMEN :

The Superman Idea

http://www.dailypaul.com/277502/the-utter-fallacy-of-the-sup...

"Cyril" pronounced "see real". I code stuff.

http://Laissez-Faire.Me/Liberty

"To study and not think is a waste. To think and not study is dangerous." -- Confucius

Seems simple to me

Pinker's not allowing for market-based government. The argument that government as we understand it is necessary can only be sustained, by Pinker, if he limits the choices to large central governments or no government at all.

If you allow for a system of government(s)built from the ground up through market forces, i.e., intelligent, civilized people organizing and cooperating to protect their property, then you don't need either "anarchy" or the state as we understand it.

No reason that government--a region being policed and having certain generally agreed upon rules enforced--can't be offered as a service in the free market.

Democide

Death by Government
By R.J. Rummel
http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/NOTE1.HTM

A Vindication of Natural Society - Edmund Burke 1756
http://www.dailypaul.com/274096/a-vindication-of-natural-soc...

Governments by definition consist of force and violence so it is axiomatic that governments cannot obtain peace.

9-11 Media Fakery: Did anyone die on 9-11?
http://www.cluesforum.info/

http://www.septemberclues.info/

9-11 Actors:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6aPvJSQtmoE

Pysops.. media.. actors.. propagandists... disinfo agents.. fake videos.. fake photos

Rummel's arguments about Government Killing Millions is true

But he failed to see an even bigger picture. So don't let Rummel cloud or blind your vision to see the long term trend line, ie the BIG PICTURE on Human Violence and "Democide"-death by govt. For the story of Human Freedom and of course Human Violence, begins in hunter-gatherer societies.

For Instance, the following is also true and I submit it for your full consideration: Though Burke is quite dead and could not have known at the time,....Speaking of "natural societies", the most natural are the ones studied by anthropologists and evolutionists such as Professors Leaky & Dart. Since Man has walked the Earth, the majority of that time, well over a million years, has been during our time in Africa. We walked. We walked up and down the Nile and down to the tip of South Africa, always following grazing animals. Indeed, grazing animals travel about 12-26 miles per day, and we humans are built to comfortably walk as much. Even the pace of our gate is at grazing animal speed. Over 95% of our time on Earth has been spent, walking. To put it another way, if Man's time on Earth was a 24 hour day, the last 10,000 years was less than 5 minutes.

Yes, Man, was walking and tracking animals up and down rivers and lakes, up and down lowlands and highlands, and we followed the seasons. We walked and followed the great grazing herds, culling them from the herd, and gathering what we could along the way. Our bodies reflect this "follower-culler-gather" way of life.

So in 2013 we can say to our dear wonderful Burke that our "natural society" appears to be, as best we can tell, one of few physical possessions, and egalitarian or low hierarchical society. Indeed, most of our foodstuffs today come from these places: various citrus, wheat, barley, rice, almonds, olives, carrots, onions, walnuts, pistachios, apricots, peaches, apples and most of all, large ground fowl (chicken), a highly prized variety of Ox (the cow), goats, sheep and perhaps most importantly, Man's best friend, the dog. The horse appears to have come to us late in the game when were just starting to build our first cities and it from the Steps much farther north. So it took hundreds of thousands of years, walking up and down the Nile and to other places as the seasons change to domesticate our nightly dinner, but we did it. This is the "natural society" that gave birth to Man. This is the "natural society" that gave us freedom and violence.

Meanwhile, hierarchical societies with lots of varied property, from rooms, vats, halls, and walls, do not appear until 10,000 years ago; in our first cities in Iraq (just 5 minutes ago sort of speak).

Now, the question arises, how much violence was there in those low hierarchy, low property, walking-culling-gathering tribes sprinkled over the African plain? Apparently, a lot. Yes, one hell of a lot if we compare it to today. Today, you and I have according to many, and I doubt Rummel disputes this, a 1% chance of dying a violent death and less than that in a government war. For women, it much less. But the evidence that we have gathered from modern day "hunter-gatherers" tells us and from the fossil and written historical records, tells of violence so great that you wouldn't believe it. The evidence tells us that in these low hierarchy, low property, egalitarian societies from which we were "birthed" on the plains of Africa and spent most of our time on earth are very violent. You and I would have whopping 25-35% chance of dying a violent death. What would we be fighting about? Well women for one. Yes, it tops the list. Next comes insults & disrespect, that is damaged reputation. Third comes territory, and of course with territory come food & water.

And what is amazing, is the journey back through the last 10,000 years and how horribly violent and murderous it was. From the great empires to the Dark Ages, it was one torturous, bloody mess. Our chances of dying a violent death during this period was only slightly better, perhaps 15-25%. This high chance of dying a violent death, at the hands of your neighbors or marching to the steps of an army, did not drop until the late 1700's, ie the beginnings of the Renaissance. And it has continued decreasing! Violence has been dropping like a stone in water. And that is despite the two world wars and all the horrible things done by governments. That is the data that Dr. Pinker presents. Now stop and think about this, as he did.

What is causing this great drop in violence? His answer may not sit well with anarcho-capitalists, but according to Dr. Pinker it is because of two things: A market based economy and an effective government (Somalia = ineffective and bordering on anarchy, or the "natural state" of Man's social relations with low hierarchy, low property, egalitarian...etc.

So I invite you again, please read his book. And then lets chat. You will see that Dr. Pinker cover's Rummel's work thoroughly and does not detract from it. But the big picture is bigger than Rummel has put forth.

Treg

Yes, please BUY this wonderful libertarian BOOK! We all must know the History of Freedom! Buy it today!

"The System of Liberty: Themes in the History of Classical Liberalism" ...by author George Smith --
Buy it Here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/05211820

Maybe I'll read it after I read the Communist Manifesto

I probably should read statist and NWO propaganda to see what ideas are being pushed so I can more easily respond, but unfortunately I feel it's not an effective use of my time right now.

#1-I used Rummel and Burke as references to the historical account of attributing most of world violence directly to government. Based on your response it seems you have not read Burke. He is considered the philosophical founder of modern day conservatism and in his late 20's wrote a scathing essay on the history of violence of both despotisms AND democracies and one of the most compelling cases for a Natural Society (ie. Anarchy)
A Vindication of Natural Society - Edmund Burke 1756
http://www.dailypaul.com/274096/a-vindication-of-natural-soc...

#2-Beyond historical evidence, it's praexology. Governments as most commonly defined today IS violent by nature. It's axiomatic. Goverment = Force & Violence. NWO and World government = World Force & Violence

#3-Governments contradict free markets, so Pinker's thesis is contradictory on its head. Free markets do create less violence. Governments intervene in free markets and create more violence.

9-11 Media Fakery: Did anyone die on 9-11?
http://www.cluesforum.info/

http://www.septemberclues.info/

9-11 Actors:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6aPvJSQtmoE

Pysops.. media.. actors.. propagandists... disinfo agents.. fake videos.. fake photos

Jd925 -- when you put forth the Broken Window Fallacy or

the evidence that raising minimum wage actually increases unemployment or a dozen other libertarian free market arguments.....AND... you get deflecting and off the point remarks combined with quips such as ..."Maybe I'll read it after a I read the Communist Manifesto" --

My point is you are doing what people do to you when you present the free market case. You clearly recognize that here is somebody of work that directly challenges your prior thoughts/beliefs that violence is increasing, so you deflect, dismiss, and refuse to take up the challenge and read it.

Be better than that.

Treg

PS. Yes, read Burke and Rummel and as I wrote, Pinker addresses Rummels great data on government killings.... yet there the facts are, despite govt violence and wars, still total violence is declining. Come on, at the very least you can get yourself over to a bookstore and flip through its pages just for the graphs alone!

Yes, please BUY this wonderful libertarian BOOK! We all must know the History of Freedom! Buy it today!

"The System of Liberty: Themes in the History of Classical Liberalism" ...by author George Smith --
Buy it Here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/05211820

This is my last post on this thread.

1) Again it's axiomatic and praxeological that government is the source of violence. I have no idea who Pinker is and his conclusion is doublethink so charts and data won't change my views.

2) There is a reason that when you introduce a theory that supports government, global government, or NWO the liberty audience will not be receptive to your post.

3) I stand by my post and really plan to try to get through the Communist Manifesto before reading any other pro-government book. It's just about prioritizing.

Good luck with your learning if that's what you're here for. Regards.

9-11 Media Fakery: Did anyone die on 9-11?
http://www.cluesforum.info/

http://www.septemberclues.info/

9-11 Actors:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6aPvJSQtmoE

Pysops.. media.. actors.. propagandists... disinfo agents.. fake videos.. fake photos

I'm not sure why this was down voted,

perhaps people saw it as a plug for global governance and statist mumbo jumbo.

I have some alternative thoughts about the trending decrease in violence. I would say violence has a bunch of roots, not all of which are reasonable. I would say some is just spawned out of craziness, while some of it is motivated by aspects of human nature (such as jealousy or fear). I would also say that some violence arises because there is something to gain by using it, ie. theft and control by force.

So, here's my thoughts. I'm a little divided over whether human nature has been evolving, although I suspect it waxes and wanes and changes based on situations, I think we're pretty much the same people we have been for generations. It's certainly worthy of argument, but I would wager that we are no more crazy or jealous or fearful or ... than we have been in the past. These potential causes of violence probably haven't changed since the vat of human emotions from which we all draw from is still largely the same. However, when we consider violence that arises form theft and control, I think the whole landscape has changed dramatically. I think that what you can gain by force has lessened because of the degree to which people are connected. The greater degree to which we are connected, the greater stake we have in our community and the more we have to lose by violating certain norms of reciprocity. So, I would say that violence has decreased because we have been increasing our connectivity. There is less to gain by taking something by force in terms of you and your community than there may have been in the past because the community is broader and more connected. I would say that this type of violence (the kind used to get something) persists in areas where there is less connectivity, and therefore, less reciprocity and empathy.

IMO, this is why person-on-person violence has decreased. I think this connectivity has occurred independent of government or institutions or the faiths that have been trying to influencing our behaviors for eons. If we are going to give any credit to these agencies, it would not be because of their use of force in controlling behaviors but by them facilitating (or more likely not interfering with) our ability to be connected. In fact, our governments persist as the main perpetrators of violence today, despite the overall declines.

I suspect state sponsored government violence persists to the extent it can maintain its power while benefiting form using force on others. But our connectivity is crushing this too, as we see that our counties can benefit very little (if any) from war and manipulation. It's getting harder to bomb some opposing nation when the people in those nations trade with each other, visit, be friends on facebook, and ultimately, care about each other. Conversely, a one-world government doesn't necessarily require reciprocity for it's success or benefit from the connectivity of it's people. It may perpetuate and prosper on the backs of its subjects without fear of losing its position because it would have a true monopoly on force. So, I would wager that such a government would be capable of the most violence. Further, I would even postulate that the more sovereignty is decentralized, the more connectivity matters and the greater chance we would have of being free, prosperous and in a world of peace. That may jive more with Rothbardinan anarcho-capitalism or what ever, but i think it's beside the point. Being in a good and peaceful world requires good and peaceful people and a landscape where violence has little reward.

Thanks for an intelligent and well reasoned reply

And I am not sure either why this is down voted... perhaps its my name they don't like?

I would be very curious to read your opinion after you've read the book.

Treg

Yes, please BUY this wonderful libertarian BOOK! We all must know the History of Freedom! Buy it today!

"The System of Liberty: Themes in the History of Classical Liberalism" ...by author George Smith --
Buy it Here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/05211820

Is it well written?

I have a history of slugging through good books that are poorly written and end up quieting despite the content. So, I've kind of taken up lighter reading of late. I'll see if they have it at the library tomorrow and let you know if I take a liking to it.

No x 1,000,000

No x 1,000,000
Just say no to Utopia

Southern Agrarian