Steven Pinker on The Decline of Violence & "The Better Angels of Our Nature"

You are less likely to die a violent death today than at any other time in human history. In fact, violence has been on a steady decline for centuries now. That's the arresting claim made by Harvard University cognitive neuroscientist Steven Pinker in his new book, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined.

Just a couple of centuries ago, violence was pervasive. Slavery was widespread; wife and child beating an acceptable practice; heretics and witches burned at the stake; pogroms and race riots common, and warfare nearly constant. Public hangings, bear-baiting, and even cat burning were popular forms of entertainment. By examining collections of ancient skeletons and scrutinizing current day tribal societies, anthropologists have found that people were nine times more likely to be killed in tribal warfare than to die of war and genocide in even the war-torn 20th century. The murder rate in medieval Europe was 30 times higher than today.

What happened? Human nature did not change, but our institutions did, encouraging people to restrain their natural tendencies toward violence. Over the course of more than 850 pages of data and analysis, Pinker identifies a series of institutional changes that have led to decreasing levels of life-threatening violence. The rise of states 5,000 years ago dramatically reduced tribal conflict. In recent centuries, the spread of courtly manners, literacy, commerce, and democracy have reduced violence even more. Polite behavior requires self-restraint; literacy encourages empathy; commerce switches encounters from zero-sum to positive-sum gains; and democracy restrains the excesses of government.

Pinker dropped by Reason’s Washington, D.C., office to talk with Science Correspondent Ronald Bailey about ideology, empathy, and why you’re much less likely to get knifed in the face these days.

Approximately 9.30 minutes.

Shot and edited by Jim Epstein; additional camera Joshua Swain.

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  • Tim||

    Cat burning?

  • Bob||

    As kids we would put firecrackers in the mouths of frogs and watch them explode. We've come a long way from cat burning!

  • HMFIC||

    What is not said is that a smaller proportion of the total population are being killed by military violence. He does not take not account non-organized violence in his study. The ratio of deaths to lives has decreased not the number of deaths which are higher than ever. Hence a reduction in "violence." Pretty shady if you ask me.

  • Darwin||

    The number of deaths has increased because we have 7 billion people on the planet... the number of deaths will always be the same as the number of births if you wait 120 years or so...

    Militarized violence is higher among foraging people than among nation-states. Over half of Jivaro males died in raids. A good third of Yanamao males died in raids and violence. There's nothing shady about his analyses... violence has gone down. A lot. And for a long time.

  • HMFIC||

    Thank you for restating what I said. Military violence proportional to the population has gone down but it has actually increased in quantity more people are being killed since the advent of modernity than ever in the history of the human race. Devils arithmetic to me.

  • Psychology Today: Pinker lied||

    Pulled a Stinker

  • Suki||

    The #Occupy Someplace slackers are taking up the slack on violence.

  • "KNOWINGLY MISLEAD"||

    Steven Pinker's Stinker on the Origins of War
    Did Steven Pinker knowingly mislead his audience at TED?
    Published on March 29, 2011 by Christopher Ryan

    www.psychologytoday.com/blog/s.....rigins-war

  • ||

    "KM" - In this TED talk Pinker is using contemporary ethnographic violence data from small-scale pre-state societies. Very often data is thought to shed some light on prehistoric societies. In any case, Pinker in his book cites the growing paleoanthropological data concerning violence rates in prehistoric societies. There is a good review of these paleoanthropological data in this 2009 review [PDF] article in Science by Samuel Bowles. Please note that the Bowles article compares violence rates from the paleoanthropological studies with violence rates derived from contemporary ethnographic studies and finds them very similar.

  • Warty||

    If you want to play nice with White Indian, Ron, go ahead, but remember that she's not arguing in anything close to good faith.

  • k2000k||

    So....Im not free to gambol?

  • JMW||

    Gamboling is a tough addiction to treat, so no. You're not.

  • Warty, dishonest smears are...||

    ...your forte, not mine. Oh, the irony.

  • ||

    The three inch spear head embedded in my hip approves of this message.

  • PIRS||

    Mr. Bailey,

    The societies that we see today that are "pre-state" societies are precisely those cultures that did NOT develop for one reason or another. Don’t you think it is possible – if not even likely – that those societies have characteristics in common that are not shared by societies that DID develop into what we call modern successful societies?

    In a sense this might be like looking at a log cabin and saying “Aha! This is what a skyscraper looks like before it is completed!”

  • Pinker's Stinker||

    Pinker used AGRICULTURAL small-scale pre-state societies.

    Sorry, Ron, but Pinker is being deliberately disingenuous by ignoring PRE-AGRICULTURAL societies.

    But I know why.

    Domestication/Agriculture is associated with a rise in violence.

  • Prehistoric, but not pre-ag||

    That's the problem, Ron. Domestication and agriculture have been shown to increase violence.

    Pinker uses societies involved in domestication and agriculture.

    It's no surprise he finds high violence.

  • Suki||

    Mystery solved. What does the big "E" in TED stand for?

  • Tim||

    Expletive.

  • ||

    Embolytic.

  • Supreme Generalissimo Fluffy||

    To spare the rest of you from reading this link, I will summarize it for you:

    1. It's not fair to use evidence from actual societies we can study, when we could instead just imagine how other hunter-gatherers (for whom no evidence remains) lived in Magical Unicorn Land

    2. It's not fair to compare humans to chimps (which have been documented as extremely warlike) instead of bonobos (which have not been so documented). Of course, chimps were also believed to be pacifists before they were adequately studied, and the absence of close documentation of warlike behavior among bonobos is probably just an artifact of the the fact that bonobos have not been as thoroughly studied as chimps, but let's not mention that.

  • Tim||

    We've seen all the Planet of the Apes films, and they speak for themselves.

  • Pinker's Stinker Debunked||

    actual societies

    If only Pinker had used actual hunter gatherer societies. Did you read the article, or do you just shoot off the mouth?

    Are these groups representative of our hunter-gatherer ancestors?

    Not even close.

    Read, Fluffy, read. Simple.

  • Supreme Generalissimo Fluffy||

    I read the article, and basically it argues that societies that use "plant and return" gathering aren't hunter-gatherer societies.

    And that's fucking retarded. It also makes even a theoretical return to hunting and gathering impossible without physically altering the species to make it impossible for anyone to ever again make the observation, "If I drop a bunch of seeds here, migrate somewhere else, and come back later when the plants have grown, I'll have something to eat."

    It also speculates on what Pinker would find were it possible to actually observe prehistoric hunter-gatherer societies, but that criticism is naturally infected by the writer's specious romanticized Dances with Wolves bullshit.

  • PIRS||

    "I read the article, and basically it argues that societies that use "plant and return" gathering aren't hunter-gatherer societies."

    Squirrels are agricultural! NO wonder they are so evil!!!

  • Pinker's Stinker||

    Pinker used AGRICULTURAL small-scale pre-state societies.

    Sorry, Ron, but Pinker is being deliberately disingenuous by ignoring PRE-AGRICULTURAL societies.

    But I know why.

    Domestication/Agriculture is associated with a rise in violence.

    Pinker is an apologist for the STATE, and so is FLUFFY and Co.

  • Jesse Walker||

    So the violent bonobos live in Magical Unicorn Land?

  • Suki||

    Who do you think tamed the wild unicorns?

  • Supreme Generalissimo Fluffy||

    Bonobos and chimps are closely related.

    Chimps were believed to be pacifist vegetarians. For a long, long time. Then field work revealed that they actually eat meat regularly, and are highly warlike.

    Now we're told, "Hey, chimps are savages - but those cuddly little bonobos (that have been studied much less) are pacifist vegetarians."

    Since you bullshitted me about the pacifism of chimps, why should I find claims about the pacifism of bonobos credible? Especially when it comes from an academic establishment that has routinely and repeatedly in primate studies and in anthropology projected its Rousseauian political desires onto its theoretical work?

  • k2000k||

    It is always funny to think about how surprised these academics are when empirical evidence shows their theories to be untrue. I always assumed, given that these animals lived in the wild, that they would be, you know? wild. Maybe self hating members of our race can take solace in the fact there is no such thing as a peaceful animal. Even a bunny rabbit is willing to kill its own if it suits its purpose or need.

  • FlyoverCountry||

    Growing up, I had a large rabbit named cottontail and she had babies. I was around 5 or 6 at the time, and I thought it was so neat that one day I had 2 rabbits, and the next day, I had 8!

    A few days after they were born, I went out to feed them and Cottontail had eaten all of her babies. It was gross, and it kind of ruined Easter for me that year.

    Rabbits are cannibals, and you can take that to the bank.

  • ||

    it kind of ruined Easter for me that year.

    In all seriousness isn't Easter pre-ruined by the fact that it is Easter?

    You don't get any days off from school and you have to go to church...that isn't a holiday...that is a penance.

    Yeah sure you get an egg hunt and a nice breakfast...but as a kid i played games like that everyday and they were not adult supervised and i would not get yelled at for messing up my Easter Sunday cloths for playing them.

    Easter sucked man, dead baby rabbits or not.

  • JMW||

    Where do you live that you don't get days off school for Easter?

    I got both Friday and Monday off on Easter weekend, but maybe that's a Canadian thing?

  • ||

    but maybe that's a Canadian thing?

    I went to Catholic grade school in the states and we did not get shit...in fact I think they kept us longer for plays and special Friday mass or Ash Wednesday or some such bullshit.

  • Robert||

    Many accounts (even YouTubes) of that behavior by mother pussy cats too.

  • Robert||

    Charles Fort's "fourth book was called Lo! The title was suggested by his old friend Tiffany Thayer, because, he said, astronomers are for ever calculating and pointing to the sky where they figure a new star should be, and then saying `Lo', and there is nothing whatever to be seen where they point..." --
    Lionel Fanthorpe (writing as John E Muller): The X-Machine

  • cw||

    Read the comments. Apparently there have been studies of the bonobo, and they report that they are violent and aggressive.

  • Supreme Generalissimo Fluffy||

    Gosh, I am SHOCKED - SHOCKED - that gambling has been going on in this establishment.

  • ||

    Your winnings sir.

  • ||

    So the violent bonobos live in Magical Unicorn Land?

    No violent bonobos live where ever bonobos live...because bobobos, like chimps and humans are violent by nature.

    Observations in the wild indicate that the males among the related common chimpanzee communities are extraordinarily hostile to males from outside the community. Parties of males 'patrol' for the unfortunate neighbouring males who might be traveling alone, and attack those single males, often killing them.[citation needed] This does not appear to be the behavior of bonobo males or females in their own communities, where they seem to prefer sexual contact over violent confrontation with outsiders

    In fact from reading Wikipedia it sounds like Bonobos are in a constant state of war.

  • ||

    Actually from rereading the article it appears the authors are trying to say regular chimps go to war with outsiders while Bonobos fuck outsiders instead.

    Wikipedia needs a better editor.

    Is the fucking "in their own communities" or is the fucking with "outsiders?" who knows.

  • ||

    1. It's not fair to use evidence from actual societies we can study, when we could instead just imagine how other hunter-gatherers (for whom no evidence remains) lived in Magical Unicorn Land

    I think both are a problem. For the MUL problem and the actual study of remaining h/g tribes. The remaining h/g tribes are obviously not the baseline of humanity, agricultural civilization and the state are what the vast bulk of humanity live under. Studying h/g tribes is like trying to learn how to drive a Formula One car by only going to a mini-van junkyard: You can only learn so much, and very little of it is applicable anyway.

  • cw||

    I read the article as well. The commenters lay into the author, including has claim that bonobos aren't violent.

  • graduate psychology student||

    chimps were also believed to be pacifists before they were adequately studied

    Being adequately studied pisses the hell out of me to, even at $10/hour.

  • PIRS||

    Fluffy,

    To repeat what I replied to Mr. Bailey:

    The societies that we see today that are "pre-state" societies are precisely those cultures that did NOT develop for one reason or another. Don’t you think it is possible – if not even likely – that those societies have characteristics in common that are not shared by societies that DID develop into what we call modern successful societies?

    In a sense this might be like looking at a log cabin and saying “Aha! This is what a skyscraper looks like before it is completed!”

  • Supreme Generalissimo Fluffy||

    The big reason I'm not impressed by that counterargument is because we live in a country that had a series of direct encounters with hunter-gatherer peoples that were extraordinarily well documented.

    The Plains Indians had war, and plenty of the old ultraviolence.

    Everything about the Plains Indians fits perfectly into the paradigm of pre-agricultural Neolithic man. The Plains culture was an Epcot-quality living history reproduction of late Ice Age grasslands cultures, with the buffalo standing in for the mammoth.

    If hunter-gatherer man wasn't a pacifist on the plains, I see no reason to assume he was a pacifist anywhere, unless compelling positive evidence of that is presented.

  • PIRS||

    The plains Indians are an example of what I mean. There was some reason (and we can argue about what reason that might be) they were not as advanced as the European Americans who documented them at that time. So they are not a refutation of this point.

  • MJ||

    Then the only scholars who can study hunter gatherer society are ones from hunter gatherer societies, and such societies do not have scholars.

  • Plains Ind. = post apocalyptic||

    They were refugees from the invasion of civilization, what anthropologists call a "Post Apocalyptic" society.

    Sort of like saying the Japanese survivors of the hiroshima nuclear bomb were an inferior society, because they had such poor buildings.

  • Realist||

    "Why peace and prosperity are triumphing over death and destruction"
    That is bullshit....how many wars are we in currently?

  • ||

    They are quite small wars, by any historical measure, if that helps.

  • Realist||

    Small for us not so small for the thousands of others dying.

  • Skr||

    Since it's only in the thousands, yeah they're small.

  • k2000k||

    The authors statement isn't inaccurate. There were far more wars and conflicts in the past than there was in recent history. And they are far less bloody. Doesn't mean wars are a good thing, but the overall course of humanity has been a on a positive trend.

  • Suki||

    They are not even wars, in newspeak.

  • wareagle||

    they're overseas contingency operations

  • ||

    Kinetic love.

  • ||

    when you drop the....teadybear from 30,000 feet it will cause.....cuddles for everyone within a 1km radius and....sssnuggles, causing severe burns requiring hospitalization, to everyone within a 2km radius.

  • ||

    "Aggressive negotiations"

  • anonymous commenter some guy||

    The point is to look at the war as a whole and its effects on the populations involved, not just the number of wars we are in. And even if America is unusually warlike for this time period, there are plenty of other nations out there less warlike than us. Pinker was talking about the world as a whole, not just America.

  • k2000k||

    America isn't unsually warlike right now. We have always been a nation willing to get into scraps. From our independence to 1800 we were involved in 7 military conflicts. 3 wars with various indian tribes,3 small scale rebellions, and a quasi war with France. I think alot of the decrease in fighting, other than increased prosperity, has to do with US military hegemony. It's pretty hard to fight a war if we won't permit it, just look at the suez crisis in the 1950s. France and England were ready to go to war with Egypt, but the US nixed the idea by threatening financial warfare against the two european nations. Western Europe at this point cannot get into a war without our tacit approval. The same situation exists for nations like South Korea or Japan, now whether or not they would want to go to war is irrelevant; but if they were inclined too they would have to recieve approval from the US because the US would most certaintly become involved. For most of the war US Hegemony has resulted in a peaceful world, the people who get screwed by this arraingment are those who do happen to fall under our gunsights. Since, as Iraw has shown, even if a lot of nations oppose our action they will do nothing to stop us. And the US taxpayer since our funds, both present and future, get siphoned away for conflicts that really do nothing to benefit us. It's an arraingment that might work out well for Europe or Japan, but it sure as hell isn't working for me.

  • wareagle||

    then let's turn the war-making industry into an actual industry that benefits the taxpayer:
    ---countries that host US military bases either pay for the protection or we bring the troops back.

    Where would those troops go? Good question:
    ---along the Southern border. Want to see economic development occur? Station tens of thousands of troops along currently unpopulated parts of TX, NM, AZ, and CA, and watch private enterprise swoop in to build housing, shopping centers, restaurants and bars, auto dealerships, etc.

    Solves two problems: reduces the amount by which the military is solely a money-out venture, and addresses border control. Or we can stay with the status quo so the rest of the world can let us fund its defense and its money can be used to buy sunshine, rainbows, and decades-long pensions for its citizens.

  • Apatheist||

    That's fucking retarded. West Texas isn't going to magically become an ecomonic hotspot because you send troops there. Not many people live there because it is a generally shitty place. Want to end violence on the border? Legalize drugs and take away the cartel's profit margins. West Texas will still be largely empty outside of oil/wind boom towns.

  • ||

    I don't know. Fayettville, NC is pretty shitty but there is still a robust economy because of Ft. Bragg. Also Columbus, GA, Ft. Huachuca, AZ etc. Have you ever been out to Edwards Air Force Base? Talk about the middle of nowhere!

    Just kidding all you Fayettnam folks etc.

  • War Eagle = NeoCON||

  • Stephen Smith, MSW, Therapist||

    His data don't mesh with my field work.

  • rather||

    So government is good, it civilizes

  • Libertarian Progressivist||

    Yes! Yes!

    We only want government for me, but not for thee!

  • KPres||

    "We only want government for me, but not for thee!"

    That would be OWS, who wants taxes raised on SOMEBODY ELSE.

    We generally end up defending them, even though I doubt very many libertarians belong to the 1%.

  • ||

    I think that 1 percent of libertarians might be a fair guess... :)

  • Tim||

    Bedevere: [inspects the nose and confirms] Well?
    Peasant: Well, we did do the nose.
    Bedevere: The nose?
    Peasant: And the hat. She's a witch!
    Peasant Crowd: Burn her!
    Bedevere: Did you dress her up like this?
    Peasant Crowd: No, no, no! [beat] Yes, yes. A bit. But she's got a wart.
    Bedevere: Why do you think that she is a witch?
    Peasant: Well, she turned me into a newt.
    [Bedevere gives him a disbelieving look]
    Bedevere: A newt?
    [Silence]
    Peasant: Well, I got better.
    Peasant Crowd: Burn her anyway!

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

  • PIRS||

    No, it does not. It is governments that institutionalize violence in the first place. We may argue that it has done so LESS in recent centuries (although I have my doubts on this) but that is like praising a husband because he beats his wife less often than he once did.

  • ||

    PIRS: Actually Pinker's argument is that third party justice involved with the establishment of states run by elites reduced cycles of retaliation and vendetta cutting violence rates found in pre-state societies considerably. However, he also shows that governments, especially governments run by self-selected elites, very good at killing people too. However, one of the institutional changes that has reduced state violence is democracy. He cites numerous studies that show that democracies are much more peaceable and even newer evidence that capitalist democracies are especially peaceful relative to old-fashioned states run by elites. Slogan of the Capitalist Peace: Make money, not war.

  • PIRS||

    It is an accident of history that the countries we associate with "democracy" also tend to be "capitalistic". I agree that free trade reduces the likelihood of war. But given the recent history of the United States it is dubious at best to claim that democracy prevents war.

  • k2000k||

    Ultimately a nation, whether democratic or totalitarian, chooses to go to war if its goverment thinks it is in its best interest. I would be inclined that in normal conditions capitalistic democracys are disinclined to go to war. But during abnormal conditions, such as a severe material deficit, such as oil or a valuable comoodity, or during times of extreme economic distress; I'd say all bets are off

  • KPres||

    Yep. A coincidence that "The Wealth of Nations" was published the same year the US Constitution was signed.

    I once had a social democrat claim that most of the gains of the past two centuries was due to democracy instead of capitalism. Of course, modern China is a big problem for that theory, since they've had 10% growth after opening up their markets while still governing as non-democratic state. Also, the early US colonies (1600-1800 onward) were democratic, but didn't see a major rise in the standard of living until the 1800s.

  • PIRS||

    KPres, Thomas Jefferson corresponded with a different economist - J. B. Say.

    China is FAR from being capitalist - except in comparison to its own previous history. If you take a very sick patient and you cure some diseases but not others he will look comparatively healthy. His "rate of health growth" might be quite high. This does not make the man healthy - except in comparison to his own previous history.

  • KPres||

    Right, but "in comparison to its own history" is extremely significant, because while they've changed their economic system (in the direction of freedom), they haven't changed their political system at all, meaning it's hard to claim that Democracy as the cause of the general rise in standards of living. Rather, it seems, economic freedom is the cause.

  • PIRS||

    "meaning it's hard to claim that Democracy as the cause of the general rise in standards of living"

    On that point we agree. I care nothing at all about "democracy" - I only care about liberty. If I were forced to choose between one or the other, I would rather live in an absolute monarchy that has a great deal of liberty than in a "democracy" that has as many rules and regulations as New York City.

  • KPres||

    "I would rather live in an absolute monarchy that has a great deal of liberty than in a "democracy" that has as many rules and regulations as New York City."

    You should read Hoppe on monarchy vs. democracy. He claims that monarchy is better. I'm not sure that his argument is convincing, but it's interesting to challenge to civic dogma that democracy = good, monarchy = bad.

  • PIRS||

    I have read some articles by Hoppe. Hoppe is interesting. But I must admit that some of his ... non-economic / non-political ideas I find distasteful ...

    But great geniuses often have quirks. H. P. Lovecraft had some exotic ideas of his own but I can nonetheless appreciate his contributions to the horror genre. Albert Einstein was completely wrongheaded about economics and can appreciate his contributions to science etc.

    I fully admit that Hoppe is a genius who has contributed much to economics even if I find some of his non-economic / non-political ideas .... odd.

  • KPres||

    "KPres, Thomas Jefferson corresponded with a different economist - J. B. Say."

    Agreed that Adam Smith is not THE authority/founder/whatever of capitalism. My point was more symbolic trivia. Democracy rose to prominence around the same time the principles of capitalism were being more sharply clarified.

  • PIRS||

    "Democracy rose to prominence around the same time the principles of capitalism were being more sharply clarified."

    Yes, a period often referred to as "The Enlightenment" though this is not an exact measurement of time and occurred in different ways in different countries.

  • ||

    However, one of the institutional changes that has reduced state violence is democracy.

    Isn't leadership chosen by democracy proof that a government run by non-elites is better then one run by elites?

    I think Ron you need to look up the words "Elite" and "Democracy".

  • ||

    So government is good, it civilizes

    We all read Hobbes Rather....all but the anarchists among us recognize the roll of government is to stop us from killing one another.

    Our complaint is and has always been when it starts doing other shit.

    Pretty sure we would still be as civilized as before if incandescent light bulbs remained legal.

  • MJ||

    Like anything else, it depends on the dose. Government is a trace mineral in the body of society. I small amounts it promotes health, in megadoses it is a deadly poison.

  • Pinker's STATIST Gospel ||

    [Pinker] has written a THEODICY* – a tract intended to validate the redemptive power of the Leviathan State. In his new book The Better Angelsof Our Nature, Pinker insists that humanity has “evolved to become less violent” through the ministry of elites who employ the State to evangelize on behalf of what he calls “enlightenment humanism.”

    Steven Pinker's Statist Gospel
    William N. Grigg
    October 18, 2011
    http://freedominourtime.blogsp.....ospel.html

    Reason advocating city-Statism. Again. Surprised? No.

    * Etymologically considered THEODICY (theos dike) signifies the justification of God. the glorious city-STATE.

  • Len||

    Read Griggs piece and yeah he pretty much exposes this idiocy for what it is. Seriously how does one ignore all those killed under communist regimes, either directly or indirectly through starvation or lack of medical care that would flourish in a free society. I would also add on top of all this the violence done by killing babies in the womb.

    He also exposes the statist worshiping of government for what it is, and Pinker as merely another apologist for an omnipotent state and putting our trust in men to somehow be saints.

  • ||

    Len: Pinker does not at all ignore the tens of millions killed by ideology in the 20th century. However, what he does do is show that the rate of violence relative to population is such that your chance of being killed by someone else (homicide or war) is much lower than in earlier eras.

  • City-STATISM is VIOLENT||

    much lower than in earlier eras cherry-picked, highly violent, agricultural, NON-HUNTER GATHERER societies.

    His data is totally misrepresentative, but makes for a good feel good apology for City-STATISM.

  • KPres||

    The evolutionists are cherry-picking data! What about the eye ball! That couldn't have evolved!

  • Len||

    I still call BS, because he doesn't include abortion.

    I would also add that technology has a lot do with it, as it brings about more prosperity and entertains the masses so as to keep them pacified to a greater extent. Now if one wants to make an argument that the advance of technology is due to "our institutions" I'm willing to listen.

    I'm also going to point out that when the inevitable violence arises as a result of these "institutions" being unable to any longer avoid dealing the economic collapses coming about that he and those thinking like him will need to reevaluate their arguments. Right now in Oakland and Greece we're just seeing the precursor to what is coming as reality starts to sink in.

  • KPres||

    "I still call BS, because he doesn't include abortion."

    Whether or not you consider abortion to be a violent act, the people HAVING the abortions obviously don't consider it to be violent, meaning it shouldn't be counted as violence, because what Pinker's really looking for is the intention to commit violence.

  • Len||

    Our institutions as he refers to governments arise out of the people, so to credit the institutions as being what restrains violence doesn't fly with me. Again I point to technology which has developed as people realized the benefits of capitalism (even the curtailed forms of it that we have) and thus saw that better or more comfortable lives were to be had through it, and thus molded the institutions to enable some form of capitalism and scientific development.

    Pinker is thus misplacing the credit, and ends up still preaching the gospel of statism as Griggs said. Were he to properly credit people for understanding what is in their best interest and arguing for more of a free market as that which would restrain violence even more then he would be worth listening to. Instead he making the classical error of confusing correlation with causation.

  • MJ||

    So if a society thinks being sacrificed to the gods is a great honor, then having you heart cut out from your chest does not count as an act of violence?

  • Warty||

    HI RECTAL U SURE USE WORDS PRETTY! IM GONNA GO SPOTLIGHT SOME DEER TONIGHT SO IF U WANNA COME ILL SAVE A SPOT IN MY TRUCK FOR U OK YOU HAVE A NICE DAY MISS RECTAL.

  • PIRS||

    "Human nature did not change, but our institutions did, encouraging people to restrain their natural tendencies toward violence."

    What "natural tendencies toward violence"? I would argue that it is largely political institutions that have created violence in the first place. It is governments that throw wars and keep people in prisons for nonviolent acts. It is governments that are the most dangerous institutions in the world.

  • Tony||

    Governments being alien forces that aren't actually comprised of people so much as demon-like creatures.

  • PIRS||

    Power not only corrupts, it also attracts the corrupt. Without political power Hitler would have just been another starving artist. With political power he became a monster.

  • Supreme Generalissimo Fluffy||

    Yeah, but it's like the Simpsons episode where Lisa gets rid of guns and aliens conquer the Earth using clubs and a piece of wood with a nail in it.

    If White Indian could snap his fingers and restore us all to his hunter-gatherer paradise, you know what I'd do the first day? What game theory would tell me I'd have to do, as soon as possible, before someone did it to me?

    I'd have to team up with a bunch of guys, make some spears, find White Indian, and make him my slave

    If I didn't do it, it would just be done to me.

    And that would be repeated a hundred million times world-wide. You wouldn't have WWII - but you'd have millions of small-group acts of violence.

  • Skr||

    But then they would eventually make a board with a nail so big that it could destroy the world.

  • PIRS||

    Weapons would exist even without coercive government. People could defend themselves.

    Without something like the "Fugitive Slave Act" you would have a hard time keeping anyone as a slave. It would not be worth it - might as well trade with the person.

  • Supreme Generalissimo Fluffy||

    Weapons would exist even without coercive government. People could defend themselves.

    This is why the disingenuousness of anarchists annoys me.

    If I have 100 guys armed with spears trying to catch slaves and steal stuff other people have made, if I succeed, I'm a government.

    If "people" take up weapons to defend themselves and they succeed, they're a government. They have successfully used armed force to impose the law, "Don't catch and enslave us and don't take our stuff."

    So we're on day two and governments are back. We would have restored ourselves to the state of nature and thrown away any progress we've made to date in favor of shaking up the snowglobe and seeing who dies in the free-for-all.

  • PIRS||

    "If "people" take up weapons to defend themselves and they succeed, they're a government. They have successfully used armed force to impose the law, "Don't catch and enslave us and don't take our stuff.""

    A desire and a law are not one and the same except in an absolute monarchy - and only if you happen to be the absolute monarch.

  • Supreme Generalissimo Fluffy||

    If you have a desire and you achieve that desire by taking up arms, and you communicate your willingness to continue to use arms to achieve that desire, that's a law, dude.

    "Come here enslaving and pillaging and you're dead."

    That's a law.

  • PIRS||

    A gun is a tool.

    If I use a screwdriver to put up a set of shelves is that a law?

  • Supreme Generalissimo Fluffy||

    If you use a screwdriver to enforce a code of conduct on other people, that's a law.

    If you want other people to act or refrain from acting, and you get them to act or refrain from acting using force, you are making law.

    You just think that if you refuse to admit that you're creating law, then you aren't. And that's silly. If the bandits know that PIRS is a badass who will kill them if they fuck with him, that's "PIRS' Law".

  • PIRS||

    Interesting, so you are stating that there is no ethical difference between person A who wears a costume putting me in prison and person B who does not doing so? Am I correct, is that what you are saying?

  • The Ingenious Hidalgo||

    It's trivially true that if you're going to enforce the rule "no laws allowed" that functions as a law itself, and I think most anarchists who actually know what they believe would cop to that. The rest is just arguing definitions - nobody's going to win. Whether or not something counts as government is irrelevant. Nothing you say should actual cause an anarchist to change their policy prescriptions.

  • Fluffy's Stinker Debunked||

    you'd have millions of small-group acts of violence

    Scholarly studies based on empirical data proves you are wrong, as follows:

    Robert Ardrey (1961, 1976) served up a bloodthirsty, macho version of prehistory, as have to slightly lesser degrees, Desmond Morris and Lionel Tiger. Similarly, Freud and Konrad Lorenz wrote of the innate depravity of the species, thereby providing their contributions to hierarchy and power in the present.

    Fortunately, a far more plausible outlook has emerged, one that corresponds to the overall version of Paleolithic life in general. Food sharing has for some time been considered an integral part of earliest human society (e.g. Washburn and DeVore, 1961). Jane Goodall (1971) and Richard Leakey (1978), among others, have con- cluded that it was the key element in establishing our uniquely Homo development at least as early as 2 million years ago. This emphasis, carried forward since the early '70s by Linton, Zihlman, Tanner, and Isaac, has become ascendant. One of the telling arguments in favor of the cooperation thesis, as against that of generalized violence and male domination, involves a diminishing, during early evolution, of the difference in size and strength between males and females. Sexual dimorphism, as it is called, was originally very pronounced, including such features as prominent canines or "fighting teeth" in males and much smaller canines for the female. The disappearance of large male canines strongly suggests that the female of the species exercised a selection for sociable, sharing males.

    Future Primitive
    by John Zerzan
    www.primitivism.com/future-primitive.htm

  • ||

    Food sharing has for some time been considered an integral part of earliest human society

    Well, there's sharing, and there's sharing. It depends on whether there is an "or else" involved.

  • Supreme Generalissimo Fluffy||

    The experience of species other than Homo Sapiens isn't relevant.

    Australopithecenes had a lower capacity for violence due to deficits in cognition, language, and social organization relative to modern man.

    The essential nature of the current species is revealed every time there's a riot.

  • k2000k||

    It should also be pointed out that Australopithecenes isn't around any more....

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    It should also be pointed out that Australopithecenes isn't around any more

    Not to mention homo habilis and homo erectus, who weren't exactly wiped out by the Oppressive Agricultural City-State.

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    Australopithecenes had a lower capacity for violence due to deficits in cognition, language, and social organization relative to modern man

    Deficits which the primitard exhibits daily.

  • PIRS||

    "The essential nature of the current species is revealed every time there's a riot."

    This is absurd. You are arguing that a relatively rare event is more descriptive of man's nature than all of the acts of kindness and charity and love put together? This is like arguing that "The essential nature of aircraft is revealed every time there's a plane crash."

  • KPres||

    "The disappearance of large male canines strongly suggests that the female of the species exercised a selection for sociable, sharing males."

    HA! Big teeth = mean guy!

    That tells you all you need to know about the quality of "scholarship" white indian quotes.

    More likely, the disappearance of large canines suggests that the females were selecting SMART males, ie, those who knew how to make WEAPONS to more efficiently kill their competitors with big canines.

  • Suki||

    It explains the demise of Morton Downey, Jr.

  • ||

    Sir you're mad with power.

    Well have you ever been mad without power. No one listens to you.

  • k2000k||

    You know PIRS that is a good point. Knowing how fucked up the mental capacity of some of the artists in America are it makes you wonder how many potential mass murders grace our silver screen or make our music.

  • Tonyish||

    Governments being alien forces that aren't actually comprised of people so much as demon-like creatures.

    Especially when BOOOOOOOOSH or a reTHUGlican is in office!!!!!

    I must vote against these monsters who threaten my existence!!!!!!

  • Tony||

    On the contrary the Bush administration was by, for, and of the people, and duly appointed by 5 members of the Supreme Court.

  • Shorter Tony||

    Only Team BLUE administrations are the product of democracy. Everything else is a conspiracy by the elite to wage war on little people in an attempt to destroy the human race.

  • ||

    On the contrary the Bush administration was by, for, and of the people, and duly appointed by 5 members of the Supreme Court.

    I disagree.

  • ||

    On the contrary the Bush administration was by, for, and of the people, and duly appointed by 5 members of the Supreme Court.

    I disagree as well.

  • ||

    On the contrary the Bush administration was by, for, and of the people, and duly appointed by 5 members of the Supreme Court.

    Yep, even I disagree.

  • Tony||

    The slightest critical word about Bush and the anonymous indignant come out of the woodwork.

    I think we can agree the election was less than ideal.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    So kind of like your view of corporations the, Tony?

  • Tony||

    No, I think corporations are rationally acting money-making machines. As such, I don't think they should rule us.

  • ||

    PIRS et alia: I am not surprised that many Reason readers/commenters are highly skeptical of Pinker's thesis. At a conference a while back, I cited Pinker's conclusion to a bunch of prominent economists and political scientists and they rather fiercely rejected it out of hand. It just could not be true! Having read the entire book and looked at a lot of his sources, I think he makes a pretty strong case. Please read the book - even if you ultimately don't agree with it, you will learn a lot that you didn't know.

  • PIRS||

    Has he also written a book about the peaceful bonobos?

  • Tim||

    What about religion? Any data there?

  • Pinker's Stinker Debunked||

    he makes a pretty strong case

    Not hardly, pilgrim. A case with deliberately false data is not a strong. He is KNOWINGLY MISLEADing, according to Psychology Today's review of his work, as follows:

    Steven Pinker's Stinker on the Origins of War
    Did Steven Pinker knowingly mislead his audience at TED?
    Published on March 29, 2011 by Christopher Ryan

    www.psychologytoday.com/blog/s.....rigins-war

  • KPres||

    Right. And we're the "creationists", while you accuse a respected anthropologist and one of the countries top schools of being a liar, while quoting some no-name who got himself a webpage.

  • Funny how "Psychology Today"||

    ...is a "no-name" to KPres.

    Nice appeal to authority too! LOL

  • KPres||

    Big deal? Appeals to authority are relevant and convincing when discussing highly complex topics with mountains of evidence to pore through.

    And my authority > your authority.

  • Trespassers W||

    Why didn't I hear about this upthread?

  • Slap the Enlightened!||

    At a conference a while back, I cited Pinker's conclusion to a bunch of prominent economists and political scientists and they rather fiercely rejected it out of hand. It just could not be true!

    Well, Pinker doesn't really qualify violence. If you're simply looking at violence as the percentage of the population dying violent deaths, he makes his case. However, as demonstrated by 2 world wars, when we do get violent, we get a whole lot more violent than ever before. We may kill less often, but when we do, we are much more efficient butchers than our ancestors. Also, he considers violence only on a global scale. There remain some quite violent regions on the planet, some of them where it's probable the rate of violence is higher than ever before.

    You have several different trends occurring simultaneously. Focusing on one exclusively obscures the significance of the others.

  • Cliché Bandit||

    Ron, I have long held the belief that in order to be libertarian minded one must accept that on thw whole humans are more peaceful the violent. Otherwise,the pronciple of self ownership is counter productive.

  • ||

    I am not surprised that many Reason readers/commenters are highly skeptical

    White Indian is not many commenters.

    I am pretty sure I said violence was on the decline before Pinker published his book.

    It is an obvious fact.

    In fact I used this fact to show that the Nuclear arms race, and advances in arms in general, have a correlation with the decline in violence.

    The better we get at killing each other the less we tend to do it.

  • ||

    PIRS: If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. - James Madison Federalist 51

  • PIRS||

    Mr. Bailey,

    If men are not angels why do you trust them enough to rule over others? If men were in fact angels I might not object ot government as much as I do.

    Compare one of the worst serial killers of all time, Charles Manson to one of the worst dictators of all time, Hitler.

    These two men have much in common. Both were artists - Manson a musician and Hitler a painter. Manson, in fact admired Hitler.

    But who was able to kill more people? That should be obvious.

    It should also be obvious WHY this is the case.

  • Suki||

    Don't argue with a co-author of the Federalist Papers!

  • Tim||

    Which ones did Manson write?

  • Beloved Rev. Blue Moon||

    PIRS, as sympathetic as I am to your point, Fluffy has your number here.

    As soon as anarchism set in, it would be in my best interest to start acting like a State, with a bunch of my other cronies, if for no other reason because I know there are going to be a bunch of other people who think the exact same thing. Arguing with the rise of government is like arguing with God about the weather: both are inevitable, and you should learn how to control and adapt to them.

  • PIRS||

    Security companies can protect people from governments that may arise. There is no need for a coercive government to provide security.

  • Beloved Rev. Blue Moon||

    Security companies can protect people from governments that may arise.

    No they cannot.

    Implementation of anarchy would require simultaneous, worldwide implementation in order to prevent foreign invasions. And because of this, that makes you like the COMINTEN>

  • PIRS||

    "Implementation of anarchy"

    Ahhh, now I see your misunderstanding. You seem to think that anarchy is a thing that must be "implemented". This is the same fallacy made by those who think that an economy is a thing that must be "planned". Anarchy would develop organically inf government just gets out of the way. It does not need to be "implemented" or "planned".

  • Beloved Rev. Blue Moon||

    Anarchy would develop organically inf government just gets out of the way.

    Pretty big "IF" there. It is my contention that there is no such thing as "government getting out of the way." Again, this is like expecting supply and demand to evaporate. Government is part of human nature.

  • PIRS||

    "Again, this is like expecting supply and demand to evaporate. Government is part of human nature."

    Humans do not have wings. We will never be able to fly.

  • Beloved Rev. Blue Moon||

    When you see an invention that controls the human impulse to band together into tribes for protection, you give me a call.

    Is the essence of anarchy the voluntary nature of the contract with the protection agency? Because "voluntariness" is really slippery. I hate to go all "CHILDREN" on you, but yeah...children. Yeah...the mentally incompetent. Finally...yeah, there are other tribes out there who love to see an anarchial United States.

  • PIRS||

    "the human impulse to band together into tribes for protection,"

    Why do you assume "banding together" is the same thing as forming a government?

    As for children? There used to be a saying that parents would use when a child demands his or her "rights" - they would say "Not while you live under my roof!" or something to that effect. That is the standard. If someone is able to support him or herself they can do what they want (so long as it does not infringe on the equal rights of others). If not, they must follow the rules of the person or people upon whom they depend.

  • ||

    Our wise foregathers didn't allow people to vote until they owned their own roof.

  • Beloved Rev. Blue Moon||

    But who was able to kill more people? That should be obvious.

    It should also be obvious WHY this is the case.

    I'll take the bait: why?

    And before you say "Because Hitler had the State", remember that Charles Manson had a tribe of a kind. I don't think this answer is as obvious as you think.

  • PIRS||

    Manson's "tribe" was more like "club" those who joined did so because they were attracted to Manson's personality and / or music. It was a gang of sorts. Groups of bad people tend to do bad things. No shock there.

    Charles Manson did not have the ability to use taxpayer funds to give his club the ability to grow into a literal army with powerful weapons. Hitler did.

  • ||

    PIRS: Pinker analyzes how ideology uses (hijacks) our in-group good v. out-group bad instincts. Pinker also points out that the last 60 years has been the longest period in the last 500 years without a Great Power war. A lucky coincidence? Maybe, but he makes a good argument that it be may also be a Kantian peace based on the spread of democracy, trade and international organizations.

  • PIRS||

    "60 years has been the longest period in the last 500 years without a Great Power war."

    Ahh, so he must have written it before the start of the "War on (some) Terror(ists).

  • NUCLEAR WEAPONS not violence?||

    Nuclear weapons are why great powers haven't had a war recently.

    There wouldn't be a world to live on.

    But that isn't violence to Stinker Pinker.

    Evidently not to Reason either.

  • KDN||

    You can't hug your children with nuclear arms!

  • Beloved Rev. Blue Moon||

    Violence is the act of firing the weapon. Having it is just a deterrence.

  • Tell Gas Station Heist victims||

    ...your bullshit, Reverend.

    Or try it yourself and tell a judge. See how that works out for you.

  • ||

    People overestimate the power of nuclear weapons. We couldn't destroy the world - we could destroy each others leadership with our delivery systems.

    The balance of power was very close - it just wasn't worth the risk for either side to throw the dice on a major war.

  • People underestimate nukes||

    People underestimate Fukushima too.

    Nuclear is a Lie.

  • ||

    Maybe, but he makes a good argument that it be may also be a Kantian peace based on the spread of democracy, trade and international organizations.

    I make a good argument that increased nuclear armament has a strong correlation with peace...of course the two are not mutually exclusive.

    SuperPowers being checkmated allows for everyone else to get on with living.

  • City-STATISM is VIOLENT||

    It is governments that are the most dangerous institutions in the world.

    Agreed, PIRS.

    Realize that: "Agriculture creates government." (Richard Manning, Against the Grain)

    So it is more accurate to say:

    It is agricultural city-States (civilizations) that are the most dangerous institutions in the world.

  • KPres||

    "What "natural tendencies toward violence"?"

    I don't think people are or are not naturally inclined toward violence, but violence is one of the natural outcomes of conflict. The beauty of capitalism and liberty is that it aligns people's interests with one another, so that conflict is kept to a minimum.

  • PIRS||

    "The beauty of capitalism and liberty is that it aligns people's interests with one another, so that conflict is kept to a minimum."

    Well said. And government is the negation of liberty.

  • Grow Operator||

    Cat burning sounds awesome; I hate those fuckers.

  • Bubbles||

    Go on Steve French, show her that big package of yours.

  • Robert||

    Meow? MeOW!

  • Pinker's MARXIST "Nonesense"||

    According to Gray, Pinker’s book ‘testifies to our enduring need for faith’, but ‘the result is no more credible than the efforts of Marxists to show the scientific necessity of socialism’.

    Delusions of peace
    John Gray
    21st September 2011 — Prospect Issue 187
    Stephen Pinker argues that we are becoming less violent. Nonsense, says John Gray
    www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/201.....ce-review/

  • ||

    If White Indian hates Pinker, I can only assume Pinker is 100% correct.

  • Pinker's Stinker Debunked||

    Psychology Today, dipshit.

  • ||

    HOWDY MISS RECTAL IT'S COOTER! I WAS THINKING OF MAKIN' SOME GRITS AND SAUSAGE GRAVY FOR BREAKFAST, WOULD YOU LIKE TO JOIN ME? COOTER'S SAUSAGE GRAVY IS JUST OUT OF THIS WORLD, I TELL YOU!

  • Warty||

    HI MISS RECTAL I TOLD MY COUSIN CLYDE ABOUT U AND HE SAID TO ME 'COOTER THAT RECTAL WOMEN IS TOO FAT FOR U"SO I PUNCHED OUT HIS FRONT TOOTH!!! JUST WANTED U TO KNOW SOMEBODY STANDS UP FOR UR HONOR AND ALSO I WANTED YOU TO HAVE THIS HERE FLOWER HERE

  • Shorter Tony||

    Psychology Fucking Today? Really? That is your source?

  • KPres||

    Over Stephen Pinker.

  • CrackertyAssCracker||

    STFU WI

  • Tony||

    While White Indian is correct to point out the hypocrisy of libertarians, who do love the state so long as it sticks to supporting the interests of the types of people libertarians deem worthy, it's hard to argue with the evidence Pinker presents, and the fact that the planet has 7 billion humans on it because of the simple fact that death rates have declined, markedly in the 20th century. The same technical capacity that has created weapons that can do unprecedented damage has also resulted in modern institutions that diminish the value of doing violence.

    Not that we don't find plenty of excuses anyway, and not that there won't be other problems associated with overpopulation and overconsumption. And certainly comfortable modern states in part rely on the oppression of less comfortable peoples (even within the states themselves). But unfortunately for the back-to-basics argument, the only evidence we have regarding people living in stone age conditions is that they don't live to be very old.

  • MNG||

    "While White Indian is correct to point out the hypocrisy of libertarians, who do love the state so long as it sticks to supporting the interests of the types of people libertarians deem worthy"

    I used to think WI was some Jared Loughner type college kid who was greatly and distubringly moved by his misreading of some anthro course in college, but now I think it may be a clever (though tiresome) form of performance art which takes the tendency of libertarians here to hyperbolically condemn anyone who would allow one iota more government than they would as SLAVERS! and such. WI takes that to its inevitable conclusion, offering up an anarchist who accuses the minarchists of being the SLAVERS!

    But of course it's actually just rectal I've been informed.

  • KPres||

    "WI takes that to its inevitable conclusion, offering up an anarchist who accuses the minarchists of being the SLAVERS!"

    Well said. The astounding thing is, even though WI is an idiot, I still find his anarchist vision more appealing than the statist alternative. Even though I'm not an anarchist, I sympathize with their ideals. I just think in the absense of a state, an even more despotic state will arise, so it's preferable to have something small that you have some hope of limiting (or delaying its growth).

  • Tony||

    Thing is, it's gotta be strong enough to fend off stronger, less free alternatives that might come along. That's more complicated than just having strong police or military force (though it's always curious why the aspects of the state libertarians support are the most overtly violent).

    If a mini-state ignores the needs of masses of needy people (which is plausible), they might see an authoritarian alternative that feeds them to be a superior choice.

  • KPres||

    "If a mini-state ignores the needs of masses of needy people (which is plausible)"

    Right. But the push toward large government doesn't come from "the needy", it comes from ideological socialists, usually well-to-do upper middle class liberals, who think they can society better than capitalists under the guidance of the invisible hand.

    Working class people belong to the Tea Party. Northeastern past grads belong to the OWS.

    Shumpeter said socialism was inevitable, because socialism gives control to the intellectuals, who would side with it as a consequence. He may have been right (about it being inevitable), even though he lamented the fact.

  • KPres||

    BTW, that's supposed to read "who think they can run society better..." and "Northeastern post-grads..."

  • KPres||

    BTW, that's supposed to read "who think they can run society better..." and "Northeastern post-grads..."

  • Supreme Generalissimo Fluffy||

    love the state so long as it sticks to supporting the interests of the types of people libertarians deem worthy

    I love the state as long as it's doing something I would assert the moral right to do myself.

    So using violence to stop rapists and serial killers = Yay State!

    Using violence to stop people from giving someone else a glass of milk = Boo State!

    Using violence to stop Nazis from invading and slaughtering everybody = Yay State!

    Using violence to get your hands on a bunch of money to give to Solyndra = Boo State!

    White Indian thinks (s)he is doing a reductio, but (s)he's not.

  • MNG||

    The point is everyone supports using the state and justifies coercion in the protection of certain valued things. For you guys it is property, for other's it involves other valued things. Your high horse dissolves into simply a different pair of shoes...

  • The Ingenious Hidalgo||

    That's absurd relativism. We already know that you think we're wrong, but that's not a reason for us to think we're wrong. You do realise we make arguments for our positions, right?

  • ||

    The point is everyone supports using the state and justifies coercion in the protection of certain valued things. For you guys it is property, for other's it involves other valued things.

    The difference being, of course, that minarchists don't use the state to create and enrich favored classes at the expense of others, or to oppress and kill disfavored groups, while it seems that those who use the state for their "other valued things" always seem to.

  • Tony||

    Bullshit. You want the state to protect the interests of property owners while ignoring the interests of starving people--unless they somehow manage to make some money.

  • KPres||

    Nope. If you don't make any money, you don't pay any taxes.

  • Tony||

    Only if you're also not buying anything or living anywhere. But you might as well talk about the lifestyles of dead people--there will be a lot of them in your utopia.

  • Tony||

    All those things take what you would define as "theft" if it were used to pay for, say, the medical treatment of a cancer patient. I fail to see why your snow globe collection is more worthy of collective protection than someone's health.

  • Beloved Rev. Blue Moon||

    I fail to see how your computer is more valuable than a starving African.

    So give that shit up and I promise to remit the proceeds of the sale to African Famine Relief.

  • Tony||

    Ah nothing like using starving Africans as a rhetorical instrument to argue for a philosophy of not caring about starving Americans.

  • KPres||

    No, its an argument about allowing individuals to determine for themselves how much they care or don't care about starving Americans (which there are none).

    As a consequence, the aggregate amount of caring in society will reflect the ACTUAL amount of caring of its members, not the amount of caring Tony thinks there should be, or the amount that's politically useful to acquire monopolistic government control.

  • Tony||

    I want a system that doesn't have to rely on people's emotional concern. It's not about charity or compassion. It's about making a stable society. If we are going to have capitalism then you admit that entails certain levels of risk. A wealthy person could become a poor person through bad luck, right? So a safety net is there just to ensure he doesn't fall so far that he can never get up again. Sort of like how you think property rights protection is an equal service, because everyone has the opportunity to obtain property. Can't the logic work the other way?

  • KPres||

    "It's about making a stable society."

    Well, then, here's a GREAT way to make society more stable: Drugs!

    Dope everybody up with some major depressant and poof! no more conflict!

    Why aren't you arguing for that, Tony, since all you want is "stability"?

  • Tony||

    I didn't say I wanted even to minimize risk. Just not maximize it.

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    I want a system that doesn't have to rely on people's emotional concern.

    You're kidding, right? The entire philosophy of progressivism is one huge appeal to emotion.

  • KPres||

    One of the consequences of welfare capitalism is a REDUCTION in the amount of compassion you see in the culture, because people begin to resent those less fortunate, as they have no control over how much of their income is transferred to them.

    If a starving man comes to my door asking for food, I'll give him all I have. But if he sneaks in and steals it, my feelings are going to be a little more....conflicted.

  • Beloved Rev. Blue Moon||

    Ah nothing like using starving Africans as a rhetorical instrument to argue for a philosophy of not caring about starving Americans.

    What it is is an argument that exposes your hypocrisy. You said that snowglobes can be sacrificed for the Great Collective Health Care Plan. I said that your computer can be sacrificed, by that logic, for the Great Global Collective Food Care Plan.

    Any reason why this is not the case?

  • Tony||

    You don't have the morally superior argument because you're consistent in not caring about starving people. Yes I believe some portion of the luxuries of the wealthy ought to be sacrificed to provide for the needs of the poor. But that's within a national system where everyone has skin in the game. I also have no problem supplying foreign aid to educate and empower poor people in other countries, in the hope that they too can create prosperous democratic societies that serve everyone's interests.

    What you can't explain is why your trinkets are more worthy of collective protection than someone's access to food or healthcare.

  • Beloved Rev. Blue Moon||

    You don't have the morally superior argument because you're consistent in not caring about starving people

    Just because I don't want to use force to make you pay for either does not mean I don't care. You are inconsistent because you value Americans with food, climate-controlled shelters and televisions more than Africans. You fail by your own moral standards. Mine are consistent: care for those you wish to care for, without being forced to do so.

    What you can't explain is why your trinkets are more worthy of collective protection than someone's access to food or healthcare.

    Very simple: It's mine, and I've earned it, and I should not be forced to dispense with it as you want me to do.

    What you have failed to explain is why you are sitting your climate-controlled office or home, with plenty of food and no worries about your next meal, typing on a computer, instead of letting me take your computer and feed Africans. Why do you hate Africans, Tony? Don't you CARE???!

  • KPres||

    "What you can't explain is why your trinkets are more worthy of collective protection than someone's access to food or healthcare."

    Easy. Since I have control over my trinkets, I can bear responsibility for them. Since I have no control over other people or their lives, I can't bear responsibility for them. If I'm FORCED to bear responsibility for them, then I'm incentivised to GAIN control over them in any way I can.

    The outcome then is more conflict....less "stability".

  • Tony||

    You're not getting my point--you expect ME to sacrifice a portion of MY property in order to secure your claim to yours. You can ask me to provide a collective service that benefits you, but you see it differently when it comes to anything other than that, like say basic survival requirements.

  • KPres||

    No, I get your point. I'm asking everybody to sacrifice a portion of their property (proportional to what you own) secure everybody's property. If you have no property, I ask you to sacrifice nothing. Thus, everybody sacrifices exactly relative to what they gain.

  • KPres||

    "Yes I believe some portion of the luxuries of the wealthy ought to be sacrificed to provide for the needs of the poor."

    I think so too. And so I try to convince rich people to do so. I just won't use my power as a voter to try and force them to.

  • Supreme Generalissimo Fluffy||

    What you can't explain is why your trinkets are more worthy of collective protection than someone's access to food or healthcare.

    I just did. My standard is what I would claim the moral prerogative to undertake myself using private violence.

    If I saw you raping John, as I know you wish to do if only you had the chance, I would happily bash you over the head with a rock. (Assuming I was guaranteed of success, that is.)

    But if I saw you minding your own business, living in a nice little hobbit-hole, with a nicely stocked larder and a collection of snow globes, I would not be as morally confident in saying, "You know what I should do? Go bash in Tony's head with a rock, take his stuff, and use it to get health care for someone else. And maybe to loan money to Solyndra."

    MNG happily confesses that he would gladly do that. I don't see the moral basis for that - or, rather, if that can be done with a moral basis I don't understand why we still can't own slaves, as long as we think it might allow us to accumulate resources for some "social" goal. But maybe I'm just crazy and we really should be going door-to-door tasing people and handing out their stuff. Could be, I guess.

  • KPres||

    Because I can control the production of my snow globe collection, yet I have no control over what somebody else does with their health.

  • Tony||

    I don't see the relevance. Government's suppose to secure people's access to basic rights. You count among those rights the ability to have your useless trinkets unmolested, requiring a vast bureaucracy of armed men and courts. But someone's health itself is not worthy? I get to pay for the threat of violence on your behalf, but you don't have to pay for medical treatment on mine?

    How is what you're advocating anything but selective government protecting the interests of favored groups? The only intimation of fairness I hear is that it's an equal system, because the poor unhealthy person can just choose to work hard and enter the ranks of the chosen people who get collectively-funded benefits. Assuming the cancer goes away on its own, I guess.

  • Beloved Rev. Blue Moon||

    You count among those rights the ability to have your useless trinkets unmolested

    You count among those rights the right to have sex with the consenting adult of your choice.

    What if I think for "stability's" sake you shouldn't have that choice?

    You are nothing more than Lokai to the Right's Bele.

  • KPres||

    "But someone's health itself is not worthy?"

    No, their health is worthy. Nobody is allowed to assault your health.

    "I get to pay for the threat of violence on your behalf, but you don't have to pay for medical treatment on mine?"

    Easy. Your medical condition isn't caused by the willful actions of another person (if it was, then they're responsible for your medical treatment). Instead its a failure of your OWN body, which nobody has any control over except you and/or nature. OTOH, your act of violence IS caused by the willful actions of another person, and therefore the violent person CAN bear responsibility for their actions.

  • Tim||

    "Polite behavior requires self-restraint; literacy encourages empathy; "

    Obviously he's never studied this blog.

  • JMW||

    Not that this is necessarily a bad thing though.

  • ||

    the hypocrisy of libertarians, who do love the state so long as it sticks to supporting the interests of the types of people libertarians deem worthy,

    We minarchists don't exactly "love" the state. We think a state of very limited powers has a beneficial role to play.

    Libertarians don't distinguish between "types of people." In a libertarian society, everyone is treated exactly the same by the minarchist state, which is to say, mostly ignored as long as the refrain from force and fraud against their fellows.

    So, other than being completely wrong about libertarianism, good comment.

  • MNG||

    Can I ask, why fraud?

    I mean, often when a sad sack case is discussed here many people will say "well, the taken party should have read the contract more closely" or something like that. But couldn't you just as easily say that about the victim of fraud ("well, the taken party should have looked into the facts misrepresented to them")?

  • Supreme Generalissimo Fluffy||

    With fraud, I've always believed that the fraudulent party is using the violence of the state to achieve what they otherwise would have to use their own violence to achieve.

    If I have $10 and you want it, you could just walk up to me and beat me up and take it.

    Or you could use a false promise: Promise me a sandwich, get my $10, give me no sandwich, and then count on the violence of the state to beat me up if I try to take my $10 back.

  • MNG||

    WTF? The violence of the state does not appear at the point of the fraud (when the misrepresentation is made).

  • Supreme Generalissimo Fluffy||

    It can't be completed without the violence of the state, because without the violence of the state as soon as I got no sandwich I'd just shoot you in the face.

    The fraudster is relying on the power of the state to confirm him in his fraudulently obtained property once he has it.

  • k2000k||

    Soem libertarians might say that but others, such as myself view fraud as theft. Generally in real fraud the party that has committed fraud has made it impossible for any due diligence to be done. For example if I cook my books you may very well look over my financial statements carefully but uncover no warning sign that my company is about to go belly up. In that instance you are entitled to call upon the powers of the state for retribution. If however I gave you a mortage and you failed to read the part about the adjustable rate mortgage going from 5% to 18% then that is your own fault. Then there is the gray area where the information is all there, but I try to mentally confuse you so you miss it; because of that I'll be the first to admit things like this aren't always so clear cut.

  • Apocalitarian||

    Fraud means there is an intentional misrepresentation of fact, legal fraud means an intentional misrepresentation of a material fact. The mere enforcement of a contractual term is not fraud per se, because the representation of fact in the contract was, for lack of a better word, true. Now, whether certain omissions, or statements about the contracts are fraud is a different story. But to say merely handing you a contract and telling you these are the terms and conditions I would deal with you, why should I be responsible for your negligence.

  • Tony||

    Thank you. But you don't treat everyone exactly the same. If you own property, the state is there for you, paid for collectively to protect your claims. If you're starving, then fuck you parasite. You believe the state should protect the interests of people with property but not the interests of people with no food. It's why a philosophy based totally on hatred of the state must admit a portion of the state--to keep the unwashed masses off of your lawn.

  • MNG||

    "It's why a philosophy based totally on hatred of the state must admit a portion of the state--to keep the unwashed masses off of your lawn."

    And this may be what WI has stumbled upon (or gamboled upon). It may be walking that fine line between mad and brilliant parody.

  • Beloved Rev. Blue Moon||

    And this may be what WI has stumbled upon (or gamboled upon). It may be walking that fine line between mad and brilliant parody.

    Whatever flaws may or may not exist in libertarian / capitalistic thought, it is still a damn sight better than you or Tony's "I {HEART} the State" to implement your amoral, bloodthirsty utilitarianism that has no regard for property whatsoever.

    You liking WI is apropos: you're both slobbering morons.

  • Tony||

    I think it has the proper regard for property: a worthy component of the promise of freedom. But it's just not the only one.

    Taxes are taken in exactly the same way regardless of what they pay for. You don't get to proclaim paying for some services the product of theft, while other services are the product of legitimate taxation.

  • ||

    "a philosophy based totally on hatred of the state" is anarchism.

    One that admits a beneficial role for a severely limited state is minarchism.

    So tedious. You would think lefty progs who squawk every time somebody calls them "socialists" would be reluctant to call a libertarian/minarchist an anarchist.

  • k2000k||

    That is being disingenous Tony. Libertarians protests against many goverment policies aren't because we feel the idea behind the policy is bad, but that the goverment does a very crappy job of implementing them. We have goverment programs to fight poverty in this country yet I hear every year about how poverty has gotten worse. Perhapes you are unwilling to considered that goverment is wholly unsuited to the task of helping the poor. "Let the churches and charity organizations do it" Is the creed of libertarians. If you can honestly say, with a straight face, that libertarians want to fuck over the poor then you have wax in your ears and cotton in your brain.

  • Tony||

    Poverty has gotten worse, not because of attempts to help poor people, but because we've been governed under the paradigm of "reforming" such programs for decades.

    I don't believe government should be in the charity business. I think it should fund social insurance. If you have bad luck, we pay for a safety net so that you don't fall below a certain minimum standard of living, so that you might have the possibility of being upwardly mobile. It's there for everyone, it's not charity.

    It is a hard case to make to say that if we further eliminated such programs and transferred all of the burden to churches that the poor would be any better off.

  • ||

    I don't believe government should be in the charity business. I think it should fund social insurance.

    These are functionally equivalent, you know. Both are the transfer of wealth from the better off to the less better off. The difference, of course, is that one is voluntary, and one is not.

  • Tony||

    But you expect everyone to pay for your armed security and contract enforcement. Transfer from the have-nots to the haves, in other words. And that's morally superior because?

  • Brother Grimm||

    And the "have-nots" do not have armed security and contract enforcement because?

  • l0b0t||

    There are also those of us who find the whole concept of tax, rooted in the feudal idea that the sovereign owns everything and we peasants must pay a fee for utilizing the property of the state, immoral and abhorrent. Your argument falls apart in the face of voluntarism.

  • KPres||

    "Transfer from the have-nots to the haves, in other words. And that's morally superior because?"

    Strawman #6434. Nobody supports regressive taxation.

  • newshutz||

    Strawman #6434. Nobody supports regressive taxation.

    Progressive Democrats do. They also support the forced transfer of wealth from the poor and working young to the rich and retired old.

    They both are features of their favorite government programs SS and Medicare

  • ||

    And that's morally superior because?

    Because It produces better outcomes for everyone.

    By definition having good intentions but producing worse outcomes is morally inferior to producing better outcomes regardless of intent.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    Who does this?

    Personally, I'd rather pay for services rendered.

  • ||

    Poverty has gotten worse,

    Which is odd, considering the standard of living for the poor has gone up.

  • KPres||

    Well, the income standard they use to measure "poverty" has gone up faster.

  • ||

    Well, the income standard they use to measure "poverty" has gone up faster.

    The EPA uses the same trick to measure pollution.

    No surprise that Tony falls for both.

  • ||

    poverty has NOT gotten worse. for fuck's sake, for the first time in history, the primary health problem amongst the poor is fucking OBESITY.

    i hate to get all PJ Orourke, but our concepts of POVERTY have gone up so much and that is part of the problem.

    whatever one thinks of govt. charity, great society, welfare etc. (iow, just because i say poverty has become less of an issue does not mean that's a great argument for a welfare state)... poverty has gotten to be much less of a problem

    at least if we are talking about the US here

  • The Ingenious Hidalgo||

    If you're starving, then fuck you parasite.

    Nobody fucking said that you fucking liar. I believe you should help people who are starving. I do not believe that you are allowed to steal money in order to do it. I believe you should help people protect their property. I do not believe that you are allowed to steal money in order to do it. You don't get to do both sides of the argument.

  • KPres||

    "If you own property, the state is there for you, paid for collectively to protect your claims."

    Everyone owns property. Everyone owns their body, at the very least.

  • ||

    unfortunately, imo , when you can't legally choose what drugs to take, and/or what sex acts to engage in (including for money with other participants), the idea that in a de facto sense, under our system of govt. that we "own our own body" simply isn't reality.

    for a lot of stuff we do. you can do evil kneivel shit and they won't stop you. you can get cosmetic surgery to a large extent, etc.

    you can't sell your organs legally, also iirc

  • City-STATISM is VIOLENT||

    Pinker uses false data not representative of 95% of human gatherer-hunter existence. That is quite well established.

    But there is even a deeper problem. He defines "violence" as murder rate ONLY.

    Libertarians know well that other violence, even threatened violence in civilized society should also be included, such as:

    • JAILS and PRISONS
    • POLICE BRUTALITY
    • TAX COLLECTION
    • NUCLEAR WEAPONS THREATS

    What else did the Stinker Pinker leave out of the total violence equation?

    Stinker* Pinker is a well-paid City-STATIST (civilizationist) apologist, and....well...so is Reason.

    * Steven Pinker's STINKER on the Origins of War
    Did Steven Pinker knowingly mislead his audience at TED?
    http://www.psychologytoday.com.....rigins-war

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Biden said violence and crime were going to a'splode if we cut spending by even one literal penny! Why would he lie???

  • Slap the Enlightened!||

    Pinker may be right, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's a good thing.

    Some things have uses that aren't obvious.

  • CE||

    In fact, violence has been on a steady decline for centuries now.

    The professor might want to recheck that data for 1938 to 1945.

  • Beloved Rev. Blue Moon||

    You might want to check the rest of the thread before tossing in your irrelevant and outdated $.02, doodles.

  • Jersey Patriot||

    Some things we can say:

    1. Murder/War Killing is down considerably in the West from earlier in our history.

    2. Murder/War Killing is down considerably in the West compared to primitive agriculturalists and horticulturalists.

    3. We don't have good data on violence in hunter-gatherer societies, and primitve aggies and horties are not a good substitute at all.

    4. Murder/War Killing is not the only kind of violence, though it's fair to say it's the worst.

    5. Murder/War Killing in the West fails to include a number of repressive Western characteristics, such as support of brutal governments in the Third World or its brutal colonial wars.

  • Robert||

    I find it odd that people don't easily believe the past was much more violent than now. History is mostly about acts of violence. Drama about violence in the past is considered plausible because actual history was violent, and most drama is about violence in the past. Since we're little children we're told tales of horrific violence from times long past; beheadings are considered horrific now, but they're standard fare in kid lit. Even animals used to be more violent, as lightly fictionalized in the cartoons. Is this really an unusual belief?

    Fights happen when there's uncertainty as to who will win. There's less violence now because destructive power is concentrated in fewer hands. This is why "liberals" support gun control: They abhor overt (not so much the threat of) violence, and gun control leads to fewer situations where adversaries each have weapons. They recognize that criminals and cops will still have guns, and believe that will lead to surrender in most cases, because there will be few encounters between criminals and cops compared to the many encounters between either and unarmed regular folks.

  • ||

    i generally agree with your point, but i really do think that many liberals think that gun control (if done "properly" just like communism would work if only well... the right people did it just one more time, then it would work i swear...) if done to a large enough extent would mean that gang bangers, etc. even wouldn't be able to get gunz.

    iow, i know (from reading DU etc) that some REALLY DO THINK that gun control could be effective in disarming career criminals who would choose to be armed.

    i do think you make a very good point, i am just saying there really are those who are so deluded

  • dummy||

    ah, the good ole "at least I'm probably not going to get knifed in the face today" self embrace. Seriously, though, the good old interwebs, which can allow some unique problems to flourish, are also helping those violence depressing factors to spread. I bet crime and violence worldwide would be much higher without the internet.

  • Robert||

    In discussions of Pinker's thesis I don't remember whether I've seen that he takes account of another factor: life expectancy in the absence of violence. Life really was cheaper in times past. When you didn't expect to live much longer, violence isn't as risky a behavior as it would be otherwise. Of course that runs against the observ'n that young people are especially violent.

  • Penn||

    Pinker's account shows incredible naivete. Pinker appeals to 'forces of civilization and enlightenment' without recognition that the greatest sources of violent deaths come from the concentration of power in state-level governments (see, for one, Rummel's work). More important, he appears completely oblivious that the 'forces' that produced lower levels of violence consist specifically of (1) the creation and dissemination of tools with which even women and children can effectively defend themselves from violence, and (2) the devolution of power -- both of which reflect the increasing intensity of competition. Add one more lesser force -- major improvements in 'emergency medicine.'

  • ||

    Pinker, like so many who borrow the jargon of the movement, is intellectually shallow and confused. If "violence" (a notoriously tricky term, inevitably applied to what "they" do rather than what "we" do) is in temporary decline, it must be because the range of tactics we choose to define as violence is not proving effective.
    Applying market logic more rigorously, any prolonged decline in the effectiveness of violent tactics will result in a very sudden, unexpected and catastrophic return of those tactics. See "European History, 1870-1914."
    Really, Pinky, try for a bit of intellectual rigor.

  • ||

    Pinker is way off. PEople spend more time than ever watching human on human violence in the form of horror movies.

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