Sports

Bill James: "The human race has been in a long struggle to eliminate murder. And we will succeed."

|

Sporting

Over at the new sports website Grantland, Chuck Klosterman interviews the godfather of sabermetrics, Bill James. Not about baseball, but about crime, the subject of James' new book Popular Crime: Reflections on the Celebration of Violence. There's a good bit from the interview about how "it's only the opinion-makers and the 'opinion elites' who turn up their noses" at crime, and this bit in particular seemed of potential interest to the assembled:

I once watched a speech by a Canadian philosopher named Steven Pinker, and he argued that the world is continually becoming less violent. He wasn't talking about urban crime as much as war and disasters, but I'm wondering if you agree with that thesis: Is the world less violent than it used to be?

If you go back in human history, people witnessed bloodshed on a wide-scale basis all the time. The Romans didn't have gladiatorial shows where people were killed every once in a while — they happened all the goddamn time. If you were a sports fan in ancient Rome and you wanted to watch people torn apart by wild animals, you could do so many times a year. So it's true that the world is profoundly less violent than it used to be. … I knew a person when I was very young — a person who graduated from high school around the same time I did. … He had been with a woman when he was 18, and they had a son. The boy fell down some steps and died. Most everybody in town thought the child was a victim of abuse and that the man should be prosecuted for murder, but he never was. Now, if that had happened just three years later, he would have been prosecuted — because during those three years, there was a media uproar over child abuse. When I was young, I once had a realization while reading the newspaper about just how many things we now consider murder that were not seen as murder 100 years before. In 1950, if there was a fight in a bar and someone was killed, the police would ask, "Was it a fair fight?" If it was a fair fight, it might be manslaughter, but also might be nothing. When I played football in high school, our coach would work us as hard as he could on hot days and not let us have water. And you'd see stories in the newspaper, maybe 10 times a year, where some kid would die from this. Yet coaches still did it. But that would never happen now, because the coach would be charged with murder. We continually become less tolerant of actions that lead to death. The human race has been in a long struggle to eliminate murder. And we will succeed.

James, a hero of mine, is discussed in Nick Gillespie's and my new book, which you may have heard about. Reason on Bill James here. Thanks to Scott Ross for the tip.

Advertisement

NEXT: Reason.tv: Austrian Economics and Pedagogy - A conversation with Universidad Francisco Marroquin professor Albert Loan

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Hey, don’t count us out just yet. A couple of nukes, and we’ll be back to 20th century standards in no time.

    1. I’ll kill anyone who tries to eliminate murder.

      1. You don’t have any nukes, dude. However, I’m willing to license the use of one to our northern brothers. And sisters!

        1. Nukes are not sufficiently personal.

          1. That’s a valid criticism. Considering that nuclear weapons are sixty-year old technology, you’d think we’d have miniature nukes that could be used for personal killing needs. These “mininukes” could have low-yield radioactivity while incinerating your foe.

            1. What were those nukes that just killed people but left their stuff unharmed? Because if I want to murder you for your suede jacket, I don’t want the jacket incinerated.

          2. Yeah, but what they lack in “personality” they make up for is sheer “number of vaporized bodies”.

            World War II, in general, was a pretty damned violent war, especially if you add in things like, oh, I dunno, killing off the majority of Jews on the planet. If you add it all up, the high end of the estimate of the number of deaths in WWII is 78 million.

            Now, since then, you could make an argument along these lines. But violence in the world clearly peaked in the 1940’s, IMHO, and not during ancient Roman times or whatever.

            1. Read more from Steven Pinker. He shows that if you normalize by the worldwide population, violence has been decreasing on essentially all timescales.

              Sure 78 Million deaths sounds like a lot. But there were over 2 billion people on the planet during WWII. Less than 1% died in that war.

    2. The existence of nukes is precisely the reason there hasn’t been a conventional WW3 that would have run up an extreme death count just as WW2 did.

      1. So all that’s left to worry about is a nuke-fueled WW3.

        1. There’s always the shit to worry about you liberals conjure up… economic collapse, global warming, children eating their grandparents…

          1. I aint eating grampa…too fucking tough and stringy

  2. “When I played football in high school, our coach would work us as hard as he could on hot days and not let us have water. And you’d see stories in the newspaper, maybe 10 times a year, where some kid would die from this.”

    Your coach was an asshole.

  3. I don’t think we will succeed at eliminating murder because, “We continually become less tolerant of actions that lead to death”. I doubt we will ever totally conquer death. We may eliminate murder as it is defined today.

    1. We could make humans much harder to kill.

      1. Yeah, boxers used to get killed in the ring. Now we watch MMA and somehow participants don’t get killed. I can only conclude we are making humans harder to kill.

        1. All you have to do to make boxing safe is take away the clubs they wear on their hands. Of course, it wouldn’t be as fun to watch then. Fuck those guy’s brains.

          1. That is actually part of what makes MMA safer than it otherwise could be, small gloves with little padding. They do more external damage, and less internal.

            1. Yup. Now if they would just change the rules so that MMA is vale tudo again, it would be even better.

              1. I’m not a fan of small joint manipulation in combat sport, but I do think the rules should be simplified. Also something serious needs to be done about judging.

                1. 10 point must system too simple.

                  do you count sub attempts? I figure a failed sub attempt is a wash

                  aggression/control needs better inclusion. Control mixed with smart refs – no wall/stall/lay/pray, recognize legitimate work for sub/dom positions.

            2. Another reason MMA is safer if that a KO ends it. There’s no ten count to allow the guy to unscramble his brains just enough to stand back up and get them beat in a little more.

    2. And we’ll all have chocolate cake with sprinkles, and there will be rainbows and unicorns!

  4. Ooh, I made a movie about this once…

  5. I don’t really buy his argument at all. The reason people get charged for more stuff comes much more from 1) prosecutors wanting to make their careers, 2) a growing bloodthirstyness on the public’s part that if anything bad ever happens, it’s someone’s fault and they must pay, and 3) the fear of the police/DA/politicians that if someone “gets away” with something, it will later come back to haunt their careers.

    1. The Fucking Steamroller’s show just got the ax.

      1. This just made my day. Spitzer can kiss my ass.

        1. It’s schadenfreudelicious!

      2. now spitzer’s free to run for NYC mayor

        1. Or he could take Weiner’s seat.

          1. Spitzer on Weiner’s ass seat?

      3. Damn work. I was going to post this before someone made me do work.

    2. Agreed.

      Moreover, is he forgetting the hundreds of millions murdered by the state in the last one hundred and fifty years? The reality is, the state’s means, as well as its motives, to murder have grown exponentially.

      As long as there is a state, there will be MASS MURDER.

      1. +1

        The only reasons the ancient Romans didn’t shoot or blow up or gas their people was because the technology to do so wasn’t there yet.

        1. The Romans’ blood lust was limited by the fact that they had a very active, liquid, and remunerative slave market.

          Every time you killed somebody instead of selling them into slavery you were taking a big opportunity cost.

          That was actually part of the point of the gladiatorial games. They were fantastically expensive. The rich politicians (and later emperors) who put on massive games were doing so precisely to say, “These guys would be valuable as slaves, but I love the public so much that for the sake of public entertainment I am going to waste all this money just for a big show.”

          1. Actually, the notion that the losing gladiator always died is a Hollywood fiction. There have been many grave markers found of famous gladiators enumerating their victories and losses.

            Usually a gladiator was spared so long as he put up a reasonably good show.

            Put another way, if the NFL had been around in Roman times, the 2009-2010 Detroit Lions would not have been around for the 2010 -2011 season.

            1. We had a better system.

            2. I read something similar, forgot where. The article said gladiators, as opposed to the buff Hollywood portrayals of them, actually were fat because they ate a lot of carbs/starches. The idea was that if you had four or five or six inches of fat over your vital organs, you would have a decent chance of surviving a shallow wound while still bleeding a lot for the crowd.

              1. Today even, difference between body-builder and professional athlete, there is.

      2. Pretty sure Somalia has lots of violence too.

        1. Sure, but they’ll never get their shit together enough to do a real MASS MURDER.

          1. Cytotoxic tends to make excuses for the chaos, mayhem and mass murder of the state. If one cites Somalia as support for the proposition that mass murdering states with their socialist economies are preferable to no state, one admits to profound ignorance and stupid sheopleness.

      3. It isn’t murder if it isn’t illegal, and it isn’t illegal when it is sanctified by the Holy State.

    3. It’s not just those factors, it’s the general “If a hurricaine happened, then the government should have stopped it” or “It’s not my fault I smoke and eat handfuls of lard” mentality.

      Lawyers help reward that mentality, but it didn’t arise in a vaccum.

  6. So we’re all in agreement? Just change the definition of murder, like how they saved all those poor by moving the poverty line.

    1. Murder only applies to the true death, when the cruciform is ripped from the body and destroyed.

      1. However, any labyrinth world can supply one with infinite cruxiform…

        1. or simply ride an entropy wave back to before one was murdered…

      2. if only we could skip High Speed Rail and go straight to Farcasters.

        1. That would be great. Provided that we’re not being subjugated by malicious AI.

          1. Yea, you don’t wanna be the guy takin a shit on Mare Infinitus when the ‘web goes down.

            1. All my rooms will be on planets I could live being stuck on.

              1. So, no room on the STEVE SMITH rapeworld?

                1. and wealthy family’s that were once only separated by ‘doors’ and hallways were all of a sudden separated by light years, never to see each other again.

          2. But honestly, is it really that bad? Would you rather be turned to liquid every time you made a FTL jump to some distant system and take several days to be reformed?

            Of course, maybe we could skip all that and just go straight to freecasting.

            1. Yes, that would be nice. I find the lack of godlike powers another disappointment about the 21st century.

              1. Inorite. I blame the pussies who keep shooting down animal and human experimentation. How are we ever going to gain some awesome new mutations without people shooting gamma rays around all willy-nilly or leaving puddles of radioactive substances lying around for insects to get into? Maybe there’s some hope for the LHC.

                1. That’s right, an LHC accident could give us all superpowers. It’s just possible.

                  1. Another reason why we should be investing in nuclear technology. When was the last time you heard of someone getting superpowers from a windmill?

                    1. Pretty rare.

                    2. Wind powered super powers as requested. Sung by the Association.

                      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qlqwpq7xycU

                    3. When was the last time you heard of someone getting superpowers from a windmill?

                      Superman is solar powered….

                      I think Thundar the Barbarian’s sword is regenerated by geothermal energy…though the episode in question was not seen by me…only described to me by my lying cousin.

                    4. Ahh! Wasnt that Escape from New York episode? Alien toad/wizard/slavemaster/overlord took Thundars hot chick? The rescue required a Chinook helicoptor, slave sacrifices and a small shrub?

                  2. Create superpowers, create a blackhole, open a wormhole to a parallel dimension … . Is there anything a LHC can’t do?

      3. I believe Pro Libertate was the one who recommended The Skinner a few weeks back. Thank you for the recommendation, (so far) this book rules!

  7. Well we know violent crime rates in the U.S. have been dropping steadily for years, so there may be something to this. It could be a penny wise pound foolish scenario, as I think large scale killing still exists in abundance, while individual murders are in decline. Here, at least. Not sure about the rest of the world.

  8. The fact that some stupid Canadian philosopher would say something so stupid only shows how shelter he is. Try traveling in Africa, the Middle East, or much of Asia – bad shit happens all the time.

    In the 20th Century something like 100 million people were murdered by governments (mostly communists and fascists).

    1. You should watch his speech in the link. Steven Pinker knows his stuff. From the site:

      Steven Pinker charts the decline of violence from Biblical times to the present, and argues that, though it may seem illogical and even obscene, given Iraq and Darfur, we are living in the most peaceful time in our species’ existence.

      1. Anyone who cites Iraq as an extreme example of modern violence has got some agenda problems.

        1. Um, there was lots of violence in Iraq. He cites it precisely to say that there were fewer deaths than such a conflict would have caused in the past.

          Anyone who would say there was no violence in Iraq has their own agenda problems.

          1. Thanks for the clarification, Fluffy. I thought he was putting Iraq and Darfur in the same box of “obscene” counterexamples to his thesis. Maybe because that’s what that sentence actually says. Chalk it up to not RTFA.

    2. stupid Canadian

      That’s redundant.

      Canadian philosopher

      That’s an oxymoron.

      1. Take off, you hoser.

  9. “When I played football in high school, our coach would work us as hard as he could on hot days and not let us have water. And you’d see stories in the newspaper, maybe 10 times a year, where some kid would die from this.”

    Your coach was an asshole-let the kids have a damned drink and cool off. Kids come off the field all the time during games to rest-what the hell did he think he was trying to prove?

    1. True. That kind of stuff just seems needless and dangerous. Good riddance to those practices.

    2. It was all the rage after the survivors of Bear Bryants death camp won all those games for Texas A&M.

    3. Conditioning is important. Obviously, one needs to tow the lion between between proper grueling conditioning and watching adolescenses writhe and wail in pain of dehydration death…

      come to think of it, those coaches are monocle worthy.

      1. Hmm…tow the lion….creates an interesting picture in my head….the good kids working hard on one side of the field, and the unruly ones being punished on the other side, with a lion being pulled back and forth in the middle to discourage defectors.

        Or did you mean “toe the line”?

        1. Inside joke, Aelhues. Around here, you tow the lion. Avoids those tedious arguments about whether its “toe” (the correct version) or “tow” (the wrong version) the line.

          1. heh…sorry, guess I need to read more comments here to keep up 🙂 It was still a funny picture.

      2. Heat stroke-not dehydration would be what killed anyone in those circumstances. That’s why I said “have a drink and cool down.”

        Hydration is part of conditioning.

  10. It strikes me that he is making a category error. “Actions that lead to death” are not the same thing as “murder”.

    Take the football practice example. Is the admittedly stupid practice of not letting your players have water attempted murder? I don’t think anyone would say so. So how, if one of them dies, does it become murder? Perhaps you could make a case for some level of negligent manslaughter (even then, you might have intent problems), but not murder.

    The bar fight? Its entirely possible that one of the participants acted in self-defense, and that he might have actually been the winner. Not murder in that case, and the reluctance to prosecute anybody may reflect a healthy reluctance on the part of the police to try assume that the survivor actually was the aggressor or did anything wrong.

    As for the kid falling down the stairs, well, again, without knowing a lot more, and having some evidence that his father actually pushed him down the stairs, I don’t see how that’s a good case for murder, either.

    1. My sentiments exactly. Was the reluctance to prosecute really so bad?

    2. I think James might be just using the wrong word — the right word in this case is homicide. I.E., a “human-caused killing,” which encompasses so much more than just murder. If so, his argument makes more sense.

      But is it a valid argument? I dunno — the 20th century was pretty rough, at least by total number. By per capita measures, it might be less (e.g., the Romans lost 25% of their male population in the Second Punic War). But I’m just brainstorming; I have no clue what the actual numbers might be.

  11. James, a hero of mine, is discussed in Nick Gillespie’s and my new book, which you may have heard about.

    You know who else wrote a book?

    1. Tolkien?

      1. Tangentially related – Dance of Dragons next week. Glad I haven’t been waiting six years for it.

        But I’m already dreading that I’ll be nearing fifty years old when that seventh book comes out…

        1. Crap, I’ll be fifty in just a few years – better get on that treadmill and stop eating fistfulls of lard!

        2. After reading the first four in the last month, I think I’m actually going to wait a few months on Dance of Dragons. I am definitely burnt out on Martin’s writing style.

    2. God?

    3. say it, u know, saay it !

      1. ja mammy?

    4. which you may have heard about.

      If you’ve been to reason.com in the last two (maybe more) months, you haven’t really had much choice to hear about it.

    5. “You know who else wrote a book?”

      Hitler?

  12. The Moral Sense enables a man to do wrong. It enables him to do wrong in a thousand ways. Rabies is an innocent disease, compared to the Moral Sense. No one, then, can be the better man for having the Moral Sense. What now, do we find the Primal Curse to have been? Plainly what it was in the beginning: the infliction upon man of the Moral Sense; the ability to distinguish good from evil; and with it, necessarily, the ability to do evil; for there can be no evil act without the presence of consciousness of it in the doer of it.

  13. I generally agree that the developed world is generally more peaceful and the world as a whole is less violent than it used to be.

    But I’m not sure I buy Pinker’s thesis as to why. It seems to oversimplified.

    1. Maybe it’s partly due to an overall rise in affluence and standard of living. Most killing is for material gain of some sort (though revenge often enters the picture too).

  14. “too oversimplified”.

    sigh

    1. Isn’t “too oversimplified” redundant?

      1. No, he’s just repeating himself.

        1. You can say that again.

          1. The Clone Wars, begun they have.

            1. Oh, got caught up doing the repeater huh? Yeah, that’ll happen.

              1. That will happen.

  15. All you fucking fanatics have heroes, Welch. Heroes and enemies. Get a life (or at least a real job).

    1. All you fucking fanatics

      Ha ha ha ha, please tell me this is a sockpuppet…otherwise, this troll has no sense of irony.

      1. It’s just a sockpuppet. Edward/Max/Morris finally got permabanned.

        1. Really? After all these years? Why now?

          1. That memorial thread he shit all over. They removed his comments and banhammered him. I never got to actually read what got him bounced. It was a late-in-the-day thread.

            1. I never got to actually read what got him bounced.

              Ordinary lame-ass Edward insults. Not even glib.

          2. He called the deceased an asshole in an RIP thread. I forget who died, but it was maybe 6-8 weeks ago.

            1. I remember one for some newspaper editor (or something of that sort) in California, mid-May.

              1. That’s the one. I feel like slightly more of an asshole than usual because I can’t remember his name.

  16. When I was in grade school, if you got in a fight, the vice-principal would sometimes take the two guys that had been fighting behind the bleachers and let you finish the fight off–until it was over.

    I’ve long thought that the real change in the tolerance of violence had to do with people’s expectations of kids having to go to war someday.

    It’s hard to imagine now, but it used to be that every generation went off to fight a total war–not a limited all volunteer engagement but a full blown us or them total war.

    I think that expectation changed over the past few decades. …and when it did, violence became a lot less acceptable.

    When we think the bad asses among us may save us someday on the battlefield, we’re willing to tolerate bad ass behavior generally.

    1. Wasn’t it liberal icon, JFK that said that America’s future wars would be won on the playgrounds of America?

    2. Actually, total war is a relatively recent development, historically speaking. What we now think of as total war probably didn’t even exist before the Industrial Revolution.

      Most wars, back in the day, were fought by relatively small armies, fighting a handful of engagements. If you were within walking distance of an army, I’m sure it really sucked, but outside of that small zone, the war probably barely signified.

      1. But nonetheless, the mothers of the world were more willing to let their boys head off into such conflicts. When you have 8 kids, you can spare a few to die fighting krauts/redcoats/yankees/etc.

        1. Regardless, very few of those families of 8 kids would have ever had one go off to fight a war. Armies just weren’t very big, pre-Napoleonic Wars, for a lot of reasons (expensive to equip and train, limited economic surplus to divert, horrific logistics, etc.), with very few exceptions.

          1. I wasn’t trying to use “total war” as a technical term there.

            WWI and WWII certainly qualify, but the Civil War was pretty devastating across the board too. If you want to go back even further, The Revolutions of 1848 were devastating, The Seven Years War, the religious wars in the wake of the Reformation, the Hundred Years War…the Crusades!

            Average people have had their lives devastated by war going way back to the dawn of history. Even in the wars between various Native American tribes–going back before Columbus landed on Hispanola, average people’s lives were devastated based on how well their bad ass young warriors behaved on the battlefield. And those badass attitudes are what modern Americans would consider shitty outdated attitudes.

            We used to value stout peasant lads more than we do now. Most people just don’t expect their sons to ever become warriors–and that’s changed since I was a kid.

            1. Yeah, and it blows because I am of stocky frame, well equipped for blunt force trauma fighting styles. Nowadays, the sexy thing is the lanky 6’6″ beanpole with tight jeans. Fuck that guy, I can still kick his ass even with a reach disadvantage.

              1. Hey Sudden,
                pick up that sack of potatoes and carry them inside for me, will ya? I have to make a phone call to my thin, sexy wife.

            2. WWI and WWII certainly qualify, but the Civil War was pretty devastating across the board too. If you want to go back even further, The Revolutions of 1848 were devastating,

              All post-Industrial Revolution wars.

              The Seven Years War, the religious wars in the wake of the Reformation, the Hundred Years War…the Crusades!

              Its my impression that the number of men actually involved in fighting these wars was not that great, and that for large swathes of the countryside, there wasn’t much impact. I could be wrong.

            3. Most people just don’t expect their sons to ever become warriors

              Robots make warriors out of video game players.

              Thankfully, despite the effort over the last 40 years to demonize masculinity, Americans still manage to love football (the real kind), mma, monster trucks, x-treme sports, boxing, wwf (stylized simulated violence), violent video games, guns, mud-wrestling and movie heroes who annihilate the bad guys.

              1. “Thankfully, despite the effort over the last 40 years to demonize masculinity, Americans still manage to love football (the real kind), mma, monster trucks, x-treme sports, boxing, wwf (stylized simulated violence), violent video games, guns, mud-wrestling and movie heroes who annihilate the bad guys.”

                I don’t think there’s much question about Anglo-Saxon culture being more aggressive than most.

                I don’t think there’s anywhere on the globe where Anglo-Saxons or their decedents haven’t invaded in some from at one point or another.

                From Archangel to the Falkland Islands. From Shanghai to Cape Town–Anglo Saxons and their decedents have invaded it all in some form at one point or another.

                I don’t think any other cultural group can say that–and we seem to find the idea of anyone else being able to boast of superiority in any way?

                Quite frankly, we seem to find that terrifying.

                1. I don’t think there’s much question about Anglo-Saxon culture being more aggressive than most. … From Archangel to the Falkland Islands. From Shanghai to Cape Town–Anglo Saxons and their decedents have invaded it all in some form at one point or another.

                  Are Anglo-Saxons more aggressive than the Zulus? Or pre-age-of-discovery Amerindians? Hell, the Amerindians ran off the Vikings.

                  You cannot reasonably give moral credit to a group for not doing something which that group is incapable of doing. The Anglo-Saxons invaded everywhere for the same reason a dog licks its balls. The industrial revolution gave the Anglo-Saxons the means and they have exploited it.

                  1. “You cannot reasonably give moral credit to a group for not doing something which that group is incapable of doing.”

                    I didn’t give anybody a moral credit (or debit) for anything.

                    The fact that we’ve invaded just about everywhere there is to invade is what it is–a fact.

                    I didn’t say no other cultures have aggressive characteristics–only that ours seems to be more aggressive than most.

                    The sun never sets on Anglo-Saxon culture. I don’t think the Zulus can say that. Actually, I bet you could probably find Zulus who claim their culture was victimized by Anglo-Saxon aggression.

                    1. You claimed that Anglo-Saxons are more aggressive than most others based on the fact that they have invaded everywhere. Implicitly, you are suggesting that other cultures, if given the ability to invade everywhere, would not have done so. I disagree. The Will to Power is a universal characteristic.

                      and we seem to find the idea of anyone else being able to boast of superiority in any way?

                      Quite frankly, we seem to find that terrifying.

                      I think you dropped a word or two in there, but I get the impression that you were making a moral judgement.

                    2. “I think you dropped a word or two in there, but I get the impression that you were making a moral judgement.”

                      I’m not sure the Zulus get as bent out of shape at the prospect of maybe being militarily inferior to anyone else in the world.

                      If France, Germany or Japan don’t feel that way? Then of course there are reasons for that. …and reasons for why we do feel that way–if that’s the way we feel.

                      But if that’s how we feel–then that’s the way it is. I’m probably as patriotic as the next guy–in my own way. Doesn’t mean I have to pretend things are other than the way they are.

                      I’m not saying that none of our aggression was justified–I’m not saying all of it was justified either. I’m not saying our aggression didn’t have any reasons behind it. But having invaded everywhere there is to invade at some point or other is indicative of something.

                      I will say this, which may sound judgmental, but isn’t really judgmental at all… Our ability to imagine ourselves as the victims of aggression–and then turn around and imagine ourselves as other people’s liberators? May be part of what has made us so aggressive over the centuries.

          2. European wars were titty-tatty affairs involving small armies for a while, but is it historically true? What about the Athenian war with Sparta? Scorched earth policies weren’t invented in modern times either.

            1. I would say the European wars starting with Napoleon (and the Civil War) nearly all were of a scale that was previously almost unheard of, in terms of the numbers of men under arms and the damage they inflicted.

              War outside the European theater (with the notable exception of the Mongols) tended to be even less damaging than European-style wars, going back just about forever. I’m not terribly familiar with the Muslim wars of conquest, so those might also be a major exception.

              Most non-European cultures tended more toward raids. The pitched battle, and the decisive battle, are more or less a Greek invention, as I understand it.

              So, in broad historical terms, my view is that (a) outside the European theater, wars were less damaging/intrusive to the general populace than they were inside the European theater, and (b) even where European-style war was fought, the Industrial Revolution made war an order of magnitude worse.

              You can point to exceptions (a few of which are noted above), but as far as war goes, the adoption of European-style warfare made it worse over time, and the adoption of industrialized warfare made it much worse.

              At least through WWII, the trend was generally toward bigger and more brutal wars.

              1. But raid themselves are more akin to total war than the large scale napoleonic affairs between uniformed sides. European war pre-1700’s was largely done in skirmishes and raids, but those raids would penetrate the town level and wreck havoc among non-combatants. Rape and pillage and all that jazz.

              2. As far as battles between troops of armed men are concerned, you are correct about the European Wars.

                However, the European Wars pre-17th century featured pillaging and looting of defenseless peasants on a monumental scale. The purpose was to deprive your enemy of his tax base.

                In the battles between the Ottoman Turks and the Hapsburg empire between 1500 and 1641, the population of Hungary dropped by two-thirds.

                Similarly, during the Reconquista in Spain, the Christians systematically destroyed the Moorish water systems, leading to the decline of agriculture and a consequent decline in population.

                Heidelberg was fought over so often in the 17th century that it didn’t recover until the German unification two centuries later.

              3. Alexander’s famous “If you resist, I will kill every man, woman and child” ultimatum to the cities he conquered seems pretty total.

                The Chinese certainty fought with what were, by European standards, very large armies for thousands of years. Not sure about the size of ancient Chinese armies relative to the size of the Chinese population and how that compares to Europe. Also not sure what impact this had on the general population.

                Given the slimmer margin between food production in peacetime and food shortages during war, a low tech tactic such as burning crops and killing livestock may have produced a bigger hardship on the populace in ancient times than the damage wrecked by modern technologies on modern societies.

      2. Sure. Lack of professional soldiers except for the Romans until about the 17th century is a big reason for this. Read about the Greeks or the Franks. War happened between the spring planting and the harvest. Period. One of the big innovations of the pre-Norman English was splitting men between two service periods so no one missed the planting and the harvest (which was less important to Vikings).

      3. Napoleonic Wars, the Thirty Years War, the Mongol invasions: I would think all of those are counter-examples to the idea that past military conflicts didn’t affect much more than the immediate participants.

  17. but I’m wondering if you agree with that thesis: Is the world less violent than it used to be?

    The 3 inch spear head embedded in my hip agrees with you.

  18. Bill James intestinal bacteria will turn turds into gold. Which will instigate his murder from an excessive high fiber diet.

  19. How can anyone take Pinker’s or James’s argument seriously when there are hordes of these guys in the world?

    End of history, my ass.

    1. Seriously? Yes, there are still people like that in the world. However, they’re becoming increasingly marginalized, and I think that’s the point.

      1. Marginalized by whom? The Western punditocracy?

        Don’t let the fact that that picture was of Muslims distract you. There are just as many Japanese who are willing to kill every Korean in the world (and vice versa) over a few rocks in the ocean, to name just one example.

        1. The stupid hurts. It’s a few rocks. Give them to Russia or sell them off to some micronationalists, seriously? Is this worth slicing fingers off about?

          1. Not entirely sure why seriously is in the third sentence.

          2. It’s a few rocks with, probably, a whole lot of oil and gas near them. Or within 200 miles of them. Given that, I can see why neither country wants to give them up.

  20. “And you’d see stories in the newspaper, maybe 10 times a year, where some kid would die from this. Yet coaches still did it. But that would never happen now, because the coach would be charged with murder.”

    He clearly has never heard of Texas Highschool football.

    1. And yet Florida still churns out consistently better players.

      1. I join in this opinion and thumb my nose at Texas.

        1. Many Texas players get dispersed to CA, OK and other states. What’s inexplicable is why NY and IL don’t produce more players given the size of their populations.

          1. As do Florida players.

        2. And I say it as someone from California. So I have no dog in that fight. But Florida football appears to dominate Texas football.

          1. Anyone have actual statistics about birth state origin of NFL players?

              1. Yep, Florida kicks Texas’ fanny.

                New York is the biggest exception. … A lot of that is due to the fact that 40 percent of residents live in New York City, an area not known to produce football stars.

                Yeah, but NYC produces a lot of dancers for the musical theater.

  21. He wasn’t talking about urban crime as much as war and disasters

    That’s mighty convenient there, leaving out war to try to make this argument.

    1. Reading comprehension: needs improvement.

    2. Um, you might want to work on your reading skills there.

      1. What are you talking about? Reading doesn’t kill! Some people’s kids, I swear…

    3. Wasn’t he explicitly including war?

      1. My impression was that they were excluding war.

        I thought that it was pretty generally accepted by historians that the 20th century was the bloodiest in history if you include death by government. Is this not really true?

        1. Go back and read the very sentence you quoted.

  22. The human race will end murder when the last man kills the last woman for nagging him to death.

  23. MATT WELCH NEEDS A PROPER PROSTATE BIOPSY OF THE SOUL BEFORE HE CAN LEARN NOT TO KILL. BUT SO DO WE ALL. I GAVE MY DAUGHTER ONE JUST TO MAKE HER SICK. YOU KNOW WHAT THE LITTLE DUMPLING SAID? SAID THAT SHIT STUNK THAT’S WHAT THE MONKEY TURD POURED ON HER CEREAL.

    GOD BLESS THIS PITIFUL LITTLE VILLAGE.

    1. Turn off your caps lock key, idiot!

    2. Its like if STEVE SMITH and HERCULE had a baby….

      Or should I say, it is like the biproduct of STEVE SMITH raping HERCULE.

  24. At least killing is for the most part more efficient. I’d rather get nuked or shot through the heart than be on the business end of a flail or broadsword.

    1. Arrow in the eye is pretty quick, but bleeding out from a nicked artery in the leg is hardly fun.

      1. I dunno, it does get kinda goofy near the end…

  25. What a ridiculous and prepoposterous article. Murder will always exist. It’s human nature.

    With the rise of murderous Islamic terrorists, the persistence of murderous states, the rise of statism even in freer countries (such as the US) and the expanding technology of murder, it’s more reasonable to argue that murder, including mass murder, is becoming more intractable.

    1. I thought it was pretty spot on until the last two sentences.
      Though I wouldn’t say that murder is becoming more (or less for that matter) intractable. It only takes one murderer to keep it going. As long as people have the ability to act on their own, there will be people crazy, evil or mad enough to murder.

  26. I’m kind of puzzled that anyone seriously doubts the proposition that the world is far less violent than in the past (at least in terms of people dying violent deaths).

    1. Use math- makes the facts much clearer.

      1. Use complete sentences and say what you mean. It would make it possible to understand your intent with that comment.

        1. Hey ya Zeb! Got you a pretty colored globe that list violent deaths for 2002 world wide! 500,000 non war related ones too!

          Still trying to track down that UN report on Machete’s not gun’s as the most used murder weapon world wide.

          1. oops forgot the link

            http://www.worldmapper.org/dis…..lected=291

            1. Look at Australia! I’ve never seen it distorted like *that* before!

              1. Such is the power of blood! You need to ship more machete’s to Australia.

            2. On a more serious note, this indicates pretty clearly that western nations have lower crime rates. Nations with large populations, like India and China, will naturally have more murders that smaller nations, but fairly small nations populationwise cropped up a bit large. This was more common in second and third world nations, so I think it’s safe to say that there is a connection between poverty and violence.

              For example, South Africa and South Korea have only about 1 million difference in populations, but South Africa was far larger.

              1. I see places where machete’s are used daily for agricultural have higher murder rates… hmm

                1. Hmmm…maybe the rates are lower in some places because of the difficulty in obtaining firearms.

                  The murder rate will be lower if you can’t get ahold of effective murder weapons.

                  1. herr Doktor, The map posted seems to destroy your premise.

                    1. Explain how? I thought it supported it.

                    2. Viewing all the deaths from simple agricultural implements in countries where guns are readily available does not bode well for gun controls.

                      Currently militia’s and regular armed forces in Africa shoulder their fire arms and work with cold steel for most of their kills.

                      In Mexico mass graves where butchered, (not shot) corpse’s are retrieved.

                      My point good Doktor is that even with fire arms readily available, cold edged steel is the world leader in violent deaths.

                      Wealthy counties have ginormous tons of steel available. But still low rates of violent deaths.

                      It’s wealth which reduces violence, as long as you can protect the wealth.

              2. I think it’s safe to say that there is a connection between poverty and violence.

                Yes. Countries with policies that support poverty will tend to support violence as well.

                1. That’s true, too.

          2. I may have stated my point poorly. IN absolute numbers, violent death may well increase as population increases. But it seems obvious that on average, a person’s odds of dying violently are lower than they ever have been. This is certainly true in richer countries. Of course we can never get a complete picture of the past, so it is all speculation to some extent.

      2. For instance, in the 20th Century something like 100M were killed by their government. Adding in just the two WWs adds another 35M or so fighting casualties. Something like 30M civilian casualties in just WWII. I’m not sure there were 165M people in the Roman Empire across any given century.

        1. Shouldn’t the statistic we use be “likelihood of suffering, committing, or witnessing a violent act during one’s life, as a percentage of total population”?

          The 20th century’s raw numbers are at least in part inflated by raw population growth.

          When Cain killed Abel, that was pretty fucking violent, relative to the size of the population as a whole.

          1. Be like nuking China and part of India to radioactive pits, by today’s stardards.

          2. uh oh- are going to get into % of population? Thousands hacked to death in one year in Africa wont register as a whole number compare to the Cain & Able population numbers.

            1. That is the point. No one is saying that in absolute numbers there are fewer violent deaths. Only that the chance of the average person suffering a violent death is lower.

          3. Well sure, if you’re one of those Young Earthers, I guess anything less than unity is a decrease. The experience of the 1.5B first worlders does not mirror the majority of the world.

            1. I was using a facetious example.

              But by some estimates Caesar killed or enslaved one-third of the population of Gaul in around a decade. That’s like 100 million Americans being killed or enslaved since 9/11.

              1. The Taiping Rebellion (though really, you could pick just about any instance of massive Chinese civil disorder) and the Mongol depopulations of Central Asia were my candidates for widespread violence. Per capita, I’d guess those were greater than most depredations during WW2.

                Currently, I’m surprised no one’s picking on the still weeping-sore that is the Congo. In line with the OP, though, I think it is harder these days to wholly obliterate an enemy race than it was in the past, Cambodia and East Timor aside. Medical care and logistics are too good, for one thing.

                Could something like the holodormor happen today? I guess it is, if we look at the DPRK.

                1. Mr. James should not have made such a series of sweeping declarations.

                  After checking some UN and other agencies
                  reports all I can conclude is this: “Mr. James historical and personal bias have deluded him to the actual state of his surroundings.”

                2. You’re right.

                  WRT the Congo, I honestly have to say that I don’t even know who the players are, let alone the score.

  27. It’s just a sockpuppet. Edward/Max/Morris finally got permabanned.

    Hmm, I actually found Max kind of entertaining in a sort of Haldol-deficiency sort of way. I mean he actually, it seems to me, occasionally did crazy-clever fairly well. You’re sitting here reading erudite, thoughtful people writing interesting, cogent stuff and from out of nowhere in zooms this wild-assed, smokin’ hot, ritual flame that actually gave me a chuckle or two. We here are manifestly easily entertained by primitive humor so I thought maybe I wasn’t too off-base by that. Of course I haven’t been observing that stunt for a couple years like some of you, so I’m just sayin’…

  28. There is probably a base-rate of murder below which we can not get. But it is pretty low based on world-wide statistics. You will always have your sociopathic serial killers and such.

    1. You will always have your sociopathic serial killers and such.

      They prefer to be called Law Enforcement Officers.

      1. wheeeeee!

    2. There will always be some bitch that really deserves it.

    3. You will always have your sociopathic serial killers…

      Will we? One of the arguments in Freakonomics is that the increased availability of abortions lowered crime. Since there were far fewer unwanted children, there were far fewer children brought up in environments that would seriously warp them. (I think the argument is at least partially true)

      The increased knowledge about the effects of child abuse has also limited the pathologies that result from such actions. As we move to a world where the vast majority of children are loved and guarded from abuse, isn’t it possible the types of pathology that result in psycho killers will diminish greatly?

      1. the increased availability of abortions lowered crime. Since there were far fewer unwanted poor black children

        FTFY

      2. Will we?
        Yes.

        One of the arguments in Freakonomics

        I am already skeptical…but go on….

        is that the increased availability of abortions lowered crime. Since there were far fewer unwanted children, there were far fewer children brought up in environments that would seriously warp them.

        Fewer is not equal to none.

        (I think the argument is at least partially true)

        Pretty small effect, but it may contribute.

        The increased knowledge about the effects of child abuse has also limited the pathologies that result from such actions.

        Prevention is good medicine, yes.

        As we move to a world where the vast majority of children are loved and guarded from abuse,

        That has been the state of affairs for generations.

        isn’t it possible the types of pathology that result in psycho killers will diminish greatly?

        Diminish, yes. Greatly, maybe. Be eliminated, no.

        1. Will we?
          Yes.

          There are pretty clear genetic markers that predispose people to mental illness.

          If parents are given that information in the early stages of pregnancy…

          “You son has a 340% greater chance of being a sociopath then the average”

          …it would be pretty easy to eliminate psycho-killers by way of legalized early abortion and free markets.

          1. it would be pretty easy to eliminate psycho-killers by way of legalized early abortion and free markets.

            …and with them, 80% of all original thinkers.

            Aldus Huxley already did a treatment of this.

            1. …and with them, 80% of all original thinkers.

              So you found that the DNA sequence that produces sociopaths? And it is the same sequence that produces “original thinkers”?

              When is your paper coming out?

              1. Have you so thoroughly mapped and characterized the human genome that you can speak of genetic determinism instead of propensity? Do you believe yourself to be so possessed of understanding about human thought that you can differentiate between “mental illness” and the aberrant thoughts of a “genius”?

                Listening to anyone talk about using abortion to enforce mental conformity makes me nervous.

          2. Joshua Corning|7.6.11 @ 7:34PM|#

            There are pretty clear genetic markers that predispose people to mental illness.

            Perhaps…if we use a loose definition of “clear markers” and ignore the difference between “place at higher risk” and “predispose.”

            If parents are given that information in the early stages of pregnancy…

            “You son has a 340% greater chance of being a sociopath then the average”

            …it would be pretty easy to eliminate psycho-killers by way of legalized early abortion and free markets.

            So you think a relative risk of 3.4 is gonna convince a significant number of parents to abort?

            Wow.

            Perhaps this post was meant as a joke.

        2. “isn’t it possible the types of pathology that result in psycho killers will diminish greatly?”

          If I remember correctly, violence overall has fallen by a third since the 1960’s in the US.

          HOWEVER, the nature of the violence has changed. In the past, violence was mostly impulsive and cops solved some 90% of cases. Now, despite better technology, only 66% of murders are solved. Most murders are premeditated in today’s society, the number of psycho killers has actually gone thru the roof.

          I can only speculate, but I’d argue that both trends can be explained by out school system teaching kids that nothing is worth fighting for

  29. Is murder still murder if you wear a badge when you do it?

    1. Or a uniform. Do casualities on the Normandy beaches go in the same category as those who died in Auschwitz, Treblinka, Chelmno…?

      1. Oh no no no- Our esteemed northern Philosopher does not count ethnic cleansing as a violent act.

        Toot toot Tutsi goodbye!

        1. No, I’m trying divide the gov’t mass murder # into two classes: death camp murders, and military casualities. It is the latter, not the former, which I question.

    2. You don’t have a right to be murdered perpendicular to traffic.

    3. its a ticket to vacation

  30. Is this the same Bill James who comes up will bullshit reasons why dick Allen shouldn’t be in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

    James is like some reasonably intelligent person who eventually gets a government advocacy job – his brains turn to mush but people think he’s a genius because he did some good work 35 years ago.

    1. I’d be surprised if James thought Dick Allen was 100%, no doubt about it, didn’t belong. His window stats on BR:

      Black Ink Batting – 27 (68), Average HOFer ? 27
      Gray Ink Batting – 159 (74), Average HOFer ? 144
      Hall of Fame Monitor Batting – 99 (155), Likely HOFer ? 100
      Hall of Fame Standards Batting – 39 (172), Average HOFer ? 50

      That’s a below-average HOFer, but nothing embarrassing. Add in certain intangibles (rocky media relationship screwing over his votes, played bad hitter’s era, one of the best peak values ever) and he’s got a pretty good case. Much better than Tony Perez, for one contemporary.

  31. all minority report references aside… this guy is a total moron.

  32. I’m glad to see that Reason is finally acknowledging that the high incarceration rates in the US have reduced crime.

    1. I thought the lower crime rate was due to the widespread availability of the internet and violent video games.

  33. Steven Pinker is not a philosopher.

    Bill James’ new book sucks ass.

  34. According to Game of Thrones all violence stems from three things…

    1. Having an insane King.

    2. A King that spites his wife because of grief over his lost love.

    3. Breeding with your siblings when you are married to a king.

    Of course all this can be boiled down to one issue and that is having a King in the first place.

    1. I get violent whenever I buy something that I find out was made in China. I can never get the &$%#% labels off!

  35. …he argued that the world is continually becoming less violent. He wasn’t talking about urban crime as much as war and disasters…

    Sounds like he WAS including war, and excluding urban crime. I’d like to see the graphs backing up that thesis. I have a feeling they spike fairly significantly in the 19th and 20th centuries.

  36. So the child abuse example he used was from a rural area?.. No wait, that would mean I’m giving him credibility.

    He’s connecting the dots from bird droppings trying to make a Rembrandt

  37. Get rid of all guns, and murder will soon disappear.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.