A short and excellent talk, by Steven Pinker, on the global decline of violence.
He is a great speaker but he disregards some obvious factors. Humanity has grown older over time, modern medicine turns homicide into assault. And also the fact that the death penalty was in place for a number of centuries, systematically identifying and weeding out people prone to violence. And looking at America since 1960 the violent crime was rising until the 1990s when it dropped simultaneous with massive incarceration. The picture just isn’t as clear as he presents it.
I feel you’re rationalizing, and that your counter-points do not come near to accounting for the megatrends Pinker describes. Having said that, I think it’s always possible (as does Pinker) that the positive trends could reverse themselves in the future (such as if India and Pakistan exchanged nuclear weapons, for instance).
It’s not that I disagree completely with him. The strength of the state certainly eliminates a lot of violence – just look at USA compared to Mexico. It’s just that he disregards unpleasant explanations like frequent executions and makes a big deal of progressive and humane values inspired by Enlightenment. In that regard it is damning how at least in the US, violent crime rose sharply just as these ideas began to mainstream. The words were peace & love, but it suspiciously coincides with a dramatic increas of murder and rape.
Anyway, it would be easy for him to adjust homicide rates for something like age. You have to ask yourself why he doesn’t do that.
Another interesting thing: if humanitarianism merely originated in England and then spread by cultural transmission, why is there a correlation between English ancestry and vegatarianism in America? There seems to be a zero correlation between just being white and vegetarianism. There is a similar pattern in Europe with a preference for this diet in the Northwest and the epicenter in England,
Here is a critical article on this that you may find interesting,
And in case you haven’t read it, there is also an ongoing debate about this in The Guardian,
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