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Old Nov 11th 2017, 04:45 PM
Tom Palven Tom Palven is offline
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Default Violence in Decline

The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence has Declined

Canadian Steven Pinker, Johnstone Professor of Psychology at Harvard, proves with an exhaustive array of facts and figures that small anarchic communities are much more violent and murder a very much larger percentage of their inhabitants, amounting to a much larger total number killed, than do conflicts between large nation-states, even when we factor in such things as the tens of millions of people killed in WW II.

But, while he endorses large nation-states, he also speaks highly of classical liberalism, free enterprise, and individualism.

He concludes chapter 9, pages 699 and 670, with long passages from Adam Smith's The Theory of Moral Sentiments,1759, and begins the last chapter, chapter 10, with this quote from Charles Darwin's The Descent of Man, 1874:

As man advances in civilization, small tribes are united into larger communities, the simplest reason would tell each individual that he ought to extend his social instincts and sympathies to all members of the same nation, though personally unknown to him. This point being reached, there is only an artificial barrier to prevent his sympathies extending to the men of all nations and races.

Pinker states that "This book grew out of an answer to the question 'What are you optimistic about' and I hope that the numbers I have marshalled have lifted your assessment of the state of the world from lugubrious (gloomy) conventional wisdom...
In this final chapter...I will look for common threads in the Pacification Process... We should not expect these forces to fall out of a grand unified theory...
..Throughout this book we have seen the beneficial consequences of an application of reason to human affairs..
...carefully reasoned briefs against slavery, despotism, torture, religious persecution, cruelty to animals, harshness to children, violence against women, frivolous wars, and the persecution of homosexuals were not just hot air but entered into the decisions of people and institutions who attended to the arguments and implemented reforms..." achieving a boost to empathy...

...The forces of modernity,-reason, science, humanism, individuals rights- have not, of course, pushed steadily in one direction; nor will they ever bring about a utopia or end the frictions and hurts that come from being human. But on top of all the benefits that modernity has brought us in health, experience, and knowledge, we can add its role in the reduction of violence."

While this book did not create a Road to Damascus conversion, it did mollify my hatred for big government/nation states, and it's nice to see a case for optimism.

Available used from Amazon.
Voltairian individualist on the Lunatic Fringe of the Radical Center
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Old Nov 13th 2017, 06:59 PM
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Michael Michael is offline
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Default Re: Violence in Decline

Wow, that's a very interesting take.

I'm definitely aware of an overall drop in violence compared with the pre-modern era (pre-1500). I'll have to read up on this - the devil is always in the details!
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