Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Book argues that rates of violence have declined over human history

The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, by Steven Pinker, Viking, 832 pp., $40  Pinker's data has convinced many reviewers that rates of violence in our species have declined over time. One reviewer wrote (see link) "Pinker demonstrates that long-term data trumps anecdotes. The idea that we live in an exceptionally violent time is an illusion created by the media’s relentless coverage of violence, coupled with our brain’s evolved propensity to notice and remember recent and emotionally salient events. Pinker’s thesis is that violence of all kinds—from murder, rape, and genocide to the spanking of children to the mistreatment of blacks, women, gays, and animals—has been in decline for centuries as a result of the civilizing process.... Picking up Pinker’s 832-page opus feels daunting, but it’s a page-turner from the start." I have not read the book but my impression is that Pinker is correct.

All of this in spite of all the guns in the world.  More guns means less crime? 

1 comment:

  1. John Lott, in his number-crunching survey of all US counties, concluded that on a comparative basis, yes, more guns = less crime.

    Overall, nationwide, we know that the rate of violent crime varies most with demographics. I don't know if there is a causal relationship, but as the percentage of young males in the 26-24 age group declines, so does the rate of violent crime.

    In 1968, privately owned firearms in the US were guesstimated at between 150 and 200 million. I've assumed new purchases at possibly two to three million per year for the ensuing 25 years. BATF records, 1993-2003 show average sales of five million per year. Then came the NICS numbers from the FBI, leading me to believe that the total number of privately owned firearms in the US is somewhere near 400 million.

    Obviously, "more guns" does not at all equal "more crime".