No doubt the Left wing anarchists won't like Pinker so well either. I, on the other hand, am kind of getting a kick out of it. It's just that we hear so many lectures on how wicked the state it, how it causes all manners of evil. The anarchists-either Left wing or Right wing-think it's so easy to show this is so. All they have to say is, Ahem. WWI, WWII, Hiroshima, Vietnam, Israel and Palestine and case closed, right?
I mean with things like genocide and the 20th century, who can seriously deny that the state is the cause of man's inhumanity to man-or at least most of it? Now though Pinker has gone and said otherwise and they are killing the messenger.
The key is that as awful as the wars and genocides of the 20th century were, and no doubt, in absolute terms the 20th century saw the most violent deaths in human history. However, in per capita terms the 20th century was actually a lot less violent than past centuries. Lord Keynes has Pinker's statistics and what it shows is that on a per capita basis state societies have seen much less violence than non state societies. Here is LK:
"So the sequence of human societies (in a long-term historical sense) runs as follows:
(1) stateless hunter gatherers (nomadic and/or sedentary);"What is being claimed by Pinker is that as populations moved into (4) and (5) above, the per capita level of death rates by violence fell as a long-term trend."
(2) stateless agricultural/pastoral populations (the first generally sedentary), eventually leading to rural populations; at the same time hunter-horticulturalist societies also developed and persisted in some regions of the world;
(4) state societies;
(5) more and more complex state societies (incorporating any or all of the above types of societies).
LK lists Pinker's statistics:
Percentage of Deaths in Warfare
Prehistoric Archaeological sitesCrow Creek, South Dakota, 1325 CE: 60%
Nubia, site 117, 12,000–10,000 BCE: c. 46%
Sarai Nahar Rai, India, 2140–850 BCE: c.29%
Br-Columbia, 30 sites, 3500 BCE–1674 CE: c.23%
Volos’ke, Ukraine, –7500 BCE: c. 21%
Vasiliv’ka III, Ukraine, 9000 BCE: c. 20%
Illinois, 1300 CE: 16%
Northeast Plains, 1485 CE: c. 15%
Vedbaek, Dnk., 4100 BCE: c. 13%
Bogebakken, Dnk., 4300–3800 BCE: c. 12%
Ile Teviec, France, 4600 BCE: c. 11%
Brittany, 6000 BCE: c. 8%
Ctl. California, 1400 BCE–235 CE: c. 8%
Skateholm I, Sweden, 4100 BCE: c. 7%
S. California, 28 sites, 3500 BCE–1380 CE: c. 5%
Kentucky, 2750 BCE: c. 4%
Ctl. California, 1500 BCE–1500 CE: c. 3%
Calumnata, Algeria, 6300–5300 BCE” c. 3%
Ctl. California, 2 sites, 240–1770 CE: c. 3%
Nubia, nr. site 117, 12,000–10,000 BCE: c. 3%
Gobero, Niger, 14,000–6200 BCE: 0%
Avg. 21 prehistoric archaeological sites: 15%
Ache, Paraguay: 30%
Murngin, Australia: c. 28%
Hiwi, Venezuela-Colombia: c. 15%
Ayoreo, Bolivia-Paraguay: c. 13%
Modoc, N. California: c. 11%
Tiwi, Australia: c. 8%
Casiguran Agta, Philippines: c. 55
Anbara, Australia: c. 4%
Avg. 8 hunter-gatherer societies: 14%
Hunter-horticulturalists & other tribal groups
Waorani, Amazon: c. 58%
Jivaro, Amazon: c. 30%
Gebusi, New Guinea: c. 29%
Montenegro, Europe: c. 23%
Yanomamo-Shamatari, Amazon: c. 18%
Mae Enga, New Guinea: c. 15%
Dugum Dani, New Guinea: c. 12%
Yanomamo-Namowei, Amazon: c. 12%
Huli, New Guinea: c. 11%
Anggor, New Guinea: c. 10%
Avg. 10 hunter-hort. & tribal groups: 24.5%
Ancient Mexico, before 1500 CE: 5%
World, 20th C (wars & genocides): 3%
Europe, 1900–1960: 3%
Europe 17th century: 2%
Europe & U.S., 20th century: 1%
World, 20th century (battle deaths): 0.7%
World, 2005 (battle deaths): 0.0004% (Pinker 2011: 49, Figure 2–2).
On a per capita basis, the U.S. was a very safe society in the 20th society. Other states were a lot less so:
Average for 27 non-state societies: 524 per 100,000
Germany (20th century): 144 per 100,000
Soviet Union/Russia (20th century): 135 per 100,000
Japan (20th century): 27 per 100,000
United States (20th century): 3.7 per 100,000
Entire world (20th century; state-based violence)*: 60 per 100,000
"Finally, we can compare some data below on the worst regimes of the 20th century:
Average for 27 non-state societies: 524 per 100,000
Khmer Rouge regime (1975-1979): 8,160 per 100,000
Nazi Germany (1939-1945, European victims): 1,008 per 100,000
Soviet Union (1917-1987): 450 per 100,000
Communist China (1949-1987): 120 per 100,000 (Cooney 1998: 58).
It's astonishing just how violent the Khmer Rouge regime was! It was 8 times more violent on a per capita basis. You could argue that a more apt comparison between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union would have covered just the Stalin years-if you're comparing it to Hitler. Indeed, this only looks at the most violent Hitler years of 1939-45. For the century Germany had 144 deaths per 100,000 while the Soviet regime had 450. Not that we really want to get into such gruesome comparisons.
Still, as LK points out:
" One important outlier in the 20th century was Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, possibly the most murderous regime of the 20th century. It is unclear whether this is included in Pinker’s data for 20th century wars and genocides (though I would assume so). Estimates of the total number of deaths range from 1.4 to 2.2 million in a population of around 7 million, and a death toll of perhaps 20-31.42%. But let us assume an even worse upper estimate of 33%. But even that shocking death toll was exceeded by some stateless societies: e.g., the Amazon Waorani (c. 58%). Some stateless societies came close: the Amazon Jivaro (at c. 30%) and New Guinea Gebusi (c. 29%)."
Gene Callahan puts it really well:
"The anarchist story that the state is the source of some huge increase in violence are empirically false. By empirical measures, the state take-over of crime prevention from private persons seems to have succeeded "remarkably." And despite absolutely awful outbursts of state violence from time to time, violent death as a whole has also kept dropping since the creation of the state. And, we have excellent theoretical case for just why this has happened: see Augustine, Aquinas, Hobbes, Locke, etc."
"Now, someone can say that this is just a coincidence, and that this violence would have decreased even further without state law enforcement. That's possible; but please, please, stop claiming the state is the cause of a mythical rise in human violence."
This is very interesting and I have to read Pinker's book. I think the idea about anarchism is philosophical: are humans mostly good and does what bad we have come from the state imposing alien forms on us or are humans actually improved by the state? I think it's the latter. Social cooperation is the product of the development and improvement of the state-among other things.
It's about time the anarchists get a little mud in their eyes.