Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Steven Pinker on the Decline in Violence in the Modern World

UPDATED

These videos are not related to economics, but are a corrective to the myth peddled by libertarians that the modern state has presided over the most violent period in human history. In fact, one would have to say that the rise of the modern state is correlated with a remarkable fall in internal violence (within states) and interstate violence (with notable short periods of regression such as 1914 to 1945).

Now obviously one should not deny the role of culture in this process. For example, there was no doubt an increasing cultural repugnance to the fighting of duels in European nations in the 19th century (except perhaps Germany), but it was the state that outlawed dueling and enforced the law, so what we always have is a two-sided process which involves states. Another crucial point is how per capita death rates in war in tribal societies in the modern era – and by induction we can assume historically – appear to have been much higher than in the modern world. The anarchic state of man in stateless societies was by no means peaceful. Even the idea of “total war” is by no means a modern development: it is merely the lack of technology the limited pre-modern societies in waging war. If Middle Ages had access to modern technology, then their wars would have been far more bloody than 20th century ones.

Also, just listening to these videos, in terms of how violent punishment and even entertainment used to be in the past (e.g., think of gladiatorial games or bear baiting), one can also say how comparatively civilised we have become in the modern world, compared to our ancestors.

And note how Pinker endorses in the first talk (admittedly amongst a number of other theories, not incompatible by any means) the Leviathan state theory: a state-based monopoly on force reduces internal violence. In his book, Pinker (2011) agrees that the “Leviathan state” of Hobbes is in fact a major factor in reduced violence.










Addendum

I wish to make two further points in reference to comments below.

(1) First, I am talking about the views of Austrian anarcho-capitalists in this post (like followers of Rothbard), not Mises or Hayek, who both defended the minimal state.

I could, for example, easily imagine that even Mises might have been willing to agree with Pinker, especially since Mises was capable of writing this:
“There are people who call government an evil, although a necessary evil. However, what is needed in order to attain a definite end must not be called an evil in the moral connotation of the term. It is a means, but not an evil. Government may even be called the most beneficial of all earthly institutions as without it no peaceful human cooperation, no civilization, and no moral life would be possible. In this sense the apostle declared that ‘the powers that be are ordained of God.’” (Mises 2010 [1944]: 48).
(2) Some people cite criticisms of Pinker:
Edward S. Herman and David Peterson, “Steven Pinker on the Alleged Decline of Violence,” Zcommunications.org, December 2, 2012.

Christopher Ryan, “Steven Pinker’s Stinker on the Origins of War,” March 29, 2011.

Christopher Ryan, “Pinker’s Dirty War on Prehistoric Peace,” Huffington Post, January 9, 2012.
To respond to some of the criticisms here, Christopher Ryan points to the allegedly peaceable bonobo as a possible example of what our common ancestor was like, but for reasons given in detail below that is unlikely.

A more damaging criticism is that Pinker’s examples of hunter gatherer per capita death rates (from Keeley 2001) are mostly from societies that are not exactly hunter gatherers: most are partly agriculturalists and not the strict “nomadic (immediate-return) hunter-gatherers” who were “most representative of human prehistory.” How Pinker responds to this, I do not know. But a look at other data about the Kung San (Bushmen) or Copper Inuit (both hunter-gatherers) does seem to indicate a high homicide rate and raiding against neighbours (Keeley 2001: 29). In South America, the Yaghan (also nomads) had a murder rate in the late 19th century 10 times that of the US (Keeley 2001: 29).

Another criticism is that “there [is] no credible evidence that war characterized human life prior to ‘civilization,’ [and] there is massive evidence that war is among the artifacts forged by civilization.”* I really doubt that. First, what about primates? There is plenty of evidence for inter-communal and interpersonal violence amongst primates. And these animals are closer to the common ancestor than we are. What the common ancestor had was most probably passed on to early humans.

For example, the chimpanzees, our closest evolutionary cousins, fight wars:
“In perhaps the most famous of all ethological studies, the leading authority on chimpanzee behavior, Jane Goodall, extensively observed the chimpanzees of the Gombe National Park in Tanzania and showed that aggression and warfare are part of chimpanzee behavior.

In the course of her studies, she watched not only violence associated with the struggle for dominance among males but also significant intercommunal violence, including attacks, murder, and a four-year war between rival communities.” (Thayer 2004: 165).
A four-year war between rival chimpanzee communities! The fact that chimps wage wars and conduct violent raids on other chimps, commit murder, and annex new territory by war would suggest that this behaviour may well have been what our common primate ancestor did too. That is confirmed in this video below of Jane Goodall.



While bonobos (pygmy chimpanzees) seem to be less violent than other apes (though maybe that is exaggerated), we know bonobos are exceptional primates, and it is far better to look at multiple primate species if we want to use induction to make hypotheses about the common ancestor and hominids: when we do look, we find that violence is a well attested behaviour amongst apes (Sherrow 2012: 34).

Do we really believe that Australopithecenes and our various Hominid ancestors lived in a world where war had to be “invented”? That pre-agricultural hunter-gathers and nomads lived in some idyllic paradise imagined by Rousseau, which was then spoilt by civilisation?

I find it unlikely. That is the conclusion of H. M. Sherrow: that early hominids engaged in non-lethal and lethal violence (Sherrow 2012 34–35).

The existence of chimpanzee wars ought to make us think too! Why? The reason is that warfare
“among human groups that still live by hunting and gathering resembles chimp warfare in several ways. Foragers emphasize raids and ambushes in which few people are killed, yet casualties can mount up with incessant skirmishes. Dr. Wrangham [a chimp expert at Harvard] argues that chimps and humans have both inherited a propensity for aggressive territoriality from a chimplike ancestor.”
It is only one step from here to tribes of stateless homo sapiens and their wars where death tolls can build up quickly – and so to the high per capita death rates from violence Pinker argues probably existed in such societies.

One final point: actually this finding about war does not contradict that view that early human hunter gatherer groups were also characterised by intracommunal egalitarianism, cooperation and collectivism.

Note

* For those who want a scholarly refutation of Pinker on prehistoric war, see R. Brian Ferguson, “Pinker's List: Exaggerating Prehistoric War Mortality,” and “The Prehistory of War and Peace in Europe and the Near East,” in Douglas P. Fry (ed.), War, Peace, and Human Nature: The Convergence of Evolutionary and Cultural Views, Oxford University Press, New York. 2013 (forthcoming).

Obviously, I cannot read and respond to this, because it is not yet published!


BIBLIOGRAPHY

Keeley, Lawrence H. 2001. War Before Civilization. Oxford University Press, New York and Oxford.

Mises, L. von. 2010 [1944]. Omnipotent Government: The Rise of the Total State and Total War. Yale University Press, New Haven.

Pinker, Steven. 2011. The Better Angels of our Nature: Why Violence has Declined. Viking, New York, NY.

Sherrow, H. M. 2012. “Violence Across Animals and Within Early Hominins,” in Todd K. Shackelford, Viviana A. Weekes-Shackelford (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Evolutionary Perspectives on Violence, Homicide, and War. Oxford University Press, Oxford and New York. 23–40.

Thayer, Bradley A. 2004. Darwin and International Relations: On the Evolutionary Origins of War and Ethnic Conflict. University Press of Kentucky, Lexington, KY.

39 comments:

  1. I mean, really, the claim you attack is nonsense. Even according to Libertarian Logic vis-a-vis The Road to Serfdom, there should be less violence because the so-called totalitarian state should prevent people from being violent, brainwash them etc etc.

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    1. Amogh Sahu@February 13, 2013 at 3:32 AM

      I mean, really, the claim you attack is nonsense....

      No, it is not nonsense. I am thinking of the ignorant claims of Austrian anarcho-capitalists (like followers of Rothbard), not Mises or Hayek, who both defended the minimal state.

      Yes, Hayek might well have agreed with my point, but that is irrelevant. You are setting up a straw man argument, since Hayek's views are not what I am criticising here.

      E.g., I don't doubt that Mises might have been willing to agree with Pinker, especially since Mises was capable of writing this:

      "There are people who call government an evil, although a necessary evil. However, what is needed in order to attain a definite end must not be called an evil in the moral connotation of the term. It is a means, but not an evil. Government may even be called the most beneficial of all earthly institutions as without it no peaceful human cooperation, no civilization, and no moral life would be possible. In this sense the apostle declared that ‘the powers that be are ordained of God.’” (Mises, L. von. 2007. Economic Freedom and Interventionism: An Anthology of Articles and Essays (ed. B. B. Greaves), Liberty Fund, Indianapolis, Ind. p. 57).

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    2. Pinker is not arguing for a totalitarian state but a liberal democratic state, something which ignorant anarchists think is inherently violent and oppressive. The evidence shows that the worst violence and oppressive has occurred in pre-state societies.

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    3. Ivan@DenisovichFebruary 13, 2013 at 3:56

      Yes, in terms of per capita deaths non-state societies observed by anthropologists are actually quite violent.

      Think of the Middle Ages - basically a time when private power and competing private feudal lords run riot. Warfare and violence were endemic.

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    4. The Point of my comment was the characterize the Anarcho-Capitalist worldview as contrary to even Minimal State Austrianism, not to denigrate your opposition to it.

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  2. I haven't read the book yet but isn't excluding the "notable short periods of regression such as 1914 to 1945" from an argument about the benefits of the state in minimizing violence a bit dubious ?

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    1. No, it isn't, for even if you include 1914-1945 per capita death rates in WWI and WWII were still lower than in tribal wars.

      Look at the second video (middle one) from 11.50 onwards (especially 12.40 onwards).

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    2. Also, I would urge you to look at all data and graphs in the second video.

      They are compelling.

      And I am not saying that the state is sole reason for these trends at all: I am saying it is one important reason, but amongst a number of reasons.

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  3. Libertarians argue that states get their way by threatening to murder their citizens for noncompliance, but then how do they explain the fact that the governments of about 100 countries have abolished capital punishment?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Use_of_capital_punishment_by_country

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  4. "Steven Pinker’s Better Angels is terrible as a work of scholarship and as a guide to the real world. But it is an outstanding snow job, with over a hundred figures, a great many footnotes, and a flood of assured words and arguments that requires a certain amount of work to understand. That its positive message, so well geared to the demands and drift of Western imperialism, would be well received in establishment circles is perfectly understandable. Less so is its uncritical treatment by so many people who should know better."

    http://www.zcommunications.org/steven-pinker-on-the-alleged-decline-of-violence-by-edward-s-herman-and-david-peterson

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    1. See my comments below at Lord Keynes@February 13, 2013 at 10:20

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  5. From what I gather, the anthropologists don't think much of Pinker's arguments -- the critiques I've seen suggest that his work is riddled with mistakes, mis-labels tribes/peoples, and generally twists the data to fit his thesis.

    In terms of the state, it is certainly the case that it has a very violent history -- indeed, the crimes of rulers have been far, far worse than the average criminal never mind "ordinary people." And, as Kropotkin and Chomsky have noted, the state has been reformed in line with the customs and ethics of the general population.

    And this general reform away of the state as simply force on behalf of the wealthy has been resisted by the propertarians. In terms of, say, "anarcho"-capitalism the violence of the private cops in breaking strikes in America has been long replaced (in general) by the less brutal state policing (much to Rothbard's annoyance -- he complained in the 1950s about the cops not breaking picket lines like they should when asked by employers!).

    So Pinker's thesis seems to be flawed -- tribal societies are not generally Hobbesian and the state has been, historically, extremely brutal. If the state has been humanised it is thanks to popular movements (like the civil rights, labour and socialist ones) -- precisely those movements that the propertarians spent their time attacking.

    Anyways, I would recommend googling for anthrologists critiquing Pinker before using him as an authority. From my admittedly limited reading, his thesis is not widely supported by those whose expertise lies in that area.

    Iain
    An Anarchist FAQ
    http://www.anarchistfaq.org.uk

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    1. (1) But Pinker does in fact invoke democracy as fundamental factor that has led to less violence and war, so I am not sure how this critique really refutes him.

      Yes, states may or may not be abused by private interests or incompetent or cruel dictators, but even here the long term trend has been towards more democracy, and less authoritarianism.

      (2) I will indeed look at the anthropologists's criticisms of Pinker. Obviously one should not accept everything he says without looking at counter-arguments.

      (3) What needs to be refuted is the empirical data on per capita deaths by violence in stateless societies, and I have not seen any refutations of this.

      What's more, the evidence that pre-state societies were very violent comes from archaeology too: in societies known to bury they dead, archaeologists find a high percentage of remains that show death by violence.

      But I appreciate any critique - thanks.

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    2. Pinker's evolutionary psychology framework does strike me as being an impoverished framework. The structuralist anthropologists have a much better framework. And they do an interesting sort of economics these days, I think.

      http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6588637-the-science-of-passionate-interests

      And remember, its this tradition that gave rise to Graeber. Evolutionary psychology seems to me faddish and something of a dead end.

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    3. You're ignoring the fact that Pinker's data on violence in tribal societies was obtained from anthropologists, whom he referenced in his book. E.g. On pages 66-67

      "The anthropologists Karen Erickson and Heather Horton have quantified the way that the presence of government can move a society away from lethal vengeance. In a survey of 192 traditional societies, they found that one-one-one revenge was common in foraging societies, and kin-against-kin blood feuds were common in tribal societies that had not been pacified by a colonial or national government, particularly if they had an exaggerated culture of manly honour."

      The annual homicide rate in contemporary non-state societies such as the Inuit is shown on a bar chart to range between 30 and 100 per 100,000. The current homicide rate in the US is less than 5 per 100,000. The figure is even lower in Europe.

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    4. It's not just state violence that has fallen. The murder rate in Oxford during the 14th century was at least 50 times higher than what it is today. The rulers of states have committed terrible crimes, but you were are far more likely to be killed by a private citizen than an agent of the state in medieval England and the same is true today. Anarchy has been far more oppressive than states because it forces people to be violent simply to protect themselves from violence. This is argued very persuasively in Pinker's book.

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    5. Philip Pilkington@February 13, 2013 at 10:10 AM

      I have to say I think there is more to evolutionary psychology than just a fad. Yes, maybe some of it - the pop evolutionary psychology stuff - is faddish.

      But if we accept that we evolved by natural and sexual selection (which I and, I am sure, you also accept), how does it not stand to reason that evolution must explain a good deal of our traits, even the mind?

      Maybe there are currently many wrong ideas in evolutionary psychology, and maybe many of its ideas need to be improved, but I think it will become part of mainstream psychology, if it's not already.

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    6. Anonymous@February 13, 2013 at 10:14 AM

      Nice comment - thank you.

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    7. "But Pinker does in fact invoke democracy as fundamental factor that has led to less violence and war, so I am not sure how this critique really refutes him."

      I was not aiming to refute him by suggesting this, just making a general point.

      In general, the state has been extremely brutal and generally crushed community self-government. The struggles for democracy have been, in many ways, a return (in part) to communal institutions which the sate has hindered and destroyed in the past.

      For example, Kropotkin in his history "The Great French Revolution" and "The State: Its Historic Role" notes this, showing how the state gathered power to itself and undermined communal self-government. Popular struggles for democracy have been in response to this concentration of power, humanising an institution which has been (and will be again, if needed) extremely brutal in defending the power and interests of the wealthy few.

      I will admit to taking just a glancing interest in Pinker and his critics, so please take these comments as notes rather than vigorous debating points.

      In terms of a subject I know more of, modern evolutionary theory shows that Kropotkin was right -- mutual aid and its corresponding evolved ethical principles are part of our nature (Dawkins discusses this in "The God Delusion" and "The Selfish Gene"). Human society, as Kropotkin stressed, is marked by mutual aid and mutual struggle -- and the state has been the weapon for mutual struggle and the few imposing themselves on the many.

      Popular movements have knocked some of the more rough bits off it and many of the ruling class see the benefits of accepting reforms to secure social stability (and to keep capitalism going). Many don't. In terms of humanising the state, well, we need strong, mass popular movements for that -- something I think we can agree on!

      Iain
      An Anarchist FAQ
      http://www.anarchistfaq.org.uk

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    8. "the state has been the weapon for mutual struggle"

      Mutual struggle in the form of tribal wars existed long before the state existed. Archeological evidence indicates that between 10% and 60% of deaths in pre-state societies were homicides - the highest figure for a state was 5% (The Aztec Empire). The figures in modern democratic states are orders of magnitude lower. Furthermore, commerce was one of the activities that civilised humans and made them less violent, as they began to conceive of relationships with outsiders based on mutual gain rather than antagonism or conquest.

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    9. @LK

      Psychology is a strongly metaphorical discipline and I think that the evolutionists are just using metaphors and telling stories, to be honest. Its not the worst approach, to be sure, but I'm pretty dubious as to its scientific status.

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  6. Replies
    1. Neil Wilson@February 13, 2013 at 8:21 AM

      Thanks for that link. Yes, criticisms can be made, but on reading it I do not think it refutes Pinker's overall thesis.

      It does score some good points.

      But nevertheless:

      (1) The claim that Pinker does not consider Third World conflict and violent interventions of the superpowers in the Cold war is untrue. Even in the second video above he addresses these points, and gives the data, which does not contradict his overall thesis.

      Yes, the former Soviet Union and the US violently intervened in many places during the Cold war. Yet the US faced massive opposition to both the Vietnam war and the Iraq debacle in 2003. Even Chomsky says that opposition to state violence and war has increased tremendously and is unprecedented today. States cannot get away with what they used: say, just blatant 19th century imperialism without public opposition.

      (2) I would say, yes, there are problems with Pinker's analysis of the Vietnam war and Iraq war. But in the Vietnam war, the US was eventually forced to leave: Nixon was elected to end it, though he obviously betrayed the electorate and escalated it. This is a problem of ineffective democracy. Plenty of other Western democracies shunned the Vietnam war.

      (3) I have great difficulty accepting the idea that "there [is] no credible evidence that war characterized human life prior to 'civilization,' [and] there is massive evidence that war is among the artifacts forged by civilization."

      There is plenty of evidence for intercommunal and interpersonal violence amongst primates. And these animals are closer to the common ancestor than we are.

      E.g.,

      "In perhaps the most famous of all ethological studies, the leading authority on chimpanzee behavior, Jane Goodall, extensively observed the chimpanzees of the Gombe National Park in Tanzania and showed that aggression and warfare are part of chimpanzee behavior.

      In the course of her studies, she watched not only violence associated with the struggle for dominance among males but also significant intercommunal violence, including attacks, murder, and >a four-year war between rival communities.
      "

      Bradley A. Thayer's Darwin and International Relations: On the Evolutionary Origins of War, p. 165:

      Just think of that: a four-year war between rival communities: in Chimpanees!

      While bonobos seem to be considerably less violent than other apes, we know bonobos are exceptional and unusual primates, and it is far better to look at multiple primate species: when we do look we find that violence is a well attested behaviour (H. M. Sherrow, "Violence Across Animals and Within Early Hominins," in Todd K. Shackelford, Viviana A. Weekes-Shackelford (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Evolutionary Perspectives on Violence, Homicide, and War, p. 34).

      Do we really believe that Australopithecenes and our various Hominid ancestors lived in a world where war had to be "invented"? That pre-agricultural hunter-gathers and nomads lived in some idyllic paradise imagined by Rousseau, then spoilt by civilisation?

      I have to tell you I find it unlikely, and there is much evidence that violence was endemic.

      That is the conclusion of H. M. Sherrow: that early hominids engaged in non-lethal and lethal violence (H. M. Sherrow, "Violence Across Animals and Within Early Hominins," in Todd K. Shackelford, Viviana A. Weekes-Shackelford (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Evolutionary Perspectives on Violence, Homicide, and War, pp. 23-40 at pp. 34-35).

      As to the evidence on war and violence in prehistoric homo sapiens, I do not think you need dig deep to find evidence of that, although I might find some for a new post on this subject.

      (3) lastly I see no refutation of the per capita death rates in modern stateless societies. And that is surely one of Pinker's important points.

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  7. I recall commenting on one of David Friedman's videos on YouTube a while ago and someone gave me a similar reason why anarcho-capitalism would be viable and he mentioned something called "democide." I have been pretty annoyed at how insistent some ancaps are when it comes to believing at how viable their constructed society would be in comparison to the longevity of something like the Roman Empire or Ancient Egypt.

    Thank you for making a critique on this idea that anti-statists that I have come across on various websites have proposed. I never understood why some people turned to becoming anarchists when anarchism in my mind wouldn't result in a society that is recognizable and has existed in the past or really anything for that matter.

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  8. Same thing applies in the economy. A lack of regulatory/interventionist state and you get disintegration and chaos. Welcome to 2013, Hayek/Mises!

    The economy isn't a self-regulating entity. A lack of coordinated organisation results in disintegration (shock!).

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  9. I think you are being too unfair to anarcho cap libertarians, for they do not only endorse this myth that non-state societies are more peaceful than modern states, generally speaking. This should be directed to most anarchists (left and right).

    I mean sure we can show that there is still plenty of war, disputes, unjust actions etc made by the state (and this is really the only criticism brought to the table!) and people like Pinker understand that there are still problems in this world (he isnt saying that the modern state has turned the real world into non-violent utopia) but this hardly dents the claim that modern states are generally more peaceful than non-state (or past state) societies.

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    1. Isaac Izzy Marmolejo,

      Yes, no doubt there are left-wing libertarians who also hold this myth about the state.

      In my view, however, some of the best left wing libertarians - like, say, Chomsky - hold a highly pragmatic (not dogmatic) view of the state.

      With more democracy and economic democracy, the modern state is a beneficial entity that cannot just be abolished - it is indeed currently the best instrument to protect the community from the tyranny of private power.

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    2. We can point to several anarchists that hold pragmatic views but nevertheless dogma is still on both sides. Case in point is that link that is provided a couple of times in this comments section critiquing Pinker. Basically it is saying that Pinker's research is just statist propaganda put in place by those imperialistic heads of government. For example this passage:

      "The New York Times greeted the book with a flattering front-page article in the Sunday Book Review by the philosopher Peter Singer, who called Better Angels a “supremely important” and “masterly achievement;” Pinker, he added, “convincingly demonstrates that there has been a decline in violence, and he is persuasive about its causes….” It is easy to understand why Pinker’s invocation of an “escalator of reason” that has lifted the more enlightened Western powers towards an atmosphere of sweetness and light appeals to the many intellectuals who identify with these powers, as does his naming of the deficiencies that he alleges have held other peoples back from rising with them. But such a propaganda windfall for the imperial bloc could only be purchased with a denial of reality. Indeed, it is in the ideological and error-ridden narrative with which Pinker sustains this denial for more than 800 pages that the book’s real appeal lies."

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    3. Yes, for the record, I do think that critique you are referring to is partly unfair.

      They are starting to sound like mirror images (from the left) of Rothbardian anarcho- cap libertarians!

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    4. All social science boils down to propaganda and underlying belief eventually. Certain things are believed and simply cannot be proved - other than by curve fitting data.

      The only way to know for sure is to drum up enough support for the idea and try it in reality.

      You get the same in the field of nutrition, and no doubt lots of other areas.

      We all believe certain things and are persuaded by certain arguments. That doesn't mean that they are proved in any scientific sense.

      We all have our biases and they affect our thinking.

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  10. Your statement that: "the myth peddled by libertarians that the modern state has presided over the most violent period in human history". Funny, I haven't heard it put that way by any libertarians. Regardless....

    Likewise you do not understand the definition of "violence" used by libertarians. They consider violation of property rights such as taxes as violence because it cannot be done without the implied use of force. Government force. You may consider that as long as no one is physically damaged it is not a violent act. I, and others, would disagree.

    But. once again we see: "there is no progress without the State". Not provable at best. Indeed there are many other factors involved in the reduction of domestic violence not the least is the increase in prosperity. That is the social democrats argument on why there is 7-10X as much violence in the cities, right? So, factor in the increase in the standard of living. Just an example. There are many.

    You seem to be a fan of JM Keynes. Did you know that Keynes was very close to repudiating his work when he died? He did the same with his earlier works. But let's look at a implication of an application of Keynes's theories.

    There is the question of State warfare which may be a implied under military Keynesianism. The concept that the materials that are produced for war will not be used is questionable at best. The waste of those economic and human resources also does not increase prosperity, as those resources are wasted. Prosperity is not a factor in how the Keynesian community see things. Which is why they widely see WW 2 as a good period economic growth. Measuring output, rather than improvement of the lives of people as a criteria. Somehow, I don't consider shortages deprivation and rationing as a good economic period.

    So, by all means, include the war dead and things like State sanctions on such as Iraq and the hundreds of thousands of resultant dead children under the Clinton regime. Other modern States were responsible for the deaths of some 270 millions in the 20th century.

    You can "prove" pretty much anything by taking concepts and facts out of context. But nowhere have you begun to prove that the modern State has provided an better outcome.

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  11. (1) ">"the myth peddled by libertarians that the modern state
    > has presided over the most violent period in human
    >history".
    Funny, I haven't heard it put that way by any libertarians. Regardless...."


    Really?:

    "Other modern States were responsible for the deaths of some 270 millions in the 20th century."

    which would imply what? that ..."the modern state has presided over the most violent period in human history" perhaps?

    (2) " Did you know that Keynes was very close to repudiating his work when he died? He did the same with his earlier works.

    No, he wasn't. It is a silly myth:

    http://socialdemocracy21stcentury.blogspot.com/2011/12/keynes-repudiated-keynesianism.html

    Furthermore, even if did, that would not disprove the arguments of the General Theory, which like all works of economics will stand and fall on the consistency and merits of its arguments, not the final opinions of its author.

    E.g., there is a silly myth that Darwin repudiated evolution by natural selection, but even if he had, the rejection per se would still not make evolution a false theory. Only a cogent point by point refutation can do that.

    (3) I do not advocate military Keynesianism, nor do I describe the WWII as a period of "prosperity."

    (4) that the state's extension of policing and law and order was responsible for a great deal of the reduction in violence over the last few centuries has an overwhelming amount of empirical support. Still, no doubt empirical evidence (plain facts) do not mean much to you, being a libertarian.

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    1. After all, you can use plain facts to prove anything that is remotely true, don't you know!

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    2. The state is there in recognition that without it some other 'Big Man' will arise in its place.

      That is the nature of human society. There always ends up being a Big Man. Better to recognise that and create one that you control, than let one arise 'naturally' that you can't.

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  12. Steve Keen was on The Thom Hartmann Show recently. Check it out.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V-jNrQObT18

    Thom also went into a basic explanation of MMT here.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XzSNkNaLRc8

    Very fascinating stuff.

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    1. Thanks, those are interesting links. I 'll post them tomorrow.

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    2. Here's the actual explanation I was thinking of. The second link I posted was another interview that Hartmann did with Dr. Michael Hudson.

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

      This link is called "Sequestration is Stupid and Wrong."

      Sorry about that, but the second link is still relevant if you're still interested in posting it.

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  13. "Obviously, I cannot read and respond to this, because it is not yet published!"

    Ferguson's site: http://www.ncas.rutgers.edu/r-brian-ferguson There are several articles.

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    1. But I see none there that refute Pinker.

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