English philosopher Thomas Hobbes ... argued in his 1651 book, Leviathan, that ... acts of violence would be commonplace without a strong state to enforce the rule of law. But aren’t they? What about 9/11 and 7/7, Auschwitz and Rwanda ... What about all the murders, rapes and child molestation cases we hear about so often? Can anyone seriously argue that violence is in decline?I have no reason to doubt either Shermer or Pinker, but, yes, I was surprised too.
Take homicide. Using old court and county records in England, scholars calculate that rates have plummeted by a factor of 10, 50 and, in some cases, 100—for example, from 110 homicides per 100,000 people per year in 14th-century Oxford to fewer than one homicide per 100,000 in mid-20th-century London. Similar patterns have been documented in Italy, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Scandinavia.
As for wars, prehistoric peoples were far more murderous than states in percentages of the population killed in combat, [Harvard University social scientist Steven] Pinker told me: “On average, nonstate societies kill around 15 percent of their people in wars, whereas today’s states kill a few hundredths of a percent.”
22 September 2011
We Live in Peaceful Times
What do you mean, you don't agree? According to Michael Shermer in his article The Decline of Violence in the October 2011 issue of Scientific American, there is very much less violence now, per head of population, than there was in times of old.