Pinker argues that there has over time, been a great decline in violence, mistaking progressivism for progress. “The better angels of our nature”
This is the doctrine that progressivism is niceness, is the better angels of our nature, and conservatism is nastiness. The rise of the better angels of our nature is the rise of progressivism.
Pinker tells us that murders have declined. Googling around for such statistics, the first thing that I stumble upon, page 14, shows a substantial increase in the UK murder rate per thousand from 1900 to the present, and an extraordinary, gigantic, and astonishing rise in indictable offenses per thousand.
There are more real crimes committed, more people in jail, and vastly more actions that the state deems crimes – and if what the state deems a crime is not truly a crime, then that is state violence.
The staggering rise in indictable offenses represents an increase in private violence, or an increase in state violence, or both. I would guess it to be a moderate rise in private violence, and a gigantic, colossal, terrifying and horrifying rise in state violence against the subject. It is often said of modern Britain that everything has been criminalized, except crime, which has been decriminalized. The statistics on indictable offenses show that either that is true, or else there has been a gigantic explosion in criminal behavior.
In modern times, no one is drawn and quartered, but a lot more people are in jail than there used to be. But Pinker rather likes jail. Jail resembles the progressive utopia, with free housing, free food, free medical care, and a good deal less of all those nasty freedoms that progressives rather dislike. As legislation multiplies the number of crimes, and welfare increases, the difference between being in prison and out of it evaporates. If the whole world resembles prison, Pinker will be ecstatic.
If less murderers are executed, that is, Pinker thinks, a diminution in violence. If more hard working middle class husbands are thrown out their homes for imaginary offenses and lose access to their children, that also, thinks Pinker, is a diminution in violence.
Pinker compares the genocides recorded in the bible, with modern times – but the bible covers thousands of years, while modern times are considerably shorter. Take any one century of biblical time, and typically there are no extraordinary crimes in that century, or at least none that directly affect the children of Israel, while there have been quite a few extraordinary crimes in our most recent century.
Pinker reminds us that war has diminished in recent times – meaning diminished since the development of nuclear weapons, and diminished further since the fall of communism, but that diminution is not necessarily because we are more peaceable, but because the risk of extraordinary violence has increased. Nuclear weapons promote peace by making war potentially more dreadful.
The fall of the Soviet Union promoted peace the same way the fall of Napoleon did. World Wars one and two were at least as dreadful as the Napoleonic wars, and arguably a good deal worse. No long term trend is apparent on that timescale.
The widespread peace following the fall of the evil empire resembles the widespread peace following the defeat of Napoleon. If the cold war was mild by historical standards it is largely because World War Three is likely to be a humdinger.
Pinker tells us:
In Western Europe and the Americas, the second half of the century saw a steep decline in the number of wars, military coups, and deadly ethnic riots.
And the first half of the century?
The reason the second half of the century was more peaceful than the first half, was because the first half was unprecedentedly horrifying. A better comparison would be Europe following the fall of Napoleon, with world following the fall of the Soviet Union, by which measure we are not doing well, or Europe following the rise of Napoleon and nationalism, with the west following the rise of Germany and communism , by which measure we truly suck.
And what is happening outside “Western Europe and the Americas”? The end of colonialism caused a horrifying rise in violence. While India seems to be finally recovering from its abandonment by the British, some parts of Africa are still collapsing with no bottom in sight.
Pinker glibly glosses over this, because that is mostly progressive violence, for example the genocide of the Tutsi and the ethnic cleansing of the Ivory Coast, of which violence progressives rather approve, much as they approve of state violence against middle class husbands and the imprisonment of a large part of the population, therefore, to Pinker, that violence does not count. Nothing happened in the Ivory Coast, as far as Pinker knows.