This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Decline in Violence--Things That Don't Kill Us As Much Any More

If there is one thing that we are likely to associate in our minds with civilization it is the control of violence. Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker has written about this in his recently published book The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined. This week's Economist has picked up the threads of the book, which are as follows:
The path is from non-state societies (homicide rates around 100 per 100,000) to medieval proto-state societies (tens per 100,000) to early modern society (high-single digits per 100,000) to peaceful modern Europe (around 1 per 100,000), roughly an order-of-magnitude drop each time.
In other words, as people increasingly trust the government to control violence, they are less prone to take it into their own hands. On the other hand, in the United States there are some clear regional differences in the extent to which people trust the government.
Murder rates are about four times higher in America than in western Europe. And guns are not the only reason; murder by stabbing and clubbing is higher, too. The murder rate is higher among blacks, but American whites are more violent than European whites. The South is America's most violent region; both blacks and whites in the South are more violent than those in the northeast. In other words, the murder rate is highest in those states that most disdain the sovereign ("government") and champion self-reliance.
Note, however, that the South tends to have higher death rates from several other causes of disease besides violence, so we always have to be careful of that correlation versus causation thing.

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