In his talk delivered at the Mises Institute’s 30th Anniversary Celebration, Walter Block took Harvard psychology professor and best selling author Steven Pinker to task for his book ‘The Better Angles of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined.’ Pinker’s book attempts to convince the reader that today’s world is much less violent than ancient times.
Block said Pinker uses trickery to make his case. Pinker ranks the worst annihilations on a deaths per capita basis rather than using total deaths. So while 55 million died in WWII, that event only ranks 9th worst on Pinker’s scale. Number 1, turns out to be the An Lushan Revolt in the 8th century with 36 million deaths. The Mongol Conquests of the 13th century comes in second.
Pinker credits democracy and more government with lowering the amount of world-wide violence. Block takes issue with this. For instance Pinker doesn’t put Hitler’s deaths in the democracy category and he should. But Block’s primary complaint is that Pinker didn’t cite Hans Hoppe or Murray Rothbard in his research and “that isn’t cool,” Block told 300 or so attendees.
But Block seems to have missed a small nugget in Pinker’s book on page 287.
The pacifying effects of commerce in this broad sense appear to be even more robust than the pacifying effects of democracy. A democratic peace strongly kicks in only when both members of a pair of countries are democratic, but the effects of commerce are demonstrable when either member of the pair has a market economy.
On the next page Pinker continues.
The very idea of a Capitalist Peace is a shock to those who remember when capitalists were considered “merchants of death” and “masters of war.” The irony was not lost on the eminent peace researcher Nils Petter Gleditsch, who end his 2008 presidential address to the International Studies Association with an updating of the 1960s peace slogan: “Make money, not war.”