Phillip, I am sure you have read this book, but I really liked "The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined. Here is the description:
We've all asked, "What is the world coming to?" But we seldom ask, "How bad was the world in the past?" In this startling new book, the bestselling cognitive scientist Steven Pinker shows that the world of the past was much worse. In fact, we may be living in the most peaceable era yet. Evidence of a bloody history has always been around us: the genocides in the Old Testament and crucifixions in the New; the gory mutilations in Shakespeare and Grimm; the British monarchs who beheaded their relatives and the American founders who dueled with their rivals.
Now the decline in these brutal practices can be quantified. Tribal warfare was nine times as deadly as war and genocide in the 20th century. The murder rate in medieval Europe was more than thirty times what it is today. Slavery, sadistic punishments, and frivolous executions were unexceptionable features of life for millennia, then were suddenly abolished. Wars between developed countries have vanished, and even in the developing world, wars kill a fraction of the numbers they did a few decades ago. Rape, hate crimes, deadly riots, child abuse - all substantially down. How could this have happened, if human nature has not changed? Pinker argues that the key to explaining the decline of violence is to understand the inner demons that incline us toward violence and the better angels that steer us away.
Thanks to the spread of government, literacy, trade, and cosmopolitanism, we increasingly control our impulses, empathize with others, debunk toxic ideologies, and deploy our powers of reason to reduce the temptations of violence. Pinker will force you to rethink your deepest beliefs about progress, modernity, and human nature. This gripping book is sure to be among the most debated of the century so far.
Of course, I am reading a book on North Korea right now and that place it pretty f'd up.
I think a key in the book description above is "developed" countries. Is China a developed country? Is Iran? Is Saudi Arabia? Is Pakistan?........and what about Africa? What can be learned from the more stable countries like Botswana?
It reminds me of an episode from one of my favorite podcasts, econtalk. You might like it Phillip!
Daron Acemoglu of MIT and author (with James Robinson) of Why Nations Fail talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the ideas in his book: why some nations fail and others succeed, why some nations grow over time and sustain that growth, while others grow and then stagnate. Acemoglu draws on an exceptionally rich set of examples over space and time to argue that differences in institutions--political governance and the inclusiveness of the political and economic system--explain the differences in economics success across nations and over time. Acemoglu also discusses how institutions evolve and the critical role institutional change plays in economic success or failure. Along the way, he explains why previous explanations for national economic success are inadequate. The conversation closes with a discussion of the implications of the arguments for foreign aid and attempts by the wealthy nations to help nations that are poor.
I would really be interested in your thoughts on the podcast. I like what Acemoglu is saying about the importance of political systems in creating the right environment for economic incentives to work optimally and create a fair and healthy economy.
Institutions and countries are not necessarily going to natually gravitate to being more efficient or to economically exploiting people less. Acemoglu argues that an increase in the distribution of political power goes hand in hand with a country increasing the effectiveness its economic system in benefitting the members of the country.
I think there are many countries that need to still make great strides in distributing their political power in a way that can create healthier economies. China, Russia, Mexico, North Korea, Zimbabwe etc. When the economy of a country benefits few members of that country, I think there is an increase in the possiblity that the country could resort to war or violence in order to either preserve that political power or to perserve the agenda of that system benefitting the few. Ironically, it is probably easier to get people whose lives receive little economic benefit to fight because their life sucks anyway.
I certainly don't think another world war is likely but I don't think we have seen the end of countries that have very centralized political power resorting to violence etc to preserve an economy they benefit from. I hope in the next 100 years that we move from just having countries connected economically to having more people directly connected to benefitting economically between countries.
Bascially, I think if a Hooters could be opened up in Iran and be a viable businees, we would all be better off.