Most research shows that we live in a far more peaceful time than previous periods in human history. It’s a complicated topic with a lot of incomplete data for a massively huge period of examination, but the current conventional wisdom follows from Dr. Pinker’s study of the long decline in violence, “The Better Angels of Our Nature.” I agree with Pinker’s specific argument that violence has declined generally, and Pinker does save for a break from the typical 10 o’clock news run about how you might get stabbed to death by some Sureños while walking to your car at night.
Interestingly, Pinker’s research identifies the rise of the modern State as one of the main reasons for the overall decline in violence. He sees the State as a gift of peace to the “species’ existence” because it centralizes the previous Packs of Punishers into a Monopoly on Violence controlled by a centralized State where punishment becomes central management. Pinker doesn’t use this sort of anarchic terminology obviously but what he is largely describing is the impact of the modern State and the ways in which the wide spread fear of the State became the predominant force in the promotion of peace which brought with it wealth and prosperity. He just won’t call it for what it is: the fear of the State.
Now let’s be honest, the main thing stopping you from going out and knockin’ off a bank tomorrow is the fear of the State. Not because you’re a nice guy or more morally amazing or the better angels of your nature are advising otherwise. It’s the fear of the State. Pinker proves it, but just won’t say it. He provides graphs, stats, extensive references to facts on facts, examining and synthesizing a boatload of theory and historical data, a fucking tour-de-force on the proofs of declining violence in the modern era, all organized into an unbelievably intelligent and compelling study, and to be honest he did an excellent job, but he won’t admit to what it all means: everybody fears the State.