State Policies Never Work?!

Here's part of the abstract of a paper by Manuel Eisner:
Research on the history of crime from the thirteenth century until the end of the twentieth has burgeoned and has greatly increased understanding of historical trends in crime and crime control. Serious interpersonal violence decreased remarkably in Europe between the mid-sixteenth and the early twentieth centuries. Different long-term trajectories in the decline of homicide can be distinguished between various European regions. Age and sex patterns in serious violent offending, however, have changed very little over several centuries. The long-term decline in homicide rates seems to go along with a disproportionate decline in elite homicide and a drop in male-to-male conflicts in public space.
The anarchist story that the state is the source of some huge increase in violence are empirically false. By empirical measures, the state take-over of crime prevention from private persons seems to have succeeded "remarkably." And despite absolutely awful outbursts of state violence from time to time, violent death as a whole has also kept dropping since the creation of the state. And, we have excellent theoretical case for just why this has happened: see Augustine, Aquinas, Hobbes, Locke, etc.

Now, someone can say that this is just a coincidence, and that this violence would have decreased even further without state law enforcement. That's possible; but please, please, stop claiming the state is the cause of a mythical rise in human violence.


  1. I have considering becoming an anarcho-capitalist several times, but every time I think about, blog posts like this bring me right down to Earth and remind me of the many benefits that having a state in the first place can bring, like long-term stability, protection for a large-scale population, etc., though I have been pondering whether there can be such a thing as having a privatized government.

    I also don't like the dogmatism that many anarcho-capitalists I've seen on YouTube and Tumblr in insisting that their fantasy is going to become a reality and that Somalia isn't a refutation of polycentric law. The libertarians I've seen have been arguing over conflationism, "right-libertarianism," "left-libertarianism," and a whole bunch of other stuff that makes me realize why libertarianism isn't going to become mainstream in politics anytime soon.

    I commented on a David Friedman video that The Adam Smith Institute had posted on YouTube, and I was talking to one of the so-called ancaps and one of his responses was this:

    "Look up the numbers for democide (gov't killing its own people) then add to it the numbers for wars and then add all the numbers of people who have died from the prohibition of various drugs. Gov't has caused the death of more people than any rational person can conceive possible without gov't. When it comes to murdering people, the only thing that comes close to institutionalized governance is institutionalized religion."

    How would you reply to a comment like this?

    1. The issue is the failure to correct for population size. If you add up all the deaths due to violence in the 20th century (both from government and private sources) you get something like 2-3% of the total. For stateless societies violent deaths account for something more like 20-25% of the total. And if you look at state societies that existed at the same time as stateless ones, violent deaths are something like 5% of the total, so it's not simply a matter of stateless societies being less developed than modern ones.

  2. Anonymous7:24 PM

    I think that the more pressing matter is that violent actions of the state for the most part are considered legitimate, whereas private actions of the same are considered a crime. To be consistent, we must not give special allowance.

    1. Well, in a stateless society wouldn't people consider a lot of private violence legitimate?

    2. Anonymous4:17 PM

      That's an unequivocal question, because we can't know what would be the prevalent order of legitimacy in a stateless society. However, we can look at the current order and conclude that there is a gaping hole of double-standards.

      I mean, we can look at private actions and typically make connections between those whose rights were infringed vs those who rights were not. However, when it comes to state societies, that line is not so distinct.

      A good example is the carpet-bombing of a particular town.

      Surely, most of those people had nothing to do with the conflict at hand, at least not in any direct form (i.e. other than through their state), yet we legitimize this action in our mind as an "us vs. them" dynamic. Many people are slaughtered by the simple concept that if you fall within a jurisdiction, you're fair game and reasonably deemed a foe (to be killed).

      To me, that passes zero tests of legitimacy, whether in a state society or in a stateless society.


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