Sunday, 1 July 2018

Steven Pinker: The Better Angels of Our Nature

My son borrowed this from the school library and I have started reading it.

It's a splendid book. It's basically a really detailed and expanded version of one chapter of "Guns, Germs and Steel", but with more charts, statistics, tables and illustrations.

My favourite bit so far:

It's not that any early state was (as Hobbes theorized) a commonwealth vested with power by a social contract that had been negotiated by its citizens. Early states were more like protection rackets, in which powerful Mafiosi extorted resources from the locals and offered them safety from their neighbours and each other.

Any ensuing reduction in violence benefited the overlords as much as the protectees. Just as a farmer tries to prevent his animals from killing one another, so a ruler will try to keep his subjects from cycles of raiding and feuding that just shuffle resources or settle scores among them but from his point of view are a dead loss.

I don't think much as changed so far.


Lola said...

Absolutely correct. The question is how do you stop government from becoming extractive? Like the EU / UK quango state.

Mark Wadsworth said...

L, educate the electorate, the pols will do whatever people vote for.