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Monday, January 28, 2013

The Surprising Decline in Violence

A month or so ago, I offered my two cents about the Sandy Hook school shooting and America's gun culture ("Sandy Hook, Gun Control, and America's Gun Culture"). In that post I also noted that the rate of assault deaths in the US has been declining since the 1970s, and that gun ownership in the US has declined over the same period.

This is not a recent phenomenon. As the cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker has recently argued, violence has been declining, not only in the United States, but around the world for centuries, millennia in fact. He's empirically documented this decline in his recent book, "The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined." Unfortunately, it's a very long book, much longer than many people will want to tackle. Luckily, Pinker is a frequent speaker, and one of his TED (Technology, Education and Design) talks is available on YouTube. I highly recommend it. Like all TED talks it is only 20 minutes long, which makes it well worth your time.

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