We’ve launched a war against Islamic State, and it seems like we’re always at battle, but this chart is surprising (Click to enlarge, via Vox):
Fewer people are dying in war than ever before.
It’s amazing, but given all of the horrors we read about every day, current world conflicts are nowhere near as deadly as those of the past on a per capita basis. According to Harvard Professor Steven Pinker, writing in The Wall Street Journal:
Since 1946, several organizations have tracked the number of armed conflicts and their human toll world-wide. The bad news is that for several decades, the decline of interstate wars was accompanied by a bulge of civil wars, as newly independent countries were led by inept governments, challenged by insurgencies and armed by the cold war superpowers.
The less bad news is that civil wars tend to kill far fewer people than wars between states. And the best news is that, since the peak of the cold war in the 1970s and ’80s, organized conflicts of all kinds—civil wars, genocides, repression by autocratic governments, terrorist attacks—have declined throughout the world, and their death tolls have declined even more precipitously.
The rate of documented direct deaths from political violence (war, terrorism, genocide and warlord militias) in the past decade is an unprecedented few hundredths of a percentage point. Even if we multiplied that rate to account for unrecorded deaths and the victims of war-caused disease and famine, it would not exceed 1%.
Pinker’s explanation for the transition to piece is worth reading, but contrary to what we perceive, the world is a lot more peaceful.
That’s not to say there aren’t dangerous people out there who think the way to achieve their goals is to kill everyone in sight. But institutionally and on a global scale, we’re not the blood thirsty savages we think we are.
Hopefully, we can do better.