Theory: the inverse relationship between warfare and homicide

That whole myth about hunter-gatherers being peaceful and non-violent probably got its start because hunter-gatherers tend not to be as good at organized warfare as the Germans.

Homicide is an act of disorganized impulsive passion; warfare is an act of organized dispassion; the two are inverse of each other. Thus we see the highest homicide rates in the world’s least developed countries, and the lowest rates in its most developed countries.



Note that it is not an absolutely perfect correlation; many Latin American or Caribbean countries have higher homicide rates than even less-developed countries in Africa, but broadly speaking, the pinks and reds are poorer than the blues. (Russia excepted, ‘cuz Russia.)

Also, as you may recall:

sp-Slide013 homicide_in_europe_1200_2000

Share of violent deaths, non-state societies vs. state societies
Share of violent deaths, non-state societies vs. state societies

Countries involved in the world’s biggest wars:




Nuclear stockpiles or programs by country:


(South Africa used to have nukes, but they got rid of them before the end of Apartheid.)

Here’s another graph that makes the size of the arsenals clear:

Source: SMTKS
Source: SMTKS

And here’s another graph that says about the same thing, but is a wonderful example of how to display data:

Source: SMNTKS
Source: SMNTKS

I’m pretty sure this graph means we’re all going to die.

And likewise, space programs by country:


Also a nicely done graphic.

You might have heard about India’s space program:

Test launch of India's GSLV Mk III
Test launch of India’s GSLV Mk III

But have you heard of the Congolese space program?

To be fair, it’s more “One guy with a rocket-building hobby” than a real space program, but I understand where he’s coming from. Rockets are cool.

The point of all of these maps and graphs is that homicide rates tend to be highest, both today and throughout history, in the places with the lowest levels of social organization/complexity.

Even in our own society, convicted criminals are overwhelmingly lacking in the ability to handle complexity. It looks like they aren’t really all that much more retarded (note: PDF) than the general population (the truly intellectually impaired are often pretty highly supervised and lack the ability to execute many crimes, but are often victims of violence,) but they are drawn disproportionately from the dumber half.

According to respondents in the forum thread “Cops and Lawyers – What percent of criminals/clients are retarded?” (Note: I know nothing about this forum or its reliability)

“Not retarded per se. My personal experience is most criminals stopped developing emotionally at about 3 or 4. They live life for the moment, think only of themselves, have no impulse control, can’t control their emotions, throw temper tantrums when they don’t get their way, can’t think past the next 10 minutes, don’t understand consequence, etc……. They are basically little children in adult bodies. Of course, most 3 or 4 year olds are better behaved than the average criminal, but you get the point.”

“I found that better than 90% of them were functionally illiterate, so when they say reading is fundamental, they aren’t kidding!”

“With the advent of welfare, it became profitable to squirt out children.It relegated men to the status of semen injectors. No men, no fathering. down the spiral 40 odd years and we’ve got multiple generations of female children “raising” children.
The results aren’t retarded, they are more like Comanches or Lakota, they have regressed several thousand years.
It is painful to watch good officers try to “reach” these kids. Watching with an unsympathetic eye, it is plain that most of these kids don’t even understand what the officers are talking about.
That’s the brutal truth that no one wants to face. These kids aren’t just lost-they are damned in our society.”
Recall our discussion back in Two Kinds of Dumb–just because someone has a low IQ, doesn’t mean they are retarded. But anyone who is illiterate (in our society) with the emotional maturity of a 3 or 4 your old is not very bright or capable of thinking through the results of their own actions.
The art of killing large numbers of people, by contrast, requires organization. One guy with a pointy stick might kill a few dozen guys who don’t have pointy sticks, but one guy who convince a thousand other guys to stand next to you with their pointy sticks, and you get this:
Source: Chapleton
The Romans didn’t conquer an empire by poking barbarians with pointy sticks; they did it by organizing themselves into an unstoppable war machine.
Armies do not generally fund themselves; they depend upon a vast support structure producing weapons, food, transportation, shelter, technology, etc. The bigger the army and more advanced the weaponry, the bigger the support structure has to be. Nukes take far more people to produce than pointy sticks, from the farmers making the food to feed the scientists working out the details to the structural engineers building the research labs to the guys building the rockets or planes to drop the bombs.
Complex organization requires large numbers of people working in close proximity without punching each other; it requires that people be able to suppress their own personal desires in pursuit of the group goal. All of this requires being less violent, less impulsive, and less inclined toward murdering each other.

16 thoughts on “Theory: the inverse relationship between warfare and homicide

  1. Huh. I guess we’re doomed either way, and life sucks all around.

    Related: in Jared Diamond’s book “The World Until Yesterday” he says that in wars between non-state societies, a far higher percentage of each group’s population is killed, but of course in wars between state societies, a far higher number of people are killed.


  2. I don’t think organized or non organized states that cause causally violence but the psychological characteristics of the people and self awareness level.


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