Monday, June 01, 2015

Germs vs. guns, or death from mass violence in perspective

On 30 July 1932, Albert Einstein sent an open letter to Sigmund Freud, addressing the causes of wars and the possible means of putting an end to armed conflict. A translation of the letter is available on this page, together with a translation of Freud’s reply dated September 1932, which included the following considerations:
Ich möchte aber noch eine Frage behandeln, die Sie in Ihrem Schreiben nicht aufwerfen und die mich besonders interessiert. Warum empören wir uns so sehr gegen den Krieg, Sie und ich und so viele andere, warum nehmen wir ihn nicht hin wie eine andere der vielen peinlichen Notlagen des Lebens? Er scheint doch naturgemäß, biologisch wohlbegründet, praktisch kaum vermeidbar.

This was translated as follows:
However, I would like to deal with a question which, though it is not mooted in your letter, interests me greatly. Why do we, you and I and many another, protest so vehemently against war, instead of just accepting it as another of life's odious importunities? For it seems a natural thing enough, biologically sound and practically unavoidable.

An interesting question: what is it that makes war less acceptable than other calamities that befall and have befallen mankind? Why does it get more attention, at least by those who speak up against it, than other causes of human suffering? Is it a more voracious or crueler killer and tormentor than those other causes?


The two sources quoted hereafter obviously maintain the opposite.
Every minute hundreds of thousands of people die throughout the world. The life or death of thousands, even if they are compatriots, actually means very little.

- North Vietnamese general Vo Nguyen Giap, cited in Bernd Greiner, Krieg ohne Fronten. Die USA in Vietnam (Hamburger Edition HIS Verlagsges. mbH, 2007), p. 54, after National Archives, RG 319, AS, ODCS-PER, VWCWG, CF, Box 3, Folder: Army Report – Law of Southeast Asia Rules of Engagement, Law of War, undated, Annex B, p. 4.

Overall, Europe’s civilian losses appear to have exceeded military losses by a ratio not of 2:1 but of 3:1:  
Recorded deaths (Germany, Italy, Austria, Finland, UK, France, Benelux, Norway) 2.961 million 
Projected deaths (USSR, Romania, Hungary, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Greece, Bulgaria, Albania) 25.327 million 
Total 28.288 million […] 
Twenty-eight million is equivalent to the total population of a medium-sized European country or US state. It is mind-numbingly high, if one thinks in terms of individual lives and human suffering. Yet in demographic terms it represents hardly a minor blip on the screen. Europe’s population, including European Russia, had grown by 3 million or more per annum during most decades in the previous century, taking the estimated total from 180 million in 1800 to c. 500 million in 1939. In this light, a loss of 28 million in 1939-45 would be only slightly more than the loss of six years of natural increase. It is not to be numbered among the continent’s biggest catastrophes – like the Black Death, which carried off perhaps a third of the population. After 1945, increase was resumed, bringing the estimated European total up to 728 million by 2000.

- Norman Davies, No Simple Victory. World War II in Europe, 1939 – 1945 (Penguin Books, 2006), p. 368.

So in terms of demographic impact, according to Davies, even the deadliest war of human history was "hardly a minor blip on the screen". According to the Wikipedia page on World War II casualties, the conflict killed over 3% of the 1939 world population estimated at 2 billion people. By contrast, the Black Death reduced the world’s population from an estimated 450 million down to 350–375 million in the 14th century, a loss of between 17 % and 22 %. In Europe the proportion of deaths during the peak years (1346-1353) is generally assumed to have been about one third of the population, but it may have been higher. According to medieval historian Philip Daileader in 2007, quoted on the aforementioned Wikipedia page, the trend of recent research is "pointing to a figure more like 45–50% of the European population dying during a four-year period". Norwegian historian Ole J. Benedictow ("The Black Death: The Greatest Catastrophe Ever", published in History Today, Volume 55, Issue 3 March 2005, online), estimated that the plague killed about 60 % of Europe’s population between 1346 and 1353, or 50 million out of 80 million inhabitants – far more even in absolute terms, not to mention in proportion to the population, than what Norman Davies considers to have not been one of the continent’s biggest catastrophes. In qualitative terms of human suffering, contemporary accounts of the plague suggest a horror that rivals even the largest man-made horrors of the Second World War, including Nazi extermination and concentration camps, camps for Soviet POWs, mobile killing operations, the siege of Leningrad, carpet bombing and nuclear bombs.

The only man-made horror that could equal or surpass the Black Death in terms of proportional continent-wide or worldwide mortality is one that, although it remains possible to this day, never happened and will hopefully never happen – a global thermonuclear war. According to the most pessimistic projections, the consequence of such war would be a nuclear winter that could stop food production long enough for most of humanity to die of starvation (see also the page Nuclear Darkness, Global Climate Change & Nuclear Famine, as well as the videos The after effects of Nuclear War, The Aftermath Of World Wide Nuclear War and On the 8th Day). In a more optimistic scenario, projected by Wm. Robert Johnston, a global thermonuclear war involving the United States, the USSR and China would have killed about 400,000,000 people on the first day, 5 August 1988 (7.77 % of the world’s population of 5,150,000,000 at the time, 16,666,667 per hour, 277,778 per minute, 4,630 per second). 450,000,000 people or 9.47% of the world’s surviving population would have died from injuries, fallout, exposure, starvation and disease over the next two months, and about 1 billion people or 23.26% of the world’s surviving population would have died from these causes over a subsequent period of ca. 9 months, bringing the total death toll by 31 August 1989 to 1,850,000,000 out of 5,150,000,000 people, or 35.92 % of the world’s prewar population. The number of average daily deaths over the period from 5 August 1988 to 31 August 1989 would have been 4,719,388, i.e. 196,641 deaths per hour, 3,277 deaths per minute and 55 deaths per second. For comparison: the number of worldwide deaths in 2014, which I estimated on the basis of a Worldometers screenshot on December 31, 2014 at 23:29:54 hours GMT, was 57,359,385 out of 7,203,286,272 world inhabitants, ca. 0.8 % of the world’s population, with 157,149 deaths per day, 6,548 per hour, 109 per minute and about 2 per second.

With all due respect for General Giap, Johnson’s projections show that, if correctly translated, Giap didn’t know what he was talking about when he spoke of hundreds of thousands of dead worldwide per minute, a death rate that could only occur on a global thermonuclear doomsday.

On the other end of numerical misconceptions there’s Gil Elliot, who wrote the following:
As we have seen, it is absurd to look upon the hundred million or so man-made deaths in the twentieth century as the ‘cost’ of conflict, as though they were the casualty returns of a field commander. They are more directly comparable with the scale of death from disease and plague which was the accepted norm before this century. Indeed, man-made death has largely replaced these as a source of untimely death.
(Gil Elliot, Twentieth Century Book of the Dead, Charles Scribner’s Sons New York, 1972, p. 5).

The notion that, as suggested by Elliot’s writing, wars and other man-made disasters were the main cause of untimely death in the 20th Century, fails to stand up to scrutiny like the 1970s factoid whereby human population had swelled so much that people alive at the time outnumbered all those who have ever lived.

Said factoid was refuted by Carl Haub, senior visiting scholar at the Population Reference Bureau, who estimated that a total of 107,602,707,791 people have been born on earth between 50,000 B.C. and A.D. 2011, vs. 6,987,000,000 world inhabitants in 2011 – a ratio of about 15 to 1 (in 1968, as mentioned in the BBC article Do the dead outnumber the living?, the ratio was about 29 to 1).

Based on an earlier (2002) version of Haub’s chart, Matthew White made the following calculation:
Total Deaths During the 20th Century  
o Carl Haub, "How Many People Have Ever Lived on Earth?" (Population Today, November/December 2002) [http://www.prb.org/articles/2002/howmanypeoplehaveeverlivedonearth.aspx ]  
o From Haub's chart, it looks like there were 9,801,490,715 births between 1900 and 2002. Added to the 1,656,000,000 alive in 1900, it seems that 11,457,490,715 people lived during the 20th Century. With only ca. 6 billion still alive in 2000, the century probably saw about 5.5 billion deaths.  
o That means that the 203 million multicides I've counted in the 20th Century would account for 3.7% of all deaths, or 1 out of every 27.

The 203 million "Deaths by War and Oppression during the 20th Century" estimated by White are broken down into 37 million military and 27 million collateral civilian deaths in wartime, 81 million victims of democide including deaths from intentional famine (41 million in wartime, 40 million in peacetime) and 58 million deaths from non-democidal famine (18 million in wartime, 40 million in peacetime). Some of these figures seem too high to me, especially the 40 million democide victims in peacetime. However, even assuming that White’s estimate is close to reality, the deaths by war and oppression he added up would account for only 3.7 % our 1 out every 27 deaths in the 20th Century. The 123 million wartime deaths account for 2.25 % or 1 out of every 44 deaths in the 20th Century, wartime democides for 0.75 % or 1 out every 133 deaths. The most prominent of these wartime democides, which is the main subject of the Holocaust Controversies blog site, claimed about 5.5 million deaths according to my estimate - 0.10 % or one out of every 992 deaths in the 20th Century. In the overall balance of 20th Century violence, the Holocaust is topped by worldwide individual murders, which according to White’s estimate claimed about 8.5 million lives – 0.16 % or one out every 642 deaths in the 20th Century. All told, collective and individual violence add up to 211,500,000 fatal victims – 3.88 % of 20th Century deaths, or one in every 26.

What killers claimed more victims than violence in the 20th Century? White mentions one of them, smallpox, and provides estimates from various sources whereby this disease, eradicated by 1979, killed between 300 and 500 million people in the 20th Century alone (5.5 % or one in 18 deaths for the lowest figure, 7.33 % or one in 14 deaths for the highest). An online graphic with the title How People Died In The 20th Century claims 400 million deaths from smallpox and a total of 1,680,000,000 deaths from infectious diseases between 1900 and 2000. Applied to White’s total number of 20th Century Deaths, this would mean that 30.78 % or one out of every 3 deaths was caused by infectious diseases. Infectious diseases included the Influenza Pandemic of 1918-19, which according to more recent estimates killed between 50 and 100 million people worldwide – probably more than World War II, within a much shorter period and among a smaller world population.

Non-communicable diseases were an even greater killer, accounting for 2.5 billion or 45.81 % of deaths, about one in every 2. The predominance of deaths from non-communicable diseases was mostly due to vaccination, antibiotics and other advances in medicine, but one of the reasons was that cancer became a far bigger killer in the 20th Century than it had been ever before, claiming about 530,000,000 lives according to the aforementioned graph – 9.71 % of White’s total, or one in every 10 deaths. Cancer is also one of the cruelest killers, as I among many know from personal experience. My father’s last hope, as he was dying from leukemia in 1999, was that his kidneys would cease to function and cause a quick death, so that he would be spared the agony of slow suffocation. Malaysian photographer Achmed Yusni documented the cancer death of his brother in pictures in order to show just how cruel the disease is. As I’m writing this, people are dying of cancer throughout the world at a rate of one every two or three seconds, according to Worldometers, and by the end of this year over 8.2 million will have died. The number of deaths from communicable diseases will be around 13 million, many of these related to hunger, which will have killed well over 11 million people mainly through related diseases by the end of 2015. These projections are based on the aforementioned Worldometers screenshot taken on 31 December 2014 at 23:29:54 hours GMT.

The 20th Century was the first in history in which the number of deaths from non-communicable, non-infectious diseases exceeded the number of deaths from communicable or infectious diseases. In earlier centuries the latter killed more than the former. The contrast is well illustrated in a chart from the New England Journal of Medicine headed What Killed Us, Then and Now, which compares the causes of annual deaths per 100,000 of the population in the United States in 1900 and in 2010. Infectious diseases (pneumonia and influenza, tuberculosis, gastrointestinal infections and diphtheria) caused 52.74 % of deaths in 1900. In 2010 their place had been taken by cancer and heart disease, which together accounted for 63.41 % of deaths (vs. 18.33 % in 1900), while infectious diseases (pneumonia and influenza) accounted for only 2.71 % of deaths.

The proportion of deaths from infectious diseases was probably much higher in many other countries than in the US, particularly in poorer countries like China and India. And it was probably much higher worldwide throughout most of the 19th Century, the 18th Century and previous centuries. Matthew White estimated the total number of deaths in the 19th Century at ca. 4,297 million and the total number of deaths in the 18th Century at ca. 3,226 million. Compared to the ca. 5,500 million deaths in the 20th Century, these figures are staggering if one considers the much lower world population in the 1700s and 1800s. According to Haub’s chart, world population was 2,516 million in 1950, 1,265 million in 1850 and 795 million in 1750. So the factor by which deaths throughout the century exceeded the world population in mid-century was about 2.19 in the 20th Century, 3.40 in the 19th Century and 4.06 in the 18th Century. It stands to reason that the further you go back in time, the more this factor increases. Taking the world population in mid-century as a marker is actually "unfair" on the 20th Century, as it doesn’t take into consideration the unprecedented increase of the world’s population in the 20th Century’s second half, due to which the 20th Century was the first in history in which world population at the century’s end (ca. 6 billion) was higher than the number of deaths during the century (ca. 5.5 billion). By contrast, the number of deaths during the 19th Century (ca. 4,297 million) exceeded the world’s population in 1900 (ca. 1,656 million) by a factor of 2.59. This further illustrates the fact that death was a much closer companion to mankind in those good old times than it was in the 20th Century.

The plague, which after the 1346-1353 catastrophe continued to visit parts of Europe many times until the late 18th Century, and the Islamic world well into the 19th Century, wiping out two-thirds of the population of Bagdad on some occasions (see the Wikipedia page Black Death), was a prominent agent of death, but as concerns the total number of fatalities it ranked after smallpox, which among other things was the main contributor in wiping out 90-95 % of the native population of the Americas. Smallpox in turn may have been second to tuberculosis, which according to this page killed 1 billion people in two centuries, while this documentary claims that by the dawn of the 19th Century tuberculosis had killed one of every seven people who ever lived, more than any other disease. If that trend continued throughout the 19th and 20th Century, the total death toll of what was called the "White Plague" or the "Captain of Death", considering Haub’s estimate of the total number of people who ever lived, may have reached about 15,000 million.

The proportion of total deaths attributable to war was much lower in the 19th and 18th Centuries than in the 20th Century – respectively 1-2 % and 0.6 %. Thus the 20th Century was more violent than its immediate predecessors, and it is certainly unrivalled in all of history as concerns the absolute number of deaths from mass violence. Whether it was also the most violent in relative terms is not so certain, however. In pre-civilization times, warfare is estimated to have accounted for 15.1 % of deaths. The Mongol Invasions during the rule of Chinggis Khan may have killed as many as 40,000,000 people in Eurasia, at a time when the world’s population was between 360 and 400 million. And as to the 17th Century, White points out the following:
The 30 Years War was the bloodiest single conflict in Europe until World War One. Russia began the century in bloody chaos. The Manchu conquest of China was certainly responsible for one the top population collapses in East Asia, while the Mughal invasion of South India caused the highest alleged body count in South Asian history. Meanwhile, the collapse of the Native American population bottomed out, and the Slave Trade was accelerating. All this was clobbering a world with a population only a fifth that of the world in the middle of the Twentieth Century.

One distinguishing feature of wars prior to the 20th Century was that they killed mainly by causing or exacerbating famines and/or epidemics. Consider the following excerpt from an article that appeared in Time magazine on 29 April 1940:
In Europe's bloody wars, for every ten men slain by the enemy, pestilence has killed its thousands. In the Thirty Years' War, an estimated 8,000,000 Germans were wiped out by flea-borne bubonic plague and louse-borne typhus fever. On Napoleon's retreat from Moscow, typhus, dysentery and pneumonia killed 450,000 of the Grand Army's 500,000 men.

World War I was the first war in history in which guns were more deadly than germs. Battlefield deaths totaled 8,000,000; deaths from disease, 3,000,000. Yet, despite the great achievements of medical science, disease was still a potent wartime killer.

How many people have died in wars throughout history? White links to an article that unfavorably mentions an estimate whereby, between 3600 B.C. and A.D. 1961, "there have been 14,531 wars, large and small, in which 3,640,000,000 people were killed". The total number of worldwide deaths in that period I guesstimated on the basis of Haub’s chart, dividing by two the 46,025,332,354 births between 8000 B.C. and 1 A.D. and by four the 5,427,305,000 births between 1950 and 1995, the subsequent addition yielding a total of 77,251,445,473. The number of 3,640 million war deaths between 3600 B.C. and A.D. 1961 (a period of 55 centuries) is manifestly too high, as it would imply an average of over 66 million war deaths per century (more than World War II, more than the total for the 19th Century calculated by White, and more than 3 times the war death total for the 18th Century). It would also mean that throughout recorded history 4.71 % of deaths were caused by war – more than in the 20th Century (3.7 %) and far more than in the 19th Century (1-2%) or in the 18th Century (0.6 %). This is frankly impossible, and the aforementioned article points out that one of the proponents of the 3,640 million figure «changed "approximately 3,640,000,000 human beings have been killed by war or the diseases produced by war" to "approximately 1,240,000,000 human beings...&c."» - still a high figure in that it implies a century average of over 22.5 million war deaths, but the resulting proportion of war deaths to total deaths (1.61 %) seems more plausible. So let’s assume that, in the 55 centuries between 3600 B.C. and A.D. 1961, one out of 62 deaths was caused by war.

This leads us back to Freud’s question which, while arguably unnecessary as concerns the threat of a nuclear apocalypse hanging over mankind, seems pertinent at the time it was asked (1932), considering the comparatively low overall impact of conventional warfare (which at the time of Freud’s letter had not even reached its deadliest level) as a cause of worldwide human mortality, which falls short of the impact of infectious diseases by several orders of magnitude.

Freud started responding his own question by mentioning arguments that he apparently didn’t consider wholly convincing:
The answer to my query may run as follows: Because every man has a right over his own life and war destroys lives that were full of promise; it forces the individual into situations that shame his manhood, obliging him to murder fellow men, against his will; it ravages material amenities, the fruits of human toil, and much besides. Moreover, wars, as now conducted, afford no scope for acts of heroism according to the old ideals and, given the high perfection of modern arms, war today would mean the sheer extermination of one of the combatants, if not of both. This is so true, so obvious, that we can but wonder why the conduct of war is not banned by general consent. Doubtless either of the points I have just made is open to debate. It may be asked if the community, in its turn, cannot claim a right over the individual lives of its members. Moreover, all forms of war cannot be indiscriminately condemned; so long as there are nations and empires, each prepared callously to exterminate its rival, all alike must be equipped for war. But we will not dwell on any of these problems; they lie outside the debate to which you have invited me.

Then he provided his own explanation:
I pass on to another point, the basis, as it strikes me, of our common hatred of war. It is this: We cannot do otherwise than hate it. Pacifists we are, since our organic nature wills us thus to be. Hence it comes easy to us to find arguments that justify our standpoint.

This point, however, calls for elucidation. Here is the way in which I see it. The cultural development of mankind (some, I know, prefer to call it civilization) has been in progress since immemorial antiquity. To this processus we owe all that is best in our composition, but also much that makes for human suffering. Its origins and causes are obscure, its issue is uncertain, but some of its characteristics are easy to perceive. It well may lead to the extinction of mankind, for it impairs the sexual function in more than one respect, and even today the uncivilized races and the backward classes of all nations are multiplying more rapidly than the cultured elements. This process may, perhaps, be likened to the effects of domestication on certain animals--it clearly involves physical changes of structure--but the view that cultural development is an organic process of this order has not yet become generally familiar. The psychic changes which accompany this process of cultural change are striking, and not to be gainsaid. They consist in the progressive rejection of instinctive ends and a scaling down of instinctive reactions. Sensations which delighted our forefathers have become neutral or unbearable to us; and, if our ethical and aesthetic ideals have undergone a change, the causes of this are ultimately organic. On the psychological side two of the most important phenomena of culture are, firstly, a strengthening of the intellect, which tends to master our instinctive life, and, secondly, an introversion of the aggressive impulse, with all its consequent benefits and perils. Now war runs most emphatically counter to the psychic disposition imposed on us by the growth of culture; we are therefore bound to resent war, to find it utterly intolerable. With pacifists like us it is not merely an intellectual and affective repulsion, but a constitutional intolerance, an idiosyncrasy in its most drastic form. And it would seem that the aesthetic ignominies of warfare play almost as large a part in this repugnance as war's atrocities.
(Emphasis added.)

So according to Freud, what makes war different from other of what he called "life's odious importunities", and thus harder to accept that those other "importunities" (the principal of which, as shown above, had a far more devastating impact on mankind throughout history than conventional warfare, an impact that can only be equaled or surpassed by the consequences of a global thermonuclear war) is a psychic disposition against war generated by the "domestication" effect of growing culture.

Freud didn’t consider this "domestication" effect of cultural development to be something entirely positive, as he thought it to also lead to "much that makes for human suffering", to reduced birthrates among the "cultured elements", and to the perils of an "introversion of the aggressive impulse". Nevertheless, he endorsed aversion to war as one of the positive results or byproducts of this phenomenon, as becomes apparent from his concluding statement:
How long have we to wait before the rest of men turn pacifist? Impossible to say, and yet perhaps our hope that these two factors--man's cultural disposition and a well-founded dread of the form that future wars will take--may serve to put an end to war in the near future, is not chimerical. But by what ways or byways this will come about, we cannot guess. Meanwhile we may rest on the assurance that whatever makes for cultural development is working also against war.

Freud’s statement of his expectations had been preceded by the horrors of the First World War, whose belligerent nations had gone through a long process of cultural development that did not prevent the blind and dumb battlefield slaughter of millions. On the contrary, the main result of mankind’s intellectual and scientific advances throughout the centuries had been the technology that made killing on such a scale possible. Freud’s statement was to be followed by the even greater horrors of the Second World War, which included the systematic mass killing of defenseless noncombatants that accounted for a large part of that war’s victims, and that was often planned, supervised or executed by highly qualified academics. Case in point, the commanders of the Einsatzgruppen, as was highlighted in the judgment of the Nuremberg "Einsatzgruppen Case" (Trials of War Criminals before the Nuremberg Military Tribunals, Volume IV, p. 500):
Although the tone of this opinion is of necessity severe, it is without bitterness. It can only be deplored that all this could happen. The defendants are not untutored aborigines incapable of appreciation of the finer values of life and living. Each man at the bar has had the benefit of considerable schooling. Eight are lawyers, one a university professor, another a dental physician, still another an expert on art. One, as an opera singer, gave concerts throughout Germany before he began his tour of Russia with the Einsatzkommandos. This group of educated and well-bred men does not even lack a former minister, self-unfrocked though he was. Another of the defendants, bearing a name illustrious in the world of music, testified that a branch of his family reached back to the creator of the "Unfinished Symphony", but one must remark with sorrow that it is a far cry from the Unfinished Symphony of Vienna to the finished Christmas massacre of Simferopol, in which the hapless defendant took an important part. 
It was indeed one of the many remarkable aspects of this trial that the discussions of enormous atrocities was constantly interspersed with the academic titles of the persons mentioned as their perpetrators. If these men have failed in life, it cannot be said that it was lack of education which led them astray, that is, lack of formal education.

However, as the 21st Century is into its fifteenth year, and despite the horrors of local conflicts that make international press headlines (like the "Islamic State" insurgency in Iraq and Syria) or do not (like the ongoing armed conflict in my native Colombia), war ranks low – some say lower than ever – as a worldwide cause of mortality, According to the WHO’s World Health Report 2004, "Annex Table 2 Deaths by cause, sex and mortality stratum in WHO Regions, estimates for 2002", in 2002 war was responsible for a total of about 172,000 deaths representing 0.3 % of the ca. 57,029,000 deaths in that year (about 1 in 333 deaths), vs. violence other than war (ca. 559,000, 0.98% or about 1 in 102), self-inflicted deaths (873,000, 1.53 % or about 1 in 65), unintentional injuries (ca. 3,551,000, 6.23 % or about 1 in 16), communicable diseases, maternal and perinatal conditions and nutritional deficiencies (18,324,000, 32.1 % or about 1 in 3) and non-communicable conditions (33,537,000, 58.81 % or about 1 in 2). The WHO’s Global status report on violence prevention 2014 mentions war in the following context:
Since 2000, about 6 million people globally have been killed in acts of interpersonal violence, making homicide a more frequent cause of death than all wars combined during this period. Non-fatal interpersonal violence is more common than homicide and has serious and lifelong health and social consequences.
An online algorithm based on WHO data shows war ranking way after each of traffic accidents, falls, drowning, poisonings, fires, other accidents, suicide and non-war violence as a cause of death from injuries.

To what extent is the comparatively small significance of warfare as a cause of worldwide mortality due to the "cultural development" pointed out by Freud, or to what Stephen Pinker calls The Better Angels of our Nature (see a favorable and an unfavorable review of Pinker’s book)? The answer to this question could be a predictor of the current trend’s durability.

So much for the relative importance of mass violence (or at least the conventional form that has occurred throughout history, as opposed to the nuclear form that has mostly not occurred so far) as a source of human death and suffering, and for the presumable reasons why people’s perception of its relative impact as a cause of human misery is out of proportion to the actual impact. I hope that our readers found these considerations to be of some interest.

Meanwhile, my old friend Jansson has (yawn ...) produced another big load of trash, which will be addressed in the next blog.

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