I didn't claim they were "havens of oppression" or "filled with ghettos". The point was, someone with an essentially equivalent income in Germany has less money for their own use than I.
Now, where have the "hovels" and the "few personal possessions" gone to?
This claim is much milder already. Educate me: is it this what is called "backpedaling"?
The money that I have less through higher taxation and health insurance etc. is not lost to me: I don't have to pay my own medical bills when I get ill; university education is way cheaper here than in the US; if I fall on hard times, I can actually count on the state to keep me alive; etc. The money is not just taken away, it is used to provide services to everyone and to support people who need help. I actually find this to be a morally better system than all the preachings about thrift and providing against every conceivable emergency yourself, which have always struck me as cold and egoistical, not to speak of the fact that not all people have the financial means to do that.
It was hyperbole. I know that you don't really live in hovels, or that you eat merely bread and cheese and that, say, meat or chocolate are infrequent delicacies; I know the days of serfs is long over. The point was that you do have less money to spend on yourselves. I know now that I should have clarified earlier.
As for the university part, I entirely agree. Many public universities here are unreasonably difficult to enter, regardless of whether one has high average academic scores, due to the lack of new universities rising, affirimative action, and some terrible policy on part of the universities and the government. For instance, many universities sit upon billions of dollars donated by alumni and often public funding as well, and yet little of it is actually used to alleviate any kind of financial hardship any potential students may face. Tuition also rises annually, and at a rate far higher than inflation and thus far out of reach of the annual raises a working class person can expect.
Once again, quit assuming I'm a nationalist and am placing the US upon this shining, golden pedastal while smearing dirt on every other country. Even here, the tax rates are far too high (on average between thirty and forty-five per cent), an issue which stems from inefficient government.
And then, when you do practice thrift and insure yourself against every contingency that I am insured against just by being a citizen of a moderately high-taxation country, are you really sure you are not left with the same or even less money than I am? To provide against times of unemployment on your own, for example, to be on the safe side, you'd have to save far more money than the 3.3% of my income that go into the state's unemployment insurance right now. (If you saved at that rate, you'd need 29 years of continual work to survive one year without.) It goes without saying that if you are employed all your life without any unemployment in between, your money is lost to you. But so is any money that you pay to a fire insurance if your house never burns.
If everyone had to provide against any conceivable contingency themselves, there are two possible results: a) a huge savings rate and resulting deflation, all this while the poorest are not even provided for, or b) people not saving and trusting that nothing will go wrong after all, with even less people being provided for in case of need.
As a counter-example, I'll use the problem of social security in this country. Despite massive amounts of money going into social security, rather little goes out, and if you factor in inflation, less and less is going out. It's not even enough any more for retirees to pay for utilities and food alone, let alone any kind of entertainment or leisure. However, there are more workers than ever, and we are paying higher taxes than ever, so how could this happen? It's actually quite simple. Like any mutual fund or retirement fund that doubles as an investment, social security is an investment. Only the government squanders much of the money on risky investments that will see no reasonable return if any at all. That is one instance amongst many that proves that me personally investing into my own account will put me much better off than paying into social security.
I said that communication was difficult before they developed complex linguistics and dispersed this amongst themselves neighboring tribes, not that it was always so.
In that case you're talking about a different species, namely homo erectus, and notice that we both don't really have any clues as to their conflict behavior. Pinker was talking about homo sapiens tribes, which are just as capable of language as you and I (in some cases more, or do you speak fluent Spanish, French and Korean in addition to English?). Do you notice how intellectually dishonest you are here? You make a point against Pinker by saying the populations Pinker refers to could not understand each other. When someone points out to you that they most probably could, you grasp at the straws they seem to offer you, take an entirely different population and say that they
could not understand each other.
You are a master at the art of retreat, aren't you?
I don't know if there's some language barrier here or what, but allow me to spell it out for you: not always have tribes, even homosapiens tribes, been capable of effectively communicating. If you believe that they instantly knew all surrounding tribes' languages from both the birth of the tribes and of the individuals, you are grossly mistaken. And during periods when neighboring tribes could not communicate because of a language barrier, I would imagine intertribal violence would have been much higher than after. If that's not clear enough, then there's no possible way that you're going to begin to comprehend what I am saying.
Wiping out a single tribe was actually a much bigger deal than wiping out a city now - the former had a much larger effect on the global rate, and of course it was much easier to kill a tribe of a few hundred or thousand than even a modern city of hundreds of thousands or millions.
Ever heard of Hiroshima?
And you still haven't got the statistical point, I'm afraid. We are (at least Pinker was) not talking about isolated massacres. We were (He was) talking about overall probability.
Hiroshima was leveled using nuclear weapons. Only two have ever been detonated with the intent of killing an adversary in the history of humanity. You should be able to guess which two those were, as well as where they were detonated.
Now, using even a fairly recent analogy, it was much easier for Europeans to slaughter American Indian villages, having quite a large effect on the overall American Indian population, than the Indians to slaughter European towns that were larger than small fronteir settlements, which even had a lower effect on the overal European population. That aside, yes, the overall probability could be compared to ancient times, but no real data exists from said times. All that does is conjecture and supposition.
And I do acknowledge as well the exponential decrease in homicides, but as I also said, this is due more to sociological evolution than the existence of the state.
Sociological evolution of course being entirely distinct from the existence of the state.
You just can't nicely separate the two. As Pinker said, the rise in empathy possibly arose from increased opportunity for different groups meeting each other and doing business (in the broadest sense) with each other, and from literature (and I hesitate to say it, but even religion may have played a small part in transmitting the Golden Rule). I can't envisage these favorable factors having arisen without a wider organizational framework, most often a state. This is not a strong point, of course, but seeing how the discussion went up to this point, probably your refutation of it will provide me with additional arguments.
Actually, you can. Because even with the existence of states, during say, the dark ages, when they were at their height of power (though modern ones are quickly rising to fill their fairly distant ancestors' boots), there was still a much higher incidence of homicides than today. So if an omnipresent state has a negative impact on violence, which is to say that it lowers it, why then would this have been true? In this regard, Pinker seems to be contradicting himself, considering that he criticises the extreme nature of medieval states, but then goes to state that omnipresent states have a negative impact on violence. That alone shows that sociological evolution and the state are quite separate.
It's easy to dismiss the states in my examples as "mere source of funding", but it's unfortunately a great display of ignorance. No major country infrastructure was built on mostly private investments. Sure, these things cost money, but governments have built railroads, aqueducts, libraries and hospitals because they benefit the entire society and as such, fit within the role of government. Few private individuals will want to use their wealth for building libraries. And private companies wealthy enough to rival NASA'S resources are few and far-between.
I suppose that cross-continental railroads in the US were subsidized by the state then. Oh, right, they weren't. Your "No major country infrastructure..." point has been instantly demolished. Also, many libraries, hospitals, aqueducts/water treatment facilities, power plants, and the like have been built solely by private corporations.
NASA is one of the few governmental organizations that I would consider beneficial in almost every regard. However, NASA is more or less a merger of the private sector and government.
Also, it seems that you forget that this evil aristocratic government IS made up of *people*, too.
Sorry, I seemed to have thought governments were comprised of aliens and robots.