Acton Institute Powerblog

Does capitalism reduce violence?

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030620-N-7391W-007 Pearl Harbor, Hawaii (Jun. 20, 2003) -- Cashier Sue Amine assists a customer at the Pearl Harbor Commissary, run by Defense Commissary Agency's (DeCA), in the new Pearl Harbor mall complex, which opened earlier this year. The current commissary sales floor is 29 percent larger than previous commissaries, with wider aisles to maneuver shopping carts and numerous registers to speed up checkout. DeCA's $22.8 million share of the Pearl Harbor mall was funded with surcharge dollars. U.S. Navy photo by Journalist 2nd Class Jim Williams. (RELEASED)
Trading $ for groceries > Murdering people and stealing their food

It’s been said before, but it’s certainly worth saying again. Not only does the free market lead to material wealth, but it reduces violence.

On a recent episode of the podcast “Question of the Day,” co-host Stephen Dubner reads a question from a listener: Why haven’t humans evolved as a species away from aggression? Dubner and James Altucher deal with the question in a rather roundabout way. Altucher points out that, really, aggression has dropped for as long as we’ve recorded the data. Specifically, the percentage of violent deaths keeps declining. “As a species, we have been evolving passed aggression and I think a lot of that has to do with trade,” He says. “All these methods of trade have actually limited aggression because I no longer need to invade your country to get your resources. We can trade resources instead. And then it benefits us to be nice to each other.”

untitledDubner discusses a chart in his book Freakonomics (2009) that shows a decline in violent deaths: In 13th Century England, the estimated homicide rate was 23/100,000 dropping to .9/100,000 in the latter half of the 20th century. He also references Steven Pinker’s 2011 book The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined which argues that despite the contemporary world looking like a dangerous place, it’s–comparatively–safer. “Violence has been in decline for thousands of years,” Pinker says in a WSJ op/ed. “and today we may be living in the most peaceable era in the existence of our species.”

Yay capitalism!

Of course, this also presents a new question: Why do people perceive that there’s more aggression now? Dubner and Altucher also address in the episode.

Listen to their podcast via Soundcloud below. They start talking about “aggression” at 1:38.

Defending the Free Market: The Moral Case for a Free Economy

Defending the Free Market: The Moral Case for a Free Economy

Father Sirico argues that a free economy actually promotes charity, selflessness, and kindness, and why free-market capitalism is not only the best way to ensure individual success and national prosperity but is also the surest route to a moral and socially-just society.

Visit the official website at

Sarah Stanley