The cure is worse than the disease

Some of you might wonder how I obtained the number indicating that governments kill 22 times more people than individual criminals. First, to obtain a maximum murder bodycount for the world, let’s trace the following train of logic.

1. The USA is one of the most violent countries in the world.

2. There were 17,298 murders in the USA in 2000.

3. The USA has 5 percent of the world’s population.

4. 20 times 17,298 is 345,960 murders per year.

5. 100 times 345,960 is 34.6 million, our maximum bodycount.

Remember, this assumes that criminals in populous countries such as France, China and Japan, where the murder rates are as low as 8.8 percent of the USA’s, are as murderous as in the USA. The 20th century government body count, on the other hand, is estimated to be 185 million. So, governments the world over are at least 5.3 times as likely to commit murder as private individuals.

However, this 34.6 million number is far too high. If we substituted the relatively peaceful Japan for the USA as a stand-in for the world average, we’d have a grand total of 3 million murders for the century, which would make governments 56.4 times more lethal. I haven’t spent a lot of time investigating international homicide statistics, but a Google search provides an estimate of 8.4 million global murders for the 20th century, which amounts to a global homicide rate of approximately 1.6 per 100,000 for the century. This is higher than China’s 1.3, much less the United Kingdom’s 0.9 or Japan’s 0.6. Dividing 185 million by 8.4 gives the aforementioned 22/1 ratio.

These are crude approximations, of course, as the number of people on the planet has changed dramatically from 1900 to 2000, Rummel’s numbers for the century only go to 1987, and most countries do not have reliable statistics for most of the period in question. But regardless of whether the correct multiple is 22 or 5.3, it should not be hard to see that strong government is worse than crime.