Academic journal article International Journal on World Peace

Demography Is Destiny: An Essay on the Primary Correlate of Violence

Academic journal article International Journal on World Peace

Demography Is Destiny: An Essay on the Primary Correlate of Violence

Article excerpt

The title of this piece is usually attributed to Auguste Comte, the father of Sociology. In this essay I attempt to show that Comte's statement, while not sacrosanct, has much merit.

Two of the things that dominate the media:

1. Terrorism/crime/violence/ war and

2. Immigration.

These two issues are often intertwined, as was demonstrated again by the January 7 Charlie Heb do massacre in Paris-another violent crime committed by Muslim immigrants into a Western country.

Western societies, foremost among them the United States, are in a neverending search for the explanations and solutions to this dual problem, always attempting to implement various policies. Experts are endlessly researching and pondering the true causes of crime and violence. The explanations and policies have ranged from biological, psychological, sociological, and economic explanations, to various criminological lads, and all the way to war.

The US crime rate is down, and criminologists disagree sharply as to why. Some argued that more punishment and more law enforcement were the answer, so we built more prisons and we hired more police. Others advocate for more rehabilitation and more help with mental health, rather than prisons. Theories such as James Q. Wilson's broken windows idea come and go. Guns are always a hot topic. And of course, to combat and protect against international violence, we engage in multiple wars, and we spend ourselves into bankruptcy with Homeland Security. This quest for explanations and for policies that will reduce crime and violence has been going on for centuries.

This is not to say that social scientists have not produced profound research about what is, basically, the fundamental problem of "evil," namely man's violent nature, and violent behavior. For example, a brilliant recent analysis of mass annihilation is The Killing Compartments: The Mentality of Mass Murder, by Abram de Swaan (Yale University Press, 2015). The Dutch sociologist provides an impressive multi-variate analysis of the many instances of mass genocide, historical catastrophes of which the Holocaust is the prototype, but by no means a rare or even the worst example.

Far from offering such a sophisticated analysis, what I propose in this brief article is to recognize an often overlooked theme, one based on Auguste Comte's axiom that "demography is destiny."

No factor correlates more strongly with criminal violence than age. No explanation and no amount of tinkering with policies sheds as much light on the issue as the recognition of one simple, fundamental fact: Crime and violence are done largely by young men. Period.

To explain the role of demography, let's look at the issues of 1 ) terrorism, crime, violence, and 2) immigration and related issues.


There is a sense, conveyed in the media, that the world is rife with conflict and violence. We live in a near-permanent state of low-level warfare, terrorism flares up periodically, and crime ranges from low rates in places like Northern Europe and Japan, medium amounts in the United States, all the way to disastrous levels in some Latin American countries and in failed states such as Somalia.

Yet the reality is that, worldwide, violence and war are down, not up. Nervousness about war and violence is up, due to the news media, social media, and the Internet. But this is a perception not supported by crime rate statistics. It is aided and abetted by the non-stop chatter about terrorism. In fact, the historical trajectory has been a sharp downward trend in worldwide violence of all sorts. (See, for example, Steven Pinker's The Better Angels of Our Nature, Viking Books, 2011). This is true for both the long term and for the short term, both for large-scale organized warfare, and for private individual criminal violence.

Fluctuations in violence over time and variations by place are precisely what "demography is destiny" explains so well. …

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