Saturday, June 8, 2013

Making Europeans kinder, gentler

Hanged, drawn, and quartered. (source)

Although the Middle Ages were, in the imagination of our contemporaries, “the time of the gallows,” the reality was appreciably different (Carbasse, 2011, pp. 38-39)

Like many well-meaning people, I once considered the death penalty a relic of a more barbaric age. Outside the old jailhouse, here in Quebec City, I can see the open space where people used to be hanged … in public. In some cases, the authorities would go one better. The body would be placed in a cage and suspended near a thoroughfare for all to see … while it decomposed. This was our past, and presumably the system of justice was even more gruesome longer ago.

Actually, it wasn’t. Longer ago, the death penalty was not the preferred punishment for murder.

The Dark Ages – 5th to 12th centuries

When the Roman Empire collapsed in the 5th century, so did its system of retributive justice. Actually, justice had already become less retributive through the growing influence of Christianity. This is apparent in a letter from a Roman magistrate who felt troubled by the death penalty and sought advice from Ambrose, bishop of Milan (374-397). In a long reply, the bishop defended this punishment, but then went on to praise those who refrain from it. In fact, most of his reply was an appeal for mercy on the grounds that the wrongdoer may end up repenting (Swift, 1970, p. 542, see also Frost, 2010).

This trend continued after the Empire’s collapse. In 511, the bishops of France greatly extended the right of sanctuary. If a man committed murder, he could now ask for and receive sanctuary in any holy place. This policy was defended by Pope Gregory the Great: “Let the Church extend its protection even to those who have spilled blood, for it must not contribute, even indirectly, to the shedding of their own blood” (Carbasse, 2011, p. 34).

The new barbarian rulers also disliked the death penalty, but for different reasons. There was a strong feeling that every adult male had a right to use violence and to kill, if need be. This right was of course reciprocal. If you killed a man, his death could be avenged by his brothers and other male kinsmen. The prospect of a vendetta thus created a ‘balance of terror’ that kept violence within limits. So, initially, the barbarians allowed capital punishment only for treason, desertion, and cowardice in combat (Carbasse, 2011, p. 35).

As the barbarian kingdoms developed on the ruins of the Roman Empire, steps were taken to limit male violence, particularly when it took the form of vendettas. This was the aim of the Salic Law, proclaimed in 507-511:

[The Salic Law] is a pact (pactus) “concluded between the Franks and their chiefs,” for the specific purpose of ensuring peace among the people by “cutting short the development of brawls.” This term evidently means private acts of vengeance, the traditional vendettas that went on from generation to generation. In place of the vengeance henceforth forbidden, the law obliged the guilty party to pay the victim (or, in the case of murder, his family) compensation. This was an indemnity whose amount was very precisely set by the law, which described with much detail all of the possible damages, this being to avoid any discussion between the parties and make [murder] settlements as rapid, easy, and peaceful as possible. […] This amount was called the wergild, the “price of a man.” The victim’s family could not refuse the wergild, and once it was paid, the family had to be satisfied. They no longer had the right to avenge themselves (Carbasse, 2011, pp. 33-34).

The punishment for murder was thus monetized. If you killed a boy under 10, you paid 24,000 denars. Killing a free pregnant woman would cost a bit more: 28,000 denars. The payment was only 12,000 denars for killing a Roman who ate in the king’s palace (source). Capital punishment existed only for the murder of the king, for whom there was no wergild, or in the case of a slave killing a free man.

Over the next few centuries, attempts were made to broaden the scope of the death penalty but to little avail, partly because law enforcement was still rudimentary and because of resistance from the Church:

[…] the couple “peace and charity” remained the supreme objective. This ideal had practical applications, since the legal forms of this time offered model agreements called “peace” or “concords” (today we would say ‘plea bargaining’) for even major crimes like murder. Clearly, the public justice system was used only in exceptional cases, the usual way of settling disputes being private in nature (Carbasse, 2011, p. 36).

The war on murder – 12th to 17th centuries

Thus, for a long period, murder was normally a personal matter to be settled by the victim’s family, through vengeance or a cash settlement.

This situation began to change in the 12th century. One reason was that the State had become stronger. But there also had been an ideological change. The State no longer saw itself as an honest broker for violent disputes that did not challenge its existence. Jurists were now arguing that the king must punish the wicked to ensure that the good may live in peace. The Church itself was coming around to this view through what may be called a medieval synthesis of Christian morality:

[…] a reaction arose beginning in the 11th century against the previous system of monetary compensation. Henceforth, increasingly, it was felt that money could not be a sufficient compensation for such an infraction. The idea that the murder of a man is a crime too serious, an offence too manifest to the order of Creation, to be simply “compensated” by a sum of money was present from the early 11th century onward in the thinking of some bishops (Carbassse, 2011, p. 38)

And so began the war on murder. From the 12th to 17th centuries, capital punishment became steadily more prevalent. We see this in an increasing willingness to use it not only for murder but also for other crimes (rape, abortion, infanticide, lèse majesté, theft, counterfeiting, etc.). We also see this in the use of ‘exemplary’ punishment: drawing and quartering, breaking on the wheel, and burning. Beginning in the 13th and 14th centuries, we see cases of a murderer being buried alive in a casket placed underneath the victim’s casket (Carbasse, 2011, p. 53).

Then, after the 17th century, the war on murder began to go into reverse. It had been largely won, and public sympathy now shifted to the condemned man. In England, the homicide rate fell by over a hundred-fold between 1300 and 1900 (Eisner, 2001). Europeans were becoming kinder and gentler, and this pacification of social relations would make possible much of what we call modernity: the expansion of the market economy; a growing freedom to live among total strangers; the rise of the individual as an autonomous, self-maximizing being, and so on.

But this pacification also had a down side. We now take it for granted. If people act violently, to the point of committing murder, we assume there must be a very good reason. Otherwise, why would they have done it?


Carbasse, J-M. (2011). La peine de mort, Que sais-je ? Paris

Eisner, M. (2001). Modernization, self-control and lethal violence. The long-term dynamics of European homicide rates in theoretical perspective, Br J Criminol.,41, 618-638.

Frost, P. (2010). The Roman State and genetic pacification, Evolutionary Psychology, 8(3), 376-389.

Swift, L.J. (1970). St. Ambrose on violence and war, Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association, 101, 533-543.


JayMan said...

Added to the list:

HBD Fundamentals | JayMan's Blog

Sean said...

When people act violently or peacefully (in the same circumstances) it's because of their hereditary predisposition, not differences in their rational internalisation of universal morality.

So we can't expect anyone, pacified or not, to choose the best alternative. The unpacified will be vicious. The pacified will think a that criminal was someone just like them, but one who got a raw deal from an insufficiently universalist society. The existence of the unpacified within our society is not going to make the elite doubt global moral universalism. In fact it will only entrench them; adding fuel to the fire of the 100% pacified leadership class, and fixating them ever more deeply on the gap between what is and what ought to be.

Anonymous said...

Inbreeding and tribalism are partially related. In Latin America, is one of the most outbred populations in the world, with a huge portion of interracial relationships. However, crime is high. Do not just take exogamy is also necessary to select personality traits and intelligence that relate positively to the proposed genetic pacification.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post imo.

Anonymous said...

Inbreeding and tribalism are partially related. In Latin America, is one of the most outbred populations in the world, with a huge portion of interracial relationships. However, crime is high. Do not just take exogamy is also necessary to select personality traits and intelligence that relate positively to the proposed genetic pacification.

I think this is correct.

The relationship between outbreeding and open institutions (i.e. ones which make the Western manufacturing and production efficient by allowing them to discard inefficient members and recruit efficient ones, and potentially grow in scale beyond "cottage industry") is strong, while the relationship between outbreeding and violence is weak.

hbdchick tends towards the idea that a long history of outbreeding is what does the trick, because violence is a specific behavior that evolves in the context of inbreeding, not an actual consequence of it (as a way of explaining the Latin American situation) but this does not seem plausible to me.

Peter describes "One reason was that the State had become stronger. But there also had been an ideological change. The State no longer saw itself as an honest broker for violent disputes that did not challenge its existence. Jurists were now arguing that the king must punish the wicked to ensure that the good may live in peace."

However, this ideological change can also occur in inbred societies. The blogger agnostic argues that the moralistic religions, those which give rise to an ethic of society as a conflict between good and evil, were born within Middle Eastern civilizations, and are emphasized strongly within Islam, yet the regions of Islam and the Middle East are relatively inbred. The smaller scale clan groups do not necessarily act less efficiently to remove the "wicked" among them.

But this pacification also had a down side. We now take it for granted. If people act violently, to the point of committing murder, we assume there must be a very good reason. Otherwise, why would they have done it?

Interestingly, in studies of East Asians and Europeans, what has tended to be found is that Europeans tend strongly towards "innate" explanations of behavior, while East Asians tend towards circumstantial reasons (i.e. there must have been something in their particular circumstances that made them act that way).

This is very marked in the world carried out by sociologists on the Fundamental Attribution Error - (although the FAE itself is about giving inconsistent explanations for the behavior of self and others who are the "same" rather than favoring innate or circumstantial reasons). Behavior is seen as much more reflective of the traits of the "actor" relative to the situation, in Western societies.

I actually think this is purported to hold more widely for non-European populations.

However, the weird thing modern day Europeans do where they go "Alright, its an innate trait of that person, but it was caused by society and circumstances" perhaps that does not happen as much in other cultures.

Anonymous said...

''Interestingly, in studies of East Asians and Europeans, what has tended to be found is that Europeans tend strongly towards "innate" explanations of behavior, while East Asians tend towards circumstantial reasons (i.e. there must have been something in their particular circumstances that made them act that way).''

Very interesting!
I think that the east asians showing strong pragmatic personality traits than caucasians, and specifically europeans.
This factor also can explain the low creativity that for your time be relationed with one of five big traits of personality, idealized by Eynsenck, the openness. Pragmatism is a rational way of thinking while openness a lot of times is a recreation, creativity is cultural recreation. Probably exist two types of creativity, the rational creativity and the recreative creativity. East asians are similar than europeans only in the first ''type''. Pragmatism also is related to adaptation.
East asians eat dogs and cats for many generations= pragmatism. But europeans probably may be find new way to avoid this situation. (complete especulation but possible).

About endogamy and tribalistic violence...
Well, the amish and the mormons are endogamic groups but very less violent.

I agree with the theory of Hbd chicks, but it don't explain everything. Most important beyond the endogamy are the personality traits and cognitive styles that are selected.

(Sorry for my english)

Sean said...

In a period of weak overarching authority, where killing was not regarded as murder according to the social norms, it was common.

Once homicide in almost any circumstances was seen as killing 'murderously' the society was able to reduce it to a hundredth of what it had been.

None of this will convince doubters that the reduction in violence was due to the average hereditary disposition changing. It'll just be asserted, as Stephen Pinker does, that "a coherent philosophy that emerged during the Age of Reason and the Enlightenment." convinced everyone to play nice. If you read John Gray against Pinker, it's pointed out how ephemeral such a ideological change would be. Citing the proportion of blacks in prison in the US, Gray is horrified at the idea of reduced violence in a society being attributed to measures that have a disparate impact. It doesn't matter if there is no intent:"people that Pinker describes as decivilised, and once they have been defined in this way there is a kind of logic in consigning this category of human beings to the custody of America’s barbaric justice system." Gray thinks civilisation has retreated if violence is reduced by such means.

This is just the ancient argument about whether the world is what it looks like: a range of human types from the exultantly vicious to the naively caring and sharing. Or, people are all inherently unlimited and given favourable circumstances, amenable to moral/rational persuasion.

Sean said...

It seems the former captures the reality, and that capital punishment was responsible for altering the balance so that nice people became the vast majority. Unfortunately, the uber-pacified elite will always prefer to think that human nature hasn't changed since modern humans first entered Europe. That lets them think they're more rational than other people, due to their adherence to their ethics--though babies already have the basic ideas that are supposed to come from social learning.
What are some of the stuff that's in it from the factory as it were, right? And very clever developmental psychologists are nailing that down and showing all the stuff that comes with this structured brain that grows. And to give you just a quick example, the developmental psychologists are so clever that they drive me crazy because they do their science with such cheap instruments like little baby toys hitting each other in front of another baby, you know, oh, they're outrageously clever people.
But anyway, so you have a baby sitting there and you then have two little puppets and one takes a cookie from the other, right? Just A takes a cookie from B. And then a few seconds later, B takes the cookie back, right? Now, there's -- now, does the baby notice this? The baby is totally bored by that because it's just natural that if A steals from B, B's gonna steal back. So reciprocity, retribution, it's all right there at the beginning.
And if you then do another little trick, my favorite is -- and these are the studies of Renee Baillargeon at the University of Illinois and David Premack. If you do another where A goes over and helps B -- or hinders B, let me -- it's easier to describe it. A goes over and gets in B's way, and B actually was sitting here with C. B had a buddy, C. Now, so A goes and hinders B and then goes back home. The next act is C comes over and actually helps A, right?
Huh. Huh.
Well, the baby is shocked at this, because the groups have already formed and A is, you know, has got nothing -- should have nothing to do with B or C because they're in this out group here. So anyway, this is all going on at 13 months. The babies have this all sorted out. So, you realize that with these primitives -- and these are social decisions making, and with these primitives and with all the mental primitives that have been shown using these very simple tricks, we come with a lot of stuff, complex -- complexities built in."

Gazzaniga says half our brain is for coming up with rationales for what we unconsciously feel. Hence the inner chatter of the chattering classes means that those who appear to see good as having come from capital punishment (as de Maistre did) are viewed as inhumane and deluded.

Ben10 said...

The problem has always been that in most cases, crimes are commited without directly being witnessed, and in these old times, 'material evidences' was more like circumstancial conjectures. I bet there was a lot of "I say, he says, my words against yours'.
So like in Texas, there has been too many imprisonned people, usually black, that have been later cleared by DNA analysis. On this basis, it's more likely than not that innocent people have been executed in texas.
I've always been in favor of the death penalty but too many botched cases, fake witnesses or witnesses who genuily believe what they say while they are in fact autosuggested, makes me believe that 'Life' would be better, just in case.

That is not the reason why the franks did not implement the death penalty in the salic law. The reason was more likely their feelings towards 'death'. High natural mortality + continual wars probably didn't make the frankish men very confident to long life expectencies. Clovis killing so many of his relatives, while himself dying at 45, show the franks considered death and crime a natural almost casual things to do.

By the way Peter, if your are looking at example of sexual selection in societies with excess numbers of women, the early dark ages of 400-1000 (starting basically with the barbarian invasions) should be a great time for that. Later on, the black plagues killed more evenly Men and women, but during the barbarian invasions it was really men against men, and for the victorious the reward was trophy women in the conquered lands.

Brel said...

This phenomenon is discussed in Norbert Elias' book The Civilizing Process, which Steven Pinker talked about extensively in Chapter 3 of his Better Angels. Elias chronicled the transition of knights, who had nearly absolute power over their lands and didn't have to answer to anyone, into courtiers who had to learn to restrain themselves and work for the king. In order to do this they had to curb their violent ways and learn "courtesy", which is where modern day manners (such as the use of forks and blunt knives) come from. These habits spread from the courtly class to the bourgeoisie and then to the general population over several centuries, coinciding with the rise of capital punishment and the decline in interpersonal violence.

Sean said...

Ben10, you're going with Blackstone's formulation, a Kantian idea. The Germans passed a law that outlawing killing innocent people to save a greater number of innocent people.

The early Romans were merciless with themselves and other peoples. Practical, they exterminated whole tribes thought to be unreliable. A few hundred years later, the Roman leadership just couldn't think that way, or even bring themselves to believe that barbarians would not behave like citizens--once they were admitted to the empire.

The ideologies that use moral ('rational') reasoning divorced from the practical consequences are the result of advanced pacification. Five centuries of selection for getting on in civil society, with awkward customers being continuously winnowed out, produces an inevitable side effect.

In Britain the first signs could be seen in the influence of Jeremy Bentham.

Correlli Barnett says the influence of moral imperative and Christian piety, a motif of moral fervour in government, derives from from early nineteenth century thinkers like John Stuart Mill, Matthew Arnold (Victorian headmaster) Ruskin propagandising for a Christian, intellectual elite that would pursue moral 'duty' in international relations. A " moral revolution of the early 19th century gradually divorced the governing class from realpolitik and immersed them in a dream world of philanthropy and humanitarianism."

There was no real change when, by the 50's, Western intellectuals were almost totally Marxist in inspiration. Now the modern leadership class are viscerally naive flower people. Germans are only slightly further down that road than the rest of the West The German Ecological-Industrial Complex.

Pascal Bruckner says that the ecological movement has replaced Christianity and Marxism. It's an underlying hereditary predisposition to transcend conflicts of interest that is the taproot of this kind of thinking.

Gangland Britain the police have to be as black as the people they arrest, according to the Economist. (Not many blacks will be writing for the Economist, but then inclusive fitness mandates affluent liberals putting their kids in those good jobs).

Given a self replicating current British knowledge class, with a mindset mandating a global symbolic community that puts harmony above all things, we would need to import foreigners to run the country before we could have different policies.

Some say modern Russia isn't run like that--the communists killed the old elite off. Before that happened, de Maistre had went to Russia to get away from revolutionary ideas and found the St Petersburg elite were entranced by fashionable French ideology. Unfortunately the ruling class are going to be the last to be displaced in the West

Peter Fros_ said...




Elites can change their minds. The problem is that it takes a high degree of disillusionment to change most people's minds. I may be wrong, but recent events have perhaps pushed a lot of people beyond the point of irreversible disillusionment. There may be a window of opportunity for HBDers to step forward and make their case.


In the Middle Ages, most cases of murder went unsolved. People were generally executed for things like highway robbery or horse theft. But it's difficult to do either without engaging in unlawful violence.

The same goes for U.S. prisons. Many Americans officially go to prison for unlawful possession of drugs, but unofficially they're imprisoned for other offenses that are more serious but harder to prove in court (largely because the relevant witnesses refuse to testify).


I'll have to check that book out. The pacification of social relations was a very extensive process that went far beyond the death penalty. Violence became uncouth and a mark of low social status. So violent men were gradually pushed to the margins of society and denied opportunities for social advancement.

Anonymous said...

"So violent men were gradually pushed to the margins of society and denied opportunities for social advancement."

Except in culturally approved niches.

Anonymous said...


I'd recommend that book to anyone, but it's a sociology book, so it's basically a diamond in a sea of mud. It was also written quite a few decades ago (in 1939, ironically) and is little-noticed in the US, as Pinker notes. Therefore, I think Pinker's introduction in Better Angels is the best thing to read first, since he expands the original concept to discuss developing countries and the rise in interpersonal violence in the 1960's, which are not discussed in Elias' original book. He also goes over the concept of informalization and how it interacts with the civilizing process.

Incidentally, a new translatoin of The Civilizing Process was recently released (the title is now closer to the original German, On the Process of Civilization. It'd be great if Razib Khan, HBD chick, and other bloggers like yourself read it!

Brel said...

Whoops, the above post was me.

Sean said...

BBC on Jean-François Copé ("He has also made comments about the French Muslim community, which have led to accusations that he is threatening cultural harmony. Is he in danger of consigning his party to the political dustbin at home and on the world stage?") See here, start at 8 minutes. He has said that anti-white racism is a problem and that white people are suffering. The interviewer skewers him with the point that ethnic minorities still disproportionately make up the unemployed; apparently suggesting racism (the racism of whites obviously) is the only real problem.

Humans have a conceptual limitation that makes one sidedly feel there is something wrong with trade-offs of consequences in cases where moral questions are concerned. The effect of this implicit norm produces a 'Kantian' outlook. Hence the hijacked airliner can't be shot down. Something is indeed going on in France, but it is the skeptical tradition of Pascal's Wager, a caveat that other considerations than one sided first principles are being proposed to be contribute to the balance struck when integrating immigrants. No revolutionary change of outlook is being proposed, but just a correction to balance the country as it moves toward interracial nirvana.

It simply is not possible to get most people (any that matter) to understand that, while the old racism cannot be tolerated, anti white racism is enough of a problem that it should even be talked about. Our genetically programmed rule of thumb says that is just the wrong way to look at things and the person who says otherwise is creating the whole of the problem. Hitchens blames Powell for the level of immigration , everyone that matters does too. The BNP's Griffin revealing what was happening to young white girls meant the issue was ignored, according to this. (It had been going on for decades when Griffin mentioned it.) The German attitude to environmentalism shows the one sided moral intuition with dismissive attitude to the real world. See here.

Yes, the elite could change its attitude to racism, but it would have to be a revolutionary change junking their previous thoughts on what the societal duty is, whereby a minor adjustment will not be possible.

Anonymous said...

"Humans have a conceptual limitation that makes one sidedly feel there is something wrong with trade-offs of consequences in cases where moral questions are concerned."

No they don't.

It's precisely because they don't that the anti-white culture has to fanatically censor the existence of white victims and why effectively publicizing white victims changes the moral algebra.

Sean said...

Not how it happens Anon, "Griffin exploited the scandals for his own thuggish purposes. Sometimes, amidst the bleakness, it is important to acknowledge that a few people did the right thing. In the hideous example of the Oxford gang rape case, of those people is a Muslim prosecutor"

Do you see? Whatever the story it doesn't invalidate anti racist iconography because whites, without a legitimate grievance, can't be anything but vicious and base when they talk about white victimisation even if what they say is true. The Muslim is heroic; when he does bad thing it's due to lack of inclusion. To the extent these cases disconcert the elite, it will just add fuel to the fire.

Reconceptualise, anon. People have an instinct to go along with the received wisdom in their community; those who are the most imbued with received wisdom are the knowledge class. It's white people who are doing this, and they're unconsciously motivated by feelings triggered by simple heuristics like: obey authority figures , imitate those who get on in life, go along with peers. All that interacts with the foundations Haidt talks about,

The HBD fundamentals approach is just as bad, because it emphasises inclusive fitness aspects of human nature--though the degree of inbreeding--that we share with animals, and even ants whose complex social behaviour is certainly due to simple heuristics. At the level of a tribe even, inclusive fitness has little effect; it's only powerful for immediate family. For politics symbolic community feeling is decisive. People don't support football teams because they are related to the players.

Anonymous said...

"Not how it happens Anon"

All over the western world the media downplays or completely censors white victims of racial attacks while doing the opposite for non-white victims of racial attacks.

The media have to constantly lie because they know that the moral algebra *requires* them to weight the scales down very firmly on the side of non-white victimization.

Anonymous said...

During the 11th Century the Europeans picked up on some of the Islamic norms while 'visiting' the Holy Land.

Mo's dicta stipulated State Action against many crimes.

The idea of the Big Man dishing out the punishment -- as the hand of God -- gained traction.

How else to explain the amazing timing of such a huge shift in tribal norms.