Here is a moral dilemma: Would you be happy to live in a world in which 80 percent of the population enjoys more or less peaceful conditions, but the remaining 20 percent are condemned to live with a worsening spiral of war and suffering?
This is a useful question, because it is a rough description of the actual world we live in. Most of the planet is pretty stable these days. Last week, the cognitive scientist Stephen Pinker and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos underscored this point in an opinion piece celebrating Colombia’s peace deal with the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.
With the deal, Pinker and Santos noted, the Americas are free of large-scale political violence. But this is the new normal: “The world’s wars are now concentrated almost exclusively in a zone stretching from Nigeria to Pakistan, an area containing only a sixth of the world’s population.” As Pinker has argued elsewhere, the recent upsurge of violence in the Middle East and Africa should not distract us from the good news that most of the world is seeing historic declines in political violence.