Murder by the State

Policy Reports | Crime

No. 211
Monday, September 01, 1997
by Gerald W. Scully


"Except in Communist nations, the rate of democide has declined."

Democide and genocide are seemly activities of dominant group and authoritarian rule. State-sponsored murder on a large scale has a long history. Despite crude weaponry, the Chinese emperors from the Chin dynasty (221 B.C.) to the Ching (1911), exclusive of the Mongols, murdered about 33.5 million. The Mongols in the 14th and 15th centuries killed about 30 million.21 But, exclusive of Communist democide, the rate of state-sponsored murder has declined. I hypothesize that this was due to the historical rise in human productivity, which made the cost in terms of lost GDP too high to continue the killing on a grand scale.

A demand function for democide was estimated for a sample of nations in the post-World War II period. The relationship between the quantity of killing and per capita output was found to be highly significant. To estimate rent-seeking losses associated with democide, I compared the growth paths of the democidal nations with those of a comparable group of non-democidal nations. On average, democide is associated with about a 20 percent loss of wealth.

NOTE: Nothing written here should be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the National Center for Policy Analysis or as an attempt to aid or hinder the passage of any bill before Congress.

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