Words & Numbers

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About this podcast

Insightful weekly commentary on news & current events from economist Antony Davies and political scientist James R. Harrigan.

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August 1, 2018

People tend to have a strange blind spot when it comes to government. We—or a lot of us, at least—tend to assume the best of intentions from our government. Our fellow civilians garner suspicion, but our elected officials are somehow magically benevolent and altruistic. When governments misbehave and act violently, we tend to think about these actions in terms of warfare. And yes, in the 20th century alone, wars have killed around 106 million people. That's a lot and not to be discounted. But in the same timeframe, governments have killed at least that many—and probably more like twice that number—within the confines of their own borders. We forget that a government is a monopoly on the use of force, and every time we ask our government to do something, even something as innocuous as putting up parking meters, what we're really asking them to do is to bring their force—their violence—to bear on our behalf. It's a sobering thought. Join James Harrigan and Antony Davies as they dive deep into this subject and more on this week's episode of Words and Numbers.

Show Notes:


Venezuela’s 1,000,000% inflation

Seattle’s street cars too big for their tracks

Foolishness of the week

Bank of America loses customers’ safe deposit boxes

Topic of the week: How many people do governments kill?

Soviet Union kills 20 million of its own citizens

China kills 65 million of its own citizens

Cambodia kills 1.5 to 3 million of its own citizens

20th century democide

Less than 500,000 people murdered worldwide annually by non-governments

US incarceration rates 1960-2012

Incarceration rates across countries

7 million Americans either in prison, on probation or parole

How We Thrive documentary

Antony Davies on Twitter

James R. Harrigan on Twitter