Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Regal Risk Premium

The average homicide rate in America is about 6 per 100,000 people per year. Among certain areas and demographics, this is substantially higher: 42 for African American males, 40 for Detroit, Michigan, 154 for Honduras.

According to a paper by Manual Eisner, kings had a rather extreme violent death rate:
This paper examines the frequency of violent death and regicide amongst 1,513 monarchs in 45 monarchies across Europe between AD 600 and 1800. The analyses reveal that all types of violence combined account for about 22 per cent of all deaths. Murder is by far the most important violent cause of death, accounting for about 15 per cent of all deaths and corresponding to a homicide rate of about 1,000 per 100,000 ruler-years.

Further, there is 'positive autocorrelation' in murder rates, in that if you murder a King to take his spot, your probability of being killed is above trend. Thus, to commit regicide puts you in the rarefied air 10 times that of the most murderous environs on the planet.

One can see why the primary virtue of the nobility has always been physical courage, demonstrated most recently when young Prince Harry eagerly signed up for dangerous missions in Afghanistan, and has the benefit of merely being a function of will. Modern warfare and information technology has made such bravery as irrelevant and absurd as it should be for determining our class structure.


dsquared said...

Much safer than being President of the USA though; something like 10% of all the US presidents there have ever been were assassinated, for a death rate of 2283/100kWy. (when I did the calculation; a year's passed since then without accident).


Ben said...

Physical bravery is neither absurd nor irrellevant, either in war or peace.

Keeping the civil peace requires a cadre of people, the police, to do a job that frequently requires physical bravery.

Making the peace requires a cadre, the infantry, to fight in person. They are not all "xbox warriors" operating drones.

I don't do either of those jobs, but I would think it ungrateful and dishonourable to despise those who do.

Nice story:


Eric Falkenstein said...

Ben. You're right that physical bravery is a good thing...I just don't think it suffices to entitle a noble class

Dave said...

"Ben. You're right that physical bravery is a good thing...I just don't think it suffices to entitle a noble class"

Who says it suffices? Seems more like a necessary but insufficient type of thing. There have long been common men recognized for their bravery who didn't become nobles as a result of it. Here is the most recent British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross. It doubt he will be marrying into the royal family any time soon.

Eric Falkenstein said...

Dave: Clearly it does not suffice in practice, but that was the virtue used by nobility to justify their hegemony for years. It was the distinguishing characteristic virtue of the nobility across time, as opposed to intellect. It was an invalid justification. WW1 came around, the aristocracy signed up and died disproportionately thinking it would get them back on top, and that did not stop their slide. See my post on Courage.

Mercury said...

I think pedigree was actually the top justification for nobility not physical bravery - or at least the former trumped the later. In any case I'm not sure either of those is a worse justification for determining class structure than is proximity to the primary dealer-Federal Reserve daisy chain!

Anonymous said...

Not a meaningful comparison since the overall rate of violent death in the AD 600-1800 period is at least 10, maybe closer to 100 times higher than it is in modern times.