How wild was the “Wild West”, in fact?

If a small town in which property rights (the societal recognition of Lockean rules as enforceable claims) are generally respected doesn’t have one individual called “the mayor” or “the governor”, society will collapse in a blaze of lead and gunpowder, Hollywood neverendingly tells us. Movie directors show us a land of arbitrary deeds from violent types who terrorized peaceful (this is the Establishment’s code-word for “harmless”) populations all throughout the land until forcible government was established and chaos turned to order.

But as several empirical investigations have pointed out, much to the so-called “conservatives” and “liberals” (actually two branches of social democracy, dogma and fallacy based, respectively) dismay, the less government there is, the more peaceful and prosperous a territory can be with respect to its own cultural potential. Why? Because no area is better served by a monopoly than by free competition: this certainly includes the provision of personal, property defense, and conflict resolution services.

Terry Anderson has a superb academic paper entitled “An American Experiment in Anarcho- Capitalism: The Not So Wild, Wild West and a lighter yet not less revealing article on the subject that has been a must-read for visitors interested in the real dynamics of society, the State and its allies’ propaganda notwithstanding.

The latest addition to the revisionist’s arsenal (pun intended) comes from John Pierce, taking from W. Eugene Hollon’s book “Frontier Violence: Another Look”. The figures he quotes speak for themselves:

  • In Abilene, Ellsworth, Wichita, Dodge City, and Caldwell, for the years from 1870 to 1885, there were only 45 total homicides.  This equates to a rate of approximately 1 murder per 100,000 residents per year.
  • In Abilene, supposedly one of the wildest of the cow towns, not a single person was killed in 1869 or 1870.

Zooming forward over a century to 2007, a quick look at Uniform Crime Report statistics shows us the following regarding the aforementioned gun control “paradise” cities of the east:

  • DC – 183 Murders (31 per 100,000 residents)
  • New York – 494 Murders (6 per 100,000 residents)
  • Baltimore – 281 Murders (45 per 100,000 residents)
  • Newark – 104 Murders (37 per 100,000 residents)

I’ll add a State vs. Liberty figure myself, for further debunking of classroom and media propaganda: the city of New York, with a worldwide reputation as a partly chaotic and violent city during most of the 1970’s and 80’s, has recently had less than half the per capita criminality than the country of Sweden, with roughly the same population. London is another notoriously sad case where gun prohibition, as any piece of legislation, will be obeyed by the now-defenseless majority and avoided by the criminal minority, who end up relatively better positioned to make the city a worse version of itself.

Apparently, libertarians have been right all along by pointing out that an armed citizenry provides the best defense against common criminals and especially, criminal bands armed with national hymns, flags, fake history books, tax collectors, and a customs office.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Thanks for posting this, JuanFer. One of the recurring misunderstandings from anyone contemplating true liberty is that of the roving bands that will, no doubt, take over should the State cease to provide protection. For my money, the Hollywood fantasy of the wild, wild west feeds this misunderstanding in a prominent way. Good stuff!

    • I’m glad you liked it, Wilt. I hope to see more written by you here or LRC soon. We need Alstonian wits to keep us awake.

  • I’m glad you liked it, Wilt. I hope to see more written by you here or LRC soon. We need Alstonian wits to keep us awake.

    • It looks like your hyperlink for Sweden having double the criminality of New York is not working properly.

      All it is doing is linking to an article archive which does not actually lead to this statistic.

  • Not sure the stats extrapolated work.
    “An adult who lived in Dodge City from 1876 to 1885 faced at least a 1 in 61 chance of being murdered—1.65 percent of the population was murdered in those 10 years.” Thats high.

    Based on the most recent Uniform Crime Report (compiled by the FBI), an average US citizen has about a .000054 chance per year (nationwide, local stats are varied). multiplying that by the average life span (about 70 years), the average citizen has about a .00378 chance of being murdered in their lifetime. I’ll take the modern day thank you.

    “homicide rates in the West were extraordinarily high by today’s standards and by the standards of the rest of the United States and the Western world in the nineteenth century, except for parts of the American South during the Civil War and Reconstruction”

    • Where do you get your stats about modern crime? They’re fantasy.