Political scientist R. J. Rummel has focused on type of government as a causal factor in the 292 million (by his count) civilians killed by governments in the 20th century. An alternative theory, which focuses on violations of private-property rights, helps to explain not only the magnitude of mass murder by government, but also its cyclical variation under the same regime and the institutional conditions that have made it possible.

Stephen W. Carson is an independent writer and software engineer from St. Louis, Missouri.
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