The world is a dangerous place. Muggers are poised to jump you if you walk down the wrong darkened alley, con artists are scheming to relieve you of your retirement fund, and co-workers are out to ruin your career. Organized crime syndicates are spreading corruption, drugs, and fear with the efficiency of Fortune 500 companies. There are crazed terrorists, nutty dictators, and uncontrollable remnants of former superpowers with more firepower than sense. And if you believe the newspapers at your supermarket's checkout counter, there are monsters in the wilderness, creepy hands from beyond the grave, and evil space aliens carrying Elvis's babies. Sometimes it's amazing that we've survived this long, let alone built a society stable enough to have these discussions.
The world is also a safe place. While the dangers in the industrialized world are real, they are the exceptions. This can sometimes be hard to remember in our sensationalist age—newspapers sell better with the headline “Three Shot Dead in Random Act of Violence” than “Two Hundred and Seventy Million Americans have Uneventful Day”—but it is true. Almost everyone walks the streets every day without getting mugged. Almost no one dies by random gunfire, gets swindled by flimflam men, or returns home to crazed marauders. Most businesses are not the victims of armed robbery, rogue bank managers, or workplace violence. Less than one percent of eBay transactions—unmediated long-distance deals between strangers—result ...