mises.org / Ryan McMaken / Oct 11, 2016
Columbus Day this year brought with it the usual acrimony, and thisSalon article hit the usual talking points by declaring European settlement of the Americas to be “the most massive act of genocide” in world history.
Salon quotes historian David Stannard who writes: “[O]n average, for every 20 natives alive at the moment of European contact — when the lands of the Americas teemed with numerous tens of millions of people — only one stood in their place when the bloodbath was over.”
Figures like these remain hotly debated, but few disagree that, ultimately, the number of natives was extremely small when compared to the overall size of the Americas. In other words, the number of people relative to the amount of natural resources in the New World was tiny, and population density in the Americas continues to be low by global standards even today.
While many pundits and historians commonly debate the violent conflicts between tribes and settlers in the popular media, we hear far less from scholars who take a serious look at the economic implications of the relatively underpopulated lands in the Americas.