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Samizdata quote of the day

It seems these days that there is this omnipresent feeling that the world is going fucking crazy. Yet, by every objective measurement, it’s arguably the sanest and safest it’s been in recorded history.

Mark Manson

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75 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Indeed. That said, I think we can feel some geopolitical tectonic movement going on beneath our feet and it is by no means clear what this prefigures.

  • Watchman

    It might have been safer last year, or five years’ ago – the objective measures are not going to be showing a year-by-year change, but a long term change. But the point is clear – and much of the trouble comes from the ideologies that make the world unsafe clashing against the movements (they are mostly non-ideological) and processes that make the world safer.

    Perry – I’d say the geopolitical tectonic movement is merely a manifestation of this process – a (to-some-minor-extent) unsafe ideology based around the ‘liberal’ consensus is crashing into the bottled up will of the people to not have to accept labelling and marginalisation by government in the west; in Arabia the unsafe dictorial regimes and the unsafe desire to ignore people in preference to lines on the map are clashing with the actual will of the people (unfortunately the will of some is to kill others for not agreeing with them…); even in China the unsafe militaristic elements are being internally confronted by the mercantile elements.

  • QET

    A pretty well thought-out analysis, IMO. But really what it demonstrates is the insufficiency of materialism (“objective measures”) as a philosophy or psychology of human happiness. The present seems to be a pretty convincing demonstration of Heraclitus’ view that human nature and existence is continual strife.

  • Brad

    If the world is a 9 (the lower the better) on a scale of 10 on the “safe and un-crazy” scale, but I can insulate myself 99% from it, and it “improves” to a 7 out of 10 but – through collectivism – I can only insulate myself 35% from it, it’s a net loss for me. I short, there may be less lunatics in the world, but if the State forces me to room and board one of the remainder, I lose.

    That’s assuming I even believe the composite data. The large city that I am suburban to has been caught reporting completely fabricated data on violence. They lie.

    Also, if there has been a decrease in violence, it is only due to the erosion of real savings as Western societies fed on their seed corn for three decades. Binge consumption has occurred and no real equity has been created. We’ve been on a smoke and mirror created high for three decades and “regression to mean” should indicate that a several decades correction in store. Here in the US, people are going to learn very soon that they are half as wealthy as they think they are. Let’s hold off on the safe and un-crazy assessment until after we’re done oscillating around the mean. False peace and prosperity bought by hauling off equity is likely to paid for with an offsetting level of violence.

  • Brad. I grew up in the 1970’s and 80’s. Britain is palpably less violent than then. It might not seem like that in Oldham or certain other areas, but violence is a vastly less prevent feature of everyday life. And yes, we have the threat of Islamic nutters doing another 7/7, we have the occasional riot, not everything is roses and kittens and cricket on the green, that is for sure. But I feel vastly safer walking down the streets at chucking out time pretty much anywhere than I did 30 years ago.

    But it has been quite some time since I last lived in the USA.

  • Runcie Balspune

    Binge consumption has occurred and no real equity has been created.

    I just love the multi-levelled irony when this sort of quote appears on an internet forum.

  • QET

    Brad wrote: That’s assuming I even believe the composite data. The large city that I am suburban to has been caught reporting completely fabricated data on violence. They lie.

    This is an important point, and I like how it ties nicely to the other thread on belief (or lack thereof). Since even before William Clifford’s Ethics of Belief, it has been, dare I say, an article of faith among Western sophisticates that one may rationally and reasonably believeonly what is proved/demonstrated/supported by “the evidence” or “the data.” Those words are invoked constantly in the US by people of Left-leaning politics who justify their politics on that basis. “Science” is another of their favorites. Yet every day it is shown that something they just yesterday insisted we accept as “data” and “fact” is false, as false as any concept of metaphysics or religion on which belief is founded. So Manson’s belief in the relative security of modern existence probably has roots that both preceded and go deeper than the “objective measures” he cites.

  • Alex

    “That’s assuming I even believe the composite data.”

    Ah. So since the data don’t confirm your bias, instead of confronting your bias, you claim the data is wrong.

    “The large city that I am suburban to has been caught reporting completely fabricated data on violence. They lie.”

    You can’t really fabricate murder data. Murder rates are about as reliable as you can get and, yes, murder rates are pretty good proxies for violent crime. Murder rates have been in free fall.

    “Also, if there has been a decrease in violence, it is only due to the erosion of real savings as Western societies fed on their seed corn for three decades.”

    Doesn’t even make sense.

    “Binge consumption has occurred and no real equity has been created.”

    Probably false.

    “Let’s hold off on the safe and un-crazy assessment until after we’re done oscillating around the mean. ”

    Of course, you’d say this no matter when the analysis is done. As I said above, rather than recognize your bias, you assume the data must be wrong when they don’t confirm your bias.

  • Brad

    Perry, I can believe that in some major cities of the US violence is less, to some degree. But I also believe that the official data is fudged. And, to recap my other assertions, at least for the US, we’ve replaced muggers in the street with bureaucrats who do the stealing on their behalf, the violence is simply sublimated. And it will only last a bit longer. A false peace has been bought by massive debts, which will have to be settled. When the corrections occur, it is my belief that we will see a return of violence, and in even greater quantity than the “bad old days”. Also, certain crimes are now reported differently if it simply an attack on property versus a person, almost as if it is no consequence (insurance and all that).

    I suppose I am of the belief that man’s rise from a brutal and short existence has been the massive increase in productivity per person due to technology. That only gets us so far. We’ve “ginned up” the game for the last several decades beyond productivity gains via bureaucratic sleight of hand. This has made everyone feel wealthier than they really are. They’re reasonably satiated and less prone to violence. The sleights of hand are coming to an end. I see increased hardline-ism from the State AND increased violence in the masses as economic corrections set in.

    I am prone to fits of optimism that it won’t be so, but there has been tens of TRILLIONS of dollars mis-allocated here in the US alone. I see economic forces being as immutable as physical laws, and we’ve been cruising at 35,000 feet, peanuts and full cans a of coke, while the fuel is about the run out. When the party is over, it’ll be over fast.

    It’s sad, because there was still improvements to be had by letting the free market reign and letting the effect of productivity per person still drive growth. But we experienced such an explosion over 200 years, and the pace necessarily began to slow down, and so the equity that was made was effectively confiscated and distributed, creating a false sense of increased wealth. THAT is what is going to correct very soon. And people aren’t going to be civil when it does.

    Can’t say what will happen in the UK, or the Union, or its separate countries. But the entire West has been living on its seed corn to some degree. The US is not as badly off as Japan, but we’re about second in the race of culture destroying economic asininity.

  • staghounds

    I work in the U. S., in law enforcement.

    By every measure including my subjective experience, it’s noticeably safer here than it was 25 years ago when I started.

  • QET

    Alex,

    Many people here (US) believe that there is a “rape culture” that exists, and they will usually justify that belief by citation to data (“1 in 5”) that has been thoroughly discredited. Yet they continue to believe. The truth of something presented as “data” or “evidence” or “fact” or “science” is something that cannot simply be granted or assumed; it is every bit the product of biased people and serves as a proxy for belief.

  • QET

    staghounds,

    to what do you attribute that increase in safety?

  • Brad

    Alex, it’s as simple as this – the US has about $80,000,000,000,000 in personally held wealth, with a massively over heated stock market configured in that number. CONSERVATIVELY estimated accrual basis debts of the US is about $70,000,000,000,000, and more likely north of $100,000,000,000,000. YOU TELL ME where the equity is. People are falsely contented when they look at their bank balances and 401k’s. Massive debts have been accumulated to pay for entitlement spending. BOTH are coming to an end. Get back to me in 20 years as to how civil people will be when it does.

    It amazes me how ignorant people are of economic, monetary policy, and fiscal policies, and the effects they’ve had. No one thinks that MAYBE the Ponzi Scheme of public debt pumping TRILLIONS of dollars/pounds/Euros out of equity into consumption isn’t going to create an increased level of satisfaction? But at what cost? When?

  • Patrick Crozier

    I agree with Perry. London – at least – seems a lot more peaceful than it did 30 years ago. Yes, the figures are massaged and yes, being older I am perhaps not exposed to it as much as I used to be but still there seems to be a lot less of it around.

    That does not mean that there is not plenty to be scared of. Islamism and Russian expansionism are alarming enough. But the prospect of the bursting of the post-2008 bubbles is terrifying.

  • Well I absolutely agree with Brad that we are living amidst a vast economic bubble. But I also think there has been vast, utterly colossal increases in actual global wealth as well, most startlingly in India and China, but nearly everywhere.

    But the consequences of the bubble finally popping will not be nice, that is for sure.

  • Safety does not necessarily lead to sanity.

    Sanity tends toward safety, though sometimes there are the insanely safe, who go overboard, and overreact to trivial things.

    If it is very very safe, but not very sane, then it can get very unsafe very quickly.

    Evolutionary theory would be helpful here. The best gene expression comes from the environment we were adapted to. We can do a lot of things safely now, and in good comfort- 72 degrees, artificial light, plenty of cheap processed food- and get really unhealthy really quick. Of course, this usually means we become slow moving behemoths who can’t fight, so the world ends up looking even more safe and sane while we slowly die from diabetes.

  • Thailover

    What’s really changed in the past 30yrs or so.

    1. “Platforming” is free, through social media including Youtube.

    2. “News” can be shared instantaniously, sometimes live, hosted by even the “man on the street” with a smart phone he pulls out of his pocket to capture, say, police violence, etc. Thus the “news” is no longer strictly controlled as it was in the states when media consisted of newspapers and 3 TV networks. The propaganda is now very overt and known about rather than merely fed on schedule to an innured and largely ignorant populus.

    3. The very real threat that right wing wackos have dubbed “one world order” is becoming a lessening threat via the exposure of lies and scandals, like “climate-gate”, the failure of the Amerian illiberal push for Cap and Trade, which would be nothing short of putting 3rd world nations on welfare and thus to become surfs and thralls of first world nations.

    4. The usual suspects’ lies (spells of the warlocks) are becoming increasingly exposed and thus powerless to the point to where fanfares such as the Democratic Convention is watched for comic effect rather than to inspire. When Nurse Ratched supports Black Lives Matter, people knows what this means where they wouldn’t know anything but propaganda 30yrs ago.

    5. The TRUE and frightening power of the political elite becomes exposed, though not widely acknowledged, as when Nurse Ratched (Hillary) signs over, bit by bit, 20% of America’s production of uranium ore to Russia via the sale of a Canadian mining company called Uranium One, and every time she needed to sign on on the deal as secretary of state, MILLIONS of dollars would come pouring into The Clinton Foundation from Uranium One mega-rich shareholders.
    Oh, and the Clintons DID NOT report these “donations” to the feds as they are required to by law.
    Where the truly frightening power comes into play is when this story breaks in the New York Times and it’s mysteriously quashed and goes away without explanation.

    Get this. Iran threatens to destroy Israel on a routine basis. Israel tells anyone willing to listen that if Iran gets nuclear capability, Israel will bomb Iran’s nuclear processing plants. Netanyahu comes to the US to address Congress, and nearly all the Democrats AND our president boycott the speech. Obama and Kerry broker a deal with Iran to not refine uranium and the US gives them over a billion fucking goddamned dollars and get nothing in return except for the word of notorious liars.

    Iran then take this money and buy processed uranium from Russia. Russia who now, thanks to Nurse Ratched, owns 20% of the US’s uranium ore production. And she agreed to this via receiving illegal and non-reported kickbacks from a noted foreign enemy.
    …YET THE STORY IS SUPRESSED. Hmmm…

  • Brad

    Perry, I agree that there IS vast wealth that has been made over these last few centuries, but it’s now all been compromised as Statism has been allowed to grow at a pace faster than the increase in personal ownership of that wealth has occurred.

    TEN YEARS AGO, former US Comptroller General Walker – essentially the head accountant of the US Government – stated as much in his portion of the Financial Report of the United States Government circa 2002-2007 (he resigned in 2008 just before that collapse – he had had enough). By stating that we’re creating obligations MUCH bigger than our ability to absorb them, via productive growth, we’re are (mildly put) endangering our (the US) economic stability and national security. And these comments are about a decade ago. The US has added $8,000,000,000,000 in hard debt alone, and we’ve had Obamacare tossed in Obama basically saying there’s plenty more entitlements where that came from.

    As my last comment states – we’re effectively broke and a collective balance sheet level. There’s only ONE $80,000,000,000,000 pie, not two. Whatever peace that has been garnered under that illusion will not sustain. Statist have effectively already killed the goose that laid the golden eggs. The new has yet to hit the streets.

  • Thailover

    QET,
    The only people who believe America has a “rape culture” are deluded feminists. Everyone else laughs. Yes, these are the same feminists that largely ignore the attrocities of Islam, further exposing feminist insanity. And yes, the radical left, the SJW’s ignore actual data, logic and sound, grounded reasoning because people are innured to their religious beliefs, and radical leftism is a pseudo-religion, not a philosophical mindset. This his how punks like Ben Affleck can argue about Islam with Bill Mahr and Sam Harris for 10 minutes and still never understand their very basic, even elemetary argument.

  • Fred the Fourth

    Thailover: Remember, Hillary herself said the enemy she is most proud of is the Republicans. Why would she worry about the Russians and Iranians? They’re probably below her top 5 priority cut-off:
    1. Republicans
    2. Trump
    3. People investigating the Clinton Foundation
    4. US civilian gun owners
    5. White men over 40

  • Laird

    “Also, if there has been a decrease in violence, it is only due to the erosion of real savings as Western societies fed on their seed corn for three decades.”

    Doesn’t even make sense.

    Alex, that’s not a criticism of Brad’s point, it’s merely an acknowledgement of your own economic ignorance.

    Brad is entirely correct. For several decades we (in the west) have seen an explosion in the governmental printing of faux money, massively distorting the capital markets, artificially propping up equity prices while depressing debt yields to ahistoric levels. As Paul Marks never tires of pointing out (and as any Austrian economist will also tell you), true investment can only come from savings, not from manufactured credit. But as a society we have no savings; substantially all of the economic expansion of the last decades has come about through bank-created credit. And yet we have been on a massive consumption binge, fueled entirely by debt. This is what Brad means by “eating the seed corn”, and he’s right. It is demonstrably unsustainable. Frankly, I think his assessment that we are “half as wealthy” as we think we are is optimistic. “Reversion to the mean” (a nice phrase in this context) will be brutal.

    As to the linked article itself, Manson makes a few valid points but on the whole I find it shallow and unpersuasive. “Safe from what?” he asks, and then asserts that violent crime is low, international wars are few, etc. But Perry’s personal safety on the streets at chucking out time, and low (reported) murder rates aren’t the whole answer. The world is full of conflicts which, while not “international” in the sense of WW2, etc., are nonetheless troubling. ISIS is a major issue, and its indiscriminate exportation of terrorist activities is meaningful. If you’re living in a “normal” war zone you can expect, and to some extent prepare for, violence. But if the entire world is a war zone, and you have no idea where the next atrocity will occur, a rise in overall levels of stress and apprehension is entirely legitimate. And this isn’t completely attributable to the rise in social media and the rapidity with which news is propagated. We really are less safe today, in many respects, than we were a decade ago. Yes, we may be more safe today from ordinary criminal attack, but we are far more at risk of indiscriminate violence from terrorists, and the mere randomness of such attacks is even more frightening. We can install deadbolts on our doors and security systems on our homes, and we can arm ourselves (in much of the US, anyway) against muggers and burglars, but there is no defense against a suicide bomber in a public market or night club. And awareness of our practical defenselessness against such attacks, and the generalized fear such knowledge instills, is entirely the purpose of terrorism, isn’t it? Well, guess what? It works.

    Manson asserts “We are going crazy. Each one of us, individually, capsized in the flood of negativity.” But if society is just us, writ large, and we’re all going crazy, then by definition isn’t society itself going crazy? By this one line he refutes his own thesis.

  • QET

    Thailover,

    Counting true believers is impossible, and while many of us laugh, there is a non-trivial number of people who, on the basis of this discredited statistic, are causing quite a bit of detrimental change. Whether they believe what they are saying, whether they believe in the truth of the statistic, is immaterial. I only used it as a ready-to-hand example of the larger point (introduced by Brad) that, to anyone who has looked, as I have, into the making of the sausage that is “data” and “fact,” it is clear that its most ardent proponents act by “suspending disbelief” as much as any religious sectarian.

    But I still think that what is most valuable in Manson’s article is that it demonstrates the insufficiency of material security to human ambition.

  • Thailover

    Laird wrote,

    “…have seen an explosion in the governmental printing of faux money, massively distorting the capital markets, artificially propping up equity prices while depressing debt yields to ahistoric levels.”

    We should probably point out when using such euphemistic phrases,that this isn’t limited to a literal printing of paper money, though it amount to the same thing. More than half the money supply isn’t literal federal notes.

  • lucklucky

    We have never have got worse Western world civilization fundamentals, the future will show that.

    “The only people who believe America has a “rape culture” are deluded feminists.”

    No. Most journalists, most democrats, most hollywood, do you want more? i can add the Pentagon, Facebook, Twitter and all other political companies.

  • Thailover

    Laird said,

    “Yes, we may be more safe today from ordinary criminal attack, but we are far more at risk of indiscriminate violence from terrorists, and the mere randomness of such attacks is even more frightening.”

    Terrorism works because of perception, not because of facts. The truth is, you’re probably more likely to win a state lottery than be killed by terrorists, (Don’t expect either), but it’s the perception of danger that’s effective. I remember when 911 occured and how people were freaking out. Ditto for every subsequent terrorist attack. I’ve always found this, lets say, intersting. As a former war vet deployed 3 times in “hot spots”, and as someone who has worked on a missile defense testing site after getting out of the military, I have to say that I’ve been aware of “danger” for a long time. Consider the attrocity in Nice France…a wacko in a truck running people over. The truth is, this could happen at any time, any place for any reason. There’s no more reason to live in fear after the fact than before. Certain people were amazed that I planned an air-trip right after 911 to go to Thailand, when, in reality, the airlines were no more dangerous (and very likely less dangerous) than a week before 911.

  • Robert Speirs

    The uneasiness about stems from seeing at least one clear threat – violence by Muslims – and seeing that the appropriate authorities do nothing effective about it. Muslims are fairly easily identifiable. They could be dealt with easily. The presence of mosques is a handy tip-off. Countries aren’t nations without a requirement that all nationals subscribe to one clear system of beliefs. Most of these beliefs in Christian nations are diametrically opposed to foundational aspects of Islam. And yet we are told to treat Muslims as patriotic nationals. Not going to work.

  • lucklucky

    There is no moderate left anymore. By this i mean the moderate left have let the speech code, conduct discourse being defined by the extreme left. So they are dead.

    -Democratic Party(US) is with Bernie,someone that praises Venezuela, Cuba and Sandinistas. Clinton only won due to legacy nothing more.
    -Labour(UK) is with an anti-semite, “friend of” terrorist groups Corbyn also praiser of Cuba, Venezuela etc.

    Marxim -its Fascist-Trotskist branch – won for the moment the cultural war, you just have to see the news to understand who won it. If nothing changes substantially future is dark for western world and freedom.

  • lucklucky

    “Consider the attrocity in Nice France…a wacko in a truck running people over. The truth is, this could happen at any time, any place for any reason.”

    If so tell how many instances that happened…

  • QET

    Thailover,

    I don’t think the survivors of Paris or Orlando took much solace in the fact that the deaths of their loved ones were improbable. And simple averaging is not a proper analysis of risk. Chance in life is not evenly distributed across populations as it is in a lottery. If you control your own fears and anxieties by means of simple arithmetic, then good for you, because it is better to live without fear and anxiety when we can. But simple averaging is hardly a more rational coping strategy than is, say, motivated action to reduce the risk.

  • lucklucky

    A risk analysis would tell that the risk increased several fold in recent times.

  • Things go up and down. In the 1950s in the UK, the police sent two men to a typical football game and they spent their time watching the match. By 1980, they might sent 300 and these policemen might have plenty to do. There were riots in 1980/81 – and we had riots only a few years ago that recalled them. I feel less emphatic that you about feeling safer from criminals today, but what I really notice is not feeling safer from the state or the groups it patronises. There are truly bizarre examples of being arrested for “hate speech”. Rotherham isn’t the only place where those who report the crime might fear arrest.

    The US had an explosion of crime coinciding with the era of PC, and eventually the push-back against it caused new measures and a decline. To many liberals, it’s a great mystery why crime declined in the 90s. To the rest of us, the correlations may not be proof but they’re as good as one usually gets in the real world (and so still allow honest debate about relative importance, of course). Some rates are rising again but are not yet where they were.

    Out in the world, it seemed much safer in the 90s than earlier, and seems less so now than then. I think it must have felt safer in the 1920s than earlier, and less so 10 years later, though even the year 1935 would probably have regarded the year 1940 as a paranoid fantasy. The world is indeed wealthier and that is a good thing simpliciter, but maybe Britain was safer in the 1800s when Germany was poorer, and maybe the oil-wealth of the arab countries has not wholly and solely conduced to our safety.

    All of which I can summarise as: I don’t agree with Manson, though I might agree with a few of his points. It does’t help that Manson knows all about “the lies of the Brexit ‘Leave’ campaign’ but not (if silence gives consent) any of Remain’s, and knows that a gun rights person killed family members but not that a gun control activist did so. He presents the idea of making the US “safe from too much college education” as a way-OTT mockery of “Make America safe again” – of course, even the loathed Trump would never think, still less say, that we could send too many people to university! And as for Manson’s delight that Obama is still popular “despite all the shit that has been shovelled onto him the past eight years”, well I can neither endorse his analysis of what the chosen one has predominantly been getting for 8 years nor empathise with his delight. Clearly, one of us has a few prejudices to address. 🙂

  • Slartibartfarst

    IF the statement that:

    Yet, by every objective measurement, it’s arguably the sanest and safest it’s been in recorded history.

    – is true, then the perception of someone who (say) considers that it’s actually less safe now may be true from perception through the lens of the “availability heuristic”. For example, like people will be wary of swimming off the coast of Australia where there has been a recent shark attack, despite the recorded numbers of shark attacks having gone steadily down.
    So you tend to get a debate, as here, about whether the data are true or whether one’s perception is biased.
    When it comes to data though, one needs to be skeptical about whose data it is and what motivates them and whether it seems that there may have been some fraudulent stochastic intervention. For example NOAA’s belated massaging of the dreadfully inconvenient data in their climate temperature datasets, so that the past becomes inexplicably cooler, highlighting how much warmer it must be now – though we might not have noticed it – thereby “proving” (ha-ha) the otherwise questionable predictions of global warming from the IPCC climate models and the POTUS.

    Under such circumstances, where there are these pesky debates, we could do much worse than recommend the adoption of the motto of the Royal Society – “Nullius in verba.” – literally, “Take nobody’s word for it; see for yourself”. Though it is a motto the RS would seem to have all but abandoned over the last decade, there’s no reason why the man in the street could not take it up. If we chose not to do that, then that could indicate that we are happy to let other “better” people do our thinking for us.

    I was reminded of this when I and other parents were asked to critique and comment on my daughter’s school’s draft strategic plan a few months back. In the plan, it was claimed that the school’s all-girl population of students was “very diverse” reflecting the cosmopolitan nature of the city population which it catered for. As my daughter had been studying statistics, I suggested that we could use this to do some statistical verification, and get some practice using Microsoft Excel as a tool for statistical analysis. So we collected the published census data on the ethnicity of the local city population, and compared that to the ethnicity of the school’s rolls over the last couple of years.
    What a surprise. Far from showing any correspondence, the reality was that the school was ethnocentric, where a relatively small ethnic minority in the city data was represented by 71% of the students in the school!, and the most prevalent ethnic groups in the city data was only marginally represented in the rolls. I found that actually quite funny, it was so absurd. It gave a whole new meaning to the term “very diverse”.

    So, I decided not to make any comment about the school’s strategic plan, as it would have been un-PC to do so, under the circumstances. The school’s governing board can remain in la-la land with their cherished beliefs/illusions intact, and my daughter is being moved to another school where, hopefully, they might have a better understanding of the theory and application/use of mathematics and statistics in everyday life.

  • Laird

    “this isn’t limited to a literal printing of paper money”

    Don’t we all know this by now? Do I really have to repeat it every time I talk about expansion of the monetary base?

    And yes, the odds of me or anyone I know being killed by terrorists are infinitesimal, but they are not zero. Moreover, whatever the actual odds may be, they have in fact gone up substantially over the last decade or so. Given the entirely random nature of such attacks, to have a generalized fear of them is not irrational.

  • Darrell

    And yet Yeats’ The Second Coming comes to mind.

  • john malpas

    Once upon a time children could walk alone to school. Now they seem to need heavy protection.
    Children could play outside all day. No problems.
    And now it is safer?

  • Once upon a time children could walk alone to school. Now they seem to need heavy protection.

    And do they in fact need that protection in the USA? Certainly in the UK, I see pasty faced sprogs walking to school all the time.

    And now it is safer?

    So then provide some evidence that children are being attacked, kidnapped, abducted by aliens or whatever, in numbers they were not before, say, 20 or 30 years ago.

  • Fraser Orr

    I agree with half the article. I think there is little doubt (in fact objective statistics demonstrate undeniably) that we are safer. When I was a kid it was pretty much assumed that the USSR were going to eventually bomb us. 4 minutes. I remember it well.

    However, the contention was that we were living in a society that is both safer and saner. I am far from convinced that the world around me is saner than it was when I was a kid. We see examples of this insanity here on this blog all the time. What about the recent discussion of free speech on campus? There were no speech codes, no “no-platforming”, no students invading the dean’s office when I went to Uni.

    And I was just talking about the national debt to someone else. Look at this graph: it tells the story of the national debt of the USA from its founding (as a pct of gdp):

    http://www.usgovernmentspending.com/spending_chart_1792_2016USp_17s1li0181110_967cs_H0f_US_Federal_Debt_Since_The_Founding

    You can see American history in this chart. Every war sees a peak and a drop off. But most notable is what happened with our current president. Look at the graph. During his tenure the debt went up about the same rate it did as in World War II. How is that sane? How is it sane that the United States spends a TRILLION dollars more than it raises in taxes? How is it sane that, despite that fact, they seem determined to keep adding NEW entitlement programs?

    Political correctness didn’t really exist when I was a kid, global warming nonsense didn’t exist when I was a kid. etc. etc.

    So safer yes. Saner, probably not.

  • Regional

    How many perps are in America’s prisons?

  • Runcie Balspune

    Perhaps the argument for a safer world is true, but as for saner?

    The line between fascism and communism is vanishingly thin, their history littered with millions of corpses is testament to that, yet I find it abhorrent that, especially since the end of the Cold War, there is still a warm fuzzy feeling for communism, from the Che T-Shirt to surprising popular support for proto-communist leaders such as Corbyn, or left-leaners such as Sanders, it as if all that disgust that used to exist for fascists has been locked away as “not the done thing”, and an enormous outpouring of “understanding” has taken hold, and it’s something to be tolerated, embraced, given (yet) another chance even, would the same have been said of fascists? The same applies to religion, whereas progressives of yore had finished stamping Christianity’s face into the mud, they don’t seem to have the same regard for other faiths, particularly those who make Christianity’s foibles look like a quaint and eccentric tea party.

    This is the insanity, not the Einstein one of repeating past mistakes, but one where you’ve found the right answer but have willfully disregarded it.

  • So safer yes. Saner, probably not.

    Yes, perhaps that is true. I was fixated on the “safer” bit, which is manifestly true at the time of writing, but I agree that it is very questionable indeed if the world is a saner place.

  • Alisa

    If kids in the West no longer roam freely outdoors, it is because of their safety-obsessed parents and “educators”. I was going to add that I fail to understand this ongoing obsession with safety – but the truth is, I do understand it: it has its roots in the self-inflicted illusion that the world in which we live can somehow be made safe. Of course, it can’t, never was and never will be. We humans have eliminated many “natural” threats (such as those from inclement weather, wild animals and many forms of disease), but some of those threats have been replaced by “unnatural” ones (as if human violence/stupidity, or technology such as cars or guns, are somehow unnatural). So one factor that has changed compared to the “good/bad old days” is perceptions.

    The other is that we are increasingly being denied the ability to inquire, think and act on our own – in many, if not all areas of life, but specifically when it comes to our personal safety, from nearly all possible threats: we are being disinformed about health issues (such as proper nutrition, drugs, etc.); climate (heat – bad, cold – good); human motivations leading to crime and terrorism (such as poverty/religion/education/culture, and politics) and the related statistics; about economics and personal finances (saving – bad, spending – good).

    Even when we do get access to unapproved information, we are not allowed to make our own conclusions and act accordingly: try getting a full-fat burger in a regular US supermarket (because you happen to think that fat is actually good for you, i.e. makes you safer health-wise), or a gun in the numerous “gun-free” zones, communities and entire countries. And then of course there is the War on Drugs, which is being sold to us as something that should make us all safer – only it does the complete opposite.

    All that said and on further consideration, I’m not even sure that either our perceptions of relative risks, or the meddling with our personal risk management by our “betters” have changed all that much, either – proportionally to the size of population, or by some other arbitrary measure. All I can say with any certainty is what I said in the beginning of this rant: life in this world has never been safe and never will be, but it does beat the alternative.

  • bloke in spain

    ” I grew up in the 1970’s and 80’s. Britain is palpably less violent than then. ”
    Respectfully, Perry, you’re talking out your arse.
    It seems safer to you now because you’re 30 or 40 years older. How much time do you spend on the streets, apart from passing from one place to another? You’re no longer a player.
    One of the results of immigration is the country’s imported cultures from places where violence is endemic. Sure you may have encountered the odd pub-kicking-out-time brawl, back in your day. Frequently if you belonged to the being-kicked-out-of-pubs-at-closing-time classes. But that’s a whole world away from being faced with a Somali streetgang in Edmonton. Or some of the other culturtal psychopaths around. These guys are likely to escalate the slightest confrontation to violence. Knives & machetes violence.

  • polidorisghost

    Alex:
    “You can’t really fabricate murder data. Murder rates are about as reliable as you can get and, yes, murder rates are pretty good proxies for violent crime. Murder rates have been in free fall.”

    You cannot fabricate murder data perhaps, but you can change the definition of what constitutes murder and you can change medical treatment so that what constitues a “murderous” assault in one period may be mere wounding in another. I do not say that these things have happened, I just point out that they can.
    Historical conparisons are difficult to make but Alex sees certainty where none exists.

    “Also, if there has been a decrease in violence, it is only due to the erosion of real savings as Western societies fed on their seed corn for three decades.”
    Doesn’t even make sense.

    What Laird said.

  • Respectfully, Perry, you’re talking out your arse.

    The numbers do not support you, suggesting my arse is not only illuminates the room when I stand up, but also speaks the truth. Oh sure, there are some nasty pockets where Somali streetgangs may have filled the ecological niche once occupied by skinheads and the blearier ends of assorted other subcultures, but there are just a whole lot less areas like that than there were 30 years ago. Maybe you are the one who needs to widen your sample size and move around a bit more.

  • Comparing death v. wounding rates in WWII to those in the Falklands war, when (IIRC) every soldier who reached a first aid post still alive stayed alive, supports polidorisghost (July 30, 2016 at 10:56 am). Murder rates cannot easily be overstated – in a society with reasonable free access to information, one needs a body to be believed. But the converse is not so true: comparing rates during a time of medical improvement could understate them or hide a trend – that is, they could make them a false proxy for violence in general.

    As young men are the most frequent victims as well as the most frequent perpetrators, it is indeed the case that increasing age will give a perception of a decreasing trend when the trend is steady or even rising. Ideally, statistics correct that but, as noted, they can have their own problems.

    None of this of course proves Perry wrong; it merely makes his perception and reasoning less compelling. Rotherham happened. Did we hear less from Rochdale, Glasgow, etc., because Rotherham was a unique one-off that happened nowhere else and never again, or because PC is powerful? Perry (IIUC, in July 30, 2016 at 12:06 pm) suggests the perpetrators merely fill a niche that was as well populated in, say, 1990. I think they are significantly less assimilated to British culture and so significantly more violent. I also think they are significantly more protected by PC; we are less allowed to defend ourselves and can less trust our nominal defenders. Noone ever feared arrest for hate speech back then – and certainly not because they said what they thought about skinheads or football hooligans. Stories of the police arresting the landowners who complain about the illegal rave, not the ravers, or arresting the fathers who sought to rescue their daughters in Rotherham, not their abusers, became normal rather recently in my perceptions. If they were as common in 1990, I missed it.

  • I never said everything is great. I just said everything is less violent and ‘safer’. And moreover although Pakistanis and Somalis may have filled certain niches, there are less niches to fill these days, because many areas that were poor and piss stinking and now less poor and either completely or partially hipsterised. Of course that will probably change next time the bubble bursts, but that is where we are now.

  • CaptDMO

    Perry
    “And do they in fact need that protection in the USA?”
    Yes. Without it, the previously fear indoctrinated segment (1 in 5),noticing a child walking to school, or (gasp) PLAYING WITH OTHERS, without supervision, will “call it in” (911) on their ever-preset “smart” phone, resulting in “Child Protection Services”, “escorted” by armed enforcement folk..(quite correctly: “just doing our assigned job Ma’am”) taking custody, (let’s call it kidnapping) and holding them in physical/ virtual institutionalization, until an ASTONISHING amount in legal/ “professional humanities” expenses(let’s call it ransom) have been “realized”.

    All with no guaranteed resolution…as ANY respectable law enforcement folks will tell you.
    I can’t cite a “latest survey”, or “data”, of the demonstrably non zero odds, compared to…say… “being killed by a terrorist”.
    Which begs the question, Who promotes more terror (phobia)? 1 in 5, “No (social) Justice, No Peace”, “It’s for our children!”, or…say…ie “Our” (US) Ms. Clinton, or Mr. Kerry,…”Just doin’ our job Ma’am! Just following orders!”

  • Plamus

    You can’t really fabricate murder data. Murder rates are about as reliable as you can get and, yes, murder rates are pretty good proxies for violent crime. Murder rates have been in free fall. – Alex

    polidorisghost already touched on this, but… Alex, Sir, may I respectfully direct you this link. There is a lot of good info there but the money quote is:

    “Since 1967, homicide figures for England and Wales have been adjusted to exclude any cases which do not result in conviction.”

  • TomJ

    “Since 1967, homicide figures for England and Wales have been adjusted to exclude any cases which do not result in conviction.”

    That does seem rather to contradict the ONS:

    For example, when the police initially record an offence as a homicide it remains classified as such unless the police or courts decide that a lesser offence, or no offence, took place. The offence would be reclassified on the Homicide Index as ‘no longer recorded’ but remain in the main police recorded crime collection as a homicide.

  • Plamus

    TomJ, I am not an expert, but the first question that comes to mind then is do police generally record a body with a knife in its back as a homicide, or is the SOP to record it as something else? I imagine police have incentives to not have many homicides on their turf.

    My larger point, though, was that yes, you can fabricate murder data if you want to.

  • Laird

    You can fabricate any data if you have a mind to. I have a friend who has gathered physical evidence (copies of police reports, mug shots, etc.) in a nearby city showing that the ethnicities of persons involved in traffic stops is being systematically misrepresented. If there is an incentive to achieve some specific target people will find ways to do it.

  • Fraser Orr

    Couple of things. On the point that death by murder number might be lower because of improved medical care; even if you stipulate that — and there is no doubt that this is part of the reason for lower murder rates — it simply plays into the reality that the world is safer. Even if you are assaulted the world is safer for you because you are less likely to die.

    If we define “safety” to mean “less likely to die” then we can wrap the whole thing up in one number that deals with everything together and recognize that average life expectancy has gone from 71 to 81 in the 54 years between 1960 and 2014 (latest figures etc.) an annual compounded growth rate of 0.25% per year for the UK.

    https://www.google.com/publicdata/explore?ds=d5bncppjof8f9_&met_y=sp_dyn_le00_in&idim=country:GBR:USA:JPN&hl=en&dl=en

    Of course there are many reasons for that beyond reduced violence, but the claim is safety, and this is about as objective a measure of “likely to die” as there is.

  • If we define “safety” to mean “less likely to die”

    Murder rate in UK was never all that high, but I would also include in “safety” the fact there are less football riots and boozy rucks in the street.

  • Alisa

    Fraser, I’d just like to point out that the risk of any of us dying at some point is precisely 100% 😀

  • Johnathan Pearce

    I’m old enough to remember Britain in the 1970s. It was a violent and upsetting time.football violence was one example and happened every weekend. And there was plenty of nastiness in the East End, Glasgow ior Manchester. And that’s not including endless strikes and intimidation.

    Impressionistic? Maybe. But no less so than calling London Bangladesh on the Thames.

  • williatw

    “I’m old enough to remember Britain in the 1970s. It was a violent and upsetting time.football violence was one example and happened every weekend. And there was plenty of nastiness in the East End, Glasgow ior Manchester.”

    I wonder how much the proliferation of public surveillance cameras that have multiplied in Britain (especially in large cities) in the last few decades may be a major factor for the decline in crime/violence? The idea that you will be caught on camera dead to rights guilty might act as a strong impediment against an “Alex Delarge” type “Clockwork Orange” rumble behavior?

  • john malpas

    It is worth noting that Britain started to die in the seventies at the hands of it leaders. And truth died with it.
    As for murder being a measure not all murders involve a body with an unatural hole in it. And ‘natural causes’ to so much more convenient a label.
    As well where do so many die. In hospital – and whether from the Liverpool enthusiasts, or rotting in your own neglected filth or at the hand of a poorly trained ethnic . You is still dead. But not ‘murdered’.

  • lucklucky

    Is crime being more or less reported in Britain?

  • Fraser Orr

    Alisa
    > Fraser, I’d just like to point out that the risk of any of us dying at some point is precisely 100%

    Yes, but the risk of us dying at any particular moment is lower, thankfully.

  • Reading the comments, seeing which decades people (including myself) pick to boost their points, I get the impression 1950s peaceful, 1970s violent, 1990s peaceful, 2010s violent.

    In the US, murder rates are rising, but not yet where they were at the end of the 1970s. In the UK, perhaps the same could be said – allowing for the strange things the Home Office has done with the statistics.

    Those who do not learn from the past are condemned to relive it. I therefore think it sane to be concerned about safety, not despite today not being the 1970s but precisely because I don’t want to go back there or worse. So – over and above what I said about Mark Manson specifically in the last paragraph of Niall Kilmartin, July 29, 2016 at 7:25 pm – I think his sentiment unhelpful. Let’s know the data by all means – and then still address today’s trends and their causes.

  • Greytop

    Cannot agree, sorry. We are only ‘safer’ because we have the means to avoid going where trouble may lurk. Getting into the car and driving to the local supermarket, where under the gaze of security ‘guards’ watching CCTV we can move about relatively without trouble, or ordering things online means we don’t have to interact with the underclass as much. Once many of us had to do everything where everyone else was (such as using public transport), and while it was generally wise to stay away from drunks at closing time, the nature of violence has become more widespread and unexpected. Today it is more random in locality and a lot more organised in terms of political lunacy.

    It is hard to think of an event like Nice, say, occurring thirty or forty years ago. Since 9/11 we are all fair targets for every brand of nutcase, and the advance of some technologies (such as the emergence of mobile phones as remote triggers for home-made bombs) means the perp doesn’t even have to be near the trouble they are making.

    These days a lot of crime is regarded as minor and goes unreported: many incidents are purely an ‘insurance claim’ issue. Yet the police, who we once turned to for backbone, are too busy chasing people who have failed to adhere to Fecesbook’s terms and conditions. Along the way all sorts of politicians and ‘experts’ have learned how to manipulate data too show we are safer and happier.

    We can’t be safer if only because we are limited in our responses to problems. When I was a kid and I got into scrap with another kid (not often, I hasten to add) someone would likely or not yank me away and either clip my ear or threaten to tell my parents. The cops needn’t be involved. But now they would be not because of the fight, but because anyone touching a child in a fight would be accused of all sorts of heinous crimes. No surprise that many people avoid stepping in and stopping petty crime, and no, you definitely cannot fight back as the perp is now a ‘victim of society’ where once he or she was a twat of the first water.

    So are we safer over the last forty years or so? Nope. It only looks that way through the rose-tinted specs of our ‘leaders.’

  • It is hard to think of an event like Nice, say, occurring thirty or forty years ago

    Really? I find it quite easy to imagine, it just would have been a bomb in a busy pub instead.

    Since 9/11 we are all fair targets for every brand of nutcase…

    Sorry but terrorism did not start after 9/11, even if it seems that way to some Americans. I grew up on the UK when it was being bombed by Irish terrorists: I was about 70 yards away from one atrocity when it happened in 1981. Spanish people grew up with Basque terrorism. In Germany, Italy, France, they all had their nutters too: OAS, Red Army Faction, Red Brigades, Action directe, etc etc..

    So I would have to disagree. Bad shit still happens, but on average yes, we are safer now. It might well not last of course, indeed it probably won’t, but that is where we are now.

  • Greytop

    Perry: the actions of the IRA were dreadful and yes, it happened more than thirty or forty years ago.

    But you miss the point. Driving a lorry into crowd of what might be called holiday-makers differs not in its murderous intent but in its application. A bomb aimed at possibly British soldiers off duty is terrible, but the targeting of people in the open air takes some new perversion. Crowds are targets now.

    I did not say by the way that terrorism started after 9/11. The shape and intent of it changed. Destroying a society by random targeting is no longer an attempt by one faction to gain control of a specific area, unless you define islam as wanting to make all territories theirs. I am not, incidentally, American. Working class English for what it’s worth.

    Again, if you think we are safer now I think with the greatest respect you haven’t been taking notice.

  • Crowds are targets now.

    But they always were. That was why I used the example of a pub bomb. Or I could have mentioned other attacks on crowds in train stations, or indeed trains.

    This is not something new since 9/11. We may well stop being safer in the not too distant future, but I do not see the evidence for that yet.

  • Paul Marks

    Mr Manson is mistaken.

    I do not know about “the world” – but Britain and the United States are certainly less (not more) “safe” now than they were in, say, the 1950s.

    As for “sane” – nothing now is sane.

    Everything from doctrine that all the basic things of life (education, healthcare, old age provision and so on) must be a de facto monopoly of the state, to the Credit Bubble financial system (based on zero interest rates for the connected – and endless Central Bank government backing) is insane – not sane.

    Indeed the more I think about the quote the more annoying it is.

    Look at some photographs of even Afghanistan in the 1960s and compare what you see to today.

    Which is more “sane”?

    As for own town – nothing here makes sense.

    The population is greater than ever (eating up woods and fields with endless houses and other….) yet we produce LESS than we used to, vastly less.

    Only a handful of factories.

    I am not Protectionist (taxes on imports and so on are the WRONG way to go) – but people who think we can just carry on buying imported goods on credit (a country living on the “never-never” as the saying used to be) really are “insane”.

    Real policy changes are needed.

    And we will not get real change by people saying that things have never been as “safe” or “sane” as they are now.

  • Marcher

    but Britain and the United States are certainly less (not more) “safe” now than they were in, say, the 1950s.

    Maybe not the 1950’s, albeit the risk of global nuclear annihilation was probably at least an order of magnitude greater then.

    Look at some photographs of even Afghanistan in the 1960s and compare what you see to today.

    He is clearly not talking about Afghanistan, so frankly who cares?

    And he is also clearly not talking about economic security (did you actually read the article???), so that part of your comment is irrelevant. He is talking about physical actual safety. And that is clearly true now vs. 1960-2000.

  • Rich Rostrom

    One point: 20% of the world’s population is now safer and more prosperous than at any time in the previous 200 years – the people of China. The present government has many flaws, but it is a huge improvement over Mao, or the Japanese invaders, or the warlords, or the late Qing Empire (which provoked multiple million-death rebellions).

    There are other measures.

    Europe has been almost entirely peaceful in the 70 years since V-E Day. Compare to the allegedly peaceful century between 1815 and 1915, which was marked by

    – two Carlist wars in Spain
    – two wars between Austria and Italy
    – war between Austria and France
    – war between Austria and Prussia
    – war between France and Prussia
    – two wars between Russia and Turkey
    – three Balkan Wars
    – war between Serbia and Bulgaria
    – the Crimean War
    – the Hungarian rebellion of 1848
    – the Polish rebellions of 1831 and 1863
    – the Greek war of independence
    – two Schleswig Wars
    – the Swiss civil war
    – the Italo-Turkish War

    That’s a lot of wars. Our present conditions are much quieter, I’d say.

  • The inherited momentum of the past can make things better while the growing momentum of the present to make them worse does not yet, statistically overcome it. (Perry, I note, comments that things may be worse in future but “it has not happened yet”.) But one can also look at the wrong things. Ellen Power’s short essay on the fall of the Roman Empire, written in 1939 (as the reader can easily tell) has the lapidary sentence, “Their roads grew better as their statesmanship grew worse and central heating triumphed as civilization fell.”

    A minor surprise to me, rereading her essay to check my quote, was that some of it seems to apply as much or more to our day as to hers. Such remarks as

    “Why did they not realize the magnitude of the disaster that was befalling them? This is indeed a question almost as absorbing as the question why their civilization fell, for au fond it is perhaps the same question.”

    and, among her guessed answers,

    “Most potent of all was the fact that they mistook entirely the very nature of civilization itself. All of them were making the same mistake. People who thought that Rome could swallow barbarism and absorb it into her life without diluting her own civilization; the people who ran about busily saying that the barbarians were not such bad fellows after all, finding good points in their regime with which to castigate the Romans …”

    I’m reading a social and economic history of the Roman Empire (in bits – it’s dull work even for me 🙂 ) that shows how, after the inflationary disaster of the 3rd century AD, the Romans never restored sanity to their silver and copper coinage. Only gold (the province of the rich) was coined sanely. That too sometimes feels like it parallels our own time.

    I don’t of course truly regret the demise of Rome; it’s not an easy civilisation to warm to. But it can teach lessons.

  • But it can teach lessons.

    Perhaps it can indeed.

  • bloke in spain

    ” Maybe you are the one who needs to widen your sample size and move around a bit more.” says Perry.
    I spent my last few years in the UK living in a gentrified suburb of North London. In which time I was the subject of three (unsuccessful) attempts at violent street robbery. (Unsuccessful, because I can be a whole lot more violent than most street robbers). A nearby neighbour bled out on her own front doorstep at 8:00am following botched robbery attempt. My areas of interest included Tottenham & the less salubrious parts of Hackney & Islington. I was picking up the bread from the Turkish bakery in Green Lanes when some of the locals had themselves a gunfight. You ever heard an automatic weapon in action? Not saying hearing occasional shots in the night are particularly rare, thereabouts. Guns are fashion accessories with certain groups & require demonstrating. Shooting up the Caribbean Social Centre, wounding a young girl in the process, is one way.
    Coincidentally, I also lived in this area back in your “violent” seventies. Back in Hornsey College of Art days. When it was bedsit land with a flavour of Irish. Girlfriend of the time used to gig at the Queens. Except I don’t recall any violence & certainly not street robbery. Nor in Camden. Another place I’d be wary, these days.
    Do you not think there’s a reason I’ve removed to Pussycatville on Med? Being able to go out of an evening without precaution’s, one of them.

  • You ever heard an automatic weapon in action?

    Many times, used a few myself in fact… but not in Notting Hill 😉

    Must be when in Hackney & Islington, I have been keeping to the more salubrious areas.

  • bloke in spain

    No Perry, I can’t imagine you straying far north up Ladbroke Grove 🙂
    (But quite strange seeing All Saints Road, these days. WTF happened? Yuppies I suppose. I was living in Powis Square, round about the time “Performance” was shot. I think that’s where they did the exteriors. F**k knows why they bothered about building sets for it. Just needed to ring on the doorbell. We probable could even have rustled up two bi-sexual women in a bath, if they’d asked nicely. Certainly had Mark Bolan camping there at one point.)

  • Clicking on my own link at Niall Kilmartin, August 1, 2016 at 8:25 am, I realise you have to navigate in to Ellen’s book “Mediaeval People”, thence to her first chapter “The Precursors” to read the essay I was talking about. I’m not sure why the link behaves that way, but if anyone wants to read a shortish essay that is eloquently-written history of the end of the Roman Empire but also yells “I was written in 1938-9” at you, that’s how to find it.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    Manson gives us a list of horribles he’s personally lived through, then asserts the safety of the modern world.

    Both can be true: if we remember only yesterday, the world is safe; if we remember the last twenty years, it’s chaotic. What the Internet has given us is a long-term, widely-available, detailed grasp of events over time that we never had before, and our worries for the future have expanded as our definition of the present has.

  • Laird

    Niall, that looks like a fascinating book. Thanks for the link.