We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

A logical danger in PC illogic

(Normal service – i.e. prose – will be resumed promptly. I promised a follow-up poem about its being too easy to rebut the race scammers – or ‘race hustlers’ as is, I believe, the US term. Here it is.)

ADVICE TO A CAMPUS RADICAL

When true statements are uttered by those you despise,
It’s not logical (nor helpful, narrative-wise)
To shout “racist”, as if hearers will not realise
That from true factual statements do not follow lies.

Don’t unwittingly justify what you oppose,
by discarding all logic for wokeness, like those
intellectuals lacking in intellect who
‘prove’ some true facts are racist (so racism’s true?).

When exam results don’t match what you want them to,
When too few of the prize winners have the ‘right’ hue,
Do not claim that it’s racist to add two and two:
“Mathematics is racist!” says “Racism’s true”.

If school discipline policies are colour-blind
and offender percentage results in each kind
are unequal, don’t say that is racist to do:
saying “colour-blind’s racist” says “racism’s true”.

That slavery is ancient, you should not deny,
Nor that blacks sold the blacks that white traders did buy,
Nor that one culture banned it and forced others to,
Nor that these truths aren’t racist (else racism’s true).

Falsifiable claims enforced by a loud few
Do not silence the minds whose mouths dare not argue;
Best let doubters weed errors in free speech review.
Don’t say free speech is racist; free speech finds what’s true.

Sadly, say what I like about freedom of speech.
How ‘respect’ means first hearing the viewpoint of each,
And how more diverse thoughts could expand your thought’s reach,
Your thought is:   we listen, while you alone teach.

When you welcome illegals, but back of the queue
Is where you put the Copt, Venezuelan or Jew
(anti-‘Zionist’ immigrants being welcome too)
It appears that some racism’s OK by you.

Know from false ideologies, falsehood derives:
You’ll be spreading the hatred, you claiming the lives.
If you war against truths then you will evil do,
For no truth can be racist – else racism’s true.

25 comments to A logical danger in PC illogic

  • CaptDMO

    OK, I think it may be a good time to have a chat about… rhythm.

  • llamas

    I can’t find an error in scansion. This has a strong flavor of Kipling, which may be why I like it. The humble lyricist tips his hat and nominates Niall Kilmartin as Samizdata’s Poet Laureate.

    llater,

    llamas

  • bobby b

    “If school discipline policies are colour-blind
    and offender percentage results in each kind
    are unequal, don’t say that is racist to do:
    saying “colour-blind’s racist” says “racism’s true”.”

    Good catch in a fun poem!

    Tying together two threads, Julie near Chicago earlier pointed out the Center of the American Experiment – a Minnesota group for which I WILL vouch – whose Katherine Kersten did the yoeman’s work in bringing this particular topic to public attention.

    (John Hinderaker, the Powerline writer cited in this passage, is the chair of the CAE.)

    Yay for my homeboys!

  • llamas (August 28, 2019 at 3:35 pm) you are a little (only a little, I hope) too kind to say there is not a single error in the scansion. AFAICS, the de-de-DAH (times 4) rhythm goes with the natural word stress almost everywhere (I think) but there are three exceptions, one intended, one fairly natural and one a genuine failure of mine to get perfect combination. In

    Sadly, SAY what I LIKE about FREEdom of SPEECH.
    How ‘respECT’ means first HEARing the VIEWpoint of EACH,
    And how MORE diverse THOUGHTS could expAND your thought’s REACH,

    it is intentional to break the rhythm and have a short line – the only one in the poem – so one can equally-emphasise the first three words in

    (Pause)YOUR THOUGHT IS: we LISten, while YOU alone TEACH.

    By contrast, slavery is not pronounced slaVERy but it can naturally be pronounced with equal stresses, so it is no poetic device, but natural enough, to read that line

    That slavery is ANCient, you SHOULD not denY,

    (It helps that it’s the first line of its verse.)

    However, there is nothing I can say to defend the last stress in

    Do not SILence the MINDS whose mouths DARE not argUE;

    You just have to read argue equally-stressed and do the best you can. A better poet would have postponed publishing till he had recast the line. Mea Culpa.

    Ideally, of course, a poem reads so naturally that the thought expressed in the poem, not the poem itself, becomes the focus of discussion. 🙂 So I appreciate bobby b’s comment.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    The paradox you point out in the last line of several verses of your poem reminded me of a post of mine from a couple of years ago that I shall take the liberty of quoting:

    On similar grounds, I think it is a fool’s errand to try and promote a non-racial patriotism by claims that “Britain has always been a nation of immigrants” or by exaggerating the number of black people who lived here centuries ago. I am all for non-racial patriotism, but, sorry, no. The arrival of a few tens of thousands of Huguenots or Jews did not equate to the mass immigration of the last few decades. The migrations into Britain that were comparable in scale to that were invasions. And while there were certainly some “Aethiopians” and “blackamoores” living here in Tudor times, for instance, their numbers were so low that to most of the white inhabitants they were a wonder.

    For those that know their history, to read the line “Britain has always been a nation of immigrants” promotes scorn. When those who at first did not know the facts finally find them out, their reaction is cynicism. Worse yet, this slogan suggests that love of country for a black or ethnic minority Briton should depend on irrelevancies such as whether the borders were continually porous through many centuries, or on whether people ethnically similar them happen to have been here since time immemorial. (The latter idea is another “very odd corner” for progressives to have painted themselves into.) If either of these claims turns out to be false, what then?

  • This article on PC bias in the field of criminology has some examples of the kind of “truth is racist” dogmas that demonstrate the logical (and, crime being an emotive subject, emotional) concerns of my poem (h/t instapundit).

  • bobby b

    “This article on PC bias . . . “

    Some years ago – early 90’s – as a new lawyer working for a judge, I was on a committee (as an amanuensis) amending and updating my state’s Rules of Criminal Procedure. These are the rules which govern how criminal cases are handled throughout their court existence.

    The sentiment from on high – our state’s Governor and legislators – was for us to be mindful that “all of the experts” were convinced that our society imprisoned people too easily, and for too long. We were to keep that thought in mind as we honed the rules.

    The sentiments from everyone in those rooms who had ever been connected with the criminal justice system – prosecutors, judges, defense lawyers – was the opposite. It was too hard to put bad people away, and the sentences were generally too light. 2% of the population was making life miserable for the other 98%, and our “modern” application of criminology was forcing us to release them too soon. James Q. Wilson hadn’t written his books yet, but when he did, they mirrored what we all were thinking.

    But we couldn’t say that publicly. Oh, my, no.

    Heather McDonald, in her works through City Journal, was one of the first to begin to write such things – Wright and Delisi carried her torch further in this article – but one still sees people – even people running this blog – making the charge that the USA imprisons too many.

    As a former defense attorney, I’ll say that we imprison too few, for too short a time. Not a very libertarian position, I know, but when theory conflicts with actual direct experience, theory has to give way.

  • bobby b

    “James Q. Wilson hadn’t written his books yet . . . “

    Correction: I just pulled down my copy of Crime and Human Nature. 1985. So he had written his books by then – I just hadn’t seen them yet. Oops.

  • Julie near Chicago

    “..[W]hen theory conflicts with actual direct experience, theory has to give way.”

    bobby, how could you write such a thing?!! The very sturdiest and most devastating weapon we have against the evils that trouble every step of our journey through the jungle of Reality is this pithy little principle beloved of all intelligent people over the age of 6 1/2:

    When the facts conflict with the theory, so much the worse for the facts.

    This is the rule that shows how much the Great Frog loves us: He/it/she has sent it to us as a get-out-of-jail-free card.

    Use it wisely, well, and often. You will sleep much better at night (unless you’re sleeping under the pergola when it collapses).

  • This quote from Koestler’s “Darkness at Noon” speaks to the psychology of the radicals who tell these lies:

    “What was presented as right had to glitter like gold, and what was presented as wrong had to appear as black as pitch, while political confessions of faith and guilt were made to look colourful, like the gingerbread men sold at the fair.”

    Encourage someone in this habit when they are young enough to “literally know nothing”, as Ben Rhodes mocked the eagerly ignorant ‘journalists’ he propagandised, and the habit will cling to them as they grow older and (yet) more self-aware of what they are doing.

    It does sometimes happen that such people wake up one morning and discover they “literally believe nothing”. They don’t always become better for that, of course, but when they don’t, they can become a burden to their own selflishly-still-clung-to side.

    (H/t thenewneo commenter who reminded me of the quote by using it about the Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas accusations.)

  • Nullius in Verba

    “The very sturdiest and most devastating weapon we have against the evils that trouble every step of our journey through the jungle of Reality is this pithy little principle beloved of all intelligent people over the age of 6 1/2: When the facts conflict with the theory, so much the worse for the facts.”

    It can be a consideration. Humans are fallible, in all things. Their understanding of the facts as well as the theory can be in error. If the theory is coherent and strongly backed by a large body of prior evidence, and new alledged “facts” have no consistent theoretical framework in which to fit them, and no explanation for their disagreement with all those prior considerations, the question must be considered open. Maybe our understanding of the theory is wrong. Maybe our understanding of the “facts” is wrong. Maybe our judgement that there is a disagreement between them is wrong, because it would not be the first time that a theory was misunderstood, and thought to imply consequences it does not in fact imply. Sometimes competing theories that seem to be in opposition are in fact not, because they’re talking about different things, applicable in different circumstances, seeking different aims, talking past one another.

    “The sentiment from on high – our state’s Governor and legislators – was for us to be mindful that “all of the experts” were convinced that our society imprisoned people too easily, and for too long. We were to keep that thought in mind as we honed the rules.

    The sentiments from everyone in those rooms who had ever been connected with the criminal justice system – prosecutors, judges, defense lawyers – was the opposite. It was too hard to put bad people away, and the sentences were generally too light.”

    OK. We have one set of experts saying one thing, another set of experts saying something different. As I’m sure you can imagine, I’m no fan of Argument from Authority! So neither observation on its own is determinative. It’s a fact that the experts disagree. It’s a fact that we have two bodies of theory, one arguing that imprisonment is too often chosen and doesn’t work for the purpose of protecting society, the other that it is too hard to achieve, and is insufficiently applied for protecting society. The fact of the theoretical positions disagreeing doesn’t tell us anything at all about which (if either) is right. That can only be determined from the bodies of evidence (“fact”) on which the two theoretical positions are based.

    I read nothing in to the observation that none of that evidence is mentioned above – you can’t fit an entire debate into a blog comment. (Although I often try! 🙂 ) But I’m aware of some of the academic debate on criminology, and their arguments that imprisonment doesn’t work to reform prisoners, does little to deter criminality, costs society a great deal to operate relative to its benefits, and does nothing at all to fix the economic, social, cultural, educational, or regulatory reasons for crime to exist, and be as high as it is. Prison damages people, it doesn’t heal them, and the consequences of having a criminal record makes it far harder, not easier, for released prisoners to lead a law-abiding life. That it primarily satisfies an emotional need among the public to lash out and punish those they are angry with and about.

    I’m also aware that policemen and prosecutors, concentrated as they are by their job description on “putting bad people away”, find these sorts of considerations frustrating. If your aim is to put bad people away, that’s obvious. If your aim is to turn bad people into good people, or to reduce the social impact of bad people on society, it’s not nearly so obvious that we’re all talking about the same thing.

    Yes, 2% of the population is making life miserable for the other 98%. Why? Why those 2%? What stops the other 98% from doing so? Why do those factors not apply to the 2%? What can we do most cost-effectively to change that for the better? Does punishment work? Does it work better than the alternatives? Where’s the quantified, verifiable evidence?

    “27 But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you,

    28 Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.

    29 And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloak forbid not to take thy coat also.

    30 Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again.”

    That’s hard! That’s also very hard to understand – how can that possibly be right?! It goes against everything we believe about law and justice, and everything J’s contemporaries believed about law and justice. Why did he say it? What was he talking about? What’s the argument for it? What would be the consequences of society operating as Jesus proposed?

    While I certainly don’t agree with the Christian position, I think it represents one early historical recognition that eye-for-an-eye retribution is not necessarily the only or the best route to ending the conflict.

    I’m no expert on the subject of criminology. But I’m not convinced this is a simple case of facts-versus-theory: there are multiple arguments from different sides that all have to be taken seriously. If your ‘facts’ disagree with someone else’s theory, I don’t think we can take it for granted that ‘facts’ should always win! 🙂

  • We have one set of experts saying one thing, another set of experts saying something different. (Nullius in Verba, September 18, 2019 at 3:12 pm)

    I suspect bobby b’s “on high” remark was a hint that these two groups consist of theoretical experts with no skin in the game as against actual hands-on experience people (not ‘experts’) who would experience benefits and losses from better and worse approaches much more immediately than the ‘experts’, whose incentives were well decoupled from them.

    The US (in effect) conducted a large scale experiment in imprisoning more or less versus attempting rehabilitation more or less. In the 60s, the ‘experts’ bobby speaks of became powerful. There are many quotable examples of their explaining (at high levels of government) that prison did not work, that rehabilitation would, and of their mocking – sometimes in the most literal sense – people who claimed that the large reductions they were proposing in likelihood and duration of imprisonment would cause more crime, not less.

    It is well known that crime rates increased greatly for a period in the late sixties and thereafter. Pressure from the voters to restore former levels of punishment appeared almost immediately – it had never really ceased – but the influence of those opposed to it also increased and they were able to defy voter pressure and continue to pursue their approach for a long time. (It helped that much of the media were on-board and worked to minimise, or distract from, how great the change of policy was.)

    The US legal system is in some ways more responsive to voter pressure than any other and eventually the pressure for more incarceration won: ‘zero-tolerance’ policies, mandatory sentencing to constrain no-longer-trusted judges, Giuliani’s approach in New York, etc., all were enforced over the bitter opposition of those who had made the 60s-and-after changes (except where they changed their minds, which some did).

    It is well known there was a decline in crime rates.

    In the real world, where conscious experiments cannot be done on such a scale – and often not at all – this kind of evidence is usually as good as it gets. To summarise:

    – In the 60s, a philosophy opposed to mass incarceration and insisting on rehabilitation made many explicit quotable predictions that its methods would mean less crime, and won the power to put many of its ideas into practice. The predictions were rapidly falsified but the predictors remained powerful and continued their practices, providing more data.

    – After quite some time, voters compelled a return to incarceration. Supporters of that approach also made predictions about its reducing crime. Those predictions have a better track record.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “In the 60s, the ‘experts’ bobby speaks of became powerful. There are many quotable examples of their explaining (at high levels of government) that prison did not work, that rehabilitation would, and of their mocking – sometimes in the most literal sense – people who claimed that the large reductions they were proposing in likelihood and duration of imprisonment would cause more crime, not less.”

    Mmm. Possibly so. But so far as I can see, incarcerations rates didn’t actually drop in the 1960s, and the eventual change after 1980 wasn’t to “former levels”.
    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/54/US_incarceration_timeline-clean.svg

    A lot of things changed in American society during the 1960s. Likewise when it fell again after 1990. How do we identify a particular cause for the effect out of the many hundreds of possibilities?

    It doesn’t matter for the current discussion – I don’t particularly want to get into an extended debate on the anomalous US prison population (any more than I wanted to get dragged in earlier to the similar statistical quagmire of the correlation-implies-causation racism theories alluded to above). It was just to make the minor point that “facts” are not always what they appear to be at first glance, and “theory” has often been created over a long period of time from a different and sometimes broader set of facts that also have to be taken into account. Every conflict between fact and theory has to be judged on its own merits.

  • bobby b

    “But I’m aware of some of the academic debate on criminology, and their arguments that imprisonment doesn’t work to reform prisoners, does little to deter criminality . . . “

    Everyone always seems to skip over the best argument when composing these lists about imprisonment.

    When someone is in prison, they cannot commit more crimes against their fellow citizens.

    I sat through a number of “public comment” sessions listening to law-abiding people in poor areas beg the rulemakers to get the bad element out of their neighborhoods and into prison. I listened to lots of police testimony about how targeting and incarcerating three or five specific people transformed neighborhoods from hellholes to bearable places.

    Provided we supply them with all of their constitutional rights and protections, I have no problem with putting a four-five-six-time felon away for life. (Not death – life.)

  • Nullius in Verba

    “When someone is in prison, they cannot commit more crimes against their fellow citizens.”

    ?!! Their fellow prisoners are also fellow citizens!

    But if that’s the requirement, there are lots of other things you could do that would also guarantee they’re not committing crimes. Like the ‘Big Brother’ solution. Get them a job, or put them on training courses, monitor their desk or workbench, make sure they don’t leave the workplace during work hours. Get them a house, rig it with cameras, monitor them there. Or get them a different set of “buddies” who they’re required to stick with, who can keep an eye on them and teach them how to behave. Or have them in a prison, but structure it like the outside world, where they have a lot of autonomy, go to work, earn the money, go shopping, get leisure time, but where they’re continually monitored and scrutinised to enforce the law at all times.

    It’s sheer madness to lock them up in tiny bare concrete boxes with hordes of MS13 gang members and leave them unsupervised to sort out their own pecking order! Sure, while they’re in they’re only stabbing, murdering, and raping one another, but unless you’re going to keep them there for life, they’re going to be ten times as bad when you let them out.

    “I listened to lots of police testimony about how targeting and incarcerating three or five specific people transformed neighborhoods from hellholes to bearable places.”

    Excellent! Demonstrable results! Identify the problem people, and get them out of the community, fine. But is incarceration the only thing you can possibly do with them when they’re out?

  • Gavin Longmuir

    NIV: “Like the ‘Big Brother’ solution. Get them a job, or put them on training courses, monitor their desk or workbench, make sure they don’t leave the workplace during work hours. Get them a house, rig it with cameras, monitor them there. etc. etc.”

    And send you the bill, NIV?

    When societies were poorer, citizens could not afford the luxury of paying to look after those who broke the laws. Hence cheap punishments which were hopefully severe enough to discourage others — from Englishmen getting hanged for stealing a sheep to Arab thieves having a hand cut off. Definitely cruel — but people were poor, and what else could they do?

    Now we think we are rich — but every one of us could still think of better uses for our taxes than giving accommodation, meals, libraries, and health care to those who have broken laws. Bobby is right — the most important thing is to get violent criminals out of communities. But what to do with them is not an easy question in a world of limited resources.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “And send you the bill, NIV?”

    Are you saying you’re not going to send me the tax bill for your prisons??! Every one of us could think of better uses for our taxes than giving accommodation, meals, libraries, and health care to those who have broken laws – but isn’t that exactly what prisons are? My example would mean that they’re expected to work to pay their own living expenses, same as everyone else does. Maybe it would be more expensive. Maybe not.

    Interesting to see there’s less objection to state-run prisons than state-run welfare, though.

    But whatever.

  • Gavin Longmuir

    NIV — We are in complete agreement that prisons are expensive, wasteful, and inefficient. The high recidivism rate shows that they are not effective in reforming law-breakers. But what are we to do instead? Ideally, we want some system that will deter other people from breaking the law; if possible, reform the law-breaker into a productive contributing citizen; and be affordable.

    In earlier days, instead of hanging an Englishman for stealing a sheep, he could be shipped to Australia, put to work, and flogged regularly. These days, it seems that we have so tied ourselves in well-intended knots that we are out of options.

  • “When someone is in prison, they cannot commit more crimes against their fellow citizens.”

    there are lots of other things you could do that would also guarantee they’re not committing crimes. Like the ‘Big Brother’ solution. Get them a job, (Nullius in Verba, September 18, 2019 at 9:19 pm)

    Such ideas were tried a lot in the period I mentioned, Nullius. One case was the murderer who wrote to Gore Vidal about the evils of prison. Gore and friends got him out and got him a job – and of course Big Brother was watching (probation and all that), with all the efficiency we expect of the state. One night in a restaurant, he got angry with a waiter who had brought him the wrong cutlery for the dish he had ordered, and used the knife (presumably the ‘wrong’ knife) to end the waiter’s life – after which he was returned to jail, with a very very slightly and briefly embarrassed Gore Vidal choosing to move on to highlighting other iniquities of US justice.

    I find the idea that “get them a job” could compete with bobby b’s “put them in jail” as a ‘guarantee’ of preventing them committing crimes quite strange. I also note that the job they are ‘got’ is presumably at the expense of some other applicant whose ‘crime’ is not to have committed any.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “NIV — We are in complete agreement that prisons are expensive, wasteful, and inefficient. The high recidivism rate shows that they are not effective in reforming law-breakers. But what are we to do instead?”

    We must do something!
    This is something.
    Therefore, we must do this.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Politician%27s_syllogism

    “I find the idea that “get them a job” could compete with bobby b’s “put them in jail” as a ‘guarantee’ of preventing them committing crimes quite strange.”

    The ‘get them a job’ bit is not the guarantor of crime prevention.

    The point is that you have to figure out what’s gone wrong with them to make them a criminal, and fix it. You have to teach them how to behave and live their life in accordance with the law. If their problem is they’re illiterate and can’t get a job, and so turned to burglary to survive, then the answer is to teach them to read. If their problem is drug adiction, then get them off drugs, and teach them how to resist the temptation. If their problem is they’re psychologically messed up and have impulse control and anger management issues, then get them into therapy, and teach them techniques and give them practice in dealing with adversity and frustration. Getting them a job and having them live a normal life (under close supervision) is just a part of their training in how to live a normal life. It is not itself the fix to their problems.

    If you own a car with wonky brakes you can:
    a) Get the brakes fixed, test that they’re fixed in a safe area, then drive the car;
    b) Send the car to the scrapyard permanently and get another car;
    c) Park the car in a damp and miserable lock-up for five years, then take it out and drive it away;
    d) Say “It’s not the car’s fault the brakes are wonky, it’s the manufacturer’s poor quality control or the owner’s poor maintanance” and insist the car be taken out of the garage and driven straight away.

    The argument here is that c) means you’re not going to die for at least those five years, and d) doesn’t work. And I agree totally, d) doesn’t work.

    Now it might be fair enough to argue that we don’t know how to do a). The educational system is broken. The culture in many areas has no respect for the work ethic or the law. Some kids grow up in abusive and violent families, or are forced into abusive street gangs for self-protection. And some people are mentally ill, and we can’t rewire people’s brains. And having broken them, you might end up having to look after them for the rest of their lives. Some people freely choose crime, and there have to be consequences for that.

    But in the current debate a) isn’t even a consideration. We’re not demanding answers to the obvious questions – like what the hell is going on in American society that it’s murder rate is about 4 times that of any other wealthy Western country, despite having the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world.

    The UK imprisons about 140/100,000 of its population compared to the USA with 655/100,000. But we have a murder rate of 1.2/100,000 compare to the USA’s 5.3/100,000. Japan’s murder rate is 0.2/100,000, and with only 41/100,000 in prison. There are even African countries that do better (the USA has a higher murder rate than Somalia, for heaven’s sake!) so it’s clearly not because of ‘race’, either.

    Other people can do it. So why can’t you?

    The truth is that nobody knows why crime levels are as they are, but it’s also clear given the large and consistent differences between different areas that there are indeed modifiable factors at work to determine it. The UK and Japan are obviously doing something differently, to get such a different result, consistently year after year. (And I’ll grant you, it’s not because we educate and rehabilitate our prisoners any better than you educate/rehabilitate yours.)

    We must do something, yes. incarceration is something, true. But that doesn’t mean incarceration is the right and only possible answer. We need to be experimenting with a far broader range of options and ideas, until we figure out what is.

  • The point is that you have to figure out what’s gone wrong with them to make them a criminal (Nullius in Verba, September 20, 2019 at 3:42 pm)

    Why should anything have gone wrong with them? Do you think something went wrong with Adolf and if only some Jew in the men’s hostel had been nicer to him none of it would have happened? (It is said the young Hitler emigrated from Austria to Germany in a coat lent him by a Jewish fellow inmate.)

    and fix it. You have to teach them how to behave and live their life in accordance with the law.

    You never have to do what you are not able to do. Even more does the incompetent state not have to do what it is not able to do. The state must aim at the low and repeatable.

    If their problem is they’re illiterate and can’t get a job, and so turned to burglary to survive, then the answer is to teach them to read.

    The British army does a great job teaching people to read – and British jails do a very un-great job. There are reasons for this, and one of them relates to the old joke about how many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb? The answer is: just one – but the light bulb has to want to change! Becoming a soldier is (usually) a choice – and so is becoming a criminal.

    I am no marxist to believe that people are the product of their environment and something must have gone wrong for them to do wrong. As a libertarian, I believe in the power of choice – and of people to choose. I am cautious of imagining I can ‘teach’ a criminal to think the way I think they should – as if only their ignorance or folly, not their choice, could ever cause them to differ from me.

    If their problem is drug addiction, then get them off drugs, and teach them how to resist the temptation.

    You make it sound so easy! I could tell stories about surprising instances of repentance and redemption that good people or churches or other groups have achieved with very unlikely-looking individuals. But such persuaders’ lack of legal power is their power to have any hope of such very personal, unrepeatable achievements. The state could never even recruit such people – and while it can sometimes very cautiously help them (e.g. with living expenses or referrals), the “your help is hurting” line is easily reached.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Do you think something went wrong with Adolf …”

    Yes.

    “… and if only some Jew in the men’s hostel had been nicer to him none of it would have happened?”

    No.

    “I am no marxist to believe that people are the product of their environment and something must have gone wrong for them to do wrong.”

    Do you think only Marxists believe that?

    “I am cautious of imagining I can ‘teach’ a criminal to think the way I think they should – as if only their ignorance or folly, not their choice, could ever cause them to differ from me.”

    Do you think it is a pure coincidence that the people in the USA chose at one rate, year after year, and the people in the UK or Japan chose at a completely different rate? That their environment – either being in the USA or UK or Japan – had no influence at all on that choice? Do you know how statistically unlikely that is?

    “You make it sound so easy!”

    And if it’s *not* easy, then that mitigates the moral responsibility for the choice! If we know of no secret method by which we ourselves could resist such temptation, to teach them, then who are we to criticise? Most of us can’t even manage to stick to a diet, let alone kick a major drug or alcohol addiction!

    No, it’s not easy. But it’s the right answer, nevertheless. We shouldn’t do the wrong thing just because it’s easy.

    “The state could never even recruit such people”

    The state are not the only people who can or should be addressing this. It’s one of the things I find most surprising about this conversation.

    We have a similar problem with state welfare. We have a problem in that we don’t like to watch people starving on the street. The “easy” answer is to give them money so they don’t, and to give the job of doing so to the state. We all get taxed a big pile of money to be given to them, but it doesn’t fix the cause of the problem. It doesn’t do anything to improve their prospects of earning an honest living, they drop out of production and it costs a fortune, it traps them in dependency on the system as it raises the barriers to finding a job, it perpetuates and worsens the problem, leading to more demands for more money to address the problems the policy itself is causing. Similarly, we have a problem that we don’t like to get mugged by people on the street. The “easy” answer is to lock them in boxes so they can’t, and to give the job of doing so to the state. We all get taxed a big pile of money to do it to them, but it doesn’t fix the causes of the problem. It doesn’t do anything to improve their prospects of earning an honest living, they drop out of production and it costs a fortune, it traps them in dependency on the system as it raises the barriers to finding a job, it perpetuates and worsens the problem, leading to more demands for more money to address the problems the policy itself is causing.

    We object to tax-funded state welfare as a solution to the poverty problem. Shouldn’t we have the same reaction to tax-funded state prisons being used as a solution to the crime problem? Why the difference? Why are we not demanding private sector solutions to the problem?

    What if the answer to your objections to welfare were that we need to do something, and we don’t know what else to do? That other solutions are too difficult? We demand they get smarter on solving the root causes of poverty so we don’t have to pay for welfare, why not crime and prisons?

  • Gavin Longmuir

    NIV — You seem to want great big expensive solutions to problems which could be quite easily solved.

    Singapore is famous for flogging people for quite minor infractions of the law. When China was trying to deal with the drug-addicted aftermath of Britain’s victory in the Opium Wars, they executed drug users. Solutions like that are cheap, and they work — and once everyone understands the rules, those kinds of punishments don’t actually have to be used that often. But we are too civilized to use them — so we have to live with knifings on the streets of London and excrement on the streets of San Francisco.

    Are we spending money on lawbreakers instead of facing up to our own lack of intestinal fortitude?

  • Nullius in Verba

    Gavin,

    Are you arguing that the reason the UK has a lower murder rate than the USA is our use of public floggings and executions?

  • Julie near Chicago

    Gavin:

    Nuts. We used to have excremental problems chiefly because of the ubiquitousness of horses in Atlanta, NYC, so forth — which I think were uncommon once the streetcar and the car had become the common means of transportation — along with poor sewage arrangements and the lack of indoor plumbing. We didn’t have problems at the level of SF, Seattle, and elsewhere (even parts of Austin, Tex., so I hear!) even during the Depression.

    The problem isn’t the lack of punishments that rise almost to the level of torture and even beyond. The problem is that pride in being able to look after yourself and recognition of the reality that the world doesn’t owe anyone a living have been destroyed in so much of our culture.

    What we need to do is to regrow that pride and the ethics that support it and that are implied by the recognition of reality. Easier said than done, but we lost it over several generations (and it’s not all gone, by a long shot). We ought to be able to re-grow it somehow; not that I have a clue as to how, except by being as decent as we can as individuals, and as creative as we can in putting together groups of people where decency, ethics, capability at some endeavour or other, and pride in those qualities is highly valued. Formerly, churches and groups like the Boy Scouts, 4-H, and fraternal societies did a great deal along these lines.

    (“Fraternal,” but the Masons welcomed women in the Order of the Eastern Star.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Order_of_the_Eastern_Star

    (DeMolay International is not officially Masonic, but per the Great Foot, ‘”DeMolay is considered to be part of the general “family” of Masonic and associated organizations. A family connection to Masonry is not a prerequisite for membership into DeMolay’.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DeMolay_International )

    You can get a fairly docile population that picks up after itself if you’re willing to go to the lengths of the Kims. Why in the name of everything would you want to do that if there is any other conceivable way of fostering social sanity — and pride? (Not that the more monstrous of methods fosters either social sanity or pride. Wobbly guy, and others, can tell us more, but if Singapore works as well as some claim, there must be something about the place that does instill some degree of healthy pride in the lower tier. Noting that as I’ve read in some places, in fact Singapore is a two-tier society. Also, I understand that flogging is no longer practiced much as legal punishment. And I’ve never heard that even in Singapore they cut off the hands of thieves.)

    .

    There’s been some quiet buzz around the concept of “pride” lately. I hope that most of us need hardly be reminded, and that we’ve learned her lesson well, but one of Miss R.’s big points in general was the importance of the individual’s pride in himself as a virtue. Not so-called “false pride,” but the kind of pride that comes from knowing you’re not living at the cost of other people. (Or, given the nature of Reality as a system with many parts operating together and affecting each other, at as minimal a cost to other people as you can help; and in the unfortunate cases where you simply don’t have the means to cope all alone with what faces you, you accept the help of others with gratitude. And you do what you can to show that gratitude by helping them out insofar as you can.)

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>