Mr. Girsch, as noted elsewhere, has posted More on Race, Culture, Economics and Violent Crime, a response to my earlier piece, Culture, where, as he puts it,
I’ll just summarize what I think Kevin Baker is getting at (it kind of jumps around a bit, and is hard to summarize succinctly), and then point out where I think he gets it right, where I think he gets it wrong, and why.
I try to be clear. I really do. But with topics like this, there’s a lot of there, there, if you get my drift.
The title of this essay is taken from the Theodore Dalrymple piece I quoted in Culture:
Human behavior cannot be explained without reference to the meanings and intentions people give to their acts and omissions; and everyone has a Weltanschauung, a worldview, whether he knows it or not.
I’m going to try to illustrate that where Mr. Girsch and I differ is in our particular worldviews, and our worldviews color what we each see in dramatically different ways.
Kevin’s essay isn’t likely to convince anyone not already inclined to agree with his conclusions.
thus insisting from the beginning that: A) my argument has little merit, and B) his argument is the only persuasive one of the two to those with a truly “open mind.”
So, let’s take his counter-arguments and see if we can do something with them. As I’ve said before, I’d far rather have a discussion with someone who disagrees with me, particularly if they’re intelligent and well-informed. It forces me to defend my position, and I learn much more that way.
Mr. Girsch’s first disagreement: After quoting my statistics on black-on-black crime and the statistics showing that blacks are not disproportionally more poor than Hispanics, he concludes,
There’s a lot going on here, mostly a highly misleading use of statistics, but it boils down to three incorrect underlying assumptions:
1. That poor Hispanics are concentrated in inner-city areas at roughly the same rate as poor African-Americans are.
Hold the phone. I made no such attribution. I said that blacks and Hispanics suffer poverty at about the same level. No mention was made of where.
2. That poverty is poverty, with no differences in degree of poverty.
I noted that the statistics said (quoting the cited paper) “The poverty rate for Hispanics did not differ statistically from the rate for African Americans.” This, apparantly is “a highly misleading use of statistics.” Take it up with the Census Bureau. That was their conclusion.
3. That the relationship between poverty and violent crime ought to be linear.
So, throwing out the first argument on the basis of my never having made it, let’s progress to the second. Mr. Girsch says:
Have a look at these numbers, which break out income figures more granularly. According to these figures, 18.9% of Hispanic households in 2001 had incomes below $15,000 per year, as compared to 26.4% of their African-American counterparts. When you look at the very bottom end, household incomes below $5,000 per year, African-American households are two-thirds more likely than Hispanic households to fall into this destitute category. Looking at these figures, it’s pretty clear that African-Americans are considerably more likely to be among the poorest of the poor than their Hispanic counterparts. (Note, too, that in all races, these numbers are trending downward, despite predictions that the “welfare state” is worsening the matter.)
Um, Mr. Girsch, in a society in which welfare benefits are available to any and all who qualify, why are blacks deepest in poverty?
And this is where our Weltanschauung‘s differ, coloring how we see the world. As noted above, Hispanics tend not to live in the inner city, but are more rurally dispersed. Why? They choose to. Cost of living is lower there. The opportunity for work is greater there. Why do poor blacks remain in the killing-fields of the inner city?
CULTURE. “The Man” isn’t holding them there. (More on this later.)
In relation to argument #3, that “the relationship between poverty and violent crime ought to be linear,” I’m sorry, but isn’t that the argument? If “poverty causes crime” then shouldn’t the relationship be linear? You’re arguing that it’s exponential? Root-cubed? As I’ve seen it argued poverty=violent crime. But, as I myself have noted, that’s not the case. To wit:
The USA doesn’t have a significant violent crime problem, it has a significant INNER CITY violent crime problem.
Poor people outside the inner city don’t seem to have the same problems. Your worldview apparently says “Well, that’s because inner city blacks are desperately poor.” My worldview says “Well, that’s because the culture that keeps people in the inner city is the same culture that produces violent criminals.” And as an example of this, I provide Dr. Dalrymple’s example of the British underclass which is, as he explicitly states, majority white. And violent, but not homicidal.
I’m not arguing that the relationship is linear, exponential, or any other mathematical formula. I’m arguing that the relationship isn’t causal, at least as it pertains to crimes of violence. Yes, poor people are the victims and the perpetrators of more violent crime than wealthy people. That does not begin to explain why young black men die of homicide at a rate six times higher than the general population.
Somehow I don’t think we’re going to reach an accord on that point.
Continuing, Mr. Girsch writes:
And these are just the biggest problems with Kevin’s reasoning. There are others. For example, in the section I quoted above, Kevin includes Asians and Pacific Islanders in his statistics. But from his own 1997 source, we find:
In 1997, African American households had a median income of $25,050, lower than that of Asian and Pacific Islander households ($45,249), White households ($38,972) and households maintained by a person of Hispanic origin, who may be of any race, ($26,628).
Notice that Asians and Pacific Islanders well outpace Blacks and Hispanics in median income, and in fact, they even outpace Whites! So I’m not sure how including that particular minority helps Kevin’s case.
How does it help? Weltanschauung again. It illustrates that CULTURE is the overriding factor in how groups perform economically. It also is the controlling factor in criminal behavior. And culture is, very often, marked by racial characteristics – but not always.
David Hackett Fischer’s book Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America details four distinct waves of immigrants from Great Britain to America. They were the Puritans from the East of England to Massachussetts between 1629-1640; the Royalist elite and their indentured servants from the South of England to Virginia betwen 1642-1675; the North Midlands English to the Delaware Valley from 1675-1725; and the Scots-Irish from North Britain and northern Ireland to the Appalachian frontier country from 1718-1775. All were caucasian, all spoke English, but their cultures were vastly different. So were their tendencies toward poverty and crime. Dress ’em up in t-shirts and bluejeans and you probably wouldn’t be able to tell them apart in a police line-up, except the Scots-Irish would probably be missing more teeth and have more (and more visible) scars.
My ancestry is Scots-Irish, if it matters.
For another example, a while back during a drawn-out discussion on rights here I pointed to the example of the Maori and Moriori illustrated in Jared Diamond’s Pulitzer-winning Guns, Germs, and Steel. The Maori and Moriori were both Polynesian peoples, almost definitely directly related to one another, but the Maori culture brought about the total annihilation of the Moriori culture, and it can be argued that the Moriori were far more poverty-stricken than the Maori.
Let’s continue. Mr. Girsch:
At one point, Kevin says:
It is no suprise that crime and poverty go hand-in-hand (though there’s a chicken/egg component there I won’t address at the moment.)
And shortly thereafter, cites this:
You need only do three things in this country to avoid poverty – finish high school, marry before having a child, and marry after the age of 20. Only 8 percent of the families who do this are poor; 79 percent of those who fail to do this are poor.
Talk about unaddressed chicken/egg components! Kevin continues to harp on illegitimacy for a bit, even while admitting that illegitimacy alone can’t account for the disparities. But are urban blacks poor because of the high rate of illegitimate births? Or is it that the poverty in large part causes the illegitimate births? I suspect it’s a bit of both.
I suspect it’s CULTURE. Let me repeat the pertinent Dalrymple quote:
In fact, most of the social pathology exhibited by the underclass has its origin in ideas that have filtered down from the intelligentsia. Of nothing is this more true than the system of sexual relations that now prevails in the underclass, with the result that 70 percent of the births in my hospital are now illegitimate (a figure that would approach 100 percent if it were not for the presence in the area of a large number of immigrants from the Indian subcontinent).
What’s the difference between the British underclass and the “large number of immigrants from the Indian subcontinent” that live in the same area, in the same squalor, and use the same Public Health system?
Why is there a high rate of illegitimate births among urban blacks? Because their culture doesn’t discourage it. But Indian and Pakistani cultures do. Why are American Asians far less likely to have illegitimate births? Because they’re wealthier? No, because their culture makes illegitimate birth a great shame. I cited:
According to the CDC, in 2002 68.2% of births to black women were illegitimate, compared to 23% for whites, 34% for Hispanics and 14.9% for “Asians and Pacific Islanders.” Interestingly, for Puerto Rican women the illegitimacy rate was 59.1%, but for Cuban women, it was 29.8%.
Mr. Girsch noted in a comment that the illegitimacy rate for Hispanics overall was actually 43.5% (I believe I transposed the digits), but he apparently missed the comparison between Puerto Ricans (at 59.1%) and Cubans (at 29.8%) – almost precisely half. The cause of that disparity?
Mr. Girsch concludes:
Of course, my objective here is not to prove to anybody that the social safety net is working or that it presents no burden to those it purports to help — that’s for someone else to do some other time. Nor am I trying to argue that there aren’t cultural factors in play — often prevalent in very poor, predominantly African-American urban neighborhoods — that exacerbate the problem of violence. I merely wanted to demonstrate that Kevin’s case is not nearly so slam-dunk as he (and his commenters) seem to think it is, and to point out what I feel are critical errors he made in building that case. I would argue that if he wishes to do away with the status quo, the burden of proof is on him to show that the alternative (little or no social safety net) would indeed be better.
Methinks he doth protest too much. My “critical errors” seem to be a reflection of his assuming I’m trying to “prove” something that I’m not trying to prove. Weltanschauung again. Let me repeat the comment I made that began this whole exchange:
There is evidence (scant, I admit, since no one seems to want to actually study the question) that black-on-black crime is related to the rise of the Welfare State, both here and in the UK. It seems to be an unintended consequence of trying to “help the disadvantaged,” and it is related to the destruction of the traditional family unit. Both countries share that problem. If the culture strongly supports the nuclear family (Asian, Indian-subcontinent, Pakistani, etc.) the problem of youth violence is greatly reduced. Here, the black culture does not support the nuclear family, and we end up with lots of fatherless boys. In the UK, where a lot of their black-on-black violence comes from Jamaican gangs, the same is true.
Where, in that statement, do I call for a dismantling of the Welfare State?
But I am, in his eyes, a Conservative; even worse, a Libertarian, so I must believe that we should destroy the Welfare State post haste and everything will then become a free-market utopia! After all, I’m selfish, and he’s caring. It’s not his fault the strategy didn’t work. The ideology cannot be wrong so it must have been “poorly implemented.”
‘Tain’t likely, McGee.
The “social safety net” we’ve built over the last sixty years or so is, in my opinion, very much like the “War on (some) Drugs™” that began in 1914. It is an example of government overreach in the name of DOING SOMETHING! to correct a perceived social problem. The results (some, though not all) were predictable, and predicted. The actions were unconstitutional, but popular. And now we’re paying the price.
And it’s too late to turn back. The price of the War on (some) Drugs™ has been a slow and steady destruction of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments, crime, corruption, overfilled prisons, misery and death. Leaving drugs legal would have resulted in… misery and death.
But making drugs legal now won’t repair the damage done.
The price of our “social safety net” has been, in my humble opinion, no improvement in poverty rates (by his own cited statistics 26.4% of African-American households have incomes below $15,000 and “African-Americans are considerably more likely to be among the poorest of the poor,”) and subsidization of life in squalor. Said subsidization, along with the destructive memes of the intellegentsia which have trickled-down to the underclass has resulted in the decay of the inner-city American black culture. What does welfare do to blacks (and the British underclass) that it doesn’t do to other cultures? Other cultures apparently work harder to get out of poverty. They don’t use welfare to stay exactly where they are. I said, very early on in this discussion,
They’re poor because they’ve been taught that the State will take care of them, cradle to (early) grave, no muss, no fuss, no effort.
What I didn’t add was and they’re receptive to that message. This is true for our black underclass, and it’s true for the white British underclass. Move out of the inner city? Why? You might lose your benefits. You’ll have to find a new place to live. Everyone you know lives where you do. Everyone you know thinks like you do.
There’s been no pressure to do anything different. The culture doesn’t impose any, and other cultures? Screw ’em. Why care what they think? You’re a victim. It’s the responsibility of the government to take care of you.
It’s what you’ve been taught. It’s what you believe.
And it’s killing your sons at a prodigious rate.
And perhaps – just perhaps – that is the pressure that is causing the changes I noted in Culture:
The culture of American blacks is the result of a history of abuse and manipulation that would make any group dysfunctional. We can discuss who’s at fault until the cows come home, but that won’t affect the problem. The reality of the situation must be faced, and it must be faced by the members of that culture. Having outsiders point it out won’t work. Bill Cosby, Barack Obama, and even the Reverend Al Sharpton are starting to point it out. The situation is beginning to show signs of improvement. Violent crime is declining, out of wedlock birth is declining. The proportion of married couples raising children is increasing.
And this is being accomplished largely without the help of Federal programs or academic studies.
The “social safety net” has been, since the beginning, a government-mandated ponzi scheme that depended on positive population growth. It’s also been a cash-cow that the government has milked dry each and every year. (There is no “lock-box” and never has been.) Since the beginning benefits were expanded, restrictions were reduced, taxes were increased. It’s typical behavior for government, for anyone who actually looks. If there’s money, spend it. If there’s not enough, find some more. A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon we’re talking real money. After all, the first job of the politician isn’t to uphold and defend the Constitution, it’s to get re-elected – and, as Mencken described back in the first part of the 20th Century,
The government consists of a gang of men exactly like you and me. They have, taking one with another, no special talent for the business of government; they have only a talent for getting and holding office. Their principal device to that end is to search out groups who pant and pine for something they can’t get and to promise to give it to them. Nine times out of ten that promise is worth nothing. The tenth time is made good by looting A to satisfy B. In other words, government is a broker in pillage, and every election is sort of an advance auction sale of stolen goods.
We in the “reality-based” community can see the pyramid collapse coming, but we’re also aware that the population is loath to do anything about it.
We can’t just shut it off. An entitlement mentality is now too deeply ingrained in all American cultures. Entropy has occurred. Shutting down the “social safety net” would result in disaster. But corrective measures? Certainly. They should be possible.
But only if and only when it is acknowledged that the ideology was wrong, and that will require a change in our CULTURE. Without that all we’ll get is more of the same, at best, or further escalation of failure.
(Post script: At the end of his piece Mr. Girsch stated:
A commenter was trying to make the case that people in general would be better off if they didn’t have to pay the taxes associated with supporting the social safety net, because they would have more money to invest in their future and the economy. I responded that history has shown us that most people would not invest it or save it or spend it wisely (and in so doing, I used some terminology which I frankly regret).
Regret? Why? Because you accurately and unmistakeably illustrated the Leftist Weltanschauung?)