May 15, 2012

The Urge to Purge: James Q. Wilson edition

Economist Glenn C. Loury, former conservative establishment affirmative action hire, sniffs in The Boston Review that the late James Q. Wilson held politically incorrect views.
Much to Answer For: James Q. Wilson’s Legacy
Glenn C. Loury 
The esteemed political scientist and criminologist James Q. Wilson died in March. ... 
His most significant legacy, however, lies in the impact of his scholarship and journalism on the contemporary structures of social control in the United States. His 1975 book Thinking About Crime provides academic justification for a massive increase in imprisonment in the United States that began in the late 1970s and has yet fully to run its course. (The United States incarcerates at five times the rate of Britain, the leading jailer in Europe.) It is therefore entirely fitting—indeed, imperative—that there be extensive, critical public discussion about the intellectual impact of this towering figure of the study of American government. 
While I came to disagree sharply with him on criminal justice policy, I must acknowledge that I liked Jim Wilson, the man. He was urbane, witty, and generous with his time. He was unfailingly open to hearing both sides of any argument. I knew him to be loyal to a fault, even-tempered, and often a wise observer of American politics. I admired his modesty and his prodigious work ethic. Indeed, my appreciation of “Gentleman Jim” dates back nearly three decades, to 1983, when he came to my humble Afro-American Studies office at Harvard, practically hat in hand, with a draft chapter on “race and crime” for an as-yet-unpublished book, Crime and Human Nature. He was writing it with Richard Herrnstein, who would go on to write The Bell Curve (1994) with Charles Murray. Wilson asked for my unsparing critique, which I provided. It impressed me that, when the book appeared two years later, he and Herrnstein had taken my criticisms seriously. 
... That last association ended for me in 1995, when I publicly resigned my position after AEI fellows wrote two incendiary and what seemed to me borderline racist books—The Bell Curve and The End of Racism (1995), by Dinesh D’Souza. In those years, and partly in response to those two books, I began my long march out of the right wing of American intellectual life. And, in so doing, I slowly came to the view—which I continue to hold—that some of Wilson’s labors have done enormous damage to the quality of American democracy. His rationalizing and legitimating of over-reliance on incarceration in U.S. social policy have been particularly destructive. It frustrates me that even as mounting evidence over the past decade showed that crime control had become too punitive, Wilson stubbornly reiterated the views that he had developed four decades ago. 
... Considered from today’s perspective, much of what the nascent neoconservative thinkers had to say was pretty appalling. Banfield’s classic lament of the failures of 1960s urban policy, The Unheavenly City, looks an awful lot like reactionary drivel. (His argument that persistent poverty is due to the bad values and character of the poor—first set out in his book about Italy, The Moral Basis of a Backward Society—might have made sense for Sicily, but did not travel well to the South Bronx.) And in retrospect Moynihan—whose work Wilson often extolled—hardly comes off looking like a great thinker. Calling a spade a spade turns out not to be a social policy. 
In my long march out of the right wing, I came to believe that Wilson’s labors did enormous damage to American democracy. 
Call me unforgiving, but I can still remember sitting at Jim and Roberta Wilson’s dinner table in Malibu, California in January 1993 listening to Murray explain, much to my consternation and with Jim’s silent acquiescence, that social inequality is inevitable because “dull” parents are simply less effective at child-rearing than “bright” ones. (I rejected then, and still do, Murray and Herrnstein’s claim that profound social disparities are due mainly to variation in innate individual traits that cannot be remedied via social policy.) Neither can Glenn Loury in 2012 ignore what he failed to see in 1983: that Wilson and Herrnstein’s Crime and Human Nature—a book that sets out to lay bare the underlying bio-genetic, somatic, and psychological determinants of individuals’ criminal behavior—is an enterprise of dubious scientific value. The behavioral theories of social control that Wilson spawned—see, for instance, his 1983 Atlantic Monthly piece, “Raising Kids” (not unlike training pets, as it happens)—and the pop–social psychology salesmanship of his and George Kelling’s so-called “theory” about broken windows is a long way from rocket science, or even good social science. This work looks more like narrative in the service of rationalizing and justifying hierarchy, subordination, coercion, and control. In short, it smacks of highbrow, reactionary journalism. 
But, unlike most tabloid scribblers, Wilson’s writings had a massive effect. The broken windows argument—by cracking down on minor offenses, the police can prevent the perception of disorder that leads to more serious crimes—has influenced urban law enforcement strategists throughout the nation. Even so, as scholarly critics across the ideological spectrum have noted, there is little evidence beyond the anecdotal to show that such “quality of life” policing actually leads to lower crime rates. When I consider the impact of his ideas, I can’t help but think about the millions of folks being hassled even as we speak by coercive state agents who are acting on some Wilsonian theory recommending stop-and-frisk policing.
Neither can I overlook the reinforcement of subliminal racial stigmata associated with the institutions of confinement, surveillance, and patrol that Americans have embraced over the past two generations under the watchful and approving gaze of Professor Wilson. 
I don’t think Jim Wilson had a racist bone in his body. Neither do I doubt his sincerity when he expressed regret, as he often did, that blacks are overrepresented among those being punished for having committed crimes. But intent is one thing; results are another. A politics of vengeance has abetted the unprecedented rise in U.S. incarceration rates since 1980. I am made keenly aware of the deleterious impact these policies have had on residents of urban black communities, law-abiders and law-breakers alike. This was not Wilson’s intent, but plainly it was one consequence of ideas that he championed. ... 
But is his 1997 book The Moral Sense—which cites human nature to make a case against moral relativism, and which Wilson thought his most important publication—a work for the ages? I doubt it seriously. Is Thinking About Crime up there in the pantheon of American social criticism along with Silent Spring, The Other America, The Feminine Mystique, or The Fire Next Time? Not hardly. 
James Q. Wilson was not the Thomas Hobbes of our time—though it is a good guess that he fancied himself grappling with a Leviathan. A cloistered moral sanctimony (“Tobacco shortens one’s life; cocaine debases it”) coupled with an enthusiasm for police work (“prison in America . . . helps explain why this country has a lower rate of burglary than Australia, Austria, Canada, England, Germany, and the Netherlands”): that’s another way to think about the legacy of James Q. Wilson. Unkind to be sure, but not inaccurate. 
With all due respect to the influence of his writings on bureaucracy, policing, and social policy, I’m just not buying the hagiographies that appeared in the likes of the Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, and Boston Globe after his passing. For my money, he died with an awful lot to answer for.

So, let's go back to the soft-on-crime policies of the 1960s and 1970s. Sure, a lot innocent people will be murdered and raped, but that's a small price to pay for purging racist crimethink.

99 comments:

Anonymous said...

Beware, people. Prisons are super-expensive, and since we're going on 20 years of falling crime rates, there's going to be rising pressure to move away from the stuff that actually worked (Kelly/Bratton-style policing and a lot of putting bad people away for a long time) from people with no actual memory of how bad the 60s and 70s were, crime-wise.

I'm actually all for saving money by diverting non-violent drug offenders into treatment and other programs, but in a heavily armed society with a lot of social inequality, it's insane to move away from the policies that effectively saved billions of dollars, thousands of (mostly black!) lives, and allowed many of America's cities to be reclaimed.

Anonymous said...

Rudy Giuliani may disagree with the writer's conclusions on Broke Window Theory.

Also, separating criminals from potential victims via bars, walls, barbed-wire and men with guns is also quite effective.

Too bad all those obits can't be re-written by Glenn C. Loury.

Anonymous said...

"but I can still remember sitting at Jim and Roberta Wilson’s dinner table ... listening to Murray explain, much to my consternation and with Jim’s silent acquiescence, that social inequality is inevitable because “dull” parents are simply less effective at child-rearing than “bright” ones."

Only a real Pollyanna could have heartburn with this tiny sliver of reality.

Dennis Dale said...

He notes "broken window" policies are hype and maybe they are, but dodges the real issue: rising (and by disparate impact standards racist) incarceration rates netting lower crime rates.

Curious said...

question for Steve to blog about some time (assuming he hasn't already):

Given that law abiding minorities derive the overwhelming majority of the benefit from locking criminals away where they cannot victimize people, why on earth are black thought leaders (and, judging by the not-necessarily-reliable lens of the MSM, most black people) so uniformly against such measures?

helene edwards said...

contemporary structures of social control


Does he mean urban judges' policy, since at least the mid-80's, of not incarcerating blacks for a first or even second felony offense? When I used to read The New Republic regularly up to about 1993, I'd get the feeling that the smart Jews at that magazine viewed him as a second-rater, a token, and of course they were right.

Thomas said...

In terms of the impact of Wilson's theories on American democracy, allow me to humbly submit the proposition that Barack Obama would never have been elected President in an America with 1991-level crime rates. Loury pines for Willie Horton's America, Wilson gave us Obama's.

Anonymous said...

"(I rejected then, and still do, Murray and Herrnstein’s claim that profound social disparities are due mainly to variation in innate individual traits that cannot be remedied via social policy.)"

Does he reject this view after having studied the possiblity or does he reject it out of hand?

Thrasymachus said...

The 70's were, from a crime standpoint, literally horrifying. People under 40 didn't experience it, and older people may not remember, but crimes like a fast food robbery where the entire restaurant staff was herded into the freezer and shot execution-style were a regular occurence. Murders in convenience store and gas station robberies were a daily occurence.

Mercer said...

"Murray and Herrnstein’s claim that profound social disparities are due mainly to variation in innate individual traits that cannot be remedied via social policy.) "

In the 80s Murray claimed it was welfare that caused social disparities. In the 90s IQ. Now it is bad morals.

fondatori said...

There are so very very few black commentators willing to risk an actual criticism of other black people.

Also:
"Is Thinking About Crime up there in the pantheon of American social criticism along with Silent Spring, The Other America, The Feminine Mystique, or The Fire Next Time? Not hardly." I certainly agree with this, as 'Thinking About Crime' has had generally positive effects on society and the world, not destructive ones.

Matt said...

Beware, people. Prisons are super-expensive, and since we're going on 20 years of falling crime rates, there's going to be rising pressure to move away from the stuff that actually worked (Kelly/Bratton-style policing and a lot of putting bad people away for a long time) from people with no actual memory of how bad the 60s and 70s were, crime-wise.

Prisons would have no role whatsoever in a sane justice system. In a system like that, there would be three punishments (paid restitution, forced servitude, death) and two institutions (the farm for indentured servants and the gallows).

That system just happens to be as cheap as it is humane. And it solves the problem of who'll pick the tomatoes.

Am I nuts, or is everyone else?

Anonymous said...


(I rejected then, and still do, Murray and Herrnstein’s claim that profound social disparities are due mainly to variation in innate individual traits that cannot be remedied via social policy.)


Translation: I reject all attempts to stop me sucking down lots of public money.

Anonymous said...

Bring back the weregild, too.

sane_voter said...

With all the youtube vidoes of black mob violence being seen everyday by millions of non-blacks via Drudge and other outlets, nothing is going to reverse the incarceration of black thugs. IF anything it's going to accelerate.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

CS Lewis wrote that one has to first prove an idea incorrect before speculating on the terrible motives of the person holding it. There is clear correlation between the increased incarceration and reduced crime. That does not prove causation, but it certainly allows one to logically believe that is the way to bet. If that correlation were shown to be accidental, then the accusations of cruelty, stupidity, or racism might be brought into the discussion. Until then, they have no place in it.

Anonymous said...

It is, of course, a pure coincidence that Prof. Loury has a criminal history of violence and drug abuse.

http://www.robertboynton.com/articleDisplay.php?article_id=25

Anonymous said...

http://blog.american.com/2012/05/francis-fukuyama-explains-why-saving-the-euro-is-a-fairly-tale/

Anonymous said...

http://www.american.com/archive/2012/may/science-vs-pr

Anonymous said...

"So, let's go back to the soft-on-crime policies of the 1960s and 1970s. Sure, a lot innocent people will be murdered and raped, but that's a small price to pay for purging racist crimethink."

While the prison situation is going to get worse, absolutely no one is rushing to let a million criminals out of prison. If only the republicans had stood up for tough on crime policies instead of vacillating on them.

Davey Frum said...

Ah yes, more finely wrought prose from this way-cited maestro economist. BTW Loury appears through a character sketch in my new novel, disguised as a magical caddy

Anonymous said...

That bit about moral failure working for Sicily but not "traveling" to the Bronx is one of the goofiest, most unintentionally funny things written by an intellectual that I've read in a while. What a buffoon.

Anonymous said...

ha ha now I know why he thought cocaine was a good idea!

http://www.nytimes.com/1987/12/03/us/harvard-teacher-faces-drug-charges-in-boston.html

Honestly it's really disappointing when someone of his intellect turns out to be so typically dumb

Anonymous said...

http://blog.american.com/2012/05/francis-fukuyama-explains-why-saving-the-euro-is-a-fairly-tale/

sheesh time to close my euro short

Anonymous said...

His writing is so aimless and gaseous I could not read the whole thing. I may have missed a great argument of his somewhere. At least Jayson Blair's articles were readable.

"Is Thinking About Crime up there in the pantheon of American social criticism along with Silent Spring"

Scientifically speaking, the conclusions of SS have been in the Refuted column for some time now (eggshell thinning). I suppose it could still be pantheon-worthy for "criticism"?

Shouting Thomas said...

Black men must be allowed to commit crime with impunity.

To suggest otherwise is racist.

Anonymous said...

http://prospect.org/

new liberalism: gay, gay, gay, gay, gay, black, more taxes.

Anonymous said...

http://americanreviewmag.com/books/Goodbye-to-all-that

Newsweek columnist said...

I found that book Silent Spring really kind of creepy. You know, it's kind of usually really authoritarian societies that give out like, a Cross of Moral Vanity, that give out awards for the most deaths in service of a good cause. You now, Stalin did it, Hitler did it

Glaivester said...

In my long march out of the right wing

This reminds me of Jim Henley of Unqualified Offerings, who used to be a libertarian, and then converted to liberalism, because he decided that libertarianism did not have realistic answers.

Of course, the first inklings of this were when he condemned Ron Paul for his newsletters back in 2008, but thought that Obama's "clinging to guns and religion" was fine.

The moral of the story is that the main driver of conversion to liberalism from either libertarianism or conservatism is egalitarian fundamentalism. Once "anti-racism" becomes the cardinal virtue, liberalism is assured.

sideways said...

I don't even see any sort of argument here, aside from a side note of left-wing creationism.

RKU said...

It is, of course, a pure coincidence that Prof. Loury has a criminal history of violence and drug abuse.

Dang! Some *&%$#!!@ got the jump on me! I was just about to ask whether my memory was playing tricks on me, or hadn't Loury lost a high-ranking Reagan Administration appointment when he was arrested for brawling with his girlfriend while on crack...

Skeptic said...

At Mercer,

in Murray's defense, he would say that that iq, welfare, and bad morals are all the same thing

Anonymous said...

Your last lines: "..sure a lot of people will be murdered and raped.." (or words to that effect) strike me as - well, I am indeed without words. You're alright with that?

ben tillman said...

Beware, people. Prisons are super-expensive....

But they don't have to be, as James Q. Wilson himself explained in Bureaucracy. The Teaxas prison system was cheap and humane until a federal judge tore it down.

Luke Lea said...

"I rejected then, and still do, Murray and Herrnstein’s claim that profound social disparities are due mainly to variation in innate individual traits that cannot be remedied via social policy."

The variation in individual traits cannot be remedied but the effects can be mitigated. The natural distribution of income -- or, rather, the natural distribution of consumption -- in a market economy can be addressed with progressive taxation and wage subsidies for instance. If you believe in the greatest happiness of the greatest number (aka the general welfare), which I do, then those kinds of redistributional policies make perfectly good sense. So I'm half with Lourie.

Mitch said...

I like Glenn Loury a great deal, even though I disagree with him. Having listened to him a great deal on this subject, I'd say that he is not unsympathetic to the problems of black on black crime. What angers him is his believe that "lock em up" is all we do.

At the same time, he rejects the idea that abilities might be innate, and that social policy won't help remedy disparities.

I'd like to see someone engage him with the idea that our educational and immigration policies (social policies, after all) are actively harming low ability people. We have turned school into a pointless, demeaning endeavor for half of our students, regardless of race, and are constantly importing cheap labor that takes away any hope of decent jobs.

If he wants to use social policy to remedy disparities, how about pushing for realistic educational goals and sensible immigration restrictions to give all people a chance? That would go some way to giving young black men alternatives other than senseless violence and crime.

I think that's a conversation he could engage in, if someone raised it with him.

Anonymous said...


Dang! Some *&%$#!!@ got the jump on me! I was just about to ask whether my memory was playing tricks on me, or hadn't Loury lost a high-ranking Reagan Administration appointment when he was arrested for brawling with his girlfriend while on crack...


It's all the fault of the inherent structural racism of the racist white racists and their racist system what was designed to keep the black man down.

Lucius said...

Loury and McWhorter are an interesting duo; on bloggingheads, their conversations are, from a centrist/left perspective, interesting and, within the confines of the leftist academic grove, they can take *some* pride in defying some orthodoxies.

Part of the problem, though, is that they become heroes in their own minds. I suppose that, yes, if McWhorter takes on slave reparations advocates in a Black Studies department he, as a black academic, is performing a signal service that, pragmatically speaking, wouldn't have the same effect coming from somebody outside.

But the thing with Glenn and John is this: on the subject of the Young Black Man, they become maudlin, self-identifying, doctrinaire, and plain *angry*. John perhaps even worse than Glenn. Police stopping black youths absolutely riles them. They can see no good in it. They truly believe the police are the problem.

It's almost a Jeckyl & Hyde thing because, if they're just talking about Obama, they can say a lot of insightful, critical things (Glenn's harder, or was, on O. than John). From his inexperience to some winks and nods over the black hole years at Columbia, they provide a lot to chew on. They can tear Brother Cornel a new one. They can ironize about the black academic beat with good humor. But where the hoods in the ghetto are concerned, they circle wagons.

Anonymous said...

He's mixing up a couple of incompatible ideas here. The question "What is the root cause of crime?" is certainly a valid one, but it has almost nothing to do with the other question, "What should be the position of the criminal justice system with respect to crime once it occurs?"

We can incarcerate violent felons and ponder the underlying causes of criminal behavior at the same time.

Even though I'm a "reactionary right wing extremist" I'm very open to the notion that social policy can affect criminal behavior.

Anonymous said...

I found this comment a little curious:
"A cloistered moral sanctimony (“Tobacco shortens one’s life; cocaine debases it”)"

... until I discovered that Prof Loury might have a dog in this particular fight.

Gilbert Pinfold.

Anonymous said...

A return to 70s level crime is unrealistic, Americans are more armed than ever.

Saint-Skittles said...

I ain't not doing no beating.

Anonymous said...

Is Thinking About Crime up there in the pantheon of American social criticism along with Silent Spring, The Other America, The Feminine Mystique, or The Fire Next Time? Not hardly.

I thought this was an ingenious complement at first and then laughed out loud when I realized it wasn't.

TGGP said...

Robb Sica tipped me off to Loury's (who is genuinely one of my favorites on bhtv) essay, and I responded here.

Maya said...

Anyone who thinks that the crime control has become too punitive should walk the three blocks from my apartment and get me that fish taco I'm craving. I dare him. What better place to prove that ghetto dwellers are gentle, misunderstood lambs than the inner city in the deep south on a warm May midnight? If the tough guy gets lucky and remains unimpressed, there are several zones in the city that the police doesn't like to visit anymore. They are wonderful places to explore for any adventurous tourist.

Maya said...

Wasn't Silent Spring completely baseless and discredited? Feminine Mystique? WTH?

RKU said...

Lucius: I suppose that, yes, if McWhorter takes on slave reparations advocates in a Black Studies department he, as a black academic, is performing a signal service that, pragmatically speaking, wouldn't have the same effect coming from somebody outside.

Actually, I would argue it's precisely the reverse.

Black activist types arguing for reparations certainly don't get worried when disputed on that issue by black academic moderates. Perhaps a little annoyed or irritated or angry, but certainly not worried. However, I'd suspect they'd become literally *terrified* if strongly confronted by determined whites who disagree, and the more determined, the more terrified.

Among other things, I've always thought it quite ironic that merely a single syllabic change separates the phrase "black reparations" from another phrase with a considerably different meaning...

in Columbus said...

Zillow.com lists the estimated resale value of Loury's Brookline, Massachusetts, home at 1.48 Million.

Out of respect for his privacy, I won't post a link, but the information is easily attainable.

When you read his criticisms of Wilson, imagine him writing it in his no doubt beautifully-appointed study. The house doesn't look especially imposing, but I'm sure it's in a nice neighborhood...

Simon in London said...

Not the stuff that Loury is thinking of, but I think there are cases where US sentencing policy seems too harsh. I read yesterday on Fox News that 2 school pupils are facing 1-5 years in jail for secretly taking an upskirt photo of their teacher. That seemed a bit harsh to me.

In general, tough sentencing certainly cuts crime. Crime could also be cut by changes in social policy that produced fewer criminals - eg a return to marriage & two parent families.

agnostic said...

Soft-on-crime policies are more from the '40s and '50s -- they heyday of liberalism in social-political thinking and policy.

For example, it was standard to discourage prosecution of pedophiles because it would only emotionally traumatize the child, and anyway the kiddie-fiddler was simply a confused guy who had failed to grow up, not a sick evil pervert.

The '60s began with the '50s, but that mid-century zeitgeist gradually wore away, not overnight. So there was still the Great Society -- the descendant of the mid-century New Deal technocratic culture. And there were still color field painters and Mies van der Rohe skyscrapers going up. Pop music was still fairly unadorned -- every hit song didn't have a solo just yet.

But sometime during the early or mid-'70s, that had all waned enough that people came out in public and said let's just junk the rest of it right now, not let it gradually continue eroding.

I emphasize this link between a falling crime rate and a soft-on-crime attitude, as we saw during the mid-century, because we're right in the middle of another one. Crime rates have been falling for so long that our attitudes have gotten soft, and we're setting ourselves up for another rude awakening once the crime rate eventually does rise again.

agnostic said...

Here's extensive data from the GSS on our softening attitude toward crime, beeginning in the mid-'90s. You can skip a lot of the text and focus just on the graphs.

Softening on crime

It only took a few years after the crime rate peaked in '92 for us to start dismantling our views about crime policy. "Well, guess they solved that problem, don't need to be tough on crime anymore."

The shift has been so drastic that a young liberal chick in 1984 was probably tougher on crime than a middle-aged conservative male of 2010.

Unknown said...

15% - 25% of those incarcerated are violent psychopaths. Presumably a proportion of the remaining 85% - 75% have other chronic (immutable?) psychological disorders which predispose them to reoffend if released.

Take the low estimate, 15%, and do the arithmetic. If 15% of the U.S. prison population are violent psychopaths, that's hundreds of thousands of extremely dangerous people who probably ought to remain imprisoned.

Excerpted from: The New York Times Magazine

Can You Call a 9-Year-Old a Psychopath?

Specifically, Page 3 of 9, third paragraph.

"Psychopaths are estimated to make up 1 percent of the population but constitute roughly 15 to 25 percent of the offenders in prison and are responsible for a disproportionate number of brutal crimes and murders. A recent estimate by the neuroscientist Kent Kiehl placed the national cost of psychopathy at $460 billion a year — roughly 10 times the cost of depression — in part because psychopaths tend to be arrested repeatedly."

Anonymous said...

@Lucius:
But the thing with Glenn and John is this: on the subject of the Young Black Man, they become maudlin, self-identifying, doctrinaire, and plain *angry*.

Diagnosis: The boys are keeping it real. It's that simple. It's their SWPL way of "keeping it real".

Ian said...

Steve: if I wanted to read dysgenic commie BS, I would surf on over to The Nation or Salon. When you publish articles like this, please at least fisk em up.

Anonymous said...

Loury appears through a character sketch in my new novel, disguised as a magical caddy - Davey Frum

I've no idea what you were referencing there, if anything, but it made me laugh.

Conatus said...

"Blacks commit muders at 8 time the rate of whites."
The most important thing James Q Wilson did was use the National Crime Victimization Survey to back up his numbers on the disproportionate criminal actions of African-Americans. People still argue about these numbers, attributing it to police bias and 'racial profiling.'
But Wilson corrobrated his statements with reports of individual victims, unbiased observers who were in the wrong place at the wrong time and simply stated what they saw.

jack strocchi said...

Liberalism has a lot to answer for, so far as crime rates are concerned. For sure crime was bound to go up given the massive underlying demographic changes afoot (baby boom, minorities) starting from the mid-fities. Yet liberal social policy made a difficult situation infinitely worse.

And the popular culture reflected this. In the early sixties the biggest stars in Hollywood were Sydney Poitier and Gregory Peck, icons of liberal politics. By the late sixties the biggest stars in Hollywood were Clint Eastwood and Charles Bronson, exemplars of vigilante justice.

And Richard Nixon sat in the White House speaking for the frustrated "silent majority".

Thats what extreme liberalism will do to the general population: turn them into foaming at the mouth reactionaries.

Steve Sailer said...

The best part of Bill James' book last year on crime was his portrait of how soft on crime public opinion had gotten by the early 1960s, as demonstrated by the hit movie "The Birdman of Alcatraz," whom Burt Lancaster played as a misunderstood kindly man. Yet, the real Birdman of Alcatraz was an incredibly vicious man who spent most of his life in solitary confinement for the protection of the other prisoners because he couldn't go more than a few months with out killing a fellow human being over the lunch table.

Anonymous said...

Maya said... Anyone who thinks that the crime control has become too punitive should walk the three blocks from my apartment and get me that fish taco I'm craving. I dare him. What better place to prove that ghetto dwellers are gentle, misunderstood lambs than the inner city in the deep south on a warm May midnight? If the tough guy gets lucky and remains unimpressed, there are several zones in the city that the police doesn't like to visit anymore. They are wonderful places to explore for any adventurous tourist.

Jesus Christ - we don't need to wait for Thanksgiving - you can come live at my house TODAY.

PS: Fish taco?!?

PPS: Seriously Maya - STAY SAFE!!!

[You are practicing concealed carry, right?]

MSM Sycophant said...

But Wilson corrobrated his statements with reports of individual victims, unbiased observers who were in the wrong place at the wrong time and simply stated what they saw.

DerbyshireThink!

DerbyshireThink!!

DerbyshireThink!!!



DoublePlusUnGood.

David said...

>Does he reject this view after having studied the possiblity or does he reject it out of hand?<

"This work looks more like narrative in the service of rationalizing and justifying hierarchy, subordination, coercion, and control. In short, it smacks of highbrow, reactionary journalism."

Sounds like an a priori, purely ideological rejection. (He does like that word "reactionary," doesn't he?) Well, maybe not purely. His being arrested multiple times, for drugs and assault, might play into this.

>Honestly it's really disappointing when someone of his intellect turns out to be so typically dumb<

What intellect? He can't tell the difference between assertion and evidence. Look at this article. "Calling a spade a spade turns out not to be a social policy."

I sense him getting his own back (after years of tokendom) in this phrasing about Wilson: "I must acknowledge that I liked Jim Wilson, the man. He was urbane, witty, and generous with his time.[...]I knew him to be loyal to a fault, even-tempered[...] I admired his modesty and his prodigious work ethic. [...] when he came to my humble Afro-American Studies office at Harvard, practically hat in hand”

Anonymous said...

A paradox. Success of conservatism breeds more liberalism, and vice versa?

More law & order and more booming enterprise make people more indulgent and generous.

More government programs and safety-nets make some people(poor conservatives 'of the heart') less worried about survival along class interests and more into issues like guns and bible.

Eric Rasmusen said...

(1) At least Prof. Loury does not demonize Prof. Wilson. He merely says he unwittingly hurt the world. That's very much an economist's view, rather than the pure "unconstrained vision" liberal view that anyone who is against you must be evil too.

(2) "listening to Murray explain, much to my consternation and with Jim’s silent acquiescence, that social inequality is inevitable because “dull” parents are simply less effective at child-rearing than “bright” ones. (I rejected then, and still do, Murray and Herrnstein’s claim that profound social disparities are due mainly to variation in innate individual traits that cannot be remedied via social policy.)

This is interesting as a strong statement of the belief that misbehavior is not due to (1) Genetics or (2) home environment either, but rather (3) extra-family social variables that policy can influence.

Anonymous said...


A return to 70s level crime is unrealistic, Americans are more armed than ever.


Want to bet that the DoJ will not go after a white person who uses deadly force against a black flash mob. They would probably even charge his corpse and/or his parents!

Plenty of hate crimes there.

Wade said...

Yeah I have a suspicion that he's full of bs on this one but I'm no expert either. He states, "The broken windows argument—by cracking down on minor offenses, the police can prevent the perception of disorder that leads to more serious crimes—has influenced urban law enforcement strategists throughout the nation. Even so, as scholarly critics across the ideological spectrum have noted, there is little evidence beyond the anecdotal to show that such “quality of life” policing actually leads to lower crime rates."

...and not being an expert I've got no sound basis on which to dismiss his claim here.

I wish you had a bit of time to comment in more detail on some of his claims against Wilson that were empirical in nature.

Anonymous said...

portrait of how soft on crime public opinion had gotten by the early 1960s, as demonstrated by the hit movie "The Birdman of Alcatraz,"
There were other late 50s/early 60s cinematic portraits of The Criminal as Existential Hero, e.g. The Defiant ones, or Tragically Misunderstood Victim, e.g. Twelve Angry Men

Anonymous said...

http://theamericanscholar.org/a-gathering-menace/

Anonymous said...

http://theamericanscholar.org/the-moderate/

Anonymous said...

http://www.americanscientist.org/issues/pub/science-needs-more-moneyball

Anonymous said...

Its not crime its political action, these attacks are lynchings.

Anonymous said...

http://spectator.org/archives/2012/05/15/the-devil-is-in-the-details

Anonymous said...

"...crimes like a fast food robbery where the entire restaurant staff was herded into the freezer and shot execution-style were a regular occurence."

How many times did this happen?

Cennbeorc

josh said...

Why do young black teens/thugs uniformly regard Zimmerman,as they say on numerous t-shirts,as a "punk-ass pussy"? He,like Sexy Sdaie,broke the rules. He employed the Great Equalizer. The tough black thug,king of all he surveys,has his "manhood" in doubt if he is going to be confronted by punk-asses with guns.Its just not fair! Its,its Un-American! Loury has the same clutching-his-balls panic. If cops are going to put down the black man,how can he be the black man?? Loury,you can be damned sure,WILL gladly make the trade-off in black lives being destroyed by macho black thugz,(white lives? A mere bagatelle)as it is worth it for the black thugz to have their freedom to BE black thugz. To be the MAN!! And Loury can continue to pontificate on all the wrongs done to the dear black man by Society that have made him act up and out. Zimmerman shouldve accepted his beating and let the black man triumph. I can imagine what Loury thinks of Zimmerman and the general idea of "fighting back." Most whites canNOT fight back w/o a weapon. To black thugz that makes them "punk-ass". According to Loury,we all need to take our beatings,doing what we can,like him,for example,living among the NWF(Nice White Folk)to allow the black MAN to express the full range of his precious manhood! Note:"The Feminine Mystique" LOL! Nothing further as Komment Kontrol is about!!

Anonymous said...

"In the 80s Murray claimed it was welfare that caused social disparities. In the 90s IQ. Now it is bad morals."

These strike me as complementary explanations.

Welfare, for example, can entice people into idleness and vice and make them unfit for work. But this especially true for people who are not terribly bright or have been badly brought up, or both.

Cennbeorc

Anonymous said...

In Columbus, if his Brookline house is only $1.4 million, then it must be near the Roxbury border.

FYI, Brookline's police, because of it's wealth and proximity to the ghetto, are famous throughout Greater Boston for being the most enthusiastic violators of Constitutional protections in the Commonwealth.

But you'd expect that from a town that's 35% "Scots-Irish" and 14% Asian.

rob said...

Wow, Loury's problems were caused exclusively by his poor morals. He can't claim stupid like most blacks.

ben said...

@Mary

Silent Spring debunked? No, not really. Corporatists wave papers that showed chickens and quail seemed immune to DDT. However no one was ever wringing their hands over declining chickens or quail. Raptors - eagles, pelicans,etc - were shown to undergo egg thinning when dosed with the DDT metabolite DDE. Also these raptor populations began to decline with intro of DDT and recover when DDT was banned. Not a definite proof but pretty damn compelling.

Research data said...

Wilson's labors did enormous damage to American democracy.

^^Nonsense. A number of Wilson's conclusions and conclusions are open to question but "enormous" damage to democracy? Puhleeze.. It could be argued that some of his work bolstered democracy by insisting on one of its pillars- a safe society, where people could live in safety without fear of others taking their lives, health or property without their permission.


I rejected then, and still do, Murray and Herrnstein's claim that profound social disparities are due mainly to variation in innate individual traits that cannot be remedied via social policy.
^^Nothing new here. Thomas Sowell has criticized several flaws in Murray/Hernstein's work, especially their naive use of statistical correlations.


When I consider the impact of his ideas, I can't help but think about the millions of folks being hassled even as we speak by coercive state agents who are acting on some Wilsonian theory recommending stop-and-frisk policing.
^^Dubious. Stop and frisk is a legitimate law enforcement tool when properly used. It will for example break up concentrations of 'gangbangers' terrorizing black
neighborhoods and keep the same constantly on the run. As such it
is a good thing. It is IMPLEMENTATION of stop and frisk that is flawed- namely INDISCRIMINATE, unfocused use. As David Kennedy notes on his book 'Don't Shoot'- most of the mayhem in 'the hood'; is caused by a small minority of hardcore punks and thugs. Too often, police engage in massive stop and frisk sweeps rather than targeting or focusing their efforts on these 'five percenters'. This creates massive bad blood between police and minority communities who resent indiscriminate dragnets and sweeps that hassle not only the young but harrass even older, law-abiding black men. This is one of the sorest points in police-community relations. ANd stop and frisk was old news long before WIlson became prominent.

Neither can I overlook the reinforcement of subliminal racial stigmata associated with the institutions of confinement, surveillance, and patrol that Americans have embraced over the
past two generations under the watchful and approving gaze of
Professor Wilson.

^^Stigmata? Sure. But what is the source of the confinement, surveillance and patrol that Loury forgets to mention? The percentage of thugs and (to use Thomas Sowell's blunt prhase), yes, hoodlums that are creating mayhem in minority communities. The harsh fact is that without that police regime, the hoodlums would run wild and minority communities would suffer even more. That is the painful 'price of the ticket' (using James Baldwin's phrase).

Has the regime in past eras of US
history enforced unjust social policies that hindered minority
advancement? Ja. Could this regime focus its efforts and resources better? Yes. Is it at times self-serving and corrupt, as in police attempts to cover up their own wrongdoing, or favoritism shown those with the right connections? Certainly.


James Q. Wilson was not the Thomas Hobbes of our time.. I'm just not buying the hagiographies that appeared in the likes of the Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, and Boston Globe after his passing. For my money, he died with an awful lot to answer for.
He never claimed to be another Hobbes nor does anyone who has read his works critically. They contain a number of flaws. But to foist the burden of disproportionate incarceration
etc on Wilson does him a grave disservice.

Anonymous said...

I've only skimmed one James Q. Wilson book, his magnum opus on government entitled Bureaucracy. What I have read of it is impressive, and shows a very high level of scholarship. The back jacket lists his accomplishments one of which is the James Madison Award of the American Political Science Association, which is apparently the big award in political science academia in this country. It's only awarded every 3 years, and two Nobel prize winners in Economics have also won it. I'm not really aware of anything Glenn Loury has done to warrant academic awards or recognition. He was once considered for the Undersecretary of Education in the Reagan Administration until he was arrested twice in 1987 for assaulting a much younger woman not his wife and drug possession.

Afterword he apparently found religion and moved politically leftward. The fact that he cites Harrington, Freidan, Baldwin, and Carson as exemplars of social policy proves he has completely embraced the leftist worldview. Not one of those works would be considered "scientific" or even "social scientific" in a scholarly sense of the word. However, now because they are considered important by left wing intellectual types he caters to, they must be the social science equivalents of Dalton, Mendeleev, Darwin and Huxley. He apparently holds a chaired professorship at Brown, the red headed stepchild of Ivy League schools, but he hasn't published very much I would think to warrant that title. Despite the fact that he is older than George Borjas he has only about the half the number of publications, and according to his CV, he once went three years without a published paper ( It's beginning corresponds with his two arrests. ) It just sounds like political correctness mixed with professional envy.

Anonymous said...

there is little evidence beyond the anecdotal to show that such “quality of life” policing actually leads to lower crime rates".



In other words, beyond that fact that "“quality of life policing" tends to result in lower crime rates, there is little evidence to suggest that it tends to result in lower crime rates.

The stupidity of intellectuals is a thing apart from the stupidity of low-IQ people. Smart people can reason themselves into absurd positions far beyond the ken of the stupid.

Research data said...

That bit about moral failure working for Sicily but not "traveling" to the Bronx is one of the goofiest, most unintentionally funny things written by an intellectual..

Indeed. BEfore the welfare state explosion of the sixties there were plenty of black community leaders talking about moral failure, even in the SOuth Bronx. Even Muslim leaders Malcolm X and Elijah Muhammed spoke bluntly about moral failure and the need to set certain things right. Loury must be getting old..


The variation in individual traits cannot be remedied but the effects can be mitigated. The natural distribution of income -- or, rather, the natural distribution of consumption -- in a market economy can be addressed with progressive taxation and wage subsidies for instance. If you believe in the greatest happiness of the greatest number (aka the general welfare), which I do, then those kinds of redistributional policies make perfectly good sense.
Agree on mitigation but not so sure that today's "redistributional" policies deliver the greatest happiness for the greatest number. How so? Heavy gubment taxes that remove cash from the pockets of the poor, to redistribute it to a bureaucracy is fine for bureaucrats pocketing the cash, but not that great for the poor. Likewise wage subsidies (direct or indirect) for already comfortable union members have distorted the market, freezing out the poor from many jobs that they could have had, were it not for gubment favoritism shown towards unions. (SOwell 1983, 2005) (Walter Williams 1980- The State Against Blacks)

I'd like to see someone engage him with the idea that our educational and immigration policies (social policies, after all) are actively harming low ability people. We have turned school into a pointless, demeaning endeavor for half of our students, regardless of race, and are constantly importing cheap labor that takes away any hope of decent jobs. .. how about pushing for realistic educational goals and sensible immigration restrictions to give all people a chance? That would go some way to giving young black men alternatives other than senseless violence and crime.
^Indeed.

on the subject of the Young Black M an, they become maudlin, self-identifying, doctrinaire, and plain *angry*. John perhaps even worse than Glenn. Police stopping black youths absolutely riles them. They can see no good in it. They truly believe the police are the problem.
Could be about their reaction, but in some cases, police tactics are a problem. SOme of those tactics are forced on the cops by posturing politicians. See David Kennedy's book "DOn't Shoot". Massive stop and frisk sweeps hassling and harassing people indiscriminately are one of the main problems. Smarter policing, focusing on the 5% of the people creating 95% of the mayhem will yield better results abd not alienate the rest of the community so much. This Kennedy proved in his violence prevention projects.

ANd its not just the police but the DA and other layers of the system. People in the hood see the same violent gang-bangers and dealers quickly back out on the street with relatively light plea bargaining and resent it. WHite coke buyers in the hood roll off unscathed with the heat appears, but the small-time black street dealer draws 8 cops with drawn guns? Then there is police deception and cover-up on the street- from bogus multiple charges to falsifying evidence, so they can get more convictions, and the DA's record looks better.

Suburban whites are too often naive about the criminal justice system - which like all other bureaucracies- is ultimately self-serving. To be fair, many of today's cops did not ask for the system- but that is what they are forced to work and live with. There is a lot of work still to be done in tweaking and improving that system, but the main work to be done lies with black communities.

Steve Sailer said...

Lots more pelicans at the beach today than when I was a kid. I assume that's because of the crackdown on DDT, but I could be wrong.

Anonymous said...

I see the Komment Kontrol dork is still at it. What's his deal anyway? Why does he think Steve has been deleting his precious comments?

Camlost said...

People in the hood see the same violent gang-bangers and dealers quickly back out on the street with relatively light plea bargaining and resent it. WHite coke buyers in the hood roll off unscathed with the heat appears, but the small-time black street dealer draws 8 cops with drawn guns?

"People in the Hood" don't cooperate with (or call) the police. And since there's no invested, responsible adult men in the hood, there's no grassroots self-policing of these neighborhoods by residents, either.

It's kinda fun how dirt poor Asian immigrant neighborhoods seem to be able to police their own territory well and maintain relative peace and order, without having to rely on the white police force to come and save them from themselves.

And white coke dealers aren't out there committing stupid, random street crimes and killing property values like the saggy pants "youths" hanging out on corners.

Anonymous said...

"A paradox. Success of conservatism breeds more liberalism, and vice versa?"

That was one of the themes of Anthony Burgess' dystopian "The Wanting Seed", about an overpopulated globe where homosexuality was privileged in an attempt to reduce the birthrate. Governments only fell into two categories, Pelagian and Augustinian, and swung between the two forms.

Augustinian governments believe in Original Sin, that man is naturally given to vices which need to be checked. Tend to be hierarchical and militaristic.

Pelagian governments believe in Man’s perfectibility and innate goodness. As this fails to produce the perfect society, so do initially liberal Pelagians tend to turn towards coercion, more laws and greater police powers.


"Pelagius is fond of police,
Augustine loves an army"

FF said...

Steve, the extra pelicans will be from across the border.

TGGP said...

agnostic's claim that "soft on crime" policies date to the 40s/50s sounds very strange to me. I read Bruce Benson, Mark Kleiman & Steve Pinker all noting that the incarceration rate started dropping in the 60s. Chris Roach (aka mansizedtarget) wrote in TakiMag about how cops in the 50s shot a LOT more suspects than they do today, and of course beat them with more impunity. The big Supreme Court decisions restricting police like Miranda & Katz were handed down in the 60s. Gideon v. Wainright, guaranteeing a public defender for the indigent, also dates from the 60s.

David, if you think Loury lacks intellect, check out this old paper on political correctness. Also, in a previous diavlog Ross Levine (one of the highest ranking economists out there) said much of his career was inspired by an old Loury paper.

Research data said...

People in the Hood" don't cooperate with (or call) the police. And since there's no invested, responsible adult men in the hood, there's no grassroots self-policing of these neighborhoods by residents, either.

Dubious. People in the hood do call the police and call them often as any credible criminology book will show. In fact one of the main complaints in minority communities is police response times to said calls. SOME ordinary folk (I am not referring to criminals or their helpers) do not cooperate with the police for various reasons (a) a cultural preference for settling disputes oneself (nothing surprising there- the famous Sicilian vendetta is a similar pattern), or (b) distrust of the system due to previous experience with police or DA corruption or deception (such as bogus charges and doctored evidence. It is laughably naive to think that "the system" plays on the up and up. Why do you think courts have evidentiary standards, or why do you think some jurisdictions have an independent examination of homicide evidence by coroners and not just the police?) And there are invested, responsible adult men in the hood and self-policing. These persons however are under constant threat by thuggish elements.


It's kinda fun how dirt poor Asian immigrant neighborhoods seem to be able to police their own territory well and maintain relative peace and order, without having to rely on the white police force to come and save them from themselves.

^^Equally dubious. Asian neighborhoods have a long history of calling on white police, AND a long history of NOT COOPERATING with said police at times in various eras. During the era of the violent tong hatchet-men in US Chinatowns, intimidation by the tongs produced a notorious "code of silence" in CHinatowns where they held sway. As their influence lessened and civic organizations gained more influence, the pattern was sometimes reversed. Hence history documents Chinese community leaders not only urging MORE white police patrols but even urging white police to dish out hard-edged "curbstone justice" to assorted punks and thugs troubling the Chinese community. See SOwell's 1981 Ethnic America and 1983- The Economics and Politics of Race.

Anonymous said...

"A paradox. Success of conservatism breeds more liberalism, and vice versa?"

It seems that way, pre the 1960 immigration law America had several realigning elections between the left and the right, and it is likely that these were straightup demographic contests between each group.

David said...

The Case of the Vanishing Intellect

Anonymous said...

http://www.city-journal.org/2012/22_2_james-q-wilson.html

ATBOTL said...

Why do young black teens/thugs uniformly regard Zimmerman,as they say on numerous t-shirts,as a "punk-ass pussy"?

------------------------

One of the ironies of this case is that in broad swathes of the black community, shooting someone who looks at you the wrong way is considered acceptable. Any self respecting thug with a gun would use it if losing a fight.

rob said...

Just wanna mention the the thugger (oops, thuggah) wasn't brave enough to talk trash about Wilson when he was alive.

Svigor said...

Prisons would have no role whatsoever in a sane justice system. In a system like that, there would be three punishments (paid restitution, forced servitude, death) and two institutions (the farm for indentured servants and the gallows).

That system just happens to be as cheap as it is humane. And it solves the problem of who'll pick the tomatoes.

Am I nuts, or is everyone else?


Sounds good at first blush, but "the farm" as solution to the "who'll pick the tomatoes" problem sounds a lot like an incentive.

On the other hand, so does "prison contracts."

Svigor said...

Why do young black teens/thugs uniformly regard Zimmerman,as they say on numerous t-shirts,as a "punk-ass pussy"?

Same reason they say similar things about cops, even though (or maybe, because) cops get to order them around, frisk them, take them to jail, always win the one-up game, always have more back-up, etc; tribes consistently mock the members of enemy tribes.

Blacks resent cops for being a more powerful gang.

Svigor said...

One of the ironies of this case is that in broad swathes of the black community, shooting someone who looks at you the wrong way is considered acceptable. Any self respecting thug with a gun would use it if losing a fight

Standard Social Identity Theory. Ingroups exaggerate (perceived) negative outgroup traits, ignore or diminish positive traits, hold double-standards, etc.

Chris said...

Perhaps if we made offender records private, there would be less recidivism, as people would not be denied employment. Prior to modern times few employers would check the records of job seekers so an ex-felon who had paid their debt to society and sincerely wanted to move on, could start over again.

Silver said...

So, let's go back to the soft-on-crime policies of the 1960s and 1970s. Sure, a lot innocent people will be murdered and raped, but that's a small price to pay for purging racist crimethink.


Be gentle, Sailer. It can't be easy for Loury, one lone black man battling single-handed to overturn academic establishment dogma that genes play a role in social outcomes.