Liberty is an inherently offensive lifestyle. Living in a free society guarantees that each one of us will see our most cherished principles and beliefs questioned and in some cases mocked. That psychic discomfort is the price we pay for basic civic peace. It's worth it. It's a pragmatic principle. Defend everyone else's rights, because if you don't there is no one to defend yours. -- MaxedOutMama

I don't just want gun rights... I want individual liberty, a culture of self-reliance....I want the whole bloody thing. -- Kim du Toit

The most glaring example of the cognitive dissonance on the left is the concept that human beings are inherently good, yet at the same time cannot be trusted with any kind of weapon, unless the magic fairy dust of government authority gets sprinkled upon them.-- Moshe Ben-David

The cult of the left believes that it is engaged in a great apocalyptic battle with corporations and industrialists for the ownership of the unthinking masses. Its acolytes see themselves as the individuals who have been "liberated" to think for themselves. They make choices. You however are just a member of the unthinking masses. You are not really a person, but only respond to the agendas of your corporate overlords. If you eat too much, it's because corporations make you eat. If you kill, it's because corporations encourage you to buy guns. You are not an individual. You are a social problem. -- Sultan Knish

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Feel-Good Tear-Jerker.

If this video doesn't make you choke up at least a little, don't come back here - ever.

Here's some background on Jason McElwain.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

RIP, Deputy Fife.

I just heard that Don Knotts died Friday night at the age of 81. Just damn. I grew up with him as Barney Fife, and Mr. Limpett, and Luther Heggs in "The Ghost and Mr. Chicken."

"Gun safety," thy name is Barney Fife.

Friday, February 24, 2006

I Would Never, Never Advocate this Behavior...

But I understand the impulse.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Weltanschauung


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.
(*sigh*)

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.

He writes,
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."

Hubris, indeed, but to be expected. Mr. Girsch is, after all, one of the Anointed. (I do "snidely superior" pretty well when I wish, too.)

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.

And, finally,
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?

CULTURE.

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?

CULTURE.

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.
Weltanschauung again.

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?)

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Boy, It's a Good Thing England Banned Handguns!.
Bank of England: Armed Gang Makes Haul

LONDON - A gang of armed robbers tied up 15 employees at a southern England security company and stole the equivalent of $43.5 million, the Bank of England said Wednesday.

The money, about 25 million pounds in bank notes, was stolen overnight from a cash center at Tonbridge in Kent county, a bank spokesman said. No one was injured in the robbery.

At least six men participated in the robbery, Kent police said, and 15 staff members on duty at the security company were tied up during the heist. The thieves, who wore balaclavas and carried handguns, were in the security company building for more than an hour, police said.

Detective Superintendent Paul Gladstone said the robbery was clearly planned in detail over time.
Perhaps next England should ban balaclavas. Or maybe thieves.

"Clearly planned in detail over time." Good to know that their sharpest detective is all over this one.

(Hat tip to reader Lee P. for the link.)

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

There's Evil, and Then There's EVIL.

"The Whiteboard" comic strip, 12/15/2003.

My only disagreement: Not the 82nd, just the population of Iraq. One squat per person.

No ridiculous circus of a trial then.

Hubris

hubris, noun: Overbearing pride or presumption; arrogance

arrogance, noun: a feeling or an impression of superiority manifested in an overbearing manner or presumptuous claims
In the late 1960's and early '70s Eric Sevareid interviewed a number of noteable people, and those interviews ran in hour-long television specials under the title Conversations with Eric Sevareid. A collection of the transcripts was published in 1976. Among the people Sevareid interviewed was American philosopher Eric Hoffer. Hoffer was interviewed twice; once on September 19, 1967, and again on January 28, 1969. In the opening to the first interview, this is how Sevareid introduced Hoffer:
Between the ages of seven and fifteen Eric Hoffer was totally blind. He never went to school. He has worked at manual labor all his life, the last 25 years as a longshoreman on the San Francisco docks. The University of California tried to hire him as a full professor. Publishers compete for his books, which are translated and read over half the world. His big body feels the twilight now, but his mind remains young as sunrise.

Great intellects have come from the working class and then have writen about the so-called "masses." Hoffer is working class. He's a phenomenon. He is a stroke of national good luck - the most authentic voice of the poor about whom even the rich are now writing. He does not judge America by today's headlines and newsfilm. He sees the country in its place on the wheel of time. "America," says Eric Hoffer, "is the only new thing in history."
I just wanted to establish some bona fides for Mr. Hoffer for those unfamiliar with him. Not too long ago, I was.

Consider the following exchange:
Eric Sevareid: You seem to have a fear about the rise of intellectuals in political life and power. Why are you so frightened of them?

Eric Hoffer: First of all, I ought to tell you that I have no grievance against intellectuals. All that I know about them is what I read in history books and what I've observed in our time. I'm convinced that the intellectuals as a type, as a group, are more corrupted by power than any other human type. It's disconcerting to realize that businessmen, generals, soldiers, men of action are less corrupted by power than intellectuals.

In my new book I elaborate on this and I offer an explanation why. You take a conventional man of action, and he's satisfied if you obey, eh? But not the intellectual. He doesn't want you just to obey. He wants you to get down on your knees and praise the one who makes you love what you hate and hate what you love. In other words, whenever the intellectuals are in power, there's soul-raping going on.

Sevareid: I think that's true in Russia but is it true here?

Hoffer: In this country the intellectuals aren't in power. Mass movement hasn't a chance for the simple reason that they aren't started by the masses. They're started by intellectuals.

In America the intellectual has neither status, nor prestige, nor influence. We, the common people, are not impressed by intellectuals. We have a disdain for pencil-pushers. We actually define efficiency by the small number of pencil-pushers. If you asked me what I consider an efficient society I'd say the ratio between the office personnel and the producing personnel.

The smaller the amount of supervision the better, the healthier, the more vigorous a society. The highest supervisory personnel is where the intellectuals are in power - in Communist countries. There half the population is supervising the other half. The intellectuals have a tremendous contempt for the masses. Intellectuals can't operate unless they're convinced that the masses are lazy, incompetent, dishonest; that you have to breathe down their necks, and you have to watch them all the time. We in America are sitting pretty because the masses perform only if we leave them alone. That's where we are at our best.
Thomas Sowell wrote a book published in 1995 entitled The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy. From the introduction:
The views of political commentators or writers on social issues often range across a wide spectrum, but their positions on these issues are seldom random. If they are liberal, conservative, or radical on foreign policy, then they are likely to be the same on crime, abortion, or education. There is usually a coherence to their beliefs, based on a particular set of underlying assumptions about the world - a certain vision of reality.

Visions differ of course from person to person, from society to society, and from one era to another. Visions also compete with one another, whether for the allegiance of an individual or of a whole society. But in some areas one vision so predominates over all others that it can be considered the prevailing vision of that time and place. This is the current situation among the intelligentsia of the United States and much of the Western world, however much their vision may differ from the visions of most other people. Individual variations in applying this underlying vision do not change the fundamental fact that there is a particular framework of assumptions within which most contemporary social and political discourse takes place in the media in academia, and in politics.

The rise of the mass media, mass politics, and massive government means that the beliefs which drive a relatively small group of articulate people have great leverage in determining the course taken by a whole society.
Theodore Dalrymple's 2001 book, Life at the Bottom: The Worldview that Makes the Underclass carries this passage in the introduction:
(M)ost 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).

Literature and common sense attest that sexual relations between men and women have been fraught with difficulty down the ages because man is a conscious social being who bears a culture, and is not merely a biological being. But intellectuals in the twentieth century sought to free our sexual relations of all social, contractual, or moral obligations and meaning whatsoever, so that henceforth only raw sexual desire itself would count in our decision making.

The intellectuals were about as sincere as Marie Antionette when she played the shepherdess. While their own sexual mores no doubt became more relaxed and liberal, they nonetheless continued to recognize inescapable obligations with regard to children, for example. Whatever they said, they didn't want a complete breakdown of family relations any more than Marie Antionette really wanted to earn her living by looking after sheep.

But their ideas were adopted both literally and wholesale in the lowest and most vulnerable social class. If anyone wants to see what sexual relations are like, freed of contractual and social obligations, let him look at the chaos of the personal lives of members of the underclass.

Here the whole gamut of human folly, wickedness, and misery may be perused at leisure - in conditions, be it remembered, of unprecedented prosperity. Here are abortions procured by abdominal kung-fu; children who have children, in numbers unknown before chemical contraception and sex education; women abandoned by the father of their child a month before or a month after delivery; insensate jealosy, the reverse coin of general promiscuity, that results in the most hideous oppression and violence; serial stepfatherhood that leads to sexual and physical abuse of children on a mass scale; and every kind of loosening of the distinction between the sexually permissable and the impermissable.

The connection between this loosening and the misery of my patients is so obvious that it requires considerable intellectual sophistication (and dishonesty) to be able to deny it.

The climate of moral, cultural, and intellectual relativism - a relativism that began as a mere fashionable plaything for intellectuals - has been successfully communicated to those least able to resist its devastating practical effects. When Professor Steven Pinker tells us in his best-selling book The Language Instinct (written, of course, in grammatically correct standard English, and published without spelling mistakes) that there is no grammatically correct form of language, that children require no tuition in their own language because they are destined to learn to speak it adequately for their needs, and that all forms of language are equally expressive, he is helping to enclose the underclass child in the world in which he was born. Not only will that child's teachers feel absolved from the arduous task of correcting him, but rumors of Professor Pinker's grammatical tolerance (a linguistic version of Pope's dictum that whatever is, is right) will reach the child himself. He will thenceforth resent correction as illegitimate and therefore humiliating. Eppur si mouve: whatever Professor Pinker says, the world demands correct grammar and spelling from those who would advance in it. Moreover, it is patently untrue that every man's language is equal to his needs, a fact that is obvious to anyone who has read the pitiable attempts of the underclass to communicate in writing with others, especially officialdom. Linguistic and educational relativism helps to transform a class into a caste - a caste, almost, of Untouchables.

--

In the modern world, bad ideas and their consequences cannot be confined to a ghetto. Middle-class friends of mine were appalled to discover that the spelling being taught to their daughter in school was frequently wrong; they were even more appalled when they drew it to the attention of the school's head teacher and were told it did not matter, since the spelling was approximately right and everyone knew anyway what the misspelling meant.
I think my older brother went to that school. I'm fairly certain that my step-daughter did too. I know my granddaughter started out in one like that. Thankfully, I did not. But the ideas of the intelligentsia go far beyond sexual mores and rules of grammar.

Eric Hoffer, in his 1951 book The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements, wrote:
The superior individual, whether in politics, literature, science, commerce, or industry, plays a large role in shaping a nation, but so do individuals at the other extreme -- the failures, misfits, outcasts, criminals, and all those who have lost their footing, or never had one, in the ranks of respectible humanity. The game of history is usually played by the best and worst over the heads of the majority in the middle.

The reason that the inferior elements of a nation can exert a marked influence on its course is that they are wholly without reverence toward the present. They see their lives and the present as spoiled beyond remedy and they are ready to waste and wreck both: hence their recklessness and their will to chaos and anarchy.
Are you beginning to see a pattern here?

A week ago, I wrote an essay entitled Culture in response to comments and commentary on an earlier piece, Questions from the Audience?. One commenter in particular prompted that second essay, "tgirsch" from the blog Lean Left. Mr. Girsch left several comments to Culture and one, somewhat related, post at Lean Left in the interim. I've waited a week to write this piece just to make sure that all that was going to be said about and because of Culture had been said. (WRONG! Mr. Girsch posted his response to Culture, More on Culture, Race, Economics and Violent Crime on Wednesday morning.)

The comment that prompted this post was made by Mr. Girsch in response to questions from reader Eric Sivula, which I will excerpt from:
You still have offered no evidence that Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid have not hurt the economy. According to the Social Security Budget for 2004, it collected 668 Billion dollars in taxes for that year. The World Bank projected the US GDP at about 11.6 Trillion dollars. So Social security taxes equalled 5.7% of US GDP, based on those numbers.

What do you think self employed people would do with 15% of their income they pay into FICA taxes? Pay down business or personal debt? Invest it as capital in their business? Purchase goods?

What do you think employees of larger businesses would do with 7.5% more income (more than 3 paychecks)? Purchase goods? Pay down personal debt? Invest it? Save it?

What do you think multiple employee businesses would do if each employee cost them 7.5% less to pay? Would they hire more employees? Invest it as capital? Save it?
The key part of Mr. Girsch's response:
Eric:
You still have offered no evidence that Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid have not hurt the economy.
And you have offered no evidence that Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid have hurt the economy -- just a bunch of anecdotal "ferinstances." So where does that leave us?

If modern history teaches us anything, the majority of the people would piss away that extra money. A few would save it or invest it wisely, but most would not. If you think even half of people would use the extra money (and that is the correct term -- people would have more in their pockets, according to you, without the tax than with it) to bolster their savings, I've got some Enron stock to sell you.
The somewhat related post Mr. Girsch put up at Lean Left during the week after I posted Culture is a "Me, too!" link entitled Dissing Libertarians. It links to the blog And Doctor Biobrain's Response is... to the post Liberal Libertarians. The opening of that piece is what Mr. Girsch quoted in his post, and it begins:
Libertarians. I can’t stand them. Even worse, I think they serve no useful purpose in our political system and really put a big drag on everything; and yes, that does presume that mainstream Republicans serve a purpose. The libertarian position sounds good, but that’s it. It’s just useless sloganeering and toughguy talk, with no real basis in reality. And there are two basic types of libertarians: Pie-in-the-sky jokers who haven’t thought any of it through passed [sic] the toughguy talk, and relatively intelligent Republicans who enjoy bashing libs but hate having to defend their own party. Both categories are dangerous in their own way, though the second is the more dangerous of the two. And both are entirely fake positions that are easy to defend, just as long as they can keep the topic on rhetoric and theory; and away from the thorns of reality.
My instinctive response to that was, "Pot? Meet Kettle." My second response to both that and Mr. Girsch's comment that "the majority of the people would piss away that extra money" was, "Hubris."

Leftists. I can't stand them. Even worse, I think they are destructive to our political system and really put a big drag on everything; and yes, that does presume that mainstream Democrats serve a purpose. The Leftist position sounds beautiful, but that’s it. It’s just useless sloganeering and utopian talk, with no real basis in reality. And there are two basic types of Leftists: Pie-in-the-sky jokers who haven’t thought any of it through past the utopian talk, and relatively intelligent Democrats who enjoy bashing libertarians but hate having to defend their own party. Both categories are dangerous in their own way, though the second is the far more dangerous of the two. And both are entirely fake positions that are easy to defend, just as long as they can keep the topic on rhetoric and theory; and away from the thorns of reality.

There, see? I can do it too.

There is a (vast) difference between being liberal - dedicated to individual liberty, and being a Leftist - dedicated to controlling the behavior of people towards socialist utopian ideals through the coercive power of government. There are liberal Democrats and liberal Republicans (both of whom are overwhelmed by what I think are loud (even screeching) minorities in those parties) and liberals who probably make up the overwhelming majority of the population that is not politically inclined. Liberals are like that. Mostly liberals want to be left the hell alone. Most libertarians are, in fact, liberal. Most Leftists are not, though they're convinced they are.

Leftists want to control other people so that Utopia can be achieved, and Mr. Girsch's outburst "the majority of the people would piss away that extra money", illustrates that position vividly, as did his response following my comment (to wit: "SO?"):
And this is where we're going to differ. You don't perceive a greater concentration of wealth in fewer and fewer hands -- which is inevitably what would happen without a social safety net -- as a problem. I do. And this is where libertarians and, well, the rest of us, will simply never agree.
Ah yes. The power of government is there, not to secure the rights of Man, but to prevent the "greater concentration of wealth in fewer and fewer hands." Mr. Girsch also said, a bit later:
If we were talking strictly about people making bad decisions and suffering for them, I'd be inclined to agree. But that's not what we're talking about here. We're talking, in many cases, about parents whose children in many cases will be poor, neglected, and disadvantaged through no fault of their own. I'll be the first to admit that "liberal" solutions don't do as good a job as they could here, but it beats the holy shit out of doing nothing. And last I checked, we as a nation could afford it.
And the only valid solution Mr. Girsch can endorse is a government solution, where the coercive power of government ("we as a nation") is used to redistribute the wealth of that nation, according to the dictates of the powerful.

Whither "democracy?"

Nobel prize-winning economist Milton Friedman once said:
A major source of objection to a free economy is precisely that it [...] gives people what they want instead of what a particular group thinks they ought to want. Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself.
Touché, Mr. Friedman. And no one fears democracy more than the intellectual.

Hoffer defined his meaning of the word "Intellectuals" in his second interview with Sevareid:
I talk of a specific type of person when I talk about an intellectual. [...] To me an intellectual is a man of some education who considers himself a member of the educated elite, who thinks he has a God-given right to direct affairs. To me an intellectual doesn't even have to be intelligent in order to be an intellectual. He looked down upon the masses as if they were dirt.

Sevareid: It's their attitude toward ordinary people that is the dividing line in your mind?

Hoffer: That's right.
From Hoffer's 1967 interview:
Sevareid: Why do intellectuals hate President Johnson?

Hoffer: Oh, well, it's just that they can't stand the common American . . . Look at our American intellectuals - real intellectuals and two-bit intellectuals. Look everywhere in the world - Africa, Asia, Europe. Intellectuals are making history. Intellectuals are even generals. Intellectuals are many things. Here in America the intellectuals have no power, and they are mad.

--

Sevareid: Why is it that they (hippies - this was San Francisco in 1967, remember) so detest the middle class? Is that always true of young people?

Hoffer: Well, perhaps no country is good for its juveniles. They have to adjust themselves to situations. One of the chief characteristics of human uniqueness is that instead of changing ourselves we try to change what we are supposed to adjust to. I'd say that the young are against their middle class parents.

Young people are assuming the intellectual attitude. The intellectual, you know, was against the middle class all through the nineteenth century. The intellectuals entered that century convinced they were going to make history. Hadn't they made the French Revolution?

Sevareid: But then the industrial revolution produced the middle class that intellectuals resent so much.

Hoffer: Yeah, but they didn't know that it was an industrial revolution. The intellectuals of the first decades of the nineteenth century thought they were going to make history. And then one morning they woke up and found that their low-brow brothers - their uncles, their fathers and brothers, their low-brow brothers - had grabbed possession of everything in sight and they were the ruling class. The intellectuals were enraged.

This, to me, is the only explanation of what was going on during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The cold war started somewhere in the middle of the last century. The intellectuals are now winning the cold war against the middle class. The middle class isn't being destroyed by the aristocrats. Napoleon put it this way: "Cannon destroyed the feudal society. Ink will destroy the middle class society."
Perhaps radio waves, electron beams and phosphor screens, liquid crystals and laser printers may preserve it.

For most of history the Intellectuals have been conservative, maintainers of the status quo ante. However, following the Russian Revolution and proceeding through the Second World War the Intellectuals became, more and more, Socialist. Why is this? Clinical psychologist Robert Godwin wrote:
We are wrong to think that the difficulty lies in the uneducated and unsophisticated masses--as if inadequate education, in and of itself, is the problem. As a matter of fact, no one is more prone to illusions than the intellectual. It has been said that philosophy is simply personal error on a grandiose scale. Complicating matters is the fact that intellectuals are hardly immune to a deep emotional investment in their ideas, no less than the religious individual. The word "belief" is etymologically linked to the word "beloved," and it is easy to see how certain ideas, no matter how dysfunctional--for example, some of the undeniably appealing ideas underpinning contemporary liberalism--are beloved by those who believe them. Thus, many liberal ideas are believed not because they are true, but because they are beautiful. Then, the intellectual simply marshals their intelligence in service of legitimizing the beliefs that they already hold. It has long been understood by psychoanalysts that for most people, reason is the slave of the passions.

Underneath the intellectual's attachment to the dysfunctional idea is a more insidious fear that their entire intellectual cathedral, carefully constructed over a lifetime, will collapse in ruins.
Socialism is a beautiful idea, but its irridescent bubble bursts when it encounters the thorns of reality. But, true to form, the intellectuals have permeated media and education in order to proselytize. Godwin continues:
(F)or the person who is not under the hypnotic psycho-spiritual spell of contemporary liberalism, it is strikingly devoid of actual religious wisdom or real ideas. As such, it is driven by vague, spiritually infused ideals and feelings, such as "sticking up for the little guy," or "war is not the answer." On the other hand, conservatism is not so much based on ideas, but on simply observing what works, and then generalizing from there. It is actually refreshingly free of dogma, and full of dynamic tension. For example, at the heart of conservatism is an ongoing, unresolvable dialectic between freedom and virtue. In other words, there is a bedrock belief in the idea that free markets are the best way to allocate scarce resources and to create wealth and prosperity for all, but a frank acknowledgment that, without a virtuous populace, the system may produce a self-centered, materialistic citizenry living in a sort of degenerate, "pitiable comfort." Thus, there is an ongoing, unresolvable tension between the libertarian and traditional wings of the movement.

There is no such dynamic tension in liberalism. Rather, it is a top-down dogma that is not dictated by what works, but by how liberals would like reality to be. This is why liberalism must be enforced with the mechanism of political correctness, in order to preempt or punish those who deviate from liberal dogma, and see what they are not supposed to see.
Columnist Charles Krauthammer put it this way:
To understand the workings of American politics, you have to understand this fundamental law: Conservatives think liberals are stupid. Liberals think conservatives are evil.
To quote Mr. Girsch one more time:
(L)et's be frank about what most opponents of the social safety net are really after. Most of them don't believe that gutting such programs would truly make the country a better place; they just think that doing so would make things better for them.

That's where I agree with Dr. Biobrain and his commenters, who point out that a lot of Libertarianism is just a search for philosophical justification for selfishness.
And, of course, selflessness is "sticking up for the little guy," and selfishness is evil.

And that, gentle readers, is hubris.

(For another example, I direct you to read this post at Alphecca.)

Monday, February 20, 2006

Want a History Lesson?.

Zendo Deb gives an excellent one: The Deacons for Defense and Justice.

Strongly recommended.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Pretty Much All I Have to Say.About the VP's Hunting Accident:

H/t: Mostly Cajun

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Anybody Know What Happened to Gerard Van der Leun?.

American Digest seems to have been pulled. The Voice of the Neuter is Heard Throughout the Land is still available, but other archive links are broken.

Did he move, and nobody tell me? Is he having system problems? WHAT?!?!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Public Service Announcement.

I received this email this evening:
Subject: Tucson Gun Show Moved

New location: Tucson Expo Center, 3750 E Irvington Rd

Those of you who know me, know I don't ask things of people very often. In truth, I'd like you to do something both for yourself, and for freedom next Saturday and Sunday. I’d like you to take as many of your family members as you can to the McMann Roadrunner Tucson Gun Show next weekend, 2/18 & 19, which will be at the Tucson Expo Center, 3750 E Irvington Rd, not at the TCC as usual.

At the last TCC show, the city accepted a deposit for the hall for 2/18 & 19, and then someone forgot to write the contract. It was then rented out to another show, leaving Lori McMann to find another venue. TCC officials have apologized for the mistake and have offered to put people at the curb telling them the show has moved. That venue, again, is The Tucson Expo Center, 3750 E Irvington Rd, Just East of Palo Verde on the South side of Irvington. It’s right between Denny's and Carl's Jr. for those who navigate by landmark.

Here's the rub: many will be disappointed to find that the show is not at TCC, and go home. That is not good for Roadrunner Shows, or any of its vendors. They need a good turn out, and I'm asking you to help with that turn out by forwarding this to everyone you know in Tucson who might be interested in going to this gun show. Why?

Pat McMann fought very hard against some underhanded and anti-freedom policies of the City of Tucson that tried to keep him out of the TCC. He went so far as to go to court and fight a tough and courageous battle against the City, which he did not win, but set the tone for changes in the pre-emption law, ARS 13-3108. In the end, the show stayed at TCC, mostly on his resolve. I am sure that that battle hastened the stroke that killed him. Now his daughter Lori and widow Joan carry on his business, running clean, ethical, and well done shows all over the state.

Can we, as gun owners, pay back a little of the debt to the McMann Family for standing up for our rights to assembly? I hope so. Please attend the show Saturday, 2/18, 9 – 5, and Sunday 9 – 4, and forward this to everyone you know who might attend. I’ll even forgive theregular listeners to the Swap Shop, Sunday 10 AM – noon and LibertyWatch Sunday noon – 2 PM on AM 690 KVOI, for missing the shows that weekto go to the gun show. So please, redistribute this widely, and thanks.

Respectfully,
Charles Heller
www.libertywatchradio.com
I'm not a fan of gun shows, but I might just go to this one.

Culture


A couple of weeks ago, I hammered out a post in response to a series of questions about violent crime, Questions from the Audience? It drew a bit of attention in the following days, and prompted Kim du Toit to post What We Knew Already. An important point of my piece was excerpted by Kim, and later by SayUncle in his follow-on, Americans are a murderous sort:
It suggests that the homicide by firearm problem is concentrated in a small, identifiable group. It suggests that homicide is heavily concentrated in the overall black demographic, and especially in young black men.
The heart of Kim's post, or at least the part that drew commentary, was this:
The United States has always had a higher murder rate than other countries, not because there are more guns around, but because we are a nation of immigrants. When people have few or no ties to a community, their propensity towards lawlessness is much higher. (It’s why, for example, small-town sheriffs had a habit of telling strangers to leave town—they were playing the odds.)
Hopefully you've read all three of these pieces, and the associated commentary. This essay is in response to comments left at Say Uncle's by "tgirsch" of Lean Left

First, the question of "the Welfare State" was raised as a contributing factor in the extremely high rates of black-on-black violent crime, and I concurred:
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.
The first comment by tgirsch was this:
I suspect that black on black violence is so high because blacks are disproportionately poor, and poverty and violent crime seem to walk hand-in-hand. There are other, social factors, of course. And there’s the elephant in the room that nobody seems to want to talk about, which is that generally speaking, handguns are a lot easier to get here and a lot more commonplace here than in most other places.

As to the whole “welfare state” thing, I highly doubt it. For one thing, I don't think the move away from the “nuclear family” has anything at all to do with the welfare state; it has a lot more to do with women’s liberation. In the cultures Kevin Baker lists, women are often viewed as inferior and/or treated as property. So if you’re going to rail on something as a cause of the breakdown of the nuclear family, you have to rail against women’s lib. [Tongue-partially-in-cheek] Although that would reclassify you from a racist jerk to a sexist jerk. [/Tongue-partially-in-cheek]

I do think that more attention needs to be paid to racial differences and the underlying reasons for them. But I think what we’ll ultimately find is that race has no inherent effect at all, and that the difference that exist are socially driven.
Irrespective of the fact that tgirsch managed to (tongue-partially-in-cheek) call me a racist jerk and/or a sexist jerk in one sentence, from there the discussion between us didn't go as well as I'd have liked. A comment section is not really ideal for doing a thought-piece, especially when you can't take your sweet time and edit, edit, edit. I promised him I'd take up the subject over here. Now that I have a little time, I'm doing just that. Actually, this piece has taken a lot of time. I've been working on it, off and on, for about three weeks.

Let's get the preliminaries out of the way.

A) Blacks, particularly young black males, make up the majority of homicide victims and homicide perpetrators. They are also the majority of perpetrators and victims of other violent crimes. This is despite the fact that they are a significant minority of the population.

B) The USA doesn't have a significant violent crime problem, it has a significant INNER CITY violent crime problem.

C) These facts are normally politely ignored by people who promote "gun control" as a way of reducing murder and violent crime. For the purposes of promoting "gun control," such crime is generally treated as though it was spread homogeneously throughout the entire U.S. population.

D) When the significant concentration of violent crime IS acknowledged, the astronomical levels are blamed on "gun availability" and then on "disproportional poverty."

E) The fact that guns are easily available everywhere, yet violent crime is concentrated in inner cities is hardly ever acknowledged, although "easy gun availability" is constantly decried whenever a particularly heinous crime occurs.

F) When low levels of gun crime in suburban and rural areas is acknowledged, despite universal gun availability, the blame shifts to "poverty," though no one ever seems to ask why, over a century after the Civil War, after forty years of The Great Society and the War on Poverty, inner-cities remain populated largely by poverty-stricken and violence-stricken blacks.

Let me make the point again: In 2003 in the U.S., young black men between the ages of 15 and 35 made up 13.9% of all males of that age range in the U.S., and 2.1% of the entire population. But that 13.9% was the victim of 57% of the homicides of all men in that age range, and that miniscule 2% of the population was the victim of 28% of all homicides that year. And the overwhelming majority of those homicides are not interracial. They're "black-on-black."

Those are literally epidemic numbers, but I'm apparently (tongue-only-partially-in-cheek) a racist jerk for pointing out that pachyderm in the parlor, and not blaming it on "poverty" or "handgun availability."

I repeat: The problem is not "gun availability." One thing all gun control groups agree on is the universal availability of guns, and the scourge of cheap "Saturday Night Specials" (and now "pocket rockets" and ".50 caliber sniper rifles"), but violent crime remains concentrated primarily in our cities. So, is it poverty? And is the poverty of inner-city blacks "disproportional"?

According to a Census Bureau press release from 1998,
In 1997, the number and poverty rate of African Americans was 9.1 million and 26.5 percent, compared with 24.4 million and 11.0 percent for Whites; 1.5 million and 14.0 percent for Asians and Pacific Islanders; and 8.3 million and 27.1 percent for Hispanics. The poverty rate for Hispanics did not differ statistically from the rate for African Americans.

For families, the number and percentage of poor in 1997 was 2.0 million and 23.6 percent for African Americans; 5.0 million and 8.4 percent for Whites; 244,000 and 10.2 percent for Asians and Pacific Islanders; and 1.7 million and 24.7 percent for Hispanics. The poverty rate for Hispanics did not differ statistically from the rate for African Americans.
In 1997 the homicide rate for black males 15-35 was 2.6 times the rate for Hispanic males in the same age group. It was ten times the rate for Asians & Pacific Islanders. Poverty does not explain the disparity, or at least not all of it. Interestingly, young Hispanic black males have a lower homicide rate than their caucasian equivalents - and far lower than non-hispanic blacks.

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.) The question, however, is why are young black males six times more likely to die of a gunshot wound than the average non-black young male? They aren't six times more poverty-stricken than other poor groups. They aren't even 2.6 times more poverty-stricken than Hispanics. The "elephant in the room" isn't that "handguns are a lot easier to get here and a lot more commonplace here than in most other places," it's that young black men here misuse them (and other weapons) at several times the rate of all other young men.

There it is again. As I said in Questions from the Audience?:
What I've never understood is that we know that the majority of homicide is concentrated in a very small, easily identifiable population, why are we trying to attack it by regulating guns?
Tgirsch seems to encourage the regulation of guns, since he sees the "elephant" as being "handgun availability." I recommended to tgirsch that he read my three-part essay on "Dangerous Victims" that begins with "It's most important that all potential victims be as dangerous as they can". The pertinent part is this, an excerpt from the essay Social Harmony by Grim Beorn:
Very nearly all the violence that plagues, rather than protects, society is the work of young males between the ages of fourteen and thirty. A substantial amount of the violence that protects rather than plagues society is performed by other members of the same group. The reasons for this predisposition are generally rooted in biology, which is to say that they are not going anywhere, in spite of the current fashion that suggests doping half the young with Ritalin.

The question is how to move these young men from the first group (violent and predatory) into the second (violent, but protective). This is to ask: what is the difference between a street gang and the Marine Corps, or a thug and a policeman? In every case, we see that the good youths are guided and disciplined by old men.
This is an example of culture, that complex of "other, social factors." Culture is defined as:
a: the integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon man's capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations

b:
the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group

c:
the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes a society.
Kim's piece on "a nation of immigrants," I think, was more about the conflict that arises between cultures, and there is a bit of that that probably does contribute to our overall rates of violent crime which, (when the epidemic levels of black-on-black crime are factored for) are far lower than a lot of people think. But what Kim doesn't address is the problem that I consider the "elephant in the room;" the extremely high intracultural violence in one identifiable group compared to everybody else.

As the excerpt above from Social Harmony points out, "Very nearly all the violence that plagues, rather than protects, society is the work of young males between the ages of fourteen and thirty." And in addition: "The reasons for this predisposition are generally rooted in biology, which is to say that they are not going anywhere, in spite of the current fashion that suggests doping half the young with Ritalin." But this does not tell us why young black men are so much more violent than their peers.

And here is where I start speculating, so those of you who want to accuse me of racism ought to be sharpening your barbs.

SayUncle considered Kim's argument and concluded:
And I realized that it made a sick sort of sense. The nation of immigrants factor is just about the only thing we don’t have in common with other comparable western nations.
No, it's not. The factor that America has that is different from other comparable Western nations is massive institutionalized slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction, institutionalized and legally codified racism, the Civil Rights Movement, and finally the Great Society and the War on Poverty.

Tgirsch proposes that black-on-black violence is due to the "disproportionate poverty" of the black demographic. What is seldom asked, as I noted, was why American blacks remain largely poverty-stricken a century after emancipation, and nearly half a century after the Civil Rights movement and the establishment of the Welfare State. At the same time, recent black immigrants from Africa or the Carribean who come here with good educations seem to have little problem in joining the work force and escaping poverty; many (though certainly not all) Asian immigrants come here and have little problem in escaping poverty; and even some Hispanic immigrants can come here illegally and do well enough to qualify for home loans - an accomplishment that escapes a lot of black families.

This is not to say that some poor inner-city blacks do not escape poverty as well, but they tend to be the exception. But what part of the culture is it that contributes to continued poverty and what part to high violent crime rates? Grim states that "good youths are guided and disciplined by old men." Does illegitimacy explain it? Professor William Galston has been quoted for having said:
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.
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%. For Hawaiians the rate was 50.4%. For Chinese, 12.%. Culture, again.

But this is correlation, not causation. Again, while illegitimacy is very high in the black demographic, it is not six times higher. Poverty is not the answer. Illegitimacy is not the answer. The answer is a combination of factors, the factors that make up a culture.

Theodore Dalrymple's book, Life at the Bottom: The Worldview that Makes the Underclass explores several components the culture of what he terms "the underclass." An excerpt from the introduction:
As a doctor who has worked for the past decade in a busy general hospital in a British slum, and also in a nearby prison, I have been in a privileged position to observe the life of this underclass. I have, for example, interviewed some ten thousand people who have made an attempt (however feeble) at suicide, each of whom has told me of the lives of four or five other people around him. From this source alone, therefore, I have learned about the lives of some fifty thousand people: lives dominated, almost without exception, by violence, crime, and degradation. My sample is a selected one, no doubt, as all samples drawn from personal experience must be, but it is not small.

--

As a doctor I am, of course, committed to treating each patient as an individual. It could hardly be otherwise: when you talk to people about the most intimate details of their lives, it could scarecely occur to you that they are other than fully conscious agents, in essence no different from yourself.

Nevertheless, patterns of behavior emerge - in the case of the underclass, almost entirely self-destructive ones. Day after day I hear of the same violence, the same neglect and abuse of children, the same broken relationships, the same victimization by crime, the same nihilism, the same dumb despair. If everyone is a unique individual, how do patterns such as this emerge?

Economic determinism, of the vicious cycle-of-poverty variety, seems hardly to answer the case. Not only is the underclass not poor, (in relation to real poverty as experienced in the Third World) but untold millions of people who were very much poorer have emerged from poverty within living memory - in South Korea, for example. If being poor really entailed a vicious cycle, man would still be living in the caves.

Genetic or racial determinism is no better. It will come as a surprise to American readers, perhaps, to learn that the majority of the British underclass is white, and that it demonstrates all the same social pathology as the black underclass in America - for very similar reasons, of course. Genetics, moreover, can hardly explain such phenomena as the rise of mass illegitimacy, unprecedented in recorded history, since the late 1950s.

The role of the welfare state in the rise (if that is quite the word for it) of the underclass is likewise overstressed. At most it might have been a necessary condition for that rise: it made it possible, not inevitable. Welfare states have existed for substantial periods of time without the development of a modern underclass: an added ingredient is obviously necessary.

This ingredient is to be found in the realm of ideas. 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.
So let's look at that Weltanschauung that the black underclass in America and the white underclass in Britain shares, or at least some of the components of it. One is a rejection of education. I found a piece by Don B. Kates on the History News Network. He excerpts from historian Roger Lane's book Murder in America:
In the post-Civil War period though black murder rates were high, they were far lower than today ... and lower than those of their immigrant Irish competitors while Italian murder rates [when Italians began immigrating] soared well above those of blacks.

[A]fter the [Civil W]ar both unions and employers, all over the country, combined to drive [blacks out of high paying trades]... [F]actory work, all across the country was considered too good for black workers. [Black homicide is] another social-psychological [deprivation that] resulted from black exclusion from the regimenting effects of industrial and bureaucratic work. These effects are shown in the relatively rapid decline in homicide rates among Irish and Italian immigrants, two other ethnic groups with high levels of preindustrial violence, as their integration into the industrial work force demanded unprecedented levels of sober, disciplined, orderly behavior, which carried over into their private lives.

[Later when they were] no longer shut out of the urban-industrial revolution, blacks were instead let in too late. During the 1940s and 1950s blacks in effect were piped aboard a sinking ship, welcomed into the urban industrial age just as that age was dying, with industrial cities losing population and jobs.

[In late 19th Century Philadelphia] blacks consistently outscored their competitors on written tests of all kinds... Even the white press generally agreed that black civil servants (and, a historian would add, blacks as a group) were overqualified for the [low level jobs to which they were confined] in this era, as a result of a general refusal to promote them to positions where they might have authority of any kind over white workers. [Blacks were acutely aware of the need for education and struggled heroically to attain it. B]lack literacy in the city soared from roughly 20 percent to 80 percent over the final thirty years of the [19th C]entury ... [Philadelphia blacks included doctors, lawyers and other professionals -- graduates of Harvard, Yale and the University of Pennsylvania. But] that was no guarantee that they could make a living. As whites would not hire them and blacks could not afford them, licensed black physicians were found working as bellhops.... In the early 20th Century not one of Philadelphia' black attorneys could make a living through his law practice alone.
(All ellipses by Kates.) Kates notes at the end of this excerpt, "The lesson blacks learned from this was that for them education had no economic value." For most inner-city poverty-stricken blacks, that lesson seems to have stuck. Note, however, that in the late 1800's while poverty was rampant, black literacy was high and education levels were also. However, literacy declined through the 20th century. One can argue how much of that decline was due to lack of educational availability and how much was due to the recognition that an education just didn't buy much in a society that discriminated de facto and de jure against blacks.

Another interesting argument made in that excerpt is that work, "demand(s) unprecedented levels of sober, disciplined, orderly behavior, which carrie(s) over into" private life. Working, in other words, tends to make one responsible. Working also tends to highlight the value of education. When you have a job, knowing how to do it better than others is generally the path to advancement - if advancement is available. Work also contributes to self-worth, or at least it used to before our culture changed. And not working tends to contribute to acts of crime. The bromide, "Idle hands are the Devil's workshop" isn't just some hoary cliché. Ignorance contributes as well. Most violent criminals aren't the sharpest spoons in the drawer.

Robert Rector, a welfare policy expert, gave an interview in 2003 from which I found the following interesting:
(W)omen who give birth out-of-wedlock in general are poorly educated themselves. Beyond that, children who are raised in single-parent families are more likely to fail in school and are more likely to drop out. Then they, in turn, are more likely to have children out-of-wedlock, and perpetuate the cycle.

It's important to understand that this is not a causal thing: Poverty does not cause a low level of education. In fact, a low education level is more likely to be contributing to the poverty than vice versa.

One way to think about this is to realize that, back in the 1920s, probably half of all Americans were poor. In the 1950s, it was around a quarter. Although these families were poor, it didn't reduce their cognitive abilities, it didn't erode their work ethic, and it didn't make them more likely to be engaged in crime.

There's a fundamental social science error when you take a cross-sectional viewpoint at any point in time and say, "Aha! Look--people who are poor are more likely to do all of these things. And therefore, if we could just artificially raise their income, they would do drugs less, drop out of school less, have fewer children out-of-wedlock, work more, and do better in school." It doesn’t work like that.

Once you look at it in a historical sense, it's quite clear that income status, for example, doesn't have very much to do with completing high school, because a lot of children from very low-income families completed high school in the 1950s. Rather, it's the study ethic and the work ethic that young people have that contributes to their success in school and in the workplace. In fact, efforts in welfare to artificially raise income actually erode that work ethic and erode the individual's sense of the importance of getting an education to support themselves.

--

What you see, moving from the 1950s forward, are changes in a wide range of social norms, concerning work, criminal behavior, respect for authority, education, sexual activity, and marriage. You see an expansion of what I would call "the culture of the underclass." That culture tends to have negative attitudes about work, about education, about marriage, and about self-control. It became cool to be sexually active without marriage and to have children without being married. Working at a reasonable job was considered to be the action of a chump, being a husband and supporting your family was being a chump, and clearly studying in school was being a chump.

Now, all of those attitudes existed in society prior to that point in time, but in the late 1960s, those values clearly exploded. In particular, there was a huge change in the norms concerning sexual behavior. In low-income, black communities it became commonplace that women would have children and not be married, and would support those children through welfare rather than through a husband.

Welfare provided a mother and her children with an income independent of a father. But once the role of the breadwinner and the husband disappeared, a lot of the rationale for the male work ethic and the male study ethic also disappeared.

If you're not academically gifted, one of the main reasons you're sitting in a classroom, slugging away, is the idea that you have to do reasonably well in school in order to get a good job and have a wife and support a family. But if you're no longer thinking about having a wife and supporting a family, then school work doesn’t have much purpose, and getting and holding on to a job has far less purpose.
So, after decades of knowing that education has no economic value, and further decades of lack of employment opportunity, what is the result? A population that is willfully ignorant, desperately poor, generally promiscuous, disillusioned and angry and willing to use whatever drugs are available to escape (however briefly) their reality, but not willing to study or work to escape permanently, now that the opportunity actually exists.

They are also often violent. These characteristics are shared by both the American and British underclass. The biggest difference? The British underclass doesn't kill anywhere near as often. Gun control enthusiasts point to that differential and claim that it proves that "gun control works," but they always neglect to consider that homicide in Britain has always been a fraction of that in the U.S., even when neither country had any gun control laws.

Again, it's a matter of culture: killing, in Britian, just isn't "cricket." Never has been. But beating people bloody seems to have gained a lot of popularity since the weapons laws were implemented. However, for immigrant Jamaican gangs, violence is just part of the business of dealing drugs, so much of the lethal violence in Britian is committed by - and often on - these immigrants. Culture, again.

As for the "success" of British gun control? After eighty years of ever more onerous restrictions on the purchase and possession of firearms, after bans on several types of weapons, including handguns, and after reducing the number of lawful gun owners to a tiny fraction of the population, I don't see all that much success. I haven't noticed that the handgun ban has positively affected the rate of homicides committed with handguns over in Old Blighty, for instance. However, the gun control forces here (with the notable exception of the Violence Policy Center) insist that all they want to implement is "common-sense gun control" and that they're not interested in disarming honest, law-abiding gun owners.

Go ahead, pull my other leg.

Rector again:
There's a complete vacuum of responsible male authority figures in a lot of these low-income communities. This isn't an issue that's restricted to blacks; it's just most pronounced in black communities. The same pattern occurs with low-income whites.

The change in the male work ethic and the male study ethic also was tied in with a certain current of radical feminism, which actively celebrated the disappearance of marriage in the black community, and said it was better for women not to have husbands but instead to have loose, cohabitational relationships. This sounds insane in retrospect, but it was very avant-garde thought in the early 1970s.

They wanted to wipe the married family off the map, and in some respects, they've succeeded. It's just such a bizarrely counterproductive idea that it's difficult to understand it today, but book after book after book was written by feminists on this subject--quite paradoxically, celebrating what most Americans regarded as a disaster, which was the disappearance of marriage in the black community.
It would appear that I'm not the only (tongue-partially-in-cheek) sexist jerk out there. After all, a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle! What Rector describes here in the American black underclass is matched by Dalrymple and the white British underclass. In both cases the culprit blamed is the ideas of the cultural elite - the Left cultural elite. (But I'm being redundant.)

A City Journal piece from 2004, Dads in the 'Hood discusses the lack of male role models in the black culture.
"You a blessin' and I'll always guide you," sings rapper Ray Benzino, co-owner of Source Magazine and organizer of the publication's 2002 event "to reveal the nurturing side of rap artists as fathers and mentors."

Not that this celebration of fatherhood is universal in the ghetto. (D.J.) Andrews says that when he explains the poverty and psychological problems that fatherless children suffer at disproportionate rates, some young men say, "I never thought about that." Others listen suspiciously and counter, "I didn't have a father, and I came out okay" - that is, until Andrews points out that that's a prison record in their file, not an honor-roll certificate.

But indifference of this sort is going out of style, as ghetto dwellers have begun to take stock - in their high schools, housing projects, and streets - of the disastrous results of the previous decades of father absence. For the hip-hop generation that grew up at the height of the crack epidemic, when so many of their elders vanished into underclass hell, rage at deadbeat dads has become a kind of primal scream. In 2001, BET.com encouraged visitors to post Father's Day greetings. Organizers assumed that they would see a Hallmark fest of "I love you" or "I miss you." Instead they got a "venting session": "I hate you," "To all my deadbeat dads out there, I just want to say, thanks for nothing," and "That bastard forgot that I even existed," contributors railed.

Father loss is a recurrent theme in contemporary black music, chronicled by some of the baddest brothers: "What's buried under there?/Was a kid torn apart once his pop disappeared?/I went to school, got good grades, could behave when I wanted/But I had demons deep inside," raps Jay-Z, who was raised in Brooklyn's notorious Marcy Projects and usually sings of "hos and bitches." "Now all the teachers couldn't reach me/And my mom couldn't beat me/Hard enough to match the pain of my pops not seeing me."

--

For close to half a century, the welfare establishment viewed fatherlessness as poverty's unavoidable collateral damage. Federal and local governments spent billions on Mom's parenting and work skills, day care and Head Start, food stamps, after-school programs, and health care; but they didn't have much to say about - or to - Dad. Starting in the mid-1990s, reams of research began to convince even the most skeptical activists and policymakers of the importance of fathers and the two-parent family to children's life chances, and attention turned toward the missing dad. Today, programs that try to impress young single fathers with their importance in their kids' lives are spreading across the social-services world, with support from the federal and state governments.

--

The Sexual Organization of the City, a recent University of Chicago study of sexual relations in various Chicago neighborhoods, finds "transactional" sexual relationships, infidelity, and domestic violence on the rise throughout the city, but things are worst in Southtown, the pseudonymous African-American neighborhood. Sixty percent of Southtown men interviewed had "concurrent partners" - as did 45 percent of women. The sociologist-authors conclude that polygamy is Southtown's "dominant structure."

Worse, the study's authors argue, infidelity often leads to violence. Close to 60 percent of Southtown respondents reported that at least one partner in their relationships engaged in physical violence in the previous year. The black writer bell hooks says that she often hears teenagers say, "There is no such thing as love." In a relationship dystopia like Southtown, they may be right.
When there are no wise old men to discipline the young, the young tend to look to each other for role models. They also tend to go feral. The difference between the street gang and the Marine Corps, the thug and the policeman, is guidance, and there isn't any, or at least not much.

Dads in the 'Hood, again:
A 2001 survey by CBS News and BET.com, a website affiliated with the Black Entertainment Television network, found that 92 percent of African-American respondents agreed that absentee fathers are a serious problem. In black public discourse, personal responsibility talk, always encompassing family responsibility, has been crowding out the old orthodoxy of reparations and racism. Bill Cosby's much debated remarks in June at the Rainbow/Push conference, calling on parents to take charge of their kids and for men to "stop beating up your women because you can't find a job," set off an amen corner. Democratic National Convention keynote speaker Barack Obama, the black Illinois senatorial candidate, celebrated family, hard work, and the inner-city citizens who "know that parents have to parent." In a New York Times op-ed, Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates added his blessing when he asked, "Are white racists forcing black teenagers to drop out of school or have babies?" Even the wily Reverend Al recently corrected one of the Times's most fervent PC watchdogs, Deborah Solomon, that, no, Cosby wasn't being racist, and that "we didn't go through the civil rights movement only to end up as thugs and hoodlums."
This, thankfully, signals a possible change in that culture, but it will not be an easy one. I strongly recommend you read the entire piece.

However, another component of this Weltanschauung is a sense of entitlement, of being owed. One example of this is the call for reparations for the evils of slavery. That is another topic unto itself, but I raise it as an illustration. In a comment to the SayUncle piece, tgirsch says:
Actually, I'm not denying that the welfare state is a contributing factor per se, but I suspect that has more to do with it being poorly implemented than with it being inherently deleterious to society.
I've made many comments and posts concerning the concept of "cognitive dissonance," once so succinctly defined by Steven Den Beste:
When someone tries to use a strategy which is dictated by their ideology, and that strategy doesn't seem to work, then they are caught in something of a cognitive bind. If they acknowledge the failure of the strategy, then they would be forced to question their ideology. If questioning the ideology is unthinkable, then the only possible conclusion is that the strategy failed because it wasn't executed sufficiently well. They respond by turning up the power, rather than by considering alternatives. (This is sometimes referred to as "escalation of failure".)
The noble idea can't be wrong, the solution was just "poorly implemented." So turn up the power.

No, when you apply the concept of welfare to a culture that holds a belief in entitlement, it cannot be implemented well. It is doomed to failure. Turning up the power just results in more, and more spectacular, failure.

The same issue of City Journal carried another piece, The Myth of the Working Poor that I strongly recommend. An excerpt:
Forty years ago a young, radical journalist helped ignite the War on Poverty with his pioneering book The Other America. In its pages, Michael Harrington warned that the recently proclaimed age of affluence was a mirage, that beneath the surface of U.S. prosperity lay tens of millions of people stuck in hopeless poverty that only massive government intervention could help.

Today, a new generation of journalists is straining to duplicate Harrington's feat—to convince contemporary America that its economic system doesn't work for millions and that only government can lift them out of poverty. These new journalists face a tougher task than Harrington's, though, because all levels of government have spent about $10 trillion on poverty programs since his book appeared, with disappointing, even counterproductive, results. And over the last four decades, millions of poor people, immigrants and native-born alike, have risen from poverty, without recourse to the government programs that Harrington inspired.
What's the difference between the millions of poor who have risen from poverty and the millions who have not?

Their culture.

From that same piece:
But the new thinkers quickly veer to the left of Harrington, following some of his more radical acolytes whose theories produced the War on Poverty's most spectacular disasters. Harrington had seen the poor as victims because they could find no work; his more radical allies, especially a group associated with Columbia University's social-work school, argued that compelling the demoralized inner-city poor to work or take part in training that would fit them for work, instead of giving them unconditional welfare, was itself victimization. Richard A. Cloward and Frances Fox Piven, for example, argued that America's poverty programs—"self-righteously oriented toward getting people off welfare" and making them independent—were violating the civil rights of the poor. Journalist Richard Elman claimed that "vindictive" America was "humiliating" welfare recipients by forcing them to seek entry-level work as taxi drivers, restaurant employees, and factory laborers, instead of giving them a guaranteed minimum income.

Sympathetic mayors and welfare officials responded to Cloward and Piven's call, boosting benefits, loosening eligibility rules, and cutting investigations of welfare cheating. Welfare rolls soared, along with welfare fraud and illegitimate births. The result was a national backlash that sparked the Reagan administration's welfare spending cuts.

But the Columbia crew left its enduring mark on welfare policy, in the principle that welfare, once a short-term program to help people get back on their feet, should be continuous and come with few restrictions and no stigma. A welfare mother, screaming at New York mayor John Lindsay (responsible for much of the city's rise in welfare cases), expressed the system's new philosophy: "It's my job to have kids, Mr. Mayor, and your job to take care of them." It was a philosophy that bred an urban underclass of non-working single mothers and fatherless children, condemned to intergenerational poverty, despite the trillions spent to help them.
Again, the ideas of the Left have an effect, just not the one they intended. This characteristic of the Left is commented on by Dalrymple:
The idea that one is not an agent but the helpless victim of circumstances, or of the large occult sociological or economic forces, does not come naturally, as an inevitable concomitant of experience. On the contrary, only in extreme circumstances is helplessness directly experienced in the way the blueness of the sky is experienced. Agency, by contrast, is the common experience of us all. We know our will's free, and there's an end on't.

The contrary idea, however, has been endlessly propagated by intellectuals and academics who do not believe it of themselves. In this there is a considerable element of condescension: that some people do not measure up fully to the status of human. The extension of the term "addiction," for example, to cover any undesireable but nonetheless gratifying behavior that swiftly percolated downward from academe. Not long after academic criminologists propounded the theory that recidivists were addicted to crime (bolstering their theories with impressive diagrams of neural circuits in the brain to prove it), a car thief of limited intelligence and less education asked me for treatment of his addiction to stealing cars - failing receipt of which, of course, he felt morally justified in continuing to relieve car owners of their property.

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).
One of those cultures in which "women are treated as property," you know.
Literature and common sense attest that sexual relations between men and women have been fraught with difficulty down the ages because man is a conscious social being who bears a culture, and is not merely a biological being. But intellectuals in the twentieth century sought to free our sexual relations of all social, contractual, or moral obligations and meaning whatsoever, so that henceforth only raw sexual desire itself would count in our decision making.
Another excerpt from Dads in the 'Hood:
Several teens interviewed by Jason DeParle in his New York Times Magazine story scoff at the boring sameness of marriage, even while they yearn for fathers. "I need some little me's - children," one 16-year-old told DeParle, but, he continued, "I just can't see myself being with one woman." As another teen explained, "That'd be too plain—like you have to see the same woman every day." A young man with this attitude does not spend time "looking for Ms. Right" or "working on a relationship," or any of the other rituals of middle-class courtship. Like Tyrell, first he is with one woman, then he is with another; in all likelihood, there will be more in the future. Sex happens. And so do babies.

It's not at all uncommon to meet poor men who have left behind a winding trail of exes and their unanticipated progeny. One man I spoke with has five children by two women; another, apologizing for his shoddy birth control practices by explaining that he "likes it raw," has seven children by five women; he was 15 when the first was born. When asked about his offspring, an edgy Haitian, who owes the State of New York child support of $35,000, starts counting slowly on his fingers. He stops at four, but he doesn't seem to be joking; it's as if he's never thought of the products of his many affairs as a single group that could be labeled "my children."
It looks like the intellegentsia was "successful."

Tgirsch wrote,
I do think that more attention needs to be paid to racial differences and the underlying reasons for them. But I think what we’ll ultimately find is that race has no inherent effect at all, and that the difference that exist are socially driven.
I agree. Race isn't the reason, it's just a marker. Blacks were systematically discriminated against, held down, demeaned. The color of their skin marked them for this abuse. When things finally started to improve socially, the intellegentsia stepped in and threw a monkey wrench into an already damaged mechanism - with the best of (stated) intentions. If you want to define what happened as "poorly implementing" the welfare state, I suppose you're entitled. I for one see it as an inevitable outcome of a flawed idea.

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.

I shudder to think what will happen when the intellegentsia gets wind of it.

UPDATE 2/23: Tgirsch posts a response at Lean Left, More on Culture, Race, Economics and Violent Crime.

UPDATE:  Thanks to the herculean efforts of reader John Hardin, the original JS-Kit/Echo comment thread for this post is available here.