Wednesday, December 03, 2014
Mayhem's Clueless Enablers
If a column by Georgetown University senior Oliver Friedfeld is any indication, the old bromide, “a conservative is a liberal who’s been mugged,” no longer applies.
“I Was Mugged and I Understand Why” graced the Nov. 18 issue of university newspaper The Hoya, revisiting Friedfeld’s and his housemate’s experience with a gunpoint mugging the week before. During the incident, Friedfeld was “forced to the floor,” patted down and relieved of his phone.
One would think such an experience would engender a string of emotions including fear, relief and ultimately anger at the thought of being completely vulnerable to thuggery – or far worse. In Friedfeld’s case, one would be completely wrong. Asked by a reporter if he was surprised he was mugged in Georgetown, perhaps the toniest neighborhood in Washington, DC, he was adamant. “Not at all,” Friedfeld replied. “It was so clear to me that we live in the most privileged neighborhood within a city that has historically been, and continues to be, harshly unequal. While we aren’t often confronted by this stark reality west of Rock Creek Park, the economic inequality is very real.”
Friedfeld goes on to cite the statistics he firmly believes were the impetus behind his takedown, noting that Washington is ranked as one of the “most unequal” cities in the nation, where the wealthiest 5% earn approximately 54 times what the poorest 20% do. Yet in Friedfeld’s addled mind, impetus quickly becomes justification:
“What has been most startling to me, even more so than the incident itself, have been the reactions I’ve gotten. I kept hearing ‘thugs,’ ‘criminals’ and ‘bad people.’ While I understand why one might jump to that conclusion, I don’t think this is fair.
"Not once did I consider our attackers to be ‘bad people.’ I trust that they weren’t trying to hurt me. In fact, if they knew me, I bet they’d think I was okay. They wanted my stuff, not me. While I don’t know what exactly they needed the money for, I do know that I’ve never once had to think about going out on a Saturday night to mug people. I had never before seen a gun, let alone known where to get one. The fact that these two kids, who appeared younger than I, have even had to entertain these questions suggests their universes are light years away from mine.”
Friedfeld’s own universe is light years removed from common sense. Without any way of knowing, he embraces the “root cause” argument first entertained in the 1960s. It is the one where well-meaning but equally addled people were far more concerned with what drove criminals to perpetrate crimes than the victims who endured them. He simply assumes his two assailants have no support system similar to his own, be it “parents who willingly sat down with me and helped me work through (my struggles in school),” or “countless people who I can turn to for solid advice.”
Those assumptions lead directly to guilt. “Who am I to stand from my perch of privilege, surrounded by million-dollar homes and paying for a $60,000 education, to condemn these young men as ‘thugs?’” Friedfeld explains. “It’s precisely this kind of ‘otherization’ that fuels the problem.”
Young Oliver remains willfully oblivious to the reality that he and his housemate were the ones being “otherized” by a couple of young punks looking for a couple of easy marks. Furthermore, he has no idea how lucky he is. While he points to statistics regarding inequality, he fails to note that, according to 2012 FBI data, Washington, DC, had the eighth highest murder rate among cities with a population of 500,000 or more, and that rate increased sharply from 2013 to 2014. Moreover, it is virtually certain that some of those victims were every bit as “okay” as Friedfeld.
He briefly acknowledges reality after speaking with a DC cop who came from “difficult circumstances, and yet had made the decision not to get involved in crime.” But he quickly dismisses that officer as an anomaly, insisting that the decision to steal is tied directly to one’s economic circumstances – as opposed to the moral choices Friedfeld reserves solely for the victims. “As young people, we need to devote real energy to solving what are collective challenges,” he concludes. “Until we do so, we should get comfortable with sporadic muggings and break-ins. I can hardly blame them. The cards are all in our hands, and we’re not playing them.”
Last week, the entire nation was forced to “get comfortable” with a plethora of violence in Ferguson, Missouri, courtesy of people more than willing to “otherize” vast swaths of that city and its residents. Those rioters, looters and building-burners were driven by an equally contemptible sense of “morality” arising from an equally specious narrative, one that engendered “justified mayhem” as the price to be extracted for the failure to indict Officer Darren Wilson for the “murder” of “gentle giant” Michael Brown.
It was a price seemingly accepted by Democrat Gov. Jay Nixon, who refused to deploy the National Guard prior to, or during, the initial outbreak of violence, allowing rioters a free hand in the destruction of scores of businesses – the majority of which were minority-owned. It was a move Republican Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder attributed to pressure from the Obama administration, who “leaned on” Nixon to “keep them out.” Kinder insisted, “I cannot imagine any other reason why the governor who mobilized the National Guard would not have them in there to stop this before it started.”
The mindset epitomized by Friedfeld’s column might be a good place to look for that reason. It is a mindset that purports itself as enlightened, even as it reeks with the kind of bigotry that maintains certain segments of society cannot possibly be held to the same standards of civilization as everyone else. And not because of their failings, but ours.
Oliver Friedfeld may be willing to take one for the societal team, but one suspects most Americans would pass on the opportunity to trod this particular “path to enlightenment” – or the morgue. As for the violence in Ferguson, we have witnessed scores of young black Americans assuming all the characteristics of a wannabe lynch mob, continuing with the passing out of posters reading “Wanted for Racist Murder” following Wilson’s resignation from the force. If there is a greater historical irony than that, one is hard-pressed to imagine what it is.
Income Inequality Is by itself a meaningless statistic
You can show as much or as little of it as you like, just by choosing the group within which you measure it. And even a very rich society within which no-one was poor, could still show large inequalities. Inequality by itself tells you nothing. Most Bangladeshis would probably argue that no-one is poor in the United States. It all depends on your frame of reference.
By Robert Higgs
The past year or so has witnessed a tremendous outpouring of commentary about income inequality. Pundits and politicians have huffed and puffed about it, mainly about its alleged evils and what governments should do to diminish it. Mainstream economists have devoted a great deal of attention to dissecting French economist Thomas Piketty’s book Capital in the Twenty-First Century, a book focused on income inequality—and also a book whose shoddy craftsmanship would have repelled such attention had the book dealt with a different topic.
All of this is unfortunate because it only helps to mislead the public and hence to increase support for pernicious economic policies to deal with a problem that, truth be known, is not even a real human condition, much less one that cries out for political remedy.
Income inequality is a statistical artifact, not a real human condition. As Thomas Szasz might have said, “Show me the lesion.” If you were to conduct autopsies on a random collection of human beings, you would find nothing to show that some of them had lived in societies with a high degree of income inequality and others in societies with a low degree of income inequality. The personal (or family or household) distribution of income is not a human condition. It is only, to repeat, a statistical artifact. It is a measure such as the Gini coefficient for describing the degree of inequality of the values of individual observations in any aggregate of such observations.
The aggregate of the measurement is arbitrary: why, for example, should inequality be measured for the entire U.S. population, rather than for population of the city or state in which one lives, the entire North American population (including Mexico), the entire Western Hemisphere population, or indeed the entire world population? The answer is that the measurement is done for certain political units with an eye to “doing something about” the measured inequality, which is always to say, doing something to reduce it, whatever it now happens to be. Thus, this topic is and always has been a hobbyhorse for socialists and others whose ideologies rest on a psychological foundation of envy, of seeking to justify taking from high-income recipients and giving to low-income recipients.
Income inequality has no necessary connection with poverty, the lack of material resources for a decent life, such as adequate food, shelter, and clothing. A society with great income inequality may have no poor people, and a society with no income inequality may have nothing but poor people. Coercively reducing income inequality by fiscal measures may do nothing to reduce the extent of real poverty and may indeed—to tell the truth, almost certainly will—create incentives that increase the extent of real poverty (and many other social ills).
Probably no subject in the social sciences has created so much unnecessary heat. Yet, at the same time, economists actually know a great deal about it and can dispel the public’s confusion about it if they try. Sad to say, many (such as Piketty) do not try in a competent fashion, but only add to the confusion and feed the already raging fires of envy. These economists are therefore acting as ideologues, rather than economists, in such work.
Twenty years ago I wrote an essay on this subject. Although some of the examples I gave are no longer up to date, the analysis has lost none of its pertinence.
Who Suffers? Race Riots, Then And Now
They riot and loot because they are allowed to. All blacks must be "respected", no matter what they do. And who cares about the little-guy businesses that lose the lot? Pity they tend to be black too
The fire in the streets of Ferguson is reminiscent of the urban riots that burned nearly all major U.S. cities in the 1960s. Black rioters burning down black neighborhoods. Once again, there is a false assertion that the rioting is an expression of outrage against “the system.” Sadly, there has been a lack of police or National Guard protection for the real victims of rioting, then and now: small business owners, including many African American business owners and their employees.
Today’s “warrior cops” are better armed with military gear and riot control training, yet the urban policy remains the same: “it is better to let them loot than shoot.” As long as this is the policy of city leaders, riots will continue whenever there is an excuse for young people to loot pharmacies and liquor stores, torch hair salons or furniture stores and wipe out the livelihoods of their neighbors. We have learned nothing from the well-documented tragedies of the 1960s.
Looting and arson in the 1960s wiped out entire business districts in black neighborhoods. Many riots were precipitated by encounters with police, such as a police raid on an illegal after-hours bar in Detroit — an incident that resulted in the destruction of over 2,000 small businesses and buildings. This cycle played out in cities across the nation resulting in 200 deaths and enormous property damage. The physical and emotional scars of those riots remained decades after the fires expired.
Although police were often, rightly or wrongly, blamed for precipitating conflict with black youth, their role was even more important for what they did not do: protect the business owners and the vast majority of blacks who disapproved of the rioting. In the 1960s, civil leaders ordered police to step aside because they lacked discipline, often shot indiscriminately, and had no understanding of riot control. The pages of business magazines were filled with stories of mom-and-pop business owners having an entire lifetime of work destroyed. Their employees (almost always black) were casualties as well when they lost their jobs. And so the same scene plays out in Ferguson despite years of improvements in crowd control.
After four “long hot summers” of riots (1965-1968), police departments developed SWAT teams trained in controlling them. This time the police were better equipped to respond and protect the businesses that serve the community. Nevertheless, the lack of a National Guard presence, combined with a passive role by the police allowed looters and arsonists to prey on unarmed business owners. The police did not retreat from the area (as they did in the 1992 Rodney King riot) but they lacked the presence to protect property owners.
Rioters did not represent the will of their communities, either then or now. Most of those surveyed in Ferguson would agree with the statement made by community activist Jerry G. Watts after the 1992 Los Angeles riot: “rioting is not a democratic act. … Had the rioters polled their neighbors they may have discovered that the majority of the local residents, who were not participants in the rioting, did not want their neighborhood burned down.”
Small business owners did not kill Michael Brown. Self-employed mothers are not “the system” that “social justice” activists say needs changing. How does one explain to Natalie Debose, African American owner of Natalie’s Cakes and More, that her smashed-up store is the result of pent-up anger directed at police? Debose’s fate is a sad repeat of that experienced by business owners in the 1960s: “This is America?” one elderly woman cried, after witnessing the destruction of her family clothing store in 1968. “My husband and I worked 40 years to build this place and now they’ve gone and taken everything we had.” Debose had just started her cake store but her pain is just as real.
Then and now, let us put faces on the riots: also the gleeful grins of rioters as they pour out of stores with goods, juxtaposed with the crying eyes of business owners who baked cakes, styled hair, and otherwise provided something of value to the community. The eyes of the police, covered by riot masks, look on indifferently to the fates of those victimized. “This is America?” Indeed.
Tax piranhas never give up
It may not be baseball season, but outfielder Giancarlo Stanton of the Miami Marlins has signed a 13-year contract for $325 million, reportedly the richest deal in the history of sports, at least in North America. That contract reflects the willingness of baseball fans to plunk down their money to see Stanton play. But as Eben Novy-Williams of Bloomberg news observes, there will be less to the contract than meets the eye.
Federal, state, city and payroll taxes will grab $141 million, a full 43.3 percent of the total, nearly half. Giancarlo Stanton will also pay $8.5 million due to the “jock tax” some states levy on visiting professionals. One of those states is California, which shakes down out-of-state athletes for their “duty days” in the Golden State. Taxing out-of-state athletes like residents reportedly brings in some $100 million a year, including $163,000 alone from a three-day trip by the New York Knicks and $106,000 from the 2006 sojourns of Yankee infielder Alex Rodriguez. This confiscatory activity is not limited to athletes.
The California tax also applies to a blues singer from Chicago, a home-care nurse from Nevada, and a novelist from Montana. An out-of-state salesman earning $50,000 a year, about $200 a day, would owe about 9 percent of that, some $18 a day, to California. These types are not as easy to track as Giancarlo Stanton, but all should be clear that the Pillage People are out to grab as much as they can.
As Dan Walters notes in the Sacramento Bee, some years ago Californian Gilbert Hyatt patented a microchip and moved to Nevada, which has no state income tax, before any royalties came in. California’s Franchise Tax Board pursued Hyatt relentlessly and he sued for harassment, winning a judgment of nearly $500 million. Now 76, he charges that California is taking aim at his estate. So the Pillage People are after everybody, for as much as they can grab, and their quest doesn’t end when the taxpayer dies. Government greed is eternal.
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Posted by JR at 1:37 AM