Why Is Chicago’s Murder Rate Higher?

I’ve been wanting to write a brief post on this subject since I read this article, needling Chicago and its mayor, Rahm Emanuel, for Chicago’s very high murder rate:

Chicago is America’s third-largest city, and is one of its three largest convention cities. It has the nation’s second busiest airport. It has highly rated cultural offerings: the Chicago Symphony, a vibrant local theater industry, great museums. But in one area Chicago has clearly staked its claim to number one.

In 2012, Chicago recorded 505 murders. That may not sound all that bad, since in some years in the past two decades the city had over 900 murders (1991, 1992, and 1994). But it looks like a terribly high number when compared to New York (which recorded 414 murders in 2012) or any of the other ten largest cities in America, because Chicago is not only the murder capital of America in terms of experiencing the most murders. It also has, by far, the highest murder rate among America’s ten largest cities.

New York has a population more than three times as large as Chicago’s population: 8.175 million according to the 2010 Census, versus 2.696 million for Chicago. In New York, the number of murders in 2012 equates to 1 in every 19,747 residents. In Chicago, the rate is 1 murder for every 5,338 residents. If 2011 population data were used, the comparison would be even starker, since New York’s population was estimated to have grown by 74,000 from 2010 to 2011, while Chicago’s grew only 11,000 in that period.

If there is one number to think about, it is this: Chicago is 3.7 times more dangerous than New York when it comes to murder, which is obviously the most serious crime with which mayors and their police forces need to be concerned.

Rather than dwelling on the manifest inadequacies of the article including its dismissive tone, let’s zero in on the key question: why is Chicago’s murder rate so high? Why is Chicago’s murder rate higher than New York’s?

Both Chicago and New York have stringent gun laws so that can’t be the problem.

I think I can explain some but not all of the difference. Chicago is blacker than New York and Cook County is less equal than New York County (all of the really rich people live outside the county). According to the Census Bureau, New York African American population is about 25% while Chicago’s African American population is around 33%. The homicide rate plus income inequality makes or a noxious mix. Where it’s particularly telling is in Los Angeles County. It has a lower murder rate than Chicago with even worse income inequality but it’s only 10% black.

Despite my raising the issue of race, my claim isn’t a racial one. The black rural homicide rate is roughly equal to the white rural homicide rate. It’s the black urban homicide rate that’s dramatically higher. My speculation is that a large, segregated black population plus urban setting plus income inequality equals high homicide rate.

It might be claimed that the War on Drugs is a critical component, too. For me to accept that I’d need to see a sharply rising homicide rate among urban African Americans after 1970 and I haven’t been able to establish it.

I’m open to other explanations. Why is Chicago’s homicide rate so high?

79 comments… add one
  • michael reynolds

    I’d want to know the specifics of the gang relationships within the county. Are the drug markets established or still in a state of flux? Are they more in flux than the LA or NY markets?

  • PD Shaw

    I don’t know the answer, but as I recall that Ta-Nehisi Coates occasionally observes significant cultural differences between African-Americans on the East Coast and Chicago, including in particular subjects like religion. I notice some of the other cities with high murder rates are New Orleans, Memphis, St. Louis and Detroit. Perhaps there are historical antecedents at work.

  • TastyBits

    If I am not mistaken, there is a gang war going on in Chicago, and it is because of the drug trade. Chicago is a port city, and there should be a large amount of drugs being transported through the city. The Mexican drug gangs are spreading, and they are probably expanding their Chicago franchise. A rising Mexican population would be one indication, and it would be mostly illegals. (Gangs can provide protection for a population who cannot call the police without risking deportation.)

    The local drug trade is supported by the surrounding more affluent communities, and they should be included. Criminals usually do not engage in “senseless violence”, but they will do stupid things.

    Criminals tend to be located among the poor, and the urban poor tend to be darker. The poor have less ability to react to increased criminal activity. In addition, many of the police in these areas are corrupt, and they view everybody in those areas as potential criminals. The racial aspect is mostly due to non-racial factors, but there is a subtle racial aspect.

    You could look at conviction rates, and who is being murdered and why. Witnesses do not live long in crime infested areas. This creates an incentive for increased crime.

    Gun laws are useless. Criminals are not going to obey the law. The drug gangs can move tons of illegal goods into the US, and moving illegal weapons is not going to be a problem. The Chinese AK-47 variant is cheap and widely available. A “War on Weapons” will result in the same outcome as the “War on Drugs”.

    The law abiding folks are armed for self-protection, but it is best to not engage the gangs. They do not take kindly to folks shooting their members, and they have no problem with retaliation.

  • jan

    Gun laws are useless. Criminals are not going to obey the law. The drug gangs can move tons of illegal goods into the US, and moving illegal weapons is not going to be a problem. The Chinese AK-47 variant is cheap and widely available. A “War on Weapons” will result in the same outcome as the “War on Drugs”.

    TastyBits,

    This is the nuts and bolts of gun control — period. Criminals and those with criminal intent are able to get what they want, because they ignore any laws prohibiting such behavior, or any immorality associated with such behavior. It becomes a free-for-all for these people. It is the law-abiding versus the lawlessness of others we should be discussing.

    As for Chicago, I’ve read that the deaths seem to be contained to known drug and/or gang related districts of the city, more than the suburbs surrounding them.

  • TastyBits

    @jan

    The dynamics in crime infested communities is different than safe middle/upper class communities, and generally, gun laws have little positive or negative affect. One exception would be overly strict laws being vigorously enforced. This would increase the profit margin for illegal gun sales, and the criminal gangs would see this as a new business opportunity. Unintended consequences are a b*tch.

    The burglar in your home is vastly different than the gang members in a firefight outside your home. A gun is helpful in your home, but you really do not want to p*ss-off the gangs outside.

  • PD Shaw

    Chicago has had relatively high murder rates for going on a generation, so I’m not sure a temporary spat of gang violence is the issue. It could be that Chicago’s persistence of neighborhoods makes it unique, posing more challenges for law enforcement, challenges for a single or small group of gangs to take control, or an uncaring attitude in unaffected neighborhoods.

    I wonder about the age-demographic of Chicago. Property taxes and rent control in places like L.A. and N.Y. may encourage more families to stay in the city. Didn’t the last census suggest that minorities are leaving the city, and was it for family formation? A younger city would have more crime.

    Lead appears to be the topic again. Do Chicago’s poor have older housing than other cities for some reason?

  • jan

    A tale of two ideologies in play. In Chicago you have a social progressive Mayor concentrating on banning guns in an already highly controlled city, while you have a conservative governor, in another state, focusing on fiscal matters that will economically help the people in his state (probably having secondary benefits in keeping the crime rate down too, by allowing people to keep more money in their own pockets, offering more incentives for business growth, leading to more jobs). Good policy-making leads to over-all better functioning, happier societies.

    Miles apart: Walker to cut income tax; Rahm to ban guns.

    Just a little more than an hour apart, but world’s away in leadership are Mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago and Wisconsin’s Governor Scott Walker. Thursday, Walker announced today that the budget he will sign this summer will include “significant” cuts to the income tax rates. Rahm, on the other hand, plans to introduce a gun ordinance.

    This liberal disconnect continues, only at a faster pace.

  • A number of things. First, PD Shaw’s response is, I think, the right one. Our homicide rate has been higher for a long time. Near term gang warfare can’t explain it.

    Second, the victimology of homicide victims in Chicago does not suggest the work of Mexican gangs.

    Finally, I think that gang activity is a social, psychological, cultural, and economic phenomenon. If all Schedule I drugs were legalized, gang members wouldn’t become grocery clerks. They fund themselves through illegal activities for a whole complex of reasons and if drugs are legalized they’ll find other illegal activities to engage in. Return on investment, cost of entry, etc.

  • jan

    Property taxes and rent control in places like L.A. and N.Y. may encourage more families to stay in the city.

    Rent control eventually skews the demographics in most areas inoculated with it. It creates hostile tenant/owner relationships, a reluctance to keep up with maintenance, creating more slum-like buildings, and more government agencies and regulations trying to curb the negative outgrowths of their own mandated, lopsided policies. This in turn attracts a type of owner who is not motivated by a pride-of-ownership mentality, but one who is bottom-fishing for profit (lots of Iranian ownerships fall into this category). Mom and Pop ownerships are consequently put on the ‘extinct’ list, and what remains are large impersonal corporate-like ownerships running an impersonal rental business .

    Again, this is the by-product of social engineering by the social progressive ideologues. It ruins cities, neighborhoods, tenant/owner relationships, and eventually can even enable more multi-residential hives to become crime-infested. The reality of cause-and-effect overrides theory most of the time. But then all the liberals do is deny the outcome and blame it on something or someone else.

    It’s a riot how social progressive minds process and calculate the results of seeds sown by their ill-advised practices and policies.

  • jan

    Unintended consequences are a b*tch.

    TastyBits,

    So true… But, unintended consequences usually fall into hazardous outcomes when they are derived from knee-jerk policy-making — solutions that are not well thought out, in the long run, but only aimed to satisfy short term emotional needs.

  • Drew

    As much as the analytical side of me wants to agree with Dave, I think denying the gangs is just head in the sand. This isn’t a “recent spate.” This is decades old. (I have a great El Rukn run in story on the el from years ago, but that’s for another time.)

    Its the gangs, folks. And not just the black gangs. Look at the Hispanic gangs. And white gangs. Just look at the homicide maps. And when its the gangs, its drugs. I understand Dave’s point, they will just find something else, but just like alcohol prohibition, some vices are bigger than others. Empty the jails of the casual users, put in the big time dealers/enforcers etc. Or just decriminalize and fine or tax. Last time I looked the government had a revenue problem.

    We have offered a criminal element an alternative road to big,big time money. And that leads to violence. Eliminate the road as a first step.

  • TastyBits

    @Dave Schuler

    Ending the “War on Drugs” does not require legalization. The money spent and generated is causing distortions. The federal government sends a lot of money to local police departments. With this money, they divert resources into fighting drug crimes, and other areas are neglected. This money allows them to purchase military gear and to fight crime militarily. Good police work requires knowing to identify a good guy from a bad guy, but this skill is becoming rare.

    Money is generated by many police department through drug busts. They are able to retain money and goods used by these criminals. Many civil liberty issues are the result of police trying to find drug criminals. The money generated allows them to purchase military gear.

    The federal government should be responsible for transporting drugs across state and national borders. Possession should be a local issue. Interstate selling could be an area for the feds.

    I am not familiar with Chicago crime, but if the murder rate is not a spike, I would look at conviction rates and sentences. If witnesses can be intimidated with little consequences, they will be, and if the police department cannot be trusted, they will not be. This may be the dynamic in Chicago, and it may have reached equilibrium long ago.

  • TastyBits

    @jan

    Many of these social policies come from the “War on Poverty”. One of the consequences is that poor people are corralled together with little chance of escape. I would like to believe it is an unintended consequence, but for liberals in gated communities, it a little too convenient.

    I would not pin everything on the Iranians. Trafficking in stereotypes is ugly. We are all whores in our own way. Usually, one will tell their family and friends about new opportunities.

  • michael reynolds

    Rent control eventually skews the demographics in most areas inoculated with it. It creates hostile tenant/owner relationships, a reluctance to keep up with maintenance, creating more slum-like buildings, and more government agencies and regulations trying to curb the negative outgrowths of their own mandated, lopsided policies. This in turn attracts a type of owner who is not motivated by a pride-of-ownership mentality, but one who is bottom-fishing for profit (lots of Iranian ownerships fall into this category). Mom and Pop ownerships are consequently put on the ‘extinct’ list, and what remains are large impersonal corporate-like ownerships running an impersonal rental business .

    Have you ever been to Soho or Greenwich Village? That’s rent control ground zero. I was just there yesterday. And – this will astound you – it was full of people who did not appear to be fugitives from a dystopian movie. You realize all your Fox News heros live in New York? The city was cleaner and more stress-free than most American cities, and as much as I love Chicago, I walk the night time streets of NYC with a lot less paranoia.

  • michael reynolds

    It may also be the case that Chicago PD just isn’t very good. Of course that doesn’t explain why LA would be doing better since the LAPD is no model of effectiveness.

  • jan

    Have you ever been to Soho or Greenwich Village? That’s rent control ground zero. I was just there yesterday. And – this will astound you – it was full of people who did not appear to be fugitives from a dystopian movie.

    You’re right that many of the rent control enclaves do look ‘clean,’ and safe, regarding the population that eventually dwells there. If it is in a ritzy or desirable beach location, like exists in NYC or CA, such neighborhoods become ‘gentrified,’ mainly by a liberal wealthy tenant population magnetized to these low-rent, trendy areas that are politically imbued with their philosophy. When it comes time to vote, this same liberal population votes their pocketbooks, and maintain the very laws that make their life so much more inexpensive and yet enjoyable. It has nothing to do with fairness, just exploiting liberal doctrine to their advantage.

    In the meantime, the legitimately poor are relocated to less attractive inland areas, low-and-moderate subsidized housing which then becomes more marginal and crime-ridden as time goes on.

    In rent-controlled apartment housing, though it may have upper class people taking advantage of involuntary subsidized rents by the owner, deferred maintenance remains a problem. How they responded to that problem in Los Angeles is to create yet another city bureaucracy to run around and inspect properties every 2-3 years, in places like Venice, throwing citations at owners for any outstanding work needed to be done. While I don’t like the government muscle, I do support the idea of keeping up safety and cleanliness standards of properties. However, these government housing inspectors are subject to bribes, especially by big property owners with the most glaring problems. So, again, it becomes a superficial monitoring ritual, where the law-abiding owners are the ones who meet the criteria more than the ones who find another way around the laws.

  • PD Shaw

    Median age of residents:

    32.9 = Chicago
    34.0 = L.A.
    35.5= NYC

    I suspect the age profile could make a marginal difference in crime rates. The only reason I mentioned rent-control and property tax caps is that they are policies that are disincentives to moving.

  • TastyBits

    @jan

    In the meantime, the legitimately poor are relocated to less attractive inland areas, low-and-moderate subsidized housing which then becomes more marginal and crime-ridden as time goes on.

    The liberals then calling everybody else a racist to divert attention from themselves. It is getting really hard to believe this is unintended.

  • Yes, Chicago has more gang members than New York and Los Angeles, not just per capita but in absolute numbers. The question then becomes why does Chicago have more gang members? Again, I think the reasons are economic, social, psychological, and cultural.

  • Chicago does have a history of organized crime.

  • PD Shaw

    From Dave’s most recent link: An interesting gun-control anecdote: “Oral history research on imprisoned gang leaders has recently revealed the interesting and believable story of how in Illinois one such leader routinely carried a fully loaded .25 caliber semi-automatic as an inmate in the Illinois Department of Corrections.”

    Also, interesting that the gang motivation for suburban youth is “essentially social rather than economic reasons.” Its Clockwork Orange.

  • Finally, I think that gang activity is a social, psychological, cultural, and economic phenomenon. If all Schedule I drugs were legalized, gang members wouldn’t become grocery clerks. They fund themselves through illegal activities for a whole complex of reasons and if drugs are legalized they’ll find other illegal activities to engage in. Return on investment, cost of entry, etc.

    This does not disprove the gangs hypothesis. I’ve noted before that organized crime is old…very old. If gangs wont disappear if the drug war was ended, then it is entirely possible that gangs pre-date the drug war. In other words, Dave’s very argument could be used to support the gang hypothesis.

  • Have you ever been to Soho or Greenwich Village? That’s rent control ground zero.

    Santa Monica, CA as well. Also a very nice neighborhood with very little crime. Of course, I wonder if rent control adversely impacts the availability of property for rent. That is, does it result in less rental properties and more directly owned properties?

  • Drew

    Michael’s comments on Fox and rent control were inane. Anyone surprised? But I digress.

    Dave, I think the murder issue here in Chicago is very important. I have opinions, but don’t have definitive solutions, but I think bringing it up on your blog on a routine basis would be a true public service. This great city deserves better. Every fiber in my body tells me segregation and gangs..

    I bet you don’t worry about it in Sauganash.

  • PD Shaw

    Still looking through Dave’s link:

    Gang membership appears to be a part of a drug use/abuse subculture. I think there is a which came first, the chicken or the egg dispute here. Some think that eliminating the illegal drug trade will eliminate/greatly reduce the gang crimes. Others (me), think that drug use/abuse is part of the reason for joining gangs.

    I’m shocked that of the 58.1% of Chicago gang-members that admitted to firing a gun at someone, 20.8% said it was in a police shootout. (The rest: 29.5% in a family fight; 54.8% in a gang fight; 38.6% in a drug deal) This is a jailhouse survey; I almost have to think that they would have under-reported shooting at police.

    Not surprising: legal gun ownership is inversely related to concentration of gangs.

  • PD Shaw

    Median age of residents:

    38.5 = Sauganash

  • I bet you don’t worry about it in Sauganash.

    Not much gang activity right here but if you walk a mile or so north, a mile or so south, or a mile or so east the situation is different.

  • Andy

    At first I thought there might be a difference in youth population (since youth bubbles correlate highly with violence), but the difference doesn’t seem to be substantial. I wonder if prison culture has an effect.

  • jan

    Some think that eliminating the illegal drug trade will eliminate/greatly reduce the gang crimes.

    Drugs and gangs almost seem more like symptoms of a dysfunctional society rather than the real etiology of it. What about the culture we are tolerating, even cultivating and condoning — the climate of civility and decency that is disappearing, being replaced by an ‘anything goes’ sentiment along with fractured families, deteriorating values, hopelessness, being disconnected from life’s meaning etc.? They say that people join gangs to be affiliated with people — be a part of something, especially when there is nothing personally around them to fulfill that role. A dismal, lackluster economy and no jobs also lend themselves to seasoning the problems at hand.

  • TastyBits

    @jan

    I think you captured it perfectly.

    Most affluent civilizations eventually decline and/or fall. The wealth allows luxuries, and this leads to a breakdown of values. Nihilism begins, and society rots internally. When the rot surfaces, it is too late.

    I believe that immigrants may be able to stop and reverse this process. Immigrants will assimilate into US culture, but the US will also assimilate their culture. Most of the immigrants (legal & illegal) come to the US for opportunities not available in their home countries.

  • Drew

    “Not much gang activity right here but if you walk a mile or so north, a mile or so south, or a mile or so east the situation is different.”

    Right. Crazy, isn’t it? Chicago is interesting in that way. I lived on Dearborn just N of Division when Cabrini Green was still around. My future wife was living in Sandburg V. You would hear the gunshots from Cabrini…………….but we lived in what people called the Gold Coast. Ah, what the hell. We were young and the Bears were great………

  • michael reynolds

    Tasty:

    Most affluent civilizations eventually decline and/or fall. The wealth allows luxuries, and this leads to a breakdown of values. Nihilism begins, and society rots internally. When the rot surfaces, it is too late.

    Examples?

    The famous Voltaire quote is, “History is filled with the sound of silken slippers going downstairs and wooden shoes coming up.” Meaning that civilizations ascend on crude virtues of bravery, savagery, brutality, then are seduced by civilization and begin a slow descent. (I suspect he was thinking Sparta, but I don’t remember the context and had to look up the quote.)

    Like most facile summations of history it’s mostly nonsense. If you wanted to start counting failed civilizations you’d find that they were destroyed by things as mundane as the shifting of a river’s course, or an extended drought, or plague, or conquest, or because their “business model” stopped being profitable, or because they couldn’t figure out a reliable way of choosing rulers, or were beaten by superior technology. I don’t think it has a lot to do with virtue per se unless you broaden the definition of ‘virtue’ to the point of meaninglessness.

    Look no further than the native (north) American civilizations. They weren’t destroyed by wealth, they were destroyed by a lack of immunity to smallpox and measles.

    Probably the simplest model is human life: it ends for a bunch of reasons, but mostly just because things end.

  • michael reynolds

    By the way, the United States will some day fall from its high perch. All things change. The center will not hold. What goes up comes down. Entropy and all that. Plus Canada is sick of our shit and their day will come.

  • jan

    A mind-munching quote from Voltaire, Michael. When one is conveying meaning in a sentence, the sentence structure itself is the warp, while the descriptive choice of words is the textured weft. “Wooden shoes” and ‘silken slippers” is so visual.

    Nice…..

  • michael reynolds

    Voltaire had a pretty astounding output and I’ve read very little of it. But yeah, nice turn of phrase.

  • If you really want to go off PC, you’ll say that many of the past slaves came from directly south, and I ‘m talkin’ LA , MS here, were not selected for intelligence. Chris Rock himself says that the intelligent were killed.

    They were carried to Chicago. So was Papa Staples.

    Pop Staples

  • And who can’t love Mavis?:

    http://youtu.be/j_9SBySVEqg

  • How our babies lose they way?

  • Really, y’all are flakin’ around. You’re not going there with numbers.

    I don’t know how you stop a long cycle of killing, but it’s not through numerical analysis.

  • Jimbino

    Chicago has way more fundamentalists, evangelicals and holy rollers than NYC does. Anyway, I’d like to see the rates of homicide in our public lands, including parks and forests, of the West, where you almost never see a Black face.

  • I don’t know how you stop a long cycle of killing, but it’s not through numerical analysis.

    At least for me the numbers aren’t the means of solving a problem but of identifying what the problem actually is. Distinguishing between bigotry or an agenda and the real source of a problem.

    It may, indeed, be the case that there’s a cultural difference between the black populations of New York and Chicago. The delta population is definitely quite different culturally from the Piedmont population, for example. I’d need to see some data on population flows before I had more confidence in that explanation.

    I sincerely doubt that the difference is genetics. Even with political correctness I would think that information would have seeped out somehow.

  • The flow just comes from my observation of snowbirds. They tend to drop directly down the roads to the south.

    I’d guess there’s an equivalent northern flow with southern blacks. Except for the ones who went to Houston. That was prominent here, long before Katrina.

  • TastyBits

    @michael reynolds

    I used a specific formulation for a reason. Few societies have become affluent. By affluent, I mean overly wealthy. By society, I mean the whole entity not just individuals. Affluent society would have a large income/wealth disparity, but the majority of the people would live beyond a subsistence level.

    I used decline and/or fall instead of collapse, destroy, or fail. I do mean a descent, but it could be slow or fast. The fall would be a substantial reduction in wealth, power, and territory.

    Luxuries are more expansive than physical goods. Leisure time, security, some philosophical ideas, some public policy, and freedom are things not available to less affluent societies.

    I used values not virtue. If it was not clear, the values are the affluent society’s values. I should have included “their” before “values” – “a breakdown of [their] values.” Virtue is a value judgement, and I am not imposing my virtues onto another society.

    Nihilism is the result of the society destroying its values and not replacing them with other values. A coherent society requires shared values, and these values need to be mostly philosophically consistent. The values may change over time, but they need to be shared.

    The ancient Greeks, Romans, UK, US, and modern Europe would be included in this group, and the Catholic Church could be shoehorned. They governed the Papal States, and they fielded an army.

    The Babylonians, Egyptians, Persians, Mongols, Chinese, Incas, Aztecs, and Ottomans were wealthy and powerful societies. Each developed a notable culture, but they were not affluent. Most civilizations do not attain this level of power, wealth, and culture.

    The Hellenistic civilization, Italian Principalities, India, Russia, and pre-modern Europe did not attain this level of power, wealth, and culture simultaneously. This is a large group, and there are many more examples I have missed. Some did attained a level of affluence, but I do not think they were able to rise to an adequate level. This is a point that is debatable, but even if I lost, they would tend to reinforce my main assertion.

    Most city-states, nations, and empires are conquered, but few will cease altogether. Many factors contribute to this, and for most, the internal factors weaken their ability to defend themselves. You have listed some of them, but few civilizations “just end”. If they were able to be recognized as a civilization, they had something somebody wanted.

    A cursory knowledge of history is as bad as a lack of understanding of science. It leads to faulty conclusions. What I have forgotten would dwarf the knowledge of most. In order to fully understand history, you need more than a few dates and rote concepts. Economics, philosophy, geography, and hard science are among the knowledge needed to develop a fuller understanding of human history.

    I have no problem with debating you, but you have a long way to go before you are qualified to lecture me.

  • jan

    TastyBits

    I was so in awe of your above post that I read it to my husband, who was drinking his morning coffee behind me.

    His first comment was, “That is one smart man!”

    I agree. You appear to have an uncommon, impressive knowledge of human history. Are you a teacher, by chance?

    Hats off!

  • TastyBits

    @jan

    Thank you, but I do not think I am smarter than many people. I have just put in a lot of time learning things, and I try to keep an “open mind”. On most subjects, I am self taught. Much of what was taught in my formal education has been changed. I do not believe in “settled knowledge”. Theology is different, but usually, it is not subject to debate.

    I am not a teacher. My ideal job would be to research and learn.

  • jan

    TastyBits

    You appear to belong in the “Inquiring Minds Want to Know” category of the human species.

    Those that have to learn, because of a school deadline, are quite different from those who want to learn. The latter types are usually far more ‘educated’ and well-rounded in their knowledge of things, than the former types, IMHO.

  • TastyBits

    @jan

    With the internet, learning has become easier by an order of magnitude. Years ago, I was never far from an almanac, and I looked like a conspiracy nut with my collection of newspaper clipping. I was never organized enough to use index cards, but all my books were marked up. I got a Nook, but I miss underlining and annotating using a pen. On the other hand, Google’s Gutenberg Project has free ebooks, but I need to stop Smashing Ants.

    Some folks like golf, opera, NASCAR, football, or knitting. I like learning things. I learn a lot here at @Dave’s blog. Even people that I may vehemently disagree with.

  • michael reynolds

    Tasty:

    There’s no absolute definition of wealth or affluence if you prefer. If I had three cows and two horses and now I have 10 cows and six horses I’m wealthy. Or affluent. I don’t really see the distinction there, or why it would be important.

    The Mongols became quite wealthy by contrast with their earlier condition as a steppe nomadic society. The Persians were certainly seen as wealthy by their counterparts. Of course “the Greeks” are a series of city states, some of which like Athens were clearly wealthy, and others of which would probably not fit that definition.

    But the point really is that you’re trying to shoehorn not just the RC but the last 2000 years of civilization into definitions which are not defined or particularly relevant. And having established a paradigm that, forgive me, does not seem particularly on-point, you’re drawing sweeping conclusions.

    I think you’re looking for a synthesis that does not hold up.

  • michael reynolds

    Also, while we’re at it, you’re drawing a bunch of nonsensical distinctions between virtues and values, and then acing as though the thousand years of, let’s say the Romans, there was some simple, defined set of values or virtues and, I mean, come on. You want to accuse me of being simplistic? Sorry, not buying your analysis. You want to use history to make some moral point, but I don’t think the facts fit.

  • michael reynolds

    This right here?

    Affluent society would have a large income/wealth disparity, but the majority of the people would live beyond a subsistence level.

    That would apply to the Mongols, to grab an easy example. They weren’t scratch farming, they were an army on the move, with multiple horses, weapons, slaves and plunder. We don’t have the Mongol Census to go by, but there was a formula for sharing out wealth and given the vast amounts they took (while slaughtering something like 30 million people) were vast.

    But of course even that generalization is off because which Mongols? And when? The ones living large in China or the ones trying to push into Europe? Early, late? You just can’t make these sweeping moralistic generalizations, even about Rome which we know a hell of a lot better than we know the Aztecs or some of the others you rattle off. We know dick about the economics or values or virtues of the Aztecs because the only sources we have are Spaniards, and in specific Spanish priests who are rather prejudiced.

  • My black 4th grade math teacher in Dallas, Mr. Anthony Williams, said, “Only the strong at heart shall survive.”

  • TastyBits

    @michael reynolds

    Values and virtues are not necessarily the same. A virtue is considered “good”. It is an ideal, but it is usually not easily attainable. A value is what is considered “worthwhile”. It is a goal, and it is attainable by most. One is striving towards virtue. Virtues are more future oriented, but values are more present oriented. A full philosophical discussion is beyond the comment section of @Dave’s blog.

    Many Christians value the ability to provide protection for their family. Presently, many of the people purchasing guns are Christians, and they are willing to kill an intruder if necessary. A Christian virtue is “turning the other cheek”. Curbing CO2 emissions is a virtue for some, but they value an overly large house with an enormous carbon footprint.

    The divergence of values and virtues occurs more often in affluent societies, and at some point, the virtues have no value. This divergence is a luxury less affluent societies cannot afford. I was not addressing this with my comment. I was addressing values being thrown out with no replacement.

    In the US, the debate over gay marriage involves throwing out traditional marriage, but marriage as a value is not being thrown out. It is being modified to remove gender, but the value is largely intact. At some point, this change will become a part of the value system of the US, and it will also be a virtue.

    Welfare takes “hard work” and replaces it with dependence. This may not be intended, but it is what occurs. Art has been abstracted to remove classical art values, and those values have been replaced with nothing. The finest human painting are now indistinguishable from elephant paintings. You are probably going to disagree on both these examples, but I do not have time for a more exhaustive list.

    In the US, most values were once shared, but today, there is a split between two factions. The differences are becoming irreconcilable. One difference between today and the Civil War era was geography.

    The Mongols were an advanced society. They were wealthy and powerful, but they mostly retained the steppe values. Under Genghis Khan, they did later begin to become more like city dwellers, and he was liberal regarding culture. The Mongols never settled into cities, and they did not found many. I do not consider them to have been affluent, but it could be debated. If they were affluent, their values were breaking down. Like Alexander, Genghis held the empire together, and it broke apart once he was gone.

    I rattled off the list to circumvent them from a case by case basis. I provided a few classifications and the characteristics of them. None of this is remotely complete, but again, this is not the place for a dissertation. Asia, India, and Scandinavia were not included, and counterexamples could be found for what I did list. Greece was composed of city-states, and Rome could be broken into the Republic and Empire. I am trying to keep things as short and concise as possible.

    Archaeology, and its various sub/cross-disciplines, has been able to make substantial developments into the workings of past societies/cultures. A garbage pit is a gold mine for an archaeologist. Archaeology is not a hard science, but it strives to be as rigorous as a hard science. The advances in the hard sciences and technology have provided archaeology with powerful tools.

    As for a moral point, there was none. My comment was about a process whereby a society declines. I am not making any moral judgement about any society’s values. I specifically used the generic term “values”, and I provided no examples. The ones above are examples, but you can create your own. If it is good or evil is beyond me.

    Life is full of processes. Some are always repeatable, but others are not. Of the ones that are not, many do repeat when similar circumstances occur.

    This is what Nate Silver was doing. His methodology is not absolute. He could have been wrong, but the chances were small. When humans are involved, the outcome is never exact. If it were the soft sciences would be hard.

  • jan

    Curbing CO2 emissions is a virtue for some, but they value an overly large house with an enormous carbon footprint.

    Sounds like an Al Gore kind of publicly spewed virtue versus his privately lived values.

    Once again, TastyBits, an admirable commentary.

  • TastyBits

    @jan

    I left my original comment without any examples to avoid a debate over specific values. At OTB, I have gotten into “knock down-drag out” fights over comments I tried to keep as neutral as possible.

    In my youth, I would deliberately p*ss-off liberals, and then destroy their arguments. Conservatives were not as much fun. They would back-off once they realized the debate was not going their way. I think the liberals are not used to having their philosophical underpinnings questioned, and they cannot conceive their arguments collapsing. Conservatives can be exceedingly annoying, but liberal arrogance is unbelievable.

  • Rod Dreher has run a couple of pieces recently, including this one which talk about black-on-black violence in Baton Rouge.

    Suggested cultural influences are common all over the country.

  • I find all this very hard to discuss because I come from such a different time and place.

  • TastyBits

    @Janis Gore

    Interesting link. I think the woman’s email is fairly accurate. Matt’s comment [01-14-2013 10:41 am (CST)] is accurate, but I am not buying the lead argument. Also, the breakdown should be by neighborhood not blocks. These are not always on maps, but people familiar with the area know the boundaries.

    Many of the comments are examples of how numbers lie. The numbers indicate it is a thug vs thug problem, but it is actually a thug vs anybody who “gets in their way” problem. The numbers do not capture the person not murdered because he did not testify against a thug. The numbers do not capture the homeowner not murdered because he did not call the police to complain about the thugs dealing dope across the street. The numbers do not capture the young black male not murdered because he backs down from the thug mad dogging him.

  • N

    I have heard alot on this subject concerning the crimes within inner city black america, i’m currently writing a book on the topic and issues that has gotten us were we are in my opinion. People commonly give the reasons for the murders and crimes that plagues the black community to economic disadvantages, lack of jobs and even the warm weather. Althought some of these issues can play a small role in crime, nothing has affected the black communities like absent of black fathers. In the year MLK said his famous “I Have A Dream ” speech nearly 72% of black homes were headed by two married parents. Now that number is near 30%. This next big issue is the remaining local blacks failure to police what they created or own…..their children & community. Lack of money, jobs and high unemployment don’t kill people…LACK OF KNOWLEDGE however can enslave a whole community, race, group of people. Look at these words written by the late Dr. Carter G. Woodson……“When you can determine what a man shall think, you do not have to concern yourself about what he will do. If you make a man feel inferior, you do not have to compel him to accept an inferior status, for he will seek it himself. If you make a man think that he is justly an outcast, you do not have to order him to the back door; he will go without being told; and if there is no back door, his very nature will demand one.”

    The sad thing is, we can’t blame another race, group or the lack of another goverment assistance program to govern our communities from the outside in…………Chicago needs to be fixed from the inside out……starting at each and every home you have a black male, the young and the old. Secondly you don’t have black young men in gangs or selling drugs if they’re not conceived at the appropriate time by the appropriate father. So you fixed the first issue then the second one will correct itself. A special word to the single black women who truly love her young son’s…………..search him, the room your letting him sleep in, his friends at your house on a daily basis. And when you find something such as a gun, drugs or anything illigal….call the police first, its better he’s doing time to think rather than dying and stink.

    This is how the black communities stood and survived in the 1930’s 40’s 50’s.

  • Thanks for weighing in, N. The points you’ve made echo those I’ve written myself. Gangs, so much a problem here in Chicago and responsible for so many of the homicides in the black community, are not a result of drugs but a consequence of much broader social pathology. The gangs and homicides will persist as long as the broader social dysfunction does.

  • bill smith

    Because they have more black people moron.. More black people equals more violence…

  • ardi

    Yeah like Dah! As Bill S said it’s because there are more blacks! Specifically young, black, punks who couldn’t hold a job at Mc Donald’s if their life depended on it! But not all are that way! In all fairness I do believe that they are often the last hired and first fired. It doesn’t take demographic or statistical anaylasis nor a genius to figure out that idle people with no jobs (regardless of the color) commit crimes!

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