See Kieran Healey on Becky Pettit’s Invisible Men: Mass Incarceration and the Myth of Black Progress as well as the interview with Pettit at EconTalk.
Thank you, Jacob. I enjoyed Roberts’ and Pettit’s discussion.
Pettit may be a good poster child for both the best and worst of domestic Progressivism. Pettit draws out a good portion of the problems, like in the case of missing statistical phenomena, but then: 1) does not recommend ending the drug war, 2) does not see that non-violent offenders are political prisoners, 3) does not apply the concept of rent-seeking to ‘systematic alternatives’, e.g. treatment centers for drug addiction; and, 3) fails to see her recommendation of “investment in K-12” as propping up yet another government institution prone to all of the statistical faults, rent-seeking, prison-like environments, and social retardant factors that disproportionately effect minorities and low income folk.
Public school is not the antidote to prison– but a sister institution that competes for money from mom and dad government.
That said, Pettit’s findings are useful in the fight against racists making collectivist genetic-determinative claims on crime.
1,2, 3, 3… It works in music.
I may have missed it somewhere, but which part of that summary was supposed to represent the best of progressivism? I hope you’re not resting your case on Pettit’s alleged contribution to the “fight against racists making collectivist genetic-determinative claims on crime”.
For one thing, it’s unclear what meritorious service she would perform by opposing such claims, since hardly anyone seems to be making them. It’s easy enough to take on an idea that has no public advocates.
And even if people were making genetic-racial claims about criminal behavior, why would a “fight against” them automatically be the correct response?
As one of the commenters at econtalk already pointed out, everyone is perfectly comfortable with the idea that maleness (surely a genetic condition) is massively determinative of criminal behavior. Other than “no one wants it to be true”, or “it would be terribly inconvenient”, or “bad people would just have a field day with it”, why should we rule out group differences as another factor mixed up with the many factors that drive our incarceration rate?
Indeed, at this stage in the game, knowing as little as we do, are we really in a position to be raising roadblocks athwart such a significant avenue of inquiry?
Progressivism, like the college campus kind, can and does bring social problems to the surface– even if its adherents don’t get it exactly right and often fall into ‘anti-fascism fascism’, i.e. political correctness.
Then there is rights champion Glenn Greenwald, often described as progressive.
Most public figures would be committing political suicide by making racial genetic claims about crime. True. I focus on libertarians themselves. Examples are Rothbard, Hoppe, Gottfried, Gordon, Rockwell, etc– Mises Institute luminaries, who share(d) friendships and common cause with out and out racial/white/Christian/culture/genetic supremacists. Some names: Sam Francis, Jared Taylor, National Policy Institute, V-Dare, the Occidental Quarterly…. They are more than just random linkages.
I admire the Mises guys in other ways. And I know they mostly differ with their racist friends on the validity and ethical standing of a free market.
I find race realism as shaky and maybe even as corrupt as global warming. Certainly both are legitimate research paradigms. But neither should be considered settled sciences, not even remotely. The problem is that the people I named act as if the genetics/race/IQ/behavior paradigm is as certain as Newtonian physics. Mises would not have tolerated their racism.
I find it a common knee-jerk reaction among too many libertarians, this labeling of communist or anti-science, any questioning of e.g. The Bell Curve or Pioneer Fund grantees’ projects and conclusions. But, I can understand it in light of how the mainstream has reacted in the past. In reality, however, I am making the more solid plea for science and rationality.
Interesting comparison between race realism and global warming there. I see a similarity hidden inside an apparent difference.
Global warming science is corrupt because it is massively financed, institutionally supported, and because a whole category of leftists now depend on it as “the ultimate, unanswerable externality”, which justifies anything and everything they want to do by coercive means (otherwise known as: everything they want to do).
Race realism and human biodiversity are corrupt because, as far as anyone can tell, the whole movement consists of approximately five tipsy curmudgeons blogging over at VDare. Although they may be up to six tipsy curmudgeons, now that John Derbyshire has joined the team.
Global warming is suspect because the funding and the pressure to support it are enough to co-opt most of the world’s scientific talent. Race realism and HBD are suspect because no one with scientific talent and a promising future would have anything to do with them.
As for me, I always find myself in a strange position when it comes to race issues around here.
I absolutely disagree that we libertarians have any kind of common ground with Progressive backers of identity-politics. Far from shining a light on social problems, I think the left utterly distracts from them by tossing out lazy explanations and shilling for even lazier proposed solutions. And even if they didn’t do that, their use of “you’re a racist!” as an all-purpose political smear more than cancels out any good they might do elsewhere on the issue.
I also don’t believe there is any such thing as “the fight against racism” in 2013. To me, that phrase makes about as much sense as “the fight against Zoroastrianism” or “the fight against Carthaginian aggression”. The ideology of racism has been decisively defeated, and in effect it now has fewer supporters than there are people who claim direct involvement in an alien abduction.
When someone like Michelle Alexander takes a massively complex thing like the intersect between race, crime, and the drug war, and reduces it down to a New Jim Crow, she’s essentially saying: “This isn’t complicated. This isn’t tricky or interesting. No subtlety is needed to understand this. You remember those shit-kicking rednecks you just loved to hate in Mississippi Burning, well…they’re at it again.”
Mark that down as failed libertarian outreach #275839. We kiss the ass of academically bankrupt progressive hacks, and in return, they won’t even come out in favor of unqualified drug legalization.
Meanwhile, a tragic and fascinating story is going unstudied and untold. As much as we may talk about the drug war, the biggest racial disparity is in violent crimes. There, the black disproportion is simply shocking. In my metro statistical area, for example, the census lists the black population at 20%, and yet nine in ten homicide victims is a black male shot by another black male.
Contrary to Reagan era propaganda and 1990s media tropes, the bulk of those shootings are not “drug related”. If you talk to the prosecutors, you hear story after story about “A humiliated B in front of his friends, so B shot A” or “X was living with the mother of Y’s children, and their rivalry came to a head at Christmas.”
Absent the drug war, there would be fewer people in prison, but the demographics would likely be even more skewed…and our collective failure to explain them would be even less excusable.
As happens so often with things like this – the surplus of black men in violent crime, the absence of women in top math faculty positions – we don’t have an explanation, we only know that there are certain types of speculation and inquiry we will not tolerate.
Once again I find that you encapsulate my own thoughts on a subject very well.
I am familiar with Climategate etc. Thanks for bringing more detail. There definitely is difference within similarity. Nice phrasing.
Yet the criticisms go beyond character failings and aim at the science itself.
That said, I am not sure of how to estimate the talent pool involved in genetic/race/behavior research. Scientific racism, white/Christian nationalism, etc, should not be ignored though. Just because it appears marginal now does not say anything about the future. It was certainly huge in the past. People have a tendency to accept simplistic views over a more complex reality. Marxism, Nazism, faith, The Terrorists, Alex Jones’s Bilderberg world…. I suspect the curmudgeons are aiming in the same direction. How easy minds are captured.
How much of the current wave of less racism is due to the simplistic yet authoritarian progressivism of high liberalism? What if libertarians get their wish and overturn the order? Will there be a reversion to the equally simplistic but more tried and true ethnic/race ideologies?
Racism has not been defeated. I could provide you personal anecdotes all day. Or look at the soft racism that Obama’s “I am gonna make this work” supporters exude. Google ‘soccer, football and racism’ . (Granted, the mere accusation of racism is an accepted form of gamemanship now.) These populist race expressions happen– in spite of the obvious: the less discriminating a team is, the more successful they are. Even the more homogenous teams can be ranked in order of how diverse their opponents are….
But collectivism in the form of racism has such base appeal.
Black on black crime is tragic. What happens when you factor in the stats of government killings, a government dominated by white people? There’s that introduction of complexity.
There is indeed systematic crushing of speculation about race, class and gender. Especially from those teaching and supporting race, class and gender courses at Ivy league institutions, e.g.. This does not make the curmudgeons any better. Nor do the existence of curmudgeoning mean that the scientific exploration of genetics an behavior should be halted. Nor does it mean that everything done by a racist or rent seeking scientist is bad either…. Anyway, do not include me in the “we”, thank you.