• jtlevy

    And I confidently predict that among the various sites for responses– the Niskanen comment thread, Twitter, Facebook, and BHL– the reception here will be… how to put it?… the least enthusiastic.

    • stevenjohnson2

      Just so you won’t be disappointed, I’m cross-posting my comment below.

      You can’t have it both ways. After you declare victory over the monster MacLean for her claim that the alleged proof from objective economic science of the incompatibility between liberty and government interventions, due to the very nature of the political process, was a political program that was promoted by conscious intervention of the wealthy into the supposed scientific process…after you do that, you are left with the scientific demonstration that it is political action that is the problem, because politics in its very nature is objectively incapable of solving these alleged problems. You cannot then whine about work to be done, because the work that has been done refutes you.

      Yes, the objection that if the rules are neutral the outcomes are just because they are the choices of a free people suffers from glaring problems if you don’t assume that Buchanan et al. are profoundly accomplished social scientists. That his victory in the marketplace of ideas was subsidized. But, then, that’s exactly what was wrong with MacLean. That’s why you’ve signed up with the jackals snarling at her heels. If you then think you can tacitly pretend that the scientific validity of Buchanan’s work (and others in the libertarian tradition,) doesn’t refute you, you are simultaneously committing MacLean’s error even as you condemn her.

      Your indignant notion that racism isn’t nice, but moral suasion is the only proper cure, is mealy mouthed piety, worth nothing. There isn’t the slightest evidence that libertarianism (as opposed to the occasional libertarian who happens by chance to share your elevated tastes,) has any problem with racism in principle. If you flatter yourself that is precisely what you are protesting against, I must remind you that the only concrete, specific, naming names political commitment in this essay is…an attack on Nancy MacLean. We know what side you’re really on.

      • Sergio Méndez

        “There isn’t the slightest evidence that libertarianism (as opposed to the occasional libertarian who happens by chance to share your elevated tastes,) has any problem with racism in principle.”

        Oh, but there is. The sole idea that people are lesser people or have less rights (or any rights at all) because of their biotype is anthitetical to libertarianism (and any other form of liberalism)

        • stevenjohnson2

          Neither the non-aggression principle nor self-ownership prevent racism. Equal rights are completely compatible with unequal capacity of different groups. Libertarianism does hold that it is the use of the state to prevent the resulting unequal outcomes that constitute the assault on freedom. The law is just when it forbids the lynching of blacks and whites alike, but is is an infringement on freedom for the federal government to pass an anti-lynching law.

          Thus, if black people are losers it’s because they are inferior. The bleeding heart libertarian wants to explain how it’s government that keeps the black people down. That is, insofar as the outcomes are different from the natural inequality of outcomes to be expected. In practice, inferior outcomes in social life are held to be the consequence of personal inferiority, and it is always problematic for libertarians to complain that groups are unjustly rewarded. The invisible hand of the market, like God, works in mysterious ways that nonetheless are not justly questioned by mere individuals.

          Besides, Levy’s real commitment here was to attack MacLean, so he understated the continuity between modern libertarianism and the democracy of such slavers as Jefferson, Jackson, Calhoun. Equal rights for citizens is sufficient for old style liberalism and modern libertarianism. Libertarianism as a whole is silent as to who counts as a citizen.

          • Rob Gressis

            “he understated the continuity between modern libertarianism and the democracy of such slavers as Jefferson, Jackson, Calhoun”. What is the continuity?

          • Rob Gressis

            Never mind; after reading Levy’s essay, I can guess what you’ll say.

          • Sean II

            Not that Levy establishes such continuity any more clearly. He merely mentions a bunch of boo words and hopes they’ll stick.

            I’ve been a libertarian for 30 years. I’ve never met a neo-confederate, nor can I name one. In fact I never heard that term until Bob Murphy put on his zombie make-up to mock the concept a few years back.

            Never met a libertarian who failed to denounce slavery. On the contrary, the usual problem with us is that we throw the word around too often – as in: “These new red light cameras are like slavery”. Obnoxious, yes; nostalgic for Tara, no.

            I’ve never met a libertarian who would use herrenvolk as a term of praise.

            Never met one who admired Andrew Jackson.

            I have, it’s true, met libertarians who hated Lincoln, usually because they blamed him for things the federal government did after he saved it.

            I have met some who thought it might have been better to end slavery without war in say 1885, than with war in 1865. Which isn’t remotely the same thing as defending slavery. Some libertarians put anti-war ahead of everything. Poke Bryan Caplan or Robin Hanson with a stick, and both will offer similar arguments. Does that make them Knights of the White Camelia?

            What I have met is a bunch of libertarians who joined because Milton Friedman’s blew their mind with his argument against rent control. I’ve met a lot who usually began with Ayn Rand. Some who came from Hayek and Mises, or from Rothbard. Once or twice, I’ve come across a weirdo who managed to read Nozick first.

            Rand, Friedman, Hayek, Mises, Rothbard, and Nozick. Not exactly a squad of butternut rebs there.

            Maybe MacLean picked Buchanan for his accent. Because it’s hard to think of a more yankee-fied group than libertarians – a group whose big dream is “let’s all move to the secesh haunted woods of…New Hampshire”.

          • You make a really important point that came up on social media a few days back.

            In general, it would be nice if Levy, et al., would make their criticisms in the form of, “I disagree with _________ when he/she says ________ because ________.” This is a statement that can actually be addressed.

            But constantly intimating that libertarians are racists unless they recite the magic words is basically the classic loaded question, “When did you stop beating your wife?”

            If “libertarians” are always defending racism, then point out where and how, and then critique those instances of it.That is, after all, what an honest critique looks like.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            Funny you say this. Brink Lindsey, another writer affiliated with Niskanen

          • King Goat

            “I’ve been a libertarian for 30 years. I’ve never met a neo-confederate, nor can I name one.”

            This from the guy was just the other day talking about the unmatched popularity of lewrockwell.com and the mises institute…Sure. No neo-confederates in those parts!

          • Sean II

            Rockwell’s not a neo-confederate.

            If he were, people wouldn’t have to keep referencing a 25 year old ghost written newsletter to link him with racism.

            They’d have more recent evidence.

          • King Goat

            How about put this in your google search:
            lew rockwell confederate

            Maybe a slew of articles defending confederate monuments (why wouldn’t libertarians like public, and often publicly maintained, paens to those who bravely fought for slavery?), the confederate flag, the confederate constitution, etc., doesn’t make one a ‘neo-confederate?’

          • Rob Gressis

            What’s a neo-confederate, in your mind? I’ve not really heard the term, so it doesn’t have a clear referent to me.

          • Sean II

            Well, we usually put “neo-” in front of something because people are trying to resurrect it from the past, with the help of some key modification. Thus:

            Neo-Liberal means “liberal who made peace with the market”.

            Neo-Conservative means “conservative who made peace with the welfare state”.

            Presumably – though I really don’t know, because I’ve never met such a person – Neo-Confederate means “Confederate minus slavery”, something like that.

            Of course I have seen “neo-confederate” used as a general term of abuse to mean roughly “any conservative with a southern accent” or “any conservative from a southern state”.

            But I think we can reject that as a rhetorical trick, rather than an honest definition.

            By the same token, there is another non-definition or anti-definition we should reject. This one’s a bit harder to describe, so bear with me….

            Lately there has been emerging a trope in American culture which is similar to the “fascismus theory” used by the German left in the 1960s*.

            The structure goes like this: “The only good reason to mention X, is to denounce Y. The only interesting feature of X, is Y. At minimum, there must not be a mention of X without a loud and clear denunciation of Y.”

            To name the variables specifically: “The only reason to mention the antebellum South/Civil War, is to condemn slavery. The only interesting feature of the antebellum South/Civil War, is slavery. One should never mention the antebellum South/Civil War, without loudly and clearly repeating a denunciation of slavery.”

            So if you say “what about the role of tariffs as a contributing cause of the war?”, that’s bad. Because you mentioned something about it that wasn’t slavery, and in any case you missed an opportunity to identify yourself as an opponent of slavery. Why would anyone do that?

            Or of you say “Lee’s army made effective use railroads to exploit interior lines”, that’s a bit suspect. Because for one thing it sounds like praise, and for another it fails to mention slavery. Better to say “Using railroads built by the very slave labor his army fought to keep in bondage, Lee’s force scuttled back and forth…” This, way no one gets confused about where you stand.

            Point being: I have seen “neo-confederate” used in this way, to mean something like “people who mention the South without what I consider the right tone, emphasis, and message”. Goat seems to have had something like this in mind, in naming Rockwell.

            But this is unfair, and hopelessly prone to equivocation. Good definitions have boundaries.

            * An old German prof I knew summarized fascismus this way: “Anytime you said anything about the country before 1945, you had to make sure you first denounced Hitler, spit on the ground, and explained whatever it was in the context of his eventual rise. So if you wanted to mention Schiller, you first had to disclaim: ‘Although obviously his romanticism is among the aspects of German culture which rendered us vulnerable to the NSDAP, such that he must be considered an accomplice to evil before the fact, he was not without talent as a poet. Among the best of his works…’ That sort of thing.

          • Rob Gressis

            I think king goat’s definition below was pretty good. I think your above definition isn’t really a definition but more like seeing it as a pure pejorative.

            I also wouldn’t agree with your definition of neoconservative, but it’s good as a slogan definition that has euphony with your slogan definition of neoliberal.

          • Rob Gressis

            I mean, he didn’t give a definition but one could be constructed.

          • Sean II

            Have to disagree there.

            He gave a list of things that best fit under the label “revisionist*”, or less charitably “confederate apologist” or maybe “Lost Causer”.

            Not the same as “Neo-Confederate”, because the Neo- in that phrase implies an attempt to bring something forth into the present day.

            But no such implication is found in the things listed. One can believe that slavery equals less than 100% of the war’s causes, without wanting it brought back. One can disagree with the monument removal (on any of a half dozen reasonable grounds) without wanting to see the South rise again.

            Neo-Confederate is not a good term for such people. It should be reserved for people who actually want to see a *New* Confederacy.
            * worth noting: the thing that makes someone a Civil War revisionist today is… saying stuff about the war which nearly everyone said 50 years ago. So really we should call them “historical reversionists”, because they prefet a version of history from before its most recent major revision.

          • Peter from Oz

            Isn’t the rhetorical trick you describe a modern variation of paralipsis?

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            Off topic, I admit, but I see from your bio that you’re interested in free will. If you haven’t already you might want to take a look at my friend Danny Frederick’s paper on this subject that appeared in the Canadian Journal of Philosophy. At this point it’s ungated, and available here: https://www.academia.edu/348757/Free_Will_and_Probability. This isn’t my area of expertise, but I think its a very powerful argument.

          • Sergio Méndez


            Racism is not simply the belief that people have unequal capacities based on the idea of their race. Racism goes a step further and affirms that individuals belonging to “races” that are assumed to be inferior, have less rights. That is why racism has engeenered segregationist regimes since its very conception (after all, it was the ideology supporting those regimes). And segregationist regimes (all of them backed by the force of the state) certainly violate the rights of the inviduals of the races it deems inferior.

            “The law is just when it forbids the lynching of blacks and whites alike, but is is an infringement on freedom for the federal government to pass an anti-lynching law.”

            That is a very weird statement. That will be like saying:

            “The law is just when it forbids the murder, but is is an infringement on freedom for the federal government to pass an anti-murder law.”

            If murder or lynching are objectively wrong, how is an infrigment on freedom to pass laws forbidding them?

          • stevenjohnson2

            No, racism is also the false claim that groups have unequal capacities. Historically, it is the oppression of certain groups (lack of equal rights) that have led to these ideologies that falsely justify the oppression. Your version reverses cause and effect.
            Arbitrarily redefining racism may serve a political purpose, but I can’t see it as a noble one.

            “If murder or lynching are objectively wrong, how is it an infringement on freedom to pass laws forbidding them?” Maybe you’re confused on this point. I’m not the one who says that it is an infringement on freedom for the federal government to pass an anti-lynching law. It was the libertarians and liberty minded people who said this, and fought, successfully, against a federal anti-lynching law. I say a federal anti-lynching law would in fact have been a step toward freedom, despite infringing states’ rights, despite expanding the power of the state. If you agree, you need to argue with the libertarians, the states-righters, the small staters, the whole amorphous movement Levy et al. love so much.

            Look, Jefferson and Jackson and Calhoun promoted states’ rights because, liberty! Yet it was also because, slavery! And everybody knows that a goodly portion of the libertarian movement follows traces its lineage back to these founders of states’ rights, even in the days when states’ rights were the shield of segregation. The whole notion of liberty meaning the small state traces back to these men who wanted to protect slave property from the majority of slaves and non-owners.

          • Peter from Oz

            Of course it’s an impingement on freedom for the government to pass an anti-lynching law. But it is also an impingement that the vast majority of us think is correct. That is the nature of governments. The state is there to impinge on our otherwise unlimited freedom to exactly as we want. The government also impinged upon the freedom of the slaves to rise up and walk away from the plantations.
            The job of the state is to balance freedoms so as to allow peace and promote society the room to flourish. In the case of slavery, governments got it terribly wrong. They have impinged the wrong freedoms and didn’t limit freedoms they should have seen were evil laugh n the extreme.

          • stevenjohnson2

            “The government also impinged upon the freedom of the slaves to rise up and walk away from the plantations.”

            Historically, most of the violence carried out against slaves was privately initiated, privately organized, privately funded. Like slavery itself, it was essentially a market phenomenon. The government didn’t whip slaves, the owners did. The government didn’t institute a pass system, the local owners did. Slaves were rarely executed after trial, but were privately executed. Governments did not forbid teaching slaves to read til private owners objected to the damage to their property values, inasmuch uppity slaves with ideas are less valuable.

            Slave catching was also a private enterprise. Indeed, one could argue that the main effect of the fugitive slave clause for a long time was merely to ensure the interstate legality of a private enterprise. The Fugitive Slave Act, which rigged the system against accused slave property, was so outrageous precisely because it was intruded the government and people of the entire nation into the private enterprise of slavery.

            Look, those libertarians who do object to slavery have to conjure up a self-ownership principle or a non-aggression principle. There is a reason though why neither principle commands the acceptance of most, much less all, libertarians. If either is systematically applied, the logical implications are incompatible with conservatism, the defense of property against the people, because. (Yes, libertinism is an aspect of some libertarian projects, but, let’s face it, libertinism is commerce, and conservatism loves commerce, because, profits.)

            The libertarian ethos, where private is good and state is coercion, is a Manichean delusion. It is a false premise, not a rational conclusion.

          • Peter from Oz

            Coleridge once said that watching Edmund Keene act was like reading Shakepeare by flashes of lightning. Your posts on this thread remind me of that. There some real gems in there, but also some wonderful diversions and swerves of logic.
            I’m not a libertarian for the very reason you state: the Manchean nature of libertarianism. It reminds me too much of Marxism’s same foible, as does the placing of economics at the centre of every human dream. AT the same time I share the libertarian suspicion of government solutions. Samuel Johnson, a lifelong Tory, was right when he said that ”government schemes of improvement are laughable things.”
            Catching slaves may have been done by private enterprise, but it was done with the imprimatur of the state. Because the State allowed slavery, it also permitted the slve catching done by private enterprise. The government thereby impinged on the freedom of the slaves to leave their masters by not
            The whole point is that governments impinge on freedom. That is what they are for. The question is whether such impingment is justified in individual cases. I don’t think any libertarian would argue withthe conclusion that governments should act to prevent slavery.

          • stevenjohnson2

            The actual living people who took up arms against the English disagreed with you. They saw a government that could intervene against slavery as a threat to liberty. Further, overall, they largely saw property as fundamental to society, and the state as a compact of free men in defense of property (not least against the unrpopertied,) in which the problem of freedom was to ensure the delegated powers of free men were not subverted to become independent. Neither modern libertarians nor their forebears in the Jefferson/Jackson/Calhoun tradition saw the state as the fount of property rights. Property gave the imprimatur to the state, not the other way round.

            Very few people are so impolitic as to argue directly for slavery. That won’t happen til they have prospects of buying a man for themselves. But they do argue against the notion the state has a right to intervene against property (even property in men,) because property is freedom. Really, what is self-ownership about, if not the declaration that property is humanity itself?

          • Peter from Oz

            Good comment. I come from a country where the Crown owned the land and then granted it to subjects to hold as property. So for me real property, as distinct from personal property, did not really exist before government. However, the whole purpose of government is to give people security of property.
            WIthout government people’s rights are unlimited. So property exists. It’s just that a person can only hold that property by fighting off others who have the right to take it at any time if they can. Now you may be justified in saying that this means that there was no property rights before government. That may be true.
            I wish I had time to address your last paragrpah, which I think makes an very intersting point.

          • Theresa Klein

            The law is just when it forbids the lynching of blacks and whites alike, but is is an infringement on freedom for the federal government to pass an anti-lynching law.

            Last time I checked lynching was illegal and no libertarian anywhere had a problem with that.

          • Peter from Oz

            An oppressed group’s failings are a result of oppression? Sounds like a bit of question begging to me.

          • stevenjohnson2

            The effective destruction of a culture by the expropriation of the resources for its old way of life and massive depopulation demoralizes. This impoverished heritage is the result of outside forces but you insist on interpreting this sort of thing as a group trait expressing something essential about the group. Attributing this social anomie to the victims makes no sense at all.

            Calling it question begging to describe as a result rather than a metaphysical expression of aboriginality “question begging’ is merely the sort of thing that gives informal logic a bad name. It is not clear how money can give a healthy history to the families. The effects of the past don’t go away just because it is convenient for you to declare a fresh start.

            To be frank, it is not clear that Australian society is capable of assimilating aboriginals on equal terms. Yet, I must insist that demanding total conformity, then condemning the victims of this demand, is oppressive, likely to damage the personalities of the victims in ways that leave them unpleasant….yet to blame them is truly villainous.

            On a more abstract level, I will say the kind of group you’re talking about doesn’t exist, that this is an incoherent melange of false ideas, generated as justifications for a system that relies social grouping. It it needs them, then they must be natural, not products. The thing is, you can do all sorts of falsificationist analyses, complete with controls, literal or statistical, quite according to Popper. But again, it’s like doing controlled experiments in parapsychology or doing a falsificationist study of homeopathy. It’s pseudoscience.

          • Peter from Oz

            I think my typos have given you tyhe wrong impresion of what I was saying. So in response to your new post I will try harder to ensure that the typos are kept to a minimum.
            It is not I that give the indigenes a group trait but those who insist on caring about their identity before their wellbeing. I don’t give them any common trait at all. I think of them as Australians. The activists who support the rights of the aborigines use the terms you use. They too remind us that Aboriginal heritage was impoverished by outside sources. That is why they fight for symbolic victories such as land rights, etc, rather than material well being. That is fine, but the problem is that the physical wellbeing of the aboorigines is declining whilst the cultural gains are only helping the activists and the professional aborigines whose blood is mostly caucasian.
            I’m not saying that the left’s approach is causing the terrible conditions in which many Aborigines live. I don’t wish to confuse causation and correlation. But I do know that the left’s approach has not improved those living conditions.
            And I don’t understand why you think I blame the indigenous people themselves for this problem. I blame left-wing sentimentality and lack of intellectual rigour. In a similar way I blame left-wing ideas for the growth of the underclass. I also balme left-wing thinking for the whole debacle of ”racism”.
            Apropos of your last paragraph, I don’t see what non-existent group it is that you think I am trying to create. So your peroration really doesn’t get the message across. Could you amend that paragraph so that it makes more sense?

          • stevenjohnson2

            I really can’t tell you that you’re wrong about what’s in your head. What you’ve written gives me the impression that is exactly what you’re doing, but you tell me I misunderstand. I supposed that may be possible. In which case, that last paragraph is just an irrelevancy.

            I do think that society and government do treat Aborigines as a group with certain inherent traits it deems inferior. As to the notion that the “left,” whatever you conceive that to be, has dominated policy and determined history for so long, I must admit this seems to me to be completely loopy. Australia truly is a different country if leftism has been ruling for so many, many decades. From the very beginning, it sounds like. How extraordinary!

          • Peter from Oz

            Two things. Firstly, if one can’t use terms like ”left” and ‘right” in a political discussion without being told that one can’t generalise, then the discussion is a waste of time. The term ‘left’ is surely well enough understood by now for it to be a useful shorthand term in discussions such as this.
            Secondly, anyone with any wit should realise that no government iss totally of the left or right. Governments deal with a myriad of issues and history determines that it is often the case that one policy thread will continue through successive adminsitrations even if they are diametrically opposed to oine another. Thus in Britain the left-wing policy of universal socialised healthcare persisted even throughout the right wing governments of Thatcher.
            In Australia the same thing happened with Aboriginal affairs. Up to the 1960s the right wing political philosphy prevailed in tis area. The the left wing ideals came to the forefront. Activists started being more interested in hand-outs, subsidies, land rights instead of aterial well-being. This was a turn to the left. This philosophy took hold in the publicservice and the media. So the consensus was set to the left throughout governments of the centre left and centre right parties that dominate Australian politics. The one exception wasa the intervention of the conservative government of John Howard in 2006/7, where the government actually tried to turn around the horrible conditions applying in some Aboriginal settlements. But eh incominf centre left government in 2007 scaled back that intervention. SO the left-wing consensus still applies.

      • Jeff R.

        Yeah. And he didn’t criticize Hitler, either!

      • Theresa Klein

        We know what side you’re really on.

        Yes, Levy’s entire post is an elaborate and oblique effort to cover up his secret racist alt-right sympathies. He’s a master at N-dimensional chess.

        • stevenjohnson2

          Nobody thinks MacLean’s book is going to be particularly important, not even in affecting popular ideas. Levy has joined in a claque charging malicious fraud, perpetrating a panic about its horrifying damage to the national soul. This in response to a dude who explained how market competition was the true road to good education, ignoring the historical record of market competition in education for millennia, across a whole range of culture, without reliably producing any of the benefits alleged. Many, many libertarians, not least Buchanan himself, can explain how this is not racist at all, not even secretly. That is the side Levy is on.

          Or, to put it another way, when you complain about a mouse attacking an elephant, it’s not because mice carry the plague. You are indignant on behalf of the elephant.

          • Theresa Klein

            Ahh yes, because libertarian academics are elephants, and progressive academics are mice. I mean, everyone knows that libertarian intellectuals dominate the academy and can inflict so much harm on poor little Nancy MacLean, the lonely progressive.

      • Octavian

        I wonder if your equally concerned with the (far greater) continuity between progressivism and racism, or socialism and anti-semitism?

        “Your indignant notion that racism isn’t nice, but moral suasion is the only proper cure, is mealy mouthed piety, worth nothing.”
        No it isn’t. It’s a moral position. There are many possible cures for racism. Exterminating all racists is one. Most people reject it as immoral. Forbidding all racists from owning drivers licenses might be another. Libertarians, rather, reject the idea that such coercion in any form is justified as a means of “curing” people of bad ideas.

        Let’s be clear: if you believe it is okay to “cure” people of bad ideas via coercive means, you are an enemy of freedom, in no uncertain terms.

        • stevenjohnson2

          Oh, I reject Rooseveltian/Wilsonian progressivism, and the Popular Front too. Nobody here stands for them, though, so why raise the subject? (Yes, rhetoric, I know.)

          The claim about a far greater continuity between socialism and anti-semitism is a malicious fraud.

          Racism is not a psychological phenomenon. People have the right to determine social arrangements that promote racial equity. The right to change social arrangements is in fact a meaningful definition of liberty, one that libertarians (including Levy judging from other writings I’ve seen from him) would deny. And that denial makes libertarians enemies of freedom, in no uncertain terms.

          I don’t believe the claim to be a social pacifist, rejecting coercion in common life. If sincere in any way, it merely stems from a preposterously narrow definition of “coercion.”

      • Rob Gressis

        Well, he also names Murray Rothbard, Lew Rockwell, and Jack Hunter, but I’m guessing you have some explanation for why that doesn’t count.

        • stevenjohnson2

          Jack Hunter doesn’t count because he was a flunky for a Republican/Libertarian hybrid, now politically dead.. The relationship of an amphibian pol like Ron Paul to Libertarianism the philosophy is inherently ambiguous, if it exists at all. Also, dissing Ron Paul in the Trump presidency isn’t bold defiance of reaction.

          But, I was completely wrong about ignoring the condemnation of Lew Rockwell. The musty air that rose from the few words of his I’ve read gave me the completely false belief (as I’ve discovered today) that Lew Rockwell was long dead and never the star Buchanan was, and thus safely irrelevant. Well, he’s still not a conventionally recognized star, but he is indeed alive. Levy’s live targets were MacLean and Rockwell. My apologies to Mr. Levy on that point.

          As for Rothbard…aside from being dead, aside from being more or less unknown to the general population (no, L. Neil Smith doesn’t count,) it is practically speaking impossible to tell when a libertarian academic actually disapproves of Rothbard, or is jealous. Every philosopher has hopes of being a cult leader like Pythagoras. I find people like to take credit/deny credit re Rothbard. But then, after all, I thought Lew Rockwell was literally dust, not just mentally, so obviously I could be wrong about that too.

    • DST

      Well, the sentence:

      Reimagining libertarian politics in light of the truth that black liberty matters will take a lot of intellectual and moral work.

      is an example of the vapid word-shuffling that plagues so much of social and political discourse today. You should be excoriated for it.

      • Sean II

        You know, my feelings are a little hurt here. Back on July 1, I posted the following comment pointing out that MacLean’s real mistake was being too honest, clear, and direct:

        “But get serious: all she had to do to avoid that problem was be MORE passive aggressive.

        You know, stuff like: “We can only wonder at the motives behind this nostalgic longing for earlier political forms. What was it about the ‘constitution of 1900’ that so fascinated these men – for men they were, and white at that. If they had a dream, what was it, and how starkly does it differ from the dream most of us have nurtured since 1963? Can we really ignore the Jim that was dying at the very moment Jim Buchanan’s dream was being born? Can we – can they – escape the coincidence that their doubts about good government crystallized only after government started doing good for people different from themselves.”

        Had she merely written like that, she could have inflicted the same smear without any pesky backlash.

        Hell, I’ve seen people pull such insinuating shit on this blog. Attentive readers may even guess the model used for my parody.”

        Well, now the challenge of guessing is gone. So unsatisfying.


        Yeah, but it sounds really virtuous and noble, way beyond what we mere mortals are capable of.

    • This comment right here is actually a textbook example of poor communication and poor conflict management. Is there anything in the blogosphere more off-putting than someone saying, “Here’s my latest article, but you guys are probably going to hate it, so…”

      Why should a person bother reading and thinking about your ideas if you arrive at the conversation with that kind of attitude already? Yes, I agree that your work will probably be more warmly received in an echo chamber. But so what.

      Here’s a short article on negative scripting. The context is a little different than what you’ve written about here, but I’m sure you’ll be able to find parallels.


      Read it. It’s important.

      • Rob Gressis

        He’s probably not wrong, though. He will get more pushback on this essay regardless of whether he does or doesn’t poison the well.

        As for your remark, “Why should a person bother reading and thinking about your ideas if you arrive at the conversation with that kind of attitude already?”, do you really comment here because you expect to get into a dialogue with Levy? He’s not going to talk to you (or me). I presume that you’re commenting here because you want to have a conversation with a subset of the commenters on this blog, right?

        • I comment here to get a conversation with anyone who would like to converse. (Except for one person, who I’ve blocked.) Many BHL authors join in the comment threads, but for me it’s not required or expected.

          But I actually do not even read articles by people who consistently demonstrate low expectations of their supposed audiences. If Levy doesn’t trust me to give his article a fair reading, then this increases my perception of the likelihood that he hasn’t presented his argument in good faith, either. I only want to read arguments from people who at least expect that I will read and think about them.

          It reminds me of Geoff Tate, the legendary and extremely gifted singer who is mostly famous for literally spitting on his fans. His music might be wonderful, but who has time to listen to a guy who might use that opportunity to spit on you?

          Of course, you could argue that Levy never said he had low expectations of us; he only said that his article’s reception would “be… how shall [he] put it? … less than enthusiastic.” An extremely charitable reading of this is simply that he thinks we’d all be critical of his ideas, but still intelligent and respectful and otherwise praiseworthy. If this is what Levy meant, then he’s welcome to clarify that, but the comment as it appears seems to suggest otherwise.

      • King Goat

        “but you guys are probably going to hate it”

        But of course that’s not what he said. What he said was “I confidently predict that among the various sites for responses– the Niskanen comment thread, Twitter, Facebook, and BHL– the reception here will be… how to put it?… the least enthusiastic.” This is perfectly consistent with his expectation/prediction that while many here like what he has to say, there is this strange (compared to the other libertarian venues his writing also appears on) subset of regulars here who regularly disagree with what the writers on a site plainly labeled ‘*bleeding heart* libertarians’ have to say and will predictably pushback here.

  • DST

    The problem with this approach is that it demands that you adopt the very divisive collectivism you blame for starting the problem in the first place. If you say that favoring liberty *for all* isn’t good enough, that we must favor liberty for all, but *especially black people*, then you need to plunge into the identity politics that you claim created this mess. Even if the drug war was created and sustained by racists for their racisty purposes, why isn’t it enough to just want to end it? Can we just argue for a universal freedom, or do we have to pet a small bust of MLK while we do it?

    If libertarianism has a gatekeeping problem, wanting to motive-check everyone is only going to exacerbate it.

    • Rob Gressis

      There’s no racial group in America that has as bad outcomes as black or has suffered as much infringement on their liberty, save for American Indians. You’d think there would be a fairly large subset of libertarian scholars, at least, making a bigger deal of that.

      That said, I fully cop to there being such a large subset, and I’ve just missed their work. But even if that’s true, that’s kind of weird — I’m much more tuned in to libertarianism than the average bear, so if I haven’t heard of them, something odd is happening.

      • DST

        I’m not going to contest your assertion; I’m just going to say that even if true, it’s irrelevant. The truth of libertarianism doesn’t depend on who did what to whom, and how often. That certain native farmers benefited from the British Corn Laws, and that certain consumers of grain suffered, is irrelevant to whether those should have been repealed. The identify of those suffering under unjust laws, and the identify of those allegedly benefiting, has no bearing as to the justice of those laws.

        Now, I might feel the injustice of the drug war more acutely if I witness firsthand a poor uneducated person being shaken down by the cops for having a small amount of drugs, but I don’t see how the color of his skin would sway me one way or the other. In fact, if I were influenced by a victim’s skin color, I’d be making the same logical error as those conspiratorial racists behind the drug war.

        If a law can’t be applied without regard to the motives and identities of the parties, it doesn’t deserve to be a law.

        • Rob Gressis

          I’m not saying that blacks should be treated differentially by the government; I’m saying that what libertarian scholars find of interest might say something about us. E.g., if you find yourself getting angry about campus speech codes, but not about lower life expectancy of blacks in the USA, then that says something. It doesn’t necessarily say something *bad*, but I think trying to figure out why you find a particular issue more emotionally embroiling than another issue that, on the face of it, is of greater significance to more people, reveals something about you.

          For instance, I find what’s happening on campus speech very interesting, and a lot more emotionally involving than police officers shooting unarmed black men. Why do I find one more emotionally involving than the other? I don’t know! But I want to.

          Here are some guesses: (1) the people who get most exercised about police brutality are in my out-group, so I find myself repelled by even thinking of the issue; (2) I find (or perhaps, assume) that the conclusions that people draw about police brutality often don’t line up with the facts, so I find wading into the issue annoying; (3) it’s just an issue that doesn’t interest me, and it doesn’t interest me for uninteresting reasons (e.g., I’m not interested in history, but I’m interested in politics, but just because of how I’m wired); (4) if I read about the issue, I might have to change some of my central political beliefs in ways that I don’t want, or I might have to admit that people in my out-group have a point; (5) I’m on campus, so I’m likely to eventually run into campus craziness, but I live in a safe neighborhood and generally keep to myself, so I’m unlikely to have a bad interaction with cops.

          Now, all of (1)-(5) are extremely boring to people not me, but I wager that doing the same dime-store psychoanalysis on the libertarian movement as a whole would be more interesting to more people.

          • Theresa Klein

            People tend to worry a lot more about issues that affect people like themselves. It’s totally normal, but if a movement is 99% white and male and affluent, it’s going to have blind spots to issues that tend not to affect affluent white males very much. Trying to put yourself in other people’s shoes in order to see around your blind spots is a healthy and good thing that everyone should do. It’s one of those things that helps you make convincing arguments to people who are different than you.

          • Octavian

            I tend to think of causality going in the opposite direction, though I suppose it’s a matter of interpretation. Mostly it was affluent white men who cultivated the libertarian movement, and they continue to swell its ranks for somewhat similar reasons to why Muslims and Mexicans overwhelmingly prefer one party to the other: when one party makes you a bogeyman, picking the other party makes sense. Libertarianism is a nice place for a white male who isn’t ideologically conservative but finds progressivism increasingly hostile to white males. If the race/gender war stuff weren’t so big on the left and they stuck to their other planks I expect many of those libertarian white males would never have had their ‘road to Damascus’ moments and would not be part of the movement, leaving it ‘more diverse.’

          • DST

            First, I’m not interested in psychoanalyzing a group as large as the libertarian movement as a whole (please no jokes about how few we are).

            But more to the point, I don’t think there’s anything to be gained by trying to understand police brutality from a “black perspective” as oppossed to a “white perspective.” Libertarians and/or proto-libertarians have worried about that issue for centuries now, and such inquiry has always benefitted from abstracting as much detail away as possible. Restricting an analysis of a problem to only the perspective of a particular group or subgroup never enhances that analysis; it always limits it.

            You might think that getting a perspective other than your can help you get outside your own worldview. I think that’s true, but only to a limited extent. What Levy is talking about is wallowing in superficial differences rather than getting away from them. Chanting “black lives matter” is as stupid and unproductive as chanting “forty-three year-old lives matter,” or “Unitarian lives matter.” When no one is arguing against you, you need to ask yourself why you think you need to chant in the first place.

          • Sean II

            “First, I’m not interested in psychoanalyzing a group as large as the libertarian movement as a whole (please no jokes about how few we are).”

            Analyst: “Do you ever see libertarians other people can’t see?”

            Patient: “Yes, but at the think tank where I work that’s just a condition of employment.”

          • ‘I don’t think there’s anything to be gained by trying to understand
            police brutality from a “black perspective” as oppossed to a “white

            There could be. We can look at an eclipse from a Newtonian perspective and from an Einsteinian perspective. In the one case you have heavy objects moving through absolute space under the pull of gravitational forces. In the other case you have no gravitaional forces, but heavy objects taking their easiest route through undulating space-time. The thing might not look very different observationally. But the two theories may make different predictions about some parts of what is seen. That, indeed, is what happened in Eddington’s 1919 experiment. The Einsteinian predictions came out better and Newton’s theory was refuted. Similarly, we might be able to look at some specific event(s) from a ‘white perspective’ and a ‘black perspective’ in order to test which perspective (i.e. theory) corresponds better with the observable facts. This would mean submitting both perspectives to criticism, of course; which is probably not allowed in academe any more (at least with regard to the ‘black perspective’).

          • DST

            1. That’s not a good analogy: Newtonian mechanics hasn’t really been “refuted,” it’s just limited to non-relativistic speeds. Relativistic physics is a generalization of the Newtonian mechanics. I don’t know how to map that onto understandings of police violence.

            2. Methodologically, I don’t know how you could empirically test a “perspective.”

            3. I’m always looking for alternative viewpoints to add to my understanding, but in my experience race is a very poor proxy for viewpoint. As with most categories of that size, there tends to be much more within-group variation than between-group variation. As a white man who grew up in suburban New England, I’ve found my outlook was much more similar to the black kid who grew up down the street from me, and with whom I frequently played, than it was to the white man from rural Kentucky I knew in college, or the white woman from Los Angeles I met when while grad school. So much so, that I find an attempt to distill the “white perspective” hilariously misguided.

          • 1. Actually, it is a piece of positivistic legerdemain to claim that Newton’s theory has not been refuted but has instead been retained as an approximation or limiting case. According to Newton’s theory, there is a force of gravity that acts instantaneously even over the vast distances of empty space. That is now accepted as false, which is one reason why Newton’s theory has been refuted. We could go on to absolute space and time, the inverse square law (also false) and so on. If general relativity theory is true, Newton’s theory is FALSE.

            2. I think that if a ‘perspective’ means anything that is critically discussable, it means a theory. When someone gives their perspective on something, they are describing it according to the theories they hold. Where such ‘perspectives’ differ, that raises the question as to which, if any, of the different theories is correct; and then, how can we test them.

            3. Okay.

          • DST

            1. I stand corrected.

            2. In this case, how would you propose to go about determining, empirically, whether a “black perspective” or a “white perspective” is true with respect to crime and police brutality? I think the vast majority of what people think of as their perspective is far too subjective to survive the abstractions necessary to analyze the data on this subject.

          • I suspect that if you ask someone for their perspective on crime or police brutality, either in general or with respect to a particular case, their response will include a bunch of general statements about political and police policies or behaviour and even some views about the general structure of society. Some of these general statements will be testable; some, I guess will be easily refuted; others will be too vague to be tested but might, with further development, turn into testable statements. When you describe these pespectives as ‘subjective’ you might just mean ‘too vague to be testable’ or you might mean ‘held on a whim, as a fashion, or without critical consideration.’ Something that is subjective in the second sense may be testable, may even be easily refutable; which is not to say that the person who holds it will be prepared to change his or her mind about it in response to such criticism.

          • Sean II

            “1. I stand corrected”

            You should kneel. It’s woker.

      • Octavian

        Plenty of prominent libertarians have strongly objected to discriminatory injustices. William H Hutt’s staunch and ‘before it was cool’ opposition to apartheid comes to mind.

        I think there are two perfectly valid objections to Mr. Levy’s characterization here. We should object to the mistreatment of any group of people on the basis of its violation of universal principles and the exclusion of any particular group from possession of universal human rights. The “especially x-group of people” mentality obscures the underlying principles, and also invites poor moral reasoning (such as revanchism, or ignoring victims who aren’t in that group) going forward. If it’s taken for granted, for example, that police brutality is a “black issue”, then media and activists have less incentive to care about non-black victims of police brutality. And we get situations where a violent criminal like Michael Brown gets more public concern than many genuinely innocent victims of other races. This argument is the same as the argument against affirmative action: in as much as a group is disproportionately afflicted by a problem, ‘color-blind’ remedies will by definition disproportionately benefit said group. If we give a hundred dollars to every poor person to alleviate poverty, it is nonsensical to argue that we specifically target black people for this dispensation because they’re disproportionately poor; to the extent that they are disproportionately poor, they will already disproportionately benefit from such a policy. And as for policy, so it goes for principles. Saying “especially for x group” is understandably going to be met with hostility from those who don’t belong to that, because it is basically exclusionary. Plenty of people likely interpret “especially for x group of people” as “we don’t care about your problem if you’re not an x.” And that’s not a bad interpretation since that’s often what it essentially means.

        Secondly, this kind of mentality seems to lead people to misattribute problems related to group differences. It’s already led plenty of people to attribute to racism what is more attributable to single-mother households, child abuse, poor parenting, and bad public schools. Frankly, a lot (possibly most) of the commonly mentioned problems facing the black community find their etiology within the black community itself, and would be most effectively addressed from within, and there’s little those outside of it can do, particularly regarding having children and raising them. But Levy’s mentality seems to insist on looking for insidious oppressive forces from above, and that insistence is like to inhibit rather than accelerate converging on any viable remedy.

    • Theresa Klein

      I think the issue is more that when white people talk about liberty, they are primarily thinking about liberty for white people. Thus resulting in the neglect of black people’s liberty interests and the issues that affect them. What he’s saying is that libertarians tend to favor liberty for *especially white people*, and we need to shift the focus back to liberty for all by thinking about black people’s liberty interests and putting them on an equal footing.

      • DST

        How is it not insulting and demeaning to black people to say that they have different liberty interests than white people? Are black entrepreneurs any less hobbled by economic regulations than white ones? Are black johns any less victimized by prostitution stings by Eliot Spitzer wannabes than white ones?

        A particular unjust law may impact one group more than another, but I don’t have belong to that group, or live among that group to know the law is unjust. If I argue against injustice across the board, I don’t have to have a sense of “women’s justice” or “Hindu justice.” Libertarianism should aspire to universal principles of justice instead of fracturing society into discrete interest groups. Otherwise we’ll degenerate into the identity-based grievance-mongering that plagues the social sciences, and that Levy appears to be trying to placate here.

        • Theresa Klein

          Black people are a lot more interested in police brutality.
          Black people are a lot more interested in the proportionality or justness of various sentancing laws and guidelines.
          There aren’t as many black entrepreneurs for various reasons, but there are a lot more blacks who have interactions with police or the criminal justice system.
          Is it really that hard to understand why blacks might have a different focus or a different ordering of priorities?

          I do think libertarians should aspire to universal principles of justice. I’m saying that libertarians often disproportionately focus on principles that are the most important to white people, to the neglect of issues that have greater impacts on non-whites. That is the whole point, to NOT allow libertarianism to devolve into a defense of the liberty interests of white people only. It’s not “identity based grievance mongering” to try to address the liberty interests of black people on an equal footing.

          • DST

            I honestly don’t know what you’re talking about. What libertarian sources are you reading that aren’t concerned about police brutality and sentencing issues? Unfortunately, there aren’t too many good libertarian primary sources, but publications like Reason focus quite a bit on those issues. Perhaps not quite as much as when Radley Balko was writing for them, but of course that has always been his particular focus. If you’re right, the overwhelmingly white staff and readership of Reason shouldn’t be interested in those topics, and yet the opposite is true.

            Your statement *might* be true if you were to say that white *people* rather than white *libertarians* focus on issues of greater importance to white people, but of course that wasn’t Levy’s claim. Prohibition, police abuse, and related issues have always been among the central concerns of libertarians.

            I also don’t understand your claim about black entrepreneurs. If black people tend to start businesses less often, couldn’t that indicate that they have even greater need for a less oppressive regulation regime? The easier it is to start and maintain a small and informal business, the more people will do it, and the people most likely to do so are those without strong ties to education and capital.

          • Theresa Klein

            For sure, the attention to police brutality and sentencing reform are steps in the right direction. I don’t want to dismiss or underrate the importance of those things. With reference to Levy’s argument, there ARE quite a few people in the libertarian community (or tangentially related to it, i.e. alt-right), who are very dismissive of the attention to those issues, if not downright hostile to them.

            And yes, I also think that the attention to licensing reform is helpful. I’m just not sure if you asked a black person what their biggest problems were, that they would cite occupational licensing in the top 10.

        • CJColucci

          How is it not insulting and demeaning to black people to say that they have different liberty interests than white people?

          Might I suggest you ask some?

          • DST

            What liberty interests do white people have that black people don’t?

          • CJColucci

            I suggested you ask some black people what they find demeaning and insulting. I know it’s the internet and all, and you probably couldn’t tell, but I’m not one.

          • DST

            You honestly can’t see how insulting it is to tell someone that their liberty interests differ from those of people of other races?

          • CJColucci

            What I see, or think I see, isn’t the point. Is there some reason you don’t want to have this discussion with the people you’re talking about?

          • Again with this canard, “go ask black people.” If you’re so certain black people will hell him something he hasn’t heard, then go ahead and state what that is. If you can’t, then you shouldn’t be interjecting to tell him to ask somebody else something you’re unwilling to answer.

          • CJColucci

            Why not? I don’t have the answers; someone else does.

          • You inserted yourself into this conversation, and all you have to say is that you don’t have anything to say. Do you see the problem?

          • CJColucci

            Yeah, humility. If I can say so myself.

          • You consider it humility to enter somebody else’s conversation with absolutely nothing to say?

            That’s a novel take on the concept.

          • CJColucci

            I’m sorry, I wasn’t aware that you owned the internet. And why should I be any different from anyone else who enters a conversation with nothing to say? Except, of course, that I recognize it and instead of bloviating on my own account refer folks to people who might have something to say.

          • And what a great reference it was, too. Not a specific individual, nor even the ideas of a specific individual. Just “black people.” Then you intimate that everyone else is “bloviating,” and you call this humility.

            Well, I won’t belabor the point. You’ve admitted that the value of your contribution here is low, so I’ll take you at your word.

          • DST asked a general question to a presumably diverse audience. Rather than telling him to put his question to blacks, why don’t you invite some to answer his already-posed and quite public question?

          • King Goat

            DST: “We don’t need to change our ideas, focus or message, they obviously apply to black people equally as to whites.”

            Theresa: “Er, if that’s the case, isn’t it strange that despite all the acknowledged, by everyone here, injustices according to our principles, black people face, that our club is 99% white? Maybe, being almost all white, and having different backgrounds, experiences and attitudes as blacks, what we focus on or think about just isn’t as applicable or relevant to blacks?”

            DST: “Isn’t it insulting to black people to say they have different liberty interests than white people?”

            CJColucci: “Maybe ask some black people about that.”

            Ryan Long: “Maybe the black people should ASK US!!!”

            Jesus, the obtuseness.

          • CJColucci

            Because the question he asked, or at least the particular one of his many questions that I was responding to, was one that could best be answered by the people who actually know what they are talking about. I don’t have anything useful to say on the subject and suggested where he might find answers.

      • Octavian

        “I think the issue is more that when white people talk about liberty, they are primarily thinking about liberty for white people.”
        Really? In what sense? Smaller government and lower taxes might be said to disproportionately favor white people, who are over-represented as taxpayers and under-represented as public service beneficiaries. I don’t think there’s any way around that though; either one decides to change one’s position on something in order make its impact more ethnically proportional, or we just accept that a good (utilitarian or moral) policy is not going to benefit everyone equally.

        Also, there are plenty of issues, like school choice, occupational licensing, and minimum wage laws, where the negative impact is disproportionately on minorities, that are popular issues among white libertarians and conservatives. I don’t think white people are as willfully ignorant of things impacting non-white people as it is popular to argue.

        • Theresa Klein

          Well, even here, you left out sentencing reform and policing, rules of engagement for police, which are issues that affect black people. This is the whole point. People think about the issues that tend to affect people like themselves. It’s not “willful” ignorance, it’s just something that takes some effort to think through from another perspective.

        • King Goat

          Example: If you’re more worried about the ‘slavery’ of public accommodation civil rights laws than the regularly institutionalized assault involved in stop-and frisk, you might not be heard by many black people. If you spend more time complaining about welfare than corporate welfare, you might not be heard by many black people. If you’re appalled by public universities using-lower-than-criminal justice-level due process to expel alleged rapists but have never expressed any concern with the policy allowing public housing tenants to be expelled under lower-than-criminal justice-level due process, you might not be heard by many black people. Etc.

          • Rob Gressis

            Even if you are louder about those issues, though, being against welfare would, I imagine, not endear you to a lot of black people, as I would bet (no data here) that a lot of black people hear criticisms of welfare as code for criticisms of black people. So, once you bring that up, it’s turd in the punchbowl time.

            That said, I bet a lot of black people are heartily against Hispanic immigration, too (no data here, just a hunch)

  • jdkolassa

    So how much of this was written with Sean II in mind?

  • Theresa Klein

    Excellent essay. A brave and much needed contribution in the current political climate.

    I think the next step is to really start doing the reimagining of libertarian principles with black liberty in mind. There’s a fair number of people who are tempted by the alt-right’s arguments that non-whites somehow can’t grok or won’t support libertarian principles, or conversely repelled by the association between libertarianism and the alt-right. Putting forth a vision of libertarianism that is racially inclusive would show them that they don’t have to support white supremacy in order to support libertarianism.

    • Octavian

      “tempted by the alt-right’s arguments that non-whites somehow can’t grok or won’t support libertarian principles”
      There’s nothing “alt-right” about that argument (whatever alt-right even means this week). It’s just interest-based rather than principle-based in its analysis. The argument is that people follow interests, not principles. If ideology X promises to give everyone $500, and ideology Y promises to give everyone from group A 600$ and everyone from group B 400$, groups A will sign on to ideology X, the argument goes, and any discussion of principle or of possible long run negative impact of X’s position, will be largely ignored. If the arguement is correct, the only way Y can win over group A is by abandoning its principle and paying group A more than B as well.

      Now, this hypothesis obviously gets a lot wrong in voter behavior, but it also gets a good deal right. So what do libertarians do to win black voters? Give black people bigger tax cuts than white people? Or cut out aspects of libertarianism (like rolling back entitlements or economic regulations) that many black people believe are adverse to their interests? Speaking for myself, any definition of libertarianism that embraces affirmative action can count me out. If you sacrifice principle (equality) for the sake of interests (of a group your trying to win over), then I have no reason to assent since I’m not part of the group whose interest get a boost.

      Maybe one could argue that changing emphasis is a way, but I don’t know. Would focusing more on issues like school choice win over a lot of black voters? It might have some impact, as that’s one issue a least that most black voters are (in my opinion) right about their own interests (that school choice is good). But I expect most black voters support a lot of economic regulations that (in my opinion) negatively affect them. Convincing them, like anyone, that they’re wrong about what’s good for them is likely an impossible task, or if possible, could take generations.

      • Theresa Klein

        Well, one way to start is by talking to black people and trying to understand what their grievances and perspectives are and how those fit within the libertarian framework. It doesn’t mean modifying libertarian principles. It means rethinking how those principles flow down into policies and priorities from a black perspective.
        Like, imagine your a black person living in a crime ridden inner city area. Probably the things at the top of your mind are how the police deal with crime, both in effective policing, and in how they treat innocent residents. For example, from people in New Orleans that I have spoken with post-Katrina, you hear people saying that they are afraid to call the police, because often that ends up making the situation worse. Either because the police find drugs in the home and turn it into a drug arrest, or the police are so corrupt they steal money and demand bribes, or they overreact to something and someone winds up getting killed. You can have a situation where people want the police to deal with crime better, but that their mode of interaction with residents is so hostile that it ends up being counterproductive.
        So then you start thinking “how would we deal with crime in a libertarian society”, and rethinking how policing is done and what rules of engagement should govern the police, and come up with a whole different list of policy changes. This is much better than just being dismissive of the concerns raised by black lives matter, as if black people didn’t properly understand what their own interests were.

        • My experience talking to black people is that they are a lot like everyone else, ie. only a minority of them express any interest in libertarianism whatsoever. That’s really not surprising to me. It’s not as if blacks aren’t libertarians because libertarians won’t talk to them. They’re not libertarians because most people aren’t libertarians. White people aren’t libertarians either, if percentages are anything to go by. Nobody is.

          • Sean II

            Best analogy is with disease prevalence.

            Take cystic fibrosis. It’s rare among all people. But less rare among whites.

            So you wouldn’t want to say “lots of whites have cystic fibrosis”. That would be false.

            And you wouldn’t want to say “only whites can have CF”. That would also be false.

            But you definitely could say something like: “Cystic fibrosis is most often found among people of European ancestry, and for any given disagnosed case, it is overwhelmingly likely that it will be a person who self-identifies as white. Moreover, in any group of CF patients, whites will pre-dominate, and depending on background demographics, there will probably be local sub-groups in which every patient is white.”

            This is the sort of language we should be using, to talk about population differences.

            Instead of “this one guy I know”, and “oh, so you’re saying all/every/none/never…”

          • King Goat

            “My experience talking to black people is that they are a lot like everyone else”

            You just don’t get it.

            Of course they’re a lot like everyone else, but for many reasons historical and sociological black people, on average, have *very different experiences* than white people.

            And so while most people will chafe at heavy handed government, the experience of many black people with that will be different than the experience of many whites. A black person is much more likely to have experienced being expelled from public housing under the ‘one strike’ policy, a white person is much more likely to be expelled from college under the Title IX sexual assault policy. When white libertarians ignore the first and then go nuts with vocal anger at the second, the black person rightly thinks ‘these jokers are more concerned with what negatively impacts them than with ‘liberty’ across the board.’

            Of course, when the white libertarians then go into full-throated defense of monuments to those who broke oaths and turned traitor to protect/promote the literal enslavement of blacks, it’s even worse…

          • Rob Gressis

            “a white person is much more likely to be expelled from college under the Title IX sexual assault policy”.

            Not sure that that’s true, actually: https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2017/09/the-question-of-race-in-campus-sexual-assault-cases/539361/

          • King Goat

            Fair enough (almost all such policies are going to hit minorities more in practice), but I think it’s fair to say the Title IX sexual assault policies are *seen* as a threat more by white guys (the feminists that are the bad guys in the narrative are, after all, supposedly gunning for them in particular).

          • Rob Gressis

            That’s probably true. Black people have bigger fish to fry.

          • King Goat

            That’s partly it. But it’s also that a much higher proportion of white guys are in college compared to black guys. White college guys read a story about Title IX cases and think, holy crap, that could be me! Proportionately less black guys do that (even if, ironically, in practice, proportionately more black guys are harmed under the policy).

          • Rob Gressis

            “White college guys read a story about Title IX cases and think, holy crap, that could be me!”


            “Proportionately less black guys do that (even if, ironically, in practice, proportionately more black guys are harmed under the policy).”

            I’m not sure I agree about this, the more I think about it. Surely (just a hunch; no data to support me here) a lot of black men know of cases of famous black men who have been accused of sexual assault (Bill Cosby, Mike Tyson, Kobe Bryant)? I would bet (I have no data on this) that many of them think, “that guy didn’t do it”. If I’m right, then maybe the proportions are fairly even after all.

          • Sean II

            Reuters did a poll last month on OJ Simpson. He had a 55% approval rating among black men.

          • Rob Gressis

            OK, but it’s not clear whether they think, “he didn’t do it” or “he did it, but it was the right thing to do” or “he didn’t do it, but if he had, it would have been right.”

          • Sean II

            Oh no, we have that information as well.

            538 published a piece around the same time showing that 55% of blacks now believe OJ was guilty. Up from 25% right after the trial.

            The hard-to-escape conclusion is: at least some in te overlap both think that he did it, and that he’s a pretty cool guy.

            Shocking to present-day white values, but remember: it wasn’t too long ago when prosecutors faced a similar problem with redneck juries acquitting men who killed faithless wives.

            Like I said earlier: lotta throwback morality in the hood.

          • Rob Gressis

            Well that pretty much settles that!


    Prof. Levy:
    Your analysis rests heavily on the claim that the drug war and the mass incarceration required to prosecute it was racist. This in turn relies heavily if not exclusively on a single, long-after-the-fact quote from an embittered John Erlichman:

    What has been much too rare is an understanding of racism as a cause of the drug war and of mass incarceration. Nixon aide John Erhlichman was belatedly explicit about this. After the civil rights movement, the Nixon administration couldn’t openly admit that it aimed to subject African-Americans to greater policing and control or to mobilize white voters by fear of blacks. The crackdown on hard drugs provided the needed fig leaf. As has so often been true, racism was a cause of the expansion of American state power, a cause of unfreedom. The centuries-old appropriation of the language of liberty by the defenders of white supremacy obscures this, over and over again.

    Erlichman’s single comment is questionable on multiple grounds (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Ehrlichman), but even putting this aside, Nixon could only sign legislation, not pass it. And, critically, the war on drugs in the 1970s and ’80s had broad bi-partisan, and more importantly bi-racial support, including many leading African-American public figures and the Congressional Black Caucus. Any doubt of this should be dispelled by a review of this rather exhaustive timeline (“Timeline: Black America’s Surprising 40-Year Support for the Drug War”) on this subject compiled by an upstate NY NPR outlet: http://prisontime.org/2013/08/12/timeline-black-support-for-the-war-on-drugs/. It is hard to reconcile this history with the claim that the drug war was the product of some overarching racist plot.

    • Sean II

      Another way to get at that same information: actually know some black people.

      The “dope man” is NOT a popular figure in the African-American community. Folks in the hood don’t see him as an innocent by-product of the incentives created by prohibition. They see him as a scary mother-fucker doing the devil’s own work.

      Not a lot of civil libertarians among inner city blacks. There is powerful resentment of the police, but this is not remotely the same thing as a libertarian view of police power. Much more personal than political.

      Indeed that resentment exists alongside a law-and-order sentiment which at times makes Joe Arpaio look like William O. Douglas.

      It’s not uncommon to hear people talk positively of a corporal punishment and execution. “We oughta do like they do in Saudi Arabia”, stuff like that. A Singaporean caning policy would be quite popular in South Chicago, as long as it was locally administered, without white involvement. Black charter schools usually end up with codes of discipline and uniformity rightward of the Citadel. The “time out” approach to non-corporal punishment never really caught on among blacks.

      “Sometimes it’s the only way”, as Mrs. Munson said.

      Not terribly surprising, I guess. People who actually have to live with crime are more likely to fear and hate it than white boys with a lifetime victimization risk of ~0.

      All of which reminds me of the really important point here:

      Levy, writing to us from Montreal, says “Black Liberty Matters”

      Meanwhile in America black voters say: “Not To Us!”

      The clear preference of the black electorate here is for powerful government at all levels. High taxes, big budgets, lots of programs. Lots of meetings. Lots of choosing in groups. There’s a council for everything you can think of in the hood.

      Lurking behind that is the sort of social conservatism you’d expect from America’s most church-going group. Plenty of homophobia, xenophobia, and all around old time religion.

      In other words: we know who Jake is speaking to here, but who does he imagine he’s speaking for?

      • Another way to get at that same information: actually know some black people.

        Sadly, too few people will recognize how apt this criticism is.

      • Peter from Oz

        It’s the same with the left and both Islam and indigenous people. I think it’s part of the conservatism-by-proxy from which so many lefties suffer.
        I don’t know how many times I’ve heard some lefty git tell us all in awe that Aboriginal culuture is 40,000 years old; or that some ”traditional” tribal practice in Africa is ”just awsome”, or that the monks and temples in Thailand were so ”spiritual.” In the next breath said lefty git will rail against his or her own culture’s traditions and religion.

        I’m with W.S Gilbert when he has Koko in the Mikado put on the list for execution:
        ”the idiot who praises, in ethusiastic tone,
        all centuries but this and every culture but his own”

    • Oh, you and your facts!


        A very bad habit I picked up as a litigator.

        • Peter from Oz

          I know how you feel.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            Misery loves company.

          • Peter from Oz

            It does indeed 🙂

    • King Goat

      “This timeline illustrates the surprising story of how many prominent black Americans — including writers, poets, civil rights activists, elected officials, clergy, and their close allies in the Democratic Party– frequently supported the drug war, despite growing misgivings and controversy.”

      Supposedly, the theory of ‘deconstruction’ says that you can often find in a text the very ‘deconstruction’ of the thesis of it. Could it be plainer here? This is a variant of ‘Both Sides Do It’ but with one side being blacks; blacks and whites both pushed our draconian drug laws. The evidence is that, when all whites were voting for draconian drug laws, so did all blacks (the 1986 law following Len Bias’ death, for example). The idea here is, if minority X supported something that everyone, the majority, supported, then minority X is *equally guilty or responsible* for it. Somehow this holds true even when, as the quote above concedes, minority group X quickly, and apart from the majority, provides the almost only ‘misgivings.’ The Congressional Black Caucus, almost alone, led the fight to reverse these kinds of laws soon after they passed.

      • Rob Gressis

        I think Friedman is simply challenging the point that prosecution of the drug was was a racist endeavor. If lots of well-meaning blacks wanted the drug was, isn’t that some evidence that favoring the drug war doesn’t mean you’re racist? It seems to me that if lots of well-meaning blacks supported it, then lots of the whites who supported it could have been well-meaning as well.

        • King Goat

          Not necessarily.

          In 1936, when all the reputable news stories ran many stories about ‘Negro Man High on Mexican Drug Marijuana Commits Crazed Murder” I bet you’d find both 1. that many blacks worried about this drug and supported measures to suppress it’s use and 2. that many whites did the same but 3. often each group did for very different reasons!

          • Jeff R.

            This argument fails when you remember that the average Nixon voter didn’t exactly have a positive view of white drug users, either. The hippies vs the squares…this was a thing!

          • Sean II

            That’s another argument which no one on the other side even pretends to answer.

            Roughly: if mass incarceration is a product of white supremacy, why do the whites in charge not mind seeing ~1 million of their own kind in the hoosegow?

            What are they supposed to be, the von Falkenhayns of racism? Willing to sacrifice a million of their own sons to rape-in-a-cage, as long as it means getting a million of the other guys off the street?

            It’s not even a good bad theory.

          • Rob Gressis

            Thaddeus Russell (who thinks that legalizing drugs will bring about a massive reduction in violence) has asked this very question of proponents of this theory of Michelle Alexander types, and their answer is “collateral damage” — i.e., it’s worth it to arrest 1,000,000 whites if doing so allows you to put lots of blacks in prison.

          • Sean II

            I’m sorry, but that’s not even close to a good answer.

            Only conspiracy theorizing can make it work. That’s what I meant with my Falkenhayn comment. That sort of calculation requires a general or general staff taking conscious stock of the attrition trade-off. But of course there is no such person or body of people.

            In reality, the drug war would have fallen apart if most people didn’t sincerely believe in it. Millions of white parents know that their kid could get pinched driving home from a concert. Why did they not rise up to protect their privileged spawn from this threat?

            Mind you, these are the same honkeys who would sue you back into the Stone Age for letting peanuts touch their brat’s cafeteria food without proper warning.

            So why would they play along with a policy that menaced their children with prison rape, showing super majority levels of popular support, for 40 years?

            Plausible answer: “because they really believed drugs are evil and drug laws are part of an effort to protect their children.”

            Utterly unconvincing answer: “because they were willing to risk their own kids for the sake of a secret racist harassment campaign against the very same civil rights movement most of them agreed with.”

          • Rob Gressis

            It’s poor whites who are the collateral damage more than others. And of course only white policy makers see it that why.

            I agree it’s an absurd conspiracy theory, but it’s the answer they give.

            In short they do give an answer.

          • Sean II

            “It’s poor whites who are the collateral damage more than others…”

            This poses a problems we haven’t discussed yet:

            According to woke theory, the poor whites are the most racist.

            The elite whites are supposed to be the nice ones.

            So we would have to believe that the less racist whites are running a racist conspiracy at the expense of the more racist whites, which involves sending the latter’s children to prisons packed to the gunwhales with blacks?
            I see what you’re saying. Forgive my imprecise use of language.

            When I said “don’t even pretend to answer” I meant to imply an unspoken “convincingly” in there.

            As in: “the answers they give are so bad, so half-hearted, so hollow, that they couldn’t convince anyone who wasn’t sworn to believe at all costs”.

          • Rob Gressis

            I don’t know that woke theory says poor whites are the most racist. If it did, it wouldn’t also say that Oberlin has many more racist incidents than Ferguson. But there are about 1000 reported racist incidents a week in oberlin (if memory serves).

            There’s a philosopher of race I know who told me (if memory serves) that racism hasn’t receded at all since 1865.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            As an alum of that venerable institution (which I would otherwise not mention), I hope I am permitted to speculate that this may be because what counts as a “racist incident” there is somewhat different than what counts as such elsewhere.

          • Sean II

            1) So 1,000 incidents a week, in a school that has maybe 700 minority students?

            Obviously that number is too low. Must be a lot of suppressed reports.

            2) “…racism hasn’t receded at all since 1865.”

            It’s gradually becoming necessary to think that. The desired conclusion has burned through many premises over the years. This is what’s left.

            As long as the disparities don’t shrink, the power and influence of racism must grow or be held constant.

            There isn’t another way.

          • Peter from Oz

            That’s what I like to see, a reference to Verdun.

          • Rob Gressis

            Well I didn’t say necessarily. But surely it’s *possible*! How could you be a non-racist white in the early 80s, anyway?

            Pro-drug war: you’re scared of blacks and want them in jail. Racist

            Anti-drug war: you want blacks to die if drug abuse and you disagree with black leaders to boot. Racist

            Don’t get involved: you don’t care about black people. Racist

            Say, “I have no right to talk about this; I will simply follow the lead of black leaders.” I think this is the winner?

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN



        It is hard to reconcile this history with the claim that the drug war was the product of some overarching racist plot.

        1971. February. The Congressional Black Caucus founded on a motion by Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY). According to historian Marguerite Ross Barnett, the group quickly made “a transformation from a small, relatively powerless, and ignored group of representatives to a national cynosure.” Through most of its history, the CBC would advocate actively for tough drug war legislation.

        1971. March 25. The Congressional Black Caucus secures a closed-door sit-down meeting with President Nixon in the Cabinet Room. During the session, the group demands more action to stop the flow of narcotics into urban neighborhoods. Members acknowledge that they are risking their credibility meeting with Nixon. The session is secretly recorded by the President. Rep. Charles Rangel, a newly-elected Democrat from New York City and a former Federal prosecutor, urges Nixon to do more to fight drugs without waiting for further congressional action, warning that support might soon build for drug legalization.

        1972 March 22. Nixon’s “Shafer” commission, made up largely of conservative white elected officials, recommends legalization of marijuana. “Neither the marihuana user nor the drug itself can be said to constitute a danger to public safety,” writes co-author Gov. Raymond Shafer, a Republican from Pennsylvania. Measure receives no support from black lawmakers in Congress.

        1982. February. Congressional Black Caucus releases “Black Leadership Family Plan for the Unity, Survival and Progress of Black People.”
        The document, penned by civil rights icon and Washington DC non-voting representative Walter Fauntroy, includes criticism that “diminished drug enforcement increases [black youth] vulnerability to drug abuse.”
        Document complains about “police brutality” and warns that the “incidence of crime in black communities is increasing because of intentional and unintentional failure on the part of law enforcement agencies to provide adequate protection.” Plan urges police to “increase drug enforcement efforts and include community sources of information and cooperation.”

        1986. October. MAJOR FEDERAL DRUG WAR LEGISLATION PASSES. Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 passes Congress, enacting far tougher Federal mandatory minimum sentencing laws for drug offenders, including those caught with marijuana. Establishes a 100-to-1 disparity in punishments for crack cocaine compared with powedr form of drug.
        The measure is supported by the Congressional Black Caucus, though some members want even harsher penalties for drug crimes. Sixteen of nineteen African American members of the House — including Texas Rep. Mickey Leland and California Rep. Ron Dellums — co-sponsor of the bill.

        1988. May 17. Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) publishes an op-ed in the New York Times titled “Legalize Drugs? Not on your life.” He chastises President Reagan for not doing enough to battle illegal narcotics and calls crack “the worst drug epidemic in our history.” “Here we are talking about legalization, and we have yet to come up with any formal national strategy or any commitment from the Administration on fighting drugs beyond mere words,” Rangel argues. “We have never fought the war on drugs like we have fought other legitimate wars – with all the forces at our command.”

        1988. October 22. MAJOR FEDERAL DRUG WAR LEGISLATION PASSES. House of Representatives approves the Anti-Drug Control Act of 1988, a bi-partisan bill which further toughens narcotics penalties, adding the death penalty in certain cases, and creating the Office of National Drug Control Policy — establishing a so-called ‘drug czar’ for the first time. Also enables a Federal media campaign designed to curtail youth substance abuse. Passes House on 346-11 vote. Many African American House members don’t vote on the measure. However, Julian Dixon, William Gray, August Hawkins and Charles Rangel vote in favor of the Reagan-backed bill. The only African American “No” votes are cast by John Lewis and John Conyers.

        1991. The Debate Rages On. Rep. Charles Rangel insists in a televised debate that the drug war should continue in a debate with conservative William F. Buckley Jr., wants drugs legalized.
        “What do you want to do with the [800,000] people that you convict?” Buckley asks. “Do you want to torture them to death?” He argues that the drug war is leading to 800 deaths per day.
        Rangel acknowledges that the “criminal justice system has not worked and has not been a deterrent to drug abuse in this country.”
        But Rangel goes on to insist “I still believe that it should be there” and argues against legalization. He argues that someone “like Colin Powell” should be placed in charge of the effort.

        1998. Rep. Charles Rangel publishes article in journal “Criminal Justice Ethics” arguing against drug legalization and claiming that “legalization of drugs would be a nightmare…in minority communities.”

  • Sean II

    I orphan this comment, for it doesn’t seem to fit under any of the going threads:

    Levy writes: “The way we think about American freedom over time, or in comparison to the rest of the world, ought to be deeply structured by the rise of mass incarceration in the last three decades…”

    Point of agreement: the size of the US prison population is something libertarians should pay attention to, be concerned with, etc. It’s something we should study.

    But study means study. It doesn’t mean preach.

    If you’re going to talk about criminal justice, you really NEED to learn something about crime. Because, crazily enough, they’re related.

    Yet Levy shows almost total ignorance of the crime in criminal justice. If he knows anything about it, he never lets on.

    To read what he writes on the subject, you’d think every man in Shawshank really was innocent. Or if not innocent, at least non-violent and capable of being punished without bars.

    That is simply not true. Even liberal experts are willing to admit that most of the people in prison are a) guilty, and b) violent. See John Pfaff for an example of what an honest and well-informed critic of mass incarceration looks like.

    Surely this fact is relevant. Surely we libertarians aren’t okay with criminal violence. Surely our thinking should be “deeply structured” by the important detail that, big though they are, American prisons are NOT dungeons full of innocent men.

    Which beings me to the second point. It’s true that the U.S. prison population is much larger than those in nations of comparable development – France, UK, Germany, Japan, etc. And again, it’s true this is the sort of thing libertarians should question and study.

    Guess what happens when you do that? You find an explanation.

    Turns out America’s 30 year prison boom followed and then overlapped with a 30 year crime wave, big enough and bad enough to hollow out the core of most major cities.

    Surely, this is relevant to the question of what motivated mass incarceration. Surely we should at least consider this explanation, or fucking pretend to, before leveling the accusation that, no, it was all just displaced Jim Crow racism from the start.

    The third point should be easy to guess. It’s right and proper that libertarians should wonder why we see racial disparities in our prison population. Fair question, important to ask.

    But it too has an answer, known to people who study the subject on more than a speechifying level. The disparity in our prison population just about perfectly tracks an independently measurable disparity in criminal participation rates. In social science terms, this means the disparity is explained.

    Now, it would be one thing if Levy (and people like him) engaged these points and mounted arguments against them. Maybe he thinks racism caused the disparity in criminal participation? That’s tough going, but it’s not absurd on its face. So okay, make that argument and try to say how, then answer the objections which are raised. Maybe he thinks it’s really a coincidence that prison boom followed the crime wave. So say that, and see how it stands in open debate.

    But this is never what happens, not with him and not with other would-be woke whites. The usual thing is to either be ignorant of the above facts, or pretend ignorance of them.

    But it almost has to be deliberate, because these things are hard to ignore. The great American crime spike is part of a history every English speaker knows. It’s premise is evidence all across our culture. The difference in criminal participation is, likewise, common knowledge. The guilt of most prisoners is well-known enough that the “innocent prisoner” trope is a reliable source of laughs in art and literature.

    If one chooses to raise the subject, there is simply no excuse for ignoring these things.

    • Theresa Klein

      The disparity in our prison population just about perfectly tracks an independently measurable disparity in criminal participation rates.

      The statistics on criminal participation rates are themselves driven by disparities in policing and prosecution. Black communities are more heavily policed. Black people are more likely to get arrested for marijuana possession, even though they use marijuana at equal rates to whites. Black people are also more likely to be convicted than non-blacks arrested for similar crimes. Convictions of blacks are more likely to result in incarceration. If you stack a bunch of these likelihoods on top of each other you end up with a significantly higher likelihood that a black person will end up with a criminal record – compared to a white person with the same criminal propensity.

      • That’s good. You’re engaging Sean II’s arguments. Way to go! Keep doing that. It’s the more interesting and productive response.

        • King Goat

          Letters to the Editor, Wiemar Republic Edition:

          Nazi Official: “Communism is in the blood of the Jews, look at their disproportionality in their ranks!”

          Theresa: “That’s misleading, when you take into account…”

          Ryan: “Great job, Theresa! I thought for a moment you were going to just condemn the Nazi as anti-Semitic, which is distasteful to me, enough for me to object. The anti-Semitic Nazi, however, I rarely object to, I can appreciate his clever arguments (though of course you should never imply I support them!).”

        • Sean II

          I appreciate your effort here, and I’m happy to confess that reading this comment shamed me into moderating my tone on what otherwise would have been a too caustic reply.

          The thing you’re encouraging is good. The thing you’re deterring is bad.

          I just wish the concept of civility went a little further. Because it’s interesting the things we call rude, and the things we don’t.

          For instance, imagine a conversation where somebody says, in the presence of an oncologist, that “a positive attitude is necessary to beat cancer”.

          If the oncologist says “I’m sorry, but that’s utter bullshit and anyone who utters it unmasks themselves as an ignoramus”, we call that uncivil.

          But the statement which provoked it is not similarly regarded. Even though it is false, and inexcusably so. Positive attitude cannot stop cell division in a tumor. To say it can, is an insult to everyone who took the time to actually study the subject about which the speaker is frivolously holding forth.

          I’ve always wondered: why is that not considered rude? Why is the act of pointing it out a breach of decorum, while the ignorance itself is not?

          Because in this analogy there are people who don’t just believe that cancer can be cured by wishing, they believe it is caused by witchcraft, or that 10 cancer deaths from under-treatment is better than 1 medical mistake, or sometimes they seem to believe doctors cause cancer because, hey, haven’t you noticed, they’re always around people who have it.

          When TK said above that “The statistics on criminal participation rates are themselves driven by disparities in policing and prosecution. Black communities are more heavily policed…”, she was saying something every bit as ill-informed as those opinions about cancer.

          In effect, she was saying places like South Chicago or West Baltimore aren’t really dangerous, just “more heavily policed”. A rather classic specimen of what Crichton called the “wet streets cause rain” school of cheap-seats observation. (Not only that, but her comment also contains the absurd implication that white suburban communities ARE equally violent, but neglected by a police force that for some racist reason would rather see innocent whites victimized than punish the guilty whites who victimized them!)

          Now that’s offensive, or it should be…to anyone who actually studies the subject, and not least of all, to the people who live in dangerous places.

          Black leaders don’t dispute the greater violence in their communities. How could they? It’s their kids and constituents who die to the tune of 5,000 a year, and get maimed in numbers far greater. That’s why they are forever organizing Stop The Violence rallies.

          White liberal criminologists don’t dispute the greater violence. That’s why they are forever searching for new ways to explain it.

          Social service sector workers don’t dispute the greater violence. How could they? They work amidst its consequences every day.

          See what I’m getting at? No one with a grown-up role to play in this conversation thinks the thing TK said here. No one serious thinks the murder rate in, say, Chicago is an artifact of closer scrutiny. No one thinks the murder rate in Highland park is secretly equal, except well…you know how hard it is to get anyone interested in finding the killer of a dead white kid!

          These are things you simply can’t believe once you’ve put in work on the topic. And really, it doesn’t take a lot.

          But, for some reason, it’s not considered rude to say those things. To talk about something you haven’t studied and don’t understand, that isn’t rude. To argue with someone who clearly has and does, also not rude.

          And we’re not talking about a one-off here. How many times have I had to correct this same commenter on some point of basic background info or common knowledge when it comes to crime or criminal justice? And how many times has she seen me correct others on the same account.

          And yet, every time, there’s another hastily improvised talking point drawn from the well. Always in pursuit of the same conclusion. At a certain point the phrase “motivated reasoning” starts to feel like an understatement.

          Personally, I’m not complaining. It’s good practice for me. I walk away knowing more than I did before.

          But still I’m curious why it’s not considered a faux pas in our culture, to spit out lazy guesswork and Rube Goldberg patches one after another in the service of a fixed idea, from which – all too obviously – no amount of evidence will suffice to move the speaker?

          Maybe there’s some reason why we evolved that peculiar etiquette. I’m open to the possibility.

          For example, maybe bullshit is simply too common to be effectively punished. Maybe the interest group [people who like to talk straight out of their hat] is > than the interest group [people who wish they’d shut up]. So maybe that’s how it evolved that saying “wrong, dumbass!” is considered unacceptable while being wrong while dumbassing is thought fair play in an argument.

          I don’t know, but whatever the answer, the question is interesting.

          • You know, there’s a part in that book about introverts, Quiet, by Susan Cain, where she quotes a Chinese student. He (or she? I can’t quite remember) expresses amazement at what it’s like going to school in America, where any hare-brained comment is encouraged no matter how uninformed it is. She contrasts this to what is more typical in Asia, where students don’t tend to say anything in class discussions unless they are sure that they have something useful and true to say. Well, we can’t change North America’s tendency to value just any opinion that someone asserts, but I think we can learn a lesson from that Chinese student. I know I have.

            I have made more than my fair share of dumb blog comments, I won’t deny that. Especially when I was younger, I spoke first and asked questions later. I waded into debates that were over my head and made a fool of myself in the process. I admit it.

            But I (think I) grew up and learned my lesson and these days I at least try to know what I’m talking about before I speak up, or else go into a discussion figuring that if I ask the right questions and my interlocutor and I both keep a good perspective, one or both of us will learn something and be better from the experience. And anyway, is there really any other way to have discussions like these? Otherwise it’s just verbal sparring, a waste of time, nobody learns anything, we just trade barbs and then we’re done.

            In a better world, people would admit when they’re wrong, be excited to learn new things, they wouldn’t be disingenuous, things could be better. But if it’s any consolation, you’ve played a big role over the years in forcing me to go slowly, consider, and learn from people even if my knee-jerk is to disagree and disregard. So, hey, one person at a time, I guess.

          • Sean II

            1) “I have made more than my fair share of dumb blog comments…”

            Me too. You can’t put up the kind of volume I do without regrets. Most of mine involve cases where I was speculating or thinking aloud, but failed to make that clear and ended up defending some position as if I cared more about it than I did.

            It’d be cool if there was a self-tagging feature so you could shade in degrees of confidence. Green = “No, really, I know this one cold”. Blue = “I’m not an expert but I am well acquainted with the latest & greatest”. Yellow = “This is how it looks to me, maybe someone can explain why I’m wrong”. Red = “Fuck if I know, could it be…this?”

            2) “But if it’s any consolation, you’ve played a big role over the years in forcing me to go slowly, consider, and learn from people even if my knee-jerk is to disagree and disregard.”

            It is a great consolation indeed. To return the service: I quit commenting for a while and was on the verge of quitting forever. You and a couple other people were the reason I didn’t. Also the reason I moderated my methods upon returning.

            3) Funny you should mention the Asian student modesty thing. There’s a tool in medical education called Clinicopathologic Conference. The basic idea is to recreate diagnostic thought processes in slow motion, live before a studio audience. A doctor is given a case whose true outcome is already known, but not to him, and at first he only gets one line to go on. “62yo B/F with a history of RA presents to clinic for acute UAP after returning from a cruise”. He can then ask for clues – history, physical, labs, imaging, path, etc. – according to his developing suspicions. It’s “Choose Your Own Adventure” for medical education, with a facilitator who conceals or reveals info depending on the questions posed.

            Anyway, one quality required for a good discussant is a light touch of bullshittery. A scrupulous Vulcan won’t abandon himself to the guessing and short-cut seeking which makes the process dynamic. You don’t want a reputation-protecting grandee to lay up by listing 47 possibilities and then asking for the labs. Where’s the fun in that?

            You want someone who will embrace the game aspect and say “Okay, I’m going all in and calling Shisto here. And let me tell you WHY….” Because the teaching value comes from the talking through, not the final diagnosis. It’s good to watch some famed specialist talk himself into a corner and then have to science his way out.

            So the thing about intellectual humility is one can also go too far, ending up with timidity and dependence on interest-corrupted experts. Dunning Kruger amateurism is bad, but intellectual feudalism is bad too.

            Yet another one of those annoying matter-of-degree, trade-off deals that the younger me always hated with all his might.

          • Anyway, one quality required for a good discussant is a light touch of bullshittery. A scrupulous Vulcan won’t abandon himself to the guessing and short-cut seeking which makes the process dynamic. You don’t want a reputation-protecting grandee to lay up by listing 47 possibilities and then asking for the labs. Where’s the fun in that?

            I think this is a bit of a lost art. Not many people do this anymore, and those who do aren’t well-received because few others understand it. It’s too bad. We’re losing our ability to discuss things in good faith and good fun and replacing it with a sort of shrill indignation that’s ready to pounce at the faintest whiff of anything less than righteousness.

            It’s weird to me how much the conversational left has come to resemble the puritanical right I grew up with.

          • Peter from Oz

            ISn’t the rudeness in the tone? The cancer specialist would not be regarded as rude if he or she merely said in level voice words to the effect: ”Unfortunately science doesn’t support the proposition that cancer can be cured by the will. But a positive attitude can always help a patient’s mental outlook.”
            I often sit in meetings with clients seeking my opinion on very abstruse and difficult legal issues. They will often come out with silly statements like ”It’s just not right that I have to pay $100K more in tax.” Now I could take this as rudeness. After all they are doubting expertise that it took me years to obtain. Buit I don’t ever get cross, because I know that it is usually just shock that brings out such a response. There is no malice in it.

          • Sean II

            “They will often come out with silly statements like ”It’s just not right that I have to pay $100K more in tax.'”

            If they kept coming back at you with the same silly statement, time and again, after lucid explanations to the contrary, I think you could call it rude.

            That’s what I had in mind here. If someone is a regular reader of this board, and for the 17th time they pick a fight with me about crime, having done no more homework than the none they started with, and knowing very well that I’ve done mine, but merely hoping they’ll manage to throw up a talking point capable of impressing people who know even less than them…well, it’s just kinda funny there is no rule in the book of etiquette to say that’s bad.

          • Peter from Oz

            There is a rule in the book of etiquette that such people have committed a faux pas.

      • Sean II

        “The statistics on criminal participation rates are themselves driven by disparities in policing and prosecution…”

        Dead wrong. Again you show your ignorance of this subject.

        1) The difference in criminal participation in apparent even in data wholly independent of the CJS. Victim descriptions, surveys, etc.

        2) Your theory requires something perfectly ridiculous: One would have to believe that a bunch of white people in white communities are robbing and assaulting each other in massive numbers, and somehow it all goes unreported.

        It would take about 40,000 unreported white murders each year to rebalance the stats.


        • Rob Gressis

          Sean, Pinker claimed that the homocide rate in Europe has been going down for centuries. Do you think that’s due just to natural selection or do policies have anything to do with it?

          I ask because I wonder how much less violent crime we’d have if we legalized drugs.

          Also what are the sources for your claims?

          • Sean II

            Not sure really. I’ve heard some people say that Europe may have executed its way to lower crime but that sound like just-so evo to me. I don’t buy it. Bad boys get laid a lot, so unless England was executing its highwaymen before puberty, I’m pretty sure enough managed to pass on their genes.

            Pinker’s own guess is probably closer to the truth: extended empathy is such a distinctive feature of the Euro peoples, it’d be weird if that wasn’t part of the explanation.

            Likewise better enforcement, which he credits to the state but which should actually be thought of as a feature of time preference. The higher likelihood of getting caught in a first world justice system only matters to people who can think far enough ahead to picture the cell door closing. In Anglosphere law there isn’t much celerity, so you really need people who can see forward in increments of years rather than just weeks or days. Deterrence will be largely wasted on anyone else.

            The effect of the drug war on violent crime is much exaggerated. The way to know this is: read individual cases.
            You don’t see a lot of “I shot Ray-Ray as part of a multi-block franchise expansion initiative in my heroin business. I couldn’t beat his prices so I started blasting…”. That’s just something white people who went college and learned how to write came up with to make sense of a senseless thing. It’s a myth.

            What you do see a lot of is “I shot Ray-Ray because he called me a punk ass bitch. In front of the whole block. So I had to stand tall, you know how it is.”

            You see a lot of Hobbesian prestige, in other words. That’s been around longer than MDMA. Probably longer than weed.

            Other problem: the theory doesn’t track history. Violent crime in cities starting going up in the early 1960s, 10 years BEFORE the drug war, and 20 before the Reagan escalation.

            Me, I like my causes to come before my effects. Just old fashioned that way.

            (Which thing did you want a source for? Say the word and I’ll oblige.)

          • Rob Gressis

            “Violent crime in cities starting going up in the early 1960s, 10 years BEFORE the drug war, and 20 before the Reagan escalation.”

            OK, this suggests two things: (1) the drug war didn’t cause all of the increase in violent crime (maybe it caused some, though, or maybe it exacerbated a trend that had an independent cause); (2) criminals respond to incentives just like anyone else. So, some change started happening in the 1960s that caused an increase in violent crime in cities.

            What was that change? And was that change an increase in violence among black people, or white people, or other people, or all of them? And if that change did increase violence in the black community, then that suggests that violence is not due *just* to low impulse control, or bad time discounting, or whatever, but also due to (shared!) environmental changes, right?

          • Sean II

            1) Possible, of course. But far from parsimonious.

            A better explanation is: the crime wave inspired the drug war. That’s why the latter lagged the former by about 10 years, and was launched 4 years AFTER a presidential campaign in which the winner ran on law and order.

            Here it helps to understand how cops actually exploit drug laws. A very common tactic in big cities is the “life sentence by installment” – i.e. harassing neighborhood tough guys with easy to make possession cases to suppress their OTHER criminal activities.

            We may not like that sort of pre-textual policing, but that dislike doesn’t make it racist.

            2) Have we seen any big crime drops in California, Colorado, Washington?

            Nope. These experiments are coming close to falsification events for the Reason magazine crowd.

            Indeed Denver embarrassed all of us by having its crime trend UP in the wake of legalization.

            If the dependent variable of “alleged drug war violence” isn’t sensitive to legalization of the most popular drug, time for a new theory.

            3) ” So, some change started happening in the 1960s that caused an increase in violent crime in cities…what was that change?”

            Good question. The increase wasn’t limited to blacks but was higher among that group. It could be that urbanization tends to raise crime in all groups, but that some are more sensitive than others. Maybe sudden urbanization exacerbates the effect?

            I’m really not sure, but note: shared environment is not a required part of any of these explanations.

            A person with trait X may not have much opportunity to express it in environment Y. But move him to environment Z, and whomp there it is.

            It’s entirely plausible one might have a trait for criminality that is latent in small communities with tight social control, but which becomes patent in big anonymous cities without the snooping supervision of village life.

            But that’s not an environmental explanation, in the sense blank slaters use the term. Far from it. It’s a hereditarian argument through and through.

          • Theresa Klein

            Both things are probably happening. Personally, I suspect there is a positive feedback loop effect going on. Blacks are disporportionately poor, and poor people commit more crime, so it’s quite possible that blacks really do commit more crimes on average. However, because of skin color and the effect of that as an identifying marker for “likely poor, therefore more likely criminal” you end up with more policing in poor black neighborhoods, which amplifies the original underlying disparity in crime rates via the effects I mentioned. So you end up with incarceration rates for blacks that are exaggerated compared to their actual criminal participation rate, even though there actually is some underlying disparity in the actual criminal participation rates. Again, that could largely be due to the generally lower socioeconomic status of black people.

            Also, again, I’ll note that black people tend to accumulate a criminal record for fairly petty offenses more rapidly than whites, due to disparate policing. The fairly petty offenses then become an arrest record that can be used to justify harsher sentencing. So you look at the black guy and say “well that guy has a rap sheet a mile long”, and say this justifies the different sentencing. But the rap sheet itself is biased.

          • Sean II

            “Personally, I suspect there is a positive feedback loop effect going on…”

            Blows my mind how willing you are to keep improvising guesses on a subject about which real information is available.

            Personally? You suspect?

            You’re talking straight out of your hat again, on at least four points:

            1) “I’ll note that black people tend to accumulate a criminal record for fairly petty offenses more rapidly than whites, due to disparate policing…”

            Wrong. It’s easier to get away with petty offenses in a black neighborhood than a white one, because the overall saturation of crime is so high, and prevailing standards of order and safety are lower. That’s why, when you go to the hood, you see vandalism everywhere, and anything not locked down promptly gets stolen. In white suburbs, a stolen bicycle warrants a detective bureau deployment. In the inner city, cops won’t even respond to that call because they’re far too busy with violence.

            In other words: the truth is the exact opposite of what you believe. The amount of crime you have to commit in a black neighborhood to draw the heat is much higher than in a white one. The tolerance for petty crime in a white area is much LOWER than it is in a crime ridden ghetto.

            2) “Poor people commit more crime….”

            Technically true, but wrong in the sense you mean it. For any given level of income, black crime is higher than white. The racial disparity in criminal participation PERSISTS after controlling for income.

            3) “So you end up with incarceration rates for blacks that are exaggerated compared to their actual criminal participation rate”

            No, the rate is NOT exaggerated. It’s close to a perfect match, and indeed it may be understated given the lower reporting rate in black communities.

            4) “The fairly petty offenses then become an arrest record that can be used to justify harsher sentencing.”

            No idea what you’re talking about. The urban judges who try black defendants are often shockingly lenient. Dockets are jammed, and cynicism piles up quick. You see things like: career criminals with 12 arrests and 5 convictions walking away on a suspended sentence for aggravated assault.

            Pull that shit in a rural county, the prosector makes a career of your case and uses your mugshot in a campaign commercial.

            Again, exact opposite of what you imagine.

            You don’t know what you’re talking about.

        • King Goat

          “the clearer and more violent the crime, the sharper the disparity. It’s greatest with crimes like murder, aggravated assault, robbery, etc, lower with non-violent crimes like dope.”



          • Sean II

            See, this is why you’re a time waster.

            I said the dispartity for violent crimes was larger than for non-violent crimes.

            You come back with a link showing there is a disparity for one particular non-violent crime.

            Utterly non-responsive. I said the VC disparity was larger than the NVC one. I did NOT say there was no disparity in the latter category.

            For instance, in this case if we take a charitable view and overloook some design problems, blacks are on the whole 4x likelier than whites to be busted for weed. That is indeed a disparity.

            But you know what’s bigger than 4x?

            6x. 6x is greater than 4x. And 6x is the disparity for murder. Blacks are 6x more likely to be arrested for that crime than whites.

            The crime with minimal police discretion has a disparity of 6x. The crime with maximal discretion has a disparity of 4x.

            Like I said.

          • King Goat

            Way to blow by the fact that but of course we have actual evidence that there is no *actual* disparity in the commission of the crime with maximal disparity in arrests, in fact the evidence all points to *no actual disparity,* which is clearly pointed to in my link.

          • Lacunaria

            This particular point of Sean’s does seem fairly weak since police might reasonably discriminate more in non-violent “victimless” crimes, as you are implying, even though they do not discriminate in more violent crimes.

            So, your national household survey on usage may be valid, but the problem is that we still butt up against Sean’s other points.

            Even if the percentage who use a drug is the same, possession in public might not be. There’s also greater scrutiny in public or high crime areas where police may make arrests to lower other crime, as Sean notes. And it turns out that poor urban blacks are more likely to operate in public, more likely to escalate when faced with problems, etc.

            It is ridiculously difficult to account for all of these pertinent racial correlations in order to isolate actual racism.



        • Lacunaria

          How do you interpret disparities in sentencing?


          • Sean II

            Most of that sentencing gap goes away when you take full account circumstances and records.

            The rest of it, and then some, goes away when we remember that most sentences arise from plea bargains, which are notoriously generous in the crowded dockets of urban court systems where most black defendants are sentenced.

            So it’s another myth. As the sentencing commission noted: “no careful student of sentencing disparities seriously disputes this finding”.

            That’s politeese for: “Michelle Alexander and Co. believe something
            about sentencing that no grown up expert does.”

            Here’s what things look like on the ground. Imagine two criminals, Troy and LaTroy.

            Let’s say both are nominally convicted of “Burglary 1”, defined as burglary with a weapon + victims actually in the house.

            Country boy Troy – who wears a belt knife like every other manual labor redneck in the region where he lives – got this conviction by stealing equipment from his estranged former boss (Troy says “partner”) in some ne’er-do-well landscaping business. In the process he surprised and scared the living shit out of the boss’s wife. And because he was dumb enough to do this in a county with no caseload, he is credibly threatened with trial, the likely outcome of which would be guilty => 14 months. Troy has a long history of trouble with the law, including meth possession and an assault conviction arising from a fight which put the other guy in a hospital for a day. By rural jury standards, he is a big time desperado.

            So Troy pleads directly to Burglary 1 and is happy to accept probation.

            His counterpart in the big city, LaTroy, has never had a single day of documented employment in his life. A tattoo just under his collarbone bears the pitchfork of the Gangster Disciples. He too has a prior assault conviction, which he got by pleading down to the lesser crime after a drive by which left two kids shot (but lucky for him, not killed). He too has a drug prior, pleaded down from “intent to distribute” to simple possession thanks to a decent PD who managed to split a quantity of heroin between LaTroy and his five accomplices, so each only had to own one balloon on paper.

            LaTroy’s “burglary” is actually a very deliberate home invasion. He and his friends go into a house with guns, tie up two people for a couple hours, ransack the whole place, and break most of what they don’t steal.

            In Troy’s county, they’d be charged with kidnapping and ten other things in the local courthouse’s idea of the trial of the century.

            But in the city where LaTroy lives, the local murder rate is higher than that of Honduras, and everyone is jaded. Frankly, they’re just happy LaTroy didn’t actually kill anyone. And in any case the system is far too busy for a trial.

            So LaTroy pleads to Burglary 1, an absurd understatement of his crime, and salvaging some dignity the DA manages at least to get 8 months for it.

            On paper, Troy and LaTroy are a text book case of racially disparate sentencing. Both men are Burglary 1 convicts with a drug prior and an assault prior on their record. And yet one gets 8 months while the other walks away with probation. No fair!

          • Lacunaria

            Thanks for your thoughtful and detailed reply, Sean!

            The more I look into it, the more I agree with you. Here is at least one case they highlighted that they seem to have gotten wrong yet continue to misrepresent as equivalent in their article. It is just so much work to go through their year-long work case-by-case to consider other explanations.

            What’s bizarre is that even when correcting these cases, people preface it with, “racism is a significant problem, but just not in this case”.

            As you mention, I would have expected that the bias would remain even with black judges, but they claim that the bias actually reverses. I wonder if that has a similar dependence upon geographical correlations or other context or classifications, too.

          • Sean II

            I’ve often wondered why defenders don’t suffer a total collapse of their prior political views.

            Because most start out thinking their job will have something to do with the defense of innocent people. Then they get in there and find what Al Pacino found in Justice for All: nearly everyone charged is guilty.

            Now, they don’t deny this because it’s much too salient in their lives. “Everyone deserves an eleventh chance!”

            But the weird part is: they also don’t develop any suspicion of the other beliefs they got from those sources which led them to think prisons were houses of the oppressed.

            It’s an extreme version of the Gell-Mann amnesia effect. Some mildly charismatic college prof told them that incarceration is the new Jim Crow, and that pharma companies are evil, etc. After six months as a defender, they know that first thing is a lie, but somehow they ask no questions about the second. It’s pretty amazing.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            I don’t know much about the psychology of criminal defense attorneys, so no argument on this point. I used to have a rather jaundiced view of this sub-specialty within my profession (how dare they try to get vicious criminals off!), but as the years went by and more and more cases of egregious prosecutorial misconduct were exposed, I had a change of heart. Somebody has got to keep the bastards at least a little bit honest, and the only way is to expose the misconduct even when you have a guilty client (which I agree is almost all the time). They play a key role in keeping the system from being even worse. One terrible case here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ted_Stevens

          • Sean II

            Well sure, and I’ve got no problem with that. Maintaining the adversary system is a perfectly good reason to keep coming to work even after the illusion of innocence dies.

            I just don’t get why this fails to cause a cascade across the spectrum of illusions.

            I mean, when I found out the minimum wage was bullshit, I promptly set about investigating the other things I’d been taught, by the people who taught me labor price controls were awesome. Public education, social security, national parks, medicare, etc. all came under scrutiny because I’d bought them at the same store which sold me that defective minimum wage story.

            Boggles my mind that PDs fail to run a similar diagnostic, given the enormous gulf between what they were told and what they see. These guys oughta to be the lead float in the skeptic parade, but instead they do the Gell-Mann amnesia thing and assume all the OTHER fairy tales in our society are probably kosher.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            I’m probably not saying anything that will be news to you, but IMHO people’s political beliefs are the product of emotional and psychological commitments, rather than reason or logic. So even when one’s view on a single important issue is falsified beyond redemption, the others remain intact. However, in the relatively small percentage of cases where a person’s ideology changes on a wholesale basis, there can be a “crack in the dam” effect. Mine came over the issue of school choice.

          • Lacunaria

            Yeah, and PD would seem to self-select for that hardened social justice mindset and rationalizations of those commitments. If that starts to crack, then they’ll probably switch jobs, and who wants to leave being thought of as a racist.

          • Konrad_Lorenz

            Public defenders plead out an even higher proportion of cases than private defense attorneys. These lawyers cannot possibly believe that most of their clients are innocent. How could they live with recommending plea bargaining in 99% of cases, if they thought that they weren’t at least 98% guilty? (At 98% guilty, a full _half_ of the innocent are pleading guilty.)

          • Konrad_Lorenz

            Defense attorneys don’t believe that most of their clients are innocent. If they believed that, they would probably kill themselves. In literally over 9/10 cases, their clients plead guilty. They _don’t_ defend most of their clients. For _most_ of their clients they negotiate a plea bargain. And it’s not a small majority but a near-total supermajority.

          • Sean II

            Accepting a plea bargain is not remotely the same thing as being undefended.

          • Konrad_Lorenz

            OK, poor choice of word on my part. They have a defense attorney so they are “defended” in the legal sense. I will now instead say that the defense attorney negotiates a surrender so that they don’t resist (or entirely resist) the prosecution’s claims. The point is that if the defense actually believed the clients were innocent, it would be intolerable to surrender in such a huge super-majority of cases. There is no way any defense attorney could tolerate their daily life like that. I’m literally serious about the suicide.

          • Sean II

            Not true. The more you care about your innocent client, the more seriously you have to take the calculus of expected value.

            If an innocent man is facing a 25% chance of conviction that would mean a 20 year sentence, you gladly take a lesser plea that gets him 3 years, with an parole eligibility after 18 months. Because 3 is smaller than 5.

            Any lawyer who DIDN’T recommend that would be a negligent sheister, putting his own Atticus Finch fantasy ahead of your life.

          • Konrad_Lorenz

            I’m not saying that the defense attorney wouldn’t ever recommend a plea bargain for a client they believe is innocent. I’m saying that if they did this in practically every case over their whole career, they would not be able to cope with (effectively) losing every time. It’s like someone who can’t get a job. They don’t apply for 30 jobs a week for 30 years. Maybe they can do it for a month or a year. Very few can do it for 2 years. By 10 years I doubt there is even one person in all of history who did not give up. All I’m saying is you can’t spend your whole life losing and losing and losing without giving up.

          • Sean II

            But they’re not losing. Most defendants are guilty. Of the few who aren’t, most are scumbags who the police thought “good for it” with plenty of reason.

            Only a tiny few defendents are both specifically innocent and generally likeable.

            That’s why defense attorneys don’t end up becoming suicide bombers.

          • Konrad_Lorenz

            Right. That’s exactly what I’m saying. _If_ they didn’t believe that almost all defendants are guilty, they would have the most soul-crushing job imaginable.

          • Sean II

            Oh, okay got it. We agree.

          • Peter from Oz

            Well said. As a lawyer I despair when I see pundits complain about the result of a trial or the sentence given. The fact is that if you weren’t in the court when the trial and sentencing took place, you can have no real understanding of the matter without doing a lot of reading and a lot of thinking.
            Too many of us resort to quantitative instead of qualitative reasoning when it comes to evaluating public policy or the operations of public institutions. Your example was a fine illustration of the need to think more deeply and not accept statistics on their face.

          • Sean II

            I don’t know if you’ve seen Making a Murderer, but it’s a classic specimen, thankfully race-neutral.

            The number of people who were taken in by this absurd conspiracy theory about a homicidal rapist who obviously done (and his retarded cousin who obviously if reluctantly done it with him) it is a testament to the ignorance of crime that dwells in the hearts of middle and upper middle class whites.

          • Peter from Oz

            I’ve not seen it. I shall look out for it.

        • Peter from Oz

          Point of order, old sport, a good advocate is a person who marshalls and interprets evidence, like you. A scholar is a hack. That’s why we lawyers earn so much more than academics.
          Esse quam videri

    • King Goat

      “Turns out America’s 30 year prison boom followed and then overlapped with a 30 year crime wave”

      And that first part wasn’t true for European nations, which didn’t respond with the latter, as much prison in response?