The Shrinking World

The more human density grows, the more space per person shrinks, the more human behavior must contract to avoid conflict with one’s neighbors.

If your neighbor is racist against you, but lives 20 miles away over an unpaved road through the mountains, he is less of a problem in your daily life than if he shares a bathroom with you in a college dorm.

As we rub against our neighbors, each individual contracts to avoid giving offense. More forms of behavior, speech, and by extension, thought, are proscribed. To live in close company is to always be aware of the thoughts, feelings, and intentions of hundreds of others or suffer consequences.

As our personal worlds shrink, so do our professions. The doctor no longer makes his rounds, seeing all manner of coughs and colds, appendixes and broken bones. Instead he has a narrow specialty, chosen while still in school. One wing of a hospital, one floor. Pediatric or geriatric. The farmer no longer builds his house, slaughters his animals, preserves his food, shears his sheep, and weaves his own clothes.

Each job is split off, done over and over–and better–by a single person. The Jack of All trades is master of none and the Jills of One Highly Specialized Sub-Trade quickly put Jack out of business. And thus the worker is alienated from the product of his labor.

An anthill cannot function if the ants are fighting; the Queen will not tolerate the workers attacking each other.

Government desire not citizens’ safety, but taxes.

I am a barbarian and I cannot live here.

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Wed. Open Thread: The Astronomical Clock Tower of Prague

c1rrrzuucaavmmr I hear this clock tower is in Prague, one of the world’s most beautiful cities. I mean really, if you’ve ever wanted to live out your steampunk/gothic aesthetic in real life, Prague is the place for you.

I am tired so I am jut going to say that clocks are really pretty and I love escapements and then go back to work.

Comment of the Week goes to Erik Gertkvist for creative app ideas:

I am almost negatively impressed by the lack of imagination from those that try to help the Gypsies. Wouldn’t a text-to-(Roma) voice smartphone app be a temporary solution to analfabetism among Gypsies? Similar to offer some “dating outside your small group”-app as a way to stop inbreeding, “find a Gypsie-friendly doctor in your town”-app or teaching materials? Given the billions EU have assigned to help Gypses (that simply aren’t used) some app developers could deliver these support apps within a year.

Jefferson had an interesting post on the effects of density:

I’m a bit of a broken record on this, but there is a much cleaner explanation for density’s negative consequences. Density has two components, removal from natural feedback mechanisms, and social disruption (exceeding the Dunbar’s number, and the as yet unnamed version of this for acquaintances). Both of these components lead, inevitably to increased narcissism and increased status signaling (which have multplicative effects on each other). …

And heading back to an older post, Barry Jones has some interesting thoughts on atheism, homosexuality, and complexity:

I believe America is becoming way too polarized in its disagreements about everything under the sun, and Joseph Tainter correctly predicts the collapse of any society precisely because their solutions to immediate problems always increase the overall complexity of the society. For example, new laws allowing employees to sue to get their jobs back was an immediate good, but contributed to an already congested court system, motivating many judges to engage in more dismissal of cases than they used to. us Americans are brutally stupid in our penchant for thinking short-term solutions are the end-all, be-all of existence. …

So, what are you guys up to? Any requests for future posts? Any recommendations on the subject of pastoralism/pastoralits? Or the Cowboy/Sheep man conflict? (I’ve been trying to find sources on that and only turning up indirect references.)

Have a great week!

Wise Tim, Crime, and HBD: part 5/5

Okay, so we are finally coming to the end of this series. Today we are going to discuss Flaherty and Sethi’s Homicide in Black and White (pdf):

African-Americans are six times as likely as white Americans to die at the hands of a murderer, and roughly seven times as likely to murder someone. Young black men are fifteen times as likely to be murdered as young white men. This disparity is historic and pervasive, and cannot be accounted for by individual characteristics. … We argue that any satisfactory explanation must take into account the fact that murder can have a preemptive motive: people sometimes kill simply to avoid being killed. As a result, disputes can escalate dramatically in environments (endogenously) perceived to be dangerous, resulting in self-fulfilling expectations of violence for particular dyadic interactions, and significant racial disparities in rates of murder and victimization. … Differences in the manner in which the criminal justice system treats murders with victims from different groups, and differences across groups in involvement in street vice, may be sufficient to explain the size and pattern of the racial disparity.

World-Murder-Rate-Geocurrents-Map-1024x726Well, I must give this one credit for offering up a new hypothesis: black people murder each other so often because they believe that other black people are murderous and are trying to avoid being the victim by killing the other guy first.

This makes sense in a Hobbesian, Napoleon Chagnon studying Yanomamo tribesmen kind of way. (If only there existed some kind of state-run institution that had historically cut discouraged homicide by punishing murderers so that people could go about their business in the heart of American cities without fear of Amazonian jungle-style violence.)

cobiptaumaactcrThe fact that whites do not go out of their way to preemptively murder blacks to the same degree that blacks murder other blacks suggests that whites don’t think blacks are as violent as other blacks do. This is a curious implication, all things considered, but not unreasonable. Aggressively “paranoid” behavior/belief that one’s neighbors are likely to be violent toward you is probably heritable, itself a result of having ancestors whose paranoia about their neighbors enabled them to survive in a hostile, homicide-ridden environment.

Flaherty and Sethi continue:

The magnitude of the difference in murder and victimization rates far exceeds any difference in characteristics that appear to predispose people to kill and be killed: being poor, being a highschool dropout, living in a dense urban environment, or being raised in a single-parent household, for instance. Blacks are about 2.75 times as likely as whites to be poor, 2.2 times as likely to be high-school dropouts, 2.9 times as likely to live in a large city, and 2.7 times as likely to grow up in a single parent household–all ratios that are far below the observed ratios for murder victimization and offending.

Well, that’s interesting.

Moreover, the racial homicide gap is long-lasting and widespread, and is much greater in cities and among young men than in other places or among other age-gender groups. In rural areas, there is no racial disparity in murder. The homicide gap is also much larger than the racial disparity in aggravated assault–in some ways the crime closest to murder–and there is no racial disparity in aggravated assault among young men.

Oh?

Picture 4

Source: Color of Crime

Okay, so, our authors are clearly lying: blacks commit aggravated assault at 7x the rate of whites, which is not that different from their rate of 8.5x murder rate. (And, in general, the Color of Crime report demonstrates that incarceration rates reflect actual offending rates.)

crdgu1gwgaaycfbUnfortunately, the authors don’t cite any evidence to back up their claim that in rural areas, blacks and whites have equal homicide rates, but as mentioned before, this seems a little problematic, given that the entire continent of Africa has fairly low population density and still has fairly high homicide rates. And why would rural environments make white people more likely to murder each other and black people less likely? Why would cities cool whites’ murderous tempers while inflaming blacks’? Why aren’t any of the world’s most violent cities located in India or China?

Even if we are just looking at selection effects–murderous whites like living in the countryside; murderous blacks like living in cities–we still have to wonder Why?

The Wikipedia page on Statistical Correlations of Criminal Behavior doesn’t mention neighborhood density.

The Atlantic notes:

There’s a big increase in crime as density rises from rural to urban, because crime thrives on anonymity–you don’t rob your neighbors, not necessarily because you like them, but because the likelihood of being identified is very high.  In an urban environment, random assaults like Matt’s are much easier to get away with.

While researching this post, I came across some very interesting thoughts on Density and Human Behavior:

Researchers in the social sciences have long tried to explain the effects of urbanization on the human animal. Of special interest has been the observed rates of crime and deviant behavior found in cities. In the United States city crime rates are higher than suburban rates, which in turn are higher than rural rates. …

Two major theories have developed to explain the effects of density on human behavior. Wirth’s (1938) is the most common with his famous statement that size, density and heterogenity explain the effects of urban life on the human animal.  The experiments done by Milgram (1970) suggest that when people are confronted with a large number of strangers in everyday life, they tend to withdraw and take less interest in the community in order to protect themselves from overload. Wolfgang (1970), among others, suggests that urban withdrawal and anomie resulting from density explains higher urban crime rates.

Animal studies made famous by Calhoun (1962) show that crowding in the animal world results in what he calls the behavioral sink. Normal behavior and reproductive habits fail. Aggressive behavior increases when density passes a certain point as animals compete for resources. In the experience of the reviewer, those who deny any possible connection between any human behavior simply say that humans are not animals so there can be nothing learned from animal experiments. However, human animals do seem to exhibit much lower fertility rates in cities than is true in rural areas. …

Using data from the Toronto Mental Health and Stress study (Turner and Wheaton 1992), Regoeczi looks at crowding in housing using the measure of persons per room. …

There is an optimal relationship between crowding and withdrawal.  The optimal point is 1.18 persons per room. This relationship holds even when the control variables are introduced. “The threshold for aggression is identical to that for withdrawal: 1.18 persons per room. After this point, the deleterious effect of density begins to take off and increased crowding leads to more aggressive responses among individuals.”

Cabrini Green, circa 1960
Cabrini Green, circa 1960

In other words, it’s probably safe to conclude that Cabrini Green and Pruitt Igoe, despite the good intentions behind them, were inhuman hellscapes that would drive any sane person to despair.

On the other hand, Manila, Philippines, is (according to Wikipedia) the densest city in the world, at 41,500 people per square kilometer, (or 107,500 people per square mile,) and it isn’t even ranked in the top 50 most murderous cities.

So while density may cause anomie, despair, plunging birth rates, and even anime consumption, it is clearly not the only ingredient involved in making some people murder their neighbors at higher rates than other people.

The best explanation I’ve come across for why our authors might have found closer to equal crime (not murder, haven’t found that) rates in rural areas than in urban areas comes, again, from La Griffe du Lion’s Politics, Imprisonment, and Race:

We all know that African Americans are imprisoned disproportionately to their numbers in the general population. According to the last decennial census a black man was 7.4 times more likely than his white counterpart to be incarcerated. In the language I’ll use today, we would say that the disparity or incarceration ratio was 7.4. State-by-state, the figures varied widely from 3.1 to 29.3. But contrary to expectation, the highest disparity ratios turned up mostly in politically progressive states, while the smallest ratios were mostly found in conservative states. Though the numbers change a bit from year to year, this racial-political pattern of imprisonment endures. One of the questions I will answer today is, why?

La Griffe’s answer is that more conservative (read, rural) states criminalize more behavior and so put more people in prison. Liberal states are more likely to put only the worst criminals behind bars, resulting in even more disproportionate imprisonment of blacks.

But returning to our PDF:

We begin with a baseline model in which race is the only visible characteristic, and the distribution of unobserved characteristics may differ across groups. In this setting, we explore two possible mechanisms through which significant racial disparities in homicide rates can arise. First, suppose that the costs of committing murder are contingent on the identity of the victim, with murders less likely to be solved and less aggressively prosecuted if the victims are black. … But this means
that blacks face greater danger in all their interactions, and are more likely therefore to kill preemptively. Anticipating this, whites will be more likely to kill preemptively in interactions with blacks than in interactions with other whites.

ct4h54nviaa6mabWhile it appears to be true that people who murder blacks (primarily other blacks) receive lesser sentences than people who commit similar crimes against whites*,** (which makes the disparities between black and white prison populations all the more concerning,) I don’t think this gets us to “blacks are vastly more likely to murder each other than whites are to murder blacks.” If it’s perceived as “open season” on killing blacks, then blacks and whites will kill blacks. And if blacks are killing back in self-defense (or perceived self-defense,) then they’re going to kill other blacks and whites.

*Note that there is an even greater disparity in sentencing between people who kill men and people who kill women, but no one suggests that this disparity is driving male-on-male violence.

**Note also that this does not imply that “society thinks black lives matter less than white lives,” as these lesser sentences maybe a result of black juries being more sympathetic toward black criminals than white juries toward white criminals.

Back to the PDF:

The second mechanism is based on costs of murder being contingent on the identity of the offender rather than the victim. Systematically lower incomes and higher rates of unemployment among blacks make the penalties for attempted murder or manslaughter lower for blacks relative to their outside options.

source: https://www.newyorkfed.org/medialibrary/media/research/epr/99v05n3/9909levi.pdf
source

This is an interesting theory, but it’s kind of destroyed by the fact that high-income blacks still have higher homicide rates than lower-income whites.

So, even before we get to the paper’s math (and Flaherty and Sethi certainly do a lot of math,) I have a lot of disagreements with the paper’s basic assumptions. I don’t dispute the authors’ basic Hobbesian sense that your chances of being punished for a crime or your fear of being murdered by someone else can influence behavior, and I agree that black communities would probably be better served by locking away more criminals so that innocent black people can live in peace instead of fear, but I also think they are ignoring some pretty big behavioral correlations (ie, the behavior of people in Africa; the behavior of people in other dense places,) and have failed to ask themselves why they think people got the notion that crime rates are high in black communities in the first place.

In other words, they’re not entirely wrong, but they’re missing some big pieces of the puzzle.

Wise Tim, Crime, and HBD: Pt. 4: The Poverty Argument

Leuconoe also points us to Grabmeier’s article, Poverty, not race, tied to high crime rates in urban areas:

A study of Columbus neighborhoods found that violent crime rates in extremely disadvantaged white neighborhoods were very similar to rates in comparable Black neighborhoods.

The violent crime rate in highly disadvantaged Black areas was 22 per 1,000 residents, not much different from the 20 per 1,000 rate in similar white communities. …

In this study, overall rates of violence were nearly three times as high in Black neighborhoods as in white neighborhoods. But that’s because Black neighborhoods are much more likely than white ones to be highly disadvantaged, she said. …

Along with poverty rates, the researchers also compared neighborhoods on other measures of disadvantage: levels of male joblessness, female-headed families, and professionals living in the community. They then calculated a disadvantage index that combined all of these measures.

Violent crime rates were lowest in those neighborhoods with low disadvantage, regardless of whether they were predominantly Black or white. Extremely disadvantaged neighborhoods had violent crime rates that were 16.3 per 1000 higher than rates in low disadvantage neighborhoods.

Do you ever get the impression that some people aren’t quite using all of their brain cells? Like, “Hey guys, we have disproved the theory that every black person is identical, driven by melanin to commit violent crime.”

This is a strawman. Few people seriously believe that all black people are criminals (obviously they aren’t,) or that criminality and poverty aren’t correlated. Criminals do in fact tend to be poor, and poor people are often criminals. This is true for people of all races, yes. If you control for all sorts of factors that correlate with “makes bad life decisions,” then you  are controlling for criminality, which is also a really bad life decision.

Repeat after me: You cannot control for everything.

As I mentioned yesterday, the fact that these correlate doesn’t tell us why blacks are disproportionately likely to be in poor, high-crime communities in the first place.

When people find that criminals tend to be poor, they jump to the assumption that poverty is causing the crime. They don’t seem to consider the option that crime makes criminals poor, makes criminals’ neighborhoods poor, or that people who commit crimes are just dumb, impulsive and suck at making life decisions. In opposition to the “poverty makes people commit crimes” narrative, I present the fact that the US homicide rate rose during the boom time of the 1920s and then fell during the Depression:

600px-Homicide_rates1900-2001

It also rose during the Depression. There’s not a whole lot of correlation, though changes in employment level rather than absolute poverty look important.

Returning to Grabmeier:

In addition, the highly disadvantaged Black neighborhoods were more likely than the white neighborhoods to be grouped together, which may intensify the negative effects.

Of course, this could be a real effect. Certain behaviors may amplify and become worse when people who have those traits are in close proximity to one another.

In 1870, St. Louis had 310,864 people. In 1950, it had 856,796. Pruitt-Igoe was built in 1954, and today, St. Louis has about 315,685 people.
In 1870, St. Louis had 310,864 people. In 1950, it had 856,796. Pruitt-Igoe was built in 1954, and today, St. Louis has about 315,685 people.

On the other hand, I also note that almost the entire state of West Virginia is concentrated white poverty, and their homicide rate (4/100k people) still isn’t as bad as St. Louis’s, (59/100k,) Baltimore’s (55/100k,) Detroit’s (44/100k,) or New Orelans’s (41/100k.)

These four heavily black US cities made the list of the world’s 50 most violent cities. No majority white (or Asian) cities made the list, not even cities in impoverished countries like Albania or Cambodia. (Of course, some countries may not keep very good track of homicides.)

World-Murder-Rate-Geocurrents-Map-1024x726Looking globally, China, India, and Bangladesh are all very dense countries with plenty of poverty and homicide rates that are still much lower than much-less densely populated countries in Africa (and Latin America.)

Concentrating poverty may, in fact, be terrible and may encourage criminals to become even more criminal, and crime doubtless lead to feedback loops where everyone who can avoid the neighborhood does their best to leave, leaving behind a concentrated solution of innocent poor people and predatory criminals. And this is exacerbated by the fact that any poor urban population is likely to become highly concentrated simply because it is poor: poor people cannot afford many square feet per person.

But the solution, to spread blacks out more thinly among whites, destroys black communities and exposes them to the danger of white racism/violence/hate crimes, as Tim Wise would point out.

To be continued.