Monday, June 15, 2020

The Most Urgent Connectedness Problem

     Things don’t just “happen,” as if the universe were nothing but a giant random-number generator. They happen for reasons that can almost always be teased out by an inquiring and attentive observer. Cause and effect, don’t y’know. (Any “essential chaos” fans in the bleachers are invited to play a frame or two of snooker with Ronnie O’Sullivan or Judd Trump. Then prattle to me about “the randomness beneath it all.”)

     Sometimes – and lately it seems to be more often than not – problem A gives rise to problem B, because people mistakenly see problem B as a solution to problem A, or at least a compensating response. This tragic pattern helps to explain the striking connection between the violence and squalor in our cities and the legitimization of militarized police forces.

     Both these problems have important, though not absolute, connections to another problem with which America has not adequately coped: the sociodynamics of the city.

     Mark “Mad Dog” Sherman contends that the city – categorically speaking – is and was a mistake. This overstates the case slightly. Cities, understood as concentrations of population with human densities appreciably higher than their surroundings, were not someone’s bright idea that just hasn’t worked out. They arose because of important social and economic forces: largely, the need for access to trade routes and transportation for goods.

     Consider New York City and Los Angeles. Neither of these cities would exist except for their excellent harbors. Manhattan Island is a slab of rock inhospitable to life. Los Angeles is situated in a desert. Only access to waterborne transport made these locales places anyone would care to be...but for a developing commercial republic with a hunger for markets, that factor trumped all else in the early years of our nation.

     As populations concentrated in the zones of what would become cities, other factors emerged to accelerate their development. In particular, for quite some time the cities were safer than the regions around them: fewer wild animals and more people to come to one’s aid in an emergency. They also provided residents with employment opportunities and easy access to goods. That latter trade-off is one that many young people still make today.

     But there’s no such thing as an unmixed blessing:

     “Now, we know from historical data that predators of all sorts will concentrate where the prey is fattest. The State, which is merely an organized band of predators with a veneer of legitimacy derived either from tradition or from a manufactured appearance of the consent of its subjects, took a huge fraction of its subjects’ annual production from them in taxes. A typical State would increase its exactions on its subjects faster than those subjects could increase their own fortunes. That compelled wage earners to strive ever harder just to run in place, with obvious consequences for production and marketing.”

     Feel free to argue, but as Arne Stromberg is the holder of the Edmond Genet chair in the sociology department of Gallatin University, Hope’s most prestigious institution of higher learning, you’re likely to come away feeling foolish. So cities attracted human civilization’s worst known enemy – the State – merely by concentrating potential prey.

     Cities also attract another sort of enemy: parasites. Wealth is like that: those who want it will move toward it. That includes persons willing to work for it and those to whom work is unattractive or unknown. The synergistic effect of the State plus hordes of good-for-nothings “should” be “obvious” – including in its effects on law enforcement and public order. The parasites will demand freebies. The productive will demand protection. The State will promise to satisfy both. In reality it will satisfy neither, while increasing its own exactions and coercions upon the law-abiding.

     The welfare state and its excrescences are the State’s pander to the parasites. The intensified, militarized police force is its pander to the productive residents. Note, however, that the police do little or nothing to quell the violence and disorder in the welfare zones. Rather, they exert themselves against the productive, in a classic illustration of Samuel Francis’s conception of anarcho-tyranny:

     What we have in this country today, then, is both anarchy (the failure of the state to enforce the laws) and, at the same time, tyranny—the enforcement of laws by the state for oppressive purposes; the criminalization of the law-abiding and innocent through exorbitant taxation, bureaucratic regulation, the invasion of privacy, and the engineering of social institutions, such as the family and local schools; the imposition of thought control through “sensitivity training” and multiculturalist curricula, “hate crime” laws, gun-control laws that punish or disarm otherwise law-abiding citizens but have no impact on violent criminals who get guns illegally, and a vast labyrinth of other measures. In a word, anarcho-tyranny.

     The parasite class is quite as important to the maintenance of an anarcho-tyrannical regime as are the violent and criminal. And cities, which naturally attract both predators and parasites, are the anarcho-tyrant’s “ecological niche.”

     Rather than thrash this to a pulp, allow me to cite a single illustrative episode, one that exhibits all the features of a city in grip of anarcho-tyranny: The Baltimore boy with the BB gun:

     A Baltimore family got a surprise visit from the police after someone noticed a fifth-grader’s BB gun in the background during a virtual school session....

     Courtney Lancaster is a Navy veteran with extensive knowledge on guns and gun safety. Her 11-year-old son is an aspiring Eagle Scout who has learned to shoot BB and Airsoft guns as well as taken archery lessons.

     They’d never had an issue until the cops unexpectedly showed up one day.

     “So, I answered the door. The police officer was, he was very nice. He explained to me that he was coming to address an issue with my son’s school,” Courtney told Project Baltimore. “And then explained to me that he was here to search for weapons, in my home. And I consented to let him in. And then I, unfortunately, stood there and watched police officers enter my 11-year-old son’s bedroom.”

     Baltimore, Gentle Reader. Baltimore! If there’s a city more deeply mired in violence and squalor anywhere in the U.S., I, at least, am unaware of it. Yet the powers that be in that city deemed it a proper use of the police power to investigate a child’s BB gun, while genuine crime runs rampant throughout the region. Savor that.

     Though cities formed from natural causes and according to easily comprehended incentives, today they’re ever less a source of the things for which people once flocked to them, and ever more a concentration point for things people – decent people, at least – prefer to avoid. Their predator and parasite classes are large and rapacious; their police forces are militarized and more intrusive than ever; and their law-biding residents are more coerced and mulcted than ever before in history.

     Perhaps, had we avoided certain historical mistakes, it could have been otherwise. Yet we live with what is, not what might have been. And we cannot solve either the problem of crime and parasitism, or the problem of overweening governments supported by militarized police forces, in isolation from one another; either both must go, or both will continue and worsen. Which is why Americans are steadily leaving large cities, especially those along the nation’s seaboards, in search of something less violent, more orderly, less expensive, and more respectful of personal and family privacy.


Bigus Macus said...

Name a Democrat control city where this is not a problem. And of course most large cities are Democrat controlled. Here's a good article.

Francis W. Porretto said...

No argument, but notice: as a city grows larger, so does the probability that it will fall under Democrat control! Is there a city of population 2,000,000 or more that's not currently under Democrat control?

HoundOfDoom said...

RE: The BB gun case. Cops will more often than not take the easy target rather than the challenging one. Hence the visit to a placid white suburban home to search for a BB gun.

Plus the opportunity to extort fines from a productive family is great.

Try that with the career criminals in the city and they end up sore and sorry, without any income to show for it.

Blame can place both on the leadership of the PD and the pols that direct them.

Andy5759 said...

So true, I worked night shifts in London (England) during the 19080s. Paid handsomely in cash, at first I walked the two miles to my train station without a care. By the 1990s I took an expensive cab. By the 2000s I was taking a cab all the way home even though I was paid by bank transfer.

I do like your snooker reference. I'm available to explain cricket, should you wish to use it as a metaphor for a future article.🙂

Jess said...

On a smaller scale, a local city slowly fell into the quagmire of Progressive influence. Incompetence, corruption, flight of citizens, and the lack of tax revenue placed it into an undesirable place to live. Businesses left, and a substantial part of the city has no grocery stores, or pharmacies.

Those that still live in this city are low income, with many living on government funds. They have no desire for anything better, broken families abound, and the culture can be described as nearly anarchic. Crimes are reported, but their are no willing witnesses.

The port is expanding in leaps and bounds. The petrochemical industry is buying property and expanding. The meat of the city revenue is from the business that doesn't require locals to live there. The workers live in surrounding cities, or in rural areas.

This is not an isolated situation. The big difference is there is no real estate for the wealthy to hide from the chaff of society. There is no wealth to build, or help. There is no carrot to coerce others to take part in keeping the city alive, so it will eventually die; only to be annexed by a larger nearby city, which is well on the way to a similar fate.

ontoiran said...

why would anyone in this day and age allow a cop to enter your home voluntarily? If I had any neighbors who were cops I wouldn't let them in my house without a warrant