Thursday, August 14, 2014

What are Police For?

Another white policeman has shot and killed another black teenager, this time in Ferguson, Missouri, and all the usual suspects are telling the same old story: racism.

Or, if you are a conservative, you write: yes, it's racism, but.

Let's put all this in perspective.  The reason that the Brits created a London police force back in the 19th century was to control under-class males.  They called the new policeman "bobbies" or "peelers" after the Home Secretary, Robert Peel, that pushed the Metropolitan Police Act of 1829.

That is what urban police forces are for: to control under-class young males.

The problem then and the problem now is that when people migrate to the city they typically experience severe social dislocation.  Men abandon their wives, boys grow up without fathers, young women support their children "on their backs."  And above all, young men do what comes naturally; they join a criminal gang and make war on other gangs and loot the poor.

We should not look down on this.  Politicians do the same: they join a political party, make war on other political parties, and loot the taxpayer.

In the United States this situation began not later than the arrival of the Irish on the coffin ships in the hungry 1840s.  In the 1850s in Manhattan they talked about 50,000 "nymphs of the pave."  And Irish lads were well represented in the draft riots of the 1860s.

By the end of the 19th century people were starting to talk about "lace curtain" Irish rather than "shanty" Irish.  And the menace of Irish criminality and barbarism had been replaced by the menace of Italian and Jewish gangs.

The point is, of course, that the police didn't like the immigrant kids and the kids didn't like the police. Fast forward to today, and it is black teenagers in gangs, not to mention the growing menace of Salvadorean gangs.  The police are involved in a daily battle with these young gang-bangers and vice versa.

There is an additional factor to consider.  The urban gang is very like a proto-government. It defends territory and it taxes the people in its territory with what used to be called "protection money," as in "nice little business you got here, pity if something should happen to it."  So the urban gang is, in a real sense, a mild rebellion or uprising: urban guerrillas, if you like.  Thus the urban gang is an intolerable affront to the official government.  It ought to winkle it out and destroy it, but instead often coexists with it in an uneasy unofficial truce.  See Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, Mayor.

In the end, each wave of young lower-class men get socialized into the life of the city; they become workers and husbands and citizens, and they are replaced by new immigrants and new gangs.

But the welfare state throws up its peculiar barriers to this process.  First of all, the welfare state taxes work. If you hire someone to work you can't just pay them; you have to pay taxes: payroll, unemployment, workers comp., which raises the cost of labor.  Maybe you choose to hire those teenage kids "off the books."  And then welfare makes it possible for lower-class women to raise children without the assistance of lower-class men.  So we get the situation illuminated by Charles Murray in Coming Apart: The State of White America 1960-2010. The women don't marry and the men don't work.  That's a pity because the top indicator of child welfare is that children live with their biological, married parents.

So what's the solution?  Liberals and blacks yell about racism, and everybody else mutters in their beards about fathers and welfare and work.

I will tell you what I think will happen.  I think that black women will turn to marriage, and that will put black men to work.  Why do I say this?  Because for the lower-class woman struggling in the chaotic underclass world the hope, the vision, of middle-class respectability is a constant ache that never goes away.  And it won't go away until black lower-class women get themselves into the middle class.

There's no mystery about how you get to middle-class respectability.  You marry the father of your children and he goes to work to support them.

Is there anything we can do?  Well, we can make welfare more difficult and we can make work more easy.  Other than that, I don't have a clue what to do.

Meanwhile the police will be left on the front line, trying to keep order in the constant battle with gang-socialized young men.

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