Why is the American prison population going up so much?

Slate has an interesting interview with Leon Nayfakh speaking to John Pfaff, here is the critical excerpt from Pfaff:

What appears to happen during this time—the years I look at are 1994 to 2008, just based on the data that’s available—is that the probability that a district attorney files a felony charge against an arrestee goes from about 1 in 3, to 2 in 3. So over the course of the ’90s and 2000s, district attorneys just got much more aggressive in how they filed charges. Defendants who they would not have filed felony charges against before, they now are charging with felonies. I can’t tell you why they’re doing that. No one’s really got an answer to that yet. But it does seem that the number of felony cases filed shoots up very strongly, even as the number of arrests goes down.

You will note that district attorneys are relatively politically independent at this level.  And this:

But just letting people out of prison—decarcerating drug offenders—will not reduce the prison population by as much as people think. If you released every person in prison on a drug charge today, our state prison population would drop from about 1.5 million to 1.2 million. So we’d still be the world’s largest incarcerating country; we’d still have an enormous prison population.

Keep in mind that some in prison on drug charges are actually violent offenders who did a plea bargain down to a drug charge.

The interview also offers evidence against alternative explanations of the boom in the prison population, such as putting the blame on longer sentences.  Here is Pfaff’s home page and his related papers.

Comments

Fair points on how prison numbers would come down. But a 20% drop is still big in my book.

Is it possible that the police started arresting fewer people but the right people?

I'm exceedingly skeptical, but it DOES seems plausible.

"Is it possible that the police started arresting fewer people but the right people?"

I think I would rephrase that as, "Is it possible better procedures have led to the police charging a lot fewer innocent people with crimes?"

You mean, poor people, unemployed people, mentally ill people, disabled people, homeless people, school drop out people,...

Given the error rate for conviction of provably innocent people who are poor, etc, with prosecutors clearly ignoring or concealing evidence of innocence, the idea that more guilty were convicted can only be true of the innocent convicted before was much higher.

Indeed. 20% is a huge drop.

Definitely.

One point missing from this analysis is the indirect contribution of drugs to incarceration. A gang can form around drug money, which creates a situation where certain violent behaviour becomes much more likely, even when the gang members are not dealing drugs, and this violence wont be registered as drug charges. If legalization ends this moneypot (though hard drugs could still be a source of money), a lot of this violence might get reduced

What do you think they're going to do instead, though? Go into legitimate labor markets? Start robbing people?

The story is that before the drug business gangs were poor. Those other businesses don't self fund so effectively.

Contraband used to be a way for gangs to, over generations, go legit. Think Joe Kennedy and prohibition. The War on Drugs changed that.

Short-term, probably go into other kinds of crime. Long-term, if crime pays less, it seems pretty reasonable to expect to get less of it.

Drugs are much easier money and more profitable. And desired by the market. There is demand and high profits, so the enterprising young criminal chooses to supply.
Take that away and drug sales become boring and commoditized - instead of defending a corner you are just a shop keeper.
The profits from illicit activity attract the workers - who become criminals by doing the work. Take that away, and you will have far less entrants into the criminal market. A criminal market as a stickup kid is much tougher, with less rewards and a greater chance of punishment.

Open up a legal dispensary and pay taxes?

Or maybe the thugs who sell drugs now would, were they legalized, go into other forms of violent crime. The following is from Handle Haus:

If you are a police chief, prosecutor, or politician, then tou[sic] want to prevent crime, especially violent crime, and especially violent crimes like burglaries that will spill over into your wealthier, safer neighborhoods whose inhabitants can get you fired very quickly, but who also make excellent targets for theft, muggings, or aggravated robberies because, as with banks, that’s where the money is.

Or is it? Because burglary is risky, and burglars don’t get rich. But what if there were some alternative draw, some other – necessarily criminal – way of making vast sums of money – the stuff of a young thug’s dreams – and that particular way was demonstrably irrepressible no matter what you did, so it might as well be made useful.

What if, furthermore, it was glorified and celebrated endlessly by your young thug’s subculture? And what if the violence that emerged out of that traffic – of a thing the sale, possession, and consumption of which arguably needs to be prohibited anyway – was almost entirely geographically contained in areas with zero political clout and mostly between the thugs themselves?

Why, it would act as an ideal honeypot! Your thugs will all converge on conducting that particular species of crime, and you can easily arrest, prosecute, and imprison the worst of them and then incapacitate them for long-durations so that they can’t get up to any other (more politically destabilizing) kinds of criminal activity during their youthful years, which, again, you believe they are certain to do and which, really, can’t be prevented.

And this is how the drug war works. There are very, very few people who actually, consciously think like this, putting all the pieces together into one extremely tragic but coherent picture. But the glue that holds certain lasting social institutions together is often unconscious and buried beneath some protective psychological firewalls.

https://handleshaus.wordpress.com/2014/03/03/review-of-the-collapse-of-american-criminal-justice-by-william-j-stuntz/

Or maybe they'd just stay home and play Grand Theft Auto rather than engage in Grand Theft Auto. We can hope ...

The technological trends, such as everybody carrying a GPS tracking device in the form of a smartphone, are all in the direction of making it harder to get away with crimes. And the rise of social media encourages youths to want to document everything they do on their Permanent Records, which discourages crime. So, I'm pretty optimistic about the future being less crime-ridden, unless we blow it like we did in the 1960s by listening to soft on crime liberals.

A young guy who I worked with once shot and killed a guy who scammed him on a drug deal. He was a fine young man other than that and being addicted to crack, so I think if recreational drugs were legally sold he would not have killed anyone nor have gone to prison.

> Keep in mind that some in prison on drug charges are actually violent offenders who did a plea bargain down to a drug charge.

You got it backwards. A lot of people on drug charges are actually innocent people forced into plea bargain by threat of spending life in jail.

Actually putting people on trial like every other country might contribute a good deal to reducing mass incarceration.

But the policy consequences are the same. That is: the real problem is not that drug offenses are too harshly punished, but that prosecutors can to overcharge and otherwise bully their way to a conviction. Reducing the drug sentences only ever be part of a solution to that problem.

The fact that threat is a credible threat, does that show something about the quality of Jury trials?

Why has it become a credible threat to scare an innocent man with life in prison.

"...does that show something about the quality of Jury trials?"

Jury trials are very rare in the U.S. (less than 5% of cases ever go to trial).

The quality of jury trials is very bad and unjust... which is why most defendants accept a non-trial plea bargain with government prosecutors. Chances of a fair trial and due process are near zero.

Prosecutors are extremely and unjustly powerful. They can charge or not charge people at personal whim, create novel indictment from tens of thousands of vague laws, vastly over-charge defendants to intimidate them, bribe or threaten witnesses with promises of prosecution/non-prosecution and leniency, hand pick juries (especially Grand Juries); plus prosecutors (and judges) are mostly immune under American law for their official crimes.

The huge U.S. prison population is a direct result of a corrupt criminal justice system. Establishment Republicans and Democrats are responsible for this situation over many decades. And it is getting much worse.

+1 to tecr's rant. In the UK, unlike in the US, a victim can sue the government for malicious prosecution more easily, and also get damages for false arrest. In the USA, it's very hard or not as easy, which, coupled with statutory immunity, makes for prosecutor bullies.

Actually it's true for government employers and letters of recommendation: government bureaucrats are immune from lawsuit for giving a malicious review of a former employee. I had a government boss tell me he would ruin me for leaving him, and he tried, but luckily I was in such a hot field and such hot stuff, that it did not matter what he said (and I never have taken a pay cut, evidence of either sticky wages or my superior bargaining power).

Perhaps jury trials are so rare *because* they tend to be so bad. The mere threat of jury trials leads to a lot of unjust plea bargaining. The lesser of two evils? I'm not sure.

Maybe we should move to a purely judge based system?

It's the money. The defendant runs out of money to pay his attorney and then has to cop a plea. The government never runs out of money.

I'll have to find the link when I get home but there was a great article from a Federal Judge that spoke to this point -- basically the DA and the police are quite willing to frame the innocent to make their threats credible. Seems they have forgotten the old view of better letting a guilty man go free than falsely imprisoning an innocent one.

I'd suggest you read some remarks of Josiah Thompson, Kennedy assassination aficionado, lapsed philosophy professor, and, for many decades, a private investigator. This is not a man inclined to take authorities at face value. His contention on this point: in his decades in the business, he'd seen examples of police fabricating evidence. It's a desperation tactic and is rare.

This may have been the article to which you refer: http://georgetownlawjournal.org/files/2015/06/Kozinski_Preface.pdf.

The Errol Morris documentary, "The Thin Blue Line".

Very few people in prison like that. In fact those that are often are suspected of committing more serious crimes but prosecutors can't make those charges stick. It is extremely rare for prosecutors to throw the book at a mere consumer of drugs.

A mere consumer of drugs maybe not. But what about when that consumer has repeated property crimes on his record? Theft and the like can also be felonies. And three strikes are three strikes whether the crimes involved are crimes of violence or not.

A lot of people on drug charges are actually innocent people forced into plea bargain by threat of spending life in jail

Go to school with Alan Dershowitz, "Every once in a while you get an innocent client, but the vast majority of your clients are guilty as hell." The Catholic blogger Donald McClarey is more succinct about his criminal defense clients ("Guilty, Guilty, Guilty"). Judges and prosecutors do some godawful things, but the notion that there are vast swaths of innocents in the clink is a social fiction.

The blurb above says 300,000 in prison for drug crimes. That's vast enough a swath for me.

Much as it bothers you, the sale and possession of street drugs is unlawful, pretty much everywhere. The perpetrators are not innocents in the legal sense (or in any other sense, really).

My issue is with the disparity. A white (or hell probably even black) drug dealer in a college town or the burbs is much less likely to go to jail than a black one in the inner city.

My issue is with the disparity. A white (or hell probably even black) drug dealer in a college town or the burbs is much less likely to go to jail than a black one in the inner city.

In your imagination.

You're the worst.

Do you got any data to back that up? Or just a bunch of anecdotal stories about guys who claim they're "truly innocent"?

Tyler had it right the first time.

How about the many people exonerated after spending decades on death row?

How does someone on death row have anything to do with plea bargaining?

Its not "many people exonerated" either. Its a small minority.

Yes and the system does not make it easy AT ALL to get a new trial once you have been convicted. Based on the number of people proven innocent after the fact, you can certainly expect that many more are innocent but were not able to prove it, or their sentences ended before they could. And if innocent people are being convicted, you can certainly expect that many take plea bargains to avoid the 30-year prison sentence as an innocent person scenario.

Is there any good data we can look at for a reasonable estimate of the fraction of innocent people who are convicted?

"Innocent" here could be interpreted in a narrow sense (you did not commit exactly the crime you were convicted of/pled guilty to) or in a broad sense (you were completely innocent and the cops just got the wrong guy).

This clearly happens. What's not so clear is how often it happens, or what makes you more likely to have it happen to you.

The best source I can see for estimates on this involve DNA tests for cases where DNA tests weren't available when the original trial or whatever took place, and where the DNA test would be really solid evidence--say in rape/murder cases. That's like this magic crystal ball where you can say "here are N cases where we convicted for rape, we checked the DNA for all of them, and K/N got the wrong guy." If you did this in a blind way (gather up all the cases rape cases where evidence necessary for doing DNA tests were collected and are still around, check them all, and report the results), we'd have a pretty good snapshot of at least one kind of criminal case at one point in history.

Right now, my impression from what I've read and from talking to a friend who is a criminal defense atty is that a small fraction of completely innocent people go to prison, a somewhat larger fraction of people are broadly criminals, but maybe weren't guilty of the specific thing they were charged with, and a large majority of people who go to prison are actually guilty. But data is much better than speculation. (And speculation in this area is worse than in many others, because most of us go out of our way to avoid interacting with the kind of people who end up in prison.)

Consider the Prisoner's Dilemma: Two guys rob a liquor store, one shoots the clerk dead. The video and other forensic evidence on which one was the shooter is nonexistent or inconclusive. The detectives separate the two suspects and badger each one to confess to being the accomplice and implicating his partner as the triggerman in return for a lower sentence.

How often does does the justice system figure out exactly which one pulled the trigger? Say, 80-20? If so, how much does the 20% wrong matter?

"How often does does the justice system figure out exactly which one pulled the trigger?"

Many jurisdictions have the felony murder rule which reduces the importance of the question. But then there is the strange case of Richard Glossip, who appears to have been convicted of conspiracy to commit murder based on the theory that he pressured the actual murderer to commit the crime. There is no forensic or eyewitness evidence of this alleged psychological pressure aside from the murderer's own testimony -- given in exchange for avoiding the death penalty.

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/jurisprudence/2015/09/richard_glossip_innocence_governor_or_supreme_court_should_stay_oklahoma.html

It's quite atypical to spend 'decades' on death row. The median time spent on death row is just north of 9 years and there are few if any cases of someone spending more than 25 years on death row. Also, the Innocence Project has been known to conflate cases of various different types under the heading of 'exoneration'.

"Few if any cases of someone spending more than 25 years on death row"

Classic!

What's 'classic'? They're on death row for 20-odd years because they employ attorneys who are ideologically committed and busy beavers (and, in truth, I believe the longest case on record since 1972 was a 25 year sit). Doesn't say much for the appeals process that you can gum up the works this way.

How much of all these "interminable delays" we keep hearing about are a result of courts taking a long time to decide appeals, rather than attorneys who "gum up the works?"

Depends on the state. Lot higher in California than it is in Texas.

Well how many are there, and as a %?

This is also gets it wrong. The point is that waging the war on drugs just well enough so that there's a thriving street trade in illegal narcotics maintained by violent gangs overwhelming certain poorer communities is driving a huge portion of the inmate population. You don't even need to make the drugs legal, just make it possible for addicts to access drugs peacefully and you could end the street trade. The first two or three years the results might be uneven, but the benefits would accumulate for generations.

You don’t even need to make the drugs legal, just make it possible for addicts to access drugs peacefully and you could end the street trade. The first two or three years the results might be uneven, but the benefits would accumulate for generations.

This is a fantasy. You're either enforcing the law or you're not.

A majority of Americans at this point support legalizing marijuana. If applied fully, it would reduce prison populations by perhaps tens of thousands of people. That's nice but hardly a panacea given the million+ people in prison.

If you suggest legalization for the hard drugs, expect to see a much stronger pushback. I don't see America legalizing meth any time soon. The social consequences of meth abuse are FAR worse than pot.

There are plenty of reasonably productive pothead who lead meaningful lives, pay taxes, keep their yards neatly trimmed, etc.

The same cannot be said of meth addicts. It's basically impossible to function as an adult and use meth on a daily basis.

That's why we see a huge polling difference on these two types of drugs and why we'll never allow addicts to peacefully consume meth (or PCP, crack, heroin, etc) in the privacy of their own trailer. We just don't trust them not to negatively impact other people.

One big question (especially when talking about legalizing drugs) is: to what extent are the prosecutors using the drug charges as the easy thing to get a conviction or a plea agreement on? That is, the cops are pretty sure you were involved in that gang shooting, but getting a conviction there requires getting someone to testify against you[1], whereas convicting you for the crack you were carrying on your person is pretty straightforward.

If a large fraction of drug convictions work like that, then eliminating those laws won't have the desired effect (releasing nonviolent drug-addicts from prison), and might actively make the streets less safe.

[1] Testifying against gang members whose gang has a presence in your neighborhood or school is not a lifespan-enhancing strategy.

The entire adult male population of Japan binged on massive doses of methamphetamine from 1936-1945. Then they went on to produce the greatest miracle in the history of the world. Meth isn't the devil molecule that you think it is. In fact you can even obtain a legal prescription for it to treat ADHD.

Don't conflate actual harm with the fact that only the most damaged and dysfunctional tend to be attracted to the most stigmatized and forbidden substances. If caffeine had the legal and cultural associations that meth does, you can bet that the typical user would be far below the median.

In fact you can even obtain a legal prescription for it to treat ADHD.

I've always been curious about that. How different is street meth from Aderall? I've tried Aderall and didn't like it. It didn't make me high, just a little manic. No hallucinations. Does street meth have other effects?

Yeah, as a long time adderall user, I don't even understand why/how someone would get high from it. I mean, I used it in ways a doctor would never approve of in college (80 mg in a four hour period, 200 in a day) and I'd put its recreational drug value behind caffeine.

http://www.drcarlhart.com/john-stossel/

Tyler, are they undercounting drug crimes? Those "yes they passed tougher new sentencing" laws are all about upcharging drug crimes into violent crimes if the drug criminal happens to be sane enough to be carrying a weapon to defend himself when he gets busted.

Again, about 20% of the prison census consists of people for whom the top count was a drug charge.

Prosecutors charge the crime likely to achieve the greatest sentence. Legalize drugs, but freeing those who faced a potential for rape conviction when evidence guaranteed perp was moving ten kilos of blow and mandatory five to ten? Prosecutors are interested in law, and justice.

So do prosecutors use the war on drugs to achieve sentence inflation? Would you?

What experience do you have with prosecutors that leads you to say they all are interested in law and justice? Have you not seen cases where prosecutors subvert law and justice for personal gain? To win an upcoming election?

Are you familiar with the Supreme Court case Connick v. Thompson, or the more recent case SCOTUS agreed to review, Foster v. Humphrey?

Please don't mistake my argument for being "all prosecutors are bad" - that's not what I'm saying. I'm simply disagreeing with the idea that all prosecutors are benevolent, law-abiding actors.

Prosecutors might be abiding with the letter of the law but it is the spirit of justice that has been slaughtered.

US-style pre-trial plea bargaining is a cesspit that defeats a lot of core ideals of justice.

I agree, but my personal experience has little to do with my position. However, where I'm from the District Attorney (one person) is elected, with about another 300 or so actual career prosecutors with any number of motives, and perhaps I assume the best. Leaving aside specifics, I'm just trying to answer the question posted as to why prison population is up. And the voters, and the war on drugs and mandatory sentencing have a lot to do with it.

It's like getting Al Capone for tax evasion. Do you see his fellow tax cheats using him as an example of miscarriage of justice?

If we end the war on drugs, the war on violence and weapons will simply take its place.

That is a big part of the problem: US is one of the few countries where prosecuters are elected (???), and this is apparently not such a good idea...

Ta-Nahesi Coates also makes a good point about reducing the prison population:

"If by some feat of magic we returned to 1970 levels of incarceration, it’s not enough for me to see those levels reduced but still see a 5-to-1, 6-to-1, 7-to-1 black-to-white incarceration ratio. How do you get to a place where the black-to-white incarceration ratio is 1-to-1? That hasn't ever existed in post-slavery in America. It’s never happened. But if that’s what you want ultimately to happen, that’s a bigger conversation than imprisonment. It's a bigger conversation than drug laws."

I'm glad Rand Paul is talking about the problems of mass incarceration, which makes sense for anyone skeptical of a big government. But given the average GOP primary voter, I'm guessing he will stay quieter on that front.

I am guessing that anyone who understands the wildly disproportionate rates of criminality (e.g. homicides) in certain communities will keep very quiet.

Why is it a rational goal to demand to see a 1:1 Black-White incarceration ratio?

Disparate impact, of course. If more blacks are in prison for murder, it's time to rewrite the murder laws.

Note the last part of the quote "But if that’s what you want ultimately to happen, that’s a bigger conversation than imprisonment. It’s a bigger conversation than drug laws."

TNC is talking about a scenario where blacks and whites both have the same levels of criminality and there isn't a bias in the justice system.

What other goal than 1:1 would be rational?

What ratio is just?

>What other goal than 1:1 would be rational?

Wouldn't a rational goal be for the racial mix in prisons to be similar to the racial mix of society? That would be more like 1:5 than 1:1.

We aim for that ratio in demographics of everything from Rappers to Heart Surgeons?

I think that would be a 1:1 ratio. I thought TNC was talking about incarceration rates rather than absolute numbers though I could be mistaken.

Aaron:

Yeah, you're right. My mistake.

The best your justice system can hope to do is to make the racial mix in prison equal the racial mix committing the crimes. You might hope for social changes that get the racial mix committing the crimes to equal the racial mix in the population, and I assume that's what TNC is wishing for.

TNC has his flaws as a thinker, but I very much doubt he thinks it would be better to let black murderers and rapists and armed robbers loose rather than have blacks disproportionately in prison.

We must have racial equality at NFL starting cornerbacks!

"TNC has his flaws as a thinker, but I very much doubt he thinks it would be better to let black murderers and rapists and armed robbers loose rather than have blacks disproportionately in prison." - Albatross

"The incarceration rate for America is 750 per 100,000 or something like that. For black males it's like 4,000. It's ridiculous, this is unprecedented. It's a public policy disaster. I would immediately begin finding ways to get people out of prison.
And by the way I include violent criminals in that." - Ta-Nehisi Coates, at the Aspen Ideas Festival

TNC is an official Genius. Granted, he may seem like a hate-driven racist dimwit to objective observers, but he's got $625,000 that says he's a Genius. Do you?

What other goal than 1:1 would be rational?

0:0 ?

Trick question. Any ratio of whole numbers is rational, by definition.

Here's a rational goal, how about no one ever commits any crime?

Kind of hard when 13% of the population is responsible for over 53% of the murders. Similar stats for sexual assaults, violent crimes, etc.

Rational and Ta-Nehisi Coates are not compatible thoughts. He is a skillful writer, but *what he says* is bizarre and counter-logical.

Not that I don't get the idea of reaching toward that goal, but would anyone think reaching a 1:1 male female ratio is a desirable thing?

Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight website published a study showing that the homicide rates in the 60 biggest cities are up 16% so far in 2015 over the same January-to-early-August period in 2014, which they chose to be Before Ferguson.

That’s an additional 482 dead bodies this year, including 77 extra deaths in Baltimore and 51 in St. Louis, the main objects of the Eye of Soros. The majority of the incremental homicide victims are likely blacks murdered by other blacks for the usual knuckleheaded reasons.

Although very few of the murderers are likely to be readers of The Atlantic, T.N. Coates’ brand of radical chic may have played an indirect role in exacerbating 2015’s slaughter in the cities.

http://takimag.com/article/occams_rubber_room_steve_sailer/print#ixzz3n1ISa54B

They also point out that variations of that magnitude are fairly common year-to-year and within municipality. Basically what I got from that article is, "There's a lot of noise in violent crime data, especially when you look at single years (or parts of years) within single municipalities."

That's what they want you to take away, but the actual numbers show a shocking increase in homicides in the top 60 of 16%. If that trend through August 8, 2015 held up for the entire year, it would be the biggest one-year change, positive or negative, in big city homicides in over 30 years. Here are the graphs:

http://www.unz.com/isteve/how-big-would-a-16-increase-in-homicides-likely-be/

And here's graphing each of the 60 biggest changes for change in absolute number of homicides from 2014 to 2015:

http://www.unz.com/isteve/homicides-2015-v-2014-there-seems-to-be-a-trend/

It's heavily driven by Baltimore and St. Louis, but is still pretty clear elsewhere.

The FBI stats for 2014 are out; violent crime dropped again in 2014. http://www.vox.com/2015/9/28/9408567/crime-rate

When it comes to reasoning about statistics, comic book writer Ta-Nehisi Coates is America's foremost wielder of Arkham's Razor.

"...foremost wielder of Arkham’s Razor." LOL, I hadn't heard that one before.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/ArkhamsRazor

Ta-Nahesi Coates also makes a good point about

Ain't gonna happen.

You can get to a place where the probability of incarceration is 1 to 1. Withdraw police patrols from slum neighborhoods and never answer calls there. That way, the only blacks you collar are from the one-third or so of the black population who live in small concentrations in and among the general population and are not too different from their neighbors.

Sure, but there's no question that cutting the prison population in half (or even just 20%) would have enormous positive effects for the black community (and other minority groups), even if they were still disproportionately arrested/sentenced.

That depends on your assumptions. As an extreme case, imagine some ideal justice system where everyone in prison is there because they're a dangerous criminal, but blacks are disproportionately prisoners. Releasing half the prisoners will *not* be a positive thing for the black (or white) community, who will now have more dangerous criminals running around.

I'm not claiming that this is the situation we're in now, just that whether or not cutting that prison population would make things better or worse depends on a lot of other assumptions.

Richard Pryor thought the same thing, until he spent six weeks filming a movie at the Arizona State Pen, after which he concluded, "Thank God for penitentiaries!"

How would a return to 1970s levels of incarceration not reproduce 1970s levels of crime?

Or is that immaterial to the quest for equality?

Correlation versus causation? Perhaps there's other, more effective, ways to deter. We didn't have CCTV & GPS tracking for ankle bracelets in the 1970's. Neither do we have the rabid black panthers baying for violent revolution now.

"Neither do we have the rabid black panthers baying for violent revolution now."

Really? What is BLM then?

Then can you explain why US is basically the only first-world country with this ridiculous level of prison population, while at the same time the crime rates are higher than most first world countries? Isnt it ironic you guys like to call yourselves "the land of the free"? Should you guys change these slogan to "land of the free for white people with rich daddy"?

>land of the free for white people with rich daddy

Black immigrants have similar incarceration rates to white Americans. 1.3% of working-age whites incarcerated, 1.74% of immigrant blacks, 8.35% of American blacks. The way I see it, this is extremely strong evidence that skin colour is irrelevant to one's access to the "land of the free".

Actually, crime rates are much lower than many first world countries.

The incidence of rape is three times higher in Australia and twice as high in Sweden. Robbery is 15 times higher in Belgium. The burglary rate is twice as high in places like New Zealand, Denmark and Austria.

You're three times more likely to get assaulted in Germany and Finland.

The U.S. homicide rate is higher than most, yes, but strip away isolated fang violence in parts of Chicago, Detroit, Baltimore and some others and the U.S. murder rate in most of the country isn't that exciting.

Of course all this information is freely and easily acquired with a quick Google but, hey, why let critical thinking get in the way of knee jerk emoting.

Critical thinking means, you should look at rape data with caution. If they use the same criteria in US than in Sweden, probably you will find something very different. Or you think for example Saudi Arabia and US rape statistics would be comparable? No way... Same for the other statistics... I also like your way of "critical thinking"... So you just minimize the homicide rate problem, which is at least one of the most important statistics? I also like the "you know just a few isolated areas are bad". So you think in Sweden or Canada or whatever, most of the crime is not concentrated in very bad neighbourhoods in big cities?

So your response is hand-waving away the official statistics? What exactly are you basing your conslusion on?

Cliff: do you really believe that Belgium has 2x more assaults that OECD average and almost last place in the pack, but has at the same time a homicide rate which is far below average? Sounds weird...You have to look at the numbers critically... Homicide rate should be the most reliable/comparable statistic, with other statistics, definitions could change between countries so they are probably not as reliable. The number about rape in Sweden is one of the best examples. In conclusion, if you take these statistics as they are US is apparently in the middle of the pack, but has by far the harshest penal system. However as said before this is even before considering the murder rate....

I don't really see why not to believe it other than your gut feeling, which I do not have. I imagine the lack of guns may be a big factor in the lack of homicides and also the large numbers of robberies and burglaries. I have spent some time in Belgium and I imagine Brussels has its fair share of crime.

"So your response is hand-waving away the official statistics? What exactly are you basing your conslusion on?"

I think MK is going with the theory, that the US is inherently bad. Any statistics supporting this theory are correct, but any statistics that don't support this theory are obviously incorrect.

The statistics for intentional homicide are about the most directly comparable. It is pretty much always recorded and the definition is pretty consistent across much of the world. For most other offences there is a substantial and varying rate of under reporting and major differences in definition. The intentional homicide stats have a far lower noise level than other crime stats.

One pity of internet message boards is that they lack the quiet snorts and laughs and head-shaking that instantly identify folly in a regular room of human beings.

Here's a map of the homicide rate in the USA and Canada:

http://www.unitednorthamerica.org/images//MurderRate2007.jpg

Rape rates (and the rates associated with some other crimes) cannot reliably be compared across countries due to differing definitions and police procedures. See this BBC article: http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-19592372

Moreno Klaus:

There's a huge confounder in the US vs other countries w.r.t. homicide, though, because it's much easier to get a gun here than most other countries, and it's much easier to kill someone if you have a gun rather than a knife or club or something.

Americans have lots of guns so they have more homicides and fewer home invasions.

Because the US has been the only first world country to have huge levels of (certain) minorities on its territory that don't assimilate to Western European behavioral norms. I can reasonably predict that you will not become more like W. Europe in incarceration rates and violence, but that W. Europe will become more like you. Hooray for races to the bottom?

Why do you think it is that the African American population hasn't managed to assimilate to Western European behavioral norms?

Roughly 30% are not that much different from the rest of the population. For another 20%, differences are found in manners and social signals in select circumstances. For another 30% or so, you have that and some very different patterns of social interaction (such as the modal household type being a mother, children, and a succession of men of varying degrees of transiency). Chronic dependency and rampant criminality is really characteristic of maybe 15% to 20%. There is a great deal of similarity on either side of the color bar (as well as differences).

Historically, racial inequality was due to racial discrimination on the part of white Americans. On the margins, that's going to push some people down the ladder and into the criminal underclass.

However, it's pretty clear that anti-black racism is receding and has been receding for a century. Every decade, white people are less racist than the decade before.

If the racial gaps were solely caused by white racism, we should see improvements in the black community as racism recedes. If we aren't seeing that and conditions are actually getting worse in the black community, we need another explanation.

Suggestion: try not to enslave / exterminate people next time?

Okay, next time I won't?

No one was 'exterminated' except in the mind of traders in historical fiction. As for slavery, that was not an innovation of Renaissance or Early Modern Europe.

This from a guy calling himself Moreno Klaus.

I am not saying that Europe is better, but you can not isolate the "huge levels of (certain) minorities on its territory that don’t assimilate to Western European behavioral norms" from slavery and what pretty much happened until like 1960's, and/or from what you did to native americans (same in South America no?). Also see the case of gipsies in Europe...

Crime rates are higher, ergo prison rates are higher. That seems pretty obvious. If the crime rate was lower, the prison pop would be lower.

With more criminals locked up, prosecutors finally have more time on their hands to prosecute rather than just make plea bargains.

If you want to understand what's really behind the headlines and op-eds in 2015, you need to read Tom Wolfe's 1987 magnum opus, The Bonfire of the Vanities. Here's Kramer, the Bronx assistant D.A.:

"Every assistant D.A. in the Bronx, from the youngest Italian just out of St. John's Law School to the oldest Irish bureau chief, who would be somebody like Bernie Fitzgibbon, who was forty-two, shared Captain Ahab's mania for the Great White Defendant. For a start, it was not pleasant to go through life telling yourself, "What I do for a living is, I pack blacks and Latins off to jail." ... It wasn't that it was morally wrong ... It was that it was in bad taste. So it made the boys uneasy, this eternal prosecution of the blacks and Latins.

"Not that they weren't guilty. One thing Kramer had learned within two weeks as an assistant D.A. in the Bronx was that 95 percent of the defendants who got as far as the indictment stage, perhaps 98 percent, were truly guilty. The caseload was so overwhelming, you didn't waste time trying to bring the marginal cases forward, unless the press was on your back. They hauled in guilt by the ton, the blue-and-orange vans out there on Walton Avenue. But the poor bastards behind the wire mesh barely deserved the term criminal if by criminal you had in mind the romantic notion of someone who has a goal and seeks to achieve it through some desperate way outside the law. No, they were simple-minded incompetents, most of them, and they did unbelievably stupid, vile things."

http://isteve.blogspot.com/2013/07/tom-wolfe-explains-zimmerman-case.html

@SS - so you cite fiction to source your facts? You've crossed over to Hunter S. Thompson territory.

You're flailing, Ray.

Check the graph on p. 64 of the LSE report at http://www.lse.ac.uk/ideas/publications/reports/pdf/lse-ideas-drugs-report-final-web.pdf

I think it is the best graphical representation of mass incarceration in the USA. Very damning, even though it only covers up to 1980, and rates have risen further since then.

There is no such thing as 'mass incarceration'. It's a buzz word used by frauds who wish to replace punishment with social work.

The fact that you don't like the word doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

It is a highly effective word at representing the current situation in the USA.

It's the distinction between felony and misdemeanor that results in longer sentences (indeed, any sentence at all), for the sentence for the commission of a felony is at least one year (typically longer) in state prison whereas the sentence for the commission of a misdemeanor is less than one year in the local jail. While local jail is no picnic, the incentives (for both the prisoner and the state/local government) are vastly different. Moreover, the long-term consequences for conviction of a felony (such as ability to find employment) are much worse and may encourage more criminal behavior and more incarceration.

"You will note that district attorneys are relatively politically independent at this level." Not so, as most local prosecutors are elected and being perceived as tough on crime is usually how they get elected and, more importantly, re-elected.

Yes, that line rang false for me, too, for the reasons you outline.

"politically independent" is a term of art, it means the office holder is autonomous, only responsible to the people.

The Ohio Attorney general is a constitutional office, directly elected so politically independent. The US attorney general is not.

The sentence for a felony can be no jail at all. The sentence for misdemeanors can be up to a year. Depends on specifics. But a felony has permanent consequences that a misdemeanor does not; e.g. you are banned from working in (probably any company even doing major business with) the financial industry, banned from owning a gun, etc. Arguably in many cases it is better to be jailed for a year and charged with misdemeanors than charged with a felony with no jail.

"We have seen what the true measure of crimes is--namely, the harm done to society." Beccaria, "On Crimes and Punishment".

How is a physical dispute between two free individuals, a bar altercation, for instance, a "harm done to society"? Society is made up of many smaller groups with very different standards. Most would agree that the accepted standards of society among Appalachian coal miners might be a little different than that of US Supreme Court Justices. Yet the morality of the miners is deemed inferior and subservient to that of the court. Why should that be? The miners have their own code of conduct and their own methods of prosecuting its violation. Why should elected officials, who are in the main members of the legal profession, decide the rules for segments of society that they don't understand and to which they do not belong?

An amusing example of that was the Supreme Court's 2005 decision outlawing a policy California prisons adopted in 1979 of assigning new prisoners a same-race cellmate for the first couple of months while prison officials investigated whether the new prisoner belonged to racist gangs with a tradition of raping and murdering prisoners of other races. In the majority opinion striking this prudent policy down, the 84-year-old Justice Stevens proclaimed:

"... the policy is based on racial stereotypes and outmoded fears about the dangers of racial integration. This Court should give no credence to such cynical, reflexive conclusions about race. ... [I]ntegrated cells encourage inmates to gain valuable cross-racial experiences…"

Yeah, I know, that sounds like a line from a particularly over-the-top episode of "South Park," but that's an honest-to-God Supreme Court ruling.

Justice Thomas, in his dissent, pointed out: "Yet two Terms ago, in upholding the University of Michigan Law School's affirmative-action program, this Court deferred to the judgment by the law school's faculty and administrators on their need for diversity in the student body… Deference would seem all the more war­ranted in the prison context, for whatever the Court knows of administering educational institutions, it knows much less about administering penal ones."

http://www.vdare.com/articles/scotus-segregation-worse-than-interracial-homosexual-rape

Robert Bork years ago offered that Stevens, in his observation (knowing him personally), is a man whose patterns of socializing leave him in psychological bubble he never leaves.

I'm sure Bork has a much broader social circle. I bet he kicks it in the hood with regularity.

Um, Bork died in 2012.

Because members of those smaller groups commit crimes against those outside of their own small group.

"How is a physical dispute between two free individuals, a bar altercation, for instance, a “harm done to society”?"

We punish a "bar altercation" so the losers of bar altercations do not seek private revenge.

OUT FOR JUSTICE (1991): Steven Seagal's Pool Hall Brawl --> lol, 'you knocked out my teeth!'

How is a physical dispute between two free individuals, a bar altercation, for instance, a “harm done to society”?

This is a ridiculous question. On what basis do you assume that a typical bar altercation results from two individuals deciding voluntarily to get into a fight, rather than there being an aggressor?

The miners have their own code of conduct and their own methods of prosecuting its violation. Why should elected officials, who are in the main members of the legal profession, decide the rules for segments of society that they don’t understand and to which they do not belong?

Because the miners' code victimizes some members of their community and makes physical strength, rather than any notion of justice or fairness, the basis of society?

Even if it were entirely voluntary, haven't we outlawed duels almost 200 years ago?

Do we need to revisit these precedents? I doubt it.

+1 Respect seems very important to some sub-groups of males.

I'd be a whole lot more interested if one person in the USA, just one, went to gaol for their part in the global financial crisis.

Cue "It wasn't the bankers' fault that they had to lend to our dusky brethren who didn't pay back."

What crimes did they commit?

The administration sign off on a non-prosecution agreement with the GSEs because they were misrepresenting subprime loans. There were numerous criminal fraud charges on the table. As a result of that agreement, the percentage of subprimes held by the GSEs went from a small fraction to an overwhelming majority.

"There were numerous criminal fraud charges on the table."

If they could have gotten convictions, they would have prosecuted.

The extension of subprime loans fell to minimum frequency after 2005 and the interest rate resets were largely complete by the end of 2008. Subprime loans held by the mortgage maws today are likely to be from the portion thereof which are paying off or to be in foreclosure proceedings.

In 2002, the late James Q. Wilson summed up a lifetime of quantitatively studying crime in America:

A central problem—perhaps the central problem—in improving the relationship between white and black Americans is the difference in racial crime rates. No matter how innocent or guilty a stranger may be, he carries with him in public the burdens or benefits of his group identity...

Estimating the crime rates of racial groups is, of course, difficult because we only know the arrest rate. If police are more (or less) likely to arrest a criminal of a given race, the arrest rate will overstate (or understate) the true crime rate. To examine this problem, researchers have compared the rate at which criminal victims report (in the National Crime Victimization Survey, or NCVS) the racial identity of whoever robbed or assaulted them with the rate at which the police arrest robbers or assaulters of different races.

Regardless of whether the victim is black or white, there are no significant differences between victim reports and police arrests. This suggests that, though racism may exist in policing (as in all other aspects of American life), racism cannot explain the overall black arrest rate. The arrest rate, thus, is a reasonably good proxy for the crime rate.

Black men commit murders at a rate about eight times greater than that for white men. This disparity is not new; it has existed for well over a century. When historian Roger Lane studied murder rates in Philadelphia, he found that since 1839 the black rate has been much higher than the white rate. This gap existed long before the invention of television, the wide distribution of hand guns, or access to dangerous drugs (except for alcohol).

America is a violent nation. The estimated homicide rate in this country, excluding all those committed by blacks, is over three times higher than the homicide rate for the other six major industrial nations. But whatever causes white Americans to kill other people, it causes black Americans to kill others at a much higher rate.

Of course the average African American male is not likely to kill anybody.

During the 1980s and early 1990s, fewer than one out of every 2,000 black men would kill a person in any year, and most of their victims were other blacks.

Though for young black men homicide is the leading cause of death, the chances of the average white person’s being killed by a black are very small. But the chances of being hit by lightning are also very small, and yet we leave high ground during a thunderstorm.

However low the absolute risk, the relative risk—relative, that is, to the chances of being killed by a white—is high, and this fact changes everything.

When whites walk down the street, they are more nervous when they encounter a black man than when they encounter a white one. When blacks walk down the street, they are more likely than whites to be stopped and questioned by a police officer...

The differences in the racial rates for property crimes, though smaller than those for violent offenses, are still substantial. The estimated rate at which black men commit burglary is three times higher than it is for white men; for rape, it is five times higher. The difference between blacks and whites with respect to crime, and especially violent crime, has, I think, done more to impede racial amity than any other factor. Pure racism—that is, a visceral dislike of another person because of his skin color—has always existed. It is less common today than it once was, but it persists and no doubt explains part of our racial standoff.

But pure racism once stigmatized other racial minorities who have today largely overcome that burden. When I grew up in California, the Chinese and Japanese were not only physically distinctive, but they were also viewed with deep suspicion by whites.

For many decades, Chinese testimony was not accepted in California courts, an Alien Land Law discouraged Asian land purchases, the Chinese Exclusion Act (not repealed until 1943) prevented Chinese immigration, and a Gentlemen’s Agreement, signed in 1907, required Japan to cut back sharply on passports issued to Japanese who wished to emigrate to California. When World War II began, the Japanese were sent to relocation camps at great personal cost to them.

Yet today Californians of Asian ancestry are viewed by Caucasians with comfort and even pride. In spite of their distinctive physical features, no one crosses the street to avoid a Chinese or Japanese youth. One obvious reason is that they have remarkably low crime rates.

http://isteve.blogspot.com/2013/06/james-q-wilson-on-race-and-violent-crime.html

Steve,

I wonder if you have an opinion about why the Americas in general are so violent relative to the rest of the world. Why are there so many murders in Mexico and Brazil? Those aren't poor countries. The Caribbean also seems extremely violent relative to income. Of all the countries in the Americas it seems like only Canada manages to achieve European-ish homicide rates. The only explanation that jumps out at me is that it is fallout from the Atlantic slave trade and the centuries of racial oppression that followed. If racial oppression leads to criminality then that also explains how South Africa can be the wealthiest country in Africa and yet also have the highest murder rate. Maybe in poor countries with weaker government something like jim crow or apartheid might lead to civil war and that doesn't get counted in homicide stats, whereas in wealthier countries civil war is prevented but violence just smolders on for decades.

There is no racial oppression in this country. What there is is neglect of public services and bad tax policy in slum neighborhoods. You can fix that. Recall, though, in fixing that, you will get no credit from opinion leaders therein other than a few outliers like Floyd Flake and Herman Badillo, and the attitude of the opinion leaders percolates to the rank and file. And, of course, the social worker / school administrator / mental-health-trade sector will despise you because you've made them look like ineffectual nincompoops.

Some people have found a nice correlation between perceived inequality and violence among young males. In poor young male fantasies crime money is the only alternative to get women. It is stupid, but no one has told these guys that being nice and don't hit her are much more important that being rich. This may explain why drug/crime money even if increases communities net income does not reduce violence. Drug syndicates are one the most income unequal organizations on Earth. It doesn't matter if the stereotypical drug lord with big hearth pays for a new school or even gives money directly to poor people. Violence comes from young males that want to be at the top, nothing less.

Young people desperation is also reinforced by religious societies. Healthy young people having sex is too busy and happy to commit crimes, but this is not the case of Latin America with Catholic background.

You've gotten pretty much everything backward here. Check your work

It is stupid, but no one has told these guys that being nice and don’t hit her are much more important that being rich.

I wonder where this mass delusion comes from?

/sarc

Sorry Axa, but your post does not make much sense, especially the last paragraph.... Do you know even the slightest bit about latin-american people?

I just know a little bit about Latin-American people. Religious guilt is mainstream. Teens with 3 kids does not signal a happy sexual life. Middle class Latin-Americans have some kind of inferiority complex and always act defensive when confronted with facts as % of people living with less $4 PPP USD a day or homicide rates. Questions like "Do you know even the slightest bit about latin-american people?" are common then followed by a rant at how developed is the region and how people does not ride burros and make fiesta all day. Latin Americans believe that by saying "look how well me, my family and my friends live"......poverty, violence and environmental problems in the region are solved.

However, I may be wrong. Perhaps Latin-America is not mainly Catholic and perhaps the Catholic Church is sex positive meaning they favor sex education and how contraceptives work..

I would argue that South Africa's homicide rate is more due to the breakdown of government than "oppression" per se. During the early days of apartheid the murder rate was quite low. SA today combines a mostly African population with Western style lenience toward crime, with predictable results. One interesting thing about the murder rate in SA is that it is apparently highest not among the Blacks but among the Coloureds.

Latin America does have a higher murder rate than you would expect based on IQ or wealth. Anatoly Karlin suggested that alcohol and machismo are the reasons:

http://www.unz.com/akarlin/agriculture-alcohol-and-alphas/

Homicide rates in Mexico and among Mexican-Americans go up and down strikingly in response to circumstances.

Historically, African-American homicide rates spiked with two major drug fads -- power cocaine in 1980 and crack cocaine in about 1988-1994. But the bigger reality is that African-Americans kill each other in large numbers all the time for a host of not very impressive reasons. The Los Angeles Times' homicide reporter in South Central, Jill Leovy, published a major book earlier this year, Ghettoside, on murder in Los Angeles. She isn't particularly impressed with the idea that drug legalization would make South Central law abiding:

"The smallest ghettoside spat seemed to escalate to violence, as if absent law, people were left with no other means of bringing a dispute to a close. Debts and competition over goods and women—especially women—drove many killings. But insults, snitching, drunken antics, and the classic—unwanted party guests—also were common homicide motives. Small conflicts divided people into hostile camps and triggered lasting feuds. Every grudge seemed to harbor explosive potential. It would ignite when antagonists met by chance, gunfire erupting in streets or liquor stores."

http://takimag.com/article/wasted_advantages_steve_sailer/print#ixzz3n6NTQ6xz

"I wonder if you have an opinion about why the Americas in general are so violent relative to the rest of the world." American whites have lower rates of some crimes than British whites, such as drunken brawling and home invasions, but the country as a whole has an extremely high rate of homicide compared to northwestern Europe. The main reasons for high homicide rates in America are so obvious that lots of people get upset when you mention them:

1. Lots of guns - 9 figures of guns in America mean that violence tends to be more lethal than in Europe

2. Lots of blacks -- according to federal Bureau of Justice Statistics in 2011, the 1/8th of the population that is black made up 52% of homicide offenders from 1980 through 2008.

Obviously, there are interaction effects between 2 and 1: a lot of normally law-abiding people in America own guns due to the high level of black criminality. Occasionally they kill their family or friends with these guns in arguments or drunken fooling around.

Similarly, Mexicans in heavily black South Central Los Angeles have traditionally had high rates of homicide, while Mexicans in cities with few blacks, such as El Paso, often have much lower rates of homicide. In other words, Mexican relative homicide rates tend to be situational and instrumental, while African American homicide rates are generally high across time and space.

There's always a huge effort among pundits in America to deny African Americans agency, to concoct Arkham's Razor rationalizations for why it's not their fault they do what they do. But Occam's Razor suggests that African Americans are less the victims of specific, highly mutable circumstances, than prime movers.

Lool at "its all the blacks fault" ...this is beyond idiotic...

"Penrose's Law states that the population size of prisons and psychiatric hospitals are inversely related"

Society closed the mental hospitals in the 1960s because these hospitals were not much better than prisons and in many cases the practices at these hospitals were basically torture.

The problem was that we didn't think about the second order impacts of releasing tens of thousands of lunatics into the general population.

That description seems accurate to me. There seems to be competing moral and medical theories of lots of things. Things like Drug addiction and obesity. Could crime also have these competing theories?

http://liveatthewitchtrials.blogspot.co.uk/2015/09/penroses-law.html

Perhaps having surveillance cameras in (nearly) every private enterprise in the country might be having something to do with it.

Also, let's not forget cell phones keeping record of people's locations and a ledger of many of their social interactions.

And DNA testing which seems to be considered to make someones guilt be an open and shut case by prosecutors, judges and juries

"You will note that district attorneys are relatively politically independent at this level."

But they're prepping for the next level, and the traditional harsh, take-no-prisoners approach is a tried-and-true route to a political career for ambitious prosecutors.

"The next level" is state attorney-general. Not many get there.

There are 62 district attorneys at any one time in New York and I believe they have a mean tenure of about 9 years. You've had hundreds of DAs in New York since 1955, but there have been only eight state attorneys-general over a period of 60 years, and not all of them were DAs. The only quondam prosecutors among our governors in that time were Elliot Spitzer (aka Client Number 9) and Andrew Cuomo. Neither was ever an elected DA and Cuomo only spent 18 months as a staff prosecutor. A couple of U.S. Senators from New York over the last 70 years worked as prosecutors, but none were elected DAs. You have some lapsed prosecutors among members of Congress, but very few who were elected DAs; there was one fellow from Niagara County ca. 1960 and one from Oneida County about ten years ago, and that may be it. If you're a district attorney in New York, your destination north of 95% of the time will be private practice or the state judiciary.

Why would someone report the state prison population, but ignore the federal prison population? Might Pfaff be trying to downplay the importance of drug crimes? What percentage of federal prisoners are in prison for drug crimes?

https://www.bop.gov/about/statistics/statistics_inmate_offenses.jsp

Now reread this:

"But just letting people out of prison—decarcerating drug offenders—will not reduce the prison population by as much as people think. If you released every person in prison on a drug charge today, our state prison population would drop from about 1.5 million to 1.2 million. So we’d still be the world’s largest incarcerating country; we’d still have an enormous prison population."

Very clever.

When I see people do that sort of thing I basically just stop reading, I know they cannot be trusted, even if this particular example of deception only has modest effects on the total percentage.

Maybe because releasing 94,134 federal inmates on drug charges still wouldn't prevent us from being the world's largest incarcerating country.

Did Scott just look at the percentage column and not the number column? heh

Because the federal prison census amounts to only 11% of the total. The share incarcerated on drug crimes might be 15% in the state census and 20% in the sum of the two.

If Americans don't like being jailed, maybe they should stop commiting crimes.

White people seem to think this way frequently. If you don't want a cop to shoot you, don't run from him, silly negro!

If black folks set up a town with an aggressively enforced speed trap, and the slightest hint of disobedience were met with tasers and beatings, I would love to hear the law-and-order types then.

Why did black people move to that town if it was so terrible and racist. The place had been 99% white in 1970.

There are solutions: http://www.theonion.com/graphic/tips-for-being-an-unarmed-black-teen-36697

If you did nothing wrong, you (statistically) have nothing to fear. If America were not such a violent country, there would not be that much arrests. Ultimately cops are protecting Americans from themselves.

honkie please September 28, 2015 at 12:53 pm

White people seem to think this way frequently. If you don’t want a cop to shoot you, don’t run from him, silly negro!

Funny enough, Black people seem to think this way too. See Chris Rock et al

If black folks set up a town with an aggressively enforced speed trap, and the slightest hint of disobedience were met with tasers and beatings, I would love to hear the law-and-order types then.

They have. It is called Detroit. Where beatings, torture and shootings by police have gone up enormously since the 1960s. Black politicians got elected complaining about police officers' brutality. They created a much more brutal society.

But here's the point - no one cares. When Blacks do horrible things to other Blacks, no one cares. At least no one is willing to comment because they might be accused of racism. Whatever is going to happen in Ferguson, it will involve more arbitrary fines and more beatings.

I always enjoy your comments, but you're missing something fundamental here. Chris Rock offers a practical response to an unfavorable circumstance. If you think Chris Rock believes he gets a fair shake from the cops, listen to more Chris Rock.

Id say Chris rocks opinion on running from the police is definitely more in the direction of you are asking for it.

If I recall the punch line was "if the police have to come and get your ass they are bringing a beating with them." There is no excuse for running from police. I don't think that's arguable.

I wonder if there's a link between compulsory population register in Europe and low criminality. Psychologists have reported that people behave more honestly when feel observed. After living in Europe for a while, I can tell that population registry and other government actions makes me feel observed indeed.

I know population registry is anathema to the vision of liberty in the US. But, perhaps it's time to look for alternatives to guns and blacks.

Very interesting idea. I never thought about it this way. An argument against this theory might be that there's not really a resident registration in the UK but the British crime rates still look like the ones of continental Europe (as far as I remember).

Incarceration rates stay the same as arrests diminish but prosecutions increase. Could it be that DAs measure their output by number of prosecutions, in addition to the conviction ratio?
That's one of the reasons because I'm really distrustful of elected official, especially in law enforcement.

A fallout of dignity culture? If I'm not challenging you to a duel, I'm calling the cops.

Policing as we see it only goes back to the early mid 1800s. It wouldn't be unsurprising to see society still adapting to what is too much, and what is too little. Toss in cultural mixes, and voila, zero tolerance and carceration.

I read this interview when it came out in February 2015 and liked it a lot. Great to see it here.

"Keep in mind that some in prison on drug charges are actually violent offenders who did a plea bargain down to a drug charge."

This is exactly right. I discussed this with Scott Sumner a few day ago (based on the interview) but he didn't buy it.

If it's mainly due to DAs decisions, I wonder how much of that is a cohort effect. Maybe the 1990s selected for tough prosecutors?

I've gone through 84 comments. I saw two worthwhile points being made. This is also an area where American race politics gets mixed in pretty heavily, so I hesitated to comment myself.

The first was about DAs at the local and state level usually being elected in the US, one those areas where US practice differs from the norm in other countries. No one brought up the election of judges, which not only differs from international norms but is outright crazy. I realize that if you go before a state or local judge, your case will probably be handled by a career prosecutor hired by the elected DA, but the point still is that they all work for the elected DA and follow his/ her policies. One thing I've never seen is a study as to whether the usually elected local prosecutors, and the appointed federal prosecutors, approaches these things differently. I'm genuinely unsure how much of a difference election of local prosecutors makes, but its worth doing more research on.

By the way, one government department should advise on the selection of judges, and a completely separate government department select and supervise prosecutors and the police.

The other valid point is that increased surveillance, which is well documented, has probably resulted in more convictions and more people in prisons. One thing people didn't bring up (this used to be a libertarian blog) was that there are alot of laws in the US. Its not just minor drug offenses. Increase surveillance and the power of police, and not prune the legal code of obsolete and stupid laws but actually start enforcing them, and you can get tons of people thrown into prison. Then have employers and government agencies not hire anyone convicted of a felony (or in some cases of a misdemeanor) and add to the fun!

which not only differs from international norms but is outright crazy.

Outright crazy only to people unfamiliar with the conduct of federal judges from time to time.

One thing people didn’t bring up (this used to be a libertarian blog) was that there are alot of laws in the US. Its not just minor drug offenses. Increase surveillance and the power of police, and not prune the legal code of obsolete and stupid laws but actually start enforcing them -

Complain to Congress about the federal penal code. In New York, you have a few cruddy little provisions that have been added in recent decades ("blah blah blah within 500 feet of a school"), but the amendments to the definitions in the penal code have generally concerned challenging problems that were unusual or poorly addressed in 1970 (e.g. cybercrime, child pornography, racketeering, money laundering, pirating of intellectual property).

Drug cases are easy, proof of possession and the amount determines the crime. Probably a 99% conviction rate. I've never heard of any public backlash for failing to obtain a conviction on drugs, and I don't think the top prosecutors in a d.a. office are handling drug cases. The complex matters, and the ones that will have far more risk of public blowback are murders, rapes and other crimes of violence. The D.A. will appoint the top assistant to handle these. If I were to look for political influence it would be in those types of cases, not the routine, administrative contraband cases.

On the judges, it might be important that they tend to have background in the prosecutor's office, but that is true of federally appointed judges as well.

So what do other countries do and why is it better

Have Judge school?

Have Judges take tests?

Have Judge apprenticeships

Have Judges elect other Judges?

Have bureaucrat pick Judges?

Have politicians pick Judges?

Randomly pick them out of the phone book?

Judge's used to be appointed by elected officials.

I was stunned beyond belief when I learned that many judges in the USA are elected.

Since most people aren't particularly rational about punishment, it seems like a recipe for unjust sentences which are "too long", and the penal code also makes this easy.

Since most people aren’t particularly rational about punishment,

You're not in a position to be evaluating anyone else's 'rationality'.

Basic principle of justice: you want an impartial judge.

When a judge is elected, it is more difficult for him/her to be impartial. The next election is looming after all.

This reduces the level of rationality in the application of justice, pushing in somewhat in the direction to the preferences of the mob (normally I prefer to have more respect for common people than this, but "mob justice" is a well worn phrase, and thankfully we tend to have judges to play the part of carefully considered rational thought.

Half-baked thought:

What role has the rise of the computer played in increasing incarceration rates? I imagine that from 1994 to 2008, DA's offices (like the rest of the country) saw a substantial rise in the amount of paperwork that was accomplished with computers, and I also imagine that filing felony charges requires a lot of paperwork.

Could it be that the rate of felonies charged increased in part because it was just easier for DA's offices to process the charges? I have no experience in DA's offices, but it seems possible to me.

Consider:

What entity bears the costs of trying and incarceration. Non-felonies usually fall to the localities; felonies to the State (or federal) further away from local taxpayers.

Go take a look at the current Cato Unbound. Several good observations

"Keep in mind that some in prison on drug charges are actually violent offenders ..."

The awkward thing is "violent offenders" covers a wide range---pushing and shoving, minor fights and poor anger management, bogus charges meant to assert authority or force a plea bargain, robbery, gang violence, rape and sadism, and just really vile stuff.

Note in some jurisdictions what may be closer to resisting arrest can only be prosecuted as "assault on a police officer" (e.g. DC.). This can mean merely tensing up so the officer can't get the cuffs on.

Americans are too violent to have normal incarceration rates. There is not much that can be done.

I dont want to believe that and I dont believe that. I think the causes lie elsewhere: the gun lobby, war on drugs, history of opressed minority (If you think about it some of these characteristics are also present in Brazil, except that Brazil has the extreme inequality and poverty, which the US does not have to such a high degree). But i dont think they are inherently violent. No people is inherently violent.

"No people is inherently violent."

Disagree, people are inherently violent. It is only through civilization (domestication) and incentives that people have become less violent.

I think he means that no people is specially prefisposed to violence and violence can be explained by social conditions, incentives and the like.

Thank you Thiago

"No people is inherently violent."
Biologically, you mean? Probably not, but check it with Steve Sailer if you want. But culturally? It is obvious that American culture is inherently violent.
The Brazilian case and the American one are completely different. On one hand you have a fully functional state, capable, willing and ready to fight as many expensive wars in the antipodes as necessarily, backed by a state-of-war vigilence apparatus (people know they will be punished, as they are being in record levels, but they are too violent to help themselves). On the other hand, you have a weakened and impovereshed country where crimes are seldom solved and the State has lostalmost all ability to control the population. Since the last quarter of the 19 th Century, after a desperate survival effort to repel the Paraguayan invader and the indebtedness it brought about, the country has suffered successive crises. Moreover Brazil , as we know it now, is basically a rump state after losing the Cisplatine Province and the French Guyana after the Napoleonic Wars. Meanwhile the USA was expanding into the West and into Mexico. Instead of having to fight for survival, it had the luxury of fighting for conquest. In fact, in face of the state breakdown, Brazilians show a remarkable, commendable restrain.American society would not last a week under such conditions.
American violence levels are unheard of among developed countries even in much less policed societies.

Thiago Ribeiro September 28, 2015 at 3:44 pm

On the other hand, you have a weakened and impovereshed country where crimes are seldom solved and the State has lostalmost all ability to control the population.

Lost the ability? You mean it does not care to exercise control over the sub-classes? The Brazilian government is not poor and it does not lack for people able to read and write and work for the government. What it lacks is the slightest desire to police itself. All the government needs to do is keep the good neighborhoods safe and leave the underclass to themselves. Which is pretty much what they do. If they chose otherwise, well, they are probably better placed than America in 1919 to police their own country.

Since the last quarter of the 19 th Century, after a desperate survival effort to repel the Paraguayan invader and the indebtedness it brought about, the country has suffered successive crises.

Tremble in fear at little Paraguay. More accurately, the Brazilian upper class has seen its task to loot the state of all it can. Which means that the government is always teetering on the edge of bankruptcy and general incompetence. These crises are entirely self inflicted.

Moreover Brazil , as we know it now, is basically a rump state after losing the Cisplatine Province and the French Guyana after the Napoleonic Wars.

I am sure that everyone here really enjoyed hearing how the largest country in Latin America and the fifth largest country in the world is really a poor impoverished little rump state. Portugal negotiated a good deal with the Pope and the Spanish and so got more land they knew what to do with. They did not like it and made a serious effort to pretend they were still in Europe. Brazilians continue this tradition of being indifferent to the massive territory they have, clustering on the coast, looking with fondness and nostalgia across the Atlantic. They would not know what to do with a tiny sliver of more land even if they got it.

Instead of having to fight for survival, it had the luxury of fighting for conquest.

Competent people make other countries miserable. Incompetent people make their own people miserable. That is not the fault of the competent people.

Brazil is what Brazilians make it.

Which means that the government is always teetering on the edge of bankruptcy and general incompetence.

Brazil's external debt is just north of 22% of gross national income and the service charges amount to about 6% of export revenue. The Central government's budget deficit amounts to 0.6% of gross domestic product and public sector debt amounts to 59% of gdp. They're doing all right.

Yes but don't look at where Brazil has been in the last decade. Look where it has been in the last hundred years.

America educated a generation of competent, Anglo-Saxon-style politicians. With the help of the IMF they forced Brazil out of its normal state of chaos and incompetence on to the path of Protestant fiscal rectitude. What was odd was that Lula agreed with that and went along with it. He did not go over to the usual Latin populist clown show.

So right now Brazil is doing rather well.

But Lula's successors, well, they were not educated in the US and they show every sign of going back to the Three Ring Circus tradition.

1) "Tremble in fear at little Paraguay."
The same could be said of the Empire of Japan, some naked islets which never had the resources America has, or Vietnam. The Paraguayan regime, whose surprise attack when the two countries were still negotiating a peace treaty started the war, subjected everything else to Lopez's burning desire of being the South American Napoleon. Even after the capital fell, Brazil still had to waste treasure and lives fighting an insurgency (the difference being that Brazil, unlike the USA finished the job instead of selling out its allies--by the way, how are your Hmong friends faring in communist Laos?--well, I guess it is true what they say: "a competent people makes..."). Paraguay only surrendered after losing no less than half its male population--probably more (to be sure, it was a different time, firebombing and machine-gunning civilians into surrender was not then as fashionable as Americans would eventually make it. The 19 th Century was a somewhat "incompetent"century, I guess.
2) "Competent people make other countries miserable."
It is a shame Roosevel wasted the opportunity to write that in the Atlantic Charter. Stalin surely would have been on board much more easily.
3) "Portugal negotiated a good deal with the Pope."
It is almost as if Portugal had pioneered the Age of Discoveries.
4) " They would not know what to do with a tiny sliver of more land even if they got it."
Or with what they have now, right? Unfortunately Brazil does not border the USA. Othrwise, God's negligence would have been righted by now, right? What could have been!
While the USA spent a century robbing its neighbours, Brazil's Empire lost its richest provinces and spent the entire century trying to prevent Barbarian hordes from taking the rest. The military effort was too much, it sharpened the contradictions of the regime and brought it down, precipitating the country in a series of civil wars and crises which impoverished it.
5) "You mean it does not care to exercise control over the sub-classes?"
It does not have the resources to fight an enemy which melts in the background. As the Vietnam adventure should have made you understand, an enemy that has the luxury of mixing with the civilian population is basically invencible. Trying to control the underclass would be almost as amazingly useless as supplying the American soldiers in Nam with Coke (a logistics prodigy for sure) was. The state does not have the resources rooting the enemy out demands.

"America educated a generation of competent, Anglo-Saxon-style politicians."
Are you sure you are not thinking of Chile? If there are such people in Brazil they must be part of some kind of clandestine movement. For what is worth, Mr. Lula studied trade unionism in the USA.
"Yes but don’t look at where Brazil has been in the last decade (...) right now Brazil is doing rather well."
An entire country saved in a decade despite those pesky Brazilians! Maybe you should train some Greek union leaders.

Thiago Ribeiro September 28, 2015 at 8:26 pm

The same could be said of the Empire of Japan, some naked islets which never had the resources America has, or Vietnam.

Japan has a population of 125 million. It is absurd to compare it to Paraguay with a modern population of 7 million. The same could not be said. It is utterly ridiculous to claim Brazil's development has been held up by tiny little Paraguay. Whose population might have been half a million at the time.

(to be sure, it was a different time, firebombing and machine-gunning civilians into surrender was not then as fashionable as Americans would eventually make it. The 19 th Century was a somewhat “incompetent”century, I guess.

Looting the capital and every other Paraguayan town was then fashionable. I expect Brazil made a profit on the looting of tiny little Paraguay. They were still paying off the debt they owed to Brazil in 1943 when Vargas cancelled it.

90% of the male population died and you are complaining about American war crimes? How did so many women and children die? You think the Brazilian Army was not slaughtering them? What percentage of the population of South Vietnam died?

Or with what they have now, right?

Exactly. I notice Brazil is not rushing to give back those parts of Paraguay they took.

While the USA spent a century robbing its neighbours, Brazil’s Empire lost its richest provinces and spent the entire century trying to prevent Barbarian hordes from taking the rest.

No it did not. The richest provinces were the slave provinces in the north and then the quasi-industrialized states in the south-east coast. In between it was the mining regions. None of which was remotely threatened except by other Brazilians.

It does not have the resources to fight an enemy which melts in the background.

It chooses not to pay. Brazil is rich and policemen cost little. But no one cares what working class Brazilians suffer.

As the Vietnam adventure should have made you understand, an enemy that has the luxury of mixing with the civilian population is basically invencible.

That is rubbish on so many levels it is laughable. Brazil did win in Paraguay after all. Brazil also won against its own Communists. It is just that they do not care to enforce the law - only to protect the property of the rich. Although when it matters, as with the Olympics or the World Cup, suddenly they are able to.

Americans never had to fight for the survival of their nation, only for conquest. If the USA, instead of bordering peaceful Canada--that the USA tried to conquer-- and harmless Mexico-- that the USA robbed-- had spent its existence surrounded by hostile powers, it is doubtful it would had survived, let alone prospered. The southern (even today, the most prosperous and developed region of the country) and eastern territories were constantly under threat of invasion, protecting them was a financial drain America never had to experience. Brazil had to fight in its own territory (what America never did since the 1812 War skirmishes), driving away
a fanaticized enemy bent on domination and destruction. And the so-called Uruguay and the so-called French Guyana, the Empire's most promising provinces, which were taken from us, are even today richer than Brazil. America never had to lose its richest territories. Quite the opposite: when Americans saw that selling tobacco was not a ticket to the riches, they stole Mexican soil (they will end up having to give it back as the "Reconquista", but it was a good run). After a traumatic but victorious war, the Empire kept its pre-war policy (the same policy that had led Brazil to help Paraguay to build its military in the first place) of benevolence and friendship and not only refused to conquer Paraguay, but prevented the Argentinians (who suddenly remembered they were scheduled to be fighting that war too) from doing it. Now Brazil was burdened with protecting its Paraguayan neighbors.
"90% of the male population died and you are complaining about American war crimes?"
Paraguayan males died in battle (they were the most greatest warriors ever to exist this side of the Thermopylae pass)--, their totalitarian regime even sent kids to fight just like their Nazi counterparts did-- not as victims of a deliberate decision of murdering civilians like happened in Germany, Japan or Vietnam. Even as it fought an insurgency, the Empire never decided to "destroy villages to save them" as Americans used to do in Vietnam. As Caxias, the military leader, explained to the Parliament, the Empire did its best to protect the human rights of civilian populations and war prisioners. There was no Abu Ghraib in Paraguay, and Brazil's army were much less inclined to take advantage of the enemy's women than American soldiers are to take advantge of their allies' children. https://www.google.com.br/search?q=marine+japan+rape&oq=marine+japan+rape&aqs=chrome..69i57j0l2.4389j0j4&client=tablet-android-samsung&sourceid=chrome-mobile&ie=UTF-8 It is beyond my comprehension why Americans do such things.
"Brazil is rich and policemen cost little. But no one cares what working class Brazilians suffer."
Brazil's per capita GDP is about one-fifth of the USA's, but please don't let the facts get in your way. Anyway, São Paulo State Police alone is bigger than any American Continent military but two (the USA's and Colombia's), it is almost as big as France's military. So what? Evidently warm bodies are cheap--specially if you can conscript segregated blacks, but never mind-, but it did not help in Nam, did it? What is necessary is intel work, and this only a country in the top of is game can do. Suffice to say that the USA, the richest country mankind has ever seen, can't solve one-third of its homicides (more than half in Washington DC). This fact, more than anything else, explains America's anormal levels of violence. How an impoverished country which was almost wiped out by the debt crisis and is only now recovering from the effects of external war and civil wars can deal with a difficult expensive problem that Americans themselves can not solve even after centuries plundering the world?
"They were still paying off the debt they owed to Brazil in 1943 when Vargas cancelled it."
Well, they were clearly taking their time if a century later they still had not payed it in full.
"Brazil also won against its own Communists."
A big army of a dictatorship, backed by the USA, managed to not be defeated by a ragtag insurgency of disaffected intellectuals with little economic means, no popular support and.which probably did less harm against a dictatorship than the Japanese Red Army, the Red Brigades and the Baader-Meinhoff did against democracies. General President Figueiredo confessed that Brazil could not deal with a larger military challenge--the Araguaya Guerrilla never had more than 200 city dilettantes playing rural guerrila and it took years, gross violations of human rights of both the civilian population and the fighters and more than 10000 soldiers to erradicate it. Evidently if we fight such a war against other Brazilians-- the ones who have some community support, have the drug trade to fund them and know the territory, crime statistics will be the least of our problems--as pickpockets would have been a minor nuisance while Rome was burning (did togas have pockets?).
"Brazil did win in Paraguay after all."
After being on the verge of collapse and having fought a total war a foreign power imposed on us, Brazil won. It is not clear which lessons you want to draw from it. Maybe this is the solution for crime in the USA: firebombing Fergusson and nuking Detroit. After all, it worked in Japan and now American marines can enjoy the peace dividend in Okinawa.
"Although when it matters, as with the Olympics or the World Cup, suddenly they are able to. "
Or the RIO-92 when the city was patroled by Army tanks--why don't you try it in Detroit? Military occupation is all fun. Even then, Brazil did not exactly become Japan.

Look where it has been in the last hundred years.

Brazil has never suffered a civil war of any description, and manumitted its slaves without one. It has never in the post-colonial period had to suppress an insurrection of any size, just some terrorism ca. 1969. Its political life has never been infected with short-term caudillos; there have been four breaches of institutional continuity: the fall of the monarchy (1889), the advent of Vargas (1930), the fall of Vargas (1945), and the advent of the military regime (1964). The only breach of pluralistic electoral politics over the last seventy years was during the first half of the military regime (1964-73). Bracketing out natural resource rents and the abnormal allocation to the most affluent decile, the general standard of living as delineated by real per capita income is roughly similar to that of the United States ca. 1942. They have a disagreeable history of mercantilism, a poorly integrated labor market, and high crime rates. These problems can be addressed. They've addressed other intractable problems.

Thiago Ribeiro September 29, 2015 at 9:50 am

Americans never had to fight for the survival of their nation, only for conquest.

Let's see - War of Independence, 1812, Civil War. That makes about three times as many wars for survival than Brazil has fought.

and harmless Mexico– that the USA robbed

A lot bigger than harmless Paraguay which Brazil robbed.

had spent its existence surrounded by hostile powers,

America's neighbors were and are a lot more hostile than Brazil's.

Brazil had to fight in its own territory (what America never did since the 1812 War skirmishes), driving away a fanaticized enemy bent on domination and destruction.

Tremble at the wrath of Paraguay! The casualties in the Civil War amount to more than the entire population of Paraguay at the time. If Brazil was ever running scared of the Mouse that roared, it is because they were and are so incompetent.

And the so-called Uruguay and the so-called French Guyana, the Empire’s most promising provinces, which were taken from us, are even today richer than Brazil.

They are richer because they are not run by Brazilians. They were not richer then. As I see you acknowledge by saying they were "most promising".

America never had to lose its richest territories.

Nor has Brazil.

After a traumatic but victorious war, the Empire kept its pre-war policy (the same policy that had led Brazil to help Paraguay to build its military in the first place) of benevolence and friendship and not only refused to conquer Paraguay, but prevented the Argentinians (who suddenly remembered they were scheduled to be fighting that war too) from doing it.

But not extorting reparations from little Paraguay for the next 100 years. Brazil did not decide not to conquer Paraguay. It decided not to have Argentina as a neighbor. As that might involve real fighting. So they turned down the Argentinian suggestion to partition the little country.

Now Brazil was burdened with protecting its Paraguayan neighbors.

The burden of slaughtering half the population. So noble of Brazil!

Paraguayan males died in battle

Little children too? How did half the women die?

As Caxias, the military leader, explained to the Parliament, the Empire did its best to protect the human rights of civilian populations and war prisioners.

Of course he said that to Parliament. Lying about human rights abuses is a Latin American standard. I dimly remember the military saying the same even as they were torturing the now President.

There was no Abu Ghraib in Paraguay

No that would be too organized.

and Brazil’s army were much less inclined to take advantage of the enemy’s women than American soldiers are to take advantge of their allies’ children.

The majority of the population of Paraguay is said to be descendents of Brazilian soldier rapists.

Brazil’s per capita GDP is about one-fifth of the USA’s, but please don’t let the facts get in your way.

So it is. So what? America was properly policed when it was one fifth poorer. Because they chose to be. Brazil chose otherwise.

Anyway, São Paulo State Police alone is bigger than any American Continent military but two (the USA’s and Colombia’s), it is almost as big as France’s military. So what?

So what? They are incompetent and corrupt.

What is necessary is intel work, and this only a country in the top of is game can do.

Because asking witnesses what they saw is too much work.

How an impoverished country which was almost wiped out by the debt crisis and is only now recovering from the effects of external war and civil wars can deal with a difficult expensive problem that Americans themselves can not solve even after centuries plundering the world?

Poor little Brazil still suffering from being paid for a war over a century ago? The poor dears. They can deal with it by actually doing it. Police work is not expensive. It is just boring.

Well, they were clearly taking their time if a century later they still had not payed it in full.

Well Brazil had stolen everything of value. So it was hard to pay off.

After being on the verge of collapse and having fought a total war a foreign power imposed on us, Brazil won. It is not clear which lessons you want to draw from it.

That Brazil is stunningly incompetent?

why don’t you try it in Detroit? Military occupation is all fun. Even then, Brazil did not exactly become Japan.

I am sure people will get around to it. No Brazil did not. Because those tanks were full of Brazilians. As were the streets.

"Let’s see – War of Independence, 1812, Civil War. That makes about three times as many wars for survival than Brazil has fought."
You forgot at least two wars against the so-called Uruguay, at least one major war against Argentina and the constant burden of defending a region so constantly engulfed in war that Brazilian writer Erico Verissimo called it a small Sparta, not to mention the 1891 Civil War, the Prestes uprising in 1924 (São Paulo, Brazil's richest city had to be bombed) and the Constitutionalist rebellion in 1932.
"America’s neighbors were and are a lot more hostile than Brazil’s."
Ha ha ha! I am pretty sure they are invading to violently pick your tomatoes and lettuces and roof your house. And we are all expecting the big Canadian invasion.
"Tremble at the wrath of Paraguay! The casualties in the Civil War amount to more than the entire population of Paraguay at the time."
Apparently there were much more Americans than Paraguayans then --or Brazilians, by the way. No one said the world is perfect.
"They are richer because they are not run by Brazilians. They were not richer then. As I see you acknowledge by saying they were “most promising”."
Brazil's southernmost states are basically as rich as the so-called Uruguay is, so it is not clear why you think it would languish under Brazilian rule.
"'America never had to lose its richest territories.'
Nor has Brazil."
Yes, it did.
"Brazil did not decide not to conquer Paraguay. It decided not to have Argentina as a neighbor. As that might involve real fighting. So they turned down the Argentinian suggestion to partition the little country."
As far as I know, the Argentines already are our neighbors-- there went the neighborhood. If Brazil did not keep the Argentinian beast in check all the subcontinent would have been eaten up a long time ago.
"The burden of slaughtering half the population. So noble of Brazil!"
They probably were quietly praying when Brazil decided an unwanted war was a wonderful opportunity to waste lives and run into debt and invaded itself.
"Little children too? How did half the women die?"
Lopez, much as his German and Japanese counterparts, did not refrain from sending children fight his battles.. In Acosta Ñu, Paraguay fielded an army of children. What you wanted Brazil to do? Surrender? Did the Allies surrender? But don't cry for Paraguay, they got a holiday out of it, so it was for the best. As for the women, even if half of them dead is a gross exageration, Lopez himself provided the answer ("I die with my country"). Exactly how do expect them to survived their country, whose every single redource was wasted in a lost cause.
Unlike military dictators backed by the USA, Caxias, a politician as well as an officer, had to face a free press and a bold-not to mention legal- parlamentary opposition. He faced accusations of incompetence, corruption and human rights violations and was not only cleared of all charges, but five years after the end of the war, in a particularly hard time for the Empire, he was ordered to form a new cabinet-the third and last time he led the government. I have no idea why a democratic government would engage in war crimes or its people pusillanmously remain silent while those crimes are commited in its name. Do you have any insight as an American?
"No that would be too organized."
No wonder the Nazis worked with the IBM, no one ever was fired for buying an IBM. And no one wants those cattle cars being late, they had better run on time.
"The majority of the population of Paraguay is said to be descendents of Brazilian soldier rapists."
Paraguayans can believe that if it makes them feel better about themselves, but such upgrade of the native stock never took place outside the usual blood libels against Brazilians.
"So what? America was properly policed when it was one fifth poorer. Because they chose to be. Brazil chose otherwise."
It is a wonder the USA now spend so much in crime fighting. After all, you just need some flintlock muskets, a nickel to buy beer and a horse.
"So what? They are incompetent and corrupt."
I thought the problem was the lack of cheap cops, now apparently it is a surfeit of them. Some people just can not be pleased.
"Because asking witnesses what they saw is too much work."
Regardless what you may have seen on TV, it may be a liitle more complicated than that. If it were just a matter of sending Columbo to ask witnesses, one-third of all homicides in the USA would not remain unsolved.
"Poor little Brazil still suffering from being paid for a war over a century ago? The poor dears."
The last debt crisis was a parting gift from the military regime America backed since day one because apparently making Latin America safe for dictatorships was the way to save the world from communism and keep America safe for Democracy. I hope it was worth it. You are welcome.
"Well Brazil had stolen everything of value. So it was hard to pay off."
I wonder if something ever will go wrong that South American caudillos and strongmen-and their foreign apologists- won't blame on Brazil. Stoking the Anti-Brazilian flames is the number one trick of the local demagogue. Even after enslaving his own people,trying to conquer Brazil and Argentina and launching a total war that destroyed Paraguay, Lopez still is a Paraguayan hero-as much as Uncle Joe is for a certain kind of Russian-, whose cult was carefully stimulated by another good American friend and democrstic icon, Stroessner. I guess when American recipes fail, Brazilians make as good expiatory goats as anyone.
"No Brazil did not. Because those tanks were full of Brazilians. As were the streets"
I really don't understand why you hate us so much.

FFS, we've literally found a gene that makes people much more violent.

No people is inherently violent.

Then how come people have teeth perfectly suited for ripping flesh off of bone? Did God want them to have those kind of teeth instead of broad, flat teeth like many other animals have?

There may have been many human-like tribes that were not violent- they got pummeled. Humans are immensely violent. Please make a note of it.

If you read the whole post, you would see that i was pointing at the social/cultural conditions as the greatest driver of violence. But i dont think (except for born-sociopaths) that men are "born violent". Obviously you can not prove this, but this is my belief.

OK I'll take a swing.

If the premise is true, perhaps information technology, cameras, snooping, biggish data, etc makes it easier to convict criminals. So the percentage of arrests that go to trial and result in convictions is higher.

It's probably true that the IT revolution makes it worse to be a criminal or an adulterer, or anything else you would prefer others not to know about.

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