Not Going Postal

Dueling declined as state capacity, measured by post offices, expanded:

Abstract: Scholars have long tried to understand the conditions under which actors choose to use violent versus non-violent means to settle disputes, and many argue that violence is more likely in weakly-institutionalized settings. Yet, there is little evidence showing that increases in state capacity lowers the use of violent informal institutions to resolve disputes. Utilizing a novel dataset of violence — specifically, duels — across American states in the 19th Century, we use the spread of federal post offices as an identification strategy to investigate the importance of state capacity for the incidence of violent dispute resolution. We find that post office density is a strong, consistent, and negative predictor of dueling behavior. Our evidence contributes to a burgeoning literature on the importance of state capacity for development outcomes.

Hat tip: Kevin Lewis.


In America, even postal workers are criminals...

I love my postal carrier. Rain, nor snow, nor dark of night can keep him from bringing me bills.

Shocking news from the world of science: ". . . violence is more likely in weakly-institutionalized settings." Because in strongly-institutionalized settings the state has the monopoly on weapons and violence.

Yet, American postal workers commit crimes.
I can not imagine Brazilian postal workers commiting crimes.

The US Postal service has long had poor leadership and abuse of employees. Postmaster positions are largely patronage for incompetent people. The Merit Systems Protection Board is famously corrupt with employees almost never winning their cases. But the USPS also tends to hire a lot of slack jawed, knuckle dragging cro magnons barely capable of reading. It is a recipe made for conflict.

So the American system is driving common citizens to crime. I can not imagine it happening here.

I hear if you lick certain toads it can assist with a lack of imagination.

I don't lack imagination. Mynpoint is, it can not happen in Brazil.

Have you looked lately at the crime rates in Brazil? You make Chicago look peaceful.

No, In Brazil the postal workers don't commit crimes, the police do. Leave it to Thiago "Everything is an opportunity to denigrate America and lift up Brazil despite all evidence" Ribiero to somehow come to the conclusion postal workers committing crimes is somehow preferable to a corrupt police force in thrall to organized crime.

It is a lie. President Captain Bolsonaro hads vowed to take control of the situation. Crime in Brazil is illegal, and very rare. The police are there to punish criminals, they are not the criminaks. My point is that it is not so simple.

'to investigate the importance of state capacity for the incidence of violent dispute resolution'

Wonder how they handled dueling in DC? By banning them, of course - in 1839, after the death of a congressman at the hands of another.

And yet, dueling seems to have been something of a fashion - 'Duels of honor, fought primarily between noblemen, were an extralegal means to defend one’s honor against personal insults. These duels were governed by codes, the most famous of which is the Code Duello, a list of 26 rules drafted in 1777 by Irish duelers. An American version of the code was drafted in 1838 by South Carolina Gov. John Lyde Wilson.

Under the code, a duel was negotiated through companions of the two duelers, known as “seconds.” The offended party would issue a challenge; the challenger could either apologize or accept a duel using the weapon of his choice (usually pistols, but swords were also allowed).

In America, duels were most prevalent in the South, particularly among upper-class gentlemen. Men who were challenged to a duel were expected to accept; those who refused faced public embarrassment. One South Carolina general, recalling a duel in his youth, remarked, “Well I never did clearly understand what it was about, but you know it was a time when all gentlemen fought.”

Even those who opposed dueling, such as Sam Houston, Henry Clay and Alexander Hamiliton, participated in duels due in large part to the social pressure. “For a man who wanted a political future, walking away from a challenge may not have seemed a plausible option,” writes Ross Drake in Smithsonian Magazine.'

'We find that post office density is a strong, consistent, and negative predictor of dueling behavior'

Who knew that Bladensburg was poorly by post offices? Or possibly, the existence of another facility was more important - 'Bladensburg Dueling Grounds is a small spit of land, a fraction of its original size, along Dueling Creek, formerly in the town of Bladensburg, Maryland, and now within the town of Colmar Manor, just to the northeast of Washington, D.C., United States. Dueling Creek, formerly known as '"Blood Run" and "The Dark and Bloody Grounds", is a tributary of the Anacostia River, which was formerly, called the East Branch Potomac River.

From 1808 the grove witnessed approximately fifty duels by gentlemen, military officers, and politicians, settling "affairs of honor". A formalized set of rules and etiquette, the code duello was usually enforced by the duelers and their seconds. The exact number of duels and the names of all the participants who fought at Bladensburg may never be known because surviving records are obscure, the events are not well documented - and dueling was illegal.

Following the Civil War, dueling fell out of favor as a means of settling personal grievances and declined rapidly; the last known duel was fought here in 1868.'

The article further speculates why dueling fell out of fashion after the Civil War - oddly, state capacity does not seem to be considered in light of all the blood shed during the Civil War and the destruction of the class most attracted to using duels to settle matters of honor.

I suppose the proliferation of anti-duelling laws had nothing to do with it.

We have plenty of "post offices" in the most violent neighborhoods in America. Violence is caused by the degradation of moral values, education, fear of punishment and respect for authority.

Such is life innTrump's America.

Their argument seems to be that where you have post offices, you also have police stations and courts and particularly police stations and courts with the capacity to enforce the law.

Why exactly they do not measure the prevalence of police stations and courts themselves, I do not know.

It is an instrumental variables approach. Police stations would be correlated with violence, so they needed an instrument that is positively correlated with state capacity but with orthogonal errors. Also, not too many police stations in rural 19th century America and the judicial system consisted of Circuit judges making rounds.

There probably isn't enough violence scattered through present-day society. People would behave much better if they knew that they might undergo extreme pain in a matter of seconds if they were impolite to a stranger or dishonest in a transaction.

We probably redirect a lot of inter-tribal violence via sports and overseas ideological police actions.

"the conditions under which actors choose to use violent versus non-violent means to settle disputes": a good historical case involved the pacification of the Debatable Land on the Scottish/English border after the Union of Crowns.

The government of England under James I arrested many of the murderous Graham clan and expelled them to Ireland. The government of Scotland under James VI arrested many of the murderous Armstrong clan and hanged them.

It worked.

They didn't kill us all. We're all over East Tennessee and, eventually, we'll be back.

James was VI before he was I, so interesting that he started off (as VI) killing them and then as King James I of England exiling them. Did he become more lenient over time or were there advantages to inflicting the miscreants on Ireland?

I figured that dueling went out of favor correlated with the enhanced accuracy of firearms. Coinciding with approximately the time period when officers stopped leading troops in charges.

This particular abstract seems to beg one to measure it against the recent set of articles from the ASA regarding the use of p as a criteria for concluding any relationship based on given statistic summary metrics.

The importance of "tribal" institutions like honor are going to be inversely proportional to the importance of state institutions

Ain't that the truth.

David Brin made this point 35 years ago.

(The movie of The Postman is legendarily bad, but the book is quite good.)

I thought the movie was about as good as it could be at the time. The more older films I watch, the more I realize how bad they were.

You're also taking the instrument too literally.

How about the correlation of violence and the presence of HUD?

Ah! I figured out what dueling and post offices had got rattling around in my head. If you've a very good friend like Mr. Snodgrass, you may be assured that no postman or peace officer will stand in the way of satisfying the claims of honor!:

'I want your assistance, my dear fellow, in an affair of honour,’ said Mr. Winkle.

‘You shall have it,’ replied Mr. Snodgrass, clasping his friend’s hand.

‘With a doctor—Doctor Slammer, of the 97th,’ said Mr. Winkle, wishing to make the matter appear as solemn as possible; ‘an affair with an officer, seconded by another officer, at sunset this evening, in a lonely field beyond Fort Pitt.’

‘I will attend you,’ said Mr. Snodgrass.

He was astonished, but by no means dismayed. It is extraordinary how cool any party but the principal can be in such cases. Mr. Winkle had forgotten this. He had judged of his friend’s feelings by his own.

‘The consequences may be dreadful,’ said Mr. Winkle.

‘I hope not,’ said Mr. Snodgrass.

‘The doctor, I believe, is a very good shot,’ said Mr. Winkle.

‘Most of these military men are,’ observed Mr. Snodgrass calmly; ‘but so are you, ain’t you?’

Mr. Winkle replied in the affirmative; and perceiving that he had not alarmed his companion sufficiently, changed his ground.

‘Snodgrass,’ he said, in a voice tremulous with emotion, ‘if I fall, you will find in a packet which I shall place in your hands a note for my—for my father.’

This attack was a failure also. Mr. Snodgrass was affected, but he undertook the delivery of the note as readily as if he had been a twopenny postman.

‘If I fall,’ said Mr. Winkle, ‘or if the doctor falls, you, my dear friend, will be tried as an accessory before the fact. Shall I involve my friend in transportation—possibly for life!’

Mr. Snodgrass winced a little at this, but his heroism was invincible. ‘In the cause of friendship,’ he fervently exclaimed, ‘I would brave all dangers.’

How Mr. Winkle cursed his companion’s devoted friendship internally, as they walked silently along, side by side, for some minutes, each immersed in his own meditations! The morning was wearing away; he grew desperate.

‘Snodgrass,’ he said, stopping suddenly, ‘do not let me be balked in this matter—do not give information to the local authorities—do not obtain the assistance of several peace officers, to take either me or Doctor Slammer, of the 97th Regiment, at present quartered in Chatham Barracks, into custody, and thus prevent this duel!—I say, do not.’

Mr. Snodgrass seized his friend’s hand warmly, as he enthusiastically replied, ‘Not for worlds!’

A thrill passed over Mr. Winkle’s frame as the conviction that he had nothing to hope from his friend’s fears, and that he was destined to become an animated target, rushed forcibly upon him.

Without having read the entire paper, I would be worried that the arrival of post offices occurred along with major changes in society and technology. Guns developed rifled barrels around this time, making them far more accurate, and therefore duels more deadly. Communications exploded. People moved to cities. A civil war was fought. The 'honor' code of rural life seemed to be fading on its own.

I wonder if you could find the same correlation with duels and other major cultural and technological changes going on at the time? Why assume that the post office was a proxy for more effective government, rather than for, say, the speed of communications or newfound mobility of the population or any number of other things?

And it seems to me that a correlation between dueling and post offices 150 years ago actually doesn't contribute that much to the current literature on the importance of the state in developmental economics.

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