Lieutenant Lohr, a Nashville-born former Texan and father of three with an Army-style buzz cut, is one of the commanders overseeing security at the Ferguson police station. He never wears riot gear, even when he wades into a group of protesters to answer questions, resolve disputes or listen to a stream of insults. Protesters at the gates ask for him by name, so they can make complaints, for example, about the use of tear gas or of officers being too aggressive in arresting a woman.
From every bad situation come plenty of opportunities to be introspective and to learn. Lieutenant Lohr sets a great example for others to follow. Leaders create trust, and with trust, communities and teams have a fair chance at stability and growth.
Let’s step away from the specific facts in this one case, because it’s not about just one case.
Justice is still a work in process in America. According to the WSJ, “Prison sentences of black men were nearly 20% longer than those of white men for similar crimes in recent years, an analysis by the U.S. Sentencing Commission found.” If you’re interested in dozens of similar statistics, see the article “If Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, and Michael Brown Were White, Would the Tea Party Declare Tyranny?” from the Huffington Post.
But why? The rhetoric in the press & from our elected officials is irresponsible at best, misleading and fear-mongering at worse. Take the former mayor of NYC, Rudy Giuliani:
“I think just as much, if not more, responsibility is on the black community to reduce the reason why the police officers are assigned in such large numbers to the black community,” He added: “It’s because blacks commit murder eight times more per capita than any other group in our society.” (Atlantic)
How irresponsible and inflammatory from a man who almost surely knows better. Worth about $45M, 70 years old, NYU educated lawyer, who presided over a around 60% decline in crime rates in NYC as Mayor. This makes it sound like blackness itself causes crimes. But we know better. It’s the economy, stupid!
Income inequality has become increasingly the norm, especially since monetary policy has become a major growth driver (we left the gold standard in the 70s and haven’t looked back).
The results were unambiguous: when income inequality was higher, so was the rate of homicide. Income inequality alone explained 74% of the variance in murder rates and half of the aggravated assaults. However, social capital had an even stronger association and, by itself, accounted for 82% of homicides and 61% of assaults. Other factors such as unemployment, poverty, or number of high school graduates were only weakly associated and alcohol consumption had no connection to violent crime at all. (ThinkProgress)
Let’s not kid ourselves that communism is the answer. That’s a red herring. This isn’t about redistribution and actually having net worths the same. No, it’s about having improvements in wealth levels be shared by the entire workforce. The American dream coming true (or not). About having communities that are whole, where families stay together and parents have time to take care of their kids’ emotional well-being.
If the interpretation from social capital is correct, it suggests that building relationships through our schools, labor unions, farmers’ markets, and gun ranges, at City Hall and the State House, or active participation in our churches, temples, and mosques, can ultimately make us all more secure. … Remarkably, this kind of social activism is the single most important factor associated with reduced violence for any neighborhood in the world. (Scientific American)
My point is that the two are related: income inequality is directly linked to social capital. When you’re poor and working three jobs, do you really have time to shop at a farmer’s market, volunteer at school, and take up a hobby? Or you’re long-term unemployed and discouraged. Or you’re hungry and tired. Or maybe you’re uneducated. Or you don’t have an interest in contributing to the community.
Some circles are making a big deal of rioting and looting in Ferguson, MO. Do we think very low income, low education white folks would behave any better, if they felt trampled on?
But I’m surprised there aren’t more riots in America. If you set aside the top 10% of income earners in the US, real incomes have increased by a mere $59 since 1966 (vs 2011). That’s absolutely outrageous, given productivity levels have jumped in that time.
“In 2011 the average AGI of the vast majority fell to $30,437 per taxpayer, its lowest level since 1966 when measured in 2011 dollars. The vast majority averaged a mere $59 more in 2011 than in 1966. For the top 10 percent, by the same measures, average income rose by $116,071 to $254,864, an increase of 84 percent over 1966.” (Tax Analysts)
People must be aware they are getting a raw deal, yet they are still willing to stick with one of the two parties that are, together, responsible for how our government works today.
I still absolutely believe that those who take risks and build companies, who add jobs, deserve to be rewarded handsomely.
(to be continued)
PS: What about guns?
In a follow-up study in 2001 Kawachi looked specifically at firearm prevalence and social capital among U.S. states. The results showed that when social capital and community involvement declined, gun ownership increased (see Figure 3).
Kawachi points out that it is impossible to prove whether one factor caused the other, but the most reasonable interpretation is that people who don’t trust their neighbors are more likely to think guns will provide security. In this way the number of guns and the number of homicides both stem from the same root, suggesting that guns don’t cause murders anymore than cars cause fatal accidents. This was also the conclusion of a policy paper conducted by the London-based Centre for Economic Policy Research in 2005 that found no support for the argument that more guns cause more homicides. “The appearance of such an effect in past research,” wrote the authors, “appears to be the product of methodological flaws.” Unfortunately, gun control may not save us after all. (Scientific American)