What’s Wrong with the World

The men signed of the cross of Christ go gaily in the dark.


What’s Wrong with the World is dedicated to the defense of what remains of Christendom, the civilization made by the men of the Cross of Christ. Athwart two hostile Powers we stand: the Jihad and Liberalism...read more

Cato Bound

For some reason, the supposedly libertarian (or is that "liberaltarian," now?) Cato Unbound website has been hosting a discussion of this truly sad & feeble essay by Brown University's Glenn Loury:

A Nation of Jailers.

Prof. Loury is upset because so many people are incarcerated in America, today - and, especially, because so many of them are black.

A phenomenon which he blames on...

...wait for it...

...well? Are you sure that you can handle the sheer gutsiness & originality of his position? for, if you're not sure, dear reader, you must forbear to read any further...

...I mean, I wouldn't want to give anybody heart palpitations, or anything...

...OK, you've been warned, here it comes:



As I've already observed over in Will Wilkinson's comments, the really sad thing about Loury's piece is that there are still people who find this sort of thing "fascinating" and "hard-hitting" (check out the track-backs at Cato Unbound) when, in fact, it is simply the latest iteration of what has been the conventional liberal wisdom on African-American crime rates for at least 40 years now - conventional liberal wisdom that has dictated an endless series of policy failures.

Whereas the right's race-blind "lock'em up" approach is the only thing that actually seems to have achieved its avowed goal here, - i.e., reducing crime rates.

* * * * *

Oh, and while I'm repeating stuff that I already said over at WW's, there's also this:

Loury makes only very brief mention of his own experiences with the criminal justice system.

In case anybody's interested, here are some of the details:

"...assault charges were brought against him by a twenty-three-year-old Smith graduate, who-unbeknownst to Loury's second wife, Linda, an economic, professor at Tufts-had been living at his expense in a Boston apartment. The telephone was registered under his name; local papers called it a 'love nest.' The woman who showed up in court wearing a neck brace, accused him of dragging her down four flights of stairs, shredding her clothes, and throwing her books and papers out the window. (The charges were eventually dropped.) Then, in late November, he was arrested for possession of marijuana and cocaine. On searching his car, police found a home-made pipe. A local reporter chanced on the arrest while reading the police blotter, and within days the story had been picked up across the country. Loury was again in the news, this time with potentially career-stopping headlines. As court dates and drug buys swirled around him, Loury was emerging as exactly the kind of person he had warned black America to avoid: a violent, irresponsible, drug-using womanizer who put his own pleasure above the demands of his career and the needs of his family."

Shortly thereafter, Loury "pulled a Colson," so to speak, and got "born again":

"...religion...has become increasingly important to him since 1989, when he was 'born again.' After a life spent relishing the twin pleasures of personal hedonism and professional success, Loury says, he has found more authentic fulfillment through faith even as he has discovered a profoundly illiberal truth: 'My pursuit of personal freedom-my constant quest to be free of constraint, to be unfettered-has been the source of much of my unhappiness.' Only religion, Loury contends, provides the emphasis on work and character which is so desperately needed in America's ghettos. To synthesize the best of black nationalism and Christian morality, he has proposed a hybrid that he calls Christian Nationalism..."

The New Yorker, 5/1/1995

Comments (11)

What kind of homemade pipe? In the car, I mean.

This is so pathetic. I often wonder what they would say if someone pointed out what a disproportionately high number of men there are in prison. And on death row, too. On what are we to blame this? Perhaps anti-male bias in society? The legacy of feminism, perhaps?

Lydia, how indiscreet of you to mention the gigantic dog that never seems to bark, here: the disproportion of male to female crime rates.

When I was in graduate school I first saw talk of so-called "profiling" in police work, an article in some popular magazine or other weeping and wailing about the "disproportionate" number of blacks arrested for particular crimes, with _no discussion at all_ of whether a disproportionate number of blacks _really committed_ such crimes. It was just taken as outrageous on its face that a disproportionate number should be arrested. I huffed into the office of my thesis adviser--a patient, gentlemanly, and very conservative Southerner who had to put up with my rants on a regular basis--told him about the article, and said, "What _is_ this? A bag limit??" But of course, now I gather police really do have to observe something very much like bag limits. Which is scandalous.

Loury is no longer a Christian, or a theist, I don't think:

It was also around this time that Loury repudiated his religious beliefs. He had many long, searching conversations about his growing doubt with his Christian mentors and friends. He found it increasingly difficult to reconcile his religious beliefs with his faith in rationality and science. But the breaking point came with the death of a bright young woman who had worked as an administrative assistant in his office at Boston University. It had taken her into her thirties to finish college, and she was now pursuing her dream to go to law school. She'd had a wildly successful first year at BU's law school and had made law review when she died, suddenly, of a freak heart infection.

"I'm devastated by the tragedy of this young woman's death," Loury says, describing his feelings at the time. "Don't tell me that this is God's work and he knows better than me. You're just fooling yourself. You're afraid to look down in the abyss." He is still haunted by the image of the young woman's mother, at the funeral, smiling because God must have loved her daughter so much to take her away. "And basically I haven't been back to church since. There was no going back from that."

See Brown Alumni Magazine, "A Nation of Jailers", at http://www.brownalumnimagazine.com/features/a_nation_of_jailers_1934.html

Thanks, Bobcat - I'd missed that. Obviously, Loury is an even deeper thinker than I had realized.

It sure is a bit rich for a guy who, while a professor at Harvard, (i.e., about as UN-marginalized as you can get), cheated on his wife, beat up his mistress, and spiraled down into drug abuse to proceed to go around lecturing people about how high black crime rates are a product of the marginalization of blacks by racist whites.

Maybe there's a case to be made for that position - but he's probably not the man for the job.

Tsk, tsk, Steve, you forgot to insert "allegedly" in two places there. :-) :-)


In case you haven't seen it, our buddy Steve Sailer also commented on Loury's "insight".

I wrote Steve when I saw his post on Loury, to let him know about an excellent article in the latest Claremont Review of Books about this very topic. I don't think it is out of school to reprint Steve's response to me:

"Thanks. Good article.

That’s what I said in my 1999 Slate.com debate with Steven Levitt over his abortion-cut-crime theory:

Why, then, is this generation born in 1975 to 1979 now committing relatively fewer crimes as it ages? It makes no sense to give the credit to abortion, which so catastrophically failed to keep them on the straight and narrow when they were juveniles. Instead, the most obvious explanation is the ups and downs of the crack business, which first drove violent crime up in the late '80s and early '90s, then drove it down in the mid and late '90s. That's why the crime rate has fallen fastest exactly where it had previously grown fastest as a result of crack--in the biggest cities (e.g., New York) and among young black males. This generation born right after legalization is better behaved today in part because so many of its bad apples are now confined to prisons, wheelchairs, and coffins. For example, over the last two decades the U.S. has doubled the number of black males in prison, to nearly 1 million.

More encouragingly, the biggest decline in murder from 1993 to 1997 was among the newest generation of black males aged 14 to 17. These kids born mostly in the early '80s survived abortion levels similar to those faced by the crime-ridden 1975-to-1979 generation. Yet, their murder rate in 1997 was less than half that of the 14- to 17-year-olds of 1993. Seeing their big brothers gunned down in drive-by shootings and their big sisters becoming crack whores may have scared them straight.

http://www.slate.com/id/33569/entry/33575/ "

A phenomenon which he blames on...

...wait for it...

...well? Are you sure that you can handle the sheer gutsiness & originality of his position? for, if you're not sure, dear reader, you must forbear to read any further..

Who started speaking/writing in this nettlesome way and can they be jailed?

OK, I'll bite.

Why is it so ... what? Disheartening? Mockable? For Loury to blame "THE LEGACY OF SLAVERY AND RACISM IN AMERICA" for incarceration? To me, it's like someone new offering up the free-will theodicy (as Stewart Goetz does in his latest book, Freedom, Teleology, and Evil). Yes, the ground has been gone over lots before, but it's always interesting when a very smart person brings up a popular answer and sees what can be said for it (as opposed to simply offering it without response to the latest that has been said against it).

To me, who hasn't looked at the social science, it's just obvious* that slavery and its concomitant racism has had *some* effect on blacks. I'm open to the possibility that that effect has largely worn off, but I'm certainly open to the possibility that it's had permanent, debilitating effects. (And besides, how is it so much worse than, say, Steve Sailer bringing up IQ differences as an explanation despite the fact that that's been trotted out for hundreds of years?)

*--I use the phrase "just obvious" because I figure it'll drive you up a wall. Hell, it drives me up a wall, and I'm the one who wrote it!

supposedly libertarian (or is that "liberaltarian," now?)

No kidding. This "liberaltarian" nonsense just drives me nuts. Really, what a completely absurd non-concept. Any self-styled "libertarian" seriously considering it should've just called it quits long ago.

Well, for one thing, Bobcat, I think Steve makes a good point about Loury himself. Suppose we're dealing with an individual who is being given every privilege, is definitely not marginalized, is in fact probably receiving special _benefits_ because of his race, is in a privileged position in society generally compared to lots of other members of society of all races, and is still messing up royally (in stereotypical ways for his race) and landing or nearly landing himself in prison. Isn't there something not only highly implausible but also suspiciously akin to denying personal, individual responsibility in blaming "the legacy of slavery and racism" for his actions?

Then, too, there is the sheer growth of crime in the black communities. Weren't things a lot better a lot closer to, maybe even during, the time when people were _more_ racist? That's gotta be a powerful argument against.

And then there is the sheer scope of the problem. Blaming it especially on racism seems very questionable. Anti-racism is very nearly a religion in the United States. People bend over backwards, sometimes to the extent of endangering themselves or even getting themselves killed, to avoid being or appearing racist or engaging in "profiling." Yet we still have this extremely disproportionate crime rate. It seems incredible to blame this on racism. One might more plausibly blame it on the fact that these young men are being _told_ that the world is against them, that they should have a sense of entitlement and grievance, that their crimes will be excused, and the like. But it would make a lot more sense to call this "the legacy of dysfunctional and never-ending liberal responses to the fact of past racism" than "the legacy of racism."

Post a comment

Bold Italic Underline Quote

Note: In order to limit duplicate comments, please submit a comment only once. A comment may take a few minutes to appear beneath the article.

Although this site does not actively hold comments for moderation, some comments are automatically held by the blog system. For best results, limit the number of links (including links in your signature line to your own website) to under 3 per comment as all comments with a large number of links will be automatically held. If your comment is held for any reason, please be patient and an author or administrator will approve it. Do not resubmit the same comment as subsequent submissions of the same comment will be held as well.