It’s not very scientific and it sure ain’t American. But John Horgan at scientificamerican.com just up and goes for it in a rant entitled A modest proposal for curbing homicides: Socialism. Well, not at first. At first, the author admits that his previous belief in a cause and effect relationship between gun control and crime control may have been a tad hasty. “The link between homicides and easy access to guns—like the link between real violence and media violence—is tenuous. You can make the cause [sic] for or against a causal relation, depending on what society or time period you examine. Complexities like these lead to complaints that ‘social science’ is an oxymoron.” Hey, you said it. Needless to say, Horgan’s polemic goes downhill from there . . .
The author commits the dual mistakes of equating the crime-reporting methods of England with those of the United States (in fact, the British statistics are deliberately skewed to make the crime rate appear lower). Horgan also assumes that homicides are “it” as far as firearms-related violent crime is concerned (even if you set aside robberies and rapes, most handgun wounds are not fatal, thus aren’t “homicides”). Then again, accepting both of those erroneous premises serves to bolster the author’s pet theory. So maybe it isn’t an oversight.
In their 1988 book Homicide, often upheld as the gold standard in applying Darwinian theory to social problems, Daly and Wilson pointed out that males have always committed the vast majority of homicides. The reason, the psychologists contended, is that our male ancestors fought fiercely for “control over the reproductive capacities of women,” which resulted in an innate male tendency toward violent aggression.
Clearly the author never had a frying pan hurled at him by a menopausal woman. Or got his ass run over by a jilted lover. Anyway, the spectre of socialism soon rears its ugly head in this miasma of crappy logic and concocted stats . . .
The best predictor of high homicide rates in a region, they asserted, is income inequality. As a measure of such inequality, Daly and Wilson employed the so-called Gini index…Daly and Wilson found a strong correlation between high Gini scores and high homicide rates in Canadian provinces and U.S. counties. High Gini scores predicted homicides better than low average income, high unemployment and simpler measures. Basically, Daly and Wilson were blaming homicides not on poverty per se but on the collision of poverty and affluence, the ancient tug-of-war between haves and have-nots.
The income-inequality hypothesis, Daly and Wilson asserted, can account for the “radically different national homicide rates” of the U.S. and Canada, the latter of which has more generous social-welfare programs (including universal health care) and hence fewer economic disparities.
Ah. The old “if I feed the alligator he won’t eat me” strategy. But wait, it gets better:
. . . an attractive solution to high homicide rates: a more equitable economic system, perhaps with higher taxes for the wealthy and more generous welfare programs for the poor. In short, socialism. I hope that opponents of gun control will consider this modest, alternative proposal for reducing lethal shootings.
Changing the system of government is “modest”? Running the economy into the ground to buy alligator food is “modest”? Paying people to not work (which encourages them to never work, and encourages others to avoid work too) is “modest”? OK, maybe he was being sarcastic. But Horgan’s rant is more Swift Boat than Jonathan Swift.
These silly liberal utopian dreamers never learn. Except the ones who get mugged. Some of them learn.