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It’s not very scientific and it sure ain’t American. But John Horgan at 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.

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  1. Amen. As Dame Thatcher put it from across the pond, The problem with Socialism is that, eventually you run out of other people’s money. And when that happens, watch what happens to the crime rate in socialist countries.

  2. Mr. Horgan also seems to have overlooked the inherent violence in any governmental program, namely that if you refuse to help fund it via taxation, men with guns will come and put you in a cage. If you attempt to resist, they will shoot you.
    The author has proposed replacing sporadic violence with systematic, institutionalized violence. I can think of no better example of a cure being worse than the disease.

  3. America declared her independence from Great Britain and Europe to leave behind all that was bad, but kept the good. Now we are lead to believe that European Bauble is once again supposed to be a cure for our ailments. But enshrined in the First Declaration of Rights on the continent speaks , “That all men are by nature equally free and independent, that they have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity, Namely; the Enjoyment of Life and Liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property and pursuing and obtaining Happiness and Safety. Virginia Declaration of Rights , Section 1. (1776).

    We reject the concept of a King or Parliament running our lives. That we as a free people have the natural right and talents to manage our affairs and if it is to be proffered that the killing of some innocents can be tamed by government control, let us not forget that America was settled not at the expense of the British government, but at the expense of private adventurers , our ancestors, the fruit of whose toil and danger we now enjoy. To take risk out of the adventure is to also remove the gain, for no man ever toiled and risked life and limb for a seat at the government trough. He will get that even if he does not risk. A dull fare is all that awaits America if she foolishly squanders her rights and liberties for the sake of illusory safety when nature never intended for the Lion and the lamb to lie down together. Tis not only a fiction but a trick to make some foolish people believe that only the docility of the lamb will prevail and peace will be declared. The lion is hungry and whatever it takes to catch his prey the lamb, the fatter he will be and the worse off for the poor man who believed he was a lamb.

  4. There’s nothing unAmerican — let alone socialist — about trying to narrow the gap between the very rich and the very poor. Returning the income-tax structure to the same levels as when Ronald Reagan was president would be an excellent start. (I think we can agree he was no socialist.) That one percent of Americans control 28 percent of the nation’s wealth makes us less like the United States and more like 1980s Argentina. No surprise that a huge gap income is a predictor for violence; it’s a predictor for illness as well. Average wages in the United States haven’t gone up since 1978, but the financial class gets ever wealthier. Somehow, though, working people agitate on behalf of the rich — the true political miracle of the past thirty years. This isn’t Left/Right or Democrat/Republican issue. It’s a top-bottom issue, and unless the guys at Yankee Gun Nuts are multi-millionaires trying to hold onto their pile, it’s utter wack for them to sneer at the suggestion that the income gap is toxic. Come on, people. A little class-consciousness, please.

    • Dan…I love you, man, but every time I think “He gets it,” then you come up with something like this. So close…and yet not quite there yet. Stick around. We’ll make a Libertarian or Conservative outta you yet. Still…

      Let’s go back to Marx (Karl, not Groucho). A class struggle is a political struggle. Turn this around. Marxism/Socialism is all about the class struggle. In fact, without it, Socialism falls apart. Socialism depends on playing the “politics of envy,” and fosters distrust, and even hatred between the classes. Problem is, in the America of today, you’ve got a disproportionately large number of people receiving entitlements, and a disproportionately small number of people footing the bill. As Margaret Thatcher famously said, “the problem with Socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.”

      Our tax structure is inherently UNfair. If You make $200,000 a year and I make $20,000 a year, it’s fair that you pay more taxes than I do. It is NOT fair that you pay a higher percentage of your income than I do. If we all paid, say 20%, I’d pay $4,000 and you’d pay $40,000. How is it fair, equitable, or even dare I ask Constitutional for the government to require you, me, or anybody, to pay a larger share of their income to the government than anybody else?

      There will always be poor. I believe that we, as Americans should provide a safety net for the poorest of the poor, and for those who suddenly find themselves poor. I do not believe that assistance should come without a way to help them out of poverty and into becoming productive citizens. To fail at that makes the government no better than a drug pusher, and the rest of us complicit in keeping the poor and downtrodden, poor and downtrodden.

      And by the way, this “financial class” of which you speak…when you penalize Wall Street, you penalize Main Street at the same time. Who do you think invests in all those mutual funds?

      I’m afraid you’ve bought into the Socialism meme of class envy. Until we can get rid of that us versus them mentality, nobody wins.

      • As wealth is increasingly concentrated with the top percentiles and the middle class continues fall through the income charts, at what point do we recognize that the system is gamed that way? When the middle class no longer exists?

        We do have governmental redistribution of wealth in the USA — just not in the direction people may tend to assume. It’s not from the top down; it’s from the bottom up.

        While the marginal tax rates seem to indicate that the wealthy pay a greater percentage, this is an illusion. Due to deductions and exclusions, seldom do the wealthy pay anything like these rates; hence Warren Buffett’s observation that his secretary pays more Federal tax than he does. For one thing, the middle class can’t afford to shelter their income like the wealthy do. The bulk of their income is directed at making it from one week to the next.

        The bottom of the middle class — the working poor, if you will — actually pay a higher percentage of their wages in total taxes than anyone. While the Federal Income Tax is (in theory, anyway) progressive, most other taxes are regressive. Imagine what a person who makes $280/wk pays in gasoline tax as a percentage of income with a weekly $50 fill-up just to get to work. Now, who economically profits more from the highway system in getting to work: the guy who makes $16,000 a year, or the guy who makes $160,000?

        Brad, I used to believe as you do. When I started to make some real money, I saw how wrong I was. It’s better to be rich than poor, and this applies to taxation as it does to most everything else.

        • Brads right, and yiu are right, Magoo.

          The tax laws have been so gamed, for the rich, individuals, and special interest sectors of corporate payors, the an equitable formula by rate, as simple as a flat tax, would be destabilizing, most especially to the legions of tax attorneys, cpas, financial advisors, and lobbyists hanging like bloated ticks from the slowly dying body of middle class taxpayers who pay the largest share. Not to mention our Betters, in DC, who profit from it as well, including the insider trading and payola that makes them wealthy, on both sides of the aisle. Unwinding the entitlement programs, even a little will produce howl of outrage, including the hucksters they put in office, who distribute the crony payouts to the LIVs.

          So if we can all agree, we are all in pain, and ghe money is running out, how about we radically simplify the tax laws, and kill off the parasite class at one fell swoop. Now THATS the class consciousness I’m talikn’ about…

      • You and Dan sound like a poor man wanting to be rich..i.e. Wannnabees…The poor people pay about 35-40 % of their income in other taxes sales, excise, etc, etc….Let the rich pay 40% of their money….When is the last time you heard of a rich man brag that he/she uses their $$…No they brag that they use other peoples $$$…Do some research.!!!! In reality you are a poor “man” !!!

    • “There’s nothing unAmerican — let alone socialist — about trying to narrow the gap between the very rich and the very poor.”

      There sure is, Dan. There’s nothing American about redistribution of wealth by the government. That’s a fantasy that’s been tried before and failed every time. America is supposed to be about opportunity, not about government deciding who gets what. I imagine that if I was poor, I might have a different point of view — which is why the hard-core poor tend to get on the government teat and stay there for generation after generation, descending into ever-deepening cycles of poverty.

    • If you want to go back in time and return the income-tax structure to the same levels as when Ronald Reagan was President, I have a better idea. How about we go back even further and return the income-tax structure to the same levels as when James Buchanan was President. If I’m not mistaken, that would be an income tax of zero. Everyone’s income taxes are equal when they all pay zero.

    • Dan Baum, welcome back! You did such a great job capturing some of the many gun guy voices out ther in your book, but then you just couldn’t fess up how your main man, Mr Hope and Change himself, maybe wasn’t really representing All Americans, as he claimed…the was early Travon time as I recall.

      How are you feeling about him and his under the radar screen modus operandi, post F&F, post Benghazi, post IRSgate, post AP investigating, post….well, you get the idea.

      You can answer up on that later, but if you are too embarrased, its ok. We all know a liberal or two like that, and dont worry, theres always room here around the campfire for a weiner roast, if yours isnt done by now…;)

      Seriously, dude, for a writer, you left me dazed, the connections between the shibboleths were so far apart I just couldn’t follow…
      class consciousness? Tell me that was teasing snark willya?

  5. I will preface this with I am a gun owner with a concealed carry permit.

    First, “A Modest Proposal” by Johnathon Swift was a satire about how the English should eat Irish babies to solve food shortage problems as well as a means to deal with the Irish being “uncivilized.” So by naming his article as such, his readers should catch the allusion. That is of course making the assumption that the readership of Scientific American are fairly educated.

    Second, the inherent problem with the Scientific American piece is that the author only shows that a correlation exists. He never actually shows how a causal relationship exists. Just bay showing that there is a correlation between higher gun ownership and gun violence doesn’t prove a definitive link. While doing his research I think he missed an important piece out of thee Harvard Law Review (Kates, D. B., & Mauser, G. (2007). Would banning firearms reduce murder and suicide? A review of international and some domestic evidence. Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, 649-694) which found the opposite of Daly and Wilson article.

    Third, his reliance on the Daly and Wilson piece is flawed because with evolutionary psychology, a big assumption is length of time. In order for the instinct of”control over the reproductive capacities of women” this would have been developed over, at the very least, tens of thousands of years ago. If you establish civilization at around 5000 BCE, this still doesn’t really leave enough time for humans to evolve out of this instinct.

    If his method was solid then he may be onto something, but his method is faulty and his assumptions don’t hold.

  6. A few interjections – first I must echo Mr Baum’s assertion that narrowing the gap between the rich and the poor is not synonymous with socialism. It is much more akin to Kynesianism, which is as American as apple pie. Socialism isn’t about rearranging income tax brackets; it’s about rearranging capital ownership and labor relations. Horgan, even if he was merely being facetious, is incorrect to equate them. Not only is it incorrect, but it’s unfair and offensive to committed socialists.

    Second, I must echo Eric’s condemnation of the evolutionary psychology approach adopted by Hargon from Wilson & Daly, but for different reasons. I don’t know of any indicator of the rate of change of behavior traits or time. What I do know is that there is a wealth of ethnographic data about contemporary hunter-gatherer societies. If we make the admittedly fanciful leap to thinking of them as a living analogy to our ancestors who lived during the 200,000 or so year time span when our species “grew up”, we find that acquisition of mating partners has much more to do with exchange between out-marrying kinship groups than it does with violence.

    Thirdly, I think we would do well to clarify our notions of what makes a “fair” income tax disparity. I don’t see how an simple numerical equality of percentages constitutes fairness (let alone justice). To me, it seems more like the superficial fetishization of numbers that is all too common in public policy.

    • “It is much more akin to Kynesianism, which is as American as apple pie.”

      Unfortunately. Keynesian apple pie that disregards common sense. Keynesianism that increases government and inflation and which everyone by now should see doesn’t work. All those Keynesian “experts” around, and apparently none of them saw The Great Recession coming even though they created it. Nice work.

  7. “There’s nothing unAmerican — let alone socialist — about trying to narrow the gap between the very rich and the very poor.”

    If you try to drag down the “rich” to narrow the gap, Dan, it IS unAmerican. And counterproductive to the point of economic suicide.

    “That one percent of Americans control 28 percent of the nation’s wealth makes us less like the United States and more like 1980s Argentina.”

    Dan, are you seriously proposing that economics is a zero-sum game? That faulty logic has been debunked. Yet here you are, parroting Lenin.

    Look at the disparity you claim to see and flip it upside down: instead of being ALL poor like the rest of the world, America gives any regular folks who are willing to work the opportunity to be rich. And the society as a whole benefits.

    “A little class-consciousness, please.”

    Class-consciousness like Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger? (I am guessing you are pro-choice, Dan. Have you ever bothered to find out how Sanger felt about the “poor”?)

    We have had 70 years of unrestrained welfare and “Great Society” turmoil. 70 years of unions leeching off of the paychecks of blue-collar working stiffs. That’s quite enough of my money down the drain. I have made my sacrifices. It’s up to the not-haves to extend the olive branch first. Getting jobs would be a nice first step.

    In the meantime, Crapgame (my co-blogger) and I will be in our secret volcano base, sitting on piles of money, watching Bumfights videos.

  8. “first I must echo Mr Baum’s assertion that narrowing the gap between the rich and the poor is not synonymous with socialism. It is much more akin to Kynesianism, which is as American as apple pie.”

    Uh, no, it isn’t. It might be stinking the place up, but it isn’t central to the American way of life.

    Keynesian economics is a bankrupt philosophy. Look at any country that follows Keynesian policies.

    It’s just a pretty name for socialism.

  9. Socialism may decrease homicides by guns, but it dramatically increases homicides by torture and zyklon-b showers.

  10. “Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its only inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery. In the history of socialism, no country that has ever tried it has ended up with the desired goal of equality, and the only way to put everyone on one level economically has universally been to impoverish everyone equally. Except for the ruling class, of course, who always grow fond of their privileges and their powers. The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of the blessings. The inherent blessing of socialism is the equal sharing of misery. ”

    Can’t say it better myself……

    • So are the Swiss, who are also the world’s private bankers. So what? Are we familiar with Godwin’s Law? Aka Reductio ad Hitlerum:'s_law

      The term socialism is a floating signifier — it has become disconnected from its original referent. Since the word no longer points to anything specifically, it now points everywhere at once. It mainly serves as a way to label ideas so they can then be discredited and discarded without examination.

      For example, a conservative might point to any policy to the left of his own and call it “socialism.” A liberal might do the equivalent with the word “fascist,” while a libertarian may use the word “collectivist” in this manner. And every faction likes to equate their opponents to “Nazis.” That’s a good time for everyone. In fact, the Nazis really had no fixed ideology beyond anti-semitism and statecraft as stagecraft. It was the classic smash and grab for the most part.

      Floating signifers serve an important purpose in a democracy. They allow parties on all sides to talk past each other endlessly so that nobody can ever agree and nothing can ever get done.

      As in this case: as soon as some folks see the word “socialism,” they rise up to pose for their statue, give their stock speech on “socialism,” then depart totally satisfied with themselves, having never addressed the original subject.

      In the Scientific American story, apparently the writer was referring to socialism in the European social democratic sense, which is just not going to compute for many Americans, who tend to regard the word as a synonym for “evil.” Personally, I found the story to be essentially gibberish, but not for that reason.

      • “In fact, the Nazis really had no fixed ideology beyond anti-semitism and statecraft as stagecraft. It was the classic smash and grab for the most part. ”

        BS. They were socialists economically. Corporatists who let people “keep” their property so long as it was used the way the Party wanted. Much like the… no, never mind.

        Click your heels and deny it all you want, it doesn’t change the facts.

      • I get what you mean about using words as convenient referents to demean the opponent, or dismiss the argument, and for those who are willing to simply believe some authority figure and their memes, without question, that could be true. However, that does not describe ALL readers at which the word was aimed, who understand that a single word stands for much more, the evil and totalitarian nature of the nationalist socialist model and the absolute failure of it in practice in the real world (Hitlerx Mussolini)
        and the utter and absolute failure of the internationalist model, (marx).

        Eurosocialism, as expressed in the Social Democrats in Germany, is a softer version of the Socialist Party of the 30s in England, and its cousin, the Progressive Movement in the US. Progressivism2.0 in the US is the rebranded and updated version trying to adapt Euro Socialism to the US. But its not working, in the short term with Keynesian top down dumping of dollars, coordination of industry, like the failed governmental takeover of the auto industry, and now health care, any better than the EU believing they can run Greece, or Portugal, or the UN run carbon tax regulations, or gun control in the US.

        Here is a good primer on philosophical and practical aspects and history of fail, by socialist goverments.

        Here at TTAG I would submit that words DO matter, as do facts. Quibbling about the politically correct way of using them, or worse, falling into the trap of debating the politics of meaning, with the pomo tranzi-nazis of the addled academics of the Progressive mind control apparatus, is playing their game.

        We need to speak the truth, based on facts, and reasoned argument, with respect, as the Founders did, and dont spare scorn for those who object to how it feels to them…the voice of the speaker being more true than the facts, etc, etc, etc.

      • Magoo, huhhhnh, what? Between you an Dan Baum I can’t keep up with the dazzlying leaps of logic that only are obvious to thosee with the secret code word decoder ring, that in your case sems to be set on RonPaul in the early years….

        “Swiss are socialist…” hmmm, I know Wiki is reputedly run by a secret coven of crypto feminazi libs, of the left-libertarian leaning lgbt orientation…

        (ok, I was making up the lgbt part, just didnt want anyone feeling left out in my neoconservative 2.0 neanderthalian domestic terrorist teapartyhearty snark)

        but even the Chocolatians might disagree with you;

        Godwins Law? Not to quibble, but the commenter pointing out Nazis were socialists was factually correct.
        My German is too rusty to reconstruct the full name of the Party, but Nazi is the shorthand for it. So I dont *think* he was ad hominem-ing them by the label.

        Its actually you conflating that point in something of a strawman argument invoking Godwins Law, in a grammatical switcheroo, I think. I dont know, I’m getting dizzy.

        So, figure that out, if you can and get back to us on whether that preamble disqualifies you from taking the moral high ground…

  11. Scientific American went of the rails in 2012 when they decided to sensationalize the news to boost sales, and got on the global warming bus early, and remain one of the propaganda outlets for true believers, preaching to the unwashed masses. (read here for more:)

    Its no longer Scientic, nor is it American.

    Its about the corruption of the scientific method by money, to push an international socialist state run by the UN IPCC carbon tax scheme. Power and money, Perverting reason to push the Progressive Agenda.

    Even as they agree the consensus among scientists is the science is unsettled ( hey its no longer about cooling, now its about climate change, but dont forget, we need to do something!)

    the narrative is shifting to “how do we improve on the ‘science’ of social engineering, to better convince people…

    In other words, how to be more scientific propagandists…this reminds me of the eugenics movement, and Goebbels big lie, in the Nazi era.

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