28 May 2012

Corruption: The exception or the rule?

IMF chief Christine Lagarde raised hackles this week when she suggested one way Greeks could get themselves out of the pickle they're in would be to cut back on their national sport of tax-evasion.  She also suggested her tears of pity would be better spent on Nigerien children, forced to walk two hours to school and sit three to a chair, than on profligate Greeks.

 Africans and Greeks: Pity sweepstakes?

The Niger comparison was interesting, as it suffers from some of the same problems as Greece, but at astronomically higher levels. Among them is the one which gives the IMF fits, that stubborn, impossible-to-remove kudzu, the sinister C-word: Corruption.

It has become gospel among international policy-makers that corruption is a big problem, but a fixable one. Bad laws = corruption. Good laws = no corruption.  They thus traipse around the planet giving PowerPoint presentations on how to open your very own Anti-Corruption Ministry, sure that they're leaving little Swedens on the Sahara and Englands on the Euphrates in their wake.

With just a bit of HBD knowledge, a policy-maker might ask: What if corruption were not a product of laws, but of men?  What if corruption came from men's beliefs, their character traits, their deepest biological instincts? What if it is our natural state?  What if it can't be fixed? What then?

Besides the 'bad-laws' fallacy, a second error made by policy-makers is the 'bad-leaders' fallacy.  The poor honest folks in Country X suffer terribly because their leaders are so corrupt. And yet coup/election after coup/election, as if by magic, one bad leader after another comes to power.  Unless these people are being airlifted in from a foreign land, one can presume they are made of the same stuff as their countrymen.

In addition, what the throw-the-bums-out crowd fails to realize is that in corrupt countries, everyone (or almost) is on the take.  The same character traits that drive government ministers to  accept suitcases full of cash are also likely to be found in small shopkeepers who say, 'Do you want a receipt for that? Are you sure? (wink wink)', as well as the customer who responds, 'No no, of course not! (wink wink)'

Lagarde's admonishment to 'Pay your taxes!' is merely spitting into the wind.  In a country where the average taxpayer can buy off the average tax inspector with a sufficiently fat envelope, what precisely is she hoping for? Who watches the watchers?  This has led some Eurocrats to cry, 'Send in foreign tax inspectors!', which would be amusing were it not so disturbing.  Is a country whose government officials are under the control of a foreign power not by definition a colony?

We are thus led to ask: Corruption, that headache of international policy-makers--is it a behavior, or a state of being?

21 May 2012

Hunting the Yeti: Institutional Racism in the 21st Century

Omar Thornton, the beer-filching delivery man who, upon hearing he was to be fired for his thieving ways, unloaded a Ruger SR9 into ten of his co-workers then himself, has a posthumous website (h/t Crimes of the Times).  Created by his mother. Why?

It's hard to swing a cat these days without hitting someone decrying Institutional Racism.  It has become the catch-all excuse for Afro under-performance in relation to other ethnic groups...

Top Chicago Cop Links U.S. Gun Laws to Institutional Racism

Failing the Test of Fairness: Institutional Racism and the SAT

DC Million Hoodies March Denounces Institutional Racism

...And so forth.

Like the elusive Yeti, it has to be out there--we've heard stories, terrifying stories, of it ambling hither and yon leaving carnage in its path. Its footprints are visible everywhere. And yet...when pressed, no one seems able to cough up hard proof of its existence. 

Just as great footprints in the snow are no proof of the Yeti, the fact that Blacks do not score as highly as Whites on firefighter exams is no proof of Institutional Racism.  But the charge is a serious one. It deserves a serious response. Our question is not, however, 'did institutional racism exist in decades past?'--it unquestionably did--but rather, 'does it exist today?'  We at Those Who Can See have taken our snowshoes and our rucksack and gone in search of this beast:  Down what trail lies the evidence that Institutional Racism continues to harm Afro-Americans in 2012?

13 May 2012

Who's Afraid of Affirmative Action?

Meritocracy is rare indeed, however far back in history we may look.  Member-of-my-family-ocracy, on the other hand, can be found almost everywhere.  Political dynasties are as old as time.  Ancien régime France let state posts be passed down from father to son, like a house.  In clannish Arab lands today, one's spot in college, the army, or the civil service is largely determined by the power of one's relatives.  David Pryce-Jones on Arab society:

To take the everyday matter of wanting to obtain a job, a young man approaches the head of his family or clan, his patron.  The head of the family is under obligation to do his very best to make sure that his kinsman is given what he asks for.  The honor of the whole family is at stake. [...]  In the event  of the job going to someone else, the patron becomes the object of shame, and his standing is under threat [...] Whether or not the young man deserved the job is no kind of consideration.  Civic spirit, the good of the community, or mere consideration of who could best perform the job in hand has no part in these proceedings.

Where meritocracy is allowed, the results can be impressive.  The Ottomans' Janissary corps is one example. The ancient Chinese civil service exam system is another.  In the modern West, outbred and commonweal-oriented as we are, nepotism rubs us the wrong way.  Shouldn't the best man get the job?

Enter racial quotas.

We may understand why they came to be, and loudly proclaim their time has gone. But the affirmative action coin has two sides.  What happens when a foreign group arrives among us and out-performs us?  Are we in our rights to establish quotas to keep them from forming an alien elite?  Indians in Uganda, Chinese in Malaysia, Ashkenazi Jews in the U.S., Europeans in South Africa--all have been excluded via quotas by a native population ill at ease with their success.  Is this fair?  When are quotas justified?

06 May 2012

'In a Word We Suffer on Each Side'

Afro-Americans have long committed violent crime at much higher rates than other ethnic groups.  With the election of our first black president in 2008, many predicted this would end, as seeing a face like their own in the Oval Office would lead young Afros to lay down their arms and pick up a schoolbook.

Was such a prediction reasonable?

We argue that it was not.

Culture, affirm conservatives, is what poisons the young Black mind. Welfare payments slacken it, lack of fathers stunts it, hip-hop perverts it.  Could we erase the Great Society and the sexual revolution, young Afro-Americans would revert back to the industrious strivers they once were.

The children represented by the Brown vs. Board of Education suit, Topeka Kansas, 1951: Vicky, Donald, Linda, James, Nancy, Katherine.

Progressives, on the other hand, admit some nefarious effects of black culture but attribute them to the lingering pain of 250 years of slavery and one hundred years of segregation.  Any day now, they insist, Afro-Americans will begin to behave just like everyone else.

The progressive view is relatively easy to dismiss, as black dysfunction has in fact increased as Jim Crow recedes further into the past.

And the conservative view? Seductive, but incorrect.  As it happens, Afro-Americans are not only well-known today for their violent exploits, but were so known far back in history.  Reading the police blotter from one hundred years ago can be a startlingly familiar experience. Then as now, Afros chose to act out aggressively in a variety of milieus.

On public transport

Portland, April 2012:

A 57-year-old man who asked a group of teenagers to quiet down on a MAX train was assaulted on Friday... When officers arrived, they learned the man had asked a large group of around 15 to 20 black male teenagers to keep it down. That apparently didn't sit well with the teenagers and some of them allegedly attacked the man.

Baltimore, 1913: