Saturday, November 29, 2014

"...learn from Ferguson"

According to Google News, there are 1570 news articles and editorials that have the word string "learn from Ferguson" in it.

It seems unlikely that we will learn 1570 things from Ferguson.  After reading some of the articles, is seems unlikely that we will learn anything.

Ferguson, Missouri is a blank screen upon which every writer projected their fears and biases, their vision of the future.  It has become America's Rorschach test.


The foundation of persuasive debate is to establish mutual agreement before charging off into the pucker-brush.  The vast majority of the writers assume their readers share a world view that is identical to the writer.  That is a flawed assumption.

It is similar to the Farsi fable of the four men who encounter an elephant in the dark.  Much heated argument regarding the true nature of what we "learn from elephants" results.  The vitriol does not end until a woman shows up with a lamp.

My rice bowl

There is a bizarre psychology to competition for "rents".   Competition is relatively benign when markets are growing because of a shared illusion that everybody's station in life is improving.  Competition becomes ruthlessly cut-throat when markets implode. This ruthlessness occurs because Prospect Theory tells us that humans feel losses three times more intensely than they feel an equivalent gain.

Much progress in civil rights occurred during times of unprecedented economic expansion.  It is nearly painless to be magnanimous when your paycheck goes up every year.

Is it possible that Michael Brown's death was a trigger but the real "energy" came from tectonic tensions in an economy that cannnot afford endless growth of "social programs"?  Those who benefited the most from the social programs have gone to the wall defending them.  It is no surprise that the most articulate protesters in Ferguson, Missouri are preachers and professors of African Studies from places like Clemson, South Carolina (650 miles away).

Scientists tell us that evolution occurs most rapidly when periods of  "easy living" are occasionally stressed by periods of "tough sledding".

During the easy times, recessive genes have a chance to find each other.  They can combine with other traits that are seemingly anti-survival and, possibly, create a synergy.  Consider the porcupine:  It has stiff, hollow hairs that are fused together and the ends point backwards (three or four anti-survival traits), the hairs are very poorly anchored (five) and it fights by turning its back on danger and swinging its tail (six and seven). 

The tough times clear the playing field of the also-rans.  That frees up resources for the next round of Darwinian experiments.  It is all very grand and elegant, unless of course, you find yourself grouped with the other also-rans.

My crystal ball tells me that it will get uglier unless the economy picks up.  The "business model" of tilting the playing field based on a status of historic victimhood will start cavitating and go into free-fall.  How will municipalities like Ferguson (and Detroit and Camden and...) participate in the economy with no geographic advantage, burnt out shells for infrastructure and academic and social skills that are on-par with Yemen? 

Those who benefited from the social programs will not roll over and go peacefully into the night.

1 comment:

  1. "they will not go peacefully into the night" . . . Yes sir, agreed. When the money that goes to the little HHS card for food (or bomb making material) ends, or becomes valueless, things will not end well. There are a lot of forces playing out in this current drama.