Posted by on August 21, 2016

This is nauseating.

The riots in Milwaukee started on August 13th when 23-year-old African-American man (Slyville Smith) with a lengthy police record was shot and killed by an African-American police officer while fleeing from a stopped car with a stolen semi-automatic handgun after he had been ordered to halt.  The police offer’s bodycam shows – according to the police and the mayor of Milwaukee, since they have not released the video yet – that Smith had turned towards the officer with the gun in his right hand before he was shot.

It is hard to imagine a set of circumstances which more clearly demonstrate a justifiable shooting than this.  You would think that Smith’s neighbors, upon whom he has apparently been preying for years, would have applauded this action.  Instead, it prompted rioting and looting that lasted for three days.

A quick Google search shows that President Obama has said nothing about the rioting.  Not only did Deray McKesson [1], a leader of the Black Lives Matter movement, not condemn the rioting, but he tweeted out the following: “I denounce the state violence that led to any protests in the first place.”  “Protests,” mind you, not “riots” but “protests.”  This is consistent with BLM’s loose connection to reality in other circumstances, as discussed in a Reason article entitled “Black Lives Matter, but So Does the Truth.”

And crickets is all we hear from Attorney General Loretta Lynch and former Attorney General Eric Holder, both of whom have prominently investigated and denounced police actions in the past.

But this has been topped by CNN in a video which is going viral.  This shows how comments from Sherelle Smith, Slyville Smith’s sister, have been highly selectively edited to present her as a peacemaker.  (If you have not seen this video yet, then it must be watched.)  CNN’s lame excuse: “We shorthanded sister’s quote. Unintentionally gave the impression she was calling for peace everywhere.”

Yeah, sure.

The Left has been hit with a plague of misleading shortness these days.  When Hillary Clinton lied about the FBI’s review of her emails on Fox News, she subsequently blamed it on phrasing that “short-circuited” her meaning.  Apparently, “short” is the new short-hand for “lying.”

A great deal of ink has been spilled trying to explain the Donald Trump phenomenon.  Much of this is overthinking.  As I have commented before, Trumpism is largely the product of this type of establishment hypocrisy and cowardice, particularly but not exclusively from the Left.  His supporters think that Trump is the only instrument blunt enough to call out this kind of nonsense.  This probably also explains why he has been able to survive so many examples of brutal insensitivity.  For the supporters of Trump, this is a feature, not a bug.

As I have said before, Trump and his backers are not wrong on this score.  The pity is that this true message has to be delivered by a largely mindless, crude and flawed messenger.  This is another severe indictment of the American political scene.

Debunking Utopia: Exposing the Myth of Nordic Socialism

This is the title of a book by Nima Sanandaji, an Iraqi Kurd by origin who grew up in Sweden.   The author also recently wrote an article based on the book in Foreign Affairs and has discussed the book and his research on the Tom Woods Show.

The central argument of the book is that the success of the Nordic countries has nothing to do with the “democratic socialism” so lauded by Bernie Sanders and Barack Obama.  He points out that the countries have, in fact, advanced most rapidly in the past when they have been least socialist.  He also points out that the generous welfare systems in these countries have created precisely the types of disincentives to work and industry that any nonpartisan economist would expect.

But above all, he attributes the success of these countries to the item I identified in my earlier postings (in the “Bernie Sanders” section here and in the “One for the Bernie Sanders Fans” section here): culture.  In Sanandaji’s words:

Good social outcomes in the Nordic countries predate the welfare state because what makes Nordic societies unique is related not to policy – large welfare states can also be found in countries such as Belgium, France, and Spain – but to culture.

In support of this assertion, Sanandaji points out that Scandinavian-Americans, who emigrated but carried their cultural attributes with them, have outperformed the stay-at-homes.  The American cousins have earnings per capital that are roughly 50% higher than those who remained.  They also have lower unemployment rates and higher rates of graduation from high school.  These populations have also performed well in comparison to other American groups: Scandinavian Americans have median family household incomes about 34% higher than the American average.  And all of this has occurred even though the emigrants tended to be the relatively poor in their native lands.

This subject makes an excellent complement to the immediately preceding one.  Because if culture matters a great deal at the national level, then it also matters at the level of sub-culture.  Which means that if Barack Obama, the leaders of Black Lives Matters and CNN truly want to help the African-American community, then perhaps they should focus their efforts on the self-destructive aspects of the African-American sub-culture, rather than looking elsewhere to lay the blame.  They could do a lot worse than promoting the habits of “individual responsibility, honesty, trust, punctuality, and hard work” (and attention to education) that Sanandaji identifies as the roots of Nordic success.

Roger Barris

Weybridge, United Kingdom

[1] McKesson graduated from my college, Bowdoin College, with a degree in government and legal studies.  This is another reason why Bowdoin can expect zero of my donation dollars.  He has recently announced that he is running to become the mayor of Baltimore, a city with one of the highest violent crime rates, of the type practiced by Slyville Smith, in the country, the vast majority of which is perpetuated by African-Americans against other African-Americans.  Since 1947, Baltimore has, with the exception of a four-year period in the 1960s, only had Democratic mayors.

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Comments

  1. Borge
    August 21, 2016

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    This is a very good point. It is true indeed that the success in the Nordic region is due to culture, homogeneous populations (although changing), easiness of doing business, transparency, honesty, people’s propensity to follow the law and on average a fairly educated and informed workforce. It is also true that the welfare system has created a system of hidden workforce under-utilization and waste. That being said, generous education funding for everyone and funding for working mothers have created the highest female workforce participation rate in the world (among the indigenous population) in Scandinavia and a very productive workforce (output per hour, long hours is not customary). My point is, it is important in this debate to separate accretive welfare spending that gives everyone a chance to be productive and pure wasteful welfare spending.

    Borge, your Norwegian friend.

    • Roger
      August 22, 2016

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      Hi Borge:

      Thanks for the comments and totally agree about education. This, too me, is the fundamental responsibility that governments have to promote equality and opportunity. But note that this is something that the government should pay for and not necessarily provide directly.

      Less convinced about funding for working mothers, which I guess is mostly childcare. Can’t really see a logical difference between this and all of the other expenses associated with having a child. Not even sure that this is funding for the “working mother” since this is really a benefit for both mothers and fathers. My view is that, if a mother (or father) can not earn enough by going back to work to cover the “externalised” cost of childcare (and also provide an interesting return on their time), then he or she should stay at home. After all, a high female workforce participation rate should not be an economic goal in itself.

      Be well, my friend.

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