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April 28, 2009


kardinal birkutzki

Typical strawman argument. One person says something and you attribute that to everyone
on "the right". Then you knock down the strawman and, hey presto, you,ve proved yourself right....


What crimes are we talking about here. violent crime or property crime?

I accept that culture helps shape and direct us, but that does not mean that the vast majority of people cannot rationalise that some parts of it might be immoral.

For example ive come across a lot of young lads who get their attitudes to women in general from hard core porn, with the resulting rap slang, but when they find themselves in a relationship behave in a completely homogonous way. Maybe Chris its a skill we are born with? imagine that born with inbuilt morality?

btw, ive never come across anyone on the right who refers to poor people as "the evil poor"


'dysfunctional welfare state'

How would you fix it?


I've always argued for a change in the incentives, which I believe drive bastardy, crime and workshyness. Unfortunately while one of the incentives is the carrot, the other is the stick. I'm happy to endorse generous benefits, but would also severely time-limit them, and make 'em work after (say) 6 months. A baby shouldn't be a route to the top of the social housing queue etc...

Basically whilst I don't like paying people not to work, I wouldn't have anyone starve. I don't think people are evil, just that the incentives are there to persuade some of them to do evil things.

Your idea that the right moralise all the time is, as other commneters have said, just a straw man.

PS thanks for the Top Blogging Link...


Your straw man is your construct not Nigh Jack's. In his post "Darkness on the edge of town" he writes:
"Two miles up the road is where the “Evil Poor” roost. Now I don’t say that everybody who is poor is evil or that all evil people are poor. When I say “Evil Poor” I mean the multi generational families of wasters, self sundered from the worlds of work, education, law or personal responsibility. I mean the people who have entirely bought into a life of chaos, violence and crime. All Police bloggers end up writing about them and we all know them and their works".

Perhaps you have just demonstrated your own cognitive bias. Having settled on political and social views, as most people are expected to by the age of 21, the rest of their lives are spent interpreting all information in ways that sustain these ideas.


Correct -- poverty does create incentives. But poverty isn't the only cause of crime and it would be insulting to many to say it were. Or even to say it were the most powerful incentive.

Larry Teabag

The missing word from this debate is "dogwhistle". That's why I object to NightJack's post. I'm certain he doesn't view the poor generally as evil.

But the problem is that there are quite a lot of Kappa-clad, swaggering, council-estate dwellers who are not pure distilled Evil, who don't rape 14 year olds, and don't nick anything which isn't nailed down. Some of them may even live on benefits or - the horror of it - drink lager out of the can occasionally.

There is a lot of prejudice against such people, and I reckon NJ's post feeds straight into that, even though it may be accurate on its own terms.

No One

I have been unemployed for 3 years, and can't get a decent job. I wouldn't want to be exploited on the minimum wage. I am intelligent and capable, and have never commited a crime. So what about me? Am I one of the evil poor? I do not feel particularly evil, although I suppose we all have a dark side.

Luis Enrique

Is it meaningful to ask what proportion of an individual's behaviour is accounted for by their circumstances, incentives etc.?

If you had to guess the extent to which cirumstances and incentives explain behaviour, what would your guess be? If you did the regression, what'd the R2 be?

If the answer is, say, 50%, then those who blame circumstances and those that blame 'personalities' are both equally wrong.

I'm not sure that NightJack says anything about whether circumstance or personality is to blame.

Presumably NightJack's category of 'evil poor' is a small subset of "drugged up, workshy, wasters" many of whom are quite benign.


B*ll*cks to incentives! Never has more money been poured into the education and benefits systems. We are spending hundreds of billions on the 'evil poor', and guess what? You give money to people who act in a certain way, you get more of them!

The solution is simple - time limit all benefits. Stop paying people to sit on their arses in front of the TV all their lives. A 3 year time limit on dole, a 2 baby limit on single mothers, no benefits for immigrants until they've paid 10 years of National Insurance and Bobs your Uncle. Job done.

Massive reduction in costs to govt and increased tax revenue from extra workers (even if they all go on the black market, a lot of the extra cash would seep into VAT revenues).


One will have noted Ms Charlotte Gore's intriguing, if demographically unlikely, position that everyone on a council estate is a teenage shitbag.

Still, that's Lib Dems for you isn't it? It's where you end up if you have the ratlike mien of a Tory without the wit or cunning to earn the big pennies.

Luis Enrique


I think you are probably correct that posts like NightJack's feed into some people's prejudice, even if it ought not, if those people were thinking straight.

I'm less sure what sort of an objection that is.

Would we object to a post about greedy stupid bankers on the grounds that it feeds into prejudice against the decent people that do an upstanding job in the finance industry? Okay, one could react to such a post by pointing out that not all bankers are wankers, but in this case it goes without saying that the overwhelming majority of poor people are not evil in the sense NightJack describes.

Let's say the left sees one of its jobs as sticking up for the poor. Imagine, however, you were a right-winger who wants to stick up for individual enterprise and business. I don't think it would be a good idea for right-wingers to instinctively react against, say, an article about some evil bastard businessmen, on the grounds that it demonizes business or stocks anti-business prejudice. That sort of intellectual habit leads to error, and, I'd say,to blindness to that ultimately undermines one's own position.

So while I think you are right that NightJack's post might contribute to the prejudice of some people, I think that the visceral negative reaction to it by some lefties is perhaps more worrying.

Larry Teabag

I dunno Luis - I'd say it was roughly comparable* to a piece entitled "the Evil Capitalists" which raved about verminous parasitical bankers, contributed little analysis, and vented its spleen a lot.

I mean, for a political-prize-winning post, it's a bit of a rant, isn't it? A rant, borne I'm sure out of experience, bu still a rant in part about evil people who look and dress a particular way, who live in particular sorts of places, and drink particular sorts of drinks.

*Having said which, prejudice against disadvantaged groups is more unpalatable to my mind than that against people who sleep in silk sheets.

[I think that the visceral negative reaction to it by some lefties is perhaps more worrying]

Can I coin a new Rule? For any X, there will always appear a chorus of concerned citizens who believe that X is less significant than the disgraceful reaction to X by The Left (and that holds even when X is Sarah Palin).

They might be right sometimes, of course...


Where have people been for the last twenty-five years? We have been outsourcing our manufacturing/service industries for the last years of the twentieth and the entire twenty-first centaury. Capitalism have been slashing and burning jobs and effectively shrinking the labour market. Add to that, the de-facto headhunting of the best talent in Eastern Europe, who are prepared to leave reasonable jobs in Poland to work in menial jobs and you have got the classic squeeze.

Better trained, mobile, motivated, healthy, young workers are out-competing and retaining jobs better than the unhealthy, relatively unskilled older workers in this Country. Isn't that what our system is based on? Go into any job centre in the Country and count the percentage of minimum wage, or slightly higher paid jobs. Taking into account that we are living in a downturn, never the less there seems to be an abundance of these poorly paid jobs, hardly the indication of a tight labour market is it? Those jobs will be filled in time; there is a huge surplus of labour out there.

Those sink estate do not signal the failure of the welfare state; those sink estates are the best indicator of the success of capitalism. We have dispensed with many of the industries that those people would have been expected to occupy. These jobs are off-shored, outsourced or just gone. It doesn’t really matter if these people don’t want to work, (not in economic terms) they are not required in the labour market anymore. Is anyone surprised to see that the ruthless squeezing of the labour market has resulted in the least competent in our society (for whatever reason) are shunted out of that market? If you are going to flush out five million people from the labour market, then it is hardly surprising that those who get kicked out of capitalism are those that capitalism deem unworthy, is it?

It doesn’t matter about all the arguing and ‘welfare’ debates. Our system has shuffled those with least skills out of the labour market. Rightly or wrongly our economic system requires a huge surplus of labour and it has succeeded in creating it.

Let’s not pretend that the welfare state is responsible. Look at the ‘sink estates’ (squatter camps, slums, favelas etc) all over the Planet, from Africa to South and North America. Yet these have not been caused by ‘Welfareism’, they are simply the by product of unequal distribution of wealth. No welfare in Brazil, but yet the number of children born there is startling. If they aren't getting welfare, what is going on? Some years ago, they were killing these kids in the srteet


Of course. Decent honest people don't commit crimes, whether or not they are poor. Scumbags commit crimes. If the scumbag is poor, the reward/risk ratio of committing a crime is high (as he doesn't have much to lose) so he'll probably do the crime. If a scumbag is better off, he's unlikely to go round burgling people's houses or mugging them in the street (reward/risk ratio is rather low for him), but quite likely to fiddle his expenses.


Or. Policemen have to think like this in order to self-justify keeping the lid on an underclass, created by a failed economic sytem which would have collapsed without tax payers cash.

When they're not too busy killing plumbers or newspaper sellers.

Laban Tall

"the same neoclassical economics that, in bastardized form, tells us that a 50p tax rate is a bad idea tells us, in its more proper form, that poverty causes crime"

No it doesn't. It might establish some correlation between poverty and criminality, but that's not causation.

Though if you ARE going to point at correlation, why was crime rising rapidly through the 1950s and 60s, when the working class standard of living was rising rapidly and income differentials (90% tax rates) were at historical lows ? And why was crime so low in the 20s and 30s ?

Luis Enrique


I agree it's mostly a rant that contributes nothing in the way of analysis; when I first read it, I thought it was just somebody venting spleen after a bad day at work.

"I think that the visceral negative reaction to it by some lefties is perhaps more worrying." On second thoughts, that's overblown embarressing nonsense on my part. I just meant something about how it's dumb for lefties to pretend no such people (evil poor) exist, and that flipping out every time you encounter someone saying something negative about the poor is not a very smart way to proceed.

Laban Tall

Charles Murray


"Nothing about the underclass is rocket science. It’s all basic, the kind of thing our grandparents took for granted. It just has to be rephrased to accommodate today’s delicate sensibilities.

Our grandparents thought bastardy was a problem to be avoided at any cost. Today’s translation: children who grow up without being nurtured by two biological parents are at risk. Poverty isn’t the problem. Inadequate educational opportunities aren’t the problem. Social exclusion isn’t the problem.

Throughout history, societies around the world have been poor, with inadequate educational opportunities and with socially excluded people. Those same societies have been remarkably successful at ensuring that almost all children came into the world with two biological parents committed to their care. That’s the difference between societies with small underclasses (for every society has had an underclass) and with large ones ...

Boys without fathers tend to grow up unsocialised. They tend to have poor impulse control, to be sexual predators, to be unable to get up at the same time every morning and go to a job. They tend to disappear shortly after the baby is born. These are not the complaints of a conservative lamenting the lost good old days. They are social science findings that are as robust and unambiguous as social science findings get.

I use the word “tend” because none of these outcomes is carved in stone for any particular child. But we can’t deny a problem exists because some children of single women do well. Of course, there are many exceptions but the statistical tendencies are pronounced, and tendencies produce a large and problematic underclass.

Our grandparents thought you couldn’t “do” with a youngster who wasn’t brought up right. Today’s translation: social programmes for intervening with children at risk have consistently meagre results. This finding has even longer shelves of analysis than the literature on the children of single parents ...

The bottom line for this accumulation of experience in America is that it is impossible to make up for parenting deficits through outside interventions. I realise this is still an intellectually unacceptable thing to say in Britain. It used to be intellectually unacceptable in the United States as well. No longer. We’ve been there, done that.

Our grandparents’ most basic taken-for-granted understanding, which today’s intellectual and political elites find it hardest to accept, is this: make it easier to behave irresponsibly and more people will behave irresponsibly. The welfare state makes it easier for men to impregnate women without taking responsibility for them, easier for women to raise a baby without the help of a man and easier for men and women to get by without working. There is no changing that situation without reintroducing penalties for irresponsible behaviour.

This is the sticking point for every political figure in Britain, Labour or Tory."


You attribute crime and laziness to poverty.

Both can be attributed to stupidity, and partly to "poor education" which is poor because we leave it to the state to provide it.

People commit crime because they are too stupid to appreciate that it:
a) harms society
b) is immoral - having been taught by leftist educators that morality, like religion is a "system of social control"
c) doesn't pay
d) always results in getting caught.

Middle-class employed people are somewhat more moral than these underclass, but in the main, they are more intelligent and know that there is no quick fix.


Normally, I wouldn't touch anything that Charles Murray writes with a barge pole. But I actually agree with most of what he wrote there. Just not with his conclusion, but I'm not sure what his conclusion is. That we should make people poorer than they are already to stop the failures from breeding? Forced sterilization?

After all his side of the argument is also the side often promoting individual freedom. His is the side opposed to abortion - of ensuring that unwanted children are born into hopeless situations. Does he say there are always tradeoffs - almost nothing is an unmitigated good?

Does he look to change the CULTURE of the ghettos, to do something about the self-segregation that sees an underclass devoid of the role-models that the old working class used to have?

I don't think there are easy solutions, but we need to keep looking at what really makes a marginal difference.

P.S. Regarding the 50s & 60s - maybe an increase in the number of young males played a role?


I'm pretty sure that I read somewhere that the major reason for an increase in the number of single mothers in ghetto communities was the lack of jobs for males in those communities. Women who want babies can only wait so long, and if they can't find "marriageable" men, they take things into their own hands, so to speak.


That doesn't mean that I don't think the incentives facing the poor couldn't be improved massively. I'm with Chris - for the GMI.


People advocated time-limiting benefits NOW are perhaps underestimating their own chances of ending up unemployed in the current crisis.


I think one of the things that make the denigration of the bankers more palatable to a reasonable person than the denigration of a petty criminal on a council estate is that the petty criminal will have to go to considerable effort over time to hurt even 10 people directly by his actions, whereas the bankers who perpetrated fraud have hurt millions in one fell swoop regardless of whether perfidy or simple carelessness was involved.

What irks me is that NightJack and Gore are doing is attacking the powerless of society indiscriminately, and using fears that have been jacked up by tabloid interference to do so. It's always been largely true (and oft described and parodied) that policemen spend so much time in the criminal environment that they gradually become suspicious of everyone.


The most crime-infested place on earth is Wall Street.

If you don't believe me, Google "Citi Fined", or "Citi Launder".

I'm just using them as an example, and by doing so, you will see that they are in fact a habitual criminal syndicate. Citi is not a good citizen. Citi is not worthy of a single penny of assistance. If they were a person, they would never be eligible for parole.


[Would we object to a post about greedy stupid bankers on the grounds that it feeds into prejudice against the decent people that do an upstanding job in the finance industry?]

speaking as a banker (of sorts), I do sort of object to those posts, but I don't bother to do so vociferously, because:

a) I know that if I ever need to object to them, I am articulate enough to look after myself and well-connected enough to make sure that my objections get heard

b) I am in the fortunate situation where I can afford to not give a fuck about what local councillors think of me.

If I were poor, not very well educated and living in council provided accomodation, I'd have a much stronger and more present interest at stake.

[Though if you ARE going to point at correlation, why was crime rising rapidly through the 1950s and 60s, when the working class standard of living was rising rapidly and income differentials (90% tax rates) were at historical lows ? And why was crime so low in the 20s and 30s ?]

Demographic bulges and notches in the number of males aged 15-25, arising from the postwar baby boom and the First World War respectively. If you don't understand that, you really shouldn't be commenting about this subject.

Luis Enrique

D2 fair point, prejudice against some groups is more of a worry than prejudice against others. My banker example was ill-chosen. What's a more vulnerable group - working class badly educated USA soldiers returning to civilian life? Should we object to articles about bad things soldiers do, on the grounds that they demonize soldiers in the eyes of civilians?

If the only objection to an article is that it may 'stoke prejudice' or 'demonize' a group (as opposed to objecting on the basis that the article says things that are false) even if we might be more careful about that when the group in question in vulnerable, I'm not sure how strong that objection is - isn't it dangerous to discourage true statements on such grounds?


well obviously causing a global recession is rather more serious than mugging old ladies - but if the crime is greater, does that make it more or less acceptable to slur the innocent with it?

I don't see that NightJack "attacks the powerless indiscriminately" although I have only read a few of his posts.


Murray does science like MP's do parsimony.


By "attacking the powerless indiscriminately" I meant that he deliberately or inadvertantly tarred all low-income estate dwellers with the "potentially evil poor" brush, and they are powerless to reverse his judgment in this sense.

Luis Enrique

Hmm, having read a few more of NJ's posts, I am starting to side with his critics.

Larry Teabag


[it's dumb for lefties to pretend no such people (evil poor) exist, and that flipping out every time you encounter someone saying something negative about the poor is not a very smart way to proceed.]

Sure - we can agree on that, at least replacing "something negative about the poor" with "something negative about some sections of the poor". But I do think that there is reason, as bluepill says, to criticise NightJack's take on it.

Charlotte Gore seems to regret her post (and not have been awarded any prizes for it).


Goodness me - do you not realize that the people who are most damaged by the "evil poor", who are their victims, are their neighbours the, for the want of a better word, respectable poor.

They will agree with Night Jack, only wishing that he and his colleagues would come down harder on them.


Night Jack wrote a blog post about social breakdown, not a paper published in a journal. The length of the post is shorter than most social/political comment articles in the mainstream press, which I feel was a mistake because, whilst the second paragraph provides a context for the heading "Evil poor", the post does not acknowledge "poor": those who are most immediately affected by "Evil poor" by direct or indirect actions.

But I have to argue against applying the same level of analysis to a blog post as a published paper. The job of an editor is to identify biases, which is not how self published blogs work. A higher expectation should apply to group blogs, so don't expect any levity from me for group think.

Our host in the comments, Chris Dillow, is guilty of floating contrary ideas to raise counter arguments. Accept blog posts for what they are: discussion items, thrown in the air, unedited and not peer reviewed. Read comments and counter discussions, and let the author acknowledge their own biases.


Cjcjc - try;

*I* "will agree with Night Jack, only wishing that he and his colleagues would come down harder on them."

Nothing like a big strong man maintaining order, eh.

Laban Tall

d2, that is, while not complete nagombi, pretty close to it.

Of course the number of males in the 15-30 age group is a factor in the level of crime. It's a young man's game.

But the absolute levels of crime were so much lower in the in the 1920s and 30s than in the post-50s period that there is obviously some other factor driving up crime rates long term. Age cohorts add their effects, but these are superimposed on the broader pattern.

For example there was a hefty drop in the number of births during WWI, an even bigger one during the mid-late 30s and WW2, and the biggest drop of all in the pill/cultural revolution period of the 1970s, when births dropped from a post-war record in 1964 to a twentieth-century low in 1977. This third drop is the only one of the three which was reflected in lowered crime rates twenty years later. Crime rose slowly during the 20s and 30s and faster during the mid-late 50s.

(Data from ONS 2005 population trends)

You're not even right on the WW2 'post-war baby boom', which was much too short-lived to have caused the consistent increase in crime from the mid-50s onwards.

While there was a sharp post-WW2 spike in births, still visible in todays population profile for people in their early 60s, it was very narrow, as was the post-WWI spike. It was in the 1950-70 period that fertility rose and peaked (1964 to be exact), reaching levels not seen since before WWI. The 'post-war baby boom' peaked nearly 20 years after the war ended ! Now you can argue that this boom was responsible for the increases in crime 1970-90, but the increases were not commensurate with a simple increase in the number of potential criminals. To explain them there had to also be an increase in the propensity to commit crime.

Just as after WW1 there was a shortage of young men in the relevant age group, so there was a drop in the number of young men in the 1990s, as the effects of the Pill and the cultural revolution kicked in - and lo, crime fell under the Howard/Straw/Blunkett regimes. But it was falling from a level about ten times greater than the level in the early 50s. There weren't ten times more young men about.

"If you don't understand that, you really shouldn't be commenting about this subject"

I may be getting into a pissing contest with a skunk here, but tu quoque. You're a clever chap, d2 - just not as clever as you think you are.


I am told that the crime rate in this country around 1900-1920 was twenty to one hundred times lower than it is today.

So if crime is caused by inequality and unfairness, then there must have been much less of these things back then.

So should we not return to the social systems of that period? Not only would be have a vastly lower crime rate, but we would also have a much fairer, more equal society.

rolex submariner

And a lot of it reflects a switch from bank deposits to securities; foreigners “other investments” in the UK, http://www.watchgy.com/ mostly bank deposits, fell by £143.2bn in Q1. And of course there’s no guarantee such buying will continue.

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