Friday, September 06, 2013

Unintended Consequences

By Thomas Sowell

One of the many unintended consequences of the political crusade for increased homeownership among minorities, and low-income people in general, has been a housing boom and bust that left many foreclosed homes that had to be rented, because there were no longer enough qualified buyers.

The repercussions did not stop there. Many homeowners have discovered that when renters replace homeowners as their neighbors, the neighborhood as a whole can suffer.

The physical upkeep of the neighborhood, on which everyone's home values depend, tends to decline. "Who's going to paint the outside of a rented house?" one resident was quoted as saying in a recent New York Times story.

Renters also tend to be of a lower socioeconomic level than homeowners. They are also less likely to join neighborhood groups, including neighborhood watches to keep an eye out for crime. In some cases, renters have introduced unsavory or illegal activities into family-oriented communities of homeowners that had not had such activities before.

None of this should be surprising. Individuals and groups of all sorts have always differed from one another in many ways, throughout centuries of history and in countries around the world. Left to themselves, people tend to sort themselves out into communities of like-minded neighbors.

This has been so obvious that only the intelligentsia could misconstrue it -- and only ideologues could devote themselves to crusading against people's efforts to live and associate with other people who share their values and habits.

Quite aside from the question of whose values and habits may be better is the question of the effects of people living cheek by jowl with other people who put very different values on noise, politeness, education and other things that make for good or bad relations between neighbors. People with children to protect are especially concerned about who lives next door or down the street.

But such mundane matters often get brushed aside by ideological crusaders out to change the world to fit their own vision. When the world fails to conform to their vision, then it seems obvious to the ideologues that it is the world that is wrong, not that their vision is uninformed or unrealistic.

One of the political consequences of such attitudes is the current crusade of Attorney General Eric Holder to force various communities to become more "inclusive" in terms of which races and classes of people they contain.

Undaunted by a long history of disasters when third parties try to mix and match people, or prescribe what kind of housing is best, they act as if this time it has to work.

It doesn't matter how many government housing projects that began with lofty rhetoric and heady visions have ended with these expensive projects being demolished with explosives, in the wake of social catastrophes that made these places unlivable.

To those with the crusading mentality, failure only means that they should try, try again -- at other people's expense, including not only the taxpayers but also those who lives have been disrupted, or even made miserable and dangerous, by previous bright ideas of third parties who pay no price for being wrong.

This headstrong dogmatism and grab for power is not confined to housing. Attorney General Holder is also taking legal action against the state of Louisiana for having so many charter schools, on grounds that these schools do not mix and match the races the way that public schools are supposed to.

The fact that those charter schools which are successful in educating low-income and minority students that the public schools fail to educate are giving these youngsters a shot at a decent life that they are not likely to get elsewhere does not deter the ideological crusaders.

Nor does it deter the politicians who are serving the interests of the teachers' unions, who see public schools as places to provide jobs for their members, even if that means a poor education and poor prospects in life for generations of minority students.

All this ideological self-indulgence and cynical political activity is washed down with lofty rhetoric about "compassion," "inclusion" and the like.


The Vanishing Anti-War Left

Barack Obama ran for president as the last of the red-hot pacifists, so it might have sounded preposterous to predict that after a few security briefings at the White House, President Obama would follow in the same policy footsteps of horrid warmonger George Bush, with his anti-terrorist wars and strategies.

So where is the anti-war movement now?

"What anti-war movement?" former Congressman Dennis Kucinich asked when called for comment last week. Medea Benjamin of the radical group Code Pink agreed: "The antiwar movement is a shadow of its former self under the Bush years." Cindy Sheehan quipped, "The 'anti-war left' was used by the Democratic Party. I like to call it the 'anti-Republican War' movement."

The "Wonkblog" of The Washington Post ran an article (online only, not in the newspaper) headlined, "How Obama demobilized the antiwar movement." As much as our "objective" media lamely tried to portray the peaceniks mobilizing in the streets against Team Bush as nonpartisan and non-ideological, the truth is the movement collapsed as soon as the Democrats tasted power.

Sociologists Michael Heaney and Fabio Rojas surveyed the leftist protesters for a 2011 paper and found that after Obama won, "attendance at anti-war rallies declined precipitously and financial resources available to the movement dissipated ... the antiwar movement demobilized as Democrats, who had been motivated to participate by anti-Republican sentiments, withdrew from antiwar protests when the Democratic Party achieved electoral success, if not policy success."

This is the natural order of things. It's what happens when you win. The Hollywood Women's Political Caucus was a hugely successful left-wing PAC in the late '80s, mobilized to fight the threat to civilization posed by the Reagan GOP. Shortly after Clinton's victory in '92 it, too, declared victory and disbanded. Conservative icon Midge Decter had her fun, too. She declared victory and deactivated her anti-communist group, the Committee for the Free World, after the Berlin Wall came down.

So Osama bin Laden is dead and al-Qaida doesn't have the same horrific luster. Iraq is finished and with Afghanistan, it appears to be only a matter of time. It's natural that some hard-left protest-organizing groups, like United for Peace and Justice, would collapse for lack of donations. Some, like Code Pink, have become almost invisible. Some groups, like, have been willing to toss aside principle in favor of access. General Petraeus went from their General "Betray Us" to General Acceptable when Obama tapped him for Afghanistan.

This evolution applies to the press, as well. Were Bush to have made Obama's statement during that Syria press conference, all hell would have broken loose. Warmonger! No evidence! No allies! But there is no appetite now to curb Obama's sudden fixation with war. He wasn't questioned over saying he would take the step of seeking congressional approval but stated he had the power to go it alone. Incredible.

Worse, as with everything else Obama, they're soft-pedaling it. Andrea Mitchell is a delicious example of a damage-control argumentum ad absurdum.

Mitchell lectured extreme leftist Rep. Barbara Lee: "Barack Obama, as you know better than I do, was one of the leading Democratic politicians against the Iraq War. So if he says that this is different, that the evidence is there ... does that persuade you since he has always come at this from a very cautious anti-war perspective?"

War is best waged by the anti-war agitator?

Remember the legend that the Left unfurled in 2003, that our press corps were a pathetic band of toothless dogs that let Bush drag America into a terrible war? This is the same press corps that championed every "peace" march that gathered in the streets, and the same press corps that scolded each other as "zombies" for failing to stop the "rush to war."

George W. Bush had the polls behind him before the war, but he never had a promotional press. Obama has the media fully in his camp, but not the public. Will the subservient press demonstrate the power to turn public support in the president's favor? Or will they, as with the public, grow weary and turn on this president over his decision to pursue yet another fool's errand in the Middle East. Time will tell.


Milk of Human Blindness

John Stossel

The Denver Post warns, "Milk, food prices could rise if Congress fails to act."

Congress is working on a farm bill, which, among other things, will set limits on how high or low milk prices can be in different regions of the country.

Politicians from both parties like to meddle in agriculture. When the Heritage Foundation told Republicans not to pass any farm bill, "conservative" politicians banned Heritage from their weekly meetings.

But why should politicians be involved in agriculture? Why should they set food prices, any more than they set the price of books or staplers? The market decides most prices, so we don't have to wait with bated breath for politicians to make up their minds.

In a normal market, sellers charge the highest price their customers will pay -- and then lower the price when they lose customers to sellers who charge less. Competition keeps prices low, not generosity or warm-heartedness. Or government.

The price of milk, on the other hand, is decided by regulators, using complicated formulas. They set one price for wholesale milk used to produce "fluid" products and another for milk used in making cheese. It's a ridiculous game of catch-up, in which the regulated prices never change as fast and efficiently as they would in a market, one buyer and seller at a time.

Next week, California will hold public hearings about milk price negotiations, as if more arguing will reveal the "correct" price. The agricultural news site Agri-View reports that dairy farmers filed a petition with the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), demanding it implement an earlier, massive milk-price compact agreed to by cheesemakers and legislators.

Under the agreement, cheese processors must kick in an additional $110 million to a statewide pool of money used to pay dairy farmers, who are upset that they've been paid less than what farmers get in surrounding states.

Rob Vandenheuvel of the state's Milk Producers Council says, "Government has the responsibility to keep us in line with what the rest of the country is making, and they're not doing it. It gives us no choice but to spend money on lawyers."

Great. How many lawyers does it take to produce a gallon of milk?

The dairy farmers say some dairy farms lose money, which proves milk prices are too low. But cheesemakers say they can barely stay in business, proving milk prices are too high.

Why is any of this the legislature's business? It shouldn't be. Prices should be decided by buyers and sellers.

Prices are not just money. They're information. Rising prices tell farmers to produce more; that increases supply and prices go back down. Falling prices tell producers to invest in other products. This system works well for plums, peaches, cars and most everything we buy.

But bureaucrats and lobbyists say milk is "special."

Vandenheuvel says cows can't be subject to market demand because "there are several years of lead time between when you decide to buy a cow and when that cow produces milk."

The CDFA agrees because: "Milk is a perishable product and must be harvested daily," and "Milk continues to be viewed as a necessary food item, particularly for children."

I say, so what? It's not "lead time" or being "perishable" or even being "necessary" that makes milk unique. Plums and newspapers are perishable and harvested daily. It takes long lead times to build assembly lines to make cars. No entrepreneur has a guarantee of market demand once the factory is complete. All business is risky.

The CDFA wails that without price controls, "no other regulations would be in place to assure an adequate supply of milk."

Give me a break. It's in planned economies, like Venezuela, North Korea and the former Soviet Union that shortages occur. When politicians micromanage markets, consumers suffer.

Milk isn't "special." Almost no product is. Let competition set the price.


Six in 10 crimes are never investigated admits British police chief

Six out of every ten crimes reported to one of Britain’s biggest police forces are not properly investigated, its chief has admitted.

Greater Manchester’s officers only ‘actively pursue’ criminals in 40 per cent of cases reported to them, its chief constable said, with detectives effectively shelving or ‘screening out’ the rest because there are no witnesses or clues.

It means that more than 106,000 crimes in Greater Manchester were all but given up by the force as lost causes last year.

Justifying the approach, Sir Peter Fahy said officers had to behave like NHS doctors by prioritising cases which were the most serious or likely to end in success.

However, MPs and crime experts last night accused Sir Peter of failing victims of crime and talking ‘bureaucratic gobbledegook’.  Defending his force’s approach, Sir Peter said: ‘Most crime is committed by a group of active, persistent offenders who go in and out of the criminal justice system.

‘So in continuing to reduce crime, we balance between investigating offences after they have happened and targeting those who we know are out there every day, looking for criminal opportunities. Some of these we visit twice a day to keep them on their toes.

‘In the same way that the Health Service concentrates on the most serious illnesses and the treatments likely to have most effect, the police have to concentrate on the most serious crimes and those where there are lines of investigation likely to produce evidence of the offender.

‘This translates into about 40 per cent of crime being actively pursued at any time. We look at all crimes to identify patterns of offending and to build the picture of where we need to target patrols. In many crimes there are no witnesses, no CCTV and no forensic opportunities.’

Victims in the shelved cases are given crime numbers so they can pursue insurance claims but otherwise their cases are dropped.

Greater Manchester Police was recently criticised for giving special priority to victims if they are members of ‘alternative subcultures’ such as goths, because this would be classified as a ‘hate crime’.

The practice of ‘screening out’ hard-to-solve crime is also widespread in other parts of the country.

In London, 45 per cent of crimes, including a quarter of robberies, two out of five burglaries and three quarters of car thefts were not properly investigated last year.

In total, 346,397 were screened out at an early stage and 424,091 investigated further.

In Bedfordshire 39 per cent are screened out, while in Warwickshire the figure is 37 per cent, Northamptonshire 33 per cent and Hampshire 24 per cent.

Graham Stringer, a local Labour MP, dismissed Sir Peter’s argument as ‘bureaucratic gobbledegook’.

He said: ‘De-prioritising the majority of crime is bound to lead to a loss of confidence in the police force. Those victims whose crimes aren’t investigated have every right to be angry. They have an expectation, having paid their council tax, that they have a better service from the police force.’

Peter Cuthbertson, of the Centre for Crime Prevention, said: ‘This is an appalling admission. Setting priorities because of a heavy workload is sensible, but to drop a large majority of cases can only increase the workload, spurring on criminals who realise the police won’t even investigate them most of the time.’

Criminologist Dr David Green, of the Civitas think-tank, said: ‘Police do not focus on the most serious incidents – they focus on the ones they can solve quickly to boost their detection rates. They are neglecting the crimes which the public is most concerned about.’

For example, burglary has one of the lowest detection rates of all offences. Last year, it emerged only 15 per cent of burglaries are being solved in Greater Manchester.

Tony Lloyd, Police and Crime Commissioner for Greater Manchester, said: ‘Let me be clear that I expect, and the chief constable expects, that with all serious crime no effort will be spared to bring the criminals to justice.

‘What I don’t expect is where there is no evidential trail that the police go through a paper chase to simply tick boxes, but instead use intelligent policing to prevent a recurrence of those types of crime.’

The force said crime had fallen significantly in the past decade despite a £134million cut in its budget.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the  incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of  other countries.  The only real difference, however, is how much power they have.  In America, their power is limited by democracy.  To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already  very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges.  They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did:  None.  So look to the colleges to see  what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way.  It would be a dictatorship.



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