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26% of violent crime convicts account for 63% of violent crime conviction (2014) (nih.gov)
192 points by gwern on Feb 10, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 224 comments



Humans consistently make the same mistake about understand the motivations, the inhibiting and promoting pressures of other people. We assume that everyone else is exactly like us. Therefore, when we build systems and institutions that attempt to alter behavior, we encode our own motivations and desires as the impetus.

I.E. why we have UX researchers, do user testing, A/B testing etc when we develop products. Our instincts about what other folks will pay for/want/value/use are rarely totally accurate.

“I don’t want to go to jail, therefore, jail will be a globally effective crime deterrent” is demonstrably false for this subset of the population.

From a purely behavioral science perspective, we know that humans deeply discount uncertain future downsides compared to short term certain upsides.

If you are interested in this sort of stuff, I strongly suggest reading Mark Kleinman, particularly his work on “swift, certain, fair” as an effective means to address this population and challenge.


Prison is a deterrent, certainly, but it also exists to keep violent folks away from the rest of society so they can't do more harm.


This study indicates that incarceration, at least as it is currently implemented, is emphatically not a deterrent for repeat violent offenders.

As for the public safety element, yes, but these people mostly weren’t locked up for life. What this shows, at least, in my opinion, is that much more intensive psychological and therapeutic interventions are needed, because if anything, incarceration as it currently exists would seem to exacerbate the problem.


Or, more simply, you could incarcerate repeat offenders for longer periods of time.


I guess you could lock up ~1% of the population indefinitely, but by the time you've gotten to that point something else has clearly gone wrong, since most affluent countries are able to achieve relatively low violent crime rates without such widespread use of incarceration. If we were talking about 0.01% hard-core violent criminals then sure, just incarcerate them, but 3m+ people?

As far as I'm able to find, only two large countries in history have ever locked up more than even 0.5% of their population for extended periods of time: the USSR for approximately 15 years during the height of the Stalinist period (late 1930s to early 1950s), and the USA for about 30 years, from the late 1980s to present. So I wouldn't consider that a "normal" approach to managing crime.


I don't think comparisons to "other affluent countries" are apt; the socioeconomic and cultural makeup of the United States is so starkly different from pretty much any other country (even our immediate neighbors to the north and south).

In particular, the institution of slavery and perhaps even more so, the culture of segregation, condescension, and disdain that followed from The Reconstruction onwards resulted in such drastic dehumanization, disenfranchisement, and demoralization of a huge percentage of the population that has not been seen anywhere else in the world.

No solution can be drafted that does not address this ugly stain on our history (continuing to the present) and still ever hope to work, and whitewashing history books and tiptoeing around this elephant in the room in the name of political correctness does us all a disservice.


It's been seen plenty of places in the world. Probably most, by area anyway. There are still places where a significant portion of the population are not only disdained and disenfranchised, but actively killed without much consequence: the Rohingya for a current example, or the lowest castes in India


Absolutely. But few would make comparisons or draw parallels to them, whereas they'll be quick to do so for the Nordic nations or similar.


What is the concrete benefit of simplicity in this context, and how do you quantify whatever that benefit is?

Becaue the cost is both clear and intensive: Depriving a human being of liberty for additional years or decades. This should be done only when absolutely neccessary, should it not? We disapprove of imprisonable offenses intensely, but these are still human beings, with rights. It seems to me a humane system does not inflict thousands of cumulative additional incarceration years merely to keep the implementation of justice “simple.”


Simple in the sense that if you can identify this 1%, keeping them locked up or otherwise away from the rest of society longer will very effectively reduce crime. There is no way that therapy is going to be as effective. We are talking about repeated violent offenders here, really dangerous individuals. Of course they are still people but their happiness is secondary to keeping them from repeatedly inflicting harm on innocents.


>keeping them locked up or otherwise away from the rest of society longer will very effectively reduce crime.

The problem with this is it only looks at the problem from a maintenance perspective rather than a preventative root cause analysis. Like adressing the relationship between cyclical poverty and cyclical incarceration


That would work but incarceration is an unscalable solution. Some CA stats:

  - $71k/person/year
  - 130,000 inmates
  - 135% of capacity 
  - highest rate of incarceration in the world
We're maxed out - and all this doesn't even solve the root issues of mental illness and poverty. We need alternative ideas with better ROI.


Well, Gulag was profitable AFAIK


Sure. But what are these alternatives? 1% of the population are psychopaths and no one knows how to make them not be so. What else can we do but put them away?


Either why aren't 1% of people psychopaths in other developed nations or alternatively why are these 1% behaving in other nations.


The easy solution is prison but its also crazy expensive both in terms of raw cost and societal cost (broken up families, addiction, developing gang ties in jail, recidivism, opportunity cost of taking a working age person out of the job pool).

IMO there is no politically easy solution or we would have already done it. Society has to change how it views criminals and invest resources in the things that increase the likelihood of crime. For example, rich psychopaths commit a lot less violent crime than poor psychopaths. Social services, addiction counseling, education, etc help. But its extremely hard to convince people more resources should go to helping criminals vs punishing them.


Maybe we should figure out why they are "psychopaths", rather than locking them up and throwing away the key?


Hahah, apparently this is a controversial suggestion. Never realized HN is so right-wing.


"Our study suggests that 3 months of imprisonment in an impoverished environment may lead to reduced self-control, measured as increased risk taking and reduced attentional performance. This is a significant and societally relevant finding, as released prisoners may be less capable of living a lawful life than they were prior to their imprisonment, and may be more prone to impulsive risk-taking behavior. In other words, the impoverished environment may contribute to an enhanced risk of reoffending."

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.0006...


Studies show that things like three strike laws do reduce crime rates. But, for example in California, it costs $70k per year to jail them. Intensive outpatient therapy costs half as much. If we moved to two strikes and then mandatory high expensive therapy it could be more humans and cost effective.


We've taken that approach for quite a while in the US and the results are bad, to put it mildly.


I don't think people liked how Three Strikes laws have turned out.


You're missing the other half of the picture. How many were deterred because of prison? Would it have been 2 or 5 or 10% were it not for the deterrents? You can't say.


You're assuming people use logical, rational thought which has ample amounts of evidence against it. Jails used to be horrific, yet crime rates were higher. The presence of a jail sentence or even a death sentence as a deterrent is widely discredited. The only uses for prisons are to prevent future crimes by removing the ability to perform crimes and intensive rehabilitation. Most former convicts do not want to reoffend but the American social and legal system of punishing people for their entire lives for offenses committed once prevents effective reintegration into society.

All the science points to preventing initial conditions for conviction and significant improvements needed post release.

http://www.slate.com/articles/business/the_dismal_science/20...

https://nij.gov/five-things/Pages/deterrence.aspx

https://www.nij.gov/topics/corrections/recidivism/Pages/welc...


Most criminal cases don't get to a conviction. Ask a police officer. Save for very few countries (e.g. Japan)


The problem is that they become worse in prison. I’d be for a policy where once you went to jail you were never let out into the general population — you’d have to go live on an island with ex-prisoners.


Sort of like transportation?


Let me put it this way: the current “standard” criminal justice system is exceedingly effective at dissuading the sort of people who designed and operate the system from committing crime, but those folks are not the population that in fact commit crimes.


Tautology - People who are effectively deterred from committing crimes do not commit crimes.

The system may be very effective at deterring many would-be criminals. Any system will be ineffective against some subset and so this statement would still apply.

Under any system, most crime will be committed by those whom that system does not effectively deter.


Yes, true.

So, in order to improve the system and reduce crime, you need to understand those who are currently not effectively deterred.

More of the same is not going to work if you hope to improve outcomes.


But you don't want people who currently aren't committing crimes to begin doing so. Who's to say that the current deterred subset of the population won't begin to commit crimes if our style of punishment is changed?


That seems to start from the assumption that everyone would commit crime if they could.


They specifically referred to the "deterred subset" ... which is much smaller then "everyone".

In any case, the parent's point seemed pretty empty.

> Who's to say that the current deterred subset of the population won't begin to commit crimes if our style of punishment is changed?

This is what research is for. We may never know what is optimal in an absolute sense, but we can figure out some relative costs/benefits of different approaches to problems and choose our tradeoffs appropriately.


But this only applies to premeditated crimes, where the system is a factor that goes into deciding whether to commit the crime.

Crimes of passion (i.e. many violent crimes, especially) don't take the system and its deterrents into account.


Beautifully parsed and simplified.


In the minds of many people the purpose of the system is not entirely to deter crime; some criminals will not be deterred and the secondary purpose of the system is to segregate such people from society by placing them into little boxes until the system decides they are no longer a danger to the rest of us.


Lots of people (in the US at least, not, say, Sweden) care more about revenge and suffering inflicted on the criminals than rehabilitating them (or even preventing them from doing more harm -- they are e.g. totally ok if they do more harm, but inside, to other inmates).

What I hope is that those people get to experience prison for inside, and even better, for some BS reason, like the reasons tons of people are in jail for (possession of marijuana, breathing while black, and so on).


Isn't there a bit of irony there? In that you want to send the send-people-to-prison-to-suffer people to prison to suffer?


Its totally in keeping with the revenge is more important than results mindset.


Let's call it poetic justice, or taste of their own medicine.


You sound just like the people you condemn.


And yet only one side (between me and the people I condemn) actually controls what the law is like and helps inflict pain and harsh conditions upon millions of people serving time.

So what I "sound like" is quite irrelevant. Except if you believe that people who cherish revenge and punishment of inmates will one day replace the people population based on my wish.


Well, as long as they're promoting the idea they may as well get a taste of their own medicine. It's not like they don't have access to alternative arguments based on empathy or moral principles or empirical data showing that their highly punitive approach works poorly.


> until the system decides they are no longer a danger to the rest of us.

Which kind of implies that one of the goals of prison is/should be to move to a state where they are no longer a danger.


So are you saying that the solution is to lock up these people for life?

Because I hope that’s not what you are saying.


The way society treats recidivism, with a series of escalating time-outs, is very similar to how we treat questionable behavior in computer security with rate-limiting. It's not a binary choice where you either drop all pretense of security or have an oracle to always know exactly who should be kept locked away. Rather, there are benefits and trade-offs balanced in the design of each system, including the understanding that there is limited knowledge to go on at each enforcement point.

I think it is interesting to find such parallels in the design features of such a wide range of systems as courts, prisons, network firewalls, and authentication systems. One can imagine various interpretations in response to these parallels: on one extreme, the designs could demonstrate common cognitive biases of the humans designing them; on the other, the functioning systems could be illustrating natural truths that have been discovered through the evolution of these systems...


You hope that’s not what the commenter is saying, but what is your proposal instead?

We can put significant effort into understanding criminals, for the purposes of both preemptive treatment and reactive rehabilitation, but this is not likely to eradicate crime. What do you suppose we should do with criminals who continue to commit violent or disruptive crimes in perpetuity?

To clarify, I think the system could improve: extremely long sentences may not need to be issued for first time offenders, even if they are very serious. But I don’t think the system can remove permanent sentences if criminals exhibit a clear predilection that is resistent to all known forms of treatment.


http://www.swiftcertainfair.com

Been studied, replicated, and thoroughly tested.

It’s just one option as well.

There are many many more.


Do you mind summarizing what that is a bit? I’d like to read about it, but either the link isn’t working for me (I’m on mobile) or it doesn’t contain much information aside from the homepage.


Copy pasting from their website:

About one-third of probationers and parolees fail the terms of their supervision. Over three-quarters of parolees are re-arrested within five years, and over half return to prison. High failure rates for people on probation and parole—whether for new offenses, revocations, or individuals who abscond from supervision—result in increased crime, crowded prisons and jails, and strained public budgets. Indeed, every single one of the seventeen states that have undertaken justice reinvestment since 2010 has found probation or parole revocations to be an important driver of their growing prison populations. And despite a variety of local, state, and Federal initiatives over the last two decades, failure rates for supervised individuals have not meaningfully fallen.

Why Swift Certain and Fair? Because—if the conditions are right—a SCF program can take high-risk individuals in your jurisdiction and substantially reduce their drug use, revocation and re-arrest rates, and the subsequent reliance on incarceration.

Swift: SCF programs deliver a sanction immediately upon detection of a violation, which is critical in changing behavior. Responding swiftly also supports perceptions of the fairness of the program, reinforcing that element of SCF programs.

Certain: The consistency and predictability of punishments make the consequences of bad behavior clear to the offender, reinforcing the need to make better decisions and change behavior. An essential role is played by the clearly-defined behavioral contract with the offender—a tool that has repeatedly been proven to increase perceptions about the certainty of punishment.

Fair: The clear demarcation of the offenders’ new supervision conditions and the opportunity for a fresh start allow the offender to regain their sense of self-control. The contract enhances the perceived fairness of any subsequent punishment; this perception of fairness is further supplemented by the sparing rather than harsh level of punishment upon violation, which additionally limits disruption of employment and other non-criminal routines and relationships.


> and substantially reduce their drug use

Drug use is a symptom, the result of another problem. Consider, for example, an undiagnosed personality disorder, or an untreated childhood trauma. Furthermore, what I'm going to mention next isn't helping that either.

> the opportunity for a fresh start

That's just marketing shenanigans. In reality this is rather relative; if one has become a convicted felon, they remain a convicted felon for life. This haunts them till the end of their time. The stigma hampers functionality in society in multiple ways: friendships, and employment first and foremost, but also hypocritically the 2nd amendment (of which I as a European am no proponent of, but what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander), and the loss of other rights [1]. This society inhibited perfectionism inhibits a defeatist attitude which lures a convicted felon back on the dark path of criminal behaviour on top of things like personality traits or already financial issues. Prisoner series like Orange Is The New Black (though certainly not the first!) beautifully articulate this specific problem, and a myriad other.

The problem is that we see criminals as individuals who cause an issue in society. Instead, we should regard them as individuals who are unable to participate in society and look at it from that angle, by trying to make them participate in society. Getting rid of the defeatist attitude is one way to increase participation in society, looking for medical treatment. Some examples of problem solving procedures (vary on individual basis) are dental procedure (for e.g. former meth addicts), basic insurance, medicine/drugs (methadone for e.g. former heroin addicts), psychological therapy.

I don't want to be negative about the program, though:

> Fair: The clear demarcation of the offenders’ new supervision conditions and the opportunity for a fresh start allow the offender to regain their sense of self-control. The contract enhances the perceived fairness of any subsequent punishment; this perception of fairness is further supplemented by the sparing rather than harsh level of punishment upon violation, which additionally limits disruption of employment and other non-criminal routines and relationships.

This puts the other parts into perspective, making it indeed more fair for the convicted felon (or less unfair, depending on your perspective). That doesn't mean the sentence itself isn't still out of proportion; it already is put out of proportion because there's societal punishments on top of the sentence. Some of which are harmful for rehabilitation.

Incidentally, fixing this might also make things like arrests generally less violent.

[1] https://thelawdictionary.org/article/what-rights-do-convicte...


Do any among the "many more" studies address the recidivist, violent 1% who are the issue here? This one does not, and what this discussion needs is more relevant information.


To play devil's advocate, maybe the system is very, very good as evidenced by all of the people who aren't running around committing crimes. In other words, survivorship bias.


To verify if this is the case, you should compare incarceration rate and crime rate with otherwise similar countries.


> exceedingly effective at dissuading the sort of people who designed and operate the system from committing crime

More like the people who designed and operate the system consider everything they do legal and only criminalize the activity of people not like them.


> More like the people who designed and operate the system consider everything they do legal

This is true by definition. Anyway, what sort of violent crime do you propose to legalize?


Here is one that is fraught where I live - disciplining children with a smack. Many people think hitting children in a disciplinary context should be legal.


How do you define a “smack” versus a “hit”?


You probably also need to consider things like how often is physical discipline being used, and is it actual discipline or just an excuse for abuse.


What is more wrong -

a parent physically abusing their child when they feel like it (bear in mind the parent is also taking care of said child)?

a parent bound by society reduced to moaning at their child (think kids under 10) hoping to control them?

I know which is more perverse.


You don't.

All forms of hitting children are abusive.


Shouting at, or ignoring, children is also (emotionally) abusive. Should we lock up parents who ever act in one of those ways towards their children?

Also, what about when children hit their siblings, or their parents, or their class mates? I don't think that locking these children up is conducive to their welfare either.


If one does neither it doesn’t matter.


Hitting or smacking? Smacks are a very limited subset of hits.


Bar brawls between consenting adults.


It'd be interesting to see how often the state presses assault charges without much participation from one of the parties involved.


Not often unless they already have a reason to target the person (repeat offender, wanted for another crime they can't prove, etc).

I remember being in Texas and seeing on the news how a guy shot another guy in a bar and they were not prosecuting because the person who was shot was not pressing charges, but that's Texas.


[flagged]


Manslaughter and murder are already criminalized, at least in the United States. Where do you live?


How many executives and board members of companies manufacturing opiate pain killers (to give only one example) have you seen charged with manslaughter recently?


Well considering drug companies aren't the one who prescribe the drug, I'd be shocked to see many of them in prison.

Doctor's, on the other hand, have been sent to prison for out of control prescribing of opioids.


Sure but parent mentioned things that are virtually un-prosecutable.


>we encode our own motivations and desires as the impetus

I don’t see how that’s true. Wouldn’t it be more accurate to say, the system was encoded based on what the designers knew about motivation and desires at the time?

The fact that what they knew was based on their own motivations seems incidental. I doubt if they had the perfect formula evidenced and understandable to them at the time, that they would have intentionally ignored it to still encode it in their own image.

So we can really boil it down to, people didn’t understand human nature as well when these systems were created. Then, even as better understanding evolved and continues to improve, the problem of inertia and entrenched thinking works against change.

From that we can conclude one of the biggest problems with the criminal justice system is, simply that it’s impeded in the exact same way so many other systems are.

edit after comment: Point is the description of the problem seems to imply pretentious motivations, when the simplest explanation is they just didn’t know how things worked at the time.


> The fact that what they knew was based on their own motivations seems incidental. I doubt if they had the perfect formula evidenced and understandable to them at the time, that they would have intentionally ignored it to still encode it in their own image.

My understanding of the comment you’re responding to is that the nature of human experience precludes that ideal understanding, not that people would purposely ignore it. The point appears to be that humans encounter intrinsic difficulty in understanding the myriad idiosyncratic motivations of others in the species, not that they deliberately don’t want to understand it.

In other words: I don’t think you and the parent commenter are disagreeing.


I certainly disagree the nature of human experience precludes ideal understanding.

My point is the comment suggests almost an egocentric process, i.e. modeling a system in our own image, when actually it’s explained by simple ignorance.


Right, I follow what you’re saying. My followup to that is that I think (personally, and what the commenter is saying) that ignorance in the modeling of human behavior both causes and is caused by egocentrism in a feedback loop.

In any case, you disagree with that, so I suppose you are disagreeing with the parent; my interpretation of the parent commenter’s point was that this ignorance you speak of is pretty tightly coupled with innate egocentrism. I don’t think they’d consider that necessarily malicious if they consider it from that framework, whereas you might consider it malicious if the process is egocentric because you disagree with the same relationship; vis-a-vis ignorance and egocentrism.


Okay, so they didn’t understand.

Does that preclude us from trying to fix the problem?


On the contrary, it should add to our motivation. It’s just usually most productive to target outrage as accurately as possible. Not just because it’s fair, but because outrage is a scarce resource. To fight institutional injustice requires wasting as little energy as possible on the wrong targets.


From a purely scientific point of view (since that is what you are espousing), you can't make the comment you just did without proving that without the threat of jail time this subset of the population would not be committing even more crimes even more often.

Additionally, speaking as someone that agrees with the scientific premise of your argument, any alternative would be a trade-off, i.e. the percentage of the population that are not committing crimes at all would need to remain sufficiently deterred, which may change when the deterrent does.


Studies like this are hard, because they're usually labeled 'racist', or it turns into an ad hominem attack on the authors, or struck down in the media for singling out some minority group. I love the wording as it has a focus on the positive; summed up it basically says: we can't help those who we can't identity.


> Studies like this are hard, because they're usually labeled 'racist', or it turns into an ad hominem attack on the authors, or struck down in the media for singling out some minority group.

I think you’re confusing studies with conclusions. What you’re describing doesn’t happen but what is common are studies finding a correlation which leads to someone claiming causation and then complaining when they’re criticized.

As an example, in the US it’s uncontested that some populations have worse academic performance. That doesn’t get criticized seriously. What does get criticism is when a right-wing commenter tries to say that this must be because of genetic causes or the popular euphemism “culture” – and that criticism is well deserved since that ignores all of the other explanations and checks which actual science would require and goes straight to the same conclusion which avowed racists have been pushing for centuries.


Also people often make an unfounded extrapolation from arrest or conviction stats to crimes committed. We can accurately measure arrests or convictions fairly easily so we frequently have statistics for those, but it is very hard to accurately measure who is committing crimes. People often like to assume that there is a direct correspondence between arrests/convictions and crimes committed, but that is an unjustified assumption.


It’s not at all hard, and obviously so: for most crimes (e.g. assault, rape, robbery, murder), the perpetrator’s race is observable. The National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) and National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS) measure exactly this, and surprise, surprise: offense rates and arrest rates line up pretty exactly for every race across every category of crime.


A logical and reasonable assumption, and I think probably mostly true, but still unproven.


Way to prove my point.


If you aren’t capable of defending your claims, why even reply? You made a sweeping general claim with no evidence: the responsible thing to do would be admitting it and not repeating the process.


What you are saying is troubling because it shows that many people really don't understand what it is that we call racist -- and it's not studies like these. I am a radical leftist (and a radical feminist) and I do not consider a statistical assertion such as "black people in the US are significantly overrepresented among those who commit violent crimes" at all as racist. What is racist (not just "labeled" racist; we usually "label" as racist things that are actually racist[1]) are various conclusions -- often hinted and sometimes explicitly stated -- that simply do not follow from the data according to any reasonable scientific standard and make claims about certain causes of such an effect.

[1]: Though not necessarily xenophobic; the difference between the two confuses many people, as does the difference between sexist and misogynistic. Xenophobia and misogyny imply a certain intent, a certain feeling of resentment towards other races, cultures and genders, while racism and sexism are merely actions or inactions -- usually unintentional and sometimes even well-meaning -- that serve to increase or maintain the current disparity in power among different groups. While I don't like applying the terms sexist and racist to people, as they're best applied to actions, laws, rules, institutions etc., we can apply them to those who do racist/sexist things. I know I'm racist and sexist, and I can assume you are, too. If you spend some time learning about those concepts, you know it is very much expected for people in racist/sexist societies to be racist and sexist, and it takes active effort to fight them. People should not be offended that they're racist and sexist, just as they should not be offended to learn that they may be carrying and spreading germs that cause infectious diseases, although I'm sure many were insulted to be "labeled" as disease-spreading when microbes were first discovered. Once you understand those "labels" aren't insults but well-researched observations, you know you shouldn't be offended by them, but you should learn to identify racist/sexist behaviors and prevent them, just as you learned to wash your hands.


>What you are saying is troubling because it shows that many people really don't understand what it is that we call racist -- and it's not studies like these. I am a radical leftist (and a radical feminist) and I do not consider a statistical assertion such as "black people in the US are significantly overrepresented among those who commit violent crimes" at all as racist.

You might not, but lots of people do -- and publicly say so.


Not true, and this is precisely what I find troubling -- that you misunderstand them and miss the actual problem they point out.

Obviously, I can't vouch for everyone, but since I haven't seen any behavior of the kind you refer to (certainly not among more-or-less mainstream figure), I can safely assume it's not done by "lots of people".


Just have a look at the public discourse in Sweden and you'll soon find out your position is untenable. While you are right in stating that the majority of the population will not find [these assertions] racist (or xenophobe, islamophobe, etcetera) there is a big discrepancy between what people think and what they can state out loud for fear of being called just that. This is due in part to the fact that the media - print and broadcast - are very active in disavowing such standpoints and putting those labels on people who hold them. This in turn is most likely related to the large difference in political affiliations between the public at large (where you'll find an about even divide between "left" and "right", largely clustered around the centre) and those who work in the media (89% on the left side, 78% of which on the extreme left [1]). As those who are stamped with such a label can expect to be shunned by both friends as well as employers this habit of vocally labelling anyone who steps outside of the left-of-centre narrative as racist has created an atmosphere of fear for being pointed out [2].

So yes, at least in Sweden you'll voice an opinion like this at your own peril. You describe yourself as a radical leftist (and a radical feminist). I can all but guarantee that you would be an outcast among your peers if you even hint to having such opinions. A good example of this phenomenon can be found with Amineh Kakabaveh [3], a Kurdish woman who was shunned her party [4] because of her active stance against honour crimes, for women's rights and secularism.

[1] https://jmg.gu.se/digitalAssets/1284/1284227_nr38.pdf

[2] The wall seems to be crumbling a bit now that it is nearly impossible to remain ignorant of the facts. Some politicians still try to keep up the narrative but critical voices are now heard even in some mainstream publications.

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amineh_Kakabaveh

[4] "Vänsterpartiet", they used to call themselves the left-wing communist party but ditched the "communist" term after the dissolution of the Soviet Union


> While you are right in stating that the majority of the population will not find [these assertions] racist

That's not what I meant. What I meant is that the left, even the radical left -- as an intellectual movement -- does not find this kind of statements racist in and of themselves.

> This is due in part to the fact that the media - print and broadcast - are very active in disavowing such standpoints and putting those labels on people who hold them.

But this is different, and I would agree with the viewpoint that such discourse is racist, and precisely what I meant by saying that the point is misunderstood. The left does not consider a factual statement such as "muslims carry out a disproportionately large number of terror acts" as itself racist. On the other hand, such constant discourse is racist because its subtext is to instill the idea that terrorism is innately muslim (factually false) or that Muslims are somehow intrinsically drawn to terrorism (also false). If talk shows were to constantly talk about the temperature of the sun, that would also mean that there is something going on beside the desire to educate the public of a scientific fact. I.e., there is a difference between some fact and the action of repeatedly talking about that fact in contexts that aren't really about statistics.

It's like that famous story of a man who escapes the insane asylum and, intent on not being taken back, decides to only speak the truth so he won't be considered crazy, and he goes around telling everyone he sees "the Earth is round." It's not the fact itself that is crazy in this story. Because I work in the tech industry I have come across quite a few people in the course of my carreer who are on the autistic spectrum, and some of them were simply unable to understand how a statement and the constant repetition of that statement are different acts and may have completely different meanings.

> I can all but guarantee that you would be an outcast among your peers if you even hint to having such opinions.

You are absolutely wrong about that. Like I said, there is a big difference in subtext between constantly bringing up some fact and stating that the fact itself is racist. The facts I mentioned are a statistical description of some current (and transient) historical conditions; frequently bringing them up is a sign of a (racist) political sentiment.


The left, and in particular the radical left, has no issue having such constant discourse in regards to men. Even in this article the politics of our day shows that gender is acceptable to call out but not race.

This article shows the issue of doing so. The subtext from much of left literature is to instill the idea that violence is innately male (factually false) or that men are somehow intrinsically drawn to violence (also false). Even if averaged it out to a whole 2% of the male population, the other 98% are not. The association to the male sex is similar to the association to race or the association between Muslims and terrorism. An other word for it would be correlation.

The article has an issue with calling out race, and it should because its a very small portion of non-native swedes that do violent crime. It has no issue to call out males, even though the association is weaker. That is politics, and a very specific one at that.


> The left, and in particular the radical left, has no issue having such constant discourse in regards to men.

Why would there be? The point of view is not one of describing some hypothetical world but our concrete world. If in our concrete world the position of, say, white men and that of blacks is different, why would you even assume that the two should be treated the same in discussions of society? No sociologist, anthropologist or historian would say that social issues in an imaginary world where blacks and whites have equal power should be studied in the same way as in a real world where they don't. Statistics are studied in their appropriate context; otherwise, they're misleading.

> The subtext from much of left literature is to instill the idea that violence is innately male

No, violence is usually male, but I don't think we consider it innate in the sense you seem to allude to (i.e., as the main cause or as a sign of an inability to change). In general, we don't like talking about innate qualities for several reasons. 1. The science is vague and weak at best -- even when innate qualities are found, their respective strength is unknown and the effect size is usually far too small compared to observation, which suggests that in many cases innate causes have weak explanatory power, and 2. innate causes make for very bad excuses when it comes to calls for changing behavior; innate biological capabilities explain 100% of humans' inability to fly, yet that hasn't stopped us from wanting to and succeeding in building airplanes. In fact, if you find any subtext in leftist thought particularly emphasizes any innate uncontrollable trait, then I'd say you've either found something quite unusual or you've completely missed the mark. The general tendency not to focus on innate "essentialism" is among the left's most distinguishing marks. It's not that we deny the possibility of strong innate forces, but we think that even when they are overwhelmingly strong -- such as the case of flying and airplanes -- they are often overcome, and such a focus is often used as a reactionary stance against change even though that does not follow even from the claimed innateness.

> The association to the male sex is similar to the association to race or the association between Muslims and terrorism.

Yes and no. Yes in the sense that both are indeed correlations. No in the sense that men have been subjugating women almost everywhere almost constantly for many centuries if not millennia, while Islam has become abnormally overrepresented in terrorism only very recently, correlated with decline, not rise in its power.


   > The left, and in particular the radical left, has no issue having such constant discourse in regards to men.
   Why would there be? The point of view is not one of describing some hypothetical world but our concrete world.
...but in that case the 'radical left' should not have any problems with factual conclusions about the over-representation of people from certain ethnic groups in crime statistics. As this is definitely not the case - anyone even hinting at this is soon labelled racist, cast out of the ingroup, no longer invited to the television studios to discuss politics with the in-crowd and generally portrayed as an all-out bad person - this statement falls flat on its face. The 'radical left', and especially that contingent which labels themselves as 'radical feminist' do make an exception for two distinct categories: men in general (around 50% of the population) and - to use their own terminology - 'cis-gender heterosexual white men' (and 'whites' in general). These groups can be singled out by their group membership and accused of all sorts of things without risk.


> but in that case the 'radical left' should not have any problems with factual conclusions about the over-representation of people from certain ethnic groups in crime statistics.

We don't. We have a problem with the context this is brought up with. Like the Kiergegaard story about the madman and the round Earth.

> this is definitely not the case - anyone even hinting at this is soon labelled racist

Totally made up BS. If you choose to misunderstand things, that's not our fault. OTOH, people who believe that blacks are somehow more innately inclined towards crime -- a scientific fallacy -- are racist, and so their "labeling" as such is not only justified but necessary. I don't know what word best describes racism other than "racism".


The point should be to look at the current power in society in the context of the distribution. The top 1% in power is men, but the bottom 1% in power is also men. By selectively only looking at the top 1% we disregard the context of the other 99%, harming them in the process just like when we focus on Muslim terrorists rather than the 99% of Muslims who aren't terrorists. Worse we are doing double damage to those at the bottom of society.

> In general, we don't like talking about innate qualities

"Men violence against women" - Title of a lot of writing, government reports, books, and so on from the left. We don't see "foreigners violence against Swedes" or "Muslims violence against non-believers". That would be titles from far right writing. A spade is a spade on both side when looked at from the middle.

> men have been subjugating women almost everywhere almost constantly for many centuries if not millennia, while Islam has become abnormally overrepresented in terrorism only very recently

No, yes, and no. Religion has been associated with wars and violence for centuries if not millennia. Gender roles has also existed for that long, but only very recently being describe as subjugating. History get interpreted through political leaning and rewriting history is an old political trick by both the left and right. Reading how life was a few hundred years have very little in the form of gender subjugating, unless you count taking men from their home and against their will putting them on the war front to die. Much of cultural values in historical society can be derive from two core gender roles, that of the nurture role and the support role. One exist to create the family, the other exist to supply food and defense. If we want to describe that as subjugating then lets call what it is. Both are being subjugated. Take any time in history and what we have is a lack of liberty for the 99% of the population, men or women. The 99% rarely if ever has power, control, or freedom from subjugating.


> By selectively only looking at the top 1% we disregard the context of the other 99%

But that's not what we do. First, instead of looking at just 2% of the population as you seem to suggest we should do, we look at all of them, and on the whole, much more power is held by men than by women. Second, we feminists generally care much more about the bottom 1% (or 50%) of society -- be they men, women, black or white -- than the rich and powerful men at the top 1%. You can see that not only in historical events (feminists were a strong power among the abolitionists in 19th century US) but even if you look at current events, and see that women are disproportionately represented in demonstrations against unfair incarceration, against deportation of refugees etc..

> "Men violence against women" - Title of a lot of writing, government reports, books, and so on from the left.

I don't see any reference to innate qualities here.

> We don't see "foreigners violence against Swedes" or "Muslims violence against non-believers".

First, because unlike men violence against women, those are actually outliers rather than the norm. Second, like I wrote in another comment, I don't understand your expectation. If the position of Muslims and immigrants in a Western country is so very different from that of native men, why would you even want them to be treated the same? Is a diamond handled the same way as limestone just because they are both rocks? Note that I am not talking about any innate qualities, just the current state of affairs.

> Gender roles has also existed for that long, but only very recently being describe as subjugating.

That's just a total and complete fabrication. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_feminism and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protofeminism

> Reading how life was a few hundred years have very little in the form of gender subjugating, unless you count taking men from their home and against their will putting them on the war front to die.

I actually studied history (mostly medieval) in grad school, and what you're writing here is total BS.

> Much of cultural values in historical society can be derive from two core gender roles, that of the nurture role and the support role. One exist to create the family, the other exist to supply food and defense.

Do you still believe that the world is made of the four classical elements? Do you believe that the Earth is flat? If you had actually studied history from actual historians and primary sources, the ideas you mention here would sound equally ridiculous to you as the four elements and the flat Earth. 1. they are mostly ahistorical fabrications, and 2. to the small extent that they are historically true, their explanative power is false as the claim would work in the same way to justify any current state of affairs -- we're here because the system is good. For example, in the time of slavery I could use the exact same description to justify slavery; in fact people did exactly that (and slavery has made much more economical "sense" than the subjugation of women) and yet changing the system turined out just fine. Finally, suppose that this fantasy were true (although I truly feel sorry for you that you've somehow been convinced by such BS), as I mentioned above throughout history women have expressed anger at their subjugation -- do you morally support constantly harming billions of others even for some imagined greater good? Do you also support slavery, then?

I can't stop you from being of the opinion that women should be subjugated (unfortunately, this is far from a fringe opinion; in a way, it's still the ruling opinion although it's no longer usually made so explicit), but please don't try to justify that position using fabricated history.


Just to show that 'the left' really means it when they state that it is 'racist' to relate criminality with ethnicity and religion here's a quote from the latest congress of the Swedish 'Vänster' (communist in all but name) party, published today in the Swedish media [1]:

   Kritikerna menar att det finns de som vill ha brottsstatistik
   över etnicitet, det är en helt annan debatt. Det är rasism att
   koppla ihop brott med etnicitet eller religion. Den debatten
   är bortspelad för länge sedan, förutom hos vissa moderater som
   vill värva röster från Sverigedemokraterna, säger Daniel Riazat.
This translates to:

   Critics state there are those who want to collect statistics
   on ethnicity related to criminality but that is an entirely 
   different debate. ___It is racist to connect crime with ethnicity
   or religion___. This debate has played out a long time ago apart
   from some 'Moderates' (neo-liberals) who want to gather votes
   for the Sweden Democrats (nationalists) says Daniel Riazat.
This is a literal quote from a congress which finished today, "It is racist to connect crime with ethnicity or religion".

[1] https://www.svd.se/v-vill-samla-in-info-om-etnicitet-och-rel...


Again, it is unfortunate that you confuse this with the statements I was talking about. I identify with this assertion, while still maintaining all I said above. It is possible for fact/claim X to not be racist at all in itself, and for the discourse of claim X to be extremely racist. I thought the story about the madman -- due to Kierkegaard -- clarified this point. So, it is very racist to connect crime with ethnicity; the fact that blacks are overrepresented among violent criminals does not, however, do that (indeed, this fact only reflects the racism towards blacks in the US), and is not in itself racist, although bringing it up may well be, depending on context.


Again, just to get back to the statement which launched this thread:

   Studies like this are hard, because they're usually labeled 'racist',
   or it turns into an ad hominem attack on the authors, or struck down
   in the media for singling out some minority group.
You stated this was not true, upon which many reactions - mine amongst them - came with citations to prove that the original claim was, indeed, true. I presented a few examples to prove this point but you keep on talking around the issue - "studies are labelled racist, authors are attacked verbally" (and sometimes physically, see the actions of Antifa/AFA and several islamist groups). The result of this is yet again shown by a study published by the Swedish defence academy ("Försvarshögskolan") which was recently published. To quote from an article published today on SVT (Sweden's national broadcaster) about the fact that Sweden has become a recruiting ground for islamic terrorism due to the fact that this activity was close to risk-free in this country [1]:

   Vilken roll kan det ha spelat?

   – Jag tror att den aktivism som fanns mot både Säkerhetspolisen
   och de som försökte lyfta allvaret i de här frågorna. Det gjorde
   att tröskeln blev högre för både politiker och andra att ge sig
   in i det här området, säger han.

   – Man riskerade att bli utpekad som rasist på ett sätt som man
   inte såg i andra europeiska länder. Där var den här frågan lika
   okontroversiell som vikten av att bekämpa nazism och högerextremism.
   Men i Sverige tog det lång tid innan det gick att diskutera jihadismen
   på samma sätt som vi under lång tid diskuterat nazism, säger Hyllengren.
Translated:

   What role can this have played?

   – I think that the activism against both the security services and those
   who tried to point out the seriousness of the situation [played a role].
   This made that the bar was raised both for politicians and other who
   would dare to speak out on these subjects, he said.

   – You ran the risk of being pointed out as racist in a way which was not
   seen in other European countries. There this question was as uncontroversial
   as the importance of fighting nazism and right-wing extremism. In Sweden on
   the other hand it took a long time before it was possible to discuss jihadism
   in the same way we've been discussing nazism for a long time, says Hyllengren.
This is, yet again, a literal quote proving the point of the original statement which launched this thread. While it is possible to discuss the finer details of what and why and how the extreme-left wants to put a racist label on this but no that, the fact stands and the effects it has on society are chilling. Where freedom of expression was once a stalwart talking point for the traditional 'left' the current stance taken by many of those identifying themselves as 'left-wing' is an anathema to this foundation of the enlightened society.

[1] https://www.svt.se/nyheter/inrikes/sverige-16


> I presented a few examples to prove this point but you keep on talking around the issue

No, you most certainly have not. Study A that mentions claim X may be not racist, while study B that claims X may be racist. I said that A is not racist, and your examples of B being labeled racist do not disprove it. My whole point about the unfortunate misunderstanding is that people think that since B is racist (due to context) then X is "unfairly labeled as racist" when, in fact, it is not X which is racist, but B.

> This is, yet again, a literal quote proving the point of the original statement which launched this thread.

I don't know about the situation in Sweden so I can't comment on it. It's possible that what I said is not the case in Sweden. On the other hand, it is also possible that the person quoted, like you, misunderstands what it is that is labeled racist. I do know that claims like yours about X being labeled racist when it is, in fact, B which is called racist because it is racist, are made in the US as well, despite being generally false. It's like someone complaining about being laughed at while talking about, say, bed bugs, then saying that bed bugs are ridiculed, but neglects to mention that he was wearing a bug-shaped hat while talking about bed-bugs, and it is the delivery that was ridiculed. Context matters.


Do we need to start linking famous peoples tweets to show that your position is false?

Plenty of people jump on the “that’s racism” bandwagon. If they can’t attack the math they attack the author and make wild accusations about their intent.

Truth is treason in an empire of lies, and socially most would rather live with comfortable lies.


> Do we need to start linking famous peoples tweets to show that your position is false?

Yes, obviously


Very true. Ben Affleck on Real Time was a perfect example of this.

He literally equated challenging bad ideas with racism.


Do you have a citation for that? It’s not what we’re talking about – no one is being criticized for actual science – but the coverage I saw didn’t support that claim at all.


A citation? I shudder at the idea of lending an air of academic gravitas to Bill Maher's Real Time, but yes it's clear that jumping on the “that’s racism” bandwagon, as the gp put it, is exactly what Affleck did.

He was so angered by the statement, "We have been sold this meme of Islamophobia, where every criticism of the doctrine of Islam get conflated as bigotry against Muslims as people. It is intellectually ridiculous." that he went on the offensive and said, "That's gross, it's racist. It's like saying you're a 'shifty Jew.' You guys are saying: 'If you want to be liberals, believe in liberal principles, like freedom of speech"

Whatever your opinion about the acceptability of criticizing Islam over violence, sexism or treatment of homosexuals, it's clear that some people do equate that criticism with racism.

Ideological intolerance can often make people blind to nuanced positions, such as being open to a group of people but not all of their traditional beliefs.

> " no one is being criticized for actual science"

Take a look at what evolutionary psychologists and biologists have been facing over the past decade. The criticism coming form people who have little experience in their fields, but intense political and social beliefs, has been intense.


Re:Affleck, again, that’s not the claim being discussed. Nobody is being criticized for scientific study – this is just a bunch of rich elite men talking about politics.

That said, it also doesn’t match the claims you’re making. Affleck wasn’t saying that no bad had ever happened with Islam, but rather that it wasn’t good to make such broad claims about a huge and diverse population — note that each of the things mentioned are also true of Christians but we are far less likely to treat such blanket statements about them as useful or accurate.

> Take a look at what evolutionary psychologists and biologists have been facing over the past decade.

I’m well aware of that and you’re misrepresenting it. They’re not being criticized for actual science but for unsupported claims which aren’t supported by the scientific evidence but are conveniently close to existing political beliefs.


> note that each of the things mentioned are also true of Christians but we are far less likely to treat such blanket statements about them as useful or accurate.

The "rich elite man" Affleck was yelling at for criticizing Islam wrote two full books criticising Christianity earlier in his career and received very little blowback for them. In fact, those books are what made him a "rich elite man", as you put it.

>> Take a look at what evolutionary psychologists and biologists have been facing over the past decade.

> I’m well aware of that and you’re misrepresenting it.

How can you both be well aware of what I was thinking and that I was misrepresnting? I didn't even reference a specific incident! You've both mentally filled in an example and invented some misrepresentation you believe I've made about it.

The principle of charity dictates the opposite.


> "Xenophobia and misogyny imply a certain intent, a certain feeling of resentment towards other races, cultures and genders"

Xenophobia means "fear of outsiders" and misogyny means "hatred or contempt of women". There's nothing implied or indirect about either.


I guess it’s easier in Sweden which is not especially diverse. Also it’s worth noting that these are convictions so will be missing any unreported violence, or that police didn’t follow up on, or that got off on technicalities


Sweden is pretty ethnically diverse these days and is far more sensitive about race than the US is.

EDIT: But for that period it was not as much, that is true.


Good point. Any similar studies from more diverse countries?

This study is not as comprehensive but in 30-state USA study, 77% of prisoners are jailed again within 5 years of release:

https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/press/rprts05p0510pr.cfm


Not really surprising, you must consider that most of our jails and prisons are like criminal universities. Most barely offer any rehabilitation, if at all, but people can learn about how to be better criminals from other criminals.


Sweden is as diverse as the US, or more so.


Not even close. The vast majority of Sweden is ethnic Swedes. The big minority group is ethnic Finns. 87% of the country is Lutheran (as of 2012). In the US, probably no ethnic group (e.g. Irish or English) has more than 20%.


https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_ranked_by_...

Check out the list based on Alesina’s analysis.

Or go to Sweden. In the younger population groups, muslims are now are huge minority.


That index lists Canada as more diverse than the US, which is definitely false having been to both.

Online sources suggest about 30% of Stockholm is non-Swedish, and most of those people are European. New York and Chicago are only about 30-35% European descent, and that’s mixed between Irish, German, Swedish, English, etc.


Canada ranks highly on these lists partly because they have a large population group that speaks a second national language and were relatively serious about independence.

For whatever reason that objective "diversity" doesn't seem diverse to some people.

They also seem to have more but smaller (as a percentage of the total) ethnic groups than the US. Again, while mathematically more diverse than a big chunk of African or Latin-Americans, people seem to view this as less diverse.


English, German, Irish, swedish descent = Christian, white population, all speaking English as a first language, all from similar cultures.

It’s way more diverse in Sweden. I lived in NYC, and have travelled a lot in Sweden. Nowadays, large Swedish cities are much more diverse.


Even if you lump all the european people together, the fact remains that Stockholm is probably 80% European and New York City is less than 30% European.


But NYC’ black or latino population is (mainly) Christian and mainly speaks Englsh


Well, it has had a massive influx of Middle Easterners in recent years but this study dates from 2004.


Actually in terms of other more diverse countries like the UK and USA probably not just seems a lot as Sweden had virtually zero BME migration until recently.


> Persistence in violence was associated with male sex (OR 2.5), personality disorder (OR 2.3), violent crime conviction before age 19 (OR 2.0), drug-related offenses (OR 1.9), nonviolent criminality (OR 1.9), substance use disorder (OR 1.9), and major mental disorder (OR 1.3).

So you are confusing mental/behavior explanations with unscientific correlation-hunting racial explanations that are too popular in discourse.


It would be interesting to a breakdown by race done well. How do you categorise someone who has parents from different racial backgrounds? What about adopted children? How do you control for other relevant variables?


Typically it's the accusers of racism who make these conflagrations. These are usually well-intentioned progressives who, in their zeal to protect minorities, pounce on anything that could possibly be warped into an attack on minorities. For example, that time James Damore was crucified for suggesting that population level gender differences might better explain Google's hiring pipeline than discrimination.


Please don't take HN into full blown ideological flamewar. The more generic such comments get, the more unmoored they become from anything specific the thread is discussing, and the more of a black hole they turn into.

Your comment here is emblematic of exactly what HN commenters need not to do. That requires the strength to resist temptation.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


I'm taken aback that my comment was "emblematic" of bad behavior. I made my critique charitably ("progressives are well-intentioned..."), and perhaps it was more generic than it could have been, it's certainly not in the bottom half of HN's distribution. I'll try to make my points more substantial going forward.


[flagged]


OP said "Google", not the "US". What's "silly" about thinking males are the majority at Google?


OP said "population level gender differences might better explain Google's hiring pipeline". Men may be the majority of Google employees, but they clearly aren't the majority of the population. That suggests there is discrimination somewhere, either in Google's hiring approach or in wider society (it's unlikely that there is some innate difference between men and woman that would account for such a disparity).


> Men may be the majority of Google employees, but they clearly aren't the majority of the population. That suggests there is discrimination somewhere, either in Google's hiring approach or in wider society (it's unlikely that there is some innate difference between men and woman that would account for such a disparity).

OP was citing Damore's claim about population level differences. Damore's claim wasn't that the US is 80% male so of course Google is 80% male, it's that men and women have different distributions for a given trait (hence, "population level differences") and these differences in distribution might account for Google's demographics better than discrimination. One such population-level difference is that women are far more likely to choose careers that are flexible or to leave the workplace altogether to start a family. By itself, this difference doesn't likely account for the whole disparity, but there are others as well--women prefer to work with people as opposed to abstract reasoning systems. It could even be true that men and women are on average exactly as qualified to be a Google engineer, but that men have a flatter distribution (more representation at the extreme low and high end of the distribution) and that Google samples from the high end, ergo selecting more males. Greater male variability is common in lots of species (including humans) for lots of different traits. It's also interesting that female participation in STEM is inversely proportional to gender equality; countries with very high gender equality (e.g., Scandanavian countries) have relatively few women in STEM while cultures with less gender equality (the middle east, India, China, etc) have far greater STEM participation. It also seems unlikely that discrimination is the cause since women achieved parity in medicine and law in the '80s and '90s when the fields were notoriously, overtly sexist, but the tech industry can't move the needle despite sinking tens or hundreds of millions into "diversity". It seems entirely likely that innate differences play a significant role.

There will undoubtedly be a lot of (otherwise very intelligent) people who will read "population level gender differences" and interpret it as "Wait, you're saying X is true for literally every woman?! How can you generalize like that?!". Of course, this isn't what I'm saying or what the OP said or what Damore said, so let's not go down that straw man rabbit hole.


OP said "population level gender differences might better explain Google's hiring pipeline" referring not to the population of the US, but the Pool of Engineering students.


So given we aren’t talking about the actual demographics of the regions they hire in, why not narrow it further?


This is why sex differences were reported and racial differences were not.

It just leads to uncomfortable places, especially in the context of Swedish society.


Did you read the abstract? Race isn't one of the characteristic they took into account.


"Studies like this are hard, because they're usually labeled 'racist',"

Please provide some factual, quantified basis for this statement.


Be more charitable in your reading of that comment. If you’d prefer, interpret it this way:

“These studies can be socially controversial, and so authors must be especially careful in the way they conduct their research and present their conclusions.”

At a certain point, demanding empirical evidence for a clearly observable societal zeitgeist becomes disingenuous or obtuse, regardless of how well-intentioned the request is. It stifles discussion that can otherwise proceed.


I am not being uncharitable. I am asking whether the poster has analyzed the number of studies in the USA, structured as carefully as this one, and found that they are in fact labelled racist more than 50% of the time. And if so, by whom.

I don't think the poster needs charity. Clarity is more like it.


I think what you're asking for is unreasonable. Labelled racist by who? How do you count 50%? Does it matter if only one fringe group labels it racist? Or does it have to be called racist by a group with political capital > X.

It also leaves any potential of discussing "chilling effect" like things. You're measurement does nothing to gauge the overall zeitgeist of the time, which would clearly influence the outlook of any researcher who didn't have balls of steel and bulletproof funding.

I agree the author needs more clarity. And the clear thing to say is that "one could easily imagine this type of study in the United States causing problems for the author due to possible accusations of racism".


I agree with your "labelled racist by who, how do you count, etc" questions. But that just throws the meaninglessness of the original statement into starker relief: it's simply an empty expression of unsupported complaint. Your finishing formulation, is unfortunately simply more prolix.

I do not see those sorts of comments as up to the usual standards of HackerNews. Perhaps to be expected on an article like this, but still they should be discouraged.


>I am not being uncharitable. I am asking whether the poster has analyzed the number of studies in the USA, structured as carefully as this one, and found that they are in fact labelled racist more than 50% of the time. And if so, by whom.

What you're asking is not just uncharitable, it doesn't even make sense (even if it was possible).

It's also irrelevant to what the parent said, which is not a quantified claim that such studies are "labelled racist more than 50% of the time", but a casual "usually labelled racist".

In casual conversation "usually" doesn't mean some hard 50% + c, any more so than "often" and "a lot of times".


No one is asking for a specific "hard 50% +c". Just more than 50%. "Usually" most emphatically does not mean "often" or "a lot of times." This sort of dumbing down of dialogue and tossing about of opinions is the opposite of what HN should be.


Your question was fair. The phrasing comes across as uncharitable.

"Do you have any references for this?" might be less strident.



That’s the opposite: Stephen Pinker’s opinions are not scientific just because he’s a scientist, and nobody’s opinions are free from criticism – especially criticism for being presented as science-y but not measuring up to the standards of actual science.


How could empirical science be labeled "racist". Is there some kind of official science police ?


There are numerous examples which come to mind from circa 1939 - 1945, particularly certain central-European and east-Asian government-sponsored activities.

Though that's hardly the only place or time.

SPLC maintain a set of references on more current instances.


Got it, this is taboo science that may lead to societal collapse. We should find science that better suits our preconceptions. Just pointing out the obvious absurdity here.


A better title would be: 26% of violent crime convicts accountable for 63% of violent crime convictions.

In terms of the entire population, probably:

* 96% never convicted

* 3% convicted once

* 1% convicted as many times as the justice system allows until well into middle age (average of five times)

An interesting question is: How many of the 3% are released and take up normal life, and how many are not convicted again because their first offense was severe enough to warrant a long sentence? Edit: Unfortunately, the paper can't answer this question.


That was my thought on reading the headline - it's somewhat skewed because you'd expect a similarly small percentage of the population to be responsible for _all_ violent crime convictions (as most people aren't violent offenders; the study notes 3.9% had at least one violent conviction).


Ok, let's try your title. I had to slightly compromise its grammar to fit the year in there too.


At least among the Swedish population, but Id guess likely to similar in other places:

>The majority of violent crimes are perpetrated by a small number of persistent violent offenders, typically males, characterized by early onset of violent criminality, substance abuse, personality disorders, and nonviolent criminality.

Very interesting, so if you get past your teens without criminality you seem to not become a criminal.


'...so if you get past your teens without criminality you seem to not become a criminal'

'Give me a child until he is 7 and I will show you the man'

There is a lot of truth in this. When I think back to my childhood there were always a few kids who were just bad.

They came from the same background, had the same advantages, and so on but there was still something evil about them.

Typical behaviours included stuff like sadistic cruelty to animals, bullying , random violence and vandalism with no real logic or reason to why they would act in such a manner?

It could be explained away by saying something would be going on behind the scenes at home but (in these few cases) I really don't believe it.

Of course, from as far as I can remember, all these people went on to be criminals of one sort or another in adulthood.


>They came from the same background, had the same advantages, and so on

Did they really though?

Thinking back to my childhood recently, I've come to almost exactly the opposite conclusion. There were some kids who I thought were just naturally shitty until I experienced enough of life to realize that they were the ones getting beaten up by their angry or alcoholic parents or being emotionally abused by a narcissistic family member.

These were all things that I saw the signs of going to their houses or at sports games, etc. as a kid, but it was so far outside of my frame of reference that I didn't understand the context for what was happening. That angry arm grab and wrench just because dad didn't like the choice of font on a book report? Not a sign of a healthy home life, especially if that was the way he behaved with an "outside observer" in the house.

It's all still anecdotal of course, with my small sample size and situation, but after going to a small school with the same ~25 kids (all from similar middle class households) for 9 years I can say that later success in life was strongly correlated to the ones that had supportive and non-traumatic home lives.


I think you make a good point, a lot of kids do grow up in dysfunctional households and this is bound to have an impact. I knew kids like this too.

In the cases I described before though, I honestly don't think this explains it. If it does their parents were doing a good job of hiding it?


It can be surprising though, I recall one of my children's school friends who although he was never very academic was always mild mannered and well behaved with us, there were other children in the school who were a much bigger problem. He is now in prison for murdering his girlfriend.


I’d not take a person entourage as concerte evidence. Evidentally, we need indeniable research here since it is about increminating people and putting them behind bars.


Not a career / repeat criminal. You can still very much be a criminal, embezzler, murderer and so on -- e.g. a cheated spouse "on the heat of passion".


Before anyone espouses their favorite theory, you should note this study covers Sweden from 1973-2004 which is a very ethnically and relatively-economically homogeneous country with a population of < 10M people.


What does ethnic homogeneity have to do with this?


In some places violent crimes are overwhelmingly committed by this or that minority -- especially violent crimes of a certain type. Lots of places, for example, have some ethnically-colored mafias.

Another case is poorer immigrant minorities committing more crimes than the baseline population (because of their poorer upbringing, lack of opportunities, alienation from the host society, because some things are culturally OK in their old culture but crimes in their new one, etc).


Studies like these that take place in the USA are labeled racist because they disproportionately include minorities.


Studies that don’t take into account socio-economics are, in fact, racist.

When you control for income and wealth, particularly intergeneraltional, racial differences disappear.


There's the what and the why. I think gp comment was suggesting that the what is often mixed up with the why.

We shouldn't be afraid of getting statistics, but you're indeed correct that you must consider other factors when it comes to interpretation.


Accept that isn’t true. Racial differences rarely disappear even when you take those factors into account.

There is evidence that economic inequality has little to no effect whatsoever (1, 2).

There is also evidence that inequality is predictive for blacks but no whites (3).

There is also data that does support your latter conclusion, but my point is that this issue isn’t as clear cut as you’re framing it as.

(1) https://academic.oup.com/sf/article-abstract/70/4/1035/22326...

(2) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6742630

(3) http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1745-9125.1999....


Until you can account for multi century generational subjugation its going to be hard to say anything interesting.


"Studies like these that take place in the USA are labeled racist because they disproportionately include minorities."

Please provide some factual support for this. Specifically studies that are _like_ this in their construction. Is it possible that there are studies which are, in fact, racist?


Having lived poor places across the US for the last 15 years, I have come up with two root causes for the violence I have seen.

1. Drug prohibition related. 2. Keeping it Real going wrong.

The Drug War and inter-generational poverty are two tough nuts to crack. The American mythology of Bootstraps and Individualism that's so baked into our culture gives us limited toolsets for dealing with these problems because they helped create the problems in the first place.



Maybe we should stop seeing people who are violent as people that we need to punish and start seeing them as people who need help.

I'm not a specialist, but I'd think that giving someone a job, a place to live, and a weekly therapy session would do a lot more to prevent future crime than locking him up with a bunch of other violent offenders that have nothing to do all day long.

Sometimes restricting someones freedom is necessary to protect others. But right now we are doing it backward: we lock people up after they committed a crime, but there's very little that we can do to protect potential victims before it is too late.


>Persistence in violence was associated with male sex (OR 2.5), personality disorder (OR 2.3), violent crime conviction before age 19 (OR 2.0), drug-related offenses (OR 1.9), nonviolent criminality (OR 1.9), substance use disorder (OR 1.9), and major mental disorder (OR 1.3).

It sounds like we need to invest more in mental health.


And perhaps divest ourselves of the idea that putting one time violent offenders in a building full of other violent offenders will somehow reduce the likelihood of future offense.


Yea but we don't put them in a building full of other violent offenders to rehabilitate them. We do that to get rid of them with zero care for whatever they will do once they serve their sentence because, yet again, we can get rid of them and whatever damage they do while they are outside of the prison is considered unimportant in the grand scheme of things.

Siderant: I find it funny how humans work. On a very personal level, we love each other (you <> your parents or significant other), but the further the connection goes to other people the less we care. Whereas if we cared about everyone in a very loving way, we would probably not get rid of people we don't like.


Do we? How do you draw that conclusion from the data? Personality disorders seem to be fairly resistant to treatment/therapy, and certainly more than 1% of the population has issues with mental health, yet they don’t seem to commit crimes at such an alarming rate.

I’m not saying you’re wrong, but I don’t think your conclusion is directly supported by this study.


You've been using HN primarily for ideological battle. That's an abuse of this site, regardless of which ideology you're promulgating, because it destroys the intellectual curiosity which the site is for.

Since (a) the site guidelines explicitly ask you not do this; (b) you've ignored our recent request to stop doing this, and (c) you've been using multiple accounts to do it in this thread, we've banned this account.

Please don't create accounts to break the site guidelines with.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


I think a the title, while absolutely true, is written in a way to highlight a distribution that seems abnormal, but is pretty much what you would expect in any similar distribution.

A very low number of people are ever convicted of a violent crime (they could have also written "3.9% of population accountable for 100% of violent crime convictions"). I think a better way of saying the same thing as the title is "26% of violent criminals commit 63% of violent crimes."


People interested in solutions should look to studies of different types of interventions. My usual example is the extremely effective Violence Reduction Unit:

http://www.actiononviolence.org.uk/

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/apr/06/glasgow-murd...

"The results were remarkable. Among the 200 gang members who became directly involved with CIRV, violent offending fell by almost half, according to a 2011 study. Weapon possession was down 85%. Even among gang members who had not attended a call-in, violence had fallen by almost a quarter."


1.) Violent crime is a rare event (in post-WW2 European societies), so the proportion of offenders is rather small. 2.) One time offenders have a hard time getting their feet on the ground after being released from prison. Without appropriate support & back in their old networks, they often have few alternatives than going down that road again. IMHO that's not exactly news. I personally find it slightly surprising that only about one quarter of people committing violent crimes become repeat offenders. This rate is actually lower than what I would have estimated. I thought the number would be about one half. Maybe we should reconsider the effectiveness of our penal system and think of other ways to deal with violent crime that helps offenders not to become repeat offenders.


"One time offenders have a hard time getting their feet on the ground after being released from prison. Without appropriate support, they often have few alternatives than going down that road again." I would suspect that is the case too. Given the high OR for "personality disorder" I would imagine that changing that person to make them capable of sustained, beneficial interaction with society would be difficult. And that is completely ignoring the fact that they have a criminal record, a probable lack of training/skills which could have been acquired when younger etc.


One quarter gets caught (again) the other I assume gets away with it. But it's our very unscientific assumptions.


Maybe in Europe? Not in the USA it isn’t. We’ve seen drops in homicides and the like in some cities (NYC), but disturbing trends in homicides places like Baltimore and Chicago.


Even in the US it's declining. It's just much higher. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2017/10/0...

(I suspect from the places named that the more corrupt the police are the more violence is present, but have no evidence for that).


It has nothing to do with police corruption, and everything to do with the pull back in policing due to anti-police media/BLM narrative. But don’t take my word for it, just ask the people that live there and who are the victims of such crime:

https://www.npr.org/2017/12/31/574824963/baltimore-residents...

A particularly powerful quote from the article:

On whether the community wanted police to back off after the death of Freddie Gray

“No. That represented our progressives, our activists, our liberal journalists, our politicians, but it did not represent the overall community. Because we know for a fact that around the time Freddie Gray was killed, we start to see homicides increase. We had five homicides in that neighborhood while we were protesting.”

I wonder if the media provocateurs and the liberal journalists will look into this, or perhaps even consider the idea that their narrative has directly lead to the deaths of minorities?


I thought I'd researched Baltimore recently, and found my comment: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16281512

Higher death rate than a tanks-and-carbombs national emergency? Police routinely planting toy guns on kids they've murderd? Something is deeply, deeply wrong there and the rest of the US should stage an intervention.


> media provocateurs and the liberal journalists

Please don't post ideological boilerplate to HN. This is not a site for ideological battle.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


Numbers please.



In the long term crime is falling even in Baltimore and Chicago. The short term trends are probably the result of police learning to cope with abrupt, significantly increased scrutiny in those cities.


Power law is everywhere in the world. It's gonna be 1% of scientists producing vast majority of worthwhile discoveries, 1% of founders building the biggest companies, and 1% of those companies owning most of their markets...

We may like equality but Nature likes the power law.


Apparently these results confirm Price' square root law. A small fraction of the population does most things, regardless of the subject in question.

Search youtube for Jordan Peterson on this topic.


"Jordan Peterson on creative productivity and the One Percent" perhaps?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JoPlMU4KiGI


They didn't analyze IQ?


An interesting 20/80 rule going on here. The good news is if we can fix whatever issues affect this 1%, we solve 63% of violent crimes. Or maybe I'm naive.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confusion_matrix

The challenge is to fix that 1%, without terrorizing the N% who look vaguely similar.


Yeah. Looking at the data, we could prevent 90% of violent crimes by locking up all men. Somehow, I don't think most people here would go for that.


That's because it's half of the population. Also, the stronger and more aggressive half which presents a very serious practical obstacle: who would lock them up?


Also the minor ethical quandary of incarcerating 3.5 billion innocent people. :)


The robots.


Are you implying that solving the issues affecting that 1% means jailing or terrorizing them, thus making such solutions undesirable for everyone else?


Interesting how similar the distribution of criminality is to the distribution of wealth, in which the top 1% own a bit over half.

https://www.theguardian.com/inequality/2017/nov/14/worlds-ri...


Zipf Function / Power Distribution.

Exceedingly common in population distributions.


Pareto principle?


Ofc smarter criminals don't primarily do violent crime, yet sometimes do the greater damage to society.


I'd love to hear whether 1% account for all white collar crime.

But Willie Horton terrifies people in a way that Bernie Madoff does not, so I expect that "tough on crime" will continue to exclude white collar crime.


Not sure why you got downvoted. You make an interesting point.

How would you measure? Dollar value? Number of crimes? Number of victims of crime?


Mmm, I'd say number of crimes. The recidivism rate would would be very interesting to study because it is so typical for white collar criminals to receive absurdly light sentences.

There's a sentiment here in this discussion that we should lock violent criminals away with extreme prejudice, even at the cost of false positives. (Which is the at odds with the idea of having criminal conviction require proof "beyond a reasonable doubt".) I wonder if people are similarly enthusiastic about such harsh treatment of white-collar criminals.


Amazing. This deserves serious political discussion, it seems to hold potential for massive increases in quality of life.


The ORs for various factors are all lower than the OR for Y chromosomes. I take this to mean we don't really have a good model of what causes persistent criminality, but we do have good evidence that it exists. A frustrating situation.


Testosterone


It's always interesting to see that there's a segment of the public discourse that consistently hammers on "melanin" as a predictor of crime, but ignores "testosterone"....


[flagged]


Between the copy-paste-ready talking points and the personal attack, this account is violating the HN guidelines and we've banned it.

This is not a site for ideological battle. When a topic is divisive and ideologically charged to begin with, conversation here needs to become more thoughtful, not less.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


The OR for "male" is also low... Just higher than the others.


IMHO the title should include "In Sweden..."


in other words, 99% of people are mostly peaceful.


99% of swedes from <2004 aka 99% of white people


The utilitarian approach would be to identify the worst n% of the population and pre-emptively kill or imprison them. There would be mistakes for sure though.


Better choose your utility metric carefully, because I’ll bet 90% of the world’s population aren’t necessary to achieving most people’s ideas of goals.


Now do one for financial crimes


So %1 becomes new kind of Pareto rule. The %1 owns half of the world's wealth and this.


Well, I was thinking of all these people who are getting away with their crimes. I mean, "smart" criminals don't get caught, right? Specifically, I was thinking about the very rich who are offshoring their money to tax havens (see Panama Papers) but of course, they are not criminals. After all, they're not convicted, and innocent until proven guilty, and hey its tax avoidance not tax evasion.

Which is a double standard; if I'd steal an iPhone from the tax avoiding Apple then that's theft. Heck they even mention that the price includes all kind of levies such as environmental and taxes. Yet when they steal from my government (who represent me) then that's totally fine? Or, if someone would operate a client computer from a country where piracy is illegal, but the server would be hosted in a country where piracy is legal, then suddenly the whole act is illegal even though the computer who executes the commands is allowed to.

I don't have the numbers, so I'm very curious what's more damaging: tax avoidance or piracy. I've even seen criminal acts like mass selling pirated DVDs being also tax evasion. Yet all the crap within the Panama Papers is not? How that does rhyme?

Furthermore it doesn't appear like anyone in power cares enough about tax avoidance in order for it to be solved (we, as in civilians of governments from all over the world, are missing out on a massive amount of tax dollars).



[flagged]


Please don't post flamebait here. Flamebait plus divisive topic amounts to trolling.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


>although you never hear the group blamed for anything

Just curious, where do you get your news from?


By that (shitty) logic, women are equally to blame. It currently takes bits from both to make another human that might commit a "horror."


indeed, it would be horrible if it were more evenly distributed




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