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A modest proposal for curbing homicides: Socialism

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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If responses to my last post are any guide—including a diss from one of my own students!—many readers reject gun controls as a way to reduce shootings like the recent massacre in Arizona and other gun-related homicides.

Common sense tells me that unbalanced people like Jared Loughner, the Arizona shooter, should have a harder time getting a semiautomatic weapon and high-capacity clips. Moreover, some researchers have found a correlation between levels of household gun ownership and homicide. But I realize that the causal link between shootings and gun controls—and gun ownership—is complex, more so than my previous post implied.

Chart based on Gallup polls courtesy N.Y. Times and Wiki CommonsRestrictions on gun ownership in New Jersey, Washington, D.C., and other regions were followed by a surge in firearm-related crimes, as this 2008 article in The New York Times noted. Moreover, a comparison of Wikipedia rankings of nations by gun ownership and by firearm-related deaths shows that these variables are not closely correlated. Yes, the U.S. homicide rate is much higher than in England, Japan and other nations that severely restrict civilian ownership of firearms. But Colombia, with a gun ownership rate less than one tenth that of the U.S., has a firearm-related homicide rate seven times higher. Brazil, which also has less than one tenth as many guns per capita than the U.S., has 50 percent more firearm-linked homicides.

As much as I hate to admit it, these statistics support the slogan that guns don’t kill; people do. The link between homicides and easy access to guns—like the link between real violence and media violence—is tenuous. You can make the cause for or against a causal relation, depending on what society or time period you examine. Complexities like these lead to complaints that "social science" is an oxymoron.

But even gun-lovers want fewer homicides, right? So let me suggest another possible way to achieve that goal. The idea was inspired by the evolutionary psychologists Margo Wilson (who died in 2009) and her husband Martin Daly, both of McMaster University in Ontario. In their 1988 book Homicide, often upheld as the gold standard in applying Darwinian theory to social problems, Daly and Wilson pointed out that males have always committed the vast majority of homicides. The reason, the psychologists contended, is that our male ancestors fought fiercely for "control over the reproductive capacities of women," which resulted in an innate male tendency toward violent aggression.

Although today lethal aggression can (often) lead to imprisonment or execution—both of which hamper reproduction—it would have promoted genetic fitness in societies predating the rule of law, according to Daly and Wilson. As evidence of their evolutionary thesis, Daly and Wilson noted that modern men kill blood relatives much less often than they kill unrelated females out of sexual jealousy as well as male rivals and even the children of other men. (One of Daly and Wilson’s best-known findings is that stepfathers are many times more likely than biological fathers to kill their children.)

Males, and especially young males with few prospects, also kill nonrelatives to achieve status and "resources"—by committing armed robbery, for example, or shooting a rival drug dealer. Like other evolutionary psychologists, Daly and Wilson struggled to explain variations in behavior among individuals and societies. For example, the homicide rate of their homeland, Canada, is only about a third that of its neighbor, the U.S. Rates of homicide also vary widely from region to region within each country. Why?

I heard Daly and Wilson propose an answer to this puzzle at a 2009 meeting on aggression that I reported on for Scientific American; they also presented the hypothesis in this 2001 paper (pdf). The best predictor of high homicide rates in a region, they asserted, is income inequality. As a measure of such inequality, Daly and Wilson employed the so-called Gini index (named after its originator, the Italian statistician Corrado Gini), which ranks inequality on a scale ranging from 0.0 to 1.0. A region in which everyone has exactly the same income would have a Gini score of 0.0, whereas a region in which one person makes all the money has a score of 1.0.

Daly and Wilson found a strong correlation between high Gini scores and high homicide rates in Canadian provinces and U.S. counties. High Gini scores predicted homicides better than low average income, high unemployment and simpler measures. Basically, Daly and Wilson were blaming homicides not on poverty per se but on the collision of poverty and affluence, the ancient tug-of-war between haves and have-nots. The income-inequality hypothesis, Daly and Wilson asserted, can account for the "radically different national homicide rates" of the U.S. and Canada, the latter of which has more generous social-welfare programs (including universal health care) and hence fewer economic disparities.

Naturally, some researchers have reported data that fail to support the income-inequality theory of homicide. But I find it persuasive, especially because it points toward an attractive solution to high homicide rates: a more equitable economic system, perhaps with higher taxes for the wealthy and more generous welfare programs for the poor. In short, socialism. I hope that opponents of gun control will consider this modest, alternative proposal for reducing lethal shootings.

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  1. 1. JamesDavis 8:39 am 01/25/2011

    Humans, just like all animals on this planet is territorial. That is human nature and it has been breed into us for thousands of years and you are not going to get rid of it in a couple of decades with some fancy talk or denying me the right to protect my family or myself. You come into my small intercity area threatening me or my family and I will try my best to kill you, even if I have to chuck a spear at you; shooting you with a gun just gets you away from my area and my family faster.

    It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that people with the right to protect themselves have less crime in their area. A thief, most often, will not steal if they know they are being watched by a larger predator with the ability to defend its territory. An aggressive predator will not enter your area if it knows you have the ability to make it the prey. Outlaw all the guns you want; if I want to kill you, I will beat you to death with a ball bat. You can call that Socialism if you want…I call it ‘living longer than you’.

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  2. 2. dantevialetto 10:47 am 01/25/2011

    To say “guns don’t kill, people do”, is like to say “addiction to drugs or alcohol is because people are taking them, not because they are just there”. The problem for me is different: It is “temptations” which must be avoided: less guns less occasions to use them.

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  3. 3. pretor 12:32 pm 01/25/2011

    I laughed, wasn’t I supposed to laugh?

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  4. 4. MattN 1:21 pm 01/25/2011

    Post-hoc fallacy printed in a purported "science" magazine.

    Did you stop to consider whether or not those locales with "income disparity" had a large incidence of propaganda inculcating "the poor" with the idea that "the rich" got that way at their expense? Could it be that socialist propaganda is the cause of violence purportedly due to income disparity? Perhaps instead of spreading socialist propaganda and calling it education we should instead spend education dollars making people economically literate, so that "the have nots" (as if that was a static set of individuals) would understand that "the haves" did not necessarily get there by nefarious means. Or is it simply that "the have nots" are inherently too stupid to understand, and we must therefore deal with the "reality" of such thinking?

    In the last paragraph: "…attractive solution to high homicide rates: a _more equitable_ economic system, perhaps with higher taxes for the wealthy and more generous welfare programs for the poor…."

    "More equitable" according to whom? Who gets to decide? Does it matter whether the results of such an "economic system" result in a net reduction in wealth for all? Is it OK whether the poor become poorer as a result, as long as the gap between rich and poor narrows?

    I find it disturbingly naive that the author believes that using government to forcibly reduce "economic disparity" between individuals is somehow an improvement: Even if it does reduce the number of acts of gun violence, it only does so at the expense of a far greater number of implied acts of violence on the part of government. That is, there would only be fewer acts of gun violence because the government is acting as a proxy for criminal behavior that would otherwise occur between individuals — stealing from some on behalf of others, instead of the others simply directly stealing — and those who are being stolen from are less likely to resist given the overwhelming force aimed at them by the government. i.e. violence is only reduced because those who are being wronged are existentially afraid of the perpetrator.

    It’s the logical equivalent of suggesting that to reduce gun violence people should simply submit to all acts of crime against them. Sure, there would be less gun violence, but so what?

    So no, socialism is not an acceptable solution. If you think it is, though, there are plenty of places for you to go… you’ve pointed to your favorite examples in this piece.

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  5. 5. Pazuzu 3:00 pm 01/25/2011

    Gosh, do you think that if we had a just and rational society that people wouldn’t kill each other as much? What a radical idea!

    By the way, the discussants here (including John Horgan) seem not to know what socialism is. It’s not just an equitable distribution of wealth. We’ve never seen socialism, because it couldn’t exist in one country — it’s defined as a world-wide system run democratically by the workers, farmers and all other "toilers." The term has been misappropriated by the powers elite in every country, including the former USSR. It’s not a system that is "imposed" by anybody. It could only come about as a result of an agonizing world-wide collapse of the capitalist system, and then only if all workers everywhere on the planet were to organize themselves democratically and take charge. Obviously, the institutions do not currently exist that would allow this kind of organization. Humanistic socialists (note the small "s") advocate for reforms to try to prevent the agony that a world-wide collapse would certainly entail.

    If you want to know what socialism really is, you should check out any of a number of groups that really do claim to be socialists and see what they say. For example, there’s the International Socialist Organization, as well as others. But it’s not helpful to either advocate or rail against something that you don’t define adequately.

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  6. 6. nfiertel 3:42 pm 01/25/2011

    This article is intelligent and in my opinion right on the money. Canadians often have long guns for hunting or protection against wildlife in the rural areas at least. They do not have handguns which are very difficult to obtain legally. They as a rule do not commit violent crimes and there is a very definite correlation between our overall social satisfaction and safe feeling and security with a lower sense of stress and that means that we do not as often over react to situations that are stressful that in a society that is loaded always with worry and stress can bring a person over the top and with concommitant over reaction, gun play and so forth. Naturally the idea of carrying a gun in a car is eyepopping here as it is a serious felony and no one but a real out and out criminal would think to do it. People are more likely to be law abiding when they do not hate or feel put down and controlled by their social or economic situation. The highest crime rates in Canada are amongst the small numbers of people who do not share in the equity that most of us have here. Along with guns violence comes domestic violence and alcoholism and this is found in such isolated communities as Native Reservations for which there has yet to be found a way out of this morass. Big cities here are hardly more violent than smaller communities and in fact it has more to do here with the numbers of young men rather than any particular social inequity as Canadians are well taken care of overall. This article posits correctly as I see it the huge disparity in the U.S. between the stinking rich and those who have little or have lost what middle class aspirations they once had. This is most definitely not the situation in my country and I respectfully suggest that however you call it, social democracy is a better solution than more cops, more threats and less individual protection…and I am not talking more guns but rather a social safety net, medicare that is universal and fair taxation, none of which Americans so far have endorsed. It is for Americans to decide this of course and as I watch that giant society flail about looking for a solution and making terrible right wing choices I fear for the worst of it in future. I do wish them good luck in finding their way as they choose.

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  7. 7. euralone 4:14 pm 01/25/2011

    In other words, you believe in stealing from a group of producers against their will in order to improve the lot of others who produce less or nothing at all. Sounds good on paper, but is not very moral, nor productive for mankind’s happiness. It is the formula which eventually causes the economic problems that most of the world is experiencing today. Socialists never learn. We have not had true capitalism in this country for over 100 years, but look to Hong Kong to see its benefits.

    "The vice of capitalism is that it stands for the unequal sharing of blessings; whereas the virtue of socialism is that it stands for the equal sharing of misery."–Winston Churchill

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  8. 8. tate0774 4:50 pm 01/25/2011

    As a regular reader of these ponderations how the per capita amount of arms correlate with the lethal use of arms, allow me present a humble comment from Finland.

    Obviously we rank high in cited statistics, BUT:
    - most arms in Finland are used from hunting moose and bird wildlife; in fact we have 100,000+ moose and annually about 2000 collisions with cars – so there is good reason to control the moose stock.
    - automatic rifles are forbidden, pump shotguns may take max. 3 cartridges.
    - the police performs a thorough interview for each permission to buy or possess an arm.
    - any arm stored in a household must be kept in a tamperproof cabinet.
    - no civil is allowed to carry a gun in the public, not even a knife or stilette, hence, you can be assured in Finland to walk anywhere without even casting a thought that a bulge in somebody’s garment would be an arm; most probably it is a pair of gloves now in winter.

    In the same fashion as prohibiting smoking everywhere (as is the case in Finland and other Nordic countries and being followed by Spain, for instance) cuts down cancer rates, unconditional prohibiting of carrying arms eliminates all discussion about the capacity of a sidearm magazine or when and where it would be constitutionally mandatory to allow possession/use of arms.

    Would any American be so bold to call Mr. Bruce Oreck, U.S. Ambassador to Finland, and ask how it feels to live in a place on Earth, where every step through a day is safe (unless you slip on an icy street).
    As a hint how find Mr. Oreck:

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  9. 9. Jonathan Swift 6:19 pm 01/25/2011

    I am Jonathan Swift. In 1729 I wrote a satire called A Modest Proposal. It’s a proposal about how eating the babies of the poor would solve everyone’s problems. IT WAS SARCASM. My favorite part about this article is that when you posted your little comment it meant that the article was truly sarcastic in the real sense: he was making fun of you without you knowing it. And I’m the one laughing right now. Along with the writer and the editor.Hahahaha you can’t see me but i’m dancing too.

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  10. 10. Jonathan Swift 6:19 pm 01/25/2011

    I am Jonathan Swift. In 1729 I wrote a satire called A Modest Proposal. It’s a proposal about how eating the babies of the poor would solve everyone’s problems. IT WAS SARCASM. My favorite part about this article is that when you posted your little comment it meant that the article was truly sarcastic in the real sense: he was making fun of you without you knowing it. And I’m the one laughing right now. Along with the writer and the editor.

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  11. 11. Mckennapm 6:20 pm 01/25/2011

    Since this is a a modest proposal, let’s keep it scientific and jump out a bit. Hopefully some day our medical science will identify the "murder" gene and isolate it out of our genome. This brings up a massive load of "what if", but if we can’t modify our own behavior, who will? So, all psychological and political remedies aside (all have failed) medicine may provide at least an open door.

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  12. 12. Jonathan Swift 6:21 pm 01/25/2011

    I am Jonathan Swift. In 1729 I wrote a satire called A Modest Proposal. It’s a proposal about how eating the babies of the poor would solve everyone’s problems. IT WAS SARCASM. My favorite part about this article is that when you posted your little comment it meant that the article was truly sarcastic in the real sense: he was making fun of you without you knowing it. And I’m the one laughing right now. Along with the writer and the editor. Hahahaha. you can’t see me but i’m dancing too

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  13. 13. bongobimbo 9:19 pm 01/25/2011

    The Communists weren’t Socialists, just a bunch of jackboot thugs imitating the Fascists. Read some history. Why do you think the ones in the early 90s who wanted to end State Capitalism (whoops! "Communism") in Russia called themselves "liberals"? Why do you think Vaclav Havel, when his country was freed from Soviet oppression, met only with activist liberals when he visited the US? They knew.

    Real Socialism? Time to use it. We need it for a thousand reasons. I was born in 1936 and fondly remember the Keynesian economics of my younger days in which portions of socialist OR of capitalist economic theories could be used, and were used, depending on the problem currently facing the economy. That’s what Keynesianism is–a flexible, latitudinarian means, drawing from all economic philosophies, to keep income disparities low, inflation & deflation in check, employment high, and people content.

    Of course that wouldn’t appeal to the fanatics. If citizens are happy, you can’t fool them so easily and they don’t seek scapegoats. Keynesian economics was wrecked by greedos and radicals who captured the propaganda arms of the mass media for their smear-and-lie campaigns, monopolized and commingled the formerly well-regulated financial industries, sent manufacturing jobs overseas to be performed by virtual slave labor, set up a shell game to sell and then foreclose people’s homes. They’ve given us a smarmy Supreme Court that "elects" its own president, plays footsie with the CEOs and tells us (without any Constitutional authority) that corporations are really people. OK, then let the corporations be tried and executed for murder. Charges of murder would be easy to prove.

    I became an Independent last year. I quit the Republicans in the 1960s, and now I’m no longer a Democrat. The Greens have sold out, too. I’m ready to vote Socialist and I know quite a few others in my neighborhood and church who are just as eager. It’s the paper-pusher capitalists who should be deeply ashamed–and if you had any backbone, you who applaud the criminalization of capitalism has become and smear socialism would hear Adam Smith screaming from the grave, crying "All I ever wanted was to help the poor!" and you’d be pushing for a fair, equitable society. Capitalism without firm regulation doesn’t work. It’s killing our beloved country. Not JUST with guns either.

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  14. 14. Abbie 10:02 pm 01/25/2011

    This article was a waste of time, space, oxygen, electricity, and brains. L-A-Z-Y E-F-F-O-R-T. Stop it.

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  15. 15. dantevialetto 2:32 am 01/26/2011

    There are many ways to kill, but sure the guns are the most easily way to do, and even a child can do it. There should be at least a very restricted registration of them with punishment for whom is not doing it.

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  16. 16. Pazuzu 12:02 pm 01/26/2011

    Päivää, tate0774, ja kiitos! (That means "good day, and thanks.") It’s useful to get the perspective from another country. However, it can be a bit misleading to apply Finnish standards to the US because so many other factors are different. I’m not sure simply legislating against gun violence would end it. Maybe we need deeper social reforms? Gosh, do you think?

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  17. 17. Pazuzu 12:03 pm 01/26/2011

    those funny symbols were supposed to be the letter a with an umlaut.

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  18. 18. bernardpalmer 3:40 pm 01/26/2011

    Socialism is what we have already. Every major economy in the world now uses fiat currency which are bits of colored paper. Capitalism only uses gold for its money. Gold was last used around the turn of the 20th century when the Real Bills Doctrine of Adam Smith was abandoned so governments could print out as much money as they needed. Full on Socialism came about after the collapse of the Bretton Woods Agreement in 1971.
    The GFC is gold making its return as money.

    Therefore to suggest Socialism would hinder killings is patently incorrect.

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  19. 19. postfuture 5:09 pm 01/26/2011

    I’m from the former Soviet Union. There was a total gun control. Only registered hunters could have a hunting gun. There was almost NO gun related homicides. Still there were a lot criminals and a lot of crimes with knifes. But how many you can kill with a knife – one, two? Not eight, just a couple. And you have to look at victim’s eyes! And many victims got away and survived.

    But socialism itself as a system does not help, it was a gun control law. Males still were very violent and violence against females in families was very common. Personally as I see now – both extreme opposites – total socialism and radical capitalism – are equally bad. Are we able to create a mix from good aspects of both systems? I’m not sure. But we definitely need a gun control. Kids in schools have guns in their backpacks- and it’s not enough for gun control????!!!! Do you understand that it’s absolutely insane?!

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  20. 20. brian_lowe 10:21 pm 01/26/2011

    There’s no doubt that killing with a weapon, whether impulsive or premeditated, is opportunistic. However, the prevalence of accessible and easy-to-use weapons like handguns provides the very opportunity needed. They are the difference between a stabbing or an assault and a homicide.

    Yes, people kill, but they kill more easily with gun. Wake up.

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  21. 21. 10:41 pm 01/26/2011

    Excerpt from <;

    "The human sorrow from gunshot violence cannot be measured. The medical cost of treating gunshot injuries is multiple billions of dollars every year. The cost of ambulances and emergency treatments at the scene of the violence is multiple billions of dollars every year. And police investigations for gunshot crimes is multiple billions of dollars every year. All these costs are born usually by city and county governments. The federal government’s hands are tied by the "second amendment gun people" in Washington.

    Now think of a few years in the past. We smoked cigarettes in bars and in restaurants and even in elevators and on airplanes. Sometime in the 1990′s a new awareness came over the social consciousness of our nation. We stopped smoking so much. We passed laws to prevent people from smoking in public facilities, and then in work places.
    It was given that government held a responsibility to protect the safety and health of the people.

    A gun is no different than a cigarette.

    Remember that cigarette taxes were almost nothing until the proof about nicotine as a carcinogen was widely accepted. A tax on ammunition and on actual guns sales could help pay for loss of life and care for the people injured by gunshot, especially spinal injuries. That way the whole country does not bear the burden of medical care for gunshot injuries and the time spent by the police finding the criminals who use guns. This amounts to billions of dollars every year. Gun people bear only a tiny part of this cost. Gun people do not bear much of the burden for the human suffering caused by gunshots. So let gun people pay the costs for police and medical and fire and all the other city and state services rendered to cope with gunshots and gunshot injuries. A tax of 500% seems a reasonable place to start. Put in place harsh penalties for evasion of the tax by non-reporting or going out of state to buy ammunition.

    There’s some sickness in the body politic that we have not yet vigorously demanded laws to somehow regulate guns. We can regulate the ammunition by taxation. We can legally do this. We can stop them just like we stopped cigarettes. It will take enormous resolve because the PR spin by the gun people is oppressively loud and lavishly financed.

    The gun people certainly will scream at the heavy tax on ammunition. But the gun people have always clearly known the price of everything, and the value of nothing.

    A dead tenderhearted girl. Seventeen cents for the bullet.

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  22. 22. Ian St. John 10:52 pm 01/26/2011

    A note about the statistics on gun ownership vs gun violence.

    It is true that restrictions on handguns in Washington had little effect on gun violence. However, this is misleading.

    The law ‘grandfathered’ what was a rather large collection of EXISTING guns and thus had little effect on the number or registration of privately owned guns in the city.

    The example does NOT support the idea that easy access to guns is uncorrelated to gun violence, particularly with unstable individuals and ‘heat of passion’ motivations.

    That said, poverty and more importantly desperation are certainly strongly correlated with overall crime rates and the use of guns in criminal activity with otherwise stable citizens.

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  23. 23. tate0774 9:36 am 01/27/2011

    Thanks for greeting me in Finnish.

    Having seen some changes in the world since year 1944 of the Continuation War, when I was sitting in a bomb shelter Helsinki, Finland, where a "friendly" country managed to destroy some buildings (one just 50 meters from our family’s location, five others with a radius of 200 m), I strongly believe that changes are possibly, they just take time.

    Think about Gandhi’s India, Soviet Union, China and other countries in which just some 50 years ago all development was considered impossible. If U.S.A. has been capable of writing constitutional rules that have sustained over centuries with minor amendments, why such a liberal community would be so inflexible not to write major amendments. That is, with the goal of an arms-free, nonviolent society.

    For starters, the Finnish educations system ranking very high in PISA studies is being copied by several countries U.K. inclusive. Here is a hidden benefit: our schools teach cooperation, mutual trust and respect. Accordingly, we do not need armed guards in our schools. Yes, we have guards in our shopping malls, but their only armament is a walkie-talkie and handcuffs.

    Nonviolence will take the time to grow a new generation in a nonviolent environment. To make these two preconditions meet is a formidable but also challenging task for U.S. decision-makers.

    I wish you all the best in your efforts to a safe life and invite all participants of this discussion to Finland by four words: come, see and believe.

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  24. 24. add-on 11:33 am 01/27/2011

    So, we’re going to solve the 20,000 annual homicides with the widespread starvation and poverty that has accompanied every central planning society throughout time, place, and history. Hopefully, you’re tenured.

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  25. 25. Judester 11:47 am 01/27/2011

    A friend of mine spent twenty-five years in Russia and I asked him,"How can 3% of the population control a country the size of Russia?" His answer, "Food". He said that a cucumber was so many rubles and I said do the conversion for me. That would be about eight dollars American. He further said that the only reason to join the Communist Party was to get privileges to get food and housing. He also stated that a job this size would have no tools left because of theft to the b l a c k market to buy food. (we were on a nuclear plant construction job at the time) We are headed in this direction wither we know it or not.

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  26. 26. Judester 11:49 am 01/27/2011

    A friend of mine spent twenty-five years in Russia and I asked him,"How can 3% of the population control a country the size of Russia?" His answer, "Food". He said that a cucumber was so many rubles and I said do the conversion for me. That would be about eight dollars American. He further said that the only reason to join the Communist Party was to get privileges to get food and housing. He also stated that a job this size would have no tools left because of theft to the b l a c k market to buy food. (we were on a nuclear plant construction job at the time) We are headed in this direction wither we know it or not.

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  27. 27. sirmatthew 12:01 pm 01/27/2011

    If homicides are higher in areas where inequality exists I would venture to say it would be the less fortunate who are doing all the shooting. The rich have no reason to shoot the poor except to defend themselves against robbery and violence (which would not be homicide, but a justifiable legal act of self-defense). Since we are talking homicide here and if we can run with the loose assumption the poor are doing all the shooting against the wealthy, then I must ask why the prosperous should have to restrain their pursuits of happiness, hard work, and success simply to keep the less fortunate from targeting them? In fact, they shouldn’t! So should the rich kick back money to the poor simply to avoid being their target? There is no guarantee that would work, but how is that any different from the “protection money” the Mafia extorts from citizens?

    If the poor can get free money from the wealthy and be fairly equal to them as a result then what motivation does the poor man have to better himself? In turn, the rich will ask why they are working so hard to have a good life when the end result makes them no better off than the poor? Eventually, all will choose to be poor, leaving no one willing to go out and work hard to earn the funds needed to support everyone else. There will be a few exceptions, but one man cannot support ten, fifty, or one hundred others. Socialism may mean all enjoy economic equality, but that standard of economic equality will be very low. This is clearly evident in socialist countries such as Russia, a country which also has very strict gun-control along with a much higher rate of homicide than the U.S. The proposed solution has not worked in the past and would not work now here in America. This country was founded upon individual freedom, a place where a man could go and hack out a decent life for himself without being dependent upon others. Just because millions of men have chosen to come to America and do just that doesn’t mean any one of those men are suddenly responsible for their neighbors. They can choose to help their neighbor, but they will not be forced to do so. This citizens of this country have always been fiercely independent and selfish when it comes to the fruits of their labors, but they are also the most generous and quick to help someone in need. That is perfectly acceptable in a free country, but forcing them to fund the poor is not. Try that and I suspect you’ll see the prosperous committing homicides too.

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  28. 28. JF111 12:03 pm 01/27/2011

    The only reason Europe, Canada and our other "allies"
    can afford "socialism" is because the U.S. has spent so much on its military on their behalf. Thats been the price we’ve paid. Check on what these countries spend on defence compared to us.

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  29. 29. Corseaux 1:07 pm 01/27/2011

    Recommending socialism to reduce the American murder rate is the kind of nonsense that arises from comparing apples to oranges. This kind of nonsense has no place in a publication about science.

    First, try comparing homogenous groups to homogenous groups, e.g. American WASPs and Canadian WASPs. These two groups share causative and correlative factors, one of which has only recently become socialized medicine.

    Next, test whether economic inequality is correlative rather than causitive by examininig other possible factors common among high murder rate groups, e.g. lack of father in home, lack of education, lack of religion, gang membership, persistent unemployment, substance abuse, extensive criminal record, recidivism, etc. If more of these are found among murderers in any group, then chances are good some number of them are causative.

    The foregoing analysis is just common sense, folks, i.e. statistics. Yet the author recommending socialism on the basis of social Darwinism (yuck) seems unfamiliar with it. Hence, what amazes me most about socialists is their belief that we should grant them license to experiment with us in order to perfect us according to their vision of perfection. Again, yuck.

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  30. 30. blackhawk12151 1:11 pm 01/27/2011

    @ rikkus. Well, I’m pretty sure Joe means Joseph Stalin. Have you heard of him? Probably. Next, Nazism was not an out and out rejection of Marxism. It was, in fact, a rejection of the idea of an international socialist movement, i.e. factory workers in the USSR uniting with similarly placed proletariat in Poland or Prussia or wherever. They were both statist governments that sought control over every aspect of society. Mussolini, the archetypal fascist, never called himself one and considered himself a socialist his whole life. Their economic theories were very similar.

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  31. 31. otherkid 1:34 pm 01/27/2011

    I love that the writer alludes to one cause of men killing other non-related men is in order to "achieve status and RESOURCES" by committing armed robbery…

    Any thoughts on how dramatically similar it is to involuntarily confiscate the money of "wealthy" people and then distribute it amongst the "poor" with higher taxation and more generous entitlement programs? Aside from their being a gun and a dark alley involved, the only difference is the government middleman…

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  32. 32. Krisidious 1:59 pm 01/27/2011

    Rikkus, I’m sorry to say it is you that does not know your history. the actual word NAZI comes from the word Socialism… National Socialist German Workers’ Party

    per Wikipedia the following is stated about the Nationalsozialismus

    "They declared support for a nationalist form of socialism that was to provide for the Aryan race and the German nation: economic security, social welfare programs for workers, a just wage, honour for workers’ importance to the nation, and protection from capitalist exploitation.[18]"

    so keep on trying to get away from the fact that Socialism, Communism and Fascism are innate parts of evil…

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  33. 33. jgrosay 5:14 pm 01/27/2011

    A modest proposal for curbing violations and sexually transmitted diseases: castrate all men.
    A socialist proposal for curbing crimes: eliminate things that money can buy.
    A blind people proposal to overcome their handicap: take away everybody’s eyes.
    One can imagine lots of proposals equally silly, for example: imagine there’s no heaven, above us only sky…

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  34. 34. postfuture 5:15 pm 01/27/2011

    I’m responding to Judester. Again I’m from former Soviet Union. You can read my previous comment #59. Judester’s friend said that 3% of the population control a country … of Russia with price of the Food. It’s absolutely incorrect! Food and housing were very cheap, health care and education – free. There was not enough food and other goods, especially good quality, but everything was very cheap. There were much more people in the Communist Party than 3%, and many people actually believed in ideology. As many people in USA believed in the capitalist ideology and are controlled by it.

    It is a complex question, but Soviet Union is not a good example of socialism.

    We need to objectively analyze different social systems and create a healthy combination from good aspects of both. But are we able to do this? More fun to fight … and we have enough guns for it…

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  35. 35. Dr. Strangelove 9:55 pm 01/27/2011

    Mr. Horgan,

    I’m in favor of gun ban to reduce homicide. Correlating homicide to psychology, sociology, politics and economics may be complex. But relating it to technology is very simple. Humans have been killing each other since we became homo sapiens 200,000 yrs. ago. The difference is the technolgy for killing had become vastly more efficient. A club is less efficient than an AK-47.

    Control the killing technology to control homicide rate. How many can you kill using a knife or a baseball bat vs. an AK-47? If this is logical, why do Colombia and Brazil have low gun ownership but high homicide rates? Mr. Horgan to answer is ineffective gun control. They restrict legal gun ownership but there’s a lot of illegal gun owners. In Colombia, the drug lords have their own private armies. In Brazil, the illegal loggers have assault rifles. The Amazon is the wild wild west. Guess if their guns are legal or illegal.

    Perhaps we cannot stop humans from killing each other but let’s not make it easy.

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  36. 36. Bcavallo 1:08 am 01/28/2011

    It’s not the co-occurence of rich and poor that causes high murder rate. It’s the co-occurrence of the poor with liberals’ idiotic social welfare programs. You’d turn to violent crime too if you had been brainwashed by your leaders to believe you were helpless, hopeless, and redeemable only with more government "help".

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  37. 37. ansutherland 2:00 pm 01/28/2011

    Though I agree with the premise of the argument, I have to disagree with the labelling of Canada as Socialist. As a resident of Canada, I can say it is by no mean Socialist; at least not by definition. In addition to that, in order for this idea to be accepted in the US, one would have to re-label it as something other than Socialism. Just the mere mention of Universal Health Care and one is labelled a Communist, so Socialism would be dead in the water without being re-named.

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  38. 38. Tom Stelene 5:41 pm 01/28/2011

    So to reduce crime and homicide you advocate a political system that without exception leads to poverty, stagnation, misery, and total government control of the individual. I can’t decide if I should laugh or puke in response to your ‘modest proposal.’

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  39. 39. cephalis 8:07 pm 01/28/2011

    It is an invidious comparison, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. Both were totalitarian regimes. Why not look at the Europeans, particularly the Scandinavian countries. They seem to be doing just fine.

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  40. 40. cephalis 8:13 pm 01/28/2011

    The factual number of homicides in Sweden amounted to 93 year 2009 whereas the average factual number was 94.25 in the years 2002 to 2009. This gives a rate of approximately 1 homicide per 100,000 inhabitants. This pretty much makes the author’s case.

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  41. 41. lanceaugust 9:35 pm 01/29/2011

    Freedom from oppressive regimes which confiscate resources from one group to give to less productive groups is a higher social value than a lower homicide rate. After all, there is no shortage of human beings on the planet.

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  42. 42. lanceaugust 9:47 pm 01/29/2011

    I don’t agree with the author’s premise: that our form of government should be determined by the kind which delivers the lowest homicide rate. There are higher social values to consider such as freedom, limited government, respect for individual liberty, and the right to enjoy the results and rewards of one’s labor without having the government confiscate your assets.

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  43. 43. Centaurus-A 12:06 pm 01/30/2011

    We already live in a socialist democracy now in the United States. Capitalism in its pure form was something that collapsed in the late nineteenth century because it was extremely unjust. Read the history books folks: the capitalist of the mid-nineteenth century had no qualms about child labor and 12 hour days. This isn’t 12 hours in the office. It’s 12 hours hard labor by children and men and women who had barely enough to eat, and whose children had no education because they had to work. If this pure form of capitalism had continued without any government intervention there would have been a revolution–a violent one. The reason why Marx was wrong and why this didn’t happen was that government intervened and put a stop to this. Legislation after legislation passed that limited work hours and outlawed child labor. Left to their own devices man is a sinful creature and will stop at nothing so Adam Smith’s vision of utopian capitalism never worked and never will.

    Having said that though, more socialism is not the cure to the problem of violence. It’s education in the family mainly, in the schools secondarily. For me as a young man headed in the wrong direction: the ideology that I believed in, namely that life was just chance and necessity, and that there was no meaning in life leading me to believe that whether I killed someone or not didn’t matter was wrong. It was all just survival, survival of the fittest. Not until I saw that my actions had eternal consequences and that life was more than just molecules and matter in motion did I change as a person. When I realized that my soul was eternal and there was a heaven and hell, and that contrary to what I was told, that there was a God who cared about me deeply did my attitude change, and did I start towards the direction of becoming a productive member of society.

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  44. 44. LPrice 9:38 pm 01/30/2011

    I love watching how Americans react to the word "Socialism." It’s like a big, red, panic button.

    Sure, things were bad in the USSR, and there’s still lots of trouble in China. But nobody says those are the only ways (or even the best ways) to implement socialism.

    Suppose, for example, that rather than trying to control production (as in the USSR) or politics (as in China), you use progressive taxes to fund healthcare & education, and equalize things a bit that way? That’s what’s done in Canada and Europe, and they are still great places to live, and the rich are hardly "poor" there.

    Progressive taxes means that the more money you earn, the higher your tax rate. The rich don’t become poor, they just don’t get rich as fast. Big deal. So they can’t afford quite as large a yacht, or so they can only afford the $5,000 golf course instead of the $500,000 one.

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  45. 45. Anne Ominous 5:53 pm 01/31/2011

    I have to assume, from the "modest proposal" in the title, that this is strictly a tongue-in-cheek proposition. If it were not, I would have to point out that in several places in the article, apples are compared with oranges, as it were.

    First, one cannot correlate "homicide rate" with "firearms homicide rate", or, for that matter, shootings with homicide rate. In Japan, for example, shootings make up a relatively small portion of the homicide rate compared to the United States. And today, somewhere between 90% and (some report) 97% of people in the United States who are shot with a firearm survive the experience.

    This is complicated by the fact that the UK (for just one example) reports crimes much differently than the United States. If someone is shot dead, it is not reported as a "homicide" unless and until the culprit is caught and convicted. Thus even if actual homicide rate per 100,000 were exactly the same in the US and UK, the reported numbers would still be much different. It is not valid to compare them, at all.

    Moreover, the "study" linked to where you state "some researchers have found a correlation between levels of household gun ownership and homicide", actually draws its numbers from SURVEY RESULTS compiled by the Centers for Disease Control (who should not be spending our tax money on such unrelated subjects as gun control anyway), rather than hard numbers from real crime and sales statistics. I would have to take any of the CDC’s conclusions with several large grains of salt.

    Given the actual statistics, compiled by the likes of Lott, Kleck, et al., from Department of Justice and other authoritative sources, Kleck (a self-described political liberal) concludes that there is no correlation between gun ownership and crime. Lott’s statistical analysis shows a NEGATIVE correlation between gun owner ship and crime (this is all in the U.S. of course). So far nobody has successfully refuted their numbers or methodologies.

    So, again: as a tongue-in-cheek proposal, I can accept this as amusing, but that’s about all. Even then, not nearly as amusing as "Yet Another Modest Proposal" by Larry Niven.

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  46. 46. rpitre 5:54 pm 01/31/2011

    The belief that socialism is a stable long term solution to the problem of governance is growing in popularity seemingly without regard for recent historical events that might serve as real evidence supporting real "common sense". A belief in socialism is only "common sense" to people who have certain unfounded beliefs about human nature. Were it not for the fact that the belief does not involve a designated deity it would be called a religion. When we learn to love ourselves for what we really are we will be able to govern ourselves. That day will come and with that we will have the end of socialist ideology and many other simplistic isms that result in excessive government oppression of freedom loving creatures that we are.

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  47. 47. Anne Ominous 6:00 pm 01/31/2011

    To LPrice:

    Because we know from history that central planning simply does not work as well as the free marketplace does when it is allowed to do so. (I am not claiming that the U.S. today allows it… in many cases it doesn’t. Health care itself is a good example: the government has tried to "fix" a problem that it is partly responsible for creating… and doing a lousy job of it.)

    We also know from history that the governments most prone to failure are those with the most central planning and control. This was known even in Jefferson’s time (he wrote about it) and it hasn’t changed any since.

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  48. 48. Anne Ominous 6:08 pm 01/31/2011

    To Centaurus-A:

    You neglect to mention that the vast majority of those laws are state laws, not Federal. The states have always been empowered to pass such laws… and when some did, and others started to migrate to those states instead of those that allowed "slave labor", it became obvious that those were good laws.

    That is the way the capitalist-republic system is supposed to work! Socialism has nothing to do with it.

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  49. 49. timcummin80 1:09 pm 03/13/2011

    hi john, very intteresting article.
    i agree with every word.

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  50. 50. timcummin80 1:10 pm 03/13/2011


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  51. 51. tvrmx 3:25 pm 08/5/2012

    Err.. Colombia and Brazil have too many areas that are straight up run by druglords. They grow the cocaine used to feed America and when drugs are outlawed, only outlaws will have drugs etc. etc..

    Though it’s obvious income inequality is a major factor, we are a gun worshipping, gun-hoarding society. People like Loughner and Holmes have fantasies of killing in a gun-glitzy blaze of glory, because they’ve been fed that mythology all their lives. Many people (men, they’re so violent, aren’t they!) have those fantasies, just most obviously have their morality and sanity in check enough to avoid actually acting the fantasies out.

    In Europe, people are more likely to settle their differences with good old fashioned arguing with occasional pushing and shoving. Here everyone’s got a gun, so it’s easy to just pull a trigger and end a life when you’re pissed off. (Also too easy to commit suicide when you’re under the influence and happen to have a gun lying around.)

    Guns don’t kill people, people kill people, WITH GUNS.

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