January 2, 2016

Violence declining / cycling: What do you want to know?

I stop reading Twitter for a few days, and totally miss Nassim Taleb feuding with Steven Pinker and others about trends in violence rates. That has been the topic I've studied and written the most on over the years -- sometimes going pretty far off-topic, but always related back to main topic somehow.

But after doing that work for years, it became more difficult to find more and more interesting things to say about it. So as of a year or so ago, when I started to read Peter Turchin's work on the inequality cycle, I started covering things related to that topic primarily.

In both cases, I tend to focus on the changes in individual psychological factors that percolate up to cause the macro-level trends that most people really worry about -- violent crime, inequality, and so on.

Since I haven't written about crime trends in a little while, and now that you may be reading a lot about it, I might as well review my take on things. Rather than merely link to old posts, it would be better to make it more of a Q&A driven by the audience.

So in the comments, tell me what aspects of the topic you'd like to be covered, what specific views and claims you'd like to see me respond to, and so on. There's a lot of weird, silly, and retarded stuff written about this topic, so don't worry about asking what seems like a "stupid question".

One major thing to take into account for now, though, is the distinction between violence that we can call "criminal" vs. "collective". Criminal violence is face-to-face, mano-a-mano, and is largely opportunistic (mugging, rape, heated argument that ends in a stabbing). Collective violence is something like a riot, rebellion, terrorist attack, or war.

Aside from being conceptually distinct phenomena, they empirically appear to belong to two different historical cycles -- criminal violence is part of the cocooning vs. outgoing cycle (rising crime when folks are more outgoing), whereas collective violence is part of the status-striving vs. self-sacrificing cycle, or widening vs. narrowing inequality (more collective violence when folks are more self-sacrificing and nationally united).

For the most succinct version of my theory on what causes crime rates to rise and fall and rise again in cycles, here's a passage from this overview post. Note: I'm obviously talking about "trust" on an interpersonal, social level -- not confidence in macro-level institutions like Congress or whatever.

Criminals can be thought of as predators, and their victims as prey. Elsewhere (mostly in comments) I've described the basic dynamic between these two groups that generates cycles in both crime rates and trust levels. To recap:

First, people (i.e., potential victims, not criminals) become more trusting of others. Higher trust levels allow criminals to gain access to the prey, who are basically defenseless once access has been gained. So, second, crime rates begin rising a bit after trust levels do. Rising crime rates make people more wary of others. Hence, third, after crime rates have been going up for awhile, average people begin to withdraw their trust of others. Falling trust levels make it more difficult for criminals to gain access to victims, so fourth and finally, crime rates begin to plummet a bit after trust levels begin to fall.

Of course, after crime rates have been falling for so long, average people sense less of a reason to keep others at arm's length and under suspicion. So trust levels begin rising for the first time in a long while. Now we're back to where we started, and the crime-and-trust cycle repeats itself.

Depending on how many requests I get, and how easy it is to discuss, it may be a few days before there's a post up in response. Or if it gets really hectic, I'll just do a response post every several days in an ongoing series.


  1. What's left, I guess? Just about anything can be put down to about 4 factors:
    - Outgoingness
    - Inequality
    - Ethnic diversity
    - Generational character

    Right now, the West is an a real grinder. People have been rendered naive at best by cocooning, inequality has alienated many, diversity has been force fed for decades, and the dual threat of insecure Silents and indulgent Boomers has been strangling good will and impoverishing the public sphere for eons at this point. Can't do anything to infringe on a person's right to do whatever they damn well please, right? Smoke whatever you want, screw whatever you want, live wherever you want, work however you want (even if that work is entirely self-motivated).

    Sailer had a post about auto deaths declining greatly and people thought that maybe technology has something to with it. I don't think anyone brought up generation characteristics. At this point the worst Boomer hot heads are not quite the threat they once were (disease, accidents, killings, incarceration, etc. taking most of them out). Meanwhile, Gen X (the whites at least) were never as reckless and they also matured faster than Boomers.

    To the extent that violence/disorder/corruption still plagues us, it ought to diminish as Boomers lose their grip and relevance while Gen X-ers bring caution (or just stay out of the way) and Millennials implement greater measures of vice control and accountability for blatantly selfish/greedy behavior (like flooding countries with aliens). I'd hope that Gen X-ers could do better at restoring things, but I think way too many of them (especially the later ones) have spent so much time being bludgeoned by misanthropic garbage that they've lost the nerve to clean things up. Of course, they aren't as corrupted as Boomers (who remain eternally self absorbed and childish) but I'd like to see more venom leveled at drugs/drinking/porn/gambling etc.. A lot of X-ers aren't comfortable calling out this stuff since they associate moral campaigns with pompous Boomers. It's too bad hypocritical Boomers have soured younger people on the idea of vice control and not being flippant about dangerous stuff.

    The nineties didn't help; I think X-ers would've been much better off without the hideous Clinton era.

  2. Back to the topic at hand, I get tired of people saying "God, everything's so screwed up with all the terrorism, gang violence, mass murders, abortions, blah blah blah."

    In fact, middle aged Gen X-ers and young Millennials are for the most part profoundly temperate and dare I say, conscientious, compared to how middle aged Silents and young Boomers were acting in the late 60's-80's.

    Abortion peaked in the 70's/very early 80's. Due to inequality, we've certainly seen in an uptick in mass murders but considering the U.S. population and the sheer amount of guns floating around, it's rather impressive that we don't see more mass murders.

    And no duh, anyone over 30 whose brain is intact ought to remember that white youth gangs were virtually non existent among Gen X (and Millennials) while Millennial blacks are far less dangerous, on average, than Gen X blacks. But it does seem like the post 1960 coddling of blacks and the ill-fated attempts at warehousing large numbers of blacks in big city ghettos are responsible for young blacks being sullen wilders. Especially when the whites in these areas push-overs.

    But during the last era of any sense of community and vigilance (the 80's), it wasn't unheard of for whites to push back. Nowadays whites are such meek, Low T, deracineated creatures that many can't even conceive of fighting back. In the 80's, dozens of movies were made about daring to fight back.

    People say that we shouldn't take much from pop culture, that it doesn't necessarily reflect reality. True, but at least people in the 80's were considering "doing something" besides just running away and hoping that the cops would do the heavy lifting.

    Ever notice how much more cop respectful pop culture got in the 90's and beyond? When 70's and 80's movies had cops, they were about mavericks who hated paperwork and lawyers. Basically, they didn't really act like cops.

  3. Ethnic diversity reduces to the inequality / status-striving phenomenon. A homogeneous population cannot get more ethnically diverse on its own -- not on the time-scale we're talking about, anyway -- so diversity comes from immigration, which is in turn driven by wealth-striving elites -- both to lower labor costs of businesses they run, and lower labor costs of any personal services they want (nanny, gardener, etc.).

    The first time around, it was Africans brought in at the behest of Southern plantation owners, and Ellis Island people brought in at the behest of Northern industrialists.

    Then that closed down, and the population got more homogeneous from circa 1910 to 1970, during the Great Compression.

    Since the '70s, but especially after the 1986 amnesty, welcome back to the Gilded Age with strange languages, strange faces, and strange diseases returning to America (or England, France, Germany, etc.).

  4. Auto deaths reflect both technological and generational or zeitgeist factors.

    If it's a young-ish industry, like cars, there are going to be lots of improvements being made -- according to diminishing marginal returns, with the low-hanging big improvements made first, and then smaller and smaller improvements after that, slowing the rate of improvements.

    So from 1950 to today, auto deaths have been declining by any measure (per mile traveled, per number of drivers, per whatever).

    However, there's a departure from that declining curve, during the '60s and early '70s. Auto deaths were much higher than the simple steady curve would have shown.

    That's probably a generational or zeitgeist thing -- part of the more outgoing and rising-crime phase of the cycle. When people are more fun-loving and risk-taking, they're going to drive more recklessly and get into more accidents. There were a bunch of "teen tragedy songs" involving car deaths during that period.

    Why didn't that continue through the '70s, '80s, and early '90s like the rest of the outgoing and crime behavior? Perhaps people became aware of how reckless their driving was becoming, and acted to rein it in a little -- at least while out on the road.

    Car wrecks are totally under the control of normal people, so they can effect change faster in that domain than, say, avoiding shady areas where criminals might prey on them, where deviant people are a force pushing against the normalizing force.

    Data reference:


  5. You're deluding yourself if you think Millennials are going to implement anything... it's hard to think of a more disengaged group of people. Psychologically, physically, whatever. They're off in their own little world and they don't want to participate in the real world.

    At most they can vote for change or otherwise follow the lead that the more active and engaged members of society will present, now that Trump (a Boomer) has opened the floodgates.

    Not that there won't be a generational angle to the changing times, if you look at the average member of each generation. But there's enough variation within a generation that there will be populist Silents and Boomers forming a crucial part of the revolution.

    It's not just political stuff either -- think of returning to the self-sacrificing 1950s, when you did your own home repairs (except for real specialist jobs). I can tell you that zero percent of the Millennial generation know how to do any of that stuff, and you can't learn it by watching a YouTube instructional video. You need face-to-face instruction, demonstration, and feedback when it's your turn.

    That's how technology and culture get passed on, from the Stone Age onward.

    If we're going to start manufacturing things again in America, who has the know-how of how a nail factory should be put together and run, from the types of machines needed to the proper division of labor? Again, 100% of that will be coming from Silents and Boomers who actually learned and practiced in the industry before it got dismantled and off-shored. Gen X-ers and Millennials don't know shit about manufacturing.

    Same with reversing the striver nature of other institutions, like churches. Gen X and Millennials don't know much about what Catholic practice was like before Vatican 2; however much they might have read about it, they didn't experience it directly and regularly.

    There are certainly a handful of X-ers -- but not Millennials -- who have apprenticed under the Old Ways and could teach shop class or home economics. Most of them, though, don't have a clue, and will need to apprentice under Silents and Boomers, and in turn mentor the Millennials.

    ...Or the Silents and Boomers might mentor Millennials directly, since the Me Generation refuses to retire, and wouldn't mind edging Gen X out of yet another slice of the labor market. (Only kidding)

  6. TL;DR -- the restoration of America will be led by young shitlords and their zero-fucks-given uncles.

  7. Actually, in the catholic department a lot of Gen X'rs and Millenials are becoming more likely to lead and celebrate the Tridentine mass as priests and laymen. The Boomers are largely nostalgic of the hippy guitar typical of many modern Catholic celebrations. Because about half or more of new young priests of France only celebrate the traditional Latin Mass France is forecast to have more masses in Latin than French by 2040 under current demographic rates assuming it's not Somalia by then. As an American the two priests in my Latin-mass only parish are Gen Xers and it is much younger with many more 1-40 year olds than older while in modern churches its probably even. My experience is as a Millennial who attended Cistercian Prep School in Irving run by elder Hungarian monks who escaped during the 1956 Revolt against Communism as well as the younger American monks from grades 5-12 and attending Latin mass since age 10.

  8. Rick Johnsmeyer1/4/16, 3:39 AM

    It seems that quite a few cities across the US registered massive murder-rate increases from 2014 to 2015. The cause of those spikes is fairly obvious in cities like Baltimore and St. Louis, but even fairly #BLM-hostile cities like Indianapolis saw big jolts. The common element is simply the presence of an urban black population.

    This also seems to be confined to the US, which is actually a bit unusual, since the US and Canadian murder rates tend to have a rough relation to each other, with US rate being around 3 to 3.5 times higher than the Canadian rate, and with the Canadian rate rising alongside the US rate.

    But I see little indication that Canada's murder rate rose; Toronto actually saw one fewer murder in 2014 than 2015 (56 vs. 57) for a city of 2.8 million.

    I know that some people have argued that "black America" has been under strong dysgenic pressures for a while, and I wonder if at some point that is going to force their murder rate back up despite the countervailing forces that restrain it for other groups.

  9. "and you can't learn it by watching a YouTube instructional video. You need face-to-face instruction, demonstration, and feedback when it's your turn.

    That's how technology and culture get passed on, from the Stone Age onward."

    I agree with the larger point you are making here, but this is an appeal to tradition. I'm a millennial and i've learned a shit ton from youtube videos and so have literally millions of other millennials.

    Back to your main point, it's a nice theory and all but how does it relate to the real world? Are you predicting that we will see another spike in crime like we saw in 1960s to the 1990s?

    Is this guy's theory completely at odds with yours? http://i0.wp.com/www.politisite.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/us-historical-homicide-chart.gif.

  10. "As an American the two priests in my Latin-mass only parish are Gen Xers and it is much younger with many more 1-40 year olds than older while in modern churches its probably even."

    I'm sure that the X-ers are more interested in traditional Mass than the Boomers. What I mean is that interest alone doesn't translate into changing behavior. They had to find the handful of Silents and Boomers who grew up when traditional Mass was the only way of doing things, apprentice under them for awhile, and then carry it back to their parish.

    There's a real danger of believing that interest alone will lead to change. As though the universe will respond to our wishes like a cosmic helicopter parent. As the children of helicopter parents, Millennials are more prone to this way of thinking.

  11. (I'm keeping tabs on the violence-related comments, and only commenting right now on those that won't go into the follow-up post.)

  12. "I agree with the larger point you are making here, but this is an appeal to tradition. I'm a millennial and i've learned a shit ton from youtube videos and so have literally millions of other millennials."

    Appeal to tradition is no fallacy -- it's passed a survival test. And the "tradition" we're talking about is not some narrow, specific one like driving on the right side of the road -- we're talking about passing on knowledge and skills in a mentor-apprentice fashion, face-to-face, through a chain of verbal instruction, physical demonstration, and verbal and physical feedback on the novice's efforts.

    That's how every person has learned anything ever, before web 2.0. The older way built our world, and our web 2.0 norms have built what? If anything we are clearly losing knowledge and skills, almost like the aboriginal Tasmanian islanders who went through a cultural bottleneck after leaving the continent of Australia and wound up stuck back in the Stone Age.

    How many Millennials who learned stuff from YouTube have started up a nail-manufacturing plant in the first world, let alone one whose product and labor practices measure up to the standards of the 1950s?

    Or how many who have learned how to wash windows via YouTube videos could start their own profitable window-washing service? Compare that success rate to those who learned the normal, interactive way.

  13. The rise of Trump and Sanders signals that the crime rate has begun rising. People are becoming more sincere, and voting for who they really support, rather than insincerely supporting a candidate "who can win".

    Friends of Trump say that he wanted to run for president as back as the early 90s, but didn't during the last 20 years. Couldn't get traction because of cocooning. Same with Sanders. (though that doesn't mean that either man will win).

    Hopefully this Spring we will see outgoingness explode.

  14. Maybe this is a better thread to post this:

    The economist Tyler Cowen recently explicitly linked higher productivity to the "60s, 70s, and 80s". He specifically mentions those three decades, as well as linking lower productivity to helicopter-parenting and more "staying at home". Think he's taking some uncredited ideas from your blog, or independently came up with it?

    "All of this is causing the U.S. to stagnate economically and politically, Cowen says in his new book: "The Complacent Class: The Self-Defeating Quest for the American Dream." Growth is far slower than it was in the 1960s, 70s and 80s and productivity growth is way down, despite everyone claiming they are working so hard. "

    "His book makes the case that all of the upheaval of the 1960s and 70s caused people to strive for safety and the status quo in the decades after that.

    "Just look at how people bring up children today. Often they won't even let children go outside," he says. "

    " Even technology, the one area that has seen some innovation in recent years, has been mostly aimed at making us want to stay home and relax.

    "Tech's great. It's fun. I've got four Amazon packages outside my door. But we have a problem with this precisely because it's enjoyable and comfortable," he says. "All this tech innovation encourages leisure and staying at home." "

    "Cowen believes we've gone too far in trying to create perfect, insulated lives for ourselves and our kids. Without realizing it, we've created bubble worlds that we're afraid to change. "


  15. Does the crime rate have a "warmup" phase similar to the excitation cycle? 20 years of cocooning(1935-1955) 20 years of moderate outgoingness(1956-1975) 20 years of extreme outgoingness(1975-1995)


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