Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Fear of Crime Shows Our Weak Social Ties

David Halpern, in The Hidden Wealth of Nations, directly addresses the culture of fear, which I think is what makes our politics irrational. He reports that Britons fear crime, immigration, and terrorism, even though crime is down, immigration is overwhelmingly positive, and terrorism is extremely rare. Americans share these fears. What these fears have in common is a fear of the Other all out of proportion to the actual threat. Halpern writes

“Fear of crime is … showing a mirror to ourselves – a glimpse into the hidden wealth or poverty of a nation.”

Nations that promote social connections and social trust are happier, calmer, less fearful. They also have less crime. And their discussion about crime, immigration, and terrorism can be conducted in a calmer, more proportionate way.

Fighting fear is not just rational, it actually makes the social order better.

8 comments:

randy said...

immigration...is...overwhelmingly...positive...

wanna just parse that out a little for us, gruntled?

Gruntled said...

The United States is an immigrant nation. At this rich moment in our history, we are benefiting from drawing the best and brightest in the whole world in such numbers that we threaten to impoverish other places with our brain drain. Immigrants pay far more in taxes than they receive in benefits. And immigrants do the work, high and low, that runs the country - especially low.

Mexican immigrants, about whom there is the greatest anxiety, are famous for their work ethic, family devotion, and high fertility - the last an especial benefit in a nation facing a birth dearth.

Illegal immigration is a problem created by the legal system, not the immigrants. If it were easy for foreign workers to come here legally, the great majority would be happy to comply with all regulations, would be paid over the table and therefore legal wages, from which all relevant taxes would be withheld, would help the police find the criminals in their midst, and would naturalize and assimilate at higher rates - as your ancestors and mine did.

Philip said...

Nice Democrat talking points Gruntled but the nation including Democrats because they fear crime are overwhelmingly FOR the Arizona ILLEGAL immigration bill.

Fear of crime keeps crime rates low. Lack of fear as many teenagers show us can lead to death and dismemberment. Fear of crime is healthy.

Ren said...

"At this rich moment in our history . . . "

Uh, I got hung up right there. I'm not sure I'd describe this moment in America's history as "rich."



" . . . we are benefiting from drawing the best and brightest in the whole world in such numbers that we threaten to impoverish other places with our brain drain."

Apart from a few computer programmers, there are very few Americans who oppose the presence of highly educated and economically productive immigrants, virtually all of whom are there legally.



"Mexican immigrants, about whom there is the greatest anxiety, are famous for their work ethic, family devotion, and high fertility - the last an especial benefit in a nation facing a birth dearth."

Mexican immigrants are also famous for their abysmal levels of education, which improve marginally at best even in the second and third generations.

"Almost two-thirds of adult Mexican immigrants have not completed high school, compared to fewer than one in ten natives. Mexican immigrants now account for 22 percent of all high school dropouts in the labor force."

"The lower educational attainment of Mexican immigrants appears to persist across the generations. The high school dropout rates of native-born Mexican-Americans (both second and third generation) are two and a half times that of other natives."



Low-skill immigrants also drive down the wages of native-born low-skilled workers, as anyone with even the most elementary grasp of economics must acknowledge. This impact has been particularly acute among black workers, and most particularly among black men.

From the NY Times:

"The share of young black men without jobs has climbed relentlessly, with only a slight pause during the economic peak of the late 1990's. In 2000, 65 percent of black male high school dropouts in their 20's were jobless — that is, unable to find work, not seeking it or incarcerated. By 2004, the share had grown to 72 percent, compared with 34 percent of white and 19 percent of Hispanic dropouts. Even when high school graduates were included, half of black men in their 20's were jobless in 2004, up from 46 percent in 2000."



"Illegal immigration is a problem created by the legal system, not the immigrants."

Come on now, this is like saying that we wouldn't have a drug problem if we just legalized drugs. All drugs. True, in a legal sense, but hardly true in terms of social consequences.

Every nation on earth has an immigration policy. For good reason. And particularly for good reason among the wealthier and more developed nations, to which they vast majority of aspiring immigrants wish to go.



"If it were easy for foreign workers to come here legally, the great majority would be happy to comply with all regulations . . "

The vast majority of those who QUALIFIED for immigration would be happy to comply. Those who didn't, would be as unlikely to comply as is the case now.

randy said...

thanks for knockin 'em down ren.

gruntled; gotta say...never seen you this mealy-mouthed. normally i respect your arguments and opinions. but what you wwrite here is drivel. just drivel.

there is no nation on earth which has an immigration policy like what you advocate here. know why? because its INSANITY. 'easy' indeed. just try to emigrate to japan...to germany..,to china, and see how far you get.

yet the US is supposed to welcome any and all who manage to cross its borders.

i think for someone like gruntld this is all sub-cortical anyway, unfortunately and thus resistant to logic. people like him just CANT BEAR the thought of saying 'no' to poor, striving people.

not that they or theirs will LIVE AMONG those poor, or have anything personally to do w/them

Ren said...

Mexico is among the wealthiest countries in Latin America, and thus exerts its own immigration appeal. You might want to check out Mexican immigration policies, and in particular policies regarding those who enter the country illegally.

From Article 34 of The General Population Law:

"The Department of the Interior may establish for the foreigners who enter Mexico the conditions that it deems appropriate with respect to the activities to which they will engage in and the place or places of their residence. It will take care thusly that the immigrants shall be useful elements for the country and that they will have the necessary income levels for their subsistence… and of the persons who are under their economic dependence."


From Article 33 of the General Population Law:

" . . . the Executive of the Union has the exclusive right to expel from the national territory, immediately and without necessity of judicial proceedings, all foreigners whose stay it judges inconvenient. Foreigners may not, in any manner, involve themselves in the political affairs of the country."

With regard to illegal immigration, "the government of Mexico detains and deports over a quarter of a million illegals annually, most of them from Central American countries . . . "

Anonymous said...

My grandfaher didn't have much of an education, but he was a very wise man in many ways.

He would have called Halpern's arguments "hogwash".

He's been gone many years now but I can still hear him saying "well that's just a bunch of hogwash", and I smile.

Gruntled said...

Halpern's point is that fear of crime, immigrants (not usually distinguishing legal from illegal), and terrorism are up when actual crime is down, terrorism is extremely rare and is better prevented than ever, and the vast majority of immigrants benefit all Americans.

The United States is the richest and most powerful nation that has ever existed. I think that qualifies as a rich moment in our history.

If we had a simple guest worker policy, nearly all the guest workers would be happy to comply. If long-time guest workers wanted to become citizens, that would be a good thing.

But let's not lose track of the main point: the culture of fear destroys the fundamental wealth of a nation - its social trust. The public's fears of crime, immigrants, and terrorists is much higher than any account of real threats would warrant.