Leftism possesses only one real idea which we might call “human pluralism” or “individualism.” In it, all individual choices are equally viable and each person is equally important regardless of contribution. This makes individual choices more sacred than civilization which is based on surrendering individual choice to cooperation.
That idea comes in conflict with human behavior. If we are validated as individuals independent of the results of our actions, everyone will do something different, resulting in an entirely chaotic situation which siphons energy away from cooperative tasks and dissipates it into the generally narcissistic, self-indulgent, and unrealistic choices of individuals.
The intersection of this conflict produces government, or a babysitter designed to enforce basic protections while hopefully not going so far as to become ideological, or using its citizens as a means to the end of achieving some kind of Utopian philosophy in physical form. Unfortunately that usually occurs.
At that point, government becomes perpetually ensnared between two groups: one group that wants more individualism, and another that wants social order, which requires directing some of those individual choices to goals that are both abstract philosophies and based in real-world patterns.
If we look at the values systems of Leftists and Rightists according to Jonathan Haidt, we can see this separation as it is expressed in values:
Haidt (pronounced like “height”) made his name arguing that intuition, not reason, drives moral judgments. People are more like lawyers building a case for their gut feelings than judges reasoning toward truth.
…Building on ideas from the anthropologist Richard Shweder, Haidt and his colleagues synthesize anthropology, evolutionary theory, and psychology to propose six innate moral foundations:
- authority/subversion, and
…Liberals jack up care, followed by fairness and liberty. They rarely value loyalty and authority. Conservatives dial up all six.
Care, fairness, and liberty are defense of the individual; conservatives temper those with a sense of loyalty, authority or hierarchy, and having some values that are sacred toward which we are reverent. All three of the latter consist of social order, and balance the individualism of the first three.
Authority simply means that some people should be in charge instead of mob rule, and that clashes with individualism. Sanctity establishes values above “whatever I want to do” and loyalty means that people observe allegiance to both leaders and those values or ideals. The conservatives add a formula for a functioning civilization.
Leftism can be seen as an economic choice, in that instead of supporting six ideals, the time, money, and energy which are required for three can be directed toward the individual. This sacrifices the long term for the short term but provides more direct benefit to the individual, albeit at the expense of externalizing consequences to the rest of society. From a strict calculation, this enables the individual to game the system: they have (1)the fewest obligations and greatest benefits with (2)protection from social censure because it appears they are “gift giving” the same liberties and entitlements to others while (3)encouraging others to pursue illusions, allowing the individuals who preach individualism but are not deceived by it to seize instruments of wealth and power.
This makes them seek community enforcement that catches others but does not result in enforcement on them. Future historians may see twentieth century American law, for example, as the result of suburbanites wanting cops to bust urban burglars but ignore the backyard stills, marijuana patches, and dynamite fishing of the bourgeois cul-de-sac dwellers. Even more, suburbanites — who vote for their own interest just like any other group — want the cops to bust the urban burglars when they come into the suburbs only, and really do not care what happens in the urban zone. If “those people” self-destruct, then it means less competition for that new Winnebago or factory job.
On the other hand, no one feels good about the constant stream of body bags coming out of the inner city, so cities look for ways that they can enforce without tripping over the suburbanite rules. These generally involve trying to remove bad guys, or the people on the far left side of whatever bell curve we could design for degrees of law-abiding behavior, but starting in the 1960s, theory shifted toward targeting the communities themselves. The first hippie-influenced attempts involved making cities more pleasant by installing luxuries for the citizens like community centers, local police liaisons, basketball courts, parks, and Section 8 housing. The thinking went that people were equal, therefore if people were committing crime, it was became they lacked nice things.
After twenty years of installing free housing only to see it become Cabrini Green, building basketball courts so that people had better places to deal and use heroin, spiffing up parks that became rapist hunting grounds, and other predictable failures of the hippie system, people turned to 1980s style policing: “tough love.”
Tough love held that the best way to treat residents of ghettos and trailer parks was to increase police presence and crack down on all crimes as a means of driving away those who would gravitate toward more serious crimes if not challenged early on. This outlook, roughly symbolized by the broken windows theory, holds that people act according to the environment in which they find themselves. Basically, people are conformists, and so if they see broken windows on the street, they will assume that they are in a space where it is appropriate to commit crimes, but if they see a tidy and well-maintained neighborhood, they will go elsewhere to break the law.
Broken windows theory found its fullest expression in stop and frisk policing, which basically creates an environment intolerant of preparation for crime:
Only New Yorkâ€™s policing revolution, which began in 1994 and seeks to prevent crime before it happens, explains the distinction. Poverty and unemployment were higher in New York than in the nation as a whole over the last decade and a half. New Yorkâ€™s rates of drug use, income inequality and student failure did not go down.
What has changed is the cityâ€™s style of policing. Since 1994, the police department has deployed officers to areas where law-abiding residents were being most victimized and has asked those officers to intervene in suspicious behavior before a crime happens. Stop and frisk has been a vital part of that approach. David Weisburd, a George Mason University criminologist, found in a recent unpublished paper that those stops have been targeted with pinpoint precision to the street segments where crime is highest.
Leftists hate stop-and-frisk, much as they dislike broken windows, because they see it as having disproportionate impact on minorities:
Blacks are 53 percent of stop subjects, though they are 23 percent of the cityâ€™s population. Whites are 9 percent of stop subjects, though they are 35 percent of the cityâ€™s population. Therefore, conclude Stringer and others, the NYPD targets individuals for stops based on their race rather than on crime patterns and suspicious behavior.
Here is what the anti-cop critics never divulge: Blacks are 66 percent of all violent-crime suspects, according to the victims of and witnesses to those crimes. Blacks commit around 70 percent of all robberies and about 80 percent of all shootings in the city. Add Hispanic shooters, and you account for 98 percent of all shootings in the city.
Whites, by contrast, were only 5 percent of all violent crime suspects in 2011. According to victim and witness reports, they commit barely over 1 percent of all shootings and less than 5 percent of all robberies.
In the same way, broken windows involves sending police and other workers into the worst neighborhoods to fix windows, eliminate urban decay, and at least stop people before they can commit more serious crimes. This also makes it a target, so the Left has been searching for an alternate theory.
It appears that they have found one, mainly by combining their 1960s ideas with broken windows to try to make it more palatable. This new theory is “busy streets” and it involves fixing broken windows by replacing them with healthier economic activity:
Proponents of busy streets theory, on the other hand, believe it’s better for neighborhoods to clean up and maintain their own city streets.
In 2012, the University Avenue Corridor Coalition â€“ a group of residents, businesses and two local colleges â€“ decided to try to prevent crime by fixing up a 3-mile stretch of University Avenue running through the Carriagetown neighborhood of central Flint. We began measuring their results in 2014.
The group started holding frequent neighborhood cleanup days to fix up vacant lots and abandoned buildings, symbolically “owning” them by adding lighting, sidewalk repair, benches and plantings. The owners were usually happy to allow neighbors to fix up their private property for free. Sometimes, they even pitched in.
Those changes, we observed, inspired other homeowners and businesses on this flat, three-lane road to spruce up their properties, too â€“ what one local resident called the “spreading effect of pride.”
…According to the coalition’s latest report, assaults decreased 54 percent, robberies 83 percent and burglaries 76 percent between 2013 and 2018.
If we read between the lines, we can see the two components: broken windows style policing in fixing up vacant lots and abandoned buildings, and 1960s urban renewal through adding lighting, sidewalk repair, benches and plantings. In other words, it replaces dysfunctional areas with functional ones.
Most interesting is the embrace of fairly Right-wing ideas in first the notion of removing blight, and second in the embrace of free enterprise. In the success story described above, the community replaced marginal businesses and unoccupied buildings with “normal” — not geared toward the impoverished exclusively — businesses, which meant these areas stayed self-sustaining as they were not reliant on handouts to keep from collapsing into the abyss.
America will find that its diversity experiment cannot work, but on a broader level, we are seeing an interesting shift from a hippie outlook to a more practical one that consists of a stop-and-frisk style approach to dysfunction. In this we see our social attitude shifting from pluralism to “there is a right way to do things, after all.”