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Monday, July 11, 2016

Unintended consequences

No good deed goes unpunished.  That is one of those ironic truisms I have heard from time to time.  There are plenty of examples.  The biofuel mandates and initiatives have impacted food prices, increased deforestation and reduced conservation lands all of which are punishment for the grand plans to save the world as we know it.  In addition, the carbon credit/taxes have a larger impact on the poorer population even though there is a wonderful "revenue neutral" promise for someone some where.  Overstating the urgency of the problem, if it has been overstated, has fueled the spiritual fires of the end of times crowd and belittling their fanciful beliefs isn't exactly going to chill things out. Focusing on the "greatest problem ever to confront mankind" also tends to hurt the sensitive feelings of all the other people trying to deal with their more pressing problems. 

Right now Black Lives Matter and the band wagon jumping on of seriously warped fringe groups seems to be gaining some traction.  They are demanding the problem be "fixed" and quick.  This might be a bit more of a problem than some might suspect.

First problem is about 248 people that identify as black were killed by police in 2015.  More people that identify with white were killed, but those don't appear to be a problem and the percentage based on population distribution is higher for the black population.  Some percentage of those deaths would be "justifiable", but there isn't any way to resolve justified versus negligent to anyone's satisfaction.  In order to "fix" the problem might require zero per year which is most likely impossible.  Kind of like zero emissions by 2025.

Prior to 9/11 and the 2009 economic turn down, there was a trend toward less violence, but even with the trend change, there is less now violence compared to 1993.  While some point to the economy as a main cause, the seat belt ticketing campaign adds in the neighborhood of 1,000,000 to 2,000,000 police citizen contacts per year and since the majority of those contacts are percentage of population wise black Americans, it is likely that click it or ticket is used as a legal profiling tool.  In 2011, there was over 26,000,000 traffic stops and in 2012 over 12 million arrests in the US.  For comparison, there were 1.3 million arrests in the UK.  The population of the UK is about 1/5th the US but arrests were 1/10th the US.  Even though most of the UK police force is unarmed, still an average of close to 40 people per year die after police contact.  So if the US had an unarmed police force just as gentle as the UK, we could expect 400 people per year to die with roughly 25% of those being black citizens or 100 black deaths per year under "ideal" conditions.  If there was like data on all police stops it would be nice, but using traffic stops the result of an unarmed police force would be close to 200 black civilian deaths per year. There are other deaths by other means but death after contact is the best UK data for a rough estimate.

It is pretty much impossible to have much of any reduction given the likelihood of inebriation, mental issues and just plain pissed individuals encountering law enforcement as often as they do in the US.  The simplest "solution" is being a bit more selective on what laws really need to be enforced.  Unfortunately, the US has an official/unofficial quota system.  Arrests, catching the bad guy, is the law enforcement grading scale a lot like publishing and citations are the rule for science.  Quality of arrests and publication aren't enough of a factor.  In any case, reducing police/civilian contact by about 10,000,000 times per year by losing click it or ticket, random drug and alcohol stops and forgetting about tickets for things like tail lights would save more lives in the minority populations and improve general citizen - law enforcement relations.

Plenty of laws in the US tend to be noble cause related and used for other than the intended purpose, advancement instead of public service for example.  Enforcement of any law impacts the lower economic class more that upper classes that have the time and money to navigate the judicial system.  A poor guy trying to make ends meet that gets a $116 dollar ticket for careless disregard of his personal safety in a 25 mph zone might start feeling somewhat put upon since that could be a day and a half of wages.  Likewise, that same poor guy might not feel quite the same when paying an extra $60 per month in energy costs to save the planet from global warming.

Of course it could be just the economy.  Personally, I think we have an elitist issue not a racial issue. 

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