Eddie of Hidden Unities and another blogfriend alerted me to “American Murder Mystery,” by Hannah Rosin in The Atlantic Monthly.
The article is distress. Read it.
The article covers the attempt to clear the ghettos of Tennessee by moving the residents out into nicer neighborhoods.
Unfortunately, many people who live in the ghettos do bad things. They may be uminaginably lazy, whether individually:
Rodgers didnâ€™t finish high school, although she did get her GED, and sheâ€™s never had a job. Still, â€œI know I have to venture out in the world,â€ she said, running through her options: Go back to school? Get a job? Get married? Have a baby? â€œI want more. Iâ€™m so ready to have my own. I just donâ€™t know how to get it.â€
or in aggregate:
Researchers have started to look more critically at the Gautreaux results. The sample was tiny, and the circumstances were ideal. The families who moved to the suburbs were screened heavily and the vast majority of families who participated in the program didnâ€™t end up moving, suggesting that those who did were particularly motivated. Even so, the results were not always sparkling. For instance, while Gautreaux study families who had moved to the suburbs were more likely to work than a control group who stayed in the city, they actually worked less than before they had moved. â€œPeople were really excited about it because it seemed to offer something new,â€ Popkin said. â€œBut in my view, it was radically oversold.â€
They may be criminals, or those who harbor criminals:
In truth, the victims are constantly shifting. Hardly any Section8 families moved into wealthy white suburbs. In the early phases, most of the victims were working-class African Americans who saw their neighborhoods destroyed and had to leave. Now most of them are poor people like Leslie Shaw, who are trying to do what Lipscomb asks of them and be more self-sufficient. Which makes sorting out the blame even trickier. Sometimes the victim and the perpetrator live under the same roof; Shawâ€™s friend at Springdale Creek wanted a better life for herself and her family, but she couldnâ€™t keep her sons from getting into trouble. Sometimes they may be the same person, with conflicting impulses about whether to move forward or go back. In any case, more than a decadeâ€™s worth of experience proves that crossing your fingers and praying for self-sufficiency is foolish.
Moving them is worthless:
If replacing housing projects with vouchers had achieved its main goalâ€”infusing the poor with middle-class habitsâ€”then higher crime rates might be a price worth paying. But today, social scientists looking back on the whole grand experiment are apt to use words like baffling and disappointing. A large federal-government study conducted over the past decadeâ€”a follow-up to the highly positive, highly publicized Gautreaux study of 1991â€”produced results that were â€œpuzzling,â€ said Susan Popkin of the Urban Institute. In this study, volunteers were also moved into low-poverty neighborhoods, although they didnâ€™t move nearly as far as the Gautreaux families. Women reported lower levels of obesity and depression. But they were no more likely to find jobs. The schools were not much better, and children were no more likely to stay in them. Girls were less likely to engage in risky behaviors, and they reported feeling more secure in their new neighborhoods. But boys were as likely to do drugs and act out, and more likely to get arrested for property crimes. The best Popkin can say is: â€œIt has not lived up to its promise. It has not lifted people out of poverty, it has not made them self-sufficient, and it has left a lot of people behind.â€
Moving them is wore than worthless:
He remembers when the ground began to shift beneath him. He was working as an investigator throughout the city, looking into homicides and major crimes. Most of his work was downtown. One day in 1997, he got a call to check out a dead car that someone had rolled up onto the side of the interstate, on the way to the northern suburbs. The car â€œlooked like Swiss cheese,â€ he said, with 40 or 50 bullet holes in it and blood all over the seats. Barnes started investigating. He located one corpse in the woods nearby and another, which had been shoved out a car door, in the parking lot of a hospital a few miles away. He found a neighborhood witness, who gave up everything but the killersâ€™ names. Two weeks later, he got another call about an abandoned car. This time the body was inside. â€œIt was my witness,â€ he recalled, â€œdeader than a mackerel.â€
At this point, he still thought of the stretch of Memphis where heâ€™d grown up as â€œquiet as all get-outâ€; the only place youâ€™d see cruisers congregated was in the Safeway parking lot, where churchgoing cops held choir practice before going out for drinks. But by 2000, all of that had changed. Once-quiet apartment complexes full of young families â€œsuddenly started turning hot on us.â€ Instead of the occasional break-in, Barnes was getting calls about armed robberies, gunshots in the hallways, drug dealers roughing up their neighbors. A gang war ripped through the neighborhood. â€œWe thought, What the hell is going on here?â€ A gang war! In North Memphis! â€œAll of a sudden it was a damn war zone,â€ he said.
By increasing the geographical range of the network of people who bad things, crime was made easy and policework was made harder.
Memphis’ attempt to clear the ghettos had failed.
Attempts to make the ghettos better places to live have failed. Better education has failed. Better opportunities has failed. We’re now down to COIN (Counter-Insurgency), which is hopeful in as much as it is a generally successful tool to to sacrifice freedom, justice, and liberty for security.
Some problems appear to escape our environmental manipulations. While fiction writers have imagined Objective Rooms and Ludovico Techniques, these have not worked in the real world. While tyrants have come up with initially probably theories based on racial genoplasm and early child development, these have not worked. We now know of a lot of ways to screw people up. Getting them to go along with our political objectives — such as a peaceful society — is far harder.
Fortunately, we seem to now know a mechanism that does work: genetics. An incredible amount of variation in important social characteristics (often between 50% and 80%) is explained by genetics and inheritance. And the technologies we have for working with genetics just get better: we can cross time, cross species, track ancient populations (both human and animal) and change lives.
I do not believe that we will solve the problem of ghettos until mass gene therapy (eugenics-while-you-wait) becomes feasible. Which means we’ll live to see it.