Rate And Duration of Despair

“One of the most remarkable features of the unemployment figures is that both the rate and the duration of unemployment have increased during every Republican administration and decreased under every Democratic one, without a single exception.”
~James Gilligan, Why Some Politicians Are More Dangerous Than Others,  Kindle Locations 704-706

This pattern has existed since records first began being kept, unemployment rate since 1900 and unemployment duration rate since 1948.

It’s not even just unemployment. The same partisan disparity is found with rates and, when applicable, durations of diverse issues: poverty and economic inequality, recessions and depressions, GDP and GNP, homicides and suicides, etc. The author further explores the broad range of studies that show various correlations between these factors, most especially how the other factors have through time-series analysis been causally linked to increasing violence.

Then Gilligan connects it all to regional partisan politics and differences of populations. He considers many angles, from crime policies to studies on authoritarianism; revealing “some very interesting inter-correlations between all three of these variables: character, party, and state” (Kindle Location 1816).

Also, he offers a thorough survey of the data on incarceration and crime rates. There is no clear, strong evidence that mass incarceration decreased crime and violence. An argument, instead, can be made that mass incarceration has been contributing to the problem.

Gilligan’s main argument is based on his accidental discovery of how the homicide and suicide rates followed party administrations. No one had noticed because the two parties were averaging each other out. No party was in power continuously for long enough to make the pattern obvious enough for a casual observation. The more the author looked at the data the stronger the correlation became and the wider set of the correlated data.

The primary conclusion is that economics is so bad during Republican administrations that an increasing number of Americans turn to violence, both against others and against themselves. Furthermore, the longer a Republican administration remains in power the worse it gets. The opposite happens with Democratic administrations. This is what the data shows.

It’s freaking mind-blowing.

He does offer a cautionary note. Even under Democrats, violence rates although lower than Republicans are still at what would be considered epidemic levels in other Western countries. Still, the pattern remains interesting.

One has to wonder what the pattern would look like if Democrats or those even further to the left had maintained political power continuously for this past century. Or imagine how our society would be transformed if ever a left-wing party came to power, as seen in other Western countries. Screw both the Republicans and Democrats! We can only take so much backlash of misery and temporary respite.

Even for someone who despises the two party system, this pattern can’t be easily dismissed or ignored. The differences between the parties are real. Politics does matter.

Many independents wish the differences were even greater, but one has to be extremely cynical to argue these differences aren’t significant enough to make a difference. If one is unemployed or at risk of unemployment, if one is poor or homeless, if one feels the shame and desperation of being deemed a loser in a society based on Social Darwinism, it certainly matters.

Nonetheless, what is an independent to do when the back and forth partisan power struggle never leads to permanent solutions that get to the root of problems? As a psychiatrist who worked for 25 years in the prison system, that is what James Gilligan wants to know (Kindle Locations 123-134):

“Given the stability of that correlation between the political parties and the violent death rates, and my inability to disconfirm it, the question that remains is: what does it mean? Why is it occurring, and doing so repeatedly? As a physician, my interest has always been in matters of life and death, not politics, and this foray into politics because of a chance discovery that implicated political actors only happened because of my attempt to learn what was causing these deaths and how we could save lives.”

Ignoring parties, how do we get positive results? How do we make the world a better place? What lesson should we learn?

I wish I knew.


11 thoughts on “Rate And Duration of Despair

  1. One has to wonder what the pattern would look like if Democrats or those even further to the left had maintained political power continuously for this past century. Or imagine how our society would be transformed if ever a left-wing party came to power, as seen in other Western countries.

    The US would probably look more like what Canada is today.

    There would be a seesaw between left and right, with left wanting a Scandinavian-like social democracy, and the right, hopefully being fiscal conservative, not far right like in the US.

    It’s interesting looking at the crime rates, the poverty rates, education, life expectancy, healthcare, etc. The US is near the bottom on pretty much every measure compared to the other developed nations. That would not be so if the US had a true left wing party.

    • Yeah, I could see a US version of Canada. I’ve wondered what it would be like if all of North America was a single country. Maybe throw in a large immigration of Scandinavians into the mix to create a better balance. That could be a fun experiment.

      • Well, there’s about 35 million Canadians and 26 million people living in the Nordic nations. Contrast this with the US population, which is about ~320 million.

        The US would dominate out of sheer numbers.

        Perhaps a better option would be to split the US into two. It would be along the blue state-red state border. It would not be that exact. Some areas like Appalachia would go to the red states. Others like Austin,Texas firmly belong in the blue state area. Problem solved.

        The red states would look a lot like the “Jesusland” cartoon after the 2004 election in the US although sans the left wing areas.

        I wonder whether Iowa if it had a referendum would choose the blue states. The urban areas are very left wing, but the rural areas are very conservative.

        • It would be an even greater experiment to split North America along regional lines.

          Parts of Canada share the same ethnic cultures and political traditions as parts of the United States. Migration patterns to the US Midwest extended up into Canada. Some of the US Northeast also has common elements with the nearby regions of Canada.

          The same is seen with the US Southwest and lower East Coast in relation to Northern Mexico. As for Southern Mexico, it is more culturally similar to Central American countries.

          As for the Deep south, that would need be its own country all by itself. The entirety of the Upper South and Appalachia probably would want to join them. Some parts of the Lower Midwest would also be more culturally aligned with the Deep South.

          All or most of the Northern states in the US could easily merge with Canada. That would make for a great society. It would be a country with great farmland, strong industry, and a tradition of tolerance and multiculturalism.

          Iowa is somewhat of a crossroads of regional cultures. But ultimately Iowa has more akin to the Upper Midwest. Most of Iowa’s population is in the urban areas which are fairly liberal and progressive. Iowa isn’t like Illinois, Ohio, and Indiana in that the Upper South influence doesn’t reach to any great extent that far North on the other side of the Mississippi river.

  2. It would still solve the majority of the problems that the northern states face, along with the cultural divide that the southern US has. It would mean that things like:

    – Better labor protection
    – Environmental laws
    – Universal healthcare
    – More generous financing for student loans (or better yet lower cost education)

    Could be established without too much disagreement.

    That being said, I would imagine that illegal immigration from the southern states to the northern ones would become a problem.

    • “That being said, I would imagine that illegal immigration from the southern states to the northern ones would become a problem.”

      There is the rub. At present. the Southern states are dependent on the funding from the federal government mostly paid for by non-Southern states. If the South lost its federal funding, the poverty of the region would suddenly become unbearable for many people. It would lead to a violently oppressive society not seen since Jim Crow or slavery. There would be a mass wave of refugees.

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