A Sense of Urgency

There is something that has become more apparent to me than ever before.

The greatest divide in our society isn’t ideological or partisan. It can’t even be simplified into a divide by race or any other standard demographic. Rather, the divide is between those who have a sense of urgency and those who don’t.

Everything comes down to that. It doesn’t matter if you see, understand and acknowledge the problems we face, if you don’t appreciate the struggles and suffering of the victims of these problems. For those who personally know these problems, they don’t have the privilege to be patient for reform to eventually come next election, next generation, or next century. You either feel this sense of urgency or it simply makes no sense to you.

There is a basic and seemingly insurmountable challenge. There appears to be no way to make someone feel this urgency, much less get them to grasp the visceral experience of urgency for those who do feel it. There is no way to communicate this. Either someone gets it or not. Yet the urgency grows as problems worsen for so many. And the conflict between those who do and don’t get it likewise grows. I see no way for this to be easily resolved until the comfortable begin to feel uncomfortable when the dirty masses get restless enough to disturb their slumber and threaten their good life.

For those who don’t feel urgency, they assume the vocally urgent are just complaining. They see them as petulant children who are pestering the responsible adults trying to have moderate, reasonable adult discussion. Only children and ideologues, as they see it, always want to get their own way. These people don’t realize how unreasonable they are being in expecting those who struggle to suffer in silence. Can they really be that disconnected from how bad it has become for those less advantaged and fortunate? Will it really take mass protests or revolution before the clueless finally get that these are real problems that have to be dealt with now and not later?

As an example, consider the worsening unemployment, poverty, and homelessness. The government hasn’t kept full unemployment data since the 1980s. No one knows for sure how bad unemployment is at present. And the mainstream media rarely talks about this in any depth.

It’s as if data not being kept means the problem doesn’t exist. Just ignore the growing number of poor people barely making ends meet or living in homeless camps or ending up in prison. This problem doesn’t exist because it doesn’t impact people who aren’t poor. But even if the problem did exist, I’m sure it would solve itself. We just need to get all the low income people to shut up and quit supporting candidates like Sanders who is a spoiler. Let’s threaten that Trump will win and that’ll shut them up, right?

Homeless camps are popping up in cities all over the country. That is what happened during the Great Depression. And then those temporary homeless camps become permanent shanty towns. There eventually will be a breaking point that easily could turn violent as it did during the Great Depression. People turned on each other. The government was finally forced to intervene, but only after they let the problem get horribly bad for so many.

It’s not even limited to the United States. Worsening poverty and increasing homelessness is found in the UK (“one in ten parents would not be able to pay housing costs during January – and 2.5 million parents were forgoing household essentials, including food, clothes and energy, in order to pay the rent.”), Greece (“number of new homeless as high as 20,000. Moreover, nearly 20% of Greeks no longer have enough money to cover daily food expenses, according to a recent study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The nation’s unemployment rate is 26%, the highest among 28 European Union members.”), France and all across Europe.

That is just talking about the Western world. On a related note, there is the global refugee crisis. The number of refugees in recent years returned to the levels last seen during WWII and in the past year has hit the highest level ever recorded. This is related to wars, instability, overthrown governments, etc (often caused or contributed to by Western governments), but another major factor is climate change with major droughts. This has been a major problem in the Middle East and Africa, along with parts of Latin America, Asia, and Europe. Scientists, politicians, and even the Pentagon have pointed to the link between climate change and terrorism. This problem is only going to get worse.

Consider also one of the main reasons there are so many homeless and refugees. It’s related. A large number of homeless are veterans who are dealing with neurological and psychological trauma from war. And many refugees are escaping war. Meanwhile, the comfortable back at home in Western countries rarely if ever personally experience war, on either side of the equation. If they did experience it, it would be hard for them ever be fully comfortable again and they would feel cut off from the cud-chewing herd. Many war journalists end up traumatized simply by seeing the ravage caused, an experience that like that of the soldier they’ll never be able to explain to family and friends back home.

It’s not only about such dramatic events as war. For the poor, all of life can be traumatizing. And the traumatized tend to end up poor. The homeless have high rates of mental illness, in general. Obviously, much of that is simply because mental illness doesn’t lead to a well functioning life and we live in a society that is heartless toward those who can’t help themselves. But being homeless probably increases mental illness as well, because of stress and trauma, lack of healthcare, malnutrition, etc. A similar set of problems likely exists for refugees. And it is also likely that refugees that find their ways to other countries often end up homeless or else in severe poverty. It simply sucks being homeless or a refugee, to be made a pariah and cast out from acceptable society.

It makes me wonder if these two problems are more closely related than we normally think. We tend to keep the homeless and refugees in separate categories, but maybe it’s more meaningful to think of them as variants of the same problem. These are people who have no place or purpose in society. They are unwanted and often despised. They are part of a large and ever growing proportion of the global population that is feeling urgent and sometimes causing others to feel urgent.

The response from so many is to ignore the problem and hopes it goes away. Blame the victims of the refugee crisis, turn the refugees away, or force the refugees into camps. Tear down homeless camps, hide the homeless, use hostile architecture, design cities to drive the homeless away, and other similar sociopathic behaviors and authoritarian measures. Interestingly, some of the kindest acts toward the homeless have come from recent refugees, as it often takes someone who personally understands suffering to have compassion.

To put refugees in camps isn’t so different to the reason so many homeless end up in jails and prisons. These are the places where the unwanted and unneeded are stored away. Similar solutions are ghettoes and housing projects. Homeless camps are just a more short term variety of this kind of response. It should be unsurprising that the number of refugees is increasing simultaneously as is the number of homeless and prisoners. There are now more blacks in prison than there were blacks in slavery before the Civil War. There are also more mentally ill people in prison than has been the case since before the Civil War. People tend to be less bothered by refugees, the homelessness, and other undesirables when they aren’t seen.

We always could deal with the fundamental problems that are causing these other problems. But it’s easier to hide them. It’s like the strip mining that looks like a warzone and yet is never seen from the road, the truth obscured behind a a stand of trees and the people who used to live there simply made to go away. Our world is full of invisible problems of invisible people. Invisible that is until they disrupt the social order.

Explain to me again how voting for Hillary Clinton to stop a Donald Trump presidency is going to make a damn bit of difference to those already being fucked over by our society, no matter which party has power. We have elections all the time and here we are—the problems going unsolved, voices of the suffering going unheard, and the desperation and outrage ever increasing.

There are many other problems that could be brought up. There is growing inequality, inferior education system, a permanent underclass, and systemic racism. There is institutional failure, cronyism, corruption, corporatism, regulatory capture, and crumbling infrastructure. There is the military-industrial complex, military imperialism, drug wars, and creeping authoritarianism. There is the general failure of democracy as our society turns into a banana republic and the public loses trust. And, of course, there is the mainstream media’s complicity. We aren’t seriously dealing with any of these problems.

So, what happens next? How will this end? Are you feeling any urgency yet?

* * *

Urgency can mean many things. Within it, there is a seed of radical change, not a return to what was but potentially a transformation. That seed has to be planted and nurtured, if it is to grow.

That is why it takes a broken person to profoundly understand that the system itself is broken. This brokenness isn’t necessarily a loss. It can be taken as an opportunity, like a seed breaking open, a change from one condition to another. Urgency is a starting point and, for that reason, important.

In that light, here is a slightly different view on suffering…

In praise of patience
Resilience is the fashionable prescription for trauma. But bouncing back is not the only – or best – way to bear sorrow
by Samira Thomas

“In this extended form of time, resilience becomes transfigured from the urgency associated with a need for recoil into something that takes its time, and resembles patience.

“Patience, in its original meaning, was a virtue that enabled a person to overcome his suffering and, in some sense, enact understanding in the face of the faults and limitations of others. Patience today might conjure a sense of inactivity, a feeling that it’s about more or less waiting for things to pass. Consider, instead, the term patient. As an adjective, it is the quality of a person who is able to overcome and demonstrate understanding towards others. As a noun, it is a person who is in need of understanding and, specifically, medical care.

“Patience recognises suffering in the difficulties of one’s life and that of another. Nowadays, it might conjure up ideas of complacence but, with a long view of time – in which time is understood as abundant – patience becomes a way of bearing sorrows. Unlike resilience, which implies returning to an original shape, patience suggests change and allows the possibility of transformation as a means of overcoming difficulties. It is a simultaneous act of defiance and tenderness, a complex existence that gently breaks barriers. In patience, a person exists at the edge of becoming. With an abundance of time, people are allowed space to be undefined, neither bending nor broken, but instead, transfigured.

“And it is an act of courage, because only the unknown lies on the other side of the threshold of events we seek to overcome.”

Costs Must Be Paid: Social Darwinism As Public Good

I was considering the state of the world, both happier and less-than-happier changes. On the less-than-happier side, one piece of data has had me scratching my head for years.

The wealthier are worse off in higher inequality societies than in lower inequality societies, at least in terms of comparable societies where other factors are more similar, specifically when comparing European countries. When great disparities dominate, the wealthy have higher rates of health problems, homicide, etc. It’s not just about the rich saying, screw the poor!  So, what is going on? Why does inequality grow when it is causing so much harm, even to those with the power and self-interest to do something about it?

I’ve sometimes wondered that the self-appointed elite aren’t as smart as they think they are, that they fall prey to cognitive biases just like the rest of us and in some ways to a worse degree. For example, the wealthy tend to be more well educated and higher IQ, while also being more prone to the smart idiot effect—overestimating what they know and not recognizing what they don’t know, which is to say they are so used to being treated as experts (by other wealthy people) that they forget that whatever expertise they may genuinely have tends to be extremely narrow and limited… or, to put it simply, they lack humility and self-awareness, not to mention other-awareness.

That would relate to a study I’ve mentioned before. Supposedly, people in the lower classes are better than those in the upper classes at accurately reading the body behavior and facial expressions of others and using that to perceive the subjective experience of those others. Those who are without power are forced to pay close and careful attention to the world around them to ensure survival, especially in terms of understanding those who hold power over them. Because of this, if you want to know the inner truth of a society, talk to the servants, maids, janitors, nannies, etc for they are the people who see what no one else sees.

From this perspective, those who act destructively may not be doing so on purpose. They know not what they do. That is my normal line of thought. But a different connection popped into my mind. What if on some level they know exactly what they do?

There is yet another study that points to a more general pattern in human nature. The study was set up to allow a choice between socially positive behavior and selfish behavior. It also gave the opportunity to choose how to respond. The researchers found that many people were willing to knowingly sacrifice their own good in order to punish someone who they perceived as having acted wrongly and without proper respect and concern for others. It was as if some people felt certain social norms had been betrayed and that defending them was worth the cost.

It is easy to see how this could be a positive force at times. Our entire legal system, when it works well, is supposed to put bad people away. If there are no consequences to socially harmful behavior, then social trust is undermined and social capital declines. Bad would lead to worse. But it is obviously comes at high cost to punish and imprison people. In this sense, something is being created, a hopefully good society.

Not punishing the guilty would be a moral hazard. We see this where corruption and cronyism dominates. It makes it harder for others to act in socially beneficial ways, because instead of punishing bad behavior it is rewarded. In such a world, an honest person won’t be able to compete with the dishonest and so will find themselves on the short end of the stick, the honest politician not getting elected and the honest businessman going out of business.

The world we have has been made to be the way it is. Social Darwinian meritocracy isn’t just rhetoric for those who genuinely believe in it. I’d argue that most people in power (and those who benefit from their power) do hold the conviction that they deserve their wealth and position (not just the ruling elite but also the middle class and aspiring middle class). From this perspective, they see everyone else as undeserving.

I’ve had arguments with people that go along a strange path. Those who disagree with social programs that help others don’t always do so because they believe they are ineffective. Such people will sometimes admit or consent to the possibility that the targeted populations will actually be helped and their lives improved. But they still think it shouldn’t be done. Those other people deserve their problems and don’t deserve anything to be taken away from the more deserving. All the wealth, power, opportunities, etc are controlled by certain people for a reason. It would be unfair to even out the playing field, to allow the inferior to challenge and possibly harm the social order that is already working so well for the deserving.

It’s not just that these people lack imagination. Sure, the world maybe could be made better for everyone. But then that would eliminate what makes this society so great and superior. In many ways, it comes at an extreme cost to maintain a Social Darwinian meritocracy—police state and mass incarceration for social control and just enough welfare to keep the masses from revolting. It would be cheaper to have a less oppressive and more egalitarian society, but those in power are willing to pay the costs to have it this way, even when the costs personally harm them, just as long as it harms the undeserving even more.

Having a massive permanent underclass isn’t just about keeping people down in a simple sense. Those in power love to lavish praise and resources upon the few people who escape that hell, for the few that escape prove that they are deserving and so prove the system is working. That many deserving people don’t escape is fine, because the perception of moral worth in this society isn’t based on the good of all. The only thing that is required is that some people sometimes are able to move upwards. If that social and economic mobility were easy and more evenly expressed, then to the winners it would seem to be of less value and worthiness. Struggle and suffering is part of the design.

Within this worldview, all the social costs are necessary for the social good. It just so happens that most of the social costs fall on those already disadvantaged, but it even comes with costs to those at the top. A surprising number of people apparently find these costs worth paying, as an investment toward the status quo. The costs aren’t a loss or waste. Anytime a politician tells you that government is inevitably a failure, that government is the problem and not the solution, they are lying and they know they are lying. The system is working just fine, even if the purpose and the beneficiaries are being hidden from public view.

Are White Appalachians A Special Case?

I’ve had poverty on my mind. I was thinking about it in terms of violent crime and social problems more broadly. I will be writing more about this topic, but Appalachia seems like a good starting point. I’d been meaning to write about this for a long time, and I finally felt I had to do some more thorough research, despite my desire to focus on other things.

It has been bugging me. It’s a nagging set of thoughts at the back of my mind. Some time ago, I had a debate in the comments section of one of my posts. It was about white violence in specific areas of the South with a long history of violence. I made some claims based on data I’d seen, but once challenged to prove my claims I realized how complex the data was and too often lacking. I temporarily retracted my claims and promised myself I’d eventually get to the bottom of the issue.

I’ll explore this further in coming posts. For now, I wanted to share a few comments I made in response to a blog post that wasn’t particularly worthy of responses. I can be a glutton for punishment sometimes. Here is the post by someone who calls himself bharford:

Poverty Causes Crime? Meet White Appalachia

His basic argument is that white Appalachians are a model poor group, maybe similar to how Asians are a model minority. They’re poor, but still “good people.” Ya know, honest and hardworking folk who go to church on Sunday. Not like those other poor people.

There isn’t much point in reading the post itself. He only shares a bit of data. The only reason I cared at all was because these past weeks I’ve come across a lot of info that I’d never seen before, neither in the blogosphere nor in the mainstream media. Heck, much of it I haven’t even seen in the alternative media either. Some of this stuff gets lost and forgotten, hidden away in musty academic books that few people, besides other academics, read.

Apparently, bharford wasn’t all that interested in what I had to share. He didn’t approve most of my comments, specifically the ones that included data that disproved or challenged the claims he was making, but unlike me he probably isn’t going to retract claims just because the issue is more complicated than he realized. So, I’ll just have to post some of the comments here instead, as seen below. I’ll also include the one comment he directed toward me and my response.

* * *

Data does show that poor whites are more likely to own a house than poor blacks. Those houses in many cases are inherited along with land. People forget that many blacks used to own houses. A lot of their inherited wealth was loss. When blacks were driven out of communities and entire areas, there homes and property was either stolen or destroyed. This happened over many generations.

Whites, on the other hand, experienced generations of white affirmative action. Read Ira Katznelson’s book for the details.

Because of this history, poor whites are less likely to be highly concentrated in poverty and more likely to live near wealthier whites. Economic mobility is easier for whites, because that don’t have the added burden of racial biases in housing, employment, and incarceration. White privilege has been immense over this past century.

It’s easy to forget that Jim Crow, sundown towns, redlining, etc all happened within living memory. It wasn’t that long ago. Some blacks who voted for Obama spent the first part of their life not even having the right to vote.

Even worse, poor minority areas are more heavily polluted because bypasses and toxic dumps are more likely to be located there. This is called environmental racism and it has massive consequences.

Poor blacks have higher rates of lead toxicity than even poor whites, and the damage is hard to imagine on the level of entire communities. Lead toxicity increases rates of violent crime, aggressive behavior, impaired impulse control, ADHD, stunted brain development, cognitive impairment, lowered IQ, etc. That doesn’t even include all the other diseases caused or contributed to by heavy metal exposure. Entire populations of poor minorities are systematically poisoned.

In so many ways, black poverty is far worse than white poverty. Most poor whites have no idea how bad poverty can be.

* * *

http://www.filmsforaction.org/articles/when-exceptions-prove-the-rule-poverty-whiteness-and-privilege/

“So, in the case of Appalachians, the proper test of their racial privilege (or lack thereof) would be to compare whites in the region with blacks in the same region and to then ask, do whites have an advantage or privileges relative to their regional counterparts of color? That most people aren’t even aware of the existence of blacks in Appalachia (though they comprise about 6 percent of the region’s population, and are among some of the poorest) seems a pretty good answer to that question. That whites are the ones we instantly think of when we think of Appalachian poverty, and the ones for whom we typically then express such great sympathy, seems to indicate a very substantial kind of privileging; a kind that erases from our consciousness altogether, the problem of rural black poverty as though it were a non-factor.

“And indeed there is far more sympathy expressed for the white poor, historically and today, than for the black and brown poor: another form of implicit preference for, and privileging of, whiteness. Now that the economy is imploding, one can hear concern expressed about the poor (especially the once middle-class poor, mostly constructed as white), and how terrible it is that they are now facing such hardships. Yet when those same hardships were being experienced by the urban black and brown (whose communities have been in a recession or even depression state for entire generations in some cases) little sympathy attached. Indeed, as Martin Gilens explained in his book Why Americans Hate Welfare, as the media imagery of the poor began to shift in the early 1970s, from mostly white and rural to mostly black and urban, public animosity towards the impoverished rose in lockstep. As contrasted with the mostly sympathy-filled portrayals of the Dust Bowl poor in the 30s, or the white families that were losing their farms in the 80s, black families suffering under the combined forces of the decline in city-based manufacturing employment, as well as racism, redlining by banks and neglect of urban school infrastructure, were viewed as responsible for their own plight.

“The simple truth is, working people are not all in the same boat, and white working class folks have real advantages. Black and Latino workers are typically the first fired in an economic downturn, and remain twice as likely to be unemployed and 3-4 times as likely to be poor, in good times or bad; and white high school dropouts are twice as likely to find work as similarly uneducated African Americans.

“Furthermore, according to Thomas Shapiro’s groundbreaking work on the racial wealth divide, whites in the bottom fifth of all white households (in terms of income) have, on average seven times the net worth of similar blacks. In large part this is due to a major advantage in home ownership and thus equity, due to passed down property from parents. Indeed, whites with incomes below $13,000 are more likely to own their own homes than blacks with incomes that are three times higher, largely due to these intergenerational transfers of wealth.”

bharford:

Blacks have a Net LOSS when it comes to bank savings.
So for the poorest whites to have 7xs that saved, is not that far fetched. Owning a trailer may not be sexy but it beomces an asset and a place to call home.
The J EW author Thomas Shapiro glosses over that fact. If we cant trust J EWs to be honest reporters about race and racial matters, who can we trust? Oy vey.

The only advantages poor whites have is common sense and resiliency, as well as a certain country resourcefulness.
They get interest laden student loans for life- like the rest of the whites, while minorities get free paid for grants, they have no quota they can fill to see their admittance into college, though black colleges are still wide open and accepting students, and whites will get passed over at job employment time by less qualified minorities via Affirmative Action in the working world-corporate or municipal.

It’s unsurprising that blacks have a net loss of bank savings when they also have a net loss of earnings. Blacks with a college degree on average earn less than whites with a high school diploma.

Research shows that equally or less qualified whites are more likely to get both an interview and get hired than blacks. This kind of racial bias exists even when comparing just white-sounding names and black-sounding names, before an interview or any personal meeting has occurred. This is also true when the white has a criminal record and the black has no criminal record.

Just imagine what the chances are for a black with a criminal record. Also, consider the fact that blacks are more likely to be arrested, convicted, and hence have a criminal record for many crimes that whites commit at higher rates.

Studies have shown these kind of racial biases are found in diverse areas all across our society. This isn’t just something from the past. It continues to this day.

For these reasons, the average poor black person is far more poor than the average poor white person. Also, poor blacks are more likely to be economically segregated in poor communities and neighborhoods, because of a history of sundown towns, redlining, racially biased housing loans, etc. Poor whites, on the other hand, are more likely to live in wealthier communities. Unsurprisingly, poor blacks have lower economic mobility than poor whites, which means they are more likely to be trapped in poverty across generations.

My family is white and they came from poverty. But because of their whiteness it was much easier for my family to move up in the world. My grandparents didn’t have much education at all and yet were able to get good jobs with life-long job security, high pay, and benefits. My mother then went to college and graduated owing no money. This was common for white people, even poor white people, in the past. Ira Katznelson explains why this was so in her book, When Affirmative Action Was White.

The ability to move out of poverty or at least to move out of poor areas makes a major difference in life outcomes, including health outcomes. The stress of poverty, especially concentrated poverty, takes a large toll on people. This is true for whites as well as blacks, but of course blacks experience poverty too a disproportinate degree.

An example of this is lead toxitiy. Bypasses and toxic dumps have mostly been located in poor minority areas. This caused these areas to have more lead and other heavy metal pollution. Data shows that the poor have higher rates of lead toxicity than the wealthier, minorities higher rates than whites, and poor minorities higher rates than poor whites. Blacks even have higher rates of lead toxicity than Hispanics. This is largely to do with blacks being disproportionately urbanized, in particular during the era when lead pollution skyrocketed, an era also when whites fled the big cities for the suburbs and so avoided the worst lead exposure. Poor whites are more rural and so didn’t have to deal as much with such problems. However, back when lead pollution was initially a rural problem, whites did have high rates of violent crime.

Lead toxicity is nothing to dismiss. It impacts different populations to varying degrees, but few populations escape its negative effects entirely because pollution has become so widespread. Heavy metal toxicty is known to cause and contribute to all kinds of health, neurological, behavioral, and social problems. If you are a bigot who hates all non-whites, you should still care about this issue.

As history has proven again and again, these aren’t just non-white problems. All populations that have experienced these kinds of conditions have shown the similar or even worst rates for these kinds of issues. Violent crime among blacks today, for example, is small compared to violent rates for whites in the past. Similar changes have been seen with IQ rates, as the average black today is far higher IQ than the average white was when the first tests were done.

To my mind, these improvements found in all populations are to be praised. We should try to understand the causes so as to create further improvements. Even white supremacists should be excited to know that poor whites are doing so much better today than was seen in the 1800s and early 1900s. The violent crime rates of whites in the past, not just the poor, were mind-blowingly high. That proves the power of changing environmental conditions. No population, no matter how bad off, is forever fated to suffering and struggle.

Everyone should be able to agree that is a good thing.

* * *

Since your focus is on poor white Appalachia, there is no way that McDowell County, West Virginia should be ignored. According to the 2010 census, the population was barely above 22,000, about 89% non-Hispanic white. It is the southernmost county in state, one of the core counties of Appalachia, and one of the main focuses of the national War On Poverty,

West Virginia is one of the poorest states in the country (listed at the bottom with largely black states like Arkansas and Mississippi). And McDowell is one of the poorest counties in the country. McDowell County is so severely poor that it doesn’t even need to worry about economic inequality. The vast majority of people with any money or prospects of making money moved away. All those who remain are mostly the poorest of the poor. Also problematic, the state has one of the highest economic inequalities in the country, an economic inequality that is at a historic high and still growing. The former residents with money may be now living in nearby counties not far away. It’s economic segregation by default.

http://www.newgeography.com/content/003912-the-emerging-geography-inequality

http://www.movoto.com/blog/opinions/income-inequality-map/

http://www.wvpolicy.org/income-inequality-at-historic-high-in-wv

http://www.wvpolicy.org/income-inequality-continues-to-grow-in-west-virginia

The violence and crime numbers are surprisingly high for such a small town and they’ve been rising. It’s even worse when put in context of per capita rates. West Virginia overall has higher violence and crime rates than the national average, and McDowell has higher rates than both the national and state averages. The rates are higher for murder, suicide, rape, robbery, assault, burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft, etc. That barely scratches the surface of the social problems involved.

http://www.wvnstv.com/story/26594861/mcdowell-county-tops-wv-truancy-rate

“State figures show that nearly a third of West Virginia’s public school students were truant during the 2013-2014 academic year.

“According to Department of Education data, 58 percent of McDowell County’s students were marked as truant. That was the highest rate in the state. Jefferson County had the lowest rate, 7 percent. The statewide rate was about 31 percent.”

http://www.clrsearch.com/McDowell-County-Demographics/WV/Crime-Rate

http://recordspedia.com/West-Virginia/Mcdowell-County/Crime-Statistics

“Between 2001 and 2007 there were 1,442 total crimes reported in Mcdowell County, West Virginia (174 of them violent). Of the 206 crimes that transpire each year in Mcdowell County, just about one half take place less than a mile from home. On average, someone is a victim of a crime in Mcdowell County, West Virginia 206 times a year. This includes 4 murders, 1 rape, and close to nine hundred thefts (including 99 automobile thefts).

“Throughout the last 10 years, crime data were available in Mcdowell County, West Virginia for 7 years. Over that period of time, reported crime in Mcdowell County has climbed by 37 per-cent. In the course of that same period, violent crime rose by 52 per-cent. Taken as a whole, the crime rates are a sign of a rapid worsening in crime over these years in Mcdowell County.”

http://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/west-virginia-sheriff-shot-dead-outside-county-courthouse

“Williamson, a town of about 3,200, sits along the Tug Fork River in a part of the state long associated with violence. Mingo and neighboring McDowell County are home to the legendary blood feud between the Hatfield family of West Virginia and the McCoy family of Kentucky, a conflict dating to the Civil War.

“Crum’s county was dubbed “Bloody Mingo” during the early 20th century mine wars, when unionizing miners battled Baldwin-Felts security agents hired by the coal operators.

“In May 1920, after evicting striking miners in Red Jacket, some of the Baldwin-Felts men tried to board a train in nearby Matewan but were confronted by the mayor and the chief of police, Sid Hatfield, a former miner, who had family ties to the Hatfields in the feud.

“After a gun battle recreated in the 1987 John Sayles film “Matewan,” the mayor, two miners, a bystander and three agents lay dead. Hatfield became a hero but was gunned down on the courthouse steps a year later in Matewan.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McDowell_County,_West_Virginia

“In the 1980s the central Appalachian region lost more than 70,000 coal mining jobs. Between 1981 and 1992, according to the U.S. Department of Energy and the United Mine Workers union, coal mining employment in the state of West Virginia decreased by more than 53%. No county in the Appalachian region was more severely distressed by these losses than McDowell County. According to the United States Census Bureau, in 1980, the rate of poverty in McDowell County was 23.5%.

“By 1990, the poverty rate in McDowell County had climbed to 37.7%, the highest rate of poverty for any county in West Virginia. 50.3% of all children in McDowell County were living in families below the poverty level, up from 31.2% in 1980. The major losses in McDowell County during this period were the result of the closing of all mines and facilities operated by the United States Steel Corporation, terminating more than 1,200 jobs.

“The economic impact of U.S. Steel’s departure was particularly dramatic: personal income in the county decreased by 66% in one year. Housing values in even the most prosperous parts of the county plunged to devastatingly low values. Individuals and families who wanted to relocate outside the county were left with little or no equity in their property. Many walked away from their mortgages and simply abandoned their homes to the lenders.

“Marijuana crops, drug traffic, fraud, arson, and in one spectacular case at the Bank of Keystone—major white collar crime and embezzlement became factors in the unofficial economy of McDowell. County officials also reported significant increases in the rates of domestic abuse, suicide, and OxyContin abuse.

“By 2001 suffering major losses of tax revenue, McDowell County public schools had fallen into physical decay and high rates of academic failure. Enrollments declined, more than half of the children lived in poverty. […]

“The median income for a household in the county was $21,574, and the median income for a family was $27,605. Men had a median income of $25,994 versus $18,685 for Women. The per capita income for the county was $12,004. About 29.1% of families and 34.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 43.4% of those under age 18 and 23.3% of those age 65 or over.[15]

“In 2013, press reports indicated that the average lifespan of a man in McDowell County was 63.9 years, compared to a national average of 76.3. This was the shortest lifespan for men in the country. Women in the county could expect to live 72.9 years; the national figure is 80.9. This was the second-worst number in the United States, with only Perry County, Kentucky doing worse.[16]”

http://www.alternet.org/corporate-accountability-and-workplace/mcdowell-county-usa-has-close-haitis-life-expectancy-welcome

“Those WHO figures for the U.S. take into account the country as a whole, and overall, Americans clearly aren’t living as long as Europeans. But the news becomes even more troubling when one examines a report that the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington released in July 2013. That study broke down life expectancy for men and women in different parts of the U.S., showing a strong correlation between income levels and longevity. The report found that life expectancy is 81.6 for males and 84.5 for females in Fairfax County, Virginia (a very affluent area) and 81.4 for males and 85.0 for females in Marin County, California (another upscale area) compared to only 63.9 for males and 72.9 for females in McDowell County, West Virginia or 66.7 for males and 73.3 for females in Tunica County, Mississippi.

“The fact that males in McDowell County are, on average, dying 18 years younger than males in Fairfax County or Marin County speaks volumes about inequality in the U.S. That type of disparity is more typical of a developing country than a developed country. Yet when one compares life expectancy in McDowell County to life expectancy in Guatemala, one of Latin America’s poorest countries, Guatemalans come out slightly ahead. WHO has reported an overall life expectancy of 69 for Guatemala (66 for men, 73 for women).

“So in other words, the poor in Guatemala are outliving the poor in McDowell County. In fact, McDowell County is only slightly ahead of Haiti, Ghana and Papua New Guinea when it comes to life expectancy for males: according to WHO, life expectancy for males is 62 in those three countries.”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/chris-hedges/west-virginia-oxycontin-abuse_b_1820493.html

“About half of those living in McDowell County depend on some kind of relief check such as Social Security, Disability, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, retirement benefits, and unemployment to survive. They live on the margins, check to check, expecting no improvement in their lives and seeing none. The most common billboards along the roads are for law firms that file disability claims and seek state and federal payments. “Disability and Injury Lawyers,” reads one. It promises to handle “Social Security. Car Wrecks. Veterans. Workers’ Comp.” The 800 number ends in COMP.

“Harry M. Caudill, in his monumental 1963 book Night Comes to the Cumberlands, describes how relief checks became a kind of bribe for the rural poor in Appalachia. The decimated region was the pilot project for outside government assistance, which had issued the first food stamps in 1961 to a household of fifteen in Paynesville, West Virginia. “Welfarism” began to be practiced, as Caudill wrote, “on a scale unequalled elsewhere in America and scarcely surpassed anywhere in the world.” Government “handouts,” he observed, were “speedily recognized as a lode from which dollars could be mined more easily than from any coal seam.”

“Obtaining the monthly “handout” became an art form. People were reduced to what Caudill called “the tragic status of ‘symptom hunters.’ If they could find enough symptoms of illness, they might convince the physicians they were ‘sick enough to draw’… to indicate such a disability as incapacitating the men from working. Then his children, as public charges, could draw enough money to feed the family.””

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/21/us/50-years-into-the-war-on-poverty-hardship-hits-back.html

“McDowell County, the poorest in West Virginia, has been emblematic of entrenched American poverty for more than a half-century. John F. Kennedy campaigned here in 1960 and was so appalled that he promised to send help if elected president. His first executive order created the modern food stamp program, whose first recipients were McDowell County residents. When President Lyndon B. Johnson declared “unconditional war on poverty” in 1964, it was the squalor of Appalachia he had in mind. The federal programs that followed — Medicare, Medicaid, free school lunches and others — lifted tens of thousands above a subsistence standard of living.

“But a half-century later, with the poverty rate again on the rise, hardship seems merely to have taken on a new face in McDowell County. The economy is declining along with the coal industry, towns are hollowed out as people flee, and communities are scarred by family dissolution, prescription drug abuse and a high rate of imprisonment. […]

“Much of McDowell County looks like a rural Detroit, with broken windows on shuttered businesses and homes crumbling from neglect. In many places, little seems to have been built or maintained in decades.

“Numbers tell the tale as vividly as the scarred landscape. Forty-six percent of children in the county do not live with a biological parent, according to the school district. Their mothers and fathers are in jail, are dead or have left them to be raised by relatives, said Gordon Lambert, president of the McDowell County Commission.

“Beginning in the 19th century, the rugged region produced more coal than any other county in West Virginia, but it got almost none of the wealth back as local investment. Of West Virginia’s 55 counties, McDowell has the lowest median household income, $22,000; the worst childhood obesity rate; and the highest teenage birthrate.

“It is also reeling from prescription drug abuse. The death rate from overdoses is more than eight times the national average. Of the 115 babies born in 2011 at Welch Community Hospital, over 40 had been exposed to drugs.

“Largely as a consequence of the drug scourge, a problem widespread in rural America, the incarceration rate in West Virginia is one of the highest in the country.

““Whole families have been wiped out in this county: mother, father, children,” said Sheriff Martin B. West.

““These are good people, good families,” Sheriff West, an evangelical pastor, said of his lifelong neighbors. “But they get involved with drugs, and the next thing you know they’re getting arrested.” […]

“Many in McDowell County acknowledge that depending on government benefits has become a way of life, passed from generation to generation. Nearly 47 percent of personal income in the county is from Social Security, disability insurance, food stamps and other federal programs.

“But residents also identify a more insidious cause of the current social unraveling: the disappearance of the only good jobs they ever knew, in coal mining. The county was always poor. Yet family breakup did not become a calamity until the 1990s, after southern West Virginia lost its major mines in the downturn of the American steel industry. The poverty rate, 50 percent in 1960, declined — partly as a result of federal benefits — to 36 percent in 1970 and to 23.5 percent in 1980. But it soared to nearly 38 percent in 1990. For families with children, it now nears 41 percent.

“Today, fewer than one in three McDowell County residents are in the labor force. The chief effort to diversify the economy has been building prisons. The most impressive structure on Route 52, the twisting highway into Welch, is a state prison that occupies a former hospital. There is also a new federal prison on a mountaintop. But many residents have been skipped over for the well-paying jobs in corrections: They can’t pass a drug test.”

http://www.wealthandpoverty.net/2014/04/the-reign-of-poverty-in-mcdowell-county084741.php

“The details are harrowing. Fourty-six percent of children in the county don’t live with a biological parent. The death rate from drug overdose is over eight times the national average. The incarceration rate is among the highest in the U.S.

“In the 1950’s, 100,000 people called McDowell County home. In 2014, that number has plummeted to 21,300, and the county is populated only by those who can’t leave due to lack of education or skills, or have family connections that keep them rooted in the area.

“With the disappearance of coal mining jobs, many families now rely on Social Security, food stamps, and disability payments. Dependence on government money has become “a way of life, passed from generation to generation.” Fewer than one out of three participates in the labor force (works, or is looking for work)–a figure that compares poorly to the national labor participation rate of 63.2% (as of March 2014, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics).

“McDowell County is aware of their detachment from the rest of the country, and places a large importance on staying loyal to “us,” as opposed to “them.” Fifteen-year-old Emalee sees the possibility of pursuing a college education in her future, but her family doesn’t want her to go. Says Florisha McGuire of leaving her small West Virginian town to attend college: “you’d think I’d committed a crime.”

“There are so many factors that we could blame for the destitution of McDowell County. There’s the extensive dependence on welfare that disincentives productive work. There’s the economic shift that caused the disappearance of coal mining jobs. There’s pervasive drug use that puts otherwise good people in jail, separating parents from children and citizens from society. There’s the lack of hope for betterment in the future that discourages seeking out opportunity elsewhere.

“The truth is, all of these variables interact with and feed upon each other. Perhaps the one sure lesson that we can take away is that poverty, at its core, is not just a money issue–it’s a community issue.”

* * *

Why didn’t you approve my comments? In multiple unapproved comments, I offered quotes, data, and analysis from different perspectives. Don’t you want to have a discussion about what all this means? Aren’t you at least curious and hopefully concerned about what causes social problems, no matter what race or ethnicity is involved?

I’m sympathetic to poor whites. My mother came from lower working class people from what some call Kentuckiana, and it just occurred to me that several generations before her the family actually was living in Appalachia. She spoke with a Southern Hoosier dialect when she was younger, and when I visit her family I can still hear some of them speak that way. I don’t have to go back very far in my family history to find severe poverty. I’ve lived below the poverty line myself at one point in my life. The people you describe are what I consider my people.

If you really cared about these people, you’d dig much deeper in trying to understand and you wouldn’t create a stereotyped caricature that dismisses the harsh reality of poverty. And as a professed Christian (going by your About page), you should care. A good place to start is by getting an insider’s perspective. I’d suggest Joe Bageant’s Deer Hunting with Jesus (or you could check out his memoir, Rainbow Pie). Bageant doesn’t pull his punches and he most certainly cares as he writes about the people he grew up with. He was born and raised as a dirt poor Appalachian among the too often forgotten white underclass.

There is a lot more going on in this region and in these communities. The history alone is fascinating and times heartbreaking. Appalachia and the larger region isn’t even just about whites. Many areas that are majority white today had large black populations in the past, prior to Jim Crow, the KKK, and redlining. Even so, many blacks remain in these rural areas, especially in the South, but also in Appalachia.

Poverty is not a race issue. Rural blacks are basically the same as rural whites in rates of social problems, although rural blacks are less likely to commit suicide. The same goes for comparing inner city blacks and inner city whites. Back when most blacks were rural, they had strong communities and high marriage rates; and at least in some places (e.g., rural Louisiana) blacks committed less violent crime than did whites, both intraracial and interracial. Inner cities are a very different kind of place, but it’s been hard for blacks to escape those conditions. It’s similar to why poor Appalachians get stuck in poor communities, long after the employment dried up. Inner cities also at one time had high employment rates for blacks. Loss of factories in inner cities had the same basic impact as loss of mining in Appalachia.

That said, I agree with you that Appalachia is an interesting case to consider. It has poverty, no doubt about that. But I’d love to know more details. How severe is that poverty compared to the poorest communities and neighborhoods in the US? How concentrated is the poverty there? Research has found that concentrated severe poverty is, of course, far worse than sparse moderate poverty. Hence, the social problems vary greatly according to the specific type and conditions of poverty.

I know Appalachia and the Upper South. It’s a different kind of place. Kentucky has had great decreases in violent crime, but Tennessee for some reason hasn’t seen as much improvement. Both states have histories of violent populations. Tennessee remains one of the most violent states in the country, even to the extent of sometimes making it to the top of the list. Kentucky diverged from its sister state, Tennessee. I don’t know why that is. I’ve traveled around Kentucky and it truly seems like a border state, with similarities both to the Midwest and to the South. The Midwestern states also tend to have lower violent crime rates.

But there was something I noticed in Kentucky that I haven’t seen too many other places. If you drive down rural back roads, you’ll find shacks and old houses that are nearly falling down and yet sometimes nearby will be a well-kept mansion. It’s the strangest thing, especially from my Midwestern perspective. The extremes of poverty and wealth are often right next to one another, at least in rural areas.

I saw a similar phenomenon in South Carolina. My family lived in Columbia. There was a main road that headed into downtown. On one side of the road, there was a poor mostly black neighborhood (along with some Projects) and on the other side of the road was a wealthy mostly white neighborhood. There was no massive wall dividing the two worlds, just the road.

That kind of thing simply does not exist in Iowa. Ignoring the contrast to Iowa, I wanted to note some differences between the two examples above.

The South Carolina example was of concentrated poverty and concentrated wealth, even though they were right next to each other. If you looked at the county level data, you wouldn’t be able to see this concentration, but it was obvious just by driving down that road.

That kind of concentrated urban poverty, whether or not next to concentrated wealth, tends to lead to all kinds of social problems. This has been demonstrated in numerous examples throughout American history, in terms of diverse races and ethnicities. When Italians, Irish, and Jews lived in urban neighborhoods of concentrated poverty, they saw similar social problems as seen today: violent crime, family breakdown, low education achievement, job insecurity, alcohol and drug abuse, prostitution, etc.

Rural poverty may be less of a problem in some ways. It is spread out more, but that just means the problems are spread out more. Are the social problems less worse or less obvious?

I bet that interesting patterns would be seen in Appalachia if you were to break down the different areas. I’m specifically thinking of urban vs rural and concentrated poverty vs mixed class residences, but also other distinctions as well. The results might not fit what many would expect.

I’ll give some examples that shows how complicated it can be.

How the data is divided determines the conclusion that is made. According to how the data is normally divided, US rural areas on average are safer than US urban areas on average. But this is mixing up a whole lot of factors and averaging out across great diversity. Some urban areas are extremely safe. Many of the biggest cities, for example, have below average violence and crime rates, maybe because of more police presence or other reasons. Also, both inner cities and suburbs both share the trait of not being rural, but otherwise they are quite distinct.

The data can be divided up in other ways. By rural, what most researchers have meant is all small and/or sparsely populated areas. This has most often included small towns, even though one would think of a small town being an urban area, albeit a small urban area.

There was one study I came across that didn’t include small towns as part of rural areas and so entirely separated out sparsely populated rural areas, which is what many people think of when rural is mentioned. This study made three categories for analysis: rural areas, small towns, and big cities. The results showed the small towns were the safest of all for violent crime, although they had high rates of other crimes such as vandalism and larceny. Most interesting of all, is that divided up this way rural areas proved to have higher violent crime rates than even big cities. When people say rural areas are safer, what they really mean is that small towns are safer.

You also see differences according to regions. Compare the Midwest and the South. Both have high rates of gun ownership. Yet the Midwest has lower rates of gun violence and and the South has higher rates of gun violence. I know, for example, in the rural South that you are more likely to be killed by someone you know. There was a recent study that showed increasing gun ownership rates doesn’t correlate to increasing stranger gun homicides but it does correlate to increasing non-stranger gun homicides. That correlation, however, might also show great disparity between regions.

By the way, I don’t know if Appalachia is on average more similar to the Midwest or the South. Even though the Southern section of Appalachia is in the South, the northern part is in the Midwest. There might be great differences when looking at different areas of Appalachia.

It does make me wonder. I know that the South in general has higher rates of a wide variety of social problems, such as rates of teen pregnancy and high school drop outs. These social problems are mostly found among poor Southerners, both black and white. The South also has high rates of poverty and economic inequality which is always found anywhere there are social problems. Maybe Appalachia needs to be considered separately. The conditions of Appalachia might be different than other areas.

After writing the above, I came across a list of the top 50 most dangerous counties in America, based on 2012 data:

http://www.movoto.com/blog/top-ten/most-dangerous-counties/

It’s an imperfect list because the data is limited, but it still is interesting. A significant number of counties on this list are in or near Appalachia. I didn’t compare this list to that of the poorest counties in America. I bet some of the same counties would be found on both lists. For certain, I doubt many, if any, of the most dangerous counties are places of low poverty rates.

I was looking back through your post. I realized that you didn’t actually offer much in the way of data. You mostly just shared photographs and made many unsubstantiated claims. One piece of data you did share caught my attention:

http://cnsnews.com/news/article/america-s-10-poorest-counties-are-gulf-coast-states-kentucky-and-indian-reservations

“Yet, The violent crime rate for Appalachia in 2010 was lower than the national violent crime rate average by 56.76%”

You followed that with a map that showed economic by county in Appalachia. It made me realize that you weren’t clear in what point you were making. Appalachia includes many prosperous counties as well as poor. The poorest counties also probably are the least populated and so probably have the least amount of concentrated poverty, which makes a massive difference as research shows. Most Appalachians probably live in the prosperous counties because that is where most of the work is located. Nothing you said offers clear insight about the average Appalachian.

In Appalachia, the poverty rates and average income levels differ greatly. depending on the state:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Appalachian_Regional_Commission_counties

Talking about Appalachia is somewhat arbitrary. It not only crosses several state boundaries but also stretches between three different regions: Deep South, Upper South, and Midwest. Those states and those regions are very different kinds of places with different demographics, different economies, and different governments.

A similar problem exists in talking about the Midwest, something I’m more familiar with. The Lower South and Upper South might as well be considered separately. The lower edge of the Lower Midwest is culturally more Southern. The same difficult goes for the Eastern Midwest and Western Midwest. I live in Iowa, which is on the other side of the Mississippi and has no big cities. Iowa is quite different from the Midwestern Rust Belt.

I don’t mean to say that it is pointless to discuss generalizations about vast regions, whether Appalachia or Midwest. It’s just that one should be very careful and pay close attention to the details.

I’d say the same thing about even larger generalized categories such as all poor whites. Some poor whites are more severely poor than others. Some are only temporarily poor while some populations are intergenerationally poor. Some exhibit higher rates of social problems, but not all do. Many demographics considered as white today weren’t in the past. The crime data used to keep the numbers separate for not just races but all major ethnicities. A century or so ago, Italians, Irish, and Jews had high rates of crimes that went along with high rates of concentrated poverty.

Even some of the same whites show diverse rates of problems over time. Appalachia still does have plenty of violence, but it is worth noting that is far lower than it used to be. As far as that goes, all violent crime is lower in the US than it used to be and it is dropping the most quickly among minorities, for whatever reason. It likely has to do with changing environmental conditions, such as decreased heavy metal pollution.

Also, what about people who move. Many Appalachians in the past have since moved to other places. Where did they go? Did they simply assimilate into other populations? Even limiting ourselves to Appalachia, how has the population shifted around and which counties have the most population now? What are the poverty and violent crime rates like in the most populous Appalachian counties where most Appalachians live?

I don’t know the answer to those questions. You didn’t even think to ask them. If you really want to understand any of this, your post and the discussion in the comments has barely scratched the surface. Don’t these unanswered questions make you curious?

* * *

Crime and Policing in Rural and Small-Town America: Third Edition
by Ralph A. Weisheit, David N. Falcone, L. Edward Well
p. 48

“Informal social control, keeping things in, and showing a greater suspicion of government may also help account for rural-urban differences in the willingness of local communities to cooperate fully with reporting to the FBI’s UCR. Reporting to the CR program in 2003 differed by population density, with reports covering 95% of citizens living in metropolitan statistical areas but only 83% of those living in rural areas (FBI, 2003). Similarly, Laub (1981) has found that while the overall likelihood of reporting crime to the police is similar for rural and urban citizens, those in urban areas fail to report because they think nothing can be done, while those in rural areas fail to report because they consider the crime a private concern, even when the offender is a stranger. As a New Mexico state police officer observed: “In a lot of these [rural] areas, there’s really no law enforcement—no police, no sheriff, no state police station. People prefer to handle their own affairs and disputes themselves” (Applebombe, 1987, p. 11). The officer’s comment should be taken as more figurative than literal, although there are remote areas of Alaska where the statement could be taken literally. The statement does reflect two dimensions of the issue that are distinct but tend to reinforce each other. First, rural citizens may less often to choose to deal with a problem formally because they see it as a local problem. Second, in some rural areas formal police authority is in fact physically distant and is not an immediate option.”

p. 55

“Kenneth Wilkinson (1984) also used county-level data but came to a very different conclusion. In contrast to other data, he found that homicide rates were higher in rural areas. He accounted for this by noting that in a geographically dispersed population, social interactions occur more frequently among family members and close acquaintances; both are groups at a relatively higher risk for homicide. Wilkinson also observed that when compared with large cities, homicide rates were higher in rural areas but lower in small cities. Taken together, these findings highlight the importance of crime-specific analyses and of using care in defining the term rural. Simply treating everything outside of major metropolitan areas as rural can mask important patterns.”

p. 59

“Finally, official police data provided in the UCR also reveal some offenses for which the rates are higher in small towns and rural areas than for large cities… [R]ural counties are much higher than large cities in the arrest rate for DUI and for crimes against family members and children. This last finding conflicts with field research and some survey research that suggests that family violence rates are similar across rural and urban areas and that police in rural areas are more hesitant to respond to family violence… [S]mall towns are higher than either large cities or the most rural areas in arrest rates for fraud and vandalism. In small towns and rural areas arrest rates for fraud are about four times greater than in the largest cities. Curiously, arrest rates for vandalism are lowest in the most rural areas and highest in small towns, with city rates falling in between.”

http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/02/red-barns-and-white-barns-why-rural-crime-skyrocketed-late-1800s

“In short, lead paint simply wasn’t available in most rural areas before the 1880s except in very narrow corridors with good transportation. You can see this in the prevalence of white barns along the National Road. Then, starting in the 1880s, revolutions in both rail transport and mail order distribution made economical lead paint available almost everywhere—including rural areas. A couple of decades later, homicide rates had skyrocketed in rural areas and had nearly caught up to urban murder rates.

“By itself, of course, this would be merely speculative. What makes it more than this is that it adds to the wealth of other evidence that lead exposure in childhood leads to increased violence in adulthood. In the post-World War II era, lead exposure came mainly from automobile exhausts, but in the post-Civil War era it came mainly from the growth in the use of lead paint. And when lead paint became available in rural areas, farmers found it just as useful as everyone else. Given what we now know about the effects of lead, it should come as no surprise that a couple of decades later the murder rate in rural areas went up substantially.”

https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2015/04/08/before-the-1890s/

American Homicide
by Randolph Roth
Kindle Locations 222-225

“Race and slavery are connected to America’s homicide problem, but not in a straightforward way. Before the 1890s, for example, African Americans were far less likely to kill than whites were, and especially unlikely to kill one another. Why, for the past century, has the opposite been the case? Why were Virginia and Maryland no more homicidal than Pennsylvania in the 1720s and 1730s, when they had more slaves and free blacks? Why did slave states become more homicidal after the Revolution, when free states became less homicidal?”

* * *

Here are two bonus articles:

The Violence Bred By Poverty Whether In Poorest Appalachia Or Poorest Philadelphia, Joblessness And Desperation Can Bring A Whole New Way Of Living – And Dying.
by Jeffrey Fleishman and Karl Stark, phily.com

Ferguson, like Appalachia, suffers from social and economic inequality
by Kieren Weisert

Sweeping Social Problems Under the Rug

Why do some people think that laws, the police, and prisons can be the solution to almost everything? Why do some people think that banning and criminalizing a problematic behavior will solve the problem and banning something will make it go away?

Sometimes such a response is the only one available.

Child abuse is an obvious example. But, even in that case, it would be better to spend money on preventing child abuse by breaking the victimization cycle than merely to imprison child abusers after the fact. We don’t want to decriminalize child abuse. Still, that doesn’t mean prison is the only answer.

Slavery is another example. It is a good thing we legally abolished slavery. But we have to be honest with ourselves by its effectiveness. There still remains a large and widespread slave trade in the world. According to some data, there are more slaves today than existed in the past. Slavery is still even occasionally discovered in the United States, typically involving those at the edge of society who are afraid of trying to escape and contact authorities.

There are other examples that are even more obvious failures.

Prohibition didn’t eliminate alcoholic consumption and alcoholism. If anything, it caused it to grow worse and added mass gang violence to the mix. Illegalizing prostitution hasn’t closed down that market. I don’t know that prostitution has increased, but I doubt it has decreased because of its illegal status. The War on Drugs is the clearest example of failure, maybe worse than Prohibition because it has lasted so much longer. Drug use and addiction is higher than it has ever been, even as more people are in prison for selling and using drugs.

On the other hand, some countries have successfully used a combination of legalization and decriminalization. Instead of sending people to prison for being addicted to drugs, they send them to drug rehabilitation. These countries probably also have better public healthcare, especially mental healthcare, than the United States has. They seek to deal with the problem at its root, and at least in some cases they’ve actually decreased drug use and addiction.

In a country like the United States, trying to ban all guns probably would be about as effective. It is better to keep such things as drugs and guns on the legal market. That way, there can be more oversight, transparency, regulation, and control.

When something is on the black market, it may be a libertarian fantasy of an unregulated market, but it rarely leads to positive results for the larger society. Drugs on the black market can be dangerous because a person doesn’t actually know what they are buying. Guns on the black market get easily sold to criminals, gangs, cartels, terrorists, etc. The trick is to make the legal market more profitable and attractive than doing business on the black market. Black markets often form when the legal market fails.

So, why do conservatives think that banning abortions will end all or most abortions? They would have a reasonable argument if that was the case. However, the data doesn’t show that abortion bans leads to a decrease and sometimes it leads to an increase, just like with drug use.

Conservatives will point to conservative states that have decreased their rate of legal abortions. That is simply because they’ve forced women’s clinics that do abortions. No one is keeping the data on how many women in those states go to other states to get abortions, how many go on the black market, and how many try to do it themselves.

Making abortions illegal does decrease the rate of legal abortions, but going by the country comparisons it appears simultaneously increases the rate of illegal abortions. This is common sense, and conservatives claim to love common sense. If conservatives actually care about saving the lives from “baby-killers”, then the last thing conservatives should want to do is push abortions onto the black market and to have women trying to give themselves abortions with coathangers. It doesn’t just likely increase the abortion rate, but also the dangers involved. Women die because of botched abortions. Sometimes, even when the woman isn’t harmed, botched abortions still lead to birth where the baby is deformed or has brain damage.

Who would argue the War on Drugs is successful because the rate of legal recreational drug use has decreased, even as the illegal recreational drug use has increased? As we now fill prisons full of non-violent drug users, are we going to start to fill prisons also with women who seek abortions?

Sweeping problems under the rug doesn’t solve the problem or make it go away.

The War on Democracy: a personal response

I wrote in my previous post about democracy, specifically the war on democracy. Both that post and this post are a continuation of my thoughts in my other recent posts: Is Classical Liberalism Liberal?, Political Labels – Meaningless? Divisive?, and Bashing My Head Against a Brick Wall: Love of Truth or Masochism?. The war on democracy is, in the final conclusion, a war on liberalism. Conservatives are often unwilling to acknowledge that America is a democracy at all. They think by denying the word they can make the reality go away.

I’ve been trying to grapple with the issue of ideologies and labels which can irritate me immensely at times. As a liberal, I often feel misunderstood living in a country where conservatism is portrayed as the norm, although the polling data seems to show that Americans are way more liberal than most mainstream pundits and politicians would prefer. To be a radically idealistic, freedom-loving, bleeding-heart liberal is to be forever discontented with the status quo of established power and authority, forever discontented with the forgetting of history’s horrors which leads to its repeating.

– – –

In my above mentioned previous post, I offered a simple answer to a problem often made complex by ideological debates and rhetoric. By offering that simple conclusion, I was questioning whether the problem actually was complex at all. Those with complex answers will seek to make the problem appear more complex than it is. As such, I was hoping to find the heart of the issue.

My basic point, in that previous post, was that democracy is more about people than politics, more about how humans can relate well to each other on the largescale of society. My suggestion was that, if we actually care about seeking solutions, we should begin with caring about people. Either you care about others or not. It’s that simple.

I’d also add that to the degree that you care about ideology (personal beliefs, political systems, religious dogmas, ethnocentric groupthink, etc) is the degree to which you don’t care about people. When we see people in terms of their place within society, as labels and categories, social roles and demographic data, as voters and citizens… when we see people as mere ‘other’, as strangers and foreigners, as objects and resources… when we see people as as ‘us’ vs ‘them’, as workers or unemployed, as rich or poor, as their religion or skin color, as part of or excluded from some group… when we do this, people become less in our eyes (and in our hearts). We lose our own humanity when we embrace labels and categories. And that is a very sad way to live one’s life.

This isn’t to say all labels and categories are always negative. They serve a function. In and of themselves, they are value neutral. However, labels and categories (when used without awareness and understanding) can easily lead to seeing the world through the filter of biases and preconceptions. This is how prejudice functions. Labels and categories are only dangerous when they are used in defense of an ideological worldview, a dogmatic reality tunnel.

– – –

In the rest of this post, I will continue some of those thoughts but in the context of more personal experience and feelings, along with some complaints, questions and ponderings of a less personal nature.

I acknowledge that everything I have written applies to myself as well. I’m all too aware of that fact. I know that I don’t live up to my own hopes and ideals. I often feel the attraction of what is offered by ideological righteousness, by ideological labels and categories. I feel weak in my sense of self and in my experience of the world. I feel weak because I feel isolated, because I feel disempowered and disenfranchised. I don’t feel part of a community, that my life is integrally significant to the life of those I interact with on a daily basis. Even so, it may be true that I’m more rooted to the place I live in than many people (which, if true, is a sad statement about the lives of many people). I love this town where friends and family live, where I’ve spent much of my life (although with many intermittent years spent living elsewhere). But I always feel a bit disconnected, a blurring of the edges between myself and the world around me.

Modern life makes it more difficult to deeply connect (which causes many people to cling even more to artificial group identities). We have busy lives, each person isolated in their respective activities and goals. So many people spend their entire lives moving around from place to place… chasing careers, chasing dreams… seeking to escape the sense of dissatisfaction and unease that haunts the modern soul. I’m as much a product of the modern world as anyone else. I grew up in a family that moved on a fairly regular basis… and following that I moved around for a number of years.

It’s not that I haven’t tried to find a community to be a part of. I choose to live in this town where I’m surrounded by memories, a place that feels like home. During a period of my life, I sought to find my niche in this community. I went to many churches and found one I liked to an extent. I socialized and volunteered. I found people I connected with and made some new friends. But in the end the effort was too taxing for an introvert like me. It takes a lot of effort to try to create, almost ex nihil, a sense of community in the modern world. This town, for example, is a college town. It’s probably a majority of the population that either attends or works for the university and the university hospital. It’s a very transient population with very few people who were born here and lived their entire lives here. In a place like this, people come and go.

My life isn’t unusual and the town I live in isn’t atypical. Most cities in urban and suburban areas are to varying degrees like this town. Most people live in larger cities with transient populations and most people have moved a number of times in their lives. It’s just the social norm of modern life and of American society.

– – –

This is the challenge we face.

Most of the evolution of the human species happened prior to modern society and so human nature isn’t designed to work optimally in large societies with concentrated populations. Well, to be more accurate, the problem didn’t just begin with modernism for the world we live in is merely the outgrowth of the first civilizations. The Axial Age religions were a response to the early urbanization of human society… which was when the human species first had to deal with the conflicts of cultural diversity, with the disintegration of traditional lifestyles, with challenges to ancient religious authority.

The reason Buddha and Jesus preached universal love and forgiveness,  unreserved acceptance and compassion for all (even strangers, even criminals, even prostitutes… heck, even the rich) is because the rise of civilization was stretching the limits of human nature. Humans are mostly just capable of identifying with and sympathizing with a very small group of people who they know intimately. In many ways, this is as true today as it was millennia ago.

However, humans didn’t stop evolving after civilization began. If anything, evolution quickened because civilization allowed the simultaneous mixing of diverse genetics and the concentrating of certain genetics. We can see the results of this today with the fact that liberals tend to gravitate toward cities and conservatives tend to gravitate toward rural areas. There is a theory that liberalism is a newer trait in human evolution which intuitively makes sense to me and which seems to accord with some data I’m familiar with.

A major difference between conservatives and liberals, as shown in psychological research, is that: (1) the former tends to respond with fear and disgust when faced with the new and different, the unusual and foreign (one particular study showed conservatives feeling disgust toward rotten fruit which, from a liberal perspective, seems like an oddly strong response toward such a harmless object); and (2) the latter is more open to new experiences, new ideas, new possibilities and, as such, more sympathetic to the plights of those perceived as being outside of the norms and standards of any given society (strangers, foreigners, criminals, drug addicts, the poor, and the homeless; those who challenge authority figures, those who don’t submit to traditional rules of behavior, those who are ostracized, and those who are considered to be at fault for their own problems).

There is nothing wrong with the conservative attitude in and of itself. In a traditional society, such an attitude was beneficial and even necessary. But such an attitude, by itself or in aggressive opposition, doesn’t serve us well in a global society and we presently have no choice but to live in a global society, unless someone wishes to either seek the destruction of civilization or else colonize space. Even the few remaining isolated indigenous people can’t avoid the effects of modern society in that they are forced to drink water and breathe air that has become polluted, forced to depend on food sources that become increasingly scarce, forced to deal with new and deadly diseases introduced by foreigners, and are forced to constantly retreat from encroaching poachers, loggers, farmers, miners, missionaries, soldiers, bureaucrats, and others.

All humans (of all persuasions, in all places) are forced to adapt to a changing world. There is no conservative paradise where everything is frozen in some idyllic moment in time.

The Axial Age prophets like Jesus preached an essentially liberal vision, and radically liberal at that. Jesus was a leftwing loon of his era. The Axial Age prophets taught that we should treat all others as we would want to be treated; that we shouldn’t judge others according to ethnocentrism, class divisions, and other social norms; that one’s spiritual family was more important than one’s traditional nuclear family (that the water of baptismal rebirth was stronger than blood). The liberal ideals of egalitarianism and compassion (i.e., bleeding heart liberalism) are at the core of all civilization because only such ideals can counteract the negative side effects of building a civilization. Unless civilization collapses and we return to small traditional communities, we will have to come to terms with these liberal ideals.

– – –

This isn’t about liberal ideology defeating conservative ideology. I’m not saying conservatism doesn’t have it’s place, but I am saying that liberalism is increasingly necessary.

Even conservatives today are more ‘liberal’ than conservatives a few centuries ago. It’s all relative. Conservativism and liberalism exist on a spectrum which is always shifting. Conflict is only perceived when the middle of the spectrum is ignored and when history is ignored. The liberalism of one era becomes the conservatism of the next era. This is particularly confusing for American society. As Gunnar Myrdal explained, “America is conservative in fundamental principles… but the principles conserved are liberal and some, indeed, are radical.”

American conservatives may be an extreme example, but they may not be highly unusual. Jesus challenged the conservatives of his day (the social norms, the political status quo, the traditional religiosity of Judaism, etc) and yet has been embraced by the conservatives of later generations. Once Jesus was dead, he was safe for being turned into an idol, sterilized of radicalism. Similarly, classical liberalism is safe for conservatives today because it’s an ideology from the past, i.e., a dead ideology. A liberal ideal or vision, if successful, eventually becomes a set of dogmatic beliefs or other ideological system. Once that happens, liberals leave it behind and conservatives will then defend it (as a defense against the next new thing that liberals seek out). As such, every conservative principle began as a liberal ideal because every tradition began as a challenge to a former tradition.

Liberalism ultimately isn’t ideological because ideology closes down the mind which is the opposite of the liberal impulse. Liberalism is the impulse toward ever greater inclusion, acceptance, and openness. This liberal vision is idealistic but it isn’t ideology. Jesus wasn’t preaching politics. In fact, Jesus put no faith in politics whatsoever.

Maybe this is why liberal ideals can be placed in the context of any ideology, including conservative ideologies. The liberal impulse, by nature, will seek to expand any ideology to be ever more inclusive. Even the most righteously dogmatic Christian fundamentalism can’t entirely obscure the radical vision contained in Jesus’ own words and actions. Christians, no matter their ideology, can be inspired by these ideals. Liberals don’t own these ideals. This liberal vision isn’t liberal ideology. Liberalism, as a general concept, is defined ‘liberally’ because liberalism is expansive, ever reaching beyond divisions, reaching even beyond the status quo of liberal ideology. There is no and can be no definitive explanation of what liberalism is in specific terms for liberalism challenges limiting definitions, all definitions being limiting to some degree. The moment a liberal vision becomes an ideology it becomes less liberal, i.e., more conservative (to defend an ideology is to seek to ‘conserve’ that ideology).

That is the power of the liberal vision which is an inclusive vision, aspiring toward inclusion of all people even conservatives. It’s the same as Jesus preaching a universal message that applied to all people, even those who weren’t his followers, even those who actively opposed him (i.e., forgiving one’s enemies). There is no greater, no more radical vision of liberalism than this. And the most radical liberal vision of all is anarchism, both political and epistemological anarchism, because this is the extreme endpoint of the liberal desire for liberation, for liberty. Jesus’ refusal to acknowledge any earthly authority was a form of anarchism.

In the larger sphere of society, this liberal vision is basically the same as what is called ‘social democracy’. You can make it complicated with theory and with specialized terminology, but the ideals of freedom and egalitarianism are very simple. Even a child can understand these ideals. Even a child wants to be treated fairly. Children tend to be natural liberals because everyone is born with an openness to experience, a desire to explore, an endless curiosity. A child is just being a good liberal when he endlessly asks, ‘Why?’ And, when given an answer, asks ‘Why?’ again.

– – –

It might seem like I’m getting a bit abstract or speculative here, but this relates to the personal for me.

I’m someone with a liberal predisposition. I feel strongly and I empathize easily. I care about others, even random strangers on the street or in the news. I’m a bleeding heart liberal. I don’t want to live in a society of blame, of ‘us’ vs ‘them’. I intellectually can understand that those with conservative predispositions are less likely to see the world this way, but in my heart I can’t understand.

From my (biased) perspective, liberal values seem to be the only way we will avoid collective self-destruction. Sure, if civilization collapses, the human species can return to it’s conservative roots. But I would hope that even conservatives aren’t seeking the destruction of civilization merely because it would benefit the predominance of the conservative worldview. It’s true that, during times of societal conflict and violence, the conservative worldview becomes persuasive and hence popular. However, any conservative who promotes a vision of conflict or incites violence in order to achieve this end has become cynical to the point of utter moral depravity. I hope most conservatives are above such realpolitik games of hatred and fear.

Also, I’d like to believe that empathy and compassion aren’t merely liberal values. Everyone has some capacity for empathy and compassion… well, everyone except psycopaths. It’s not that conservatives are heartless, but research has shown that conservatism as a trait predisposes one to have less capacity for empathy and compassion (relative to liberalism as a trait)… or rather they have a more limited, narrow focus of their empathy and compassion, less empathy and compassion for those not perceived as part of their group. But are these attitudes inevitable and predetermined? Are people just born one way or another?

The question is whether people, all people, have the potential to develop more empathy and compassion. If we are fatalistically determined by our genetics and our early upbringing, then maybe our only or best hope is that there will be an evolutionary leap. The problem is we can’t exactly plan for and depend on an evolutionary leap happening. But how else will change happen in society unless some fundamental transformation happens within human nature? Isn’t such a radical transformation what was being envisioned, even prophesied by some, during the Axial Age? Is there a way that we as a human species can manifest on a global level our potential for empathy and compassion? Is Jesus’ inspiring message of love a real potential or merely an empty dream? Isn’t there a way conservatives can maintain their conservative values while also stretching the comfort zone of their ability to empathize and be compassionate toward others, especially those different than them?

The conservative impulse is to identify with their group, their religion, their tradition, their culture, their ethnicitiy, their nation, etc. There is nothing wrong with this per se, but I’d like to believe that this group identity can be expanded to include all humans. But do we have to wait for an alien invasion before we have an enemy ‘other’ that will force all humans to identify as a collective humanity with a collective fate?

– – –

This is the problem I face.

I can, like Jesus, preach about love and compassion. But, as a liberal, I’ll mostly be preaching to the choir.

Is there a way to translate liberal values into conservative terms? Is there a way to translate conservative values into a larger and more inclusive global context? I don’t want to blame conservatives any more than I want to blame the rich. I don’t want to blame anyone, to exclude certain people or groups (because they are different, because they don’t conform to my values, because they don’t agree with my ideology). However, what am I to do if, as a liberal, conservatives want to blame and exclude me? And what am I to do if, as a working class person, the rich want to blame and exclude me? How does one persuade others toward an inclusive vision if their own vision opposes it? If someone doesn’t care about the poor living in slums or oppressed people living in developing countries, I can’t force them to care. I have a hard enough time convincing myself to care and not give into cynicism.

I hate this situation. It’s the eternal conundrum of being a liberal, the desire for universal values that transcend mere ideology… while, no matter what liberals desire, conservatives will still just see it as liberal ideology for the lense through which conservatives see everything is ideology. Liberals are stuck between a rock and a hard place. The desire to include those who desire to exclude you. The desire to treat others fairly and equally who don’t desire to return the favor. The desire to compromise with those who see compromise as moral weakness and failure. The desire for compassion even of those who choose prejudice and blame. Between openness and conformity, between idealism and ideology, why is it so often the latter that wins? I realize Jesus said my reward would be in heaven, but it would be nice to see a bit of heaven on earth.

I just don’t understand. Why are empathy and compassion often perceived by many as almost entirely exclusive traits of bleeding heart liberals? Why is unreservedly caring about others deemed to be a mere liberal agenda? And why do conservatives believe unreservedly caring about others will destroy society? Aren’t empathy and compassion traits found in all normal (i.e., psychologically healthy) people?

How can any ideology (whether religious, political or economic) be seen as trumping the basic human value of caring about others? How can conservative Christians continue to ignore Jesus’ message of love which, according to Jesus himself, trumps the oppressive Old Testament laws of hatred and divisiveness, of fear and vindictiveness, of blame and guilt, of retribution and scapegoating? Jesus never asked if the blind or sick person had the money to pay for being healed, never asked if people were deserving before he fed them, never asked if someone was to blame before dispelling the demons that were possessing them. Jesus simply acted compassionately in response to suffering. Jesus wasn’t acting according to ideology. Jesus wasn’t preaching about meritocracy or a free market, wasn’t preaching about constitutional republics or political revolutions, wasn’t preaching about traditional values and norms.

Why aren’t there bleeding heart conservatives? Why do compassionate conservatives seem lacking in compassion toward anyone who doesn’t conform to their own ideological agenda? And, when conservatives do help those in need, why is their attitude typically that of condescension and superiority as if the needy person should feel lucky that the well off conservative didn’t leave them to starve to death or to freeze alone under a bridge? Yes, I’m speaking of the extreme variety of conservatives, but I speak of them because this is also the extremely vocal variety of conservatives who vocally defend conservatism.

If we as a society are going to ignore Jesus’ radical message of love, then we should stop calling ourselves a Christian nation (not that Jesus would approve of nationalism in any form, especially not in his name). If being a Christian nation wasn’t mere ethnocentric nationalism and instead meant being a nation of love and forgiveness, a nation of acceptance and inclusion, a nation of helping the poor and needy, then maybe I (along with many liberals, atheists, and non-Christians) wouldn’t take such issue with this prideful labeling of America.

– – –

It’s become increasingly clear, with events over the past decade, how interconnected is the global society. What one person, one group, one corporation, or one government does, effects people all over the world. We can’t continue to live pretending we are independent and isolated. We benefit and suffer because of the choices made by others. No one succeeds or fails simply based on their personal merits.

Poverty exists despite there being plenty of wealth in the world to allow everyone to live a decent life. Homelessness exists despite the resources being available to provide everyone basic shelter. Starvation exists despite there being enough food to feed everyone in the world. Many diseases continue to exist and proliferate despite there being known cures. The amount of money that the US government alone spends on international meddling (wars, military bases, CIA, propaganda programs, etc) probably would be enough to build schools, hospitals, health care clinics, and food banks in every city in the world. Most of the oppression and suffering in the world exists because of decisions made by other people, usually not by those who are oppressed and suffer. People born into poverty, homelessness, and hunger don’t deserve those conditions because of some personal failure. People living in war zones aren’t responsible for nations fighting over the resources that happen to exist in the ground beneath their homes. People born black in America aren’t to be blamed for the history of prejudice which is still being imposed upon them.

What we choose to do (what we buy, how we vote, who we donate to) or what we choose not to do (injustices we ignore, prejudices we accept, suffering we don’t seek to end) isn’t just a personal choice. Every action is public because the results of our actions are collective. We are forced to be responsible for each other, whether or not we accept that responsibility. If we walk past someone who is homeless or hungry, they remain homeless or hungry because we choose to allow such conditions to continue. We may not consciously realize we’ve made a decision, but that doesn’t change the fact that a decision was made.

– – –

I’m complicit in all of these failings and problems. That is what pisses me off.

I want to live in a society of people who care. I want to be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem. It’s been said that we need to be the change we want to see. But I can’t get rid of the feeling that all actions seem futile, that nothing is ever going to change for the good. Despite all the superficial progress, the world just keeps getting worse in so many ways.

I’ve nearly lost all hope for the future, all faith in humanity. Part of me still wants to care and yet another part of me wants to give up. I just don’t know. What is the point? Change seems potentially so easy in that there is nothing stopping change besides ourselves (“We have met the enemy and he is us”). We are individually of no significance, but collectively almost anything is possible. The problem is that collective action too often is fueled by ignorance and fear-mongering, propaganda and herd mentality.

It may be true that, “United we stand, divided we fall.” But, even if united, are we united in anything worthy?

As someone raised as a Christian, how do I live up to Jesus’ radical vision?

As an American, how do I live up to Thomas Paine’s radical vision?

What can any of us do about such radical visions? What is the practical value of such inspiring idealism?

The 10 Most (and Least) Tolerant States in America

I love data! 🙂

If you want to see a previous state comparison I wrote about, here is the link. The following is the list of states with the least unemployment:

  1. North Dakota
  2. South Dakota
  3. Nebraska
  4. New Hampshire
  5. Vermont
  6. Hawaii
  7. Kansas
  8. Wyoming
  9. Minnesota
  10. Iowa

And here is the top 10 most tolerant states according to the data (discussed in the video above and with links below):

  1. Wisconsin
  2. Maryland
  3. Illinois
  4. Pennsylvania
  5. Hawaii
  6. California
  7. Minnesota
  8. New Jersey
  9. New Hampshire
  10. New Mexico

It’s interesting to compare the two comparisons. Some of the states are found on both Top 10 lists: New Hampshire, Minnesota, and Hawaii. On the other hand, looking at the ranking of all the states, some of the least tolerant states did very well economically (both in terms of low unemployment and low economic disparity): North Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, and Wyoming.

I don’t know why that is or what it might mean. The similarities confirm a correlation of data, but differences makes me wonder about what is exactly is being measured in terms of tolerance and intolerance. Social problems, in general, correlate to both poverty and economic disparity. According to other data (from The Spirit Level by Wilkinson and Pickett): North Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, and Wyoming have some of the best rankings in the country according to the “Index of health and social problems” (North Dakota is ranked as the fourth best). There must be other confounding factors, but I don’t know what they could be.

The following is the details of the data about the comparison of tolerance across the US:

http://www.alternet.org/newsandviews/article/440581/10_most_(and_10_least)_tolerant_states_in_america/

And now for the breakdown … Wisconsin wins for being the most tolerant. Its religious tolerance was quite good, its gay tolerance leaves room for improvement. Others in the top 10 were Maryland in second, then Illinois, Pennsylvania, Hawaii, California, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Hampshire and New Mexico.

And on the flip-side, the 10 least tolerant states are Alabama, finishing 40th in the nation, then it gets worse going to Kentucky, North Dakota, Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Ohio, Nebraska, Kansas, Arkansas and then Wyoming finishes dead last.

This wasn’t included on the list, but interestingly, the 10 most tolerant states all went Democratic in the 2008 election and the 10 least tolerant states are all red states, with the exception of Ohio.

http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2011-01-16/ranking-the-most-tolerant-and-least-tolerant-states/full/

1, Wisconsin
Tolerance score: 77 out of 100
Hate crime score: 27 out of 40
Discrimination score: 39 out of 40
Gay rights score: 3 out of 10
Religious Tolerance Score: 8 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents: 1.0 (10 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents: 9.2 (5 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage: 44%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life: 79%

2, Maryland
Tolerance score: 75 out of 100
Hate crime score: 25 out of 40
Discrimination score: 37 out of 40
Gay rights score: 5 out of 10
Religious Tolerance Score: 8 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents: 1.8 (19 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents: 7.8 (1 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage: 51%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life: 72%

3, Illinois
Tolerance score: 74 out of 100
Hate crime score: 30 out of 40
Discrimination score: 31 out of 40
Gay rights score: 5 out of 10
Religious Tolerance Score: 8 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents: 1.5 (16 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents: 14.5 (24 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage: 48%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life: 74%

4, Pennsylvania
Tolerance score: 72 out of 100
Hate crime score: 29 out of 40
Discrimination score: 31 out of 40
Gay rights score: 4 out of 10
Religious Tolerance Score: 8 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents: 0.4 (5 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents: 11.8 (13 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage: 51%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life: 75%

5, Hawaii
Tolerance score: 71 out of 100
Hate crime score: 34 out of 40
Discrimination score: 27 out of 40
Gay rights score: 4 out of 10
Religious Tolerance Score: 6 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents: 0.1 (1 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents: 20.3 (35 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage: 54%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life: 66%

6, California
Tolerance score: 70 out of 100
Hate crime score: 30 out of 40
Discrimination score: 29 out of 40
Gay rights score: 5 out of 10
Religious Tolerance Score: 6 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents: 2.7 (29 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents: 15.9 (28 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage: 56%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life: 67%

7, Minnesota
Tolerance score: 70 out of 100
Hate crime score: 21 out of 40
Discrimination score: 38 out of 40
Gay rights score: 3 out of 10
Religious Tolerance Score: 8 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents: 6.0 (49 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents: 8.7 (4 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage: 47%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life: 74%

8, New Jersey
Tolerance score: 69 out of 100
Hate crime score: 18 out of 40
Discrimination score: 35 out of 40
Gay rights score: 8 out of 10
Religious Tolerance Score: 8 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents: 6.3 (50 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents: 12.1 (14 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage: 55%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life: 74%

9, New Hampshire
Tolerance score: 68 out of 100
Hate crime score: 18 out of 40
Discrimination score: 32 out of 40
Gay rights score: 10 out of 10
Religious Tolerance Score: 8 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents: 2.1 (21 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents: 12.3 (16 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage: 55%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life: 79%

10, New Mexico
Tolerance score: 67 out of 100
Hate crime score: 32 out of 40
Discrimination score: 25 out of 40
Gay rights score: 4 out of 10
Religious Tolerance Score: 6 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents: 1.3 (12 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents: 12.2 (15 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage: 49%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life: 62%

11, Virginia
Tolerance score: 66 out of 100
Hate crime score: 24 out of 40
Discrimination score: 35 out of 40
Gay rights score: 1 out of 10
Religious Tolerance Score: 6 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents: 1.9 (20 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents: 8.5 (2 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage: 42%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life: 69%

12, Iowa
Tolerance score: 64 out of 100
Hate crime score: 34 out of 40
Discrimination score: 16 out of 40
Gay rights score: 6 out of 10
Religious Tolerance Score: 8 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents: 0.6 (7 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents: 37.5 (48 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage: 44%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life: 73%

13, North Carolina
Tolerance score: 63 out of 100
Hate crime score: 25 out of 40
Discrimination score: 30 out of 40
Gay rights score: 2 out of 10
Religious Tolerance Score: 6 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents: 1.1 (11 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents: 11.5 (10 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage: 36%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life: 62%

14, Connecticut
Tolerance score: 63 out of 100
Hate crime score: 18 out of 40
Discrimination score: 27 out of 40
Gay rights score: 10 out of 10
Religious Tolerance Score: 8 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents: 5.6 (47 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents: 16.8 (30 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage: 57%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life: 73%

15, Florida
Tolerance score: 61 out of 100
Hate crime score: 32 out of 40
Discrimination score: 21 out of 40
Gay rights score: 0 out of 10
Religious Tolerance Score: 8 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents: 0.7 (9 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents: 18.7 (32 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage: 41%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life: 72%

16, Louisiana
Tolerance score: 59 out of 100
Hate crime score: 34 out of 40
Discrimination score: 19 out of 40
Gay rights score: 0 out of 10
Religious Tolerance Score: 6 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents: 0.5 (6 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents: 14.8 (25 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage: 36%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life: 70%

17, New York
Tolerance score: 59 out of 100
Hate crime score: 18 out of 40
Discrimination score: 27 out of 40
Gay rights score: 6 out of 10
Religious Tolerance Score: 8 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents: 3.3 (35 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents: 17.8 (31 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage: 58%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life: 77%

18, Massachusetts
Tolerance score: 59 out of 100
Hate crime score: 18 out of 40
Discrimination score: 23 out of 40
Gay rights score: 10 out of 10
Religious Tolerance Score: 8 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents: 5.1 (43 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents: 21.1 (37 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage: 62%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life: 79%

19, West Virginia
Tolerance score: 58 out of 100
Hate crime score: 24 out of 40
Discrimination score: 26 out of 40
Gay rights score: 2 out of 10
Religious Tolerance Score: 6 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents: 1.4 (13 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents: 12.6 (18 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage: 41%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life: 70%

20, Nevada
Tolerance score: 58 out of 100
Hate crime score: 25 out of 40
Discrimination score: 23 out of 40
Gay rights score: 2 out of 10
Religious Tolerance Score: 8 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents: 2.1 (23 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents: 15.9 (27 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage: 50%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life: 73%

21, Montana
Tolerance score: 58 out of 100
Hate crime score: 15 out of 40
Discrimination score: 36 out of 40
Gay rights score: 1 out of 10
Religious Tolerance score: 6 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents:: 2.9 (30 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents:: 8.7 (3 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage:: 45%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life:: 63%

22, Rhode Island
Tolerance score: 57 out of 100
Hate crime score: 22 out of 40
Discrimination score: 22 out of 40
Gay rights score: 5 out of 10
Religious Tolerance score: 8 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents:: 3.4 (37 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents:: 24.4 (45 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage:: 60%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life:: 73%

23, Alaska
Tolerance score: 56 out of 100
Hate crime score: 13 out of 40
Discrimination score: 34 out of 40
Gay rights score: 1 out of 10
Religious Tolerance score: 8 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents:: 3.1 (31 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents:: 9.3 (6 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage:: 45%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life:: 77%

24, Washington
Tolerance score: 56 out of 100
Hate crime score: 22 out of 40
Discrimination score: 22 out of 40
Gay rights score: 6 out of 10
Religious Tolerance score: 6 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents:: 3.1 (32 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents:: 20.6 (36 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage:: 54%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life:: 68%

25, Vermont
Tolerance score: 56 out of 100
Hate crime score: 16 out of 40
Discrimination score: 22 out of 40
Gay rights score: 10 out of 10
Religious Tolerance score: 8 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents:: 4.0 (39 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents:: 21.7 (39 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage:: 59%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life:: 79%

26, Oregon
Tolerance score: 56 out of 100
Hate crime score: 18 out of 40
Discrimination score: 28 out of 40
Gay rights score: 4 out of 10
Religious Tolerance score: 6 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents:: 5.5 (45 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents:: 12.9 (20 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage:: 52%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life:: 70%

27, Maine
Tolerance score: 55 out of 100
Hate crime score: 19 out of 40
Discrimination score: 19 out of 40
Gay rights score: 7 out of 10
Religious Tolerance score: 10 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents:: 3.8 (38 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents:: 22.5 (40 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage:: 55%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life:: 82%

28, Delaware
Tolerance score: 53 out of 100
Hate crime score: 13 out of 40
Discrimination score: 28 out of 40
Gay rights score: 4 out of 10
Religious Tolerance score: 8 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents:: 4.2 (40 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents:: 15.8 (26 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage:: 50%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life:: 71%

29, Texas
Tolerance score: 52 out of 100
Hate crime score: 32 out of 40
Discrimination score: 15 out of 40
Gay rights score: -1 out of 10
Religious Tolerance score: 6 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents:: 0.7 (8 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents:: 18.8 (34 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage:: 35%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life:: 65%

30, Michigan
Tolerance score: 52 out of 100
Hate crime score: 21 out of 40
Discrimination score: 22 out of 40
Gay rights score: 1 out of 10
Religious Tolerance score: 8 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents:: 3.2 (34 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents:: 21.2 (38 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage:: 46%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life:: 72%

31, Colorado
Tolerance score: 52 out of 100
Hate crime score: 16 out of 40
Discrimination score: 26 out of 40
Gay rights score: 2 out of 10
Religious Tolerance score: 8 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents:: 4.2 (41 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents:: 10.3 (8 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage:: 52%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life:: 72%

32, Georgia
Tolerance score: 50 out of 100
Hate crime score: 24 out of 40
Discrimination score: 21 out of 40
Gay rights score: -1 out of 10
Religious Tolerance score: 6 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents:: 0.1 (2 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents:: 12.5 (17 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage:: 34%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life:: 63%

33, Indiana
Tolerance score: 49 out of 100
Hate crime score: 18 out of 40
Discrimination score: 21 out of 40
Gay rights score: 2 out of 10
Religious Tolerance score: 8 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents:: 1.5 (14 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents:: 16.4 (29 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage:: 37%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life:: 73%

34, Tennessee
Tolerance score: 49 out of 100
Hate crime score: 21 out of 40
Discrimination score: 23 out of 40
Gay rights score: -1 out of 10
Religious Tolerance score: 6 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents:: 2.7 (26 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents:: 13.8 (23 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage:: 31%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life:: 63%

35, Oklahoma
Tolerance score: 48 out of 100
Hate crime score: 25 out of 40
Discrimination score: 18 out of 40
Gay rights score: -1 out of 10
Religious Tolerance score: 6 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents:: 1.6 (17 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents:: 13.8 (22 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage:: 26%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life:: 65%

36, South Carolina
Tolerance score: 48 out of 100
Hate crime score: 13 out of 40
Discrimination score: 30 out of 40
Gay rights score: -1 out of 10
Religious Tolerance score: 6 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents:: 2.7 (27 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents:: 10.6 (9 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage:: 32%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life:: 61%

37, Missouri
Tolerance score: 47 out of 100
Hate crime score: 24 out of 40
Discrimination score: 15 out of 40
Gay rights score: 0 out of 10
Religious Tolerance score: 8 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents:: 2.1 (22 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents:: 29.4 (46 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage:: 37%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life:: 73%

38, Mississippi
Tolerance score: 46 out of 100
Hate crime score: 27 out of 40
Discrimination score: 16 out of 40
Gay rights score: -1 out of 10
Religious Tolerance score: 4 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents:: 0.2 (3 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents:: 11.6 (11 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage:: 27%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life:: 59%

39, South Dakota
Tolerance score: 46 out of 100
Hate crime score: 10 out of 40
Discrimination score: 28 out of 40
Gay rights score: 0 out of 10
Religious Tolerance score: 8 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents:: 5.8 (48 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents:: 9.4 (7 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage:: 38%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life:: 79%

40, Alabama
Tolerance score: 44 out of 100
Hate crime score: 26 out of 40
Discrimination score: 15 out of 40
Gay rights score: -1 out of 10
Religious Tolerance score: 4 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents:: 0.3 (4 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents:: 12.8 (19 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage:: 26%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life:: 59%

41, Kentucky
Tolerance score: 43 out of 100
Hate crime score: 14 out of 40
Discrimination score: 24 out of 40
Gay rights score: -1 out of 10
Religious Tolerance score: 6 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents:: 4.7 (42 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents:: 13.4 (21 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage:: 31%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life:: 69%

42, North Dakota
Tolerance score: 42 out of 100
Hate crime score: 16 out of 40
Discrimination score: 18 out of 40
Gay rights score: 0 out of 10
Religious Tolerance score: 8 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents:: 2.3 (25 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents:: 32.8 (47 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage:: 38%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life:: 79%

43, Arizona
Tolerance score: 42 out of 100
Hate crime score: 20 out of 40
Discrimination score: 15 out of 40
Gay rights score: 1 out of 10
Religious Tolerance score: 6 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents:: 3.4 (36 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents:: 18.7 (33 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage:: 48%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life:: 64%

44, Utah
Tolerance score: 41 out of 100
Hate crime score: 16 out of 40
Discrimination score: 24 out of 40
Gay rights score: -1 out of 10
Religious Tolerance score: 2 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents:: 1.7 (18 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents:: 11.8 (12 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage:: 22%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life:: 45%

45, Idaho
Tolerance score: 41 out of 100
Hate crime score: 22 out of 40
Discrimination score: 16 out of 40
Gay rights score: -1 out of 10
Religious Tolerance score: 4 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents:: 2.3 (24 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents:: 23.9 (42 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage:: 33%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life:: 60%

46, Ohio
Tolerance score: 40 out of 100
Hate crime score: 15 out of 40
Discrimination score: 16 out of 40
Gay rights score: 1 out of 10
Religious Tolerance score: 8 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents:: 3.1 (33 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents:: 24.2 (44 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage:: 45%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life:: 76%

47, Nebraska
Tolerance score: 40 out of 100
Hate crime score: 17 out of 40
Discrimination score: 16 out of 40
Gay rights score: -1 out of 10
Religious Tolerance score: 8 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents:: 5.1 (44 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents:: 38.8 (49 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage:: 35%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life:: 78%

48, Kansas
Tolerance score: 38 out of 100
Hate crime score: 12 out of 40
Discrimination score: 18 out of 40
Gay rights score: 0 out of 10
Religious Tolerance score: 8 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents:: 5.6 (46 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents:: 23.0 (41 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage:: 37%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life:: 71%

49, Arkansas
Tolerance score: 37 out of 100
Hate crime score: 15 out of 40
Discrimination score: 17 out of 40
Gay rights score: -1 out of 10
Religious Tolerance score: 6 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents:: 2.7 (28 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents:: 23.9 (43 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage:: 29%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life:: 63%

50, Wyoming
Tolerance score: 32 out of 100
Hate crime score: 16 out of 40
Discrimination score: 8 out of 40
Gay rights score: 2 out of 10
Religious Tolerance score: 6 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents:: 1.5 (15 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents:: 201.9 (50 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage:: 37%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life:: 63%

10 States With Ridiculously Low Unemployment — And Why

I noticed this video a while back which shows how the economic problems mostly hit the coasts and the south first and then slowly moved to the interior of the country. Some of the midwestern and northwestern were barely impacted at all. I particularly paid attention to how Iowa remained strong as the states to the south, east, and north all descended into economic darkness.

I came across an article that explains some of this.

10 States With Ridiculously Low Unemployment — And Why

The 10 states are:

  1. North Dakota
  2. South Dakota
  3. Nebraska
  4. New Hampshire
  5. Vermont
  6. Hawaii
  7. Kansas
  8. Wyoming
  9. Minnesota
  10. Iowa

Some key elements that seem helpful:

  • diverse economy
  • agriculture or another strong sector such as tourism or industry
  • highly educated population

Iowa actually has a lower than average rate of higher education, but that is probably because of a split. There is a lot more agriculture in Western Iowa and a lot more education in Eastern Iowa (I read a few years ago that Iowa City has the highest per capita of highly educated in the country). Most importantly, Iowa balances all of this with a very diverse economy.

I had to check one other factor to see if the data holds up. I’ve recently written about income inequality because of reading the book The Spirit Level. As I expected, according to the data in the book, all these states are among the lowest in income inequality (and among the lowest in social problems). This once again proves the theory that income inequality is bad not simply because it leads to social inequality but because it leads to an unstable economy. Wealthy states like Texas and California were hit hard by the recession maybe because they have some of the highest income inequalities in the country.

The moral of the story: Even if you’re a selfish capitalist or a righteous social conservative, you should still help the poor because in helping them you are helping yourself. If you don’t help the poor, you and your entire community will suffer from your sins. So, quit being an asshole and help the poor.