Bloomberg: Did Political Polarization Lead To The 2020 Murder Surge?
02/27/2021
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Earlier: The Minneapolis Effect: After Floyd's Death, Murders Exploded Across The Country

From Bloomberg’s opinion section:

Why Is the U.S. Murder Rate Spiking?
Periods of political instability are very dangerous.

By Stephen Mihm
February 26, 2021, 4:00 AM PST

There may be a pattern to an era’s crime rate.

Stephen Mihm, an associate professor of history at the University of Georgia, is a contributor to Bloomberg Opinion.

In recent months, statistics on violent crime have confirmed a troubling trend: Homicide rates in the U.S., long on the wane

No, after a long, nice downward trend, they went up after Ferguson for the last two years of the Obama Administration. Then the Trump Administration managed to win back about half of the First BLM spike in murders. Then came the Racial Reckoning post Memorial Day 2020.

, shot upward in 2020. Early signs suggest it’s continuing. Many cities have reported new spikes in murder rates in early 2021.

Many commentators blame the pandemic for the violence. Others attribute the spike to record-breaking gun purchases or claim that protests against police brutality have undercut effective law enforcement, opening the door to mayhem.

These are seductive arguments. But if the past is any guide, they’re wrong.

Mihm’s argument is to avoid thinking about the recent past, such as the Ferguson Effect, and instead concentrate on long-ago centuries.

Instead, the spike in our murder rate is more likely the product of something else entirely: political instability.

Historians — Roger Lane, Eric Monkkonen and others — have long sought to explain why murder rates aren’t static, but rise and fall over time. This has been true in European countries as well as the U.S., even if each country has registered different rates at different times. Moreover, some killer boom-and-bust cycles last a few years; others drag on for decades.

There is one constant in all the chaos: domestic murders — spousal violence and family feuds — rarely drive spikes in the overall murder rate. Rather, the culprit is typically a surge in violence between unrelated adults. Minor disputes between friends, acquaintances and strangers resolved peacefully in the past suddenly turn lethal. But why?

In the 1990s, a handful of researchers interested in historical homicide rates — Manuel Eisner, Gary LaFree, Roger Gould and Randolph Roth — independently arrived at a similar, if startling conclusion: People’s faith in political institutions and one another are closely correlated with homicide rates. When faith falls, killings rise....

Gary LaFree found something similar in the postwar U.S. He observed that while social scientists had amassed a treasure trove of statistical data for the second half of the 20th century, only two variables demonstrated a consistent correlation with the rise and fall of the homicide rate. 

Both were measures of trust in government: questions that asked respondents whether they believed their government would do the right thing and whether they believed that most public officials are honest. When these measures declined, murders went up.

Indeed, the doubling in the murder rate in the 1960s-70s coincided with Vietnam and Watergate and a rise in conspiracy theory thriller movies. On the other hand, it also followed the triumphs of the civil rights movement, the growth of black pride/black power movements, and the triumph of liberalism on the Supreme Court, in academia, and in the various forms of the media.

Randolph Roth’s research also focused on the American case, but went much further back in time. When he examined so-called “impersonal” killings — murders between strangers or people unrelated to one another — he found a close statistical correlation in times of political crisis. He hypothesized that “state breakdowns and political crises of legitimacy produce surges in non-domestic homicides [while] the restoration of order and legitimacy produces declines in such homicides.”

His argument eventually found full expression in a book as well as a number of related articles. Roth’s collective work indicates that the Colonies, quite violent at first, became rather stable by the mid-18th century, the height of political integration into the British Empire. Things subsequently fell apart during the revolutionary era, but recovered during the 1790s, with the murder rate hitting all-time lows in the early 19th century – lower, arguably, than anywhere in Europe.

Interesting. And yet, perhaps, the Warren Court era and the First BLM Era’s Ferguson Effect might be slightly more relevant than the Federalist Era to the huge surge in murders during the, you know, Second BLM Era’s Minneapolis Effect?

… Roth argues that these fluctuations — as well as those in Europe — can best be explained by the strength or weakness of citizens’ belief in the integrity of the political order. This includes a conviction that government is stable, that the legal system is impartial, and that elected and appointed officials have a legitimate claim to power. These beliefs foster a sense of solidarity among citizens that, whatever their differences, enables them to view each other as sharing a common political identity.

So, you are saying that the fanaticism of Democratic mayors and governors to overthrow Trump in 2020 By Any Means Necessary caused them to endorse the statistically ridiculous racist calumnies against their own administrations of Black Lives Matter, leading their cities to be subjected to Burn, Loot, and Murder (BLM in practice if not in theory)?

Perhaps.

But is Mihm saying this? Or is he hoping readers will assume that it's Trumpistas doing all the extra murdering?

The last year has brought a sustained attack on the legitimacy of political institutions and the fragile solidarity that defines American society. At this point, Americans are divided in ways not seen since the Civil War, with many skeptical that leaders will do the right thing. And, once again, the murder rate is rising.

But the current period is most unusual for how polarized white people are. Yet white people weren’t doing most of the incremental murdering after Memorial Day.

A simpler explanation for why blacks exuberantly murdered other blacks in such large numbers during the Racial Reckoning is because The Establishment told them that it was wrong for blacks to be hassled by the cops and right for blacks to express their feelings of righteous rage.

[Comment at Unz.com]

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