Working on the Right Problem

Although I would love to be able to support a pragmatist and business mogul like Herman Cain in a presidential race, I think it’s fairly clear that he lacks the necessary worldly knowledge and executive experience to be POTUS as of yet. I would encourage him to start smaller and run for Congress.

However! That does not mean I am ignoring what he says in this primary season. One of his biggest campaign slogans is this:

“We need to make sure we’re working on the right problem.”

We are presented with a classic example of the necessity for identifying the correct problem and solving it in the face of these so called “flash mob” attacks. In cities all across this country, a new fad is hitting our teenagers’ Twitter and Facebook accounts – the way it works is simple. A message goes out (usually in coded language) to a group of companions or perhaps publicly to known online gathering places. Kids learn that if they show up at some appointed time, they can join a crowd of looters in a quest to acquire free things ranging from electronics to candy, knives to footwear. They gather in a matter of minutes…descend on a store…ransack it…and scatter just as quickly as they gathered, long before police arrive.

All across the political spectrum, the question arises – why are these mobs occurring and how can we correct the system to encourage more positive behavior in our youths. This is a conditioned response. This question of WHY lawlessness occurs was bread into the political dialogue by social scientists over the last fifty years. Their theory has been that you cannot solve problems without understanding the underlying deeper causes. Intellectuals (and I would include myself in that class, though I try to avoid making an issue of my own abilities) tend to buy into that line of reasoning because in the hard sciences, and in our daily lives, we’ve made progress in our understanding and our standard of living by identifying deeper unifying theories and adapting our problem solving skills to synthesize new information.

Anne Coulter has even bought into this – and she considers herself a pragmatist and a STAUNCH conservative. She’s spent the last few months since the release of her book “Demonic” arguing that mob mentality is essentially always borne of liberal ideology. She documents various mob moments in history and makes the case that all of them were driven by people with a sense of entitlement and resulted in government becoming “bigger” – feeding the liberal cause. She thinks, for example, that the London riots have been spurred by an overly-protective welfare system that rewards laziness and leaves kids bored and empty. Maybe there’s some truth to that.

Countering that claim is another camp that argues that the more austere a government (the less they work to help the citizenry), the more people become lawless and violent. Logically, when you give people handouts…and then stop giving those handouts, people become angry. Sure enough, the data, when viewed in a straightforward manner reveals that governments in the process of cutting spending produce increases in crime rate and vice versa. There may be some truth to this as well – you give a kid candy every day for a year, and then suddenly tell him he’s too fat and needs to lose weight for his own good, he’s going to get upset.

But here’s a different answer – offered by Scott Ott over at – to the question of why the mobs are forming. Who cares?! Why are we busying ourselves trying to give the mob the benefit of the doubt and assuming that their bad behavior is caused by some failure in the system? Why do we hand them excuses like institutional racism, unemployment and economic turmoil when we should be hauling their butts to jail?

You see…social scientists have us so convinced that we need to try to solve the biggest problems first that we can’t even bring ourselves around to the more important question. We need to work on the right problem. The question isn’t why there is mob violence. The question is…how do we stop it? In Philly, the (urban Democratic!) Mayor seems to think the right answer is to pass a curfew and keep kids at home after 10 PM and arrest the ones that don’t comply. He – although a Democrat – is at least a pragmatist. Here is my main social comment on the issue of mob violence in today’s youth. You ready?

This problem begins at home.

Institutional racism can’t possibly explain it. The mobs in London were mostly white and the mobs in Philly – though mostly black (because that is simply the population of Philly’s inner-city districts) – carry out attacks on all races, not just their supposed white masters.

Class warfare doesn’t explain it either. In London, kids from good families were in on the rioting and the riots are in a nation that’s full of liberal welfare and job placement programs designed to protect the poor. Here in the US, there is a higher correlation between parental status (single, married, divorced) and mob violence than there is between economic standing and violence. Most of the rioters in both countries came from broken or neglectful homes – parents divorced or children born out of wedlock to single mothers. This causes a spurious correlation between economic standing and rioting because poorer families have disproportionate rates of illegitimacy and divorce…not to mention that even in stable marriages amongst the poor, both parents tend to work and kids are left unsupervised. The same spurious relationship exists in our minority populations. Blacks now have over 70% of their children out of wedlock (whites have 28% of their children out of wedlock), meaning there are a heck of a lot more black kids running around unwatched in the evenings.

If you want to find the deep, underlying problem, there it is. Parents need to do a better job and kids need both of them fully involved to stay away from trouble like this. There is much we can do in government to help with the illegitimacy and neglect problems we face, but those kinds of things take time. What can we do to protect the franchise owner of the attacked 7-11 from losing his business? How do we stop the mobs TODAY? That’s the problem we have to solve first. Stop the violence…then we’ll talk about what caused it.

We need to work on the right problem. The right problem right now…is the violence…not the many excuses there might be for the perpetrators. As soon as you even ASK why they did it…you’ve already lost. That has to wait until the violence ends. Because the rest of us have a right to our property, our health, and our lives. A start would be to authorize police to use area-effect weapons against mobs immediately – things like tear gas and stun guns should be standard issue when responding to flash mob complaints (I say stun guns because if you have them, you can shoot em all and let the judge sort em out without unnecessary bloodshed). Fast response, efficient mob-smashing gear, and harsh sentences for the offenders…that’s the only thing that will break this fad. The government OWES all of us, as citizens, a robust defense of our personal property and livelihood. Period.

Another help would be an expansion of our freedom to carry guns. I have no need of a firearm, but if you work in a 7-11, you should be able to whip out an uzi on the spot…and I’m not kidding around here. That doesn’t mean I want store managers gunning down looters left and right, but a pack of rabid animal looters isn’t going to be afraid of one store clerk carrying a simple 22 mm hand gun, let alone lesser weapons. They will only fear something that can do a lot of damage quickly.

Let the social scientists make excuses later…the only thing that stops a mob is overwhelming force.