UPDATE: Here is part two on unintended consequences.
Loads of stuff going on in the world since George Floyd was killed. Some of it is positive, some is neutral. But a lot of it is also very, very bad. I’ve written about that in the past here on my blog, but the last few years mostly for my Patrons here. This week I wrote 3500+ words on the current state of affairs. The main reason I pulled back from doing so publicly is that too often it was like talking to a wall. The people who understood already knew. Those who didn’t all too often didn’t want to see. There were exceptions, of course, but dealing with folks who only want to shout at you for having a different opinion is a waste of my time.
Fast forward to today.
The US is burning and so are many countries across the world. It doesn’t look like it’s going to stop soon. It seemed to fizzle out a bit, but I expect this to continue for a while. At best, it slows down enough for life to resume more or less. At worst it escalates. Either way, when the US elections happen in November, my money is on more violence.
I’m not going to argue over the validity of the protests. If you live in a country where you have a right to do so, then by all means go ahead. Personally, I don’t believe protests are effective and have many negative side effects too. I live 10min. from a city where every three out of four days, there are protests, year-round and this for years on end. From what I’ve seen, it never changed anything on a fundamental level except once. And even with this one is debatable if things turned out for the better. But if you feel different, that is your right.
The destruction, rioting, and looting? No. Just flat out no. Any justification you can come up with can be refuted by this question:
Is it OK if other people do it to you for reasons you don’t care about but they do?
If you answer “yes”, then I applaud you for being consistent. I also wish you luck when the mob comes for you. Remember to not stand in their way or defend what is yours. Because if the riots today are justified, then those are too. If you condone it in principle, the principle applies also when you have skin in the game.
If you answer “no” then you are a hypocrite. Shame on you. All you want is power and you don’t care who gets hurt. Shame. On. You.
Regardless of what you think or feel, the situation is what it is. And the actions of protestors, rioters, and looters along with those of the media, politicians, and celebrities have consequences. Some are good, others neutral and some downright frightening. I won’t go into all of them, but I will talk about unintended consequences.
Wikipedia mentions three categories:
- Unexpected benefit: A positive unexpected benefit (also referred to as luck, serendipity or a windfall).
- Unexpected drawback: An unexpected detriment occurring in addition to the desired effect of the policy.
- Perverse result: A perverse effect contrary to what was originally intended (when an intended solution makes a problem worse).
This is a workable definition for the concept. Let’s go over these three categories with some examples as they relate to the current situation.
At the very least, you can say that the issues of police brutality and racism are front and center. Everybody is talking about it. The news is full of it, politicians talk about it non-stop, it’s all over the place and this for weeks on end. I think that’s a good thing. Police officers abusing their badge or being overly violent is wrong, period. If they are guilty of that, then they should be punished to the full extent of the law. In modern society, we place the monopoly of violence in their hands. The corollary to that is that they can’t abuse it and that they need to use it for our benefit, according to the law.
There are bad cops, just like there are bad doctors, firemen, nurses, lawyers, secretaries, painters, clerks, etc. until the end of time. All of my LEO friends agree with me on that. I believe it is in everybody’s interest that all LEOs police their own and weed out the bad apples. If not, then we can talk about being complicit in their crimes or at the very least, looking away. We saw with George Floyd’s death what that looks like for civilians. We’re also living with the consequences of it now…
So to all LEOs out there, don’t protect those who don’t deserve it. You know who the bad apples are if you’ve worked with them. Don’t look away because now more than ever, and for most of you undeservedly so, you are under the microscope. If there is anything good that can come out of this on your end, then this might be a part of it.
There are a bunch of these, I won’t cover them all but here goes:
- People leave the cities. Apparently, 25% of Minneapolis homes and 43% of apartments hit the market after the riots there. I’m going to oversimplify things for brevity’s sake, but here is the snowball effect this creates: people leave – they take their income with them – the taxable base diminishes – the city has less tax revenue – taxes have to go up to keep the city running. Here’s another train of thought to follow: all businesses these people frequented lose revenue – if they aren’t fully insured, some of these will have trouble surviving as they try to rebuild their looted and vandalized establishments – losing revenue can mean they go bankrupt.
- It’s not just Minneapolis. In San Francisco, people are also leaving and the same is happening in other cities. There are additional factors in play, but the riots seem to have accelerated this dynamic. See the previous for some of the consequences this creates for those who remain.
- Companies leave. This is one example, but there are more. In short, businesses got burned to the ground or vandalized and looted. Many business owners feel the city let them down. Given the choice, they prefer relocating elsewhere. Which means a loss of jobs. During what might become the worst economic depression in a century…
- Existing companies were already in trouble. Like I wrote above, there is a potential economic catastrophe brewing due to Covid19. E.g.: Starbucks is permanently closing 400 locations. A quick Google Maps search showed me about 20 locations in Minneapolis. When the company decides which locations to close, do you think they’ll take into account the situation I described in the previous bullets? It seems likely they would…
- The police and policing are changing. I mentioned the potentially positive consequences before; here are some negative ones. Officers are resigning across the country, for a variety of reasons but many have to do with the protests and riots. Many people want to defund the police and allocate those resources elsewhere. Minneapolis will actually abolish its police force. This will radically change how PDs work right now and in the near future. At a minimum, this will create chaos and uncertainty in the short term. Chaos in law enforcement tends to favor only one group: those who want to break the law. Case in point: in Los Angeles, the first week of the protests and riots saw murders increase 250%. Other cities also saw increases in crime.
I could go on but I’ll stop here. Let’s look at the perverse effects now.
Now we get to the really bad stuff.
- Can cities survive? With over 400 businesses damaged or destroyed, the cost to Minneapolis is estimated at 500 million dollars. Even if the business is fully insured, it can take over a year to rebuild it. In the meantime: zero income and no jobs for the locals. Multiply this by 400 and then understand how the economy of the city is in ruins. This is a critical factor in making cities not recover for fifty years and eventually go bankrupt…
- Who gets hurt? The perverse consequence of all the above is that minorities are likely to be hurt the most. The mom and pop stores of their local communities are either gone or will suffer in the near future and likely not survive. The often low-income jobs in all the restaurants, shops, stores, and other businesses: gone.
- Minority-owned businesses are destroyed too. In the name of justice for black people, black businesses are destroyed. I fail to see how that helps black people… Here’s an example from (as far as I could find out) the Rodney King riots:
— A.A (@mueteharri) June 1, 2020
- Generational setback. Look at the above video again and listen to what he says: he worked his way out of the ghetto and managed to start his business. I’ve no doubt he worked hard for it. Then the rioters and looters take it away. Here’s something you should know: poverty and marginalization are often generational. Breaking out of those is difficult, to put it mildly. One of the best ways to do improve your financial situation in your lifetime is to start a business, make it successful and then sell it. A second-best way is to pass it on to your children who then have their own lifetime to make it grow and prosper, lifting up the rest of the family along the way. Do this right, and you have a chance to create generational wealth that is passed on into the future. So what the rioters did to this man was not only destroy what took him a tremendous amount of time and effort to build, they also destroyed his chance to pass it on to his children. His entire family is set back multiple generations. I again fail to see how this all helps black people.
- Potential for violence. All the above, combined with an ongoing pandemic, means society at large will see a vastly increased potential for violence. The kind which affects everybody, likely black people and other minorities the most.
This isn’t meant to be a final analysis of anything. This is just me giving my opinion on what I see happening and what I don’t see the media talking about. It’s only a part of my opinion: I’m angry like I have rarely been before. Because history teaches us what comes next. The things I have feared for years would happen are increasingly a reality. I predict it will all get a lot worse before it can get better. Nothing I can do about it now, alea jacta est a long time ago. I’ll just keep on doing what I have done for the past few decades: write, teach and hope some people find it useful.
Darrell Mordecai says
Thanks for your analysis. All good points. I have similar sentiments. Also, that video is really heartbreaking.
I have had a feeling that chaos has been brewing for some time in the US. What the media is not reporting is these groups have been calling for violence for a long time. It seems they are looking to tear down the fabric of society. What scares me is what they intend to replace it with.
George Floyd’s death is a tragedy, but ripping up the fabric of society and people’s livelihoods is not the answer.