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April 17, 2005

The second american civil war

Why are Americans so conservative, so religious, and so resistant to modern western ‘Liberalism’? These subjects, with some variation, are a staple of European discussion regarding the United States. While explanations tend to focus on the metaphysical (“That redneck God of theirs!”), I believe another very significant factor is to be found in empirics – to be specific, in a single graph.

murder rate.JPG

This is the US annual murder rate per 100 000 inhabitants. The US murder rate hovered around 4,5 per 100 000 during the fifties. Then, in a few short years in the mid-to-late sixties, the rate doubled. What happened? In short: Liberalism happened, and Americans haven’t forgotten yet.

The murder rate has been debated quite a bit recently, because of the Levitt-Sailer dispute regarding the impact of abortion. Sailer also recently used the murder rate explosion, and all those factors that it is a proxy for, as an explanation for the resilience of the US white working class – People were simply scared off from getting too carried away by all their newly-won social freedoms by witnessing the drastic deterioration of social conditions in Black America.

Still, in the general debate on why the US political scene looks the way it does, the “murder rate factor” has never gotten enough attention. When it did, the material presented was often of dubious informational value. (Read: “Bowling for Columbine”)

Still, in order to be able to quantify the political impact of the social upheaval that led to the murder rate explosion, some raw numbers can be helpful. The graph below shows the absolute number of murders per year, and the number of murders as it would have been, had the average 1950-63 murder rate remained constant.


In this way, we can determine that all in all, the US had roughly 300 000 more murders between 1964 and 2002 than had been the case if the sixties ‘explosion’ had not happened. The ‘excess murder rate’ causalities during the Vietnam War years of 1965-75 alone number roughly 74 000 people – well above the number of US soldiers killed in Vietnam.

Vast amounts of ink have been spent detailing the impact of Vietnam on the American psyche. Some of that ink would probably have been better used in determining just how the great killing spree that lasted from the mid-sixties to the mid-nineties changed how Americans view the world.

As pointed out in the comments, having some data on how large the murder-prone part of the population is can be handy when discussing these kinds of issues. Added this graph, showing the indexed murder rate and the (indexed) share of the population that is between 14 and 34 years old:



Steve Sailer fleshes it out in comments:

"The FBI's "homicide offending" statistics broken down by age, race, and gender only go back to 1976. Before that, they just are by total population.

What I don't know for sure is whether the black crime rate went up sharply in the 1960s or whether simply the number of blacks in big cities went up due to the Great Migration out of the South following the mechanization of cotton farming in the mid-1940s.

I suspect that what happened was that the black crime rate in Northern cities was fairly low from 1945 into the early 1960s because blacks newly arrived from the South were still feeling intimidated. Then, the Civil Rights movement and the Warren Court taught Northern urban blacks not to fear The Man, and indeed to actively resent whites.

Meanwhile, in the 1960s, Northern liberal states began raising welfare payments and stopped hassling unmarried mothers. This led quickly to a breakdown of marriage among young urban blacks, which freed young men from the supervision of wives, allowing them to live a disorderly life while still allowing them the comforts of a woman's bed.

Meanwhile, restrictions on where blacks could live in Northern cities were breaking down -- for example, blacks were restricted to a sharply defined ghetto on the South Side of Chicago throughout the 1960s -- both due to legal changes and to sheer numbers arriving from the South and the high birthrate. So, blacks began pouring into formerly all white working class neighborhoods.

After integration in their neighborhood began around 1967, my late inlaws, being nice liberals (he was a classical musician and union leader, she a special-ed teacher), joined a pro-integration activist organization in their West Side of Chicago neighborhood to keep the neighborhood from going from part black to all black. All the members pledged not to sell.

But within 18 months, the first wave of middle class black home buyers in their neighborhood had been driven out by underclass blacks pouring in and driving the crime rate through the roof.

After their kids were mugged three times and the vast Martin Luther King riot occurred in their neighborhood in 1968, my inlaws finally sold out at a very low price, being just about the last whites to leave the neighborhood, losing much of their life savings because they had tried to make integration work.

They moved to what are now the distant exurbs and voted Republican after that.

So, I think four things happened in the 1960s: the number of blacks in the North went up, the black crime rate went up, contact between black and white went up, and black animus toward whites became active. Put them all together and the number of whites violently victimized by blacks shot through the roof in the 1960s, leaving a permanent impact on American politics.

The fifth thing that happened in the 1960s was that liberals permanently became associated in the popular mind with murder:
Lyndon Johnson won 61% of the vote in 1964 running as a staunch liberal, but his Veep, Hubert Humphrey, won less than 43% in 1968. In 1972, McGovern won about 38%. Watergate helped Carter squeak in with 50% in 1976, but he was the last Democrat to get that high a number."


US Dept. of Justice (Murder rate)

US Census (population statistics)

Posted by dobeln at 05:59 AM