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30 December 2008

This story appears to describe a real problem.  I don’t have the piles of empirical data on which the story is based, so I’m just reacting to the story as it stands.


On the one hand, it’s easy to imagine that the social forces that contribute to poverty get reinforced when poverty is concentrated in “the projects.”  To that extent, it makes sense to try to diffuse poverty to disrupt those destructive forces, whatever they are.


On the other hand, if empirical data genuinely support the notion that federal programs to diffuse poverty end up increasing violent crime, drug traffic, nuisance conditions, and other social insults, then local governments need the latitude to preserve social order, including eviction when necessary as a last resort.


The racial and cultural dimensions cannot be easily avoided, either.  When I’m stopped at a traffic light crossing I-40 on Bell St. and my car starts jumping around to the thundering beat of whatever music is arriving behind me in that pickup full of young adults, it doesn’t require all of my wit to guess – with 100% accuracy, given about 10 seconds to assess the “music” – the punks’ demographics.  If I had to put up with that 24-7, and I lodged a complaint against every offender, I would look like a racist.  Simply put:  some cultural phenomena are self-profiling.  But it doesn’t make me a racist, the shrillness of the “community advocates” notwithstanding.


It seems to me that until newcomers can accommodate themselves to the social norms of the neighborhoods into which they’re moving – such as keeping the volume of the music below the threshold of pain, or taking their drug transactions elsewhere – local authorities ought to be able to enforce those norms to a reasonable and proportionate extent.  

  • There is no fundamental, constitutional right to suppress others’ property values or to increase the threat of violence; and
  • Playing the race card is just another form of social intimidation.


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