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comment by wasoxygen

Richard Hanania covered some of the tradeoffs between due process for young men with tattoos and a murder rate of 51 per 100,000.

The Invisible Graveyard of Crime

    In a first world country where crime is manageable, maybe you can tolerate such blatant mockery of the larger society. Are you really going to arrest a guy for a tattoo? What about freedom of expression? If you have evidence that he’s committed a crime, carefully gather the evidence and then go to a judge and get a warrant. Vox complains that there aren’t enough public defenders in El Salvador to advocate on behalf of all the accused criminals. Should a country therefore let gangs roam free until it sets up a few more law schools and finds enough money in the budget to hire the new graduates? How many young people with energy and ambition are going to try to become lawyers in a crime-infested El Salvador rather than simply do whatever it takes to get to the United States? Does being a public defender for MS-13 seem like a more fulfilling and less stressful life? More attorneys also means you need a more professional police force since lawyers will catch more mistakes the cops made, so add that to the list of things you need to do before you’re allowed to have a functional society. The point here is that much of what sounds like reasonable advice in a first world nation is simply unrealistic in a country in the position of El Salvador.


The Midwit Meme and the Denial of Tradeoffs


Mentioned at Marginal Revolution.

b_b  ·  283 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Not sure what was happening in El Salvador over the last many years, but the graph makes it look like whatever has happened since 2019 is a simple continuation of whatever started when murder peaked at >100/100k, as the rate of decline doesn't accelerate after Bukele's presidency began. This doesn't discredit all the points made in the piece, but it definitely begs for a deeper exploration.

wasoxygen  ·  283 days ago  ·  link  ·  

In the followup post, he discussed the objection that the decline in homicides had already begun before Bukele arrived in 2019, and the following years just continued the trend.

He argues that data farther back show that the rate declined from 100+ in the years following the end of the civil war in 1992, then fluctuated between 50-75 (i.e. Baltimore to New Orleans level) between 1995 and 2011, or perhaps as low as 40 (Milwaukee) in the early 2000s. So the peak in 2015 was unusually high and getting back down to 50-75 could be seen as a regression to the mean.

But getting down to 7.8 requires a better explanation than a simple continuing trend. The crackdown is brutal and I find it plausible that it has reduced violence outside the prisons.

b_b  ·  283 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Interesting. I think the risk you run when doing something like this is that you end up like the Cultural Revolution or the Khmer Rouge. To hold power you need a constantly moving target, and the underlings quickly learn that they just need to point out the marks lest someone point them out. I guess maybe El Salvador is an exception insofar as the tattoos seem to mark the gang members pretty easily, but that's a problem that will solve itself in 5 years as the new gang members adapt. Hard to give up power once it's taken, but on the other hand, the situation there was clearly unsustainable.

wasoxygen  ·  54 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Preliminary numbers are in for 2023.

kleinbl00  ·  282 days ago  ·  link  ·  

The broad lessons of history, from Babylon to Singapore, is that the population will accept nearly anything for stability. A crackdown will be forgiven if it brings stability to the survivors; this is what permits fascism to flourish. Once you have stability, though, you have to make things better. The minute you make things worse you're in serious danger of losing control.

Singaporeans view their city as a paradise of order and harmony. Westerners tend to view it as a dystopia. Yet those with an itch for stability are drawn to it - I know a lady who moved there because it made it impossible for her to fall off the wagon. I know a guy who moved there because the leopards would never rip his face off.

uhsguy  ·  283 days ago  ·  link  ·  

It sure sounds like it’s working as intended. The government is clearly establishing that it has a monopoly on violence and it will crush all competition. Any country without a long history of stable government is best going that route. 3rd world democracies just leads to a power vacuum and strong men and 3 letter agencies move in.

kleinbl00  ·  282 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Both The Divide and Confessions of an Economic Hitman exhaustively document the fact that destabilization, power vacuums and strongmen are the preferred, carefully -cultivated environments of the modern world. Wallerstein and Anderson go one further and say "whattaya mean, 'modern'?"

One advantage of modernity is that the faster your communications and commerce networks operate, the less inequality you can afford between the dominant and the dominated. One disadvantage of modernity is that the more stable your inequality, the harder it is to overthrow.

Quatrarius  ·  284 days ago  ·  link  ·