More laws, more bureaucracy, more social workers, more crime!

Summer's beginning: Six dead in one day

Five died in two triple shootings 15 hours apart in which gunmen opened fire on people on city streets.

That scary headline makes it look as if Philadelphia is being plagued by random gunfire, which just happens all by itself. And as usual, none of the victims or neighbors are talking. However, when I read the details, the shootings didn't strike me as random "gun violence" which just happened to occur on a street corner at 2:30 a.m.:

Police said the three victims had "been through the system" before - including narcotics arrests. Although two of the men had survived previous shootings, neighbors and relatives insisted that they were not thugs.

"They were not dummies, and they had families that loved and supported them," said Marcia Green, who described herself as Burman's godmother and Lundy's cousin. She was aroused from sleep by the gunfire and rushed out to the street to find her relatives dead. "None of them had been involved in crime," she said.

According to family members, Burman was a graduate of Kensington High School, Lundy had a GED, and White was planning to attend Opportunities Industrial Center in the fall.

Lynette White, the mother of the youngest victim, said her son was shot in his left side three months ago, and he still ha a bullet lodged in his chest.

Lundy's relatives said he had survived a shooting last summer.

Scott P. Charles, trauma outreach coordinator at Temple University Hospital, said it was not unusual to see a gunshot victim who had been shot before. Often, gunshot victims return to the street intent on settling scores.

"We're patching them up, and they're sending us back a couple more, if they don't come back dead themselves," Charles said.

There's just something about survivors of previous shootings with previous narcotics arrests hanging out at 2:30 a.m. that makes me suspect they were not shot for random reasons.

The problem with urban crime is that many criminals live in urban areas. This leads well meaning people to advocate selective gun control -- in urban areas only, such as the oft-sponsored legislation allowing Philadelphia to enact its own gun control laws. What is being forgotten is that for the huge majority of shooters (85% according to Philly's Chief of Detectives), there already is gun control -- the strongest gun control possible. For any convicted felon, merely being found in possession of a gun is a serious crime involving mandatory prison.

To me, this is conclusive evidence that the mere passage of laws does not affect criminals. To others, it's an argument for more laws which not only won't be obeyed by criminals, but which will only enlarge the criminal class, by transforming previously law abiding gun owners into criminals.

Aren't there enough criminals without passing laws creating more? What I've never been able to understand is why people don't understand that the more laws there are, the more crime there is. What's going on? Does it take a Ph.D. in economics to lay it out on a graph? Just as lawyers generate litigation, legislators generate laws (which in turn generate crime). It is what they do because it's what they need to do to survive. Similarly, bureaucrats need regulations and social workers need social problems, or else there'd be no need for them.

I realize that it isn't nice to question people's idealism, but why is it OK to question the idealism of lawyers and politicians, but not bureaucrats and social workers? Shouldn't the standard be the same? And what is idealism? Should a restaurant owner get a gold star for calling himself a "food provider"? Is a cab owner a "transportation services provider" who risks his life daily engaged in "public service"? It strikes me that the moral authority of many of the people who are being paid to do things (and who make a living at it) is directly related to whether they're being paid by the taxpayers. Does this mean that earning government money is worthier than earning private money? Can anyone tell me why? Couldn't it be argued that receiving money which is extracted from the citizenry under threat of legal force is actually less worthy? Why is it that so few people pose these questions?

I've long been worried about a growing division between tax payers and tax eaters (the latter are now poised to become the voting majority). Common sense suggests that in general, the former tend to be more productive than the latter. In economic terms, this would make them more valuable (although private school teachers make considerably less than public school teachers, despite the fact that the former do a better job.)

But can such value be measured in moral terms? While it isn't my job here to make a moral pronouncement, in my half a century on the planet I have detected a significant moral shift. I can remember when living off government money without working was considered less than morally optimal, and being on the government payroll carried with it no special moral authority. Nor should it. Yet I have seen a growing tendency in some circles to see tax eaters (of all varieties) as morally better than the people whose taxes pay them. This makes no sense. It's not as if working for the government is like working for a religious order.


Maybe it is. I mean, if there is to be such a thing as moral authority, then someone has to have it, right?

MORE: Speaking of two Americas, I enjoyed Glenn Reynolds' comment this morning:

I think there are two Americas: Those who manage to enrich themselves by exploiting legal technicalities, and those who do not.
More legal technicalities, more exploitation?

UPDATE: My thanks (from Alaska where I'm on vacation) to Glenn Reynolds for the link!

posted by Eric on 06.22.07 at 09:34 AM


I don't know... This may be true in America, but with globalization, other countries are competing with each other to lower tax rates. Capital and businesses already flow to places with less socialism. How long until the same goes for people too? How long before more highly-skilled Americans emigrate to, say, Hong Kong?

That is why the biggest event of the last 15 years is the stunning defeat of socialism.

More here on how leftism is contrary to economic success and meritocracy, with hard data as proof.

Twok   ·  June 22, 2007 4:04 PM

The same (TaxEasters vs TaxPayers) absolutely applies in Europe only more so. In most of Europe the number of adults who are retured on a state pension, claiming social security or employed by the state is greater then the number of adults who are employed in the private sector or retired on more than the state pension.

In the UK I believe that this only applies if if you strip out London (or some portion of the SE of England), but it definitely applies without modification in almost all continental European nations.

Francis   ·  June 22, 2007 4:09 PM

Looks like we'll have reasons to fear the tyranny of the majority soon.

charles austin   ·  June 22, 2007 4:31 PM

When I was sixteen I was thinking about this and wondered what would happen when the majority of the nation are living off taxes. I thought it would destroy democracy. Ever since then, I've felt that the trends in politics in both parties (the Democrats more so than the Republicans, but still both) has been to buy votes with tax revenues, even when we're in a deficit. That includes pork barrel spending, earmarks (as evidenced by the efforts being made to hide them) and all entitlement programs. When we think somebody else is paying the tab we all tend to eat hardy. There is so much waste and fraud in Medicare and Medicaid, it's no wonder they are going bankrupt.

In every case, there are elements in the legislation that practically invite fraud, including laws that make it easier to register to vote when there are so many falsified IDs available to non-citizens.

I once thought of myself as mostly a libertarian, but now "republican" that form of government which allows representative government to make sensible laws fits me better. Too much emphasis on minority "rights," and the creative arguments which have been adopted by the courts have made liberty an excuse for denying the majority to create the kind of society that they feel comfortable living in. Now the assumpion is that the courts make the laws and the taxpayers should shut up or be held in contempt.

AST   ·  June 22, 2007 4:35 PM

All interesting thoughts, about government "tax eaters" vs. taxpayers. I'm currently a "tax eater" as an employee of the Federal government, and the best way I can categorize the organization I work for is by its lack of urgency, as opposed to the private consulting firm I formerly worked for.

That has been a constant finding for me, in other government employment during my career. But I had an interesting conversation with a Boston (MA) cabbie a few weeks ago. I happened to mention that I'd "gone over to the dark side" by joining the Federal government. That puzzled him. For him, civil servants were heroes, and private enterprisers were villians. Perhaps that attitude accounts for Massachusetts' loss of business and relatively high unemployment rate?

Randolph Resor   ·  June 22, 2007 4:37 PM


You are probably correct that the same situation (growing percentage of "tax eaters" and a shrinking percentage of "tax payers") applies to the European population. However, I'm not at all covinced that the situation in Europe is, or will be worse, than in America. The main reason is that what really matters is not so much the percentages of the population or even the percentage of GNP going to "tax eaters", but rather what form it takes. This is a simplistic example but, lets say 30% of the US GNP goes to "tax eaters" in the form of paying to incarcerate, feed, and provide medical care for our enormous prison population. Now, let's say that 50% of Europe's GNP goes to "tax eaters" in the form of subsidizing university tuition for students and research grants and salaries for professors in the hard sciences and engineering disciplines. It's very plausible that the result of Europe's 50% is a more educated population with a growing GNP and a higher median per capita income that allows them to sustain the 50% tax grab. Now, let's say the result of our 30% is simply that we keep a whole lot of predators behind bars, we are not getting the same "payoff" as Europe in terms of economic growth. Now, I am not suggesting that we let people out of prison to subsidize university education. Each country/region has to deal with certain social realities. Nonetheless, most people would rather make say $100,000 and pay 50% of it in taxes than make $60,000 and pay 30% in taxes. I realize my example is simple and may not even accurately reflect the broad ways the two areas spend their taxes. And that high tax rates can discourage productive labor and actually result in lower absolute tax revenue. Even so, the fact remains that how tax money gets spent can be far more important than what percentage of money goes to taxes. And in my admittedly personal experience, Europe gets a much better result from it's higher taxes. A better physical infrastructure, a better overall public school system, better medical care for most people etc.

Archer   ·  June 22, 2007 5:02 PM

Reminds me of "The Time Machine" by HG Wells, with Tax eaters as Eloi and Tax payers as Morlocks... Government workers better start reading some classic sci-fi because the Eloi didn't fare very well.

MarkD   ·  June 22, 2007 5:09 PM

or, to quote some french guy “The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money”

Neil S   ·  June 22, 2007 5:36 PM

Eric, you write:

"It's not as if working for the government is like working for a religious order."

On the contrary, it IS like working for a religious order-- specifically, the Order of St. Frederick Taylor, as propagated by perhaps his most ardent disciple, Herbert Croly.

The results of the Progessive "experiment" have been so awful that to persist in it after 1970 REQUIRES religious belief.

(Sorry for the failure to use HTML tags-- I don't know that bit of arcana.)

Hale Adams   ·  June 22, 2007 6:21 PM

I am a psychiatric social worker for the State of NH, and have been in similar positions for 30 years. You are exactly on target. Social workers (and psychologists, and public guardians, etc) believe that what they do is morally superior. They are envious that other professions make more money and readily believe any tale of corruption about people in other fields - except perhaps journalists.

There are, certainly, numerous exceptions. But that is the general trend.

Assistant Village Idiot   ·  June 22, 2007 11:09 PM

I've thought for a while that there needs to be another box on the W-2 form. It would show how much of the gross pay came from tax receipts. Including the percentage of a private company's sale revenue is from government contracts.

If that box was greater than your tax paid then you would not be qualified to vote in Federal elections for the House of Representatives where all the spending and tax bills must start.

Would make for a much different House I bet

Geoffb   ·  June 23, 2007 2:03 AM

This is a flaw in universal suffrage. That the governing classes can vote to perpetuate their livings is corruption.

The founders knew this, and they considered voting a privilege--hardly a right on the level of life, liberty, or property.

Brett   ·  June 23, 2007 12:14 PM

No representation without taxation.

Shadow Merchant   ·  June 24, 2007 1:28 AM

Yet I have seen a growing tendency in some circles to see tax eaters (of all varieties) as morally better than the people whose taxes pay them.

It is no coincidence that as religion is returning to its pre-Enlightenment, untamed form in the world, that social attitudes should begin to manifest decidedly medieval patterns again. The merchants and the serfs were always looked down upon by the nobles and clergy -- but who was paying the bills?

This is a flaw in universal suffrage.

No, it is a flaw in democracy. Restricting suffrage would only reduce the number of tyrants, not their power.

Neil S. is dead-on to cite the Reason essay pointing the finger, at Herbert Croly and Progressivism, the man and movement that heralded the beginning of the Left's intellectual co-opting of American liberalism -- starting with the substitution of democracy for freedom.

Seerak   ·  June 24, 2007 1:45 AM

There is a popular fiction that Robin Hood robbed from the rich and gave to the poor. What he did was far more important. He robbed from the tax collectors and gave to the productive.

triticale   ·  June 25, 2007 1:17 PM

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