Hate Crimes

“The shooting deaths of eight people at Asian-run spas in Georgia this week triggered a vigorous national debate Thursday over whether the mass killing amounted to a hate crime.” “Georgia hate crime law-Atlanta shooting”  These deaths (and recent attacks on Asians more generally) raise several issues that I would like to explore. 1. What is the point of hate crime laws?  The poor ladies killed in this attack could care less what motivated Robert Aaron Long, the 21 year old shooter. 2. Whose fault is it? Let’s start with the shooter (and other attackers), please. 3. What should we do about it (beyond locking the shooter, and other attackers, up)?

What is the point of hate crime laws?

“Georgia State Rep. Chuck Efstration, a Republican who helped shepherd [Georgia’s Hate Crime] bill into law, said it was intended to allow for especially stiff penalties for crimes in which “the perpetrator’s prejudices and biases are attacks not only on the victims but on all of society.  Thank goodness law enforcement will have the ability to charge this as a hate crime if the facts support that,”   [op cit]

Georgia State University law professor Jessica Gabel Cino noted that: “The majority of the victims are women, and they are Asian. Those are two protected statuses.” And what if they hadn’t been?

Traditional laws do differentiate between first, second, and third degree murders, but if you plan to and succeed in killing someone, it didn’t traditionally matter whether you loved or hated the victim. I can understand why such information might be useful in exploring approaches to mitigating the risk of such future murders, but I don’t see its relevant to the guilt and punishment of the murderer. I do not support capital punishment, but Mr. Long should surely be put away for the rest of his pathetic life whatever motivated his killing spree.

According to Mr. Long, “he was on a mission… to stem his addiction to sex. The spas were ‘a temptation for him that he wanted to eliminate.’”  “What happened-Atlanta shooting”

In determining the length of a sentence, courts do pay some attention to the motive for a crime as well as the crime itself but a special category of “hate crimes” has always seemed troubling and unnecessary to me.

Whose fault is it?

In a free society of responsible citizens, we must never forget that in the first instance the fault for a crime rests with the criminal. But it is fair to ask what motivated the criminal. While Mr. Long’s horrible crimes do not appear to be motived by the hatred of Asian’s, there has definitely been an increase in verbal and physical attacks on Asians over the past year. Much of the press has been quite eager to point to the hate filled and divisive statements against China by former President Trump. While he is certainly guilty of poisoning public discourse on China, immigration, Muslims and related topics, it is an odd place to look first.

Animosity toward Asians, and Chinese in particular, arises in the first instance from the behavior of China (shorthand for the government of China — synonymous with the Communist Party of China). In fact, unfavorable attitudes toward China have skyrocketed around the globe over the last three to four years. “For our enemies we have shotguns explaining Chinas new assertiveness” Public attitudes toward China are lower in Australia and the U.K., for example, than in the U.S. and fell sharply well before the Covid-19 pandemic.  “China global reputation coronavirus”  Attitudes toward China began to deteriorate in the face of Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea, violations of the one country, two systems agreement for Hong Kong, theft of intellectual property from the West, and treatment of the Uighurs in the Xinjiang region, to name a few. China’s suppression of information on the virus producing covid-19 pales in comparison to its bad behavior in other areas.

What should we do about it?

The world that objects to China’s behavior needs to stand together in pointing it out. Former President Trump’s stand-alone, bilateral approach was a failure. But it is very important when the U.S. and other governments criticize China to clearly differentiate the government of China from the Chinese people, whether citizens of China or the U.S. or elsewhere. It is the Chinese government–the Communist Party of China–that is misbehaving.

The distinction between a government and its people is important more generally. For example, those who criticize the misbehavior of the Israeli government toward the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, are sometimes mistakenly accused of anti-Semitism–i.e., of being against the Jewish people. It is likely that many are reluctant to criticize the Israeli government for fear of being accused of anti-Semitism. As the Biden administration joins with other countries to criticize the misbehavior of the Chinese government, it must, and it is, clearly distinguishing the Chinese government from the Chinese people. And we, each one of us, must speak out at the sight of rude or inappropriate behavior toward Asians, or anyone else. ALL LIVES MATTER.

Are Venture Capitalists racists?

Shifting sovereignty from Kings to the people, was the beginning of human flourishing. In the United States, in its constitution the people returned only those powers to their government necessary to protect their wellbeing. The right to and protection of ones honestly acquired property is an essential aspect of this arrangement. This includes, of course, the right to invest our property anyway we choose.

Venture capitalists are those wealthy people who choose to take great risks in the prospect of large gains by investing in “startups” that have not yet established their profitability.  Put differently venture capitalists are prepared to finance an unproven idea/product/service that might gain public approval, i.e. might become profitable, though most of them fail.  As consumers we have benefited enormously from goods and services my parents never would have even imagined that a few wealthy investors took a chance on.

So the idea that the government might need to enact laws to insure that a venture capitalist’s investments do not reflect racial bias is shocking at several levels. “In the clubby world of venture capitalists, who spent $130 billion in the United States last year and helped anoint the world’s four most valuable companies and countless other successful start-ups, there is effectively no legal backstop that ensures people of color have an equal opportunity to share in its wealth creation.”   “Black-entrepreneurs-venture-capital”

First of all is the right of these investors to their property. They can give it all to their daughters if they want to.  Marxists and other egalitarians reject such a right but that would throw away the whole basis of the wealth our capitalist system has created that Marxists would like to redistribute.  But I want to focus on why capitalism minimizes the role of bias in our economic decisions.  This was explored long ago by Nobel Lauriat Gary Becker in his famous 1976 book on the Economics of Discrimination.

Becker’s basic point is that if your economic decision is influenced by racial or sexual or any other non-economic bias it will cost you money, i.e. you will make less than you otherwise would have.  If you hire a man when a woman was better qualified, he will contribute less to your company’s income than would have the woman, thus you pay a financial price for your bias. The same is true if you hire a white person when a black one was better qualified, etc.

The purpose of venture capitalist investments is to make a bundle by funding the next great idea. Most will fail but one or two turn into Facebook, or Amazon.  It may well be that a venture capitalist systematically under rates the potential of black entrepreneurs, i.e. that he suffers racial bias.  But in that case he will be less successful in his investments.  Capitalism will punish him for his prejudices and diminish his importance as a venture capitalist because it will diminish his wealth. None the less, an Irish venture capitalist may well bias her investments toward fellow Irishmen and a black venture capitalist may risk an extra break for a fellow black. But the profit motive of capitalism will discourage departures from objective evaluations of investment prospects.

The idea that a law should forbid or discourage racial or sexual bias when venture capitalists decide in what to invest is without merit.  Moreover, it is hard to imagine what such a law would look like and/or on what basis a government bureaucrat would overrule and direct the placement of a private investor’s chose of investments.

To peak briefly at the other–entrepreneurial–side of the equation, the unbiased opportunity provided by capitalism has attracted many foreigner entrepreneurs to our shores.  Steve Jobs (Apple, NeXT, Pixar), who was adopted at birth, was the son of Joanne Schieble who was Swiss-American and Abdulfattah “John” Jandali who was Syrian.  Steve Wozniak, Apple cofounder, was the son of Polish and Swiss-German parents.  Sergey Brin cofounder of Google/Alphabet escaped from the Soviet Union.  The famous architect, I.M. Pei, immigrated from China.  “How-12-immigrant-entrepreneurs-have-made-america-great”

Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman Tragedy Update

Over a year ago I expressed confidence that our judicial process and public good will would clarify the facts of the tragic shooting death of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman:  https://wcoats.wordpress.com/2012/04/01/the-trayvan-martin-tragedy/. Indeed, after carefully listening to and weighing the evidence presented to it the six women jury rendered its unanimous verdict a week ago that Zimmerman had lawfully, but no less tragically, shot and killed Martin in self-defense and was therefore not guilty of the charges against him. At the time a year ago, the failure of local Florida law enforcement officials to arrest Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, seemed to me and many others a potentially racially tinged judgment. I supported the call for his arrest. Once all of the obtainable facts had been presented and evaluated by the Jury that earlier decision turned out to be a sound professional judgment by the police. But I still think it was desirable to go through the process of this trial.

I did not follow the trial closely but have no reason to question the judgment of the jury. The utterly disgraceful misreporting and doctoring of the conversation between Zimmerman and the 911 dispatcher aired by NBC made it seem that Zimmerman might be racist in his reaction to Martin (a claim no one made during the trial because there is apparently no basis for it) tarnishing the professionalism of at least NBC. https://wcoats.wordpress.com/2012/04/03/the-trayvon-martin-tragedy-continues/.  Sadly the press has continued to reproduce the young, handsome picture of Martin and the thuggish picture of Zimmerman long after more neutral pictures became available.

The slanted reporting of the press is nothing, however, compared to the highly inappropriate statements from our increasingly discredited Attorney General, who suggested that the federal government was investigation the possibility of trying Zimmerman for civil rights violations for which no evidence was introduced in the just finished trail. But my heart stopped when President Obama chimed in that “Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago.” How could the President of the United States join the cheap political babbling of Attorney General Holder? And thus I started this blog.

This is an example of how fragments out of context can be totally misleading. The President’s full statement yesterday, when he joined the White House press briefing unannounced, was quite the opposite of my impression from the news headline. President Obama has disappointed me on many things (promoting bigger government generally, higher taxes, expanding snooping on Americans, drone assassinations of Americans without trial, and poor leadership in general), but I have always found him an honest and thoughtful commenter on race issues. His statements yesterday were no exception. Zimmerman’s trial produced no evidence of racism in anything that happened that tragic night in Florida, but the President rightly noted that each of us carries impressions (“priors”), often from personal experience, that frame our views of the world and events and that it is better that we acknowledge them and open ourselves to an examination of the role they play in our everyday judgments. This was exactly the point I was trying to make a year ago, though Obama said it better. The President is right on this issue and an excessive political correctness has stifled this discussion for too long.

The Trayvon Martin Tragedy continues

The Trayvon Martin – George Zimmerman story has a way to run.  Every day seems to bring something new. Last week’s doctoring of audio tapes between Zimmerman and the 911 dispatcher aired by NBC (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/erik-wemple/post/nbc-to-do-internal-investigation-on-zimmerman-segment/2012/03/31/gIQAc4HhnS_blog.html?hpid=z6 ) are now under internal investigation by NBC (a once reputable news source).

Yesterday David Franke passed along the following article by friend Walter Williams and his own observations that:

“Walter Williams is SO good!

“Right now we are witnessing the biggest lynch mob in the U.S. since the heyday of the Ku Klux Klan.  I refer to the mob out to lynch that “white” hispanic, Zimmerman.  This is a lynch mob made up of “black leaders” and MSNBC white-as-white-bread liberals.

“I have no idea whether Zimmerman is guilty or not, but I am willing to wait and let the police and courts and lawyers on both sides—and a jury, no doubt–go through the process of determining that.  And then, based on the evidence, I might venture whether I agree or disagree with the jury and the authorities.

“Not this lynch mob, however.  They KNOW who is guilty, and don’t confuse them with any facts or due process. “

http://www.lewrockwell.com/williams-w/w-williams117.html