On the ‘Root Cause’ of Riots

tags: riots, Ferguson

Abraham H. Miller is an emeritus professor of political science at the University of Cincinnati and has served on the faculty of the University of California, Davis, and the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He is currently a contributor to the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity.

Political scientist Edward Banfield walked into a tsunami of criticism in 1970 when he made the politically incorrect observation that the black urban riots of the 1960s were an exercise by spirited young people for fun and profit.

Since then, hundreds of millions of dollars have been poured into riot studies without producing any helpful insight into why people riot. Banfield’s observation, though more than four decades old, might be just as helpful as any of the ponderous social-science probes that massage data to sanctify settled assumptions.

Social-science research at best produces modest statistical regularities. At worst, it produces enough of a relationship for liberal ideologues to find a rationale for dumping more money into dysfunctional government programs. In this way, liberal whites can assuage their guilt and African-American interest groups can find a path to the federal trough.

Riot studies show the seamy side of social science. They begin with the premise that the causes of riots are to be found not in the rioters but in the larger society. The often-cited Kerner Commission Report on the riots of the 1960s began with the working title “The Harvest of American Racism.” ...

Read entire article at The National Review

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