You have a pot on the stove. It’s boiling over. What to do? Easy: Remove the lid and turn down the heat.
You have violence in Cincinnati boiling over. What to do?
Most of the proposed solutions–and there have been many lately–fall under the heading of tightening the lid. Hiring more cops and building more jail space are metaphors for tightening the lid.
A minority of solutions has called for turning down the heat. Persons offering this solution are ridiculed by the lid-tighteners as “pie-in-the-sky root causers.”
The first thing Cincinnatians need to ask themselves is: Are we trying to cook beans here? If not, what is the metaphor for heat, and where is the dial to turn it down?
The metaphor for heat is society’s laws that attempt to stop actions that have no victims. For comparison, murder and theft have victims. Drinking a beer while standing on a public sidewalk has no victim. Victimless crimes are commonly referred to as vice laws.
In a democracy, vice laws are for expressing the distaste of the majority for the habits and customs of the minority. Vice laws create heat in many ways: They are impossible to enforce. They encourage anti-government rebelliousness. Because they are impossible to enforce, they incite ridicule of government, which is taken out on police in a variety of subtle and not so subtle ways. They create a vicious cycle.
One category of vice laws causes a disproportionate amount of heat. It’s commonly referred to as the War on Drugs. This war, coupled with racial disparities, has evolved into genocide against young, male African-Americans. Absent a war on drugs, the profit in drug-dealing would decline so drastically that drugs would come off street corners and go back into legitimate retail establishments. Street corner drug dealers would no longer be enticed into pursuing a life of crime; a life they are teaching their children.
If Cincinnatians could agree on what’s causing the heat, the next question should be: Do we look to either the chief of police or the sheriff for answers? No. Why? The job of our so-called justice system is to cook beans. To them, that’s job security. If they were ever to produce the tranquility we all desire, they would be out of a job, and they know it. If producing tranquility in society were an experiment being conducted by scientists, police would long ago have been determined to be as useless as are leeches in curing bodily diseases.
Is it possible that removing the lid could truly help stop the boiling over of violence? Perhaps the natural tendency of society, if there were no government “lid,” is toward tranquility, over the long term? Come to think of it, isn’t that the second law of thermodynamics? Our dilemma is that we will not know; at least not in our lifetimes. That’s because the professionals most of us trust to bring about tranquility happen to be the same professionals who have a vested interest in continuing to apply the heat… as well as the lid.
David E. Gallaher