Libertarian Steve Chapman: Mississippi Has More Crime Than Vermont Because Of Excessive Bible Reading!
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If Mitt Romney does succeed in disposing of Rick Santorum in Saturday’s South Carolina primary, I won’t be particularly upset (although I gather Santorum has belatedly said some sensible things about cutting legal immigration). While Santorum was our US senator from Pennsylvania, he was a total lackey of the Bush administration and before that, the shameless flatterer of his leftist Republican colleague Arlen Specter.

But I did draw the line when the Chicago Tribune’s house-trained libertarian columnist Steve Chapman (email him) went after “Rick Santorum’s Moral Delusions” (January 9, 2012).

Apparently, like other theistic Neanderthals, Santorum believes that “gay marriage will destroy the family” and that in some sense our “culture is sick.”

But, Chapman assures us, the “familiar line of argument among religious conservatives” doesn’t work. There’s already “a mass of evidence that amounts to a thunderous refutation.” According to Chapman, states that smile on gay marriage, rigorously adhere to secularism, and have adopted state-of-the-art social attitudes are the happiest and safest places to live in. These states, which are mostly in New England, have the lowest teenage pregnancy rate and relatively few divorces and are the least prone to violent crime.

Despite the widespread availability of abortion there, he says, Massachusetts has “less teen pregnancy than the country as a whole. Connecticut, Iowa, New Hampshire, and Vermont, which have also sanctioned same-sex unions, are also far better than average.”

As a clincher, Chapman brings up the Bible-reading Yahoos in Mississippi: in this atavistic society

Mississippi has the highest rate of church attendance in America, according to a Gallup survey, with 63 percent of people saying they go to church "weekly or almost weekly." But Mississippians are far more likely to be murdered than other Americans.

On the other hand, we have Vermont, where people are the most likely to skip church. Its murder rate is only about one-fourth as high as the rest of the country. New Hampshire, the second-least religious state, has the lowest murder rate.

Of course, a relatively low teenage pregnancy rate does not prove by itself that a society is morally intact. If promiscuous teenagers are avoiding pregnancy by availing themselves of widely distributed contraceptives, it is hard to see why cultural traditionalist should regard this as a social victory.

Also, given the moral legitimation of homosexual marriage as a “lifestyle choice,” together with the plunge in the reproductive rate of white Euro-Americans, and especially their educated class, over the last generation, why is it wrong to speak of demographic suicide as a form of moral decadence?

I know that focuses on the National Question and does not take a position on social issues like gay marriage. But, from this perspective too, it is important to note Chapman’s “mass of evidence” does not prove what he claims it does.

The most glaring “weakness” (a term he uses to describe the other side’s case) in Chapman’s brief: he studiously avoids mentioning what Jared Taylor calls the “color of crime.”

Doesn’t Chapman know (if he doesn’t, he must be a Martian) that Deep South states have about ten times as many blacks as New England states, even including their transplanted New York Jewish radicals? In the case of Mississippi and yuppie Vermont, it’s even stronger—in 2010, Mississippi had the largest percentage of blacks in the country, almost 40 percent. Vermont, by contrast, is less than 1 percent black.

The Southern state that Chapman ridicules, Mississippi, has a crime rate closer to that of Newark, New Jersey than to that of Bennington, Vermont for a very good reason.  It abounds in the same ethnic group as the one that populates New Jersey cities, and that minority happens to have a rate of violent crime that is consistently about eight times as high as that of whites.

In contrast, rural impoverished West Virginia, which is full of Chapman’s hated red-neck Bible-thumpers, has one of the lowest murder rates in the country. It also has relatively few blacks or Hispanics.

That Mississippi has such a higher than average murder and robbery rate has nothing to do with the greater religiosity of Mississippians relative to the inhabitants of Vermont and New Hampshire. The higher rate is determined by different racial compositions, going back to the antebellum period, when the Deep South, unlike New England or Iowa, was a breeding ground for slaves and a center of the plantation economy. 

Because of the racial difference, I would expect to find a higher abortion rates among young women in the Deep South, Newark or Cleveland, Ohio than I would in Stowe, Vermont or North Adams, Massachusetts. Black adolescents do not avail themselves of contraceptives as often as their white counterparts.

Racial differences would also explain an IQ differential that favors the Northern states relative to those in the Deep South. The lower proportion of blacks in the population would render IQ averages higher in some places than in others. There may be other factors that contribute to this difference, but race is certainly an important one. And, generally speaking, as Richard Lynn and Michael Levin have documented, groups with higher levels of intelligence, de paribus ceteris, are less apt to commit violent crimes

It is not my practice to dwell on unkind ethnic comparisons. In fact, I would be delighted to see all races live happily together. But sometimes there are facts that beg to be noticed, and which only the smug and dishonest ignore.

I wouldn’t care if Chapman looked at US Bureau of Statistics figures about racial disparities in crime and then tried to prove they had no bearing on his arguments. Perhaps he could show that the average, Bible-thumping white Alabaman or Mississippian was far more violent than the metrosexual in-betweens residing in Vermont. That might not even be hard.

What stinks to high heavens is Chapman’s deliberate omission of an obvious rejoinder to his presumed mass of evidence.

Of course no one in his world of social liberals and left-libertarians would ever call him to account for his mendacious omissions.

That, after all, is one of the noble lies demanded by our liberal democratic society.

Paul Gottfried [ email him ]  recently retired as Professor of Humanities at Elizabethtown College, PA. He is the author of After LiberalismMulticulturalism and the Politics of Guilt and The Strange Death of Marxism His most recent book is Leo Strauss and the Conservative Movement in America

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