Natural Experiment on Policing Underway

We’re about to find out what would happen if policing decreased by 66%-94%:

It’s not a slowdown — it’s a virtual work stoppage.

NYPD traffic tickets and summonses for minor offenses have dropped off by a staggering 94 percent following the execution of two cops — as officers feel betrayed by the mayor and fear for their safety, The Post has learned. […]

…overall arrests down 66 percent for the week starting Dec. 22 compared with the same period in 2013, stats show.

Citations for traffic violations fell by 94 percent, from 10,069 to 587, during that time frame.

Summonses for low-level offenses like public drinking and urination also plunged 94 percent — from 4,831 to 300.

Even parking violations are way down, dropping by 92 percent, from 14,699 to 1,241.


NYPD by Flickr user Brett Sayer

Ask yourself this: is this likely to be better or worse for the city of New York?

A recent study found that older hospitalized heart patients did better when their specialists were away at national conferences. Treatment effects are difficult to test because we tell ourselves that experimenting by withholding treatment is wrong. But every so often the world throws us a natural experiment, where treatment is withheld unavoidably and independently of predicted outcomes.

Many of my collaborators use the word abolition when it comes to police and prisons, and while I balk at that language I can see their point and share many of their goals. Now it looks like we’re going to get some data to help organize our thinking about that debate, because the police have effectively abolished themselves in New York City!

Clear and Present Dangers

“It is said that this manifesto was more than a theory, that it was an incitement. Every idea is an incitement. It offers itself for belief and if believed it is acted on unless some other belief outweighs it or some failure of energy stifles the movement at its birth. The only difference between the expression of an opinion and an incitement in the narrower sense is the speaker’s enthusiasm for the result. Eloquence may set fire to reason. But whatever may be thought of the redundant discourse before us it had no chance of starting a present conflagration. If in the long run the beliefs expressed in proletarian dictatorship are destined to be accepted by the dominant forces of the community, the only meaning of free speech is that they should be given their chance and have their way.”

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. writing for the dissent in Gitlow v. New York.

if only…

“If only” is the frustrated utopian refrain of Oliver Ressler and David Thorne’s absurdly dysfunctional URL addresses collectively titled “Boom!”. Utilizing this ubiquitous textual format of the “new economy,” “Boom!” rehearses the defense mechanisms of the neoliberal imagination as it confronts its own internal crises. The acknowledged incompleteness implied by “if only” situates these texts somewhere between a guilty confession, a plea of desperation, and an ideological strategy session. The texts set for themselves the task of neutralizing the “problems” – the dislocated and potentially antagonistic groups engendered by the free market – that threaten the realization of the utopian ideal, implicitly embodied by the owners of capital. But Boom!’s utopian address deliberately fails to elicit from the viewer a positive identification with its purported message, having gone too far in specifying the contents of the universal “freedom” to which it aspires. This failure of identification thus displaces the locus of the “problem” from those constructed as the threatening “outside” of the capitalist utopia to the exclusionary, crisis-ridden grounds of that utopia itself.Originally designed for use as banners in anticapitalist demonstrations, Ressler and Thorne’s texts reject the handmade, organic aesthetics of most conventional protest art. Instead, they share with earlier postmodern artists such as Barbara Kruger the appropriation of the graphic conventions of marketing to disrupt the smooth functioning of everyday forms of consumerist identification. But Ressler and Thorne’s texts also bear a specific historical relation to the URL format, reinvesting it with traces of social divisions linked to the digital economy, of which the dot-com address has been a key visual and textual component. In the wake of the speculation-driven Internet bubble, the phrase “dot-com” already appears as an artifact of a ruined utopia, testimony to the destructive boom-bust cycle inherent to deregulated markets.

(Yates McKee, On Counterglobal Aesthetics; text from the catalogue: “Empire/State: Artists Engaging Globalization”, Whitney Museum of American Art, Independent Study Program Exhibition, New York, 2002)