Years ago, perhaps as long as a decade ago, I recall reading an article about the British Empire’s control of the subcontinent.
Because the British could not actually control India, the article asserted, they collected statistical data about India instead. This statistical picture helped provide the illusion of mastery.
This has stuck in my head, and I use it all the time as a way of describing certain behaviors. But I’d like to point the article out to people, and I can’t find it.
My memory is that I would have encountered it sometime between 1998 and 2000, possibly in either Lingua Franca or the Atlantic, but I read widely enough that those may be little more than guesses.
Can anyone help me out with this? So far I’ve failed with Google, and with an online periodical search on the SPL’s web site.
An article in this week’s New York Times Week in Review section about the difficulty in explaining changes in the crime rate contains the following claim:
The idea that illegal drug use drives up crime is not bolstered by statistics that show that the percentage of those arrested in New York City with illegal drugs in their system has remained more or less flat, Mr. Zimring said.
Now, I may be a simple caveman, but it seems to me that illegal drug use could boost the crime rate without changing the proportion of people arrested who have illegal drugs in their system.
Let’s assume for a moment that drugs in fact do cause crime. I’m not sure I agree with the assertion, but let’s take it at face value for the time being. In a high-drug (and thus high-crime) environment, non-drug-users may commit more crimes. One reason might be that the social norms of a high-crime society might encourage even non drug users to participate; another might be because they engage in and profit from the drug trade without being drug users themselves.
An alternative explanation might involve that the only people tested for drugs in the above scenario are arrestees, people who were caught, or who might not even be responsible for the crime of which they’re expected. I’m guessing that a high percentage of people arrested have drugs in their system, and that might be the reason they’re caught, regardless of any other police work. The preference for arresting drug users over others might account for the relatively constant proportion of people arrested with drugs in their system.
I’m not saying that either of these explanations is the answer here; just that they can explain the presented evidence without challenging the notion that drugs and crime are related.