Michael Brown

LOL, Gawker Claims Ferguson Riots Good for Society, Economy, Something




Wanton destruction of people's stuff. Isn't it great? Gawker sure thinks so—and argues that there are undeniable benefits. But wait: Don't hurl your laptop or smart phone through your local convenience store's front window just yet! Let's examine this claim.

Matt Bruenig, a writer for Demos and Salon, penned the article, titled "Actually, Riots are Good: The Economic Case for Riots in Feguson." Contrary to what the headline suggests, Bruenig doesn't actually commit the broken window fallacy and argue, as some Keynesians do, that destruction is economically beneficial. One has to dig deep down into the article—past a deeply misleading claim that "rioting is economically efficient"—to get to the crux of the argument.

Bruenig thinks that under certain conditions, rioting is efficient because it punishes the police for their bad behavior. If police react to riots by killing fewer black teenagers, then the cost in lives saved (in real dollars) outweighs the property destruction. Bruenig explains:

Rioting that occurs in response to gross police misconduct and criminal system abuses imposes costs on doing those things. It signals to police authorities that they risk this sort of destructive mayhem if they continue on like this. All else equal, this should reduce the amount of police misconduct as criminal justice authorities take precautions to prevent the next Ferguson.

To be sure, burning down AutoZones is not an optimal way to impose costs on state authorities. It would be, as some interviewed Ferguson residents noted, far more effective to target police equipment or other property nearer to criminal justice authorities. But these targets are often difficult and risky to reach, unlike local business interests. Since state authorities are always and everywhere most concerned about capital and business interests, threatening to impose costs on them via rioting should have a similar impact on police incentives.

That argument is laughably terrible and really much dumber than the broken window fallacy, but let's return to that in a minute. Bruenig actually tries to compute how much money society is going to make off the rioting. Remember, every store you loot is a worthwhile economic trade-off if it saves a life:

Conducting such a cost-benefit analysis on the Ferguson riots, though necessarily speculative, is not impossible. It's estimated that white officers kill black suspects 96 times a year. Cost-benefit analyses conducted by safety regulators peg the value of a human life at $9.2 million. This means the economic cost of white cops killing blacks is around $883 million per year. If the jolt caused by Ferguson's rioting can chill police authorities and cause adjustments that save just 3 black lives per year, that's an economic savings of $27.6 million. It's hard to tell now how much damage rioting in Ferguson has caused, but I'd doubt it's anywhere near that figure.


So what's the big problem with his argument? For starters, it assumes that riots "impose costs on state authorities." But the police aren't the ones getting their shit destroyed; innocent, random store owners are. So that cost is imposed in an extremely indirect manner, if at all.

In fact, what's to say this is a cost on the police, even indirectly? Do riots cause police departments to say, "Man, we have to police more cautiously and timidly"? Do they cause the store owners to demand less strident policing? Do they galvanize Americans into wanting a less active police force? I think you can argue persuasively in each of these cases the answer is no. It seems to me that if anything, rioting redirects people's sympathies away from the cause of rioters. Destroying other people's stuff is actually a great way to give the police greater license to commit abuses in the name of public safety.

Which is not to say that riots—or protests, in general—have never done society any good. Bruenig cites examples throughout history of revolutionaries triumphing via some version of rioting. But there are also plenty of examples of authoritarian state agents pointing to some destructive mob as justification for their brutal crackdowns. It seems to me it works better when people riot against the actual agents of evil—Germans tearing down the Berlin Wall, for instance—rather than some third-party victim, as in the case of the Ferguson riots.

Of course, if you're utterly without sympathy for the small business owners whose stuff is being destroyed, as Bruenig appears to be, maybe that calculus is a little easier.

At Reason, we would rather address the rioters' economic needs by lessening the burden of petty fines than by wrecking other people's stuff and expecting the state to get the exact right message from that.

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  1. As businesses flee, what’s left behind will cause the demand for more police will grow steadily.

    1. Which will hasten the long-hoped-for demise-via-bankruptcy of the government. A la Detroit.

      This is the American Way of government reform.

  2. I assumed the entire article was tongue-in-cheek. Of course, might just be Poe’s Law.

    1. It is not tongue-in-cheek. Breunig is really (1) not that smart and (2) thinks everyone who disagrees with him hates the poor and is evil.

      Which is funny, considering the sympathy he shows for small business owners who just lost their livelihoods.

      1. That’s the thing about the left – they hate small business.

        Remember Gruber who mockingly said “In this country if you don’t constantly say you love small business, you’re considered a communist”?

        Same contempt he had for small business, pretty much all lefties do.

        Especially ones by minorities.

    2. If it’s Gawker you should just assume that they have gone full retard.

  3. I read the article because I thought Reason was exaggerating – even Gawker wouldn’t run a pro-riot article.

    But, yes, it supports the Ferguson riots as a way of deterring police misconduct.

    Let’s see, I think I’ve heard this argument before – from the Ku Klux Klan – every black person they lynch reduces the risk of white women getting raped!

  4. APU: You are burning down my store!

    SNAKE: Take one for the team, dude. Don’t you support racial justice?

  5. The media also incentivizes mass protests and/or rioting. Would anyone outside Ferguson know Brown’s name if not for protest / riots?

    Of course burning down local businesses is stupid. The violence should be done to the police pension fund for maximum impact. Too bad Anonymous can’t seem to do much more than dox and hijack Twitter accounts.

    1. If Anonymous went after police pension funds that would be doing something somewhat useful.

    2. The real police pension fund is the taxpayer.

    3. Of course, if Anonymous was to pursue such an action, they would likely find they were not quite as “anonymous” as they imagined.

  6. Maybe they took Economics from Paul Krugnuts?

    OT: Missed Mourning Linkx, but Reasonoids might get a kick out of this:

    Man arrested in Grand Junction, CO for felony missing… for pointing a banana at a cop.

    As Love got out of his vehicle and approached Channing, Bunch wrote his fellow deputy said he “observed what appeared to be a yellow tube with a black center” and also stated he “thought it was a gun.”

    “Deputy Love stated he was in fear for his life at this point and was in the process of pulling out his handgun when Nathen yelled, ‘It’s a banana!'” Bunch wrote. [emphasis added]

    1. The poor officers were not trained for self defense against fresh fruit. They didn’t even have a tiger!

      1. Or a pointed stick.

        1. ” you can fry half a city with this puppy.”

      2. If only he had taken a self defense course to learn how to defend yourself against an attacker armed with a banana.

        He started to pull his gun, but didn’t pull the trigger.

    2. His name was Bunch? Seriously?

      1. Bunch, as in “panties in a”.

      2. And the guy alleged to have brandished the banana is from a place called Fruitvale. This whole article reads like a really dumb joke.

    3. To be fair to officer Dumbfuck, the banana didn’t have an orange tip on it.

    4. Channing is lucky Officers Panic and Pussy did not empty their pistols at him.

      Yeah, Channing certainly looks like a dumb ass joker. His problem is that he had a completely inaccurate idea of what kinds of people cops are and how they take jokes.

  7. Bruenig cites examples throughout history of revolutionaries triumphing via some version of rioting.

    Number 5 on the list is incredibly lame.

    Richardson later explained that she objected to “the way men visitors gaped” at the nude body, prone on a bed and admiring her reflection in a cherub-held mirror.

    I also generally object to any list of society-changing acts of rioting and property damage that doesn’t include trannies ripping up a parking meter and using it as a battering ram, or beating the shit out of cops in tactical gear with shoes.

    there on Waverly Street there was a police, I believe on his… a cop and he is on his stomach in his tactical uniform and his helmet and everything else, with a drag queen straddling him. She was beating the hell out of him with her shoe. Whether it was a high heel or not, I don’t know. But she was beating the hell out of him. It was hysterical.

  8. Than goodness Bastiat was spared seeing this stuff. Being dead may not be all bad.

    1. Only the dead have seen the end of Gawker.

  9. The Left shows its true colors. Sigh.

    Tired of listening to Twitter celebs weigh in. Uh, where you there? I swear, these people live sheltered lives if they think they can just make up whatever they want and hope that it sticks.

    1. *were

  10. OK, now after reading the article, I think I safely conclude that Matt Bruenig is a retard who should be ignored.

    1. I don’t think he’d feel the same way if his house or the offices of Gawker were the ones being targeted.

  11. Apparently I don’t give Gawker enough credit. I was thinking it would just be a straightforward broken windows fallacy. At least they were creative.

  12. If he didn’t make the broken window argument, its only because he’s not intelligent enough.

  13. It seems to me it works better when people riot against the actual agents of evil…rather than some third party victim

    Per US media, government can never be the axis of evil, only the occasional rogue agent is evil. Therefore, setting fire to the police station would merely be seen as a terrorist attack BY an axis of evil on some peace-loving police department. They would just raise taxes on the poor to rebuild the department and increase the amount of the fines for petty offenses.

  14. I don’t even value my own life at 9.2 mil.

    1. According to my insurance portfolio, my life is worth roughly $500K and some change.

      1. The only life insurance I have is because my employer gives it to me as a perk. I’m dead, what do I need with money?

        1. Surety for private loans.

  15. Read this at Cafe Hayek recently. Can’t wait to use it in an argument.

    Here’s a letter to WTOP Radio in Washington, DC:

    During today’s 10:00am hour you reported that Maryland governor Martin O’Malley objects to building the Keystone XL pipeline because (as you summarized his objection) “the pipeline will create too few jobs to offset its environmental cost.”

    I have no idea if this pipeline should or should not be built. But I do know that Mr. O’Malley’s stated reason for opposing it makes no sense. Labor (like each of the other resources) used to build the pipeline is a cost, not a benefit. So whatever are the environmental costs of the pipeline, this project becomes more justified the fewer are the workers used to build and to operate it. Mr. O’Malley seemingly thinks that one cost (namely, the pipeline’s environmental risk) becomes acceptable to bear, not if it is offset by lower costs on other fronts but, instead, only if another cost of the pipeline proves to be even greater than the environmental cost.

    Mr. O’Malley’s objection, in short, is that the pipeline is not costly enough!

    It’s distressing that people as economically illiterate as Mr. O’Malley have influence over public policy.

    Donald J. Boudreaux
    Professor of Economics
    Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
    George Mason University

    1. Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center

      KKKOCHTAPUSSSS!!!!1111!!!11!!!! /left-tard

  16. So does this mean I can burn down Bruenig’s house in protest of local police actions (such as, say, arresting/beating people for drug possession), since his taxes indirectly benefit his local city government?

    1. Yes. Yes it does.

  17. Everyone remembers how the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 caused the collapse of communism and the withdrawal of Soviet troops from the country right? It sure didn’t result in the Soviets clamping down even harder and setting up tank depots in most Warsaw Pact nations so they could quickly crush any repeat attempts.

    1. You’re from Canada, right?

      Remember how I was complaining about Canadians on the Internet not understanding US politics? Well, guess what. When I reached to one of these people in order to correct him, he attacked my character, accusing me of sexism! He even admitted that he doesn’t want to talk to me (because I’m racist and sexist–which he got from me calling myself a “constitutional conservative”), and that even though that’s close-minded, he doesn’t care.

      The Left is oh-so tolerant.

      1. Tolerance means not tolerating intolerance. If you disagree with the left, then you are intolerant. Thus it is the duty of a tolerant leftist to personally attack you because you are intolerant.

        1. Sarcastic much?

          *sees profile name*


      2. Debate requires the ability to actually recognize that your opponent’s opinions are a valid position that you disagree with for whatever reason. This doesn’t apply in a worldview where everything is a cut-and-dry good-vs-evil battle where you see yourself as the ultimate ethical actor and your opponent as some sort of non-fictional antagonist. So many people treat their politics as a source of identity and ethical virtue that any attempt to challenge it is seen as an affront to the person and blocked out.

        1. It’s also the epitome of cowardice. “Yeah, I recognize that I don’t understand your worldview, but I’m still gonna call you a bigot anyway.”

          What a friggin’ idiot.

          1. Some of this is a product of the internet. The internet has a lot of benefits, but it also encourages echo chamber thinking and consensus bias like no tomorrow. People form little political tribes (like say, Reason, no offense), reinforce their worldview as much as possible, and actively demonize their opponents to the greatest extent possible. Politics as identity is such a profoundly poisonous way of looking at the world.

            1. It also proves that there’s no point in trying to reach out to most liberals. Even when you present your view in the most respectable manner imaginable, they still make stuff up.

              Seriously, though. How arrogant do you have to be to talk about the politics of a country you don’t understand? Do most Canadians/Britons/Australians honestly believe that the Republicans are all a bunch of RethugliKKKans, and that the Democrats are just trying to desperately help people?

              1. I can only speak for Canadians and some Englishmen, but some of this is the fact that a lot of the Western world is more ‘left’ than the United States. The narrative is similar up here for our parties, where the Tories are evil oppressors who create a ‘soft dictatorship’ while the Liberals and NDP only want to help people. These are Canadians who don’t even understand their own political parties and system, it shouldn’t be a surprise that they feel the same way about America and its more ‘right-wing’ attitudes.

                1. Bear in mind, the Tories are about as ‘right-wing’ as, say, the Democrats in the 90s.

                  1. But seriously. That’s what the response was.

                    “I don’t understand your politics, but you must be a racist and sexist.”

                    Fails to take into account that I’m a second-generation immigrant from an actually sexist country. Narcissism, indeed.

                    1. I tend to think that due to the large scale collapse of organized religious dogma in the West a lot of people have replaced traditional religious attitudes with political ones. It’s like arguing with a fundamentalist from an extremely homogeneous community, ‘everyone I know agrees with me, and this is my fundamental belief system, how dare you question it?’

                      Just replace sexist/racist with ‘heretic’ or ‘heathen’ and suddenly it starts making more sense.

                    2. Makes sense. Strangely enough, I’m religious, and none of those labels even make sense when they’re applied to me.

                      We all fear what we don’t understand. When people fail to question their political values early on, it’s much easier for the establishment to mould them.

                    3. Bear in mind, when I refer to ‘organized religious dogma’ I’m talking about actual movements to shift society towards whatever their preferences are. A hundred years ago these people would have been Prohibitionists, a hundred years before that, ultramontanists. I don’t see much difference between the ‘social justice warriors’ of today and the moral busybodies of old.

                    4. Are establishment do-gooders always this popular, though? The history books always depict them as failures, although I suppose that the key word there is history.

                    5. They did get a Prohibition amendment shoved through in the U.S. Other stuff like the comic book code is also applicable. This is more Canadian history, but the Catholic church in Quebec was somewhat successful in pushing censorship for films and libraries until the Quiet Revolution.

                    6. Interesting revelation: guy’s from Indiana, not Canada. Confused him another idiot on Tumblr, who is Canadian.

                      Still doesn’t change the fact that his arrogance blinds him from understanding the other side. Same goes for Canadian guy, too.

                    7. *country with a sexist regime


  18. I’m on Gawker all the time. The writers are NYC state-loving elitists whose knowledge of economics is on par with a 2-year-old who wants unlimited cookies before dinner and how dare you not provide them, you fascist Mom?

    And the readers are such sterotypical white progressives that you start to wonder what their screen name is on Kos.

  19. So many broken windows. Go long on Home Depot.

  20. If police are such a burden on the local community, why doesn’t the community just get rid of its police department? That saves tons of money! Everybody lives and presumably everybody is happy, right?

    1. Protesters can’t bother to vote.

  21. Kos, Gawker, Salon….commie rags.

    Praising the unraveling of American Society comes as no surprise. It is their wet dream.

  22. I guess this is another progressive economic stimulus program I prefer not to have in my state.

  23. Put a few shooters on the roof of your store with scoped tactical 308’s, a couple of shot gun wielding spotters, and 20 + loaded 30 round mags.

    In the store have two or three AR 223’s with a bunch of loaded mags and a couple of shot gun wielding back ups.

    Shoot every mother fucker that comes within 50 yards of the store, plink a few at long range, let the bodies pile up until its harder to get into the store front. The guys on the roof can start to move the crowd back.

    1. OMG Gun Culture!

      Seriously, maybe John has a point about some people wanting the populace disarmed so they’re vulnerable to strategically-deployed mobs.

    2. are you talking about zombie hoards or protestors. In this case since they are both brain dead your defensive method is still valid

      1. I don’t see an issue with shooting rioters. I live in Huntsville AL. During the big tornadoes of April 2011 power was out here for about a week (TVA trunk lines were down). A store owner shot a looter on the second day. The looter bleed to death in the parking lot.

        The county sheriff condoned the store owner’s actions on the radio.

        The looting stopped.

        1. bled to death

    3. In areas with strict gun control, I suggest cauldrons of boiling oil, a la The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

  24. So what’s the big problem with his argument?

    Michael Brown’s life was worth considerably less than the $9.6 million “average”.

    (Sorry, had to.)

    1. The shorter version of my post below. Great minds think alike.

    2. Michael Brown thought risking his freedom and life for a $32 box of cigarillos was worth it, so there ‘s that.

  25. this of course assumes the police misconduct but the facts show the police acted correctly.

  26. It’s estimated that white officers kill black suspects 96 times a year. Cost-benefit analyses conducted by safety regulators peg the value of a human life at $9.2 million. This means the economic cost of white cops killing blacks is around $883 million per year.

    That’s perhaps the core fallacy here. The stated economic value of a human life is some sort of average. It varies, because (except in ideal, philosophical terms) human lives do not have equal value. If a brilliant young surgeon dies, a heck of a lot more value is lost than if a young gang member dies. In fact, the death of the gangster may be a net gain to society in economic terms, because he stops committing crimes, no longer gets welfare, doesn’t take up space in prison, and doesn’t have kids to be supported by the taxpayer (and grow up to be like Dad). Since the blacks killed by white cops are rarely surgeons and often gangsters, there might actually be a net economic benefit to those deaths.

    /end heartless, unfeeling economic analysis

    1. That gangster could produce lots of wealth on the black market, so there’s that.

  27. I think I might go riot and loot the Gawker offices because, hey, it’s great for society because it will teach idiots to write less stupid stuff! Morons.

    1. Just go straight to the source and torch Bruenig’s house and car.

      Maybe then he’ll STFU for the rest of his life.

      Now THAT would be good for society,

  28. Baby pygmy marmoset gets a massage.

    1. Bah, meant for PM Links, not you slackers.

  29. Gawker’s logical reasoning in favor of political assassinations!

  30. Might have something here. We all know the LAPD certainly shaped up after the Rodney King riots.

  31. I hope and pray that the next time a riot ensues in this country, it happens right where these companies (and Time magazine) are located so that they get the full force of it. I’m sick of dealing with left-wing pathology.

  32. I think I lost 10 IQ points reading this nonsense.

  33. That argument is laughably terrible and really much dumber than the broken window fallacy, but let’s return to that in a minute.

    We can question whether Fergusson has reached the point described in the article, but to say the argument is laughably terrible in all cases is essentially arguing that violent resistance to unjust government is never justifiable.

    1. Change your call sign to “Stormy Dragoon”…has better rhythm and is more mysterious.

  34. Another idiotic larval Keynesian. Film at 11.


  35. Of course it is economically efficient.

    The more people and property that is harmed the more sensationalist click-bait articles Gawker can publish and make ad revenues from.


    I miss the good old days when tabloids sold ads with pre-photoshop shopped photos of aliens shaking hands with Kennedy.

    Sure it filled peoples minds with complete garbage but at least it was not toxic garbage.

  36. My last pay check was $9500 working 12 hours a week online. My neighbour’s sister has been averaging 15k for months now and she works about 20 hours a week. I can’t believe how easy it was once I tried it out.
    try this site ? ? ? ? ? http://www.jobsfish.com

  37. If they can’t eat it, get high from it, or have sex with it they will break it or kill it.

    -Mark Twain

  38. Destruction of property, public and private, is good for the economy? Yes, there will be a boatload of money or instant loan pay day applications needed to repair the destruction wrought by the anarchists. Money that could have been better used to improve the rotten conditions instead of simply replacing what was lost.

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