Michael Bloomberg, Control Freak

So, some people are trying to restrict the New York Police Department's"stop and frisk" policy. Yesterday, on the radio, I heard Bloomberg responding to this by saying (I quote from memory): "This will make New York less safe. Don't people remember what just happened in Boston, or what happened here on 9/11?"

The first sentence is bad: the mere fact that a policy might lower the crime rate does not by itself make it a good policy. A policy demanding everyone except the police stay inside their own home all the time probably would lower crime, but it would be a terrible policy: public safety is not the only margin along which we seek to optimize policy! This policy subjects young, poor, minority males to random, warrantless searches. Crime is reduced for middle and upper class New Yorkers, at a cost to the searched. That is the real message lurking behind Bloomberg's line: "If you keep letting us do this to them, then you will be safer."

But the second sentence practically made me crash my car: Could "stop and frisk" have stopped the Boston bombing? Maybe. But 9/11?! Does Bloomberg really think New York City cops would have been able to reach up into the sky and frisk the hijackers?

Of course he doesn't: he is sloganeering. Invoking 9/11 whenever one wants more authoritarian government brings an emotional rush of assent to a certain portion of the audience. It is not accidentally illogical: it is deliberately designed to short-circuit thought. That is what political slogans are for, after all!


  1. I don't think that we've ever been more in agreement. Seriously.

  2. Very funny story about Mr Bloomberg:

    "Bloomberg Refused Second Slice of Pizza at Local Restaurant"


    Maybe that will alleviate your justified anger a bit..

  3. Obviously that Bloomberg story is just too good to be true, it is made up.

    Still very funny, though at first they got me..