Is a New “Take No Prisoners” a Model for Social Change?

Lambert pointed to a recent Harvard Business Review blog post that posited the question of whether it would be possible to engineer a mirror image of the Stanford Prison experiment, in which subjects were put in a mock prison setting, cast either as guards or inmates. The experiment had to be aborted within days as the guards quickly became sadistic. But could a setting be created in which good behavior would be fostered? The pitch from the post:

For years, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) detachment in Richmond, Canada ran like any other law enforcement bureaucracy and experienced similar results: recidivism or reoffending rates ran at around 60%, and they were experiencing spiraling rates of youth crime. This forward-thinking Canadian detachment, led by a young, new superintendent, Ward Clapham, challenged the core assumptions of the policing system itself. He noticed that the vast majority of police work was reactive. He asked: “Could we design a system that encouraged people to not commit crime in the first place?” Indeed, their strategic intent was a clever play on words: “Take No Prisoners.”

Their approach was to try to catch youth doing the right things and give them a Positive Ticket. The ticket granted the recipient free entry to the movies or to a local youth center. They gave out an average of 40,000 tickets per year. That is three times the number of negative tickets over the same period. As it turns out, and unbeknownst to Clapham, that ratio (2.9 positive affects to 1 negative affect, to be precise) is called the Losada Line. It is the minimum ratio of positive to negatives that has to exist for a team to flourish. On higher-performing teams (and marriages for that matter) the ratio jumps to 5:1. But does it hold true in policing?

According to Clapham, youth recidivism was reduced from 60% to 8%. Overall crime was reduced by 40%. Youth crime was cut in half. And it cost one-tenth of the traditional judicial system.

There is power in creating a positive cycle like Clapham did. Indeed, HBR’s The Power of Small Wins, recently explored how managers can tap into relatively minor victories to significantly increase the satisfaction and motivation of their employees. It is an observation that has been made as far back as the 1968 issue of HBR in an article by Frederick Herzberg titled, “One More Time: How Do You Motivate Employees?” (PDF). That piece has been among the most popular articles at Harvard Business Review. His research showed that the two primary motivators for people were (1.) achievement and (2.) recognition for achievement.

OK, so what’s not to like about this? The problem is first, this touching story isn’t exactly convincing, and second, there is more to this sort of effort at workplace/social engineering than meets the eye.

Let’s start by noting this wasn’t a controlled experiment. We have a new boss who tries something new and wants to prove it worked. So the first question is: did the “Take No Prisoners” policy lead to data fudging, such as Clampham’s subordinates giving kids only warnings (hence no “crime”) for things that in the previous regime would have gotten them booked? Second, how much of the behavior change was due to the “reward” aspect, as opposed to giving kids something harmless to do with their free time? One of the drivers of teenage bad behavior is boredom. Put it another way: if the tickets had been distributed randomly, as opposed to for good acts, what would have been the change in crime level? That’s the baseline, and lacking that, we don’t know how much (if anything) to attribute to positive reinforcement.

In general, the reason I’m suspicious of this sort of thing is that the HR movement was created to suppress unions, and it has a long history of crappy to baldly misrepresented research. When unions were demanding not just higher wages, but more of a say in the way businesses were run, the human relations, and its successor, human resources, efforts were born to find ways to fight back. These movements took the view that workers were in essence rebellious children (so the focus on youth crime is almost a tell). They needed to be educated as to why what was good for their employer was also good for them (numerous brochures and films were produced for this purpose).

Another prong of this effort was to promote the idea that workers didn’t need more wages, what they needed was more recognition. The theory was that if management was paternalistic and encouraging, workers would be happier and more productive and would moderate their wage demands.

This may seem like an extreme reading, but Alex Carey, in his book Taking the Risk Out of Democracy, provides compelling detail to support this thesis. For instance, the studies at the GE Hawthorne plant in the early 1930s, which formed the foundation of this line of thinking, are arguably the worst social science ever produced. Carey spent a full chapter demolishing the work; to call it intellectually dishonest is too kind. For instance: the study was done only with 5 workers, and no controls. The idea was to show that being nicer to workers would increase productivity. When productivity actually fell, they got rid of two workers, and brought two more compliant workers in. The management style also became directive and punitive. One of the new workers had become the sole income source for her family and was particularly eager to keep her job and earn premium pay, so she became the disciplinarian of the other four. Even with all those changes, the output figures (to the extent they were even kept) were repeatedly misrepresented in the report; indeed, the claims made for the most part contradicted the results. But even worse, an entire generation of supposed scientists parroted the study as gospel truth when even a casual reading would show it to be garbage.

Now in fact, there may still be some value in this idea, but I’m leery of the way organizational behavior specialists tout their theories. Japan has a low crime society with highly motivated and productive people, and they don’t go for strokes. My experience having worked with them is that they are are big on using criticism and shame to enforce social norms. In addition, societies with low income disparity generally have much less crime than those with high income disparity. But it’s much less threatening to the power structure to suggest cute ideas like “positive tickets” rather than more progressive taxation.

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  1. rjs

    it’d be a hard sell…on a similar topic (solitary confinement) at marginal revolution, most of the other commenters were more interested in punishment than the recidivism rate..

  2. jennifer hill

    Workers are not criminals, but its hard to remember that in this day and age where the regular people are blamed for deficits, social decay and the failure of everything else. If you make $27,000 or less a year like half of all Americans you have no power, little opportunity and certainly no reason to hope that it will get better.

    1. Austin F

      Working people are ‘criminal’ by definition. Anatole France got it about right:

      “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, or to steal bread.”

      Poverty is illegal, resistance is illegal, thinking is illegal, and combining with your fellow workers is the most illegal action of all.

      1. The Dork of Cork

        F$£king A Austin
        I just got my posts taken down from another blog – posting about psychology and the markets.

        Would you beleive it I Posted a Utube clip of Pi (1998 Film) – the classic film on the subject.

        I disagreed with the forced complexity of the film – I merely stated you take the leverage away and much of the complexity leaves the building.

        I then described how everything in Ireland has gone real quite like….

        And finally went on a greenback rant of how its impossible to have a debt crisis withen a functioning monetary system.
        The Note is as Good as the bond and all that lark.

        I tell you I am sacred shitless.

    1. Klassy!

      I thought of this too, and it would probably be evident if this study was controlled, randomized, and performed for any length of time.

    2. lambert strether

      Terry Pratchett:

      [Vimes] shrugged. ‘They’re just people,’ he said. ‘They’re just doing what people do. Sir.’

      Lord Vetinari gave him a friendly smile.

      ‘Of course, of course,’ he said. ‘You have to believe that, I appreciate. Otherwise you’d go quite mad. Otherwise you’d think you’re standing on a feather-thin bridge over the vaults of Hell. Otherwise existence would be a dark agony and the only hope would be that there is no life after death. I quite understand.’

      Meaning, (clearly) people are capable of great evil and great good (and both have survival value, or they never would have arisen in nature). The Stanford experiment (and Milgram’s work) show how it’s possible to create conditions where you, or I, or (almost) anyone will start working evil.

      So, what if there were an equivalently powerful experiment that showed how to create conditions for working good, instead of evil? Perhaps this study is not that experiment, but wouldn’t it be interesting if it was?

      NOTE I bow to nobody in my sense of repulsion for the phrase “human resources” (that is, animals) but that isn’t necessarily the appropriate frame.

  3. James

    Worker buy-in and involvement in their “profession” is the model for social change. Having broken that social contract seemingly permanently, we are now reaping the all too predictable results. Workers are now merely “factors of production,” to be used, abused, and discarded at the will of managers and execs who unwittingly or not are in all likelihood going to experience the same fate. Meaningless and calculated for effect “pats on the back” given merely to sooth the pain of such a system are less than effective; they’re downright demeaning to both the worker who has to feign gratitude for receiving them and the manager who has to feign genuineness while giving them. Add in the fact that such events are often staged as a photo op as well and the whole thing begins to show its true colors: a PR stunt. The ignorance of so-called “highly intelligent and educated(better: indoctrinated)” people really is amazing. Build a system that encourages your workers to be fully involved in and love what they do and it’s really true: they’ll never “work” another day in their lives. But they will produce like never before and and they’ll very likely even do it for less money if need be. Worker loyalty isn’t induced, bought, or cajoled. It’s earned.

    1. colinc

      Excellently stated, James. Of course, so is Yves’ critique of Mr. Clapham’s aspiration to be the next Pavlov. However, while his “story” might be “news,” one form of manipulation or another has been (and still is) in every aspect of our lives by a multitude who truly have no concept of the ramifications. All the foreman, superintendents, presidents and VPs and owners/CEOs of every “employer” for whom I have ever worked, I soon (but never soon enough) discovered were ALL abject morons. The ONLY thing they were “good” at was an ability to lie through their teeth with a straight face. As commentator Mr. Celli’s “tag line” denotes, “Deception is the strongest political manipulative force on the planet.” (Please pardon my edit, Warren.)

      Moreover, as you note, James…
      “…they’re downright demeaning to both the worker who has to feign gratitude for receiving them and the manager who has to feign genuineness while giving them.”

      Thus, we all becomes “frauds” (if you continue to play those asinine “games”) and deception becomes the “way of life.” Yet, how is it that so many “employees” remain totally unaware how they are being “played” or are happy as pigs in mud to “play along?” Do you think the dogmatic “social-programming” inflicted by our “education” plays a part? The adage “go along to get along” is the surest, shortest route to the bottom and it’s been egregiously exacerbated by “politically correct speech” which, in essence, is the absolute destruction of “meaningful” communication.

      1. Klassy!

        This was written twenty years ago during the heights of the culture wars:
        “Theory” is no substitute for social criticism, the one form of intellectual activity that would seriously threaten the status quo and the one form that has no academic cachet at all. Social criticism that addressed the real issue in higher education today- the university’s assimilation into the corporate order and the emergence of a knowledge class whose “subversive” activities do not seriously threaten the any vested interest- would be a welcome addition to contemporary discourse.

        1. colinc

          Thank you, Klassy!! If you happen to have a link handy or just cite the source I would be ever so grateful. If not, no worries as I do know my way around computers, the ‘net and most search engines. Obviously, if you had something easily accessible it might save me some all too limited time. Thanks again.

      2. James

        All the foreman, superintendents, presidents and VPs and owners/CEOs of every “employer” for whom I have ever worked, I soon (but never soon enough) discovered were ALL abject morons. The ONLY thing they were “good” at was an ability to lie through their teeth with a straight face.

        Agree wholeheartedly. Personal anecdote: I’m retired USAF (25 years, enlisted). The AF’s ultimate “atta-boys” – the decoration or medal – became linked to the promotion system quite sometime back, and thus utterly politicized. Specific decorations became standard for certain ranks at certain stages of their careers, usually linked to assignment changes (An AF Achievement Medal for lower ranks, a Commendation Medal for mid-tier enlisted, a Meritorious Service Medal for senior ranks, etc.). Further, as you made your way up the ranks you quickly learned that it was standard practice as well that if you expected a decoration upon being reassigned, it was expected that YOU would write the first draft, supervisors being supervisors and all. Then after it made its way through the political mill and 15-20 high-ranking motherfuckers who had more than likely never even heard of you had had their way with it, it may or may not get approved.

        All of which took quite some time. Several months at least in most cases. So, after all that finally shook out, at your next assignment medals were normally handed out at “Commander’s Calls” in front of your new unit members, which depending on the time of year and the influx of new people, might mean anywhere from one to two dozen people at a shot receiving medals at any given ceremony. So, up on the stage you go with your fellow recipients, all standing stiff-legged at attention in front of several hundred other equally stiff-legged and uncomfortable unit personnel, to listen to and bite back your laughter at a citation that you yourself had originally wrote, but which no doubt no longer even remotely resembled anything you ever actually did, realizing full well that everyone else in the room ALSO knew it was all complete bullshit as well, but all swallowing your individual and collective cognitive dissonance in the interest of collecting a few more promotion points. Absolutely surreal!

        1. colinc

          Indeed, James, and thanks to you, too. Especially for the anecdote which confirms that I made the absolute correct decision walking away from a USAF enlistment… I’d have killed someone!! :D That was many moons ago. Alas, since I got “educated” in the ’80s (HS grad 1970, no typo!) and worked mostly in IT, I’ve not seen “office politics” done any differently than you describe. I found it revolting, disgusting and intolerable. Those office environments covered a great many “types” of companies. First, the colleges I attended AND worked at. Then, an MLM company that had less than 7700 members when I hired in and more than 77,000 in the US, 10+K in Canada (that was “managed” out of the home office after the “other guy” embezzled all the Canadian members’ “commission”). More still when I spent a couple years contracting “temp” IT jobs for a couple staffing agencies (incl. “Bob’s Half-wit agency”, if you catch my drift), a company making absolute crap software they were selling to Fortune 500 companies and one of the largest drug-store chains in OH. The “managing” and “supervisory” personnel were, at best, incompetent, bordering on brain-damaged. For instance, at the last aforementioned employer, I was Unix SysAdm responsible for 54 servers running the pharmacy software as well as the Oracle database on the home-office server, serving as transaction processor for all those other machines. My “boss” had _A_ (singular) degree in, wait for it… art! In 3+ yrs I never heard/saw her utter/write even a complete phrase, let alone a complete sentence and never, ever a complete thought (not that she was capable of “thinking”). She spread the inane (and simple) “I LOVE YOU” virus not once, not twice but 4 times in less than 2 weeks!! How does someone that incompetent become head of an IT dept… OOOPS, that’s right, we recently had 2 terms of a retarded president. Who says the whole GD system isn’t FUBAR? I say it is!!! In spades!!!!!!

  4. K Ackermann

    I don’t know. You might be right about a skew, given no controls, but the result are impressive even if only half true.

    It is interesting, though, the idea of keeping youths busy – especially in the summer…

    Notice to minors:
    The park is in desperate need of a cleanup. Come and help. Boys, there will be GIRLS helping. Girls, there will be BOYS helping. And there will be ice cream too.

  5. Gareth

    Our local police department tried this positive reinforcement thing by pulling over motorists who weren’t speeding to reward them with coupons for meals. TV crews were on hand to record this marvelous law enforcement innovation. The experiment ended after a couple days as nearly everyone was pissed off by being made to look like a criminal so the deparment could get good PR. I always wondered what would have happened if they had stopped someone for not speeding and then smelled marijuana in the car.

    1. Jim Haygood

      ‘I always wondered what would have happened if they had stopped someone for not speeding and then smelled marijuana in the car.’

      No need to wonder. This experiment is run every year, under the federally-financed “Click It or Ticket” campaign. You might have noticed the propaganda posters in your town — they’re from Washington D.C., and they’re here to help.

      Cops love “Click It or Ticket,” because besides nabbing plenty of victims for the victimless offense of not wearing a seat belt, they also turn up dozens of common but unrelated offenses: drugs or open alcohol containers in the vehicle; ‘suspicious’ cash; people wanted on warrants; mechanical infractions — all grist for the judicial mill.

      Why give out ‘attaboys,’ when old-fashioned fear, repression and punishment work so well?

    2. Min

      “Our local police department tried this positive reinforcement thing by pulling over motorists who weren’t speeding to reward them with coupons for meals.”

      The thing to do, OC, was to record their license plates and mail them the coupons.

  6. Warren Celli

    OK, so what’s not to like about this?

    Well… if you go a little deeper you will see that the social engineering is already in place — the haves and have nots are already well established — and that this is just another operational extraction trial.

    The “positive ticket” given to the ‘have not’, by the haves puppet goon squad ‘law enforcement’ tool, gives free entry to something that has been privatized by the haves, thus increasing income for the haves at the expense of the public till. It is not “Take No Prisoners”, it is further “Milk The Prisoners”. Grab good kids off of the streets and send them to the movies where they are sure to get a good dose of Hollywood cultural brain washing further screwing them up. It is not social change its another Xtrevilist extraction scam.

    We need to give out piggish and excessive wealth tickets to the aberrant sociopathic diseased Xtrevilists that have corruptly taken far more than a fair share of life’s pie and violated the public alliance in the first place. Our commons have been stolen and corporatized. Throw away the Losada line and focus on the balance in baloney vs truth curve. When baloney exceeds truth within any alliance, then that team — team America, team Canada or team humanity — suffers.

    Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

    1. colinc

      As seems to be your wont, another perceptive and astute remark. However, when you note…

      “Our commons have been stolen and corporatized.”

      … I would add that “our commons” have also been polluted to the point of being FUBAR. Alas, that is only going to get much, much worse before it gets any better. Alas, I do not see the “commons” improving until most/all of our species is gone.

      1. Warren Celli

        Colinc thanks! Effed up yes, but FUBAR no!

        Think of it as being like a plugged up toilet.

        The stoppage is caused by all of the big fat Xtrevilist turds in the toilet bowl — Buffet, Dimon, Gates, Slim, Ellison, Walton, IMF, World Bank, the FED, Citi Bank, Bush, Obama, Carter, Clinton, and a gaggle of fat headed narcisistic movie stars, media pundits, etc. — and we are the custodian with the plunger. It is simply a matter of getting all of our efforts in unison and working that plunger.

        I am sure you are familiar, as most all of us regular folks are Colin, with the relief one feels when all of that odious despicable crap finally explodes down the drain of a plugged up toilet and flows into the sewer where it rightfully belongs.

        Focus on the joy we will all feel when we have all of those aberrant sociopathic Xtrevilist turds flushed down the drain and headed for internment at the sewer lagoons.

        Do not despair! Keep on plunging!

        Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

        1. colinc

          Your clogged-toilet analogy is simply precious! :) However, I’m not entirely certain that we are talking about the same “commons.” Please, correct me if I’m in error but it seems you refer exclusively(?) to our “economic commons,” in which case, you are still as astute as ever and I could not agree more. I, on the other hand, was referring primarily to our “environmental commons,” e.g. atmosphere, ocean, soil, etc., which are, in point of fact, FUBAR for everyone living today. Sure, everything is “fine” (as far as MOST “humans” are concerned) but here’s the “thing,” WHEN (not IF) power goes out for more than a week or so, there will NOT be a single potable drop of water within 100 miles of any/every metropolitan area once the store shelves are cleared. That means, when the power goes out, for “whatever” reason (severe economic shock, CME, nuclear war, etc.), city-dwellers (ALL of them) will have about a month to live… at best. Too bad, so sad but that’s the way the cookie crumbles. We’ve made our bed and it’s going to “cradle” us with a vengeance. Feeling particularly gregarious at the moment, here’s a “scoop” for you (and all here), we ARE witnessing, right now, a “step change” in the climate. The weather those of us no longer wet behind the ears has known, no longer exists. The [NH] jet-stream has become unstable due to the astonishingly rapid melt of Arctic ice. In 3-4 yrs the summer ice will be GONE (check PIOMAS), completely, at which time the jet-stream becomes nothing but chaotic. However, do not make the mistake of thinking we’ve reached any kind of new “normal,” it is not. I am way beyond anger, way beyond despair and now into full-blown amusement at the myriad ways we are nearly certifying our own extinction. Damn it’s great to be alive!

          1. Sy Krass


            That’s known as “fun bad,” a term coined by Dan Bernstein, Terry Boers, and Larry Horse.


          2. Warren Celli

            Yes, we speak of the same global commons (co-option of finance is but a part of it), hijacked by the Xtrevilist few who have caused the gross mis-direcetion of use of the planet’s resources. And the stink in the house — the pollution on the planet — will not be resolved until they are flushed away.

            Yes, things are dire, the Xtrevilists also have long realized what you say is true and are working feverishly to move the herd thinning along. In the past they were more open about population control but now conceal it behind the Noble Lie. This is a long range plan of theirs — full spectrum dominance — incrementally well orchestrated over the past fifty plus years and now coming to a more visible each day fruition. The weather has definitely changed and the crispness of the past is less in evidence almost everywhere you go. But even that will skillfully be played to their advantage by providing them the rationalization for further tightening the screws. Unless…

            …I have my down moments but am mostly an optimist and feel that we must create an incremental and steadely increasing back pressure. Anything out side of the system is fair game and I really believe that election boycotts should be a big part of regaining control. I am not beyond anger, just more disciplined about controlling it, and committed to the belief that with the Xtrevilist turds flushed away we can work in unison on a path, difficult yes but impossible no, to restoration. I do however share your sentiment; “Damn it’s great to be alive!”, and would add to it “Great to be alive and vigorously mashing the plunger of freedom into the faces of the Xtrevilist turds in the toilet bowl of life!”

            Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

          3. colinc

            I see, thank you for elucidating. I have absolutely no argument with your proposal and, really, couldn’t agree more. However, I think it is a prescription that needed implemented more than a few decades ago. My [then] fellow “hippies” tried… we “won” the battle, vis-a-vis the Vietnam war, but we lost the “war” and I’m not referring to Indochina. (Although, we actually lost that one, too.)

            I do not share your optimism. I really do not think we will go extinct, at least not in the next 100 yrs or so, certainly “someday.” There will, I think, PERHAPS be a scant few “safe havens” (arable land/habitable regions), however I’m hard-pressed to have any freakin’ clue where those might be over the next decade or two, let alone beyond that. Yet, with the NWS predicting continued drought and heat through Sept. over much of the crop lands, both here and in Russia (if not more regions), this summer may turn out to be the “bazinga” of the “Mayan prophesy.” But I doubt it. Nonetheless, with the jet-stream “disconnect,” just as we recently witnessed “summer-in-winter” this past March, just as surely we will, all too soon, witness a “winter-in-summer.” I’m certain you realize the ramifications of such an event (several weeks of freezing or below temps in the summer months). Perhaps I’ll drop you an email at your site and see where that leads us. Maybe you can rekindle my “optimism.” :D

            Oh, and don’t underestimate the significance of the Stennis returning to the Persian Gulf the end of next month. I’m seriously beginning to suspect that Russia and China are goading Iran into “starting” some shit. (Yes, I know we started the shit-storm over there decades ago.) If THAT happens, we’ll be quoting that 2-bit, Ronny-RayGun wannbe’, “actor” from “…Red October,” i.e. “This is going to get out of hand and in a hurry.” (Sorry for the paraphrase.)

  7. jake chase

    I love these loony PR missions to make everything hunky dory without changing anything important. Yesterday I listed for two hours to Buffet and two political shysters misrepresent the country’s financial condition. Not one person (including five CNBC stooges) bothered to mention that the federal government has no legal need to ever borrow another dollar. Apparently, none of them ever heard of Lincoln or the Civil War or Greenbacks. Let’s face it, the only thing you will ever get from the top down is layers of bullshit, and what grows best in that environment is all the problems we already have.

      1. Capo Regime

        The hunky dory stuff is everywhere. Am sure some of you have also heard of people being fired or held back in their career for not being positive! I have heard of people even in federal government being called in about “their attitude”, apparently some view it as odd that people would be less than happy by decreasing wages, benefits and increasing work load and stress. Though a crime thing its of a piece with the notion of you frigging serfs need to cheer the hell up you don;t know how lucky you are to get to tend to us!

  8. Michael Fiorillo

    Fact Check: the Hawthorne study was based on work done at the Hawthorne Plant (in Cicero, Illinois) of Western Electric (the production arm of the old Bell Telephone monopoly). It was not a GE plant.

    A minor point, but helpful, I hope.

  9. David

    I guess this looks good, if the alternative is the “zero tolerance” crap we’ve been given the past 20 or 30 years. Versus responsible law enforcement, it probably sucks.

    With this scheme, you’ll want to accumulate these “good tickets” and please the authorities. You’ll report your massive “good ticket” recognition on your college applications, or if you leave it off that will be noted too.

    So I don’t know — the comments above even dispute whether the study is bogus. But anything to get rid of “zero tolerance”, “three strikes” (where they make up ridiculous strikes as needed to get to the magic three — I’ve seen it) and other robotic perversions of what should be caring and responsible supervision by those paid to smooth over the rough spots day to day, the police.

    1. David

      Oh, I should add that in my experience, the police are the most responsible and caring among those in society’s disciplinary system. They are real human beings (well, one exception I can think of, but there are always a few …)

      But many prosecutors, school administrators, etc. really are just trying to stir the pot and fuck up some people’s lives.

      The cops have to try to make it all work on the street. More latitude for the cops, less for the lawyers please. If they think it will help a kid who’s having trouble to give him or her a “good ticket” now and again, then they should go ahead and do it. If some upper administrator makes it a big program across the whole community, it will become bureaucratic and stupid.

      1. James

        The Wire: Misgivings (#4.10) (2006)
        Off. James ‘Jimmy’ McNulty: [to a patrolman who has given someone a ticket at the urging of the Brass for more arrests] Baker, Let me let you in on a little secret. The patrolling officer on his beat is the one true dictatorship in America, we can lock a guy up on the humble, lock him up for real, or say fuck it and drink ourselves to death under the expressway and our side partners will cover us. No one – I mean no one – tells us how to waste our shift!

      2. enouf

        I have just one site for you to visit;

        No, i don’t believe in the [in this case Cato] *Institute*(s) and i can list tens of other sites to make my point (think, etc), the one above just summates it nicely.

        Yes, the LEOs are part of the 99%, *however*, and this a HUMONGOUS however; they are the “selective” enforcers for their .01% oligarchs ..all the way up through Attorney General and Robed idiots sitting behind alters of judgement. The entire “judicial” system (as it is now) is a farce. The differences you ascribe to School Admins v. LEOs (and many in the 1%) is one of Passive-Aggression v. Aggression (straight-up, full-bore, in-your-face).

        Instead of Zero-Tolerance, we need to think in “Zero-Aggression principles”; Nobody has the *right* to *initiate* force upon another (physical, or coercive/verbal), be it individually, or in groups/cartels (Government, Mafiaso) for any reason.

        Don’t even get me started on the insanity that our universities teach/promote/foster when they divide our ‘Consciousness’ into Physical / Mental / Spiritual subsets — [pffft! what’s this spiritual nonsense you speak of?!] Oh yeah, right, we (humans) *are* the gods, we are in complete control — we know exactly what we’re doing.



  10. Klassy!

    Oh dear. This seems like just the sort of thing Nicholas Kristof would go for.
    cheap? Check!
    feel good? Check!
    Probably ineffective? Check
    Does not threaten the power structure? * Double Check!

    *most important component

    1. Capo Regime

      Yes! Oh my you destroyed share value by 50% or my you somehow lost 1 billion in funds. Its .o.k, we little people cannot grasp your magnificence–here is 20 million in pay and am sure next year it will be better. We would be lost without you! More delusion to aid more corruption and looting……..

  11. calabi

    Shame is probably the best motivation at least on the crime perspective. But that has to come with respect, respect of the society or the persons piling on the shame.

    But Bankers dont respect society, the young dont respect society so then you have a problem.

    1. They didn't leave me a choice

      Why should we young respect society that’s intentionally timed to ensure that once the baby boomers die off, so will humanity. We’ve been left with unsurmountable challenges from climate change to resource depletion to utterly and completely corrupted political and economic systems ran by an exclusionary elite with and extractionary mindset. And we are supposed to respect this society? Go fuck yourself old man, and take your shitty society with you.

      1. calabi

        Thats basically my point the well off and the politicians dont respect society so why would anyone else. Thats trickle down economics.

        The only to fix things on a more permanent basis, is to change things alot.

  12. Capo Regime

    And yet another fad exposed by Yves. Lets see we have been told of the wonders of total quality management, management by objectives, breaking down the silos! Using salesforece, sharepoint or whatever to “drive” performance. Glad you mention HR, if there is a function of firms and organizations which should be featured in one of Dantes rings its HR–as economy has gotten worse can’t describe them as anything but evil. Its also worth noting that this take no prisoners notion is a varian of the postive thinking mind cure nonsense that arouse in the great depression in the U.S. and is again on the march! We need to be in the now and visualize a good future. We need to be nice to our co-workers and all be well. In fact one could argue that this niceness to non performing CEOS (aw you destroyed 50% of share value, its o.k. buddy here is 20 million), politicans and students is at the core of our problems…..Lots of happy talk got us where we are…

  13. Susan the other

    The Japanese use shame. But I think there is a huge cultural difference between Japanese shame and American shame. I’ve noticed that Japanese TV reporting is different. It is really intriguing because they don’t elaborate in long strings of examples; they don’t BS around. They just state the facts. What they talk about isn’t all that interesting but the way they talk is amazing. So I watch Japanese news. I feel like, for the most part, they maintain factual integrity. Except Fukushima. That was interesting too as they said as little as possible, and then they finally came out with their report which was pretty straight. Facing facts is a great liberation, so why is it something we fear?

  14. Jill

    These ideas should be broken down. First, “positive” and “negative” should be reserved for scientific discourse, not used as descriptives/proscriptives of human behavior. Positive and negative have replaced the words true and false in our language. Thus someone who tells socially approved lies is praised as being positive while someone who tells the truth (acts neagatively) is reproached!

    HR B.S. needs to be called out for all reasons others stated so well above. So, could police acting better towards young people help things out? Yes it can. Even if it’s as simple as not giving tickets for chickencrap infractions. Even if it’s the simple interaction of giving someone a movie ticket. These things are going to help.

    Asking police to go the extra mile towards young people rewards good behavior by police. The corrallary would be, putting financial criminals in jail and confiscating their illgotten gains would stop them cold.

  15. enouf


    … The experiment had to be aborted within days as the guards quickly became sadistic. …

    um.. duh .. that’s all anyone needs to know about trying to equate/sell/promote “Economics” as a science.


    1. enouf

      Do the most of you really think you can confine human ingenuity to a set of finite parameters? Are you all psychology/psychiatry majors? If so; I laugh hysterically at you, with discern and empathy


      1. Capo Regime

        You seem to rely too much on experts and credentials. For the sharp witted and alert some decades of living and working with fellow humans (and raising a few) will probably yield insights and expertise greater than or equal to most psychology majors or pscyhologists. As for Psychiatrists in the current regime they do little more than do follow ups from primary care or social workersdispense prescriptions as most insurance does not cover their other services. Interestingly, many of the most relevant insights on behavior are comming from marketing, PR and behavioral economics.

        1. enouf

          Ignoring my own gibberish above (Yes, i called what i wrote gibberish, since i hadn’t read more than 3 lines into the article prior to posting above 2 comments, heh)…

          That said;

          Seems to me the Japan anamoly (low crime rates, shame, guilt) stems from a culture heavily embedded with things like Honor, Dignity, etc.. for centuries; Things that grow out of having close and long-extended Families, IMHO — the US seems to have a great many out-of-wedlock babes (for a great many reasons, which in itself, is a whole other discussion).

          Whether or not you agree with my assessment above, we can all certainly agree that an entire IPC (Industrial Prison Complex) benefits those at the top 1% immensely — I recall seeing an in-depth report (perhaps it’s that PBS Frontline episode above someone else here posted) that showed (basically, and in essence) “How to profit off of others Poverty”. Certainly applicable to the ‘War on Drugs’ in and of itself.


          p.s. Right now i’m listening to a KPFK podcast (‘Beneath the Surface’) about the *absurdity* of members getting arrested over “chalking”!, ..with hundreds of LEOs involved. There is also something very similar happening in Manchester, NH ; founder of ( and others involved with the whom were “chalking” earlier this year about LEOs killing and abusing people in their community.

          Podcast talking about details/situation;
 (atleast the beginning, etc is concerning Ademo’s situation)

          Overall story/backstory;

          p.s.s. Here’s another completely ridiculous and ludicrous thought;

          Oh — lastly, and most importantly, i wanted to pose these;


          possibly lending some insight into any “reward” hypothesis being put forth (especially concerning *kids* — got to get ’em while they’re young!).

          1. enouf

            aww shucks, …. another one of these;

            Your comment is awaiting moderation.

            what am i doing that’s so outrageous so as to warrant this? ..

            Not to mention, i tried a few times (yesterday?) posting in reply to F. Beard and LeonovaBR recently in other thread where Deuterotomy was mentioned, and it seems the long post i drew up went P00F!
            (vanished).. drats, i hate that!


  16. john c. halasz

    “to call it intellectually dishonest is too king”

    One of your better typos. Nice neologism. It’s a keeper.

  17. Synopticist

    Oh what, the Hawthorne effect is bullshit???!!

    Man, I learnt about that when I was 15, and it’s been a key intellectual underpinning of my worldview ever since.
    Sometimes this site breaks my heart.

  18. readerOfTeaLeaves

    In a much younger part of my life, I used a positive reinforcement system like this with young kids — to great effect. These kids tend to get so many negative messages (as do their parents) that any kind of positive feedback is very powerful, and they begin to have a sense of their own competence.

    Agree the research may be dicey, and it needs to be used with caution. But it can be effective, and doesn’t belong in the hands of HR people – their role is not that of a mentor. A cop in a community setting, or a teacher in a schoolroom, has more of a mentor role — with that in mind, this approach really can work miracles IMVHO. But the mentors have to get a chance to see the good outcomes, or it falls apart because focusing on the positive actually takes a lot of energy, consistency, focus.

  19. rps

    The issue at hand resides within a deeper subterranean level of the human pysche, and that is the human power structure that’s built upon Discrimination.

    Discrimination exists for one reason, and one reason only; power over others. The institutionalization of unnatural classifications: gender, race, culture, economic class, and religion/non religion are manmade structures taught to be thought of as natural states of existence in everyday life. Thus, the unnatural imprisonment of humans beginning at birth due to their natural genetic code that has been assigned negative and/or positive values based upon physical, psychological, and ideological abstracts. A ladder system deemed as the Norm; the status quo.

    The powerful documentary, “A Class Divided,” or as some may remember as Blue-eyes, Brown-eyes, is a 1968 experiment by Jane Elliot, an Iowa schoolteacher, who,the day after Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered, decided to educate her students about the insidious hatred and categorization of humanity. She gave her third-grade students a first-hand experience in the meaning of discrimination.

  20. rps

    Prisons are part and parcel of a tiered economic system. In other words, an inequitable proportioning of employment and earning potential that directly correlates to essential, yet, economically limited resources such as: Education, healthcare,real estate(neighborhood),family stability, etc….that impacts one from birth.

    The first response from mayor to president is to build more prisons,and enlarge the law enforcement/police/military complex. For the most part, a pre-destined outcome due to living on the lowest rung of the economic ladder. I wonder how many jobs are dependent upon crime?

    Poverty isn’t the opposite of wealth. Poverty is economic injustice.

  21. seabos84

    I spent years as a grunt, and it was amazing the amount of money big companies would spend on the latest greatest gold star scheme to dole out to the gerbils to get those wheels spinning faster – I have a hunch that if people were paid a cut of the pie, and, weren’t allowed to DUMP cost decisions onto the community, you could get rid of lots and lots and lots of management

    (all options should vest after 5 or 10 years – goodbye 2 and 3 year management ‘planning’, aka cooking the books to grab your piece of the pie before it is all gone.)

    As a teacher, this positive reward crap gets to serve as the foundation of all kinds of edu-crat idiotic policy which serves to NOT serve kids, serves to blame teachers, and serves to keep the edu-crat class employed crafting new crap instead of realistic solutions.


  22. Megan

    Hi, I am new here. I enjoyed the post and comments very much. I wonder if someone could explain exactly whay an Xtrevilist is? I looked on Google and the returns it gave were mainly blog-posts and comments here. I even tried a real world dictionary to no avail.

    Thanks in advance.

    1. J Sterling

      First check that more than one commenter is using a word, and if not, don’t let yourself get too worried about people’s personal vocabularies.

      Some of the commenters here (I don’t say that commenter is one such) border on the schizophrenic in their ability to develop worlds of discourse in their own heads, that aren’t so easy for readers to make sense of when published.

      1. Megan

        Good advice, I should have been more careful. I gave in and have formulated my own definition based on extraction as the root, with some baroque spelling to make it look modern. Xtrevilist:- Someone who uses a position of trust or authority to legally commit acts that would otherwise be considered theft or fraud. Synonyms would be banker,politician, errr that’s it.

  23. new slavery


    1. enouf


      Edwin R. Murrow – is that you?!
      I suppose we can give you a break this time with your CAPSLOCK issue, after all, you were accustomed to typewriters only in your day ..but please refrain from such SHOUTING in the future – thanks


  24. rembal

    According to some research, positive feedback is stronger then negative – i.e. getting a prize for doing something well has a stronger effect than getting punished for doing something wrong.
    A week or two ago I read about new type of speed cameras in Sweden: instead of ticketing the speeding drivers they will list the drivers who maintain the correct speed, and there will be a daily lottery for those guys. Wonder how it will work out…

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