Its somewhat surprising to me that people are still surprised by Stockholm syndrome.

First of all, we are primates, smart, vicious, highly social highly emotional animals. More like chimpanzees than bonobos. I bet Chimpanzees have stockholm syndrome up the yin yang. They don't call it that because 1) they don't range to Scandinavia and 2) they can't talk.

And talking! What a funny distortion! Hypocriticus Shmippocriticus! Brutality is just a label for force you wish people to be mad at. You don't need to look to NYPD to see us all falling under the heel of force, at airport screening, on the road when we see a police car, even for some of us when considering what words we put in our posts.

So yes, primates have evolved in a social structure where brutality is a useful tool and alliance is a useful tool and, surprise surprise, we have an affinity to ally with the effective, some of whom are brutal.

But being hypocriticus, we like to talk about it as though it "should" be otherwise. (Holding up my hand) -- talk to the genes.

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Pretty much no one runs for mayor or city council on a platform of having independent organizations measure or police the police. Which tells you that few expect voters to support such changes. Which tells you that most folks know they are being dominated by police who can cheat with impunity, and (as voters) prefer that situation to imagined alternatives.This doesn't quite fit with my subjective experience. When I discuss police brutality with people, most of them deny there is a problem at all. They simply don't believe the police are dominating them.

I think the simpler and better explanation is that politics isn't about policy. People don't support the police because they approve of the policy being dominated, they support them to affiliate with a high-status profession. Because police work involves physical danger and protecting people it has high status in our culture. Voters vote in a "pro-police" fashion to affiliate with high status police. When they are told of police behaving in a low-status fashion (dominating) they use self-deception to deny it in order to avoid having their own status lowered. What policies the police actually pursue, be they dominant or egalitarian, doesn't enter the equation at all.

Needless to say, of course, this like most signalling behaviors, is unconscious and automatic. On the conscious level people genuinely believe that police misbehavior isn't a problem.

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Or perhaps that's just an elaboration on what you meant by "industry’s wealth weakened the fear that kept farmers in line".

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"Farmers tolerated violations, at least by socially distant upper classes. But as industry’s wealth weakened the fear that kept farmers in line, we turned to democracy to reaffirm our anti-domination norm."

Perhaps a simpler explanation is that, all else being equal, the degree of freedom different classes have is proportional to their political power; and their political power is proportional to the fraction of total GDP that they produce.

In a hunter-gatherer society, there is no accumulation of wealth, the value of land is low relative to the number of people needed to keep possession of that land, and each person represents a high fraction of the tribe's total value.

In an agricultural society, the value of land skyrockets, the value of a warrior (roughly the value of amount of land that warrior can defend) increases to the point where specialization in war is worthwhile, and while the value of each peasant farmer is higher than the value of each hunter gatherer if measured in absolute terms, it may be lower as a fraction of GDP.

Once trade, durable goods, and wealth accumulation are invented, the relative value of warriors to farmers increases, as pillaging the accumulated wealth of others appears to be the winning strategy.

After industrialization, the relative value of workers (formerly farmers) presumably increases, and so does their political power and freedom.

(After the replacement of workers with robots, workers' value would decrease again, and they would become slaves again - not to the robots, but to those humans who retain political power.)

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Voters can only choose among the candidates who are running. Imperfect information and cognitive bias may easily keep us from voting for the candidate we would prefer to have in office.

Forget about "imperfections": a handful of millionaires and billionaires can decide who gets to be a candidate and who doesn't.

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"NYC citizens don’t want objectively enforced laws constraining their police."

Your conclusion isn't supported by your evidence. Candidates aren't constructed from the collection of majority opinions, so you can't say elected officials represent the majority opinion of any given subject. Voters can only choose among the candidates who are running. Imperfect information and cognitive bias may easily keep us from voting for the candidate we would prefer to have in office.

Moving from faulty logic to the subject matter of the article...

Domination implies abusive power without recourse. I can't argue that it hasn't been accepted, because it certainly has, but it isn't what we want. Domination has been tolerated throughout history, but when those in power become too abusive, the people rebel.

I think what we really want is fairness and justice. We want to be fairly treated and criminals to be punished. We aren't much concerned with how this happens, although we've found that it's hard to create a set of rules that consistently produces these results. A strong police force allows criminals to be captured and punished, but how do we keep that same strong police force from abusing the honest citizen? Just because we haven't implemented a solution doesn't mean that the majority doesn't want one.

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A post like this conveniently manages to ignore not only scholarship but well-known facts about the politics of policing, which are a staple of journalism and fiction and so there's no real excuse for not knowing them. If this faux naivete managed to produce some stunning insight I suppose it might be worthwhile, but I don't see it.

To put it crudely, but a lot less crudely than the original post, there are two competing political forces, one of right-wing authoritarianism that supports strong police powers, and a left-liberal one that puts a stronger emphasis on individual rights and in particular the rights of the accused in the criminal justice system. In recent decades the balance has shifted strongly to the former, to the point where it is very hard for even a Democrat to run on a platform of protecting individual rights against the police. But this wasn't always the case, which is why we have things like Miranda rights and civilian review boards in the first place.

This is not "hypocrisy", it is a reflection of the fact that "NYC citizens" is not a unitary actor with unified opinions.

So if you don't like authoritarian policing, the right thing to do is lend your support to the political forces that oppose it, such as the ACLU.

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Pshaw. Problems with police misconduct can be handled by filing a simple complaint:


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by want I meant revealed preference. As for overcoming bias, it isn't a bias if brutal leaders efficiently help one achieve ones goals. I wasn't making a normative statement.

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Marijuana legalization went on the ballot as Prop 19 in California and lost. Proposition 8 overturned a court decision to amend the California constitution to restrict marriage to opposite-sex couples. And California is a solidly "blue" state.

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There are human reflex mechanism(s) that tolerate brutality. An extreme form of that is Stockholm Syndrome.

The way to invoke Stockholm Syndrome is to alternate being brutal and being humane. The classic “good cop bad cop” routine.

I suspect this derived from deep evolutionary time when human ancestors reproduced via alpha males and those alpha males would kill the offspring of the previous alpha males so the females would have higher fecundity with the new alpha male.

If a female didn't attach to the new alpha male, she would have reduced reproductive success. Some primates even spontaneously miscarry to avoid the “cost” of carrying an infant to term where that infant will be killed by the new alpha male.


It is not surprising that there is cross-talk between brutality by police and Stockholm Syndrome. That is the whole point behind bullying, to induce Stockholm Syndrome to get victims to either ally with the perpetrator, kill themselves, or be killed by the bully.

It isn't that people want brutal leaders, brutal boyfriends, brutal husbands or brutal police. But being alive with a brutal leader is better than being dead with a brutal leader. That is why humans tolerate bullying, particularly if the bullying is happening to someone else.

This is why people who consider themselves libertarians tolerate violation of other people's liberties; restrictions on contraception, criminalization of drugs, pollution release into the environment, restrictions on freedom of speech.

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Exactly: the majority of Americans is in favor of gay marriage and legalization of marijuana, opposed to the war in Afghanistan and a future one in Iran, and the citizens united ruling. Yet, these things can't be voted on because although voters still decide elections, a small, rich elite can definitely narrow the candidate field. Trust me, if American democracy worked anywhere near as well as advertised, then independent police inspections would be on the ballot.

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Completely implausible to me. I have no desire for leaders, period.

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Do we want brutal leaders?

Or do we just get them because monitoring is expensive, attention is finite, would-be leaders are in competition, and brutality makes ill-adapted creatures follow modern norms cheaply?

And is the attitude in this post, and especially in this comment, helping anyone to overcome their biases? It's status raising and self-contradictory: "I'm overcoming my biases, but nobody else will."

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"NYC citizens don’t want objectively enforced laws constraining their police."

Where is that on a ballot?

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humans seem to want maximally brutal leaders up to the limit of plausibly signalling that they don't want maximally brutal leaders.

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