There is a review of the book in today’s Washington Post. The premise that Professor Gilligan lays out is not based on numbers of people killed in wars and such, but rather then number of homicides and suicides.
There has been a long correlation between the two types of death. When murders go up so do suicides, and that is what the author started out looking at. He put together a list showing the numbers of suicides and homicides in the United States from 1900 to 2007 and started to study the data.
In his book he says:
“I saw three large, sudden, and prolonged increases and decreases in these measures of lethal violence, which reached a peak and were then followed by equally dramatic decreases.”
These increases happened during Republican Presidential administrations, with the peak being right around the last year of the administration, and the decreases hit their nadir around the last year of Democratic administrations. Professor Gilligan says that he used the same statistical analysis method that correlated smoking to lung cancer.
Okay, now I have not read the book nor had a chance to look at the study methodology but there seems like a lot of things that could affect this data and I am not at all sure that there might not be factors that he did not control for. As much as I’d love it as another example that Republicans are truly, deeply and madly bad for the nation when they get the White House, this seems a little far fetched.
After all correlation is not causality, if it were we’d just have to get a bunch more pirates and we’d have solved global warming (when there were swarms of pirates there was no global warming, now that we don’t have many the planet is warming, QED a lack of pirates causes global warming. /snark).
Gilligan seems to be saying that there is a correlation between the despair of suicides and there thinking there is only one way out and the social and economic policies of the Republicans. The gods greater and lesser know that Republicans are so dumb sometimes that I want to open a vein but this kind of macro correlation strikes me as too neat.
Are there really that many people who are so on the edge of destroying themselves that a small change in the perceived policy (it has to be perceived since the shift seems to happen almost immediately after one party or the other taking power) actually pushes them over the edge?
I am not saying that Prof Gilligan is wrong, but I wonder if he has done all the research needed to make such an explosive claim?
So, what is on your minds tonight Firedogs? The floor is yours!