Noble: Wicked problems |

Noble: Wicked problems

“Cain said to his brother Abel, ‘Let us go out in the field.’ When they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. Then the LORD asked Cain, ‘Where is your brother Abel?’ He answered, ‘I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?’” — Genesis                               

Scientifically, the first known murder occurred 430,000 years ago. Paleontologists piecing together a skull from Homo heidelbergensis determined that the holes in the skull were deliberate, and not caused by an accident. Biblical or scientific, crime is hardly a recent phenomenon.

According to the FBI, the economy, poverty, family, climate, local law enforcement, local criminal justice system, and the community’s attitude towards crime and crime reporting all contribute to crime. Income inequality, social exclusion, gender and education are other cited factors, emphasizing the point that there is no single cause of crime.

Party affiliation of mayors does not appear on any credible list of causative factors for crime. That is not stopping the president and Republicans, who never let facts and data stand in the way of baseless accusations.

Crime in the United States is down sharply since its peak in the early 1990s. However, most Americans think the opposite is true. David Ropeik, author of “How Risky is It Really? Why Our Fears Don’t Match the Facts” calls this the “mean world syndrome” and attributes this mismatch between perception and reality to obsessive media coverage of sensational, outlier crimes such as the JonBenet Ramsey murder. This media attention contributes to Americans believing their country is more dangerous than it is.

That said, during the summer of 2020 there was an uptick in murders. Criminologists offer several theories as to the rise in crime including a change in policing resulting in less interaction with the public, the public less willing to contact the police to report crime, loosening of the lockdowns, and seasonal variation.

But is this increase exclusively in cities run by Democrats? Actually, the murder rate is up nationally about 25 percent. In fact, from 2019 to 2020 the murder rate increased 29 percent in Tulsa, 64.3 percent in Colorado Springs and 88.9 percent in Omaha — all cities with Republican mayors.

Consider the case to two American cities — the mayor of Jacksonville, Florida, is Republican Lenny Curry. Jacksonville’s population is about 900,000 and in 2018 there were 55 murders. The number of murders increased to 62 in 2019. Conversely in Denver, a city of just over 700,000 with a Democrat mayor, Michael Hancock, murders decreased from 34 in 2018, to 28 in 2019.

What about other indicators of well-being? Six of the top 10 states for opioid addiction are run by Republican governors. Eight of the top 10 states with the highest rates of domestic violence have Republican governors. And eight of the top 10 states with the nation’s highest obesity rates have Republican governors. What might we infer about republican leadership from those statistics?

Crime, along with addiction, obesity, homelessness, climate change and other complex issues are “wicked problems.”

Wicked problems are difficult if not impossible to solve. At best they are only re-solved — again and again. The Austin Center for Design explains that wicked problems suffer from incomplete or conflicting information, contradictory opinions from established experts, a significant economic burden, and entanglement with other problems that may also be wicked.

The term was first proposed by design theorist Horst Rittel who explained, “…societal problems are inherently different from the problems that scientists and perhaps some classes of engineers deal with.” Unlike natural science problems, societal problems elude concise definition and lack specific, discoverable solutions.

Instead of lecturing Democrats, the “law and order” president should look in the mirror. Anyone with 14 aides, advisors and donors indicted or imprisoned for crimes such as paying off a porn star or lying to the FBI has little credibility to lecture Democrat mayors.

Wicked problems require careful consideration by credentialed experts. Fatuous claims by the president such as, “The crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon come to an end,” are nothing more than political theater, and have failed to materialize in four years of his incompetent leadership.  

The president does not possess solutions, only platitudes. Wicked problems require competent professionals, not wishful thinking.

“If wishes were horses, then beggars would ride.” — Scottish proverb

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