Identify Your Problem Before Solving It

I find the Mises Institute produces material that often makes me think. Sometimes it is a new thought, and more often, the clarification of a thought I have not developed fully. This is one such. Concentrate where the murders are concentrated.

Be careful when you see people use averages to make a point

The point they made

The murder rate, on average, in the United States is rising. The federal government has many possible solutions, not the least of which is stricter gun control. Averages seem to make sense, but, in reality, it is political trickery. Averages seldom convey useful information. A change in the average is merely a signal to look deeper.

Deeper involves facts.

In this case, deeper is a study involving the 3,033 counties in the United States and an examination of the murder rate in each. The results provide guidance.

The worst 1%, 31 counties, encompass 21% of the population, and account for 42% of the murders. The worst 5% have 47% of the population and 73% of the murders.

It is further broken down by zip code, and again the concentration is apparent.

At the other end of the spectrum, 52% of the counties had zero murders, and another 16% had one. More than 2,000 counties had one or no murders in the year. Do you think national action might inconvenience the residents in those 2,000 counties? There would be a cost and no benefit.

When you use facts

Facts lead you to better answers. In this case, it would make sense to address murders by zip code. Los Angeles’s worst 20% of zip codes accounted for 67% of the county’s murders. Granular data provides the greatest potential insight. The political problem is that it’s a local issue, not a national one. Heaven forbid national gun ideology be turned over to the locals.

You might also wish to notice that Cook County, Chicago, has the highest murder rate and the strongest gun control laws. Los Angeles, Harris (Austin, TX), Philadelphia, and New York round out the top five most murderous counties. Each has gun-control high on its list of ordinances. You might ask yourself if gun control is the answer, why does it not solve the problem?

The point

When you start with the preferred solution, you twist facts and obscure logic, so it seems to be an answer.

Be ruthless in identifying the narrow problem in a specific place and at a particular time before assessing solutions. Global solutions to local issues are costly and seldom welcomed

Judging by the study, it seems likely more than guns are involved in the problem.

Mistrust political narratives.

Be wary of averages until you know their composition. That applies to every situation you are apt to encounter. If the S&P 500 drops 10%, did every stock fall? Not likely. Pay more attention to details. That’s how people find opportunity in bad news.

I build strategic, fact-based estate and income plans. The plans identify alternate and effective ways to achieve spending and estate distribution goals.

Be in touch at 705-927-4770 or by email at

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