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Alaska: America’s Last Frontier

When University of Wisconsin historian Frederick Jackson Turner wrote his famous essay in 1893, “The Significance of the Frontier in American History,” he was not thinking of Alaska. Yet the 49th state—whose license plates proclaim it to be “The Last Frontier”—represents a still-untamed wilderness. Turner’s influential paper was prompted by the settlement (or, in the estimation of the 1890 census, the “closing”) of the West following the end of the Civil War. In Turner’s once-dominant view, conquering the American frontier required settlers to abandon European attitudes and customs and to embrace self-reliance, democracy, and freedom. A recent visit to Alaska inspired me to reflect on Turner’s now-controversial thesis that the existence of the American frontier shaped our national character in important respects.

First, a bit of history. The United States acquired Alaska by purchase (from Russia) in 1867 for the modest sum of $7 million, after fur trappers had nearly eliminated the population of sea otters—the chief resource Russian traders were interested in exploiting. While American critics initially derided the deal as “Seward’s Folly” (William H. Seward was Secretary of State at the time), the transaction was quickly vindicated by the discovery of gold. The non-contiguous territory was not a frozen wasteland, after all. The state’s productive fishery, abundant timber, coal reserves, and the eventual discovery of oil have long sustained the Alaskan economy—along with tourism in recent years.

In World War II, Alaska became strategically important due to the 1,200-mile long Aleutian Islands’ projection deep into the Pacific Ocean. In 1942, the Japanese invaded the archipelago and held the islands of Attu and Kiska for nearly a year—the first occupation of American territory by a foreign country since the War of 1812. Alaska was admitted to the union in 1959, and continues to host large Army and Air Force bases.

Alaska is vast, almost beyond comprehension. The state, at 663,268 square miles in size, is more than twice as big as the next-largest state, Texas. Alaska is one-fifth the size of the entire lower 48 states combined. The enormity of the state is accentuated by its mountainous terrain (including the 10 tallest peaks in the U.S., led by Mount McKinley at 20,310 feet[1]), extensive ocean coastline (more than all the other states combined), and frigid climate. Approximately five percent of Alaska’s land mass is covered by nearly 100,000 glaciers, the largest concentration of glaciers in the U.S.

Because of its remote location and sprawling, largely inaccessible land area, Alaska is sparsely populated. There are few roads and many areas of the state can only be reached by plane. More than 80 percent of communities in Alaska are not connected to a highway or road system. (Bush planes are common; the state has six times as many pilots per capita than the rest of the country.) Even the state capital, Juneau, can only be reached by boat or plane. Around 700,000 people inhabit the state, half of whom live in Anchorage, and the remainder reside in small towns or rural areas. Alaska is by far the least densely populated state in the nation, and only Wyoming and Vermont have fewer residents.

Alaska residents are hardy souls, braving harsh weather, poor roads, geographic isolation, higher prices for most commodities, limited shopping and entertainment, and, in the summer months, nearly constant daylight (due to the tilt in the earth’s axis). During long winters, they endure corresponding darkness. Alaskans also enjoy spectacular scenery, clean air, excellent hunting and fishing, and close proximity to unspoiled nature. In the early years, Alaska attracted mainly prospectors, fur trappers, miners, and mountain men willing (and able) to survive the grueling conditions. Later, a small number of adventurous homesteaders were drawn by cheap land and—in some areas—fertile soil. (In the Matanuska-Susitna Valley north of Anchorage, rich deposits of glacial silt—combined with extended summer sunshine—produce record-sized fruits and vegetables, such as 138-pound cabbages, 65-pound cantaloupes, and 35-pound broccolis.)

In 1935, New Deal architect Rexford Tugwell conceived a bold scheme to “rehabilitate” failed farmers in impoverished areas of the United States by relocating them to centrally planned “cooperative” communities designed and built by the federal government. The largest example of this utopian agricultural experiment, involving the resettlement of over 200 distressed families from Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, was the Matanuska Colony Project in Palmer, Alaska. Although the “colony” was a massive failure as a relief program—exceeding its budget five-fold and losing more than half of the original colonists within five years[2]—it is a useful lesson in the futility of government-managed collective enterprises. In addition, the project helped develop the still-charming town of Palmer, which has preserved the site of the colony experiment as a historic district.[3]

Homesteading increased after World War II, especially in the Kenai Peninsula, and in recent decades many people seeking refuge from congestion, over-development, and over-regulation elsewhere have relocated to Alaska. Although the cross-section of residents I encountered during my visit was limited and not necessarily representative, I was struck by the consistency of their perspective. Alaskans, regardless of age, sex, or marital status, savor their solitude and wish to be “left alone.” They were also unfailingly friendly, unpretentious, and seemingly well-adjusted. It takes a special breed to tolerate the hardships of Alaska life, which include perils of nature not present elsewhere—such as numerous active volcanoes, frequent (and sometimes severe) earthquakes[4], the risk of tsunamis in coastal areas, avalanches, bear attacks, and the risk of hypothermia from exposure to omnipresent cold water.

These challenges seem to shape (or attract?) certain attitudes and characteristics on the part of Alaska residents—such as independence and the desire for personal freedom. Turner’s frontier thesis is arguably borne out by the unique nature of Alaskan politics: marijuana sale and use are legal; Alaska has no state income tax (a feature universally touted by residents with whom I spoke); Alaska has no helmet laws for motorcycles or snowmobiles; Alaska has the highest rate of gun ownership in the nation (as well as all-terrain vehicles), and of snowmobile fatalities per capita; Alaska is the only state in the union without an ABA-approved law school; the state has the smallest bicameral legislature in the country, which meets only 90 days a year; and Alaska has a consistently conservative voting record.

Alaska has voted Republican in every presidential election since 1968; since its statehood in 1959, Alaska voted for the Democratic candidate only once, for President Lyndon B. Johnson in the landslide election of 1964. Alaska voters, while conservative, are not necessarily partisan. In the 2016 presidential election, Alaska voters favored Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton by nearly 15 percentage points, but also cast six percent of their votes for Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson.

Third parties and independents have historically done well in Alaska. Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski, who was appointed by her father (Frank Murkowski) to his former seat upon his election as governor in 2002, won re-election in 2010 as a write-in candidate [5], after losing the Republican nomination to a Tea Party-backed challenger in the primary. Due to third-party candidates on the ballot, Murkowski is the first person in history to win three elections to the U.S. Senate (in 2004, 2010, and 2016) with pluralities but not majorities.

Are Alaskans different because of self-selection, or has the wilderness experience shaped their distinctive, can-do ethos? Or is it a combination of the two? I can’t really say. One thing is sure: Down-to-earth Alaskans are as unique as the “last frontier” in which they live. After returning to the progressive—but warmer—climate of my home town (Austin, Texas), I already miss it.

[1] Under the Obama administration, in 2015 the Department of Interior renamed Mt. McKinley (so named since 1896) “Denali,” based on the native Athabaskans’ name for the peak. Because most of the Alaskans I met during my visit continue to refer to the mountain as “Mt. McKinley,” I adopt that usage.

[2] By 1965, only 20 of the first families were still farming in the Mat-Su Valley.

[3] An informative overview is Helen Hegener’s self-published 2014 book “The 1935 Matanuska Colony Project: The Remarkable History of a New Deal Experiment in Alaska.”

[4] In 1964, Alaska experienced the most powerful earthquake in North American history (measuring 9.2 on the Richter scale), which was also the second most powerful earthquake recorded in human history.

[5] Murkowski became the first U.S. Senator to be elected in a write-in campaign since Strom Thurmond did so in South Carolina in 1954.

Reader Discussion

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on August 02, 2018 at 10:21:16 am

"...which meets only 90 days a year; "

Well it seems as if someone got the message that "No man is safe when the Legislature is in session"
Perhaps, they can shorten it to 60 days in the next decade!

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gabe
on August 02, 2018 at 10:58:24 am

Mark Pulliam's writing is invariably excellent, analytical and entertaining, and it often proves important points (important because they're mine): 1) if one is a talented writer before attending law school the dull rigor of legal education will either destroy one's literary creativity (as happens to most) or substantially improve it (for those, like Pulliam) whose moral imagination survives the intellectually plodding, psychically grueling law school ordeal,)
2) real lawyers, not the make-believe theoreticians, social-justice ideologues and political abstractionists of legal academia, are socially, economically, politically and literarily (like Pulliam) invaluable to America because they're the best analysts of problems, the best at finding solutions to problems, the best at foreseeing and finding ways to go 'round obstacles, the best at working with or defeating adversaries (the choice is theirs) and the most skillful, verbally adroit persuaders of decision-makers and the most intellectually inquisitive, verbally-capable communicators (as Pulliam) of ideas about anything and everything.

The Founders and their great written work product (history's finest political achievement) demonstrated all of that beyond peradventure.

On the Supreme Court and in Congress and as writers we need more lawyers who have practiced the art of law (as Pulliam,) not merely taught law or espoused its theories and tenets in classrooms or from a lower bench without having deployed them in real courts and for real clients. The service on the bench of the incomparable Justice John Marshall, the vastly underrated Justice George Sutherland and the most esteemed, most estimable Robert Jackson; the Presidency nonpareil of Lincoln, the extraordinary political careers of the two Adams and the unrivalled legal and Senate careers of Clay and Webster and the works of writers from Dickens, Tolstoy and Balzac to Scott Turow and John Grisham (and Lincoln was among America's greatest writers, with lawyer Jefferson his close second) are all res ipsa loquitur in that regard.

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Pukka Luftmensch
on August 02, 2018 at 12:14:32 pm

I'm flattered. Thank you. If you enjoy my pieces here at Law & Liberty, check out my blog, Misrule of Law. https://misruleoflaw.com/

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Mark Pulliam
on August 02, 2018 at 13:47:54 pm

Ah, the self-reliant Alaskan, rejecting the pleas of a money-grasping government for sales taxes. How does the state pay the bills? Well, they have natural resources such as oil, which permits the government to not only forego sales taxes, but to actually write annual checks to each citizen. Nice way to do self-reliance, with a government hand-out.

Oh, and then there’s a little matter of inter-governmental transfers. Which states receive the most federal dollars per capita? For obvious reasons, DC tops the list (though it’s not a state), followed by Virginia and Maryland (DC suburbs). And next comes .. Alaska. That's an even nicer way to do self-reliance, with a FEDERAL government hand-out.

But how ‘bout that idyllic frontier life? Good of Pulliam to acknowledge that Alaskan enjoy both the freedom to ride snowmobiles without helmets, and also the highest per capita rate of snowmobile fatalities. Curious that he would neglect to mention that they also enjoy the highest per capital rate of violent crime (murder, nonnegligent manslaughter, rape, robbery, aggravated assault), drug and alcohol abuse, and untreated mental illness. The violent crime rate is more than 200% of the national average. The rape rate is more than 250%. The child rape rate is 600%.

Anchorage is the worst city in the nation for all of that. But let us not forget the joys of the almost government-free Alaskan wilderness—where rape is rampant and virtually unpoliced. If the only doctor or auto mechanic in your remote village is a rapist, whatcha gonna do?

But on the plus side, Alaska has only the second highest rate of suicide. The CDC reports that in 2016 Montana overtook Alaska by 0.1 deaths/100,000 population.

This is the REAL reality of frontier living. It’s a reality that was well described by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Sure, the Little House books had their grim aspects—hooligan schoolboys regularly beating and even killing their teachers with impunity, for example (Farmer Boy), and the grinding poverty of Laura’s first failing effort at homesteading with Alonzo (The First Four Years). But those were the sanitized tales. Ingles actual autobiography was so bleak—with accounts of lethal alcoholism, spousal abuse, violations of Indian land claims, and the death of her brother—that publishers in 1930 wouldn’t touch it.

Frontiers: Nice place to visit—and for libertarian fantasies. Wouldn’t wanna live there.

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nobody.really
on August 02, 2018 at 15:58:24 pm

Gawd, Edith, you are certainly cheery today! About the only things you left out were cattle rustling and slaughter by marauding Indian bands. How could you forget that?

Of course, you could have included the murder, rape, burglary and drug crime statistics for, oh let's say, CHICAGO.

Yep, life in the urban paradises is really quite pleasant!

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gabe
on August 02, 2018 at 16:14:41 pm

Gawd, nobody should not even visit Alaska; it sounds worse than my "almost heaven, West Virginia" which also does not want nobody.

Too conservative there and way too much American frontier spirit in Alaska and West Virginia for nobody. What Vern Parrington called the American frontier's creative, exciting, adventurous "philosophy of the unexpected," one of our "Main Currents of American Thought'' is for nobody as anxiety-inducing as seeing Donald Trump at a Wisconsin political rally.

Nobody's a Newark kinda guy! Maybe Frisco where he can vote for San Fran Nan. Or NYC with its dirigiste outlook and its sexual, racial, ethnic, economic, moral, narcotic and criminal diversity; nobody loves government statism and unbridled diversity and sees both as possessing yet-to-be-reached heights of instrumental social value. And there are lots of atheists in San Fran and NYC and probably more econometricians there than nobody can fit into one of his beloved computer models.

The Alaskan Highway and Country Roads are herewith closed to nobody.

Folks there may be drug-addicted, cousin-raping, gun-toting, Bible-clinging deplorables, living on "government transfers," missing their teeth, shoes and indoor plumbing, and chased by bears. But Alaskans have Sarah Palin and Hillbillies got lots of pride.

Vive le "North to the Future" and "Montani Semper Liberi."

But nobody ain't welcome.

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Pukka Luftmensch
on August 02, 2018 at 17:08:52 pm

Of course, you could have included … statistics for, oh let’s say, CHICAGO.

Ok. The current Broadway revival of CHICAGO has been running since November 14, 1996, through more than 9000 performances; has won six Tonys (including Best Revival), two Oliviers, and a Grammy; and grossed $625 million so far. Admittedly, it has been associated with at least one suicide.

But if you mean Chicago, then the FBI’s 2015 Uniform Crime Reports reveal that not even that town can match Anchorage’s rate of violent crime (1070.9 vs. Chicago’s 903.8/100,000) or property crime (3917.5 vs. Chicago’s 2946.3/100,000). Admittedly, Chicago has a higher murder rate than Anchorage, but is swamped by Anchorage’s rates forrape and aggravated assault.

Last March USA Today published 25 Cities Where Crime is Soaring, reflecting 2016 data. Regarding Anchorage, they report:

5-yr. violent crime rate change: +41.3%
• 2011 violent crime rate: 789.2 per 100,000 (total: 2,454)
• 2016 violent crime rate: 1,114.9 per 100,000 (total: 3,519)
• December unemployment rate: 6.7%
• Poverty rate: 7.2%

After climbing by a near nation-leading 41.3% in the last five years, the violent crime rate in Anchorage, Alaska, is the second highest of any metro area tracked by the FBI [exceeded only by Monroe, Louisiana]. There were 1,115 violent crimes in the metro area for every 100,000 residents in 2016, nearly three times the violent crime across the U.S. as a whole.

Disengaged members of society are more likely to commit serious crimes than actively engaged citizens, and the relatively high unemployment rate in Anchorage may be indicative of too few jobs to support the population. As of December, 6.7% of the metro area’s workforce were out of a job, one of the highest unemployment rates of any U.S. metro area and well above the comparable 4.1% U.S. rate.

Regarding Chicago ... Chicago didn't even make the list.

Evidence: It's a bitch, ain't it?

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nobody.really
on August 02, 2018 at 17:42:23 pm

Gawd, nobody should not even visit Alaska….

The Alaskan Highway and Country Roads are herewith closed to nobody….

But nobody ain’t welcome.

Oh, I agree; everyone should go sometime. As you dramatically observe, the call of the open road beckons us all—especially in Alaska, where The Milepost magazine is a tourist’s best friend. But the trains are awesome, too, especially the domed car going north to Talkeetna, which was the city upon which Northern Exposure was modelled. (I looked around for Mt. McKinley, but couldn’t see it. Perhaps it was hidden behind Denali?)

Anyway, it’s nice to know that they’re ready to receive everyone with open arms. (Do you perchance work for Alaska Tourism?)

”…West Virginia” which also does not want nobody.

Perhaps you mean don’t want nobody? (e.g, “We Wes’ Virgin’ns don’t want nobody snoopin’ ‘round our bidness no-how!”). In dialect, the subtle differences make all the difference.

…as anxiety-inducing as seeing Donald Trump at a Wisconsin political rally.

Hey, when Trump’s at a Wisconsion rally, at least he’s not screwing up all the airports and roads in S. Florida. Those poor people, having to endure a military occupation every other weekend….

Nobody’s a Newark kinda guy!

Well, not since the demise of People’s Air. But next time I’m there I’ll be sure to look around for all the Palestinians cheering about the demise of the World Trade Center….

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nobody.really
on August 02, 2018 at 18:38:05 pm

Then again, there is the issue of SAMPLE SIZE.
Anchorage has under 300,000 people as such criminal incidents, which will occur in all populations may have an undue statistical weight.

I'm jus' sayin'

"The two unrelated murder cases from Christmas Eve brings the total number of homicides this year to 34, which marks Anchorage's highest number of homicides per year, in over two decades, according to the Anchorage Police Department's statistics.Dec 4, 2017"

vs

"August 2016 marked the most violent month Chicago had recorded in over two decades with 92 murders, included the murder of Nykea Aldridge, cousin of NBA star Dwyane Wade. By September 2016, Chicago had reached 500 people murdered and 3,000 people shot, surpassing totals for all of 2015 in just 9 months."

Heck, chicago knocks off Anchorage's annual total on a hot weekend.

EVIDENCE IS A BITCH, nobody!!!!!!!!!

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gabe
on August 02, 2018 at 18:45:47 pm

" But next time I’m there I’ll be sure to look around for all the Palestinians cheering about the demise of the World Trade Center…."

So what if it wasn't in Newark.

They sure celebrated in PLO country didn't they?
And speaking of violence, in West Bank and Gaza, homicide rate has been as high as 4.4 per 100k of population. folks like that are, of course, unlikely to cheer on televised acts of violence.

Give it a break, nobody! - the entity that wishes for all others to become nobody's with no core values, no beliefs and only the fuzzy roadmap provided by relativists mapmakers. How does one navigate in such a world?

Make it up as you go, I suppose and baffle with (statistical) bullshit.

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gabe
on August 02, 2018 at 19:10:18 pm

Nobody, your contempt for Alaska is palpable, but possibly misdirected. Native Alaskans comprise about 15% of the state’s population. The outlying—and very remote—communities in the far north are almost 100% Natives, but quite a few reside in Anchorage. While the entire state has a higher rate of alcohol abuse than is typical “down below,” the rate of alcoholism, and alcohol-related crimes (such as rape) is much greater among Natives than non-Native residents. Long, cold winters and isolation (resembling the pioneer days in the Lower 48) probably explain the state’s overall alcohol problem, but the Natives display a reservation-like pathology that skews the statistics. The hell hole you depict is largely attributable to dysfunctional Natives. Shaming them (or—worse—blaming them) without trying to understand the milieu in which this unfortunate behavior occurs is not very sporting, even by the standards of anonymous trolls who like to post disparaging comments on this site. Freedom is not the problem, however much disdain you may feel for the concept.

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Mark Pulliam
on August 02, 2018 at 19:19:27 pm

Then again, there is the issue of SAMPLE SIZE.
Anchorage has under 300,000 people as such criminal incidents, which will occur in all populations may have an undue statistical weight.

Uh ... no. The statistics are reporter per 100,000 population. So we already adjust for population size.

Look, If you’re frightened of every city that has more than 34 homicides/yr, then you’ll definitely want to steer clear of Chicago – and Albuquerque, Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore, Boston, Buffalo, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, D.C., Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Fort Wayne, Fort Worth, Fresno, Indianapolis, Huston, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Louisville, Memphis, Miami, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Nashville, New Orleans, New York, Newark, Oakland, Oklahoma City, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Toledo, Sacramento, San Antonio, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, St. Louis, Stockton, Tulsa….

But suit yourself.

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nobody.really
on August 02, 2018 at 19:37:43 pm

I mean no contempt for Alaska. I have concern for Alaska, and I’m not willing to sweep those concerns under the rug in order to project my personal longings onto others. Plus, I really liked the Funky Money (but now it's closed!)

Rather, I mean contempt for the idea that a tourist could draw accurate conclusions about an entire state based on one vacation.

That said, Pulliam raise an interesting hypothesis about the nature of Alaska’s population, which may complicate the ability to draw valid conclusions based on averages. That is, Pulliam make a plausible case for disaggregating the data—but not for making generalization without data.

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nobody.really
on August 02, 2018 at 20:44:21 pm

Nobody's use of the theme of social suffering by Alaska's ethnic minority (insofar as, arguendo, some specific aspects of such suffering may truly be reflected in government statistics) so as to demean Native Alaskans in particular, Alaska's racial majority in general and Alaska's quality of life overall is a shabby political tactic worthy of Crooked Hillary and the Democrat race panderers and beneath even nobody's typically-subterranean moral depths.

The foul ploy is also a statistical sleight of hand which improperly conflates and compares the consideration and valuation of pockets and discrete groups which may suffer social pain (which nobody argues is fully and accurately reflected in limited statistics on only a few measurement criteria of suffering, which have not been properly evaluated and weighted as to race, ethnicity, economic status, native vs immigrant population, locale or region of the state) with consideration and valuation of the emotional health, physical well-being and spiritual happiness both of Alaska's majority and of Alaska overall, as to neither of which does nobody offer any criteria of judgment or any statistical information.

It's a typical misleading tactic of nobody's econometric approach to life. his anti-human, misleading abuse of limited statistics in a grasping, politically-desperate attempt to demean the essential worth and quality of conservatives in a politically conservative state living lives of apparent, if not self-evident, dignity, beauty and freedom in pursuit of happiness and meaning. It's sheer political opportunism and shameful cynicism to use half-baked, cooked and misleading statistics to slime them!

Just a few added specifics: Alaska's distribution to all Alaskans of the mining royalties reaped from the state's management of natural resources that are OWNED by ALL Alaskans is not "living off welfare." Nobody supports undeserved government welfare in the lower 49 and would defend it by equating it to what is not welfare in Alaska.

The so-called "inter-government transfers" are not, as nobody alleges, "welfare.'' They are for the most part educational assistance funds for Alaskan Natives, payments akin to educational assistance to Native Americans on reservations and African-Americans in inner-city schools. I suspect the per student expenditures on educating Alaskan Natives are not nearly as high as those spent on the education of African Americans residents in Washington, DC, although Alaskans face much greater and more endemic hardships than DC in bringing education to the classrooms of their needy minority.

But then again, perhaps nobody, like al other Democrats, has his favored minorities and defends crony welfarism according to what brings out the Democrat vote.

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Pukka Luftmensch
on August 02, 2018 at 23:20:49 pm

It apparently has not escaped people’s notice that I often differ from the opinions expressed here.

What apparently HAS escaped notice is my practice of actually quoting the language I’m disputing. I do this in order to demonstrate that I’m giving a fair hearing to the other person, and to aid others in following the dispute. (And ok, sometimes I intestinally quote things out of context to set up jokes; so sue me.)

I will again exhort others to emulate the practice. Please.

Nobody’s use of the theme of social suffering by Alaska’s ethnic minority (insofar as, arguendo, some specific aspects of such suffering may truly be reflected in government statistics) so as to demean Native Alaskans in particular, Alaska’s racial majority in general and Alaska’s quality of life overall is a shabby political tactic worthy of Crooked Hillary and the Democrat race panderers and beneath even nobody’s typically-subterranean moral depths.

First, I suspect Luftmensch underestimates my depths. If I currently strike him as shallow—well, I will just have to look an opportunity to strike him lower. (Joking! Joking!)

But second, I don’t know what Luftmensch is talking about. Perhaps he has misunderstood my remarks. Perhaps I have phrased my argument inartfully. But in the absence of some indication as to what language he objects to, I have little to work with.

[Hm—Spellcheck doesn’t recognize “inartfully.” Apparently this is legal jargon, not standard English. Who knew?]

Reviewing my posts, I see where I noted that Laura Ingles Wilder’s autobiography discussed the violation of Native American property rights. And I made a joke about the mythical New Jersey Palestinians celebrating the collapse of the World Trade Center. Neither reference addressed Alaska’s racial minorities.

Rather, it was Pulliam who raised the issue of disparities associated with race. I made arguments based on statistical averages WITHOUT making any racial distinctions. Pulliam has criticized my argument not for “playing the race card,” but for failing to do so. I don’t fault Pulliam for raising the issue of racial disparities—he may have a point—but neither can I claim credit for it. In any event, if anyone has a problem with making arguments about Native Alaskans, those arguments might be more appropriately addressed to Pulliam.

The so-called “inter-government transfers” are not, as nobody alleges, “welfare.” They are for the most part educational assistance funds for Alaskan Natives….

First, I don’t see where I alleged any of these transfers were “welfare”; again, a quotation would be helpful.

Second, I don’t stigmatize government transfers or “welfare,” so even if I had made such a claim, there’s no reason to allege I would do so with malintent.

[Ok, now Spellcheck doesn’t like “malintent.” No wonder you guys have such difficulty understanding me….]

Third, I don’t understand the meaning you attach to the distinction between education assistance funds and “welfare.”

Finally, I was previously unaware that most federal dollars expended in Alaska were federal assistance funds for Native Americans. Having read Luftmensch’s remark—I am still unaware because he provides no citation or link supporting his claim. Can anyone help me here?

It’s a typical misleading tactic of nobody’s econometric approach to life. his anti-human, misleading abuse of limited statistics in a grasping, politically-desperate attempt to demean the essential worth and quality of conservatives in a politically conservative state living lives of apparent, if not self-evident, dignity, beauty and freedom in pursuit of happiness and meaning. It’s sheer political opportunism and shameful cynicism to use half-baked, cooked and misleading statistics to slime them!

Huh?

Look, Pulliam said nice things about Alaska. I offered some counterpoint (supported by data). Why do people feel threatened by the expression of competing ideas?

I cited statistics about how life in Alaska differs from life in other states. Thus far, no one has demonstrated that my statistics are inaccurate. And, thus far, I have presented the most reliable evidence in the discussion. If anyone would care to dispute this claim, please quote the language you find more reliable regarding how to generalize about Alaskans.

Pulliam has provided a thoughtful hypothesis that might shed additional light on the data I have cited. But that’s all he’s provided—a hypothesis. And in the absence of evidence in support of his hypothesis, that’s all it remains. Anyone is free to go dig up some data in support of his hypothesis. Thus far, no one has.

All statistics are “half-baked” in the sense that they suggest things about the characteristics of a collective--an average or median or standard deviation—and those calculations can change as the composition of the collective changes. Thus, statistical inference is imperfect. (“Most people use statistics like a drunk uses a lamppost—for support, not for illumination.” “Statistics are like a bikini: What they reveal is interesting, but what they conceal is vital.”) Indeed, Churchill might go so far as to claim that statistical inference is the worst form of reasoning ever devised—except for all the others. Don’t like relying on data? What else you got--anecdotes?

In sum, I’m happy to consider arguments and evidence. Thus far I’ve seen a thoughtful conjecture from Pulliam. Plus a lot of whimpering.

If you’re flying to or from Alaska with a layover in Salt Lake City (yeah, gabe won’t need that connection), take the Mormon shuttle back to their place for a tour of their headquarters. It’s free and pretty cool, and the Mormons know how to get you back to the airport in time.

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nobody.really
on August 03, 2018 at 10:58:29 am

nobody:

Some more "whimpering", I suppose.

You seem to believe that other readers of this site are unable to recognize your "depth", the profundity of your insights.
Perhaps, but it could be that you are blinded by your view of humanity from an econometric perspective.
There is nothing shallow about your command of data. what may be lacking is a well rounded understanding and appreciation of the complexities of human interaction and an unwillingness to rely upon a moral compass (at least as evidenced by your frequent resort to relativistic argumentation).

Anecdotes - your usual refrain! A clear preference for data!

Yet as you say, data often conceals as much as it reveals.
Take a little burb adjacent to my place. Population 80,000. Murders to date = 8. That equates to 10 per 100,000.
Goodness gracious, this place must be worse than Chicago, Newark, NYC and, of course, Anchorage.
Yet, it is not.
Does the data inform or mislead in this instance?
Can it be argued that given the limitless possibilities of human actions / motivations, etc that 80,000 is an insufficient sample size from which to draw valid conclusions regarding this little burb (and other towns)?
Ought we to know more about the inhabitants? their makeup? economic status? etc?

So call it anecdotal, if you will.
But a man named Marx seemed to appreciate anecdotal evidence. Recall what he said:
"Who are you going to believe, me [data] or your lying eyes?"

Look around brudda, take your nose out of the stat books.
"You can observe a lot just by watching" - Lawrence "Yogi" Berra (American philosopher par excellance) Ha!

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gabe
on August 03, 2018 at 12:23:22 pm

For nobody it's not a matter of anecdotes vs data.

For nobody what's important is to view life through emotional blinders and cherish one's cynicism.

And for nobody it's all about nothing good but a sneer: Seinfeld's humor but very-lite, Don Rickles' sarcasm (except nobody.really means the bad stuff) and Lenny Bruce's indecency about life's decency, but Bruce without Lenny's smarts or socially-redeeming intentions..

Camus and Sartre might diagnose nobody as existential despair wrapped in the angst of statistical armor.

Like "Seinfeld," nobody's a schtick about nothing, nothing you'd dwell on or remember except to laugh at,
a tiresome "yada yada yada" of data and Google quotes without meaning.

.

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Pukka Luftmensch
on August 03, 2018 at 12:48:38 pm

Can it be argued that given the limitless possibilities of human actions / motivations, etc that 80,000 is an insufficient sample size from which to draw valid conclusions regarding this little burb (and other towns)?

Oh, I expect anything can be argued. The question is whether the argument is persuasive.

But I think you’re referring to the denominator effect. Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman noted in Thinking Fast and Slow that small sample sizes can skew many conclusions. Thus, which schools demonstrate the best average performance on standardized tests? Small ones. And which demonstrate the worst? Small ones. Which counties have the highest rates of liver cancer? Small ones. And which have the lowest? Small ones. When the denominator is small, even slight variations in the numerator can cause big changes in rankings. In contrast, you need to produce HUGE changes in a big school or big county in order to cause a change in the rankings.

(That said, note that we had been discussing violent crime data, not murder data per se. Murders are always the smallest category in the data, and consequently reveal greater flux from year to year. But overall violent crime data results in a larger sample, and is thus more stable over time.)

Ought we to know more about the inhabitants? their makeup?

Are you suggesting that people’s choice to use Maybelline rather than Max Factor would influence how we interpret the murder rate? : - )

You raise a fair argument about comparing crime statistics from different jurisdictions. As Wikipedia notes

The FBI web site recommends against using its data for ranking because these rankings lead to simplistic and/or incomplete analyses that often create misleading perceptions adversely affecting cities and counties, along with their residents. The FBI web site also recommends against using its data to judge how effective law enforcement agencies are, since there are many factors that influence crime rates other than law enforcement.

In November 2007, the executive board of the American Society of Criminology (ASC) went further than the FBI itself, and approved a resolution opposing not only the use of the ratings to judge police departments, but also opposing any development of city crime rankings from FBI Uniform Crime Reports (UCRs) at all. The resolution opposed these rankings on the grounds that they "fail to account for the many conditions affecting crime rates" and "divert attention from the individual and community characteristics that elevate crime in all cities", though it did not provide sources or further elaborate on these claims. The resolution states the rankings "represent an irresponsible misuse of the data and do groundless harm to many communities" and "work against a key goal of our society, which is a better understanding of crime-related issues by both scientists and the public".

The U.S. Conference of Mayors passed a similar statement, which also committed the Conference to working with the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice "to educate reporters, elected officials, and citizens on what the (UCR) data means and doesn't mean."

However, much of the arguments raised objecting to an undue reliance on crime data about a town of 80,000 also apply to a town the size of Chicago. If the limitless possibilities of human actions/motivations, etc., cause you to abandon any effort to draw conclusion about the safety of a town of 80,000, how could you hope to draw conclusions about the safety of a town like Chicago? Before you freak out about Chicago’s murder rate, perhaps you’d want to know more about their inhabitants? Their makeup? I’ll bet they use CoverGirl—you know, they’re just that type….

Finally, perhaps you are arguing that you don’t regard the town of 80,000 as dangerous because it’s familiar to you. You know where you can go in that town safely. But likewise, Chicago is familiar to other people, and they know where to go safely.

Criminologists remark that it’s misleading to talk about the crime rate of states or towns, when most crime—and especially most violent crime—come from small geographic areas of any state or city. The hazardous parts of town may be two blocks from the central tourist district, yet tourism continues unabated because those two blocks might as well be on two different planets. Thus, it’s probably silly to worry about the hazards of any city in the US, because you—as a reasonably affluent tourist—will be catered to by people who want to earn the business of reasonably affluent tourists. The dangers are mostly borne by the people living in the dangerous parts of town.

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nobody.really
on August 03, 2018 at 18:24:35 pm

"The dangers are mostly borne by the people living in the dangerous parts of town."

Yep on this and most of the rest. I would add that most crime is committed by certain demographic groups and that ethnicity, economic status and educational background are rather significant factors.
(Heck, maybe we should just hang out at universities.)
The inclusion of these elements in overall crime data may distort the picture. As an example, we often hear that American culture is quite violent. Yet, if we factor out certain segments (knowing of course that we cannot actually do so), the numbers for US homicide is akin to most european countries.
What to make of this. How much do we factor out - or in? What are the effects on our perceptions / conclusions?

nobody knows!

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gabe
on August 03, 2018 at 19:38:46 pm

Wonder how much of Alaska's tidal wave of crime is from street gangs, organized drug traffickers or victimless crime, all of which seem quite high in the "safe" cities of the lower 48?

https://www.city-journal.org/html/new-york-violent-crime-16090.html?utm_source=City+Journal+Update&utm_campaign=eaf1a6f64e-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_08_03_02_42&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_6c08930f2b-eaf1a6f64e-109481389

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Pukka Luftmensch
on August 06, 2018 at 08:56:35 am

Then there is this from Chicago:

https://hotair.com/archives/2018/08/06/bloodbath-chicago-continues/

How is that for statistics, buddy?

10 dead, 60 wounded!

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gabe
on August 06, 2018 at 09:52:10 am

Yeah, but I've heard that in Alaska drunk Eskimos rape their kin, which rarely happens in the Windy City. Democrat governance sees to that. Also, Gabe failed to take account of the racial/ethnic nature of nobody's "worst places to live" computer model which gives significantly more weight to Eskimos raping Eskimos and Eskimo alcoholism than it does to African -American rape and even less weight to rape by drunk Blacks in the inner-city. (Use that computer model in Scandinavia, and I bet there'd be no data showing that Arabs rape Swedes.)

Angela Merkel needs that kind of computer model, the kind they use in Chicago, the one climate change alarmists use, which predicts the outcome your politics requires.

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Pukka Luftmensch
on August 06, 2018 at 10:03:40 am

Nope - THAT model would show Swedes raping Arabs in ever increasing numbers and Norwegians beheading Arabs!

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gabe
on August 08, 2018 at 14:18:31 pm

Because Professor Nabors of the University of Alaska co-authored a reply to this commentary, I thought commenters and L&L would be interested in a comment I just made in reply to L&L's May book review of his new book on Reconstruction. So here is my comment:

"Warm congratulations to Professor Nabors whose fine new book, “From Oligarchy to Republicanism: The Great Task of Reconstruction,” has just received an outstanding review and endorsement by Professor and noted Civil War historian and author Allen Guelzo writing in the current issue of the Claremont Review. https://www.claremont.org/crb/article/bullwhip-feudalism/
I suspected that Nabors’ book may be exceptional when I first read the review in L&L by James Read in May, felt confident about my suspicion when I read Nabors’ thoughtful replies to each of the comments on the L&L review and knew for certain that the book was terrific and ground-breaking when I read it.
Ausgezeichnet!"

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Pukka Luftmensch
on December 30, 2019 at 22:28:00 pm

You should make this post like into a definitive guide or something. I bet a lot of your new readers that come to this site would want to be able to find this post. It's too good to keep secret!

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Robert Galvin

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