Monday, October 13, 2014

Logic failure of the day

Stuff reports that Te Ururoa Flavell is angry about institutional racism in the NZ justice system, as evidenced by the proportion of Maori featuring on the wrong side of it. He says:

"Maori are four to five times more likely to be apprehended, prosecuted and convicted than non-Maori counterparts, and in the case of Maori aged between 10 and 13 this is six times more likely. How can we ignore the existence of institutional racism in the justice system in the face of facts like these?"

Here's today's lesson in elementary logic and failures thereof.  Flavell's logic runs as follows:

Premise:  Maori are far more likely than others to be apprehended, prosecuted and convicted.

Therefore: There is institutional racism in the justice system. 

However, there's a premise missing.  Without that missing premise, the conclusion "Therefore, Maori are committing a lot more crime than anyone else" would be as plausible as Flavell's one (more so, if anything). 

In the spirit of assisting the Minister not to make irrational statements, here's how his argument would have to run for it to make sense:

Premise 1:  Maori commit crimes at the same rate as everyone else.

Premise 2:  However, Maori are far more likely than others to be apprehended, prosecuted and convicted.

Therefore: There is institutional racism in the justice system.

That one would be a pretty hard argument to refute, but proving premise 1 might be tricky.  In fact, I'd be willing to bet premise 1 is highly unlikely, due to a particular set of circumstances.  Flavell might like to consider this alternative argument:

Premise 1:  We know that children raised long-term on a benefit are something like 13 times more at risk of a bunch of shit factors like poverty, neglect, abuse and future criminal convictions.

Premise 2:  Maori children are something like twice as likely as Pakeha kids to be raised on a benefit within the year of their birth.

Therefore:  It would be unsurprising if Maori youth are more likely to get criminal convictions than Pakeha youth.

It's an argument that could do with further investigation.  As Minister of Maori Development, Flavell ought to be well placed to do something about it.


JC said...

This morning Greg Newbold was on Newstalk ZB about this institutionalized racism and he flately denied it.

He said when he was in Paremoremo the Maori prisoners had a standing joke.. they were 60% of the prison population and the visiting rooms were chocka with Pakeha.

At risk Maori kids and Maori crims are the product of the home environment and whilst there's big talk about aroha too many Maori families don't love their kids.. for many the gangs are their only real family.


Barry said...

I think that this statement by Flavell is typical of his racism.

Adolf Fiinkensein said...

Flavell usually is better than that.