Cause, effect, cause, effect, cause, effect

Everybody enjoys a good laugh when they read some version of what Robert Godwin calls “the perennially clueless New York Times, which often publishes variations on the theme of “Crime Down Despite Increase in Prison Population.” That is, we enjoy the fact that the NYTs, and other liberal publications, seem blind to the fact that crime might be done, not in spite of, but because of, the fact that more bad guys are in prison. I just got a glimpse of another one of those liberal disconnects, where a liberal makes a statement oblivious to the fact that his premise might be, just might be flawed.

I was reading Jack’s News Snipet ‘Blog, which headed me over to a news story about increased gun crime in England, and cries that Labour is responsible — or rather, not in control, and therefore irresponsible. The crime numbers are impressive:

Labour has been accused of losing control of gun crime as new figures show a sharp rise in armed robberies.

Guns were used in 4,120 robberies last year – a 10% jump – including a 9% rise to 1,439 in the number of street robberies where guns were used.

There was also a rapid and unexplained increase in the number of times householders were confronted in their own homes by armed criminals. Residential firearms robberies show a 46% leap, a record 645 cases in England and Wales – up 204 on the previous year and four times the level recorded in 2000-01.

It’s the last paragraph in this story that has the money quote, the kind of statement that should have someone in government scratching his or her head and saying, “Wait, maybe there’s a connection.” Here:

Home Office minister Tony McNulty said: “Firearm offences have fallen significantly, by 14% in the year up to September 2006, which amounts to 1,642 fewer incidents.

“While there is a small rise in residential firearm robberies, these account for a tiny proportion of recorded offences overall, although we recognise any firearm incident is traumatic for victims.” He added: “We have some of the toughest firearm legislation in Europe.” (Emphasis mine.)

I’m not saying there’s a connection, but there might be. Especially since studies do show that violent home break-ins in London increased immediately after the City outlawed guns entirely. (You can read Mark Steyn’s analysis of that situation here.) The same thing happened in Washington, D.C., so you have an “n” of at least 2 from which to draw your conclusions. | digg it

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  • helenl

    Well, there’s no positive correlation between having capital punishment and the determent of violent crimes. So amybe not here either.

  • ymarsakar

    I’ll stick with my deductive principles, Book. Humans have certain psychological triggers, that powers much of the behavior of humanity. Triggering them one way as opposed to the other, will cause a rather predictable pattern to result.

    I think you can actually sketch out the logic tree because unlike statistics, you already know what affects what, so you can control your experiments with 100% accuracy.

    A basic root question could be. Does increasing the rewards of a crime 100% and keeping the risk the same, give people more reason to committ the crime. And the second root question would be. Does increasing the punishment 100% and keep the rewards the same, give people less of a desire to committ that crime.

    I think it is easier to draw because one or the other has to be true. If one is true, the other must be false. That way, you setup a situation in which you can at least eliminate some of the variables concerning why people committ crimes. Statistics will show you increased numbers, but they don’t explain what reason, specifically, lead up to it.

  • Danny Lemieux

    Sorry, HelenL, there is data galore linking the disarmament of civilians to increased crime rates (including that fostered by governments – circa Nazi Germany), most recently in Australia and England. There is also data galore documenting decreased violent crime rates as population gun-ownership and use rights are restored (Florida, Texas). You might be able to make a case that the random and arbitrary application of the death penalty does not correlate with capital crimes only because there really isn’t any good comparative data on the issue. It does kinda shake up those nice bucolic sentiments so-prevalent in Hobbit-land, though, doesn’t it?

  • JJ

    There’s no correlation between capital crimes and capital punishment, either, Helen – which is where the problem is. Hard to say capital punishment doesn’t deter: we’ve never had genuine capital puinishment in this country.

  • Zhombre

    We toss people in jail for rape, burglary, fraud and numerous other crimes, but given that people continue to commit such crimes, I suppose there is really no deterrent effect in imprisonment.

  • ymarsakar

    Death penalty cases cannot be accurately modeled unless you are using the Saddam DP where he hangs a short time after sentencing, without an appeal. The California 25 year DP+life imprisonment thing skews the data too much to be of use.

  • ymarsakar

    Punishment should not have at its goal, to deter criminals. Just as fighting in a war should not be about detering the enemy, it should be about killing the enemy, defeating the enemy, and making the enemy give up.

    Deterence is for those that have not committed a crime and for those who are thinking about committing a crime. Punishment, however, should deal with eliminating criminals, by one way or another.

  • Danny Lemieux

    I suspect, however, that capital punishment certainly deters the one being hanged.

  • Zhombre

    Definitely. Those individuals executed for capital crimes have a zero recidivism rate.

  • ymarsakar

    Last time I checked, a lot of areas traced their crime to about 90% due to repeat offenders.

    If you can get rid of the repeat offenders, your crime would go down.

  • Jose

    I lived in the UK from 1985 to 1993. At that time private gun ownership was more common, although highly regulated.

    Even then crime was much worse than what I was used to in the US. My car was stolen, and my home burglarized while I was residing in rural Suffolk. While there, I personally knew more victims of personal violence than I have before or since.

    Maybe I’ve been lucky, but I’ve never been the victim of such crimes here in the US. I believe living in rural areas and small towns where firearms are common is a significant factor.

    My observation was that the typical middleclass Englishman was neither equipped, nor philosophically receptive to the use of force to defend his home. The socialized environment has reduced any thought of self-reliance to an alien concept.

  • Zhombre

    Yes, they can’t defend their homes against crime, and on a larger scale can’t defend their culture against the intrusions of radical Islamism.

  • peter fichera

    By the way, that’s why the formal wording of the sentance used to be to “hang by the neck until you are dead, dead, dead!” making sure that the sheriff left you there until their was no doubt that you were a gonner–old-style hanging tasking a bit of time to accomplish the goal. Modern fashion snaps the neck, and is much less inhumane (I can’t quite bring myself to call and deliberate deprivation of anyone’s existence–no matter how well justified–as ‘humane’). I’ve been doing a bit of web-search on the subject–this page will be included in the cites–and I’ve noticed a strange phenomenon: even academics whose conclusions support the pro DP/anti-GC position seem to think that the ‘gun lobby’ (AKA NRA) [i]doesn’t[/i] want guns taken from the criminal element or the too-mentally-impaired-to-know-which-end-goes-BOOM!

    Also assuming the ‘need’ to keep people under 18 from having guns–yet I’ve never seen a statistical study that even [i]tried[/i] to deal with that question; only one that said that more LA gang shootings were being commitied by minors since a State Supreme Court ruling seemed to make it harder to prosecute them as adults….

    To me, ‘rational gun control’ means, brace yourself as well as you can, get a good sight-picture, hold your breath, slow your heart, squeeze.