Sunday, 11 September 2011

Riots, Crime and Society

Not entirely unpredictably, I see that the Green MP Caroline Lucas is talking some foolishness about the riots:-

Green Party leader Caroline Lucas has said "unrestrained capitalism" created social divisions which were partly to blame for August's riots.
Ms Lucas told her party conference that the government's "repressive crackdown" on those responsible for the disorder would "solve nothing".
Underlying issues such as lack of jobs and wage inequalities must be tackled, activists in Sheffield heard.
What sparked this post was a thought as I started swimming: Had I locked the car*? And you know, I realised that it just didn't matter. Because I honestly can't recall the last time that someone told me that their car stereo had been stolen. Part of the reason for that is the security that's built in (removing the stereo means you need a code), and part of that is that stereos are so cheap that they aren't worth stealing/fencing. Put together, that's a big disincentive to steal car radios.

You can also look at house crimes. Burglary is way down from where it was about a decade ago, and that's mostly down to the fact that DVD players got cheaper. Not Blair fighting the causes of crime, or crime itself, but that DVD players just got dirt cheap, so no-one was going to buy one second hand.

And if you look at the crimes, no-one, despite their value, stole iPhones. That's because they can be locked-out and rendered useless very quickly.

So what I'm trying to say here is that we have already seen that incentives affect criminality. We can see that criminals actually act quite rationally. It's not worth nicking a £50 stereo to get £10 fencing it when you're risking a criminal sentence.

Now, let's assume that the security at those shops during the riots had shotguns. A few carfulls arrive at the scene and they start pointing them at the looters. What happens next? Well, they're going to stop looting, aren't they. And to go one stage further, if people thought about getting some looting going, would they risk going down to JJB to grab some sports gear if they thought people might have shotguns?

But the part of me that doesn't want everyone carrying guns prefers another approach: the Citizen's Income. If people earn an amount of money that just about sustains them, but that doesn't disincentivise working, then they'll work. For quite a few grand they'll have it without tax. And the key thing about this working is that they'll want to keep their noses clean, because a criminal record will discourage people from hiring them.

The more I look at things in the country, the more I realise that things like not having LVT and CI are causing a huge amount of damage in terms of national productivity.

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