Don’t murder markets in everything

by on March 26, 2016 at 10:23 pm in Current Affairs, Economics, Education, Law, Travel | Permalink

But when Holmes was released from prison last year, officials in this city offered something unusual to try to keep him alive: money. They began paying Holmes as much as $1,000 a month not to commit another gun crime.

Cities across the country, beginning with the District of Columbia, are moving to copy Richmond’s controversial approach because early indications show it has helped reduce homicide rates. [TC: that is Richmond, CA]

But the program requires governments to reject some basic tenets of law enforcement even as it challenges notions of appropriate ways to spend tax dollars.

…And yet, interest in the program is surging among urban politicians. Officials in Miami, Toledo, Baltimore and more than a dozen cities in between are studying how to replicate Richmond’s program.

…five years into Richmond’s multimillion-dollar experiment, 84 of 88 young men who have participated in the program remain alive, and 4 in 5 have not been suspected of another gun crime or suffered a bullet wound, according to DeVone Boggan, founder of the Richmond effort.

And how is this for bizarre?

Boggan believes that travel is another key to the program’s success. He sets aside $10,000 per fellow for trips that are often the first time participants have left the state or the country. But fellows must agree to partner with someone they have either tried to kill or who attempted to kill them.

“Wild, right?” Boggan says. “But they get out there and realize, ‘Hey, this cat’s just like me.’ ” Boggan’s measure of success: No fellows who have traveled together have been suspected in subsequent shootings against one another.

File under Department of Why Not?

Here is the full story, fascinating throughout, via Michael Rosenwald.

1 Mark Thorson March 26, 2016 at 10:31 pm

Paying them to kill each other would be much more cost effective, but I suppose there might be a downside that isn’t necessarily obvious.

2 Sam March 27, 2016 at 5:38 am

I find the death penality more attractive now. It should be re-introduced everywhere for severe, violent crimes, and if there’s no reasonable doubt in the conviction, executed fast and cost-effectively.

Everything else just creates more costs and moral hazards for the convicts.

(I’ve also never understood why we feed them meat and let them have warm showers.)

3 Stuart March 27, 2016 at 9:55 am

Bryan Stevenson of the Equal Justice Initiative does a lot of death penalty defense/abolition work, and I think he makes a good argument that you can oppose the death penalty on the grounds that a democracy which sanctions the killing of people convicted of felonies damages the people who participate in that killing. The executioners, the guards, judges, police officers, and even ordinary citizens – being involved in the act of killing has a pernicious effect on individuals and society at large.

4 Sam March 27, 2016 at 10:07 am

That’s pretty obviously just a rationalization. You might just as well ban meat because it dehumanizes the butchers or something. When people come up with this kind of babble to defend an ideological or political position, it’s usually a sign they don’t have good arguments.

(Obviously, you wouldn’t force executioners into the job)

5 Alain March 27, 2016 at 12:04 pm


6 Floccina April 3, 2016 at 8:58 pm

No reasonable doubt is the rub. Governments seem incapable of doing that.

7 Ryan March 26, 2016 at 10:34 pm

File under: Department of Needs Contro Group

8 Ryan March 26, 2016 at 10:35 pm

File under: Department of Needs Control Group

9 Jason Bayz March 26, 2016 at 11:29 pm

Boggan believes that travel is another key to the program’s success. He sets aside $10,000 per fellow for trips that are often the first time participants have left the state or the country. But fellows must agree to partner with someone they have either tried to kill or who attempted to kill them.

“Wild, right?” Boggan says. “But they get out there and realize, ‘Hey, this cat’s just like me.’ ” Boggan’s measure of success: No fellows who have traveled together have been suspected in subsequent shootings against one another.

A few weeks ago I talked to an acquaintance, an ardent liberal, who nevertheless agreed that with me that it was “impossible to parody” these transgender “activists.” This had that “impossible to parody” quality, I had to look at the washingtonpost URL to make sure it wasn’t an early April fool’s joke. It’s something only a liberal say, of course these people understand that their enemies are “just like me,” that’s why they hate one another, they both want to be the grand alpha male.* Nevertheless, I wouldn’t dismiss this solution. A certain group of criminally inclined people has caused so many problems, and so much argument and heartache and guilt among the more intelligent citizens, that you wonder if it wouldn’t be more efficient to simply pay them the 30,000$ or whatever it costs so that they could spend their youth drinking, sleeping with slutty women, and doing whatever the hell they want to do so long as it doesn’t seriously violate the law. What else are they going to do? Suffer through college and compete for paper-pushing jobs? Move to Shanghang to work in the textile mills? Ideally, you should pair this with a program to discourage child-rearing among the women of this class, so that this problem will eventually disappear. It should also try to avoid rewarding irresponsibility by giving similar benefits to the working class.

*Just because the person said it doesn’t mean they necessarily think it. Even the dumber people have the ability to figure out what people want to hear and repeat it back to them.

10 Nathan W March 26, 2016 at 11:56 pm

Why not encourage better child rearing than to engage in eugenics-minded approaches which pretend that these things are not mostly socially determined?

11 Harun March 27, 2016 at 1:07 pm

I find the genetic arguments to be depressing, but they might be right.

12 Dzhaughn March 27, 2016 at 12:46 am

What kind of alpha would sell out for a mere $30K/year?

But then that’s why this won’t scale successfully. “I’m so bad the state pays me cash not to be bad” remains cute not long.

It also would put hard working policemen and hard working single transgender mother social workers back out on the shtreets.

13 Nathan W March 27, 2016 at 1:49 am

Or, they were just trying to earn a living and don’t actually care if anyone thinks they’re alpha.

I don’t understand how this could put policement or single mothers on the street.

14 HL March 27, 2016 at 4:06 am

Uh I’ll take 30k not to do that, wait I already don’t do that. Do I need to hurt someone to get this offer???

15 stan March 27, 2016 at 8:42 am

Yeah, those unintended consequences can be a real bite in the ass.

16 Keith March 26, 2016 at 11:32 pm

I want to murder my entire extended family. But we hear Tahiti is nice this time of year.

17 Tommy March 26, 2016 at 11:59 pm

Young men who commit homicides are not in search of money, but of status. When randomized these types of programs are successful, because the two remain fungible enough — but when they’re implemented widely this ceases to be the case (ie those who accept money and bow out of the status competition are then considered “soft”).

18 Tommy March 27, 2016 at 12:16 am

Also, lol at the success metric being used for the vacation intervention. Not having shot a specific individual within a limited time frame doesn’t seem all that impressive to me.

Then again, maybe the solution to all this homicide business is just to have every man take one-on-one vacations with every other man in his community.

19 Gafiated March 27, 2016 at 2:04 am

Fire Island is nice this time of year.

20 Mark Thorson March 27, 2016 at 1:49 am

I don’t think you understand how the “implementation” works.

To maintain the trust of the young men they’re guiding, mentors do not inform police of what they know about crimes committed.

City puts out the cash. Mentors make sure the stats come out right, using whatever methods it takes and knowing no hard questions will be asked. The stats come out right and everybody celebrates their success!

He fell down the stairs. Which stairs? I don’t know, I wasn’t there at the time.

21 Nathan W March 27, 2016 at 12:00 am

This is offensive on so many levels. Yet such approaches have also been highly successful in bringing combattants from wars out of their violence in many cases. This is classic demobilization strategy, applied to a different sort of end.

Could they not persuade him to do something useful for that money, other than refraining from killing people?

22 Thiago Ribeiro March 27, 2016 at 12:01 am

“But fellows must agree to partner with someone they have either tried to kill or who attempted to kill them.”
It must make for some awkward times.
“Hey, this cat’s just like me.”
In the cases, they are trying to kill each other, yes, he is, and this is exactly the problem.
“Boggan’s measure of success: No fellows who have traveled together have been suspected in subsequent shootings against one another.”
“I guess what I’m trying to say, is that if I can change, and you can change, everybody can change!”
Happy Easter!

23 Ray Lopez March 27, 2016 at 1:10 am

This story could have come from The Onion.

It reminds me of a novel “Self Defense” defense that a black American unsuccessfully tried to establish in court. When asked by the judge why he killed the deceased, who had threatened to kill the accused, the accused said something like: ‘it’s the law of the street to kill somebody who has threatened to kill you. You don’t wait for them to make a move on you, but you must kill them first.” The judge refused this ‘kill-or-be-killed’ defense since Anglo-Saxon law requires that self-defense is only good if your attacker acts first (or in some states if you’re in your own home). Also there’s ‘imperfect self-defense’ (Google this) which makes self-defense a problem.

Maybe this story is an indication that people are moving to a more realistic understanding of ghetto life? That might show up in court years from now?

24 Thiago Ribeiro March 27, 2016 at 1:51 am

Maybe the program will work. We know people react to incentives, in fact this is the basis of economics. I know I would almost kill anyone for a good vacation. The incentives, by making me half a killer, would make more of a killer than I usually am. By making someone else half a killer, it may be making him less of a killer than he would have otherwise be. Half a murder is no murder (but may still be a crime). In fact, paying the troublemakers to go away consume other state’s law resources and public services and annoy or threaten other states’ folks may be the way to go. You can’t send them away, but you can bribe them. Aren’t the states the “laboratories of democracy”? So “let Michigan handle it.”

25 Nathan W March 27, 2016 at 1:56 am

If they recognized such a self defense, the number of people passing on death threats would surely decline.

I’m not sure I strictly agree, but it’s a good sort of reason to have judge discretion (like, surely that guy doesn’t deserve 25 years, no?).

26 Thiago Ribeiro March 27, 2016 at 3:14 am

“An armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life.”

27 Nathan W March 27, 2016 at 7:03 am

It may be a little easier to have a vigorous debate when the man on the other side of the table is not fingering his gun.

28 Thiago Ribeiro March 27, 2016 at 8:26 am

But if he is, by Jove, you listen what he has to say.

29 Boonton March 28, 2016 at 6:03 am

Then we should encourage concealed carry at Trump rallies by both supporters and protesters.

30 XVO March 27, 2016 at 11:37 am

There would also be a lot more people lying about death threats so that they can kill other people.

31 carlolspln March 27, 2016 at 12:29 am
32 Chip March 27, 2016 at 12:44 am

Dude, need you to kill someone for me. Five Gs upfront and if you get caught there’s another 1G a month and free travel.

33 Chris March 27, 2016 at 12:47 am

Maybe I’m missing something but won’t this just incentivize gun crime? The test of success will not be what happens to those on the programbut rather if people go out of their way to get on it. Paying off violent offenders to not be violent is surely going to lead to more violent offenders.

34 Jon March 27, 2016 at 1:13 am

My first thought was, “Hey all I have to do is commit a gun crime and then I get paid for life!”

35 Ray Lopez March 27, 2016 at 1:14 am

True, but only to a point. It’s like saying we have to make jails miserable because otherwise people will commit crimes to get inside a nice jail, where you have three square meals a day, a roof over your head, and a nice gym to build prison muscles…wait, that’s true already?

36 Alain March 27, 2016 at 12:08 pm

They are still miserable in that you are near convicts,

However, why we spend any resources making them as pleasant as they are is beyond me.

37 ChrisA March 27, 2016 at 1:45 am

Yes the obvious answer to Tyler’s “why not?” is moral hazard.

38 Nathan W March 27, 2016 at 2:05 am

Use it in rare cases only.

As in many civil wars, the killing may initially be strongly linked to a turf war, a fight over resources or markets, but not the desire to obtain a payout to stop.

It would only be a problem if killing were LIKELY to result in a payout – prison (or street retribution) is a far more likely outcome.

39 Alan March 27, 2016 at 7:46 am

Remember, it only is on offer after time served.

40 HL March 27, 2016 at 4:15 am

Incentives matter?

41 Sam the Sham March 27, 2016 at 9:37 am

I’ll not commit any gun crimes for even less than that! 20$/month, final offer!

I suppose if you modelled this as an auction, you’d quickly deplete the funds available over 1000 people willing to not kill for 1$/month. Or, of course, even thinner than that, to the point where no-one is getting any real money to not kill anyone.

I think we’ve become too civilized to understand how to STAY civilized.

42 Ray Lopez March 27, 2016 at 10:32 am

Incentives indeed matter. I was told in Lima Peru that USD $5 will buy you a poor man’s (literally) hitman. Not sure if I believed it, but after seeing the fictional but plausible Brazilian slum movie “City of God”, I think it might even be true.

43 Wil W March 27, 2016 at 9:36 am

Considering how difficult it is for these people to get jobs outside of crime, this maybe really helps on that side. Plus the travel gives them a short term goal to reach.

Could also be viewed as a basic income experiment?

44 Ray Lopez March 27, 2016 at 10:34 am

Good points. If machines take over, indeed everybody will be on an allowance from somebody. I am, as a ‘trust fund baby’ (not really, but I do get a small allowance just for fun from my 1% parents), in the vanguard on this issue.

45 Alain March 27, 2016 at 12:11 pm

Why does anyone think that the rise of the machines will result in UBI? Crazy.

46 Yancey Ward March 27, 2016 at 10:46 am

We are witnesses to the death of parody.

47 Roy LC March 27, 2016 at 10:27 pm

Virginia is a sovereign state, but the District is subject to Congress.

Does anyone think this will actually happen in DC without becoming a complete political disaster.

This is happening in a country where guaranteed income is considered a political non starter, and this is guaranteed income that is only given to low rent murderous sociopaths?

48 jorod March 28, 2016 at 12:23 am

What’s the minimum wage for killers? Is it fair?

49 Erick March 28, 2016 at 8:34 am

Seriously where’s the control group? How can anyone take this stuff seriously without it?

So they’re claiming they can identify in advance the people who are going to commit all the murders in a city? If we had that ability, wouldn’t we have just locked them up?

20% of the people they paid off have since been involved in a gun crime is not actually a good statistic. They make you think it’s a good statistic by implying that near 100% of these guys would have been involved in one otherwise, but there’s no support for that.

50 Rudyard Kipling March 29, 2016 at 3:50 pm

It is always a temptation for a rich and lazy nation,
To puff and look important and to say:
“Though we know we should defeat you, we have not the time to meet you.
We will therefore pay you cash to go away.”

And that is called paying the Danegeld;
But we’ve proved it again and again,
That if once you have paid him the Danegeld
You never get rid of the Dane.

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