Underpoliced and Overprisoned, revisited

I’ve been writing for years that the United States is underpoliced and overprisoned. Time for a review:

NYTimes: “The United States today is the only country I know of that spends more on prisons than police,” said Lawrence W. Sherman, an American criminologist on the faculties of the University of Maryland and Cambridge University in Britain. “In England and Wales, the spending on police is twice as high as on corrections. In Australia it’s more than three times higher. In Japan it’s seven times higher. Only in the United States is it lower, and only in our recent history.”

…Dr. Ludwig and Philip J. Cook, a Duke University economist, calculate that nationwide, money diverted from prison to policing would buy at least four times as much reduction in crime. They suggest shrinking the prison population by a quarter and using the savings to hire another 100,000 police officers.

Here’s a graph from Daniel Bier on the ratio of police to prison spending comparing the United States to Europe. The US spends relatively less on police and more on prisons than any European country.

And here’s a graph from President Obama’s CEA report on incarceration and the criminal justice system. The graph shows that the United States employs many more prison guards per-capita than does the rest of the world. Given our prison population that isn’t surprising. What is surprising is that on a per-capita basis we employ 35% fewer police than the world average. That’s crazy.

polce v prison

Our focus on prisons over police may be crazy but it is consistent with what I called Gary Becker’s Greatest Mistake, the idea that an optimal punishment system combines a low probability of being punished with a harsh punishment if caught. That theory runs counter to what I have called the good parenting theory of punishment in which optimal punishments are quick, clear, and consistent and because of that, need not be harsh.

Increasing the number of police on the street, for example, would increase capture rates and deter crime and by doing so it would also reduce the prison population. Indeed, in a survey of crime and policing that Jon Klick and I wrote in 2010 we found that a cost-benefit analysis would justify doubling the number of police on the street. We based our calculation not only on our own research from Washington DC but also on the research of many other economists which together provide a remarkably consistent estimate that a 10% increase in policing would reduce crime by 3 to 5%. Using our estimates, as well as those of some more recent papers, the Council of Economic Advisers also estimates big benefits (somewhat larger than ours) from an increase in policing. Moreover, what the CEA makes clear is that a dollar spent on policing is more effective at reducing crime than a dollar spent on imprisoning.

Can we increase the number of police? Not today but in recent years large majorities of blacks, hispanics and whites have said that they support hiring more police. It is true that blacks are more skeptical than whites of police and have every reason to be. Some of the communities most in need of more police are also communities with some of the worst policing problems. Better policing and more policing, however, complement one another. Demilitarize the police, end the war drugs, regulate people less, restrain police unions and eliminate qualified immunity so that police brutality can be punished and the bad apples removed and the demand for police will soar.

As we reform and unbundle policing let us remember that lower crime has been one of the greatest benefits to African American men over the past 30 years.

…the most disadvantaged people have gained the most from the reduction in violent crime.

Though homicide is not a common cause of death for most of the United States population, for African-American men between the ages of 15 and 34 it is the leading cause, which means that any change in the homicide rate has a disproportionate impact on them. The sociologist Michael Friedson and I calculated what the life expectancy would be today for blacks and whites had the homicide rate never shifted from its level in 1991. We found that the national decline in the homicide rate since then has increased the life expectancy of black men by roughly nine months.

…The everyday lived experience of urban poverty has also been transformed. Analyzing rates of violent victimization over time, I found that the poorest Americans today are victimized at about the same rate as the richest Americans were at the start of the 1990s. That means that a poor, unemployed city resident walking the streets of an average city today has about the same chance of being robbed, beaten up, stabbed or shot as a well-off urbanite in 1993. Living in poverty used to mean living with the constant threat of violence. In most of the country, that is no longer true.

More police on the street is one cause, among many, of lower crime. Chicago just had a horrendous day with 18 innocent people murdered in mostly random drive-by shootings, in part because the police were occupied with protests and riots. As we reform, unbundle, and reimagine, let’s be careful not to reverse nearly thirty years of falling crime which has produced a tremendous increase in the standard of living of the poorest Americans.

We need better policing so that we can all be comfortable with more policing.


There's zero point in having more police if the criminals they arrest are almost always immediately back on the street.

The vast majority of America's crime/police woes are due to its massive under-incarceration problem.

Obvious troll is obvious.

Why do you care? This is an entertainment Blog.

Not the first sentence. The guy who killed the retired police captain in St Louis was sentenced to 7 yrs but never had to go. He would have been in jail instead of killing him.

This is a case where a single incident equals all else that is going on, in terms of salience. It seems that police are being made to bear the entire blame for what should properly be frustration with the system of criminal "justice", which hardly deserves the name.

This is absolutely true. There are cases in the news constantly of people breaking what seem to be very serious laws, and spending little to no time in prison. The guy who killed the retired St. Louis police captain was sentenced to 7 years in prison in 2014. Since being sentenced, he violated probation twice, but alas, never spent any time in prison.

There are numerous other cases, but here's another. A couple years ago in Yarmouth, Mass, a police officer was killed when serving an arrest warrant on a wanted criminal. That criminal had been arrested 125 times in the previous 7 years, and convicted multiple times. We're not talking marijuana possession. Mostly firearm charges, aggravated assault, armed robbery, domestic violent, and fighting with the police. Of those 125 times arrested, he had only spent something like 60 days in prison.

It makes you wonder, what crimes must a person commit to actually go to prison? I'm not a big fan of imprisoning people for things like tax evasion or simple drug possession, but how is it that there are people convicted of serious violent crimes who never spend anytime locked up?

oooh. we could also have Debtor's prisons and Workhouses just like in the Old Days - that would push incarceration way up. Perhaps more minimal over-the-weekend/ week incarcerations for more non-jailable/ severe crimes. Scare them into productivity and conformity into society's upstanding values.

Of course, the easiest way to deter crime and related undesirable behaviour is to set-up more ubiquitous surveillance and introduce a 'social credit' system like China. Perhaps people put up with more 'background crime' if the surrounding economic environment is good. Bad days often mean over-sensitivity to crime levels, policing, and incarceration.

Rapists, murders, violent criminals are in debtor prisons? It is a terrible thing to require people to not victimize their neighbors. Perhaps you could post your address and we can send some looters and arsonists over. I mean who are you to ask that they be stopped.

The esteemed economists will come for you soon:

University of Michigan professor Justin Wolfers and dozens of other academics are leading a massive effort to have a senior faculty member at the University of Chicago removed from his position at the world's preeminent economics journal -- all because he criticized Black Lives Matter's push to defund police departments.

The attack on a leading academic at the University of Chicago, traditionally a bastion of free speech and no-nonsense conservative economic theory, comes as swarms of left-wing activists have successfully secured numerous firings across the country for viewpoints they deem politically unacceptable. In one extraordinary case this week, an LA Galaxy soccer player was summarily fired because of his wife's posts on Black Lives Matter.

In a petition addressed to the management of the Journal of Political Economy, the professors accuse senior editor Harald Uhlig of "trivializing the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement" and "hurting and marginalizing people of color and their allies in the economics profession." Black Lives Matter advocates for a "collective ownership" economic model, reparations, and the "immediate release" of everyone convicted of a drug offense, in addition to defunding police forces and other left-wing agenda items.

The petition goes on to falsely accuse Uhlig, the Bruce Allen and Barbara Ritzenthaler Professor in Economics at the University of Chicago, of "drawing parallels between the BLM movement and the Ku Klux Klan." Uhlig, in fact, was explicitly using a common form of argument known as "reductio ad absurdum."

The New York Times' Paul Krugman, an anti-Trump columnist who famously declared that the Internet would prove less important than fax machines, joined in on the attack, writing: "Editor of the Journal of Political Economy, a powerful gatekeeper in the profession. And yet another privileged white man who evidently can't control his urge to belittle the concerns of those less fortunate."

Wolfers, who kickstarted the petition alongside Michigan State University professor Scott Imberman, further criticized Uhlig for "disagreeing with the actions of [ex-NFL star Colin] Kaepernick." Liberal Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg also opposed Kaepernick's kneeling during the national anthem, but that position has now become retroactively unacceptable in progressive circles. Ginsburg specifically said Kaepernick's kneeling was both "dumb" and "disrespectful."

Wolfers did not respond when asked by Fox News whether he would seek Ginsburg's ouster from the Supreme Court.

Though Fox News might be a bit sensitive when it comes to using the term impeachment on-air these days.

Why, they were the only ones who din't look like fools throughout it.

Wolfers is a socialist. BLM is somewhere between democratic socialism and Bolshevism on the political scale.

I honestly think Wolfers has way too big of a mouth. He’s a decent intellectual but nothing paradigm shifting-just another socialist in love with his math and politics....

He’s also got the white savior complex thing nailed perfectly....

What the hell is democratic socialism? Social democracy is an over 150 year old political philosophy, but democratic socialism is a very recent American political direction impossible to actually define.

US Democratic Socialism: We'd like our society to be more like Denmark's than Guatemala's.

Because Denmark and its way of life isnt just a function of laws and policies. If you’re not going to argue that there is something endogenous about there way of life outside of their public policy then you are part of the problem.

What came first the chicken or the egg?

The trick to turning the US into Scandinavia with Scandinavian style Social outcomes is to basically just have a bunch of laws get passed.

As for Guatemala? The median income in the US is about fifty times higher than Guatemala. Nice try though....

If only becoming Scandinavia or avoiding devolving into Guatemala was simply a function of public policy, everything would be so easy.

Denmark isn't socialist.

It is definitely social democratic.

I've been told Australia is socialist, so that probably means Denmark is too. I'm not convinced myself, but who am I to go against internet comments? If only there was, you know, some kind of definition we could use.

The democratic socialists in America skipped right over the social democracy step. WHY?

Because of capitalism. BLM is explicitly neo Marxist and really doesn’t hide the fact. White liberal and social democrats think that these New Democratic socialists of America will let them keep most of their world intact while basically increasing carbon taxes, free health care and free college.

Wolfers is one of those kinds of people basically arguing for his own destruction. He thinks he’s furthering the cause of making the US more like Scandinavia but at the end of the day, the new left in America is about dismantling markets, increasing nationalization, expropriating property, and radically reorganizing the terms of civilization.

It’s why the US is headed to complete and utter Civil war with a multi Sectarian conflict mixed within.

Civil war USA 2.0 will have weird battle lines and you won’t so easily be able to determine friend from foe.

The sort of general stance the "Progressives" usually are for, and Krugman at least seems in this batch, seems not quite "social democrat" as I understand it.

That is, at the core of the social democratic approach to welfare is fairly high general income taxes, particularly at high income earners but generally through society, to fund relatively generous single-payer welfare state functions.

The "Progressives" seem less interested in raising taxes, certainly not really interested in raising them on the upper-middle class.

What they are interested in is more about using present day low-interest rates on government bonds, and perhaps some high corporate taxes, to fund large scale subsidized state programs.

Which programs mostly benefit young, upper-middle class college graduates at the start of their careers. Cheap house building in urban centers, free college, free communications tech, free healthcare, heavily subsidized public transport, nationalization and subsidization of utilities, state jobs with high salaries in general.

Their agenda is about transfer from business and the state *to* young, upper-middle class college graduates with aspirations, less than about transfer *from* them to the poor and working class.

At least that's how it seems to be in Britain and the US seems similar. (In Britain "Progressive" roughly = "A person who wants the government to take out more debt to help them buy a house, make their train ticket for commuting cheaper and their train nicer, and pay off their student debt").

As you note, a lot of the populist end of left, like BLM, actually aren't on the same page with this at all. They can possibly make some accommodation and alliance but it's a different thing.

There is no policy plank in the BLM-Marxist Leninist wing of the Democratic Party.

Whatever is given as a policy desire such as defund the police is merely window dressing for their politics of perpetual revolt. They fit completely within the Martin Gurri thesis which is they have no real aim other than to negate and destroy that which they view an existential threat.

Hell based on the news reports of what is going on in Chicago, they seem like a threat to themselves.

we are from sweden & are here to help
democratic socialism is a liminal state where the meme zombie meme "defund the police" can mean defund the police and increase police funding simultaneously

Why don't Wolfer and Krugman start their own journal offering alternative views? Why must they attack and silence others? Wasn't that once the academic ideal, fight ideas with ideas

BTW. BLM is quickly coming to mean. Blackmail Liberals for Money

Bad Liberal Math

Kap isn't kneeling for David Dorn or any of the 85 mainly black people killed over the weekend in Chicago.

uncle paulie can recycle all those leftist social science results that "don't hold up" and turn them into metaphors for his journal

Amazon is willing to fund all kinds of leftist junk. Paulie give him a call and stop trying to be the thought police

Who woulda thought that the 1984 like dystopia would not have the government in control, but the mob.

Thoughtcrime bad.

You are simply wrong. Mark Kleiman has written about actual programs, like one in which swift, certain and short (as in, a day in jail) punishments were used on hardcore meth addicted burglars in Hawaii. For the most part, they stop offending. Criminals keep committing crimes because they usually aren't caught and punished at all.

I never thought I'd see Mark Kleiman (RIP) beat Gary Becker at thinking but it looks like he did. Of course the probability of being caught and punished *at all* influences outcomes tremendously.

The difference is actually greater than this if you weight by quality. In most civilised countries it takes years to train to become a police officer.

McArdle on the need for spending more on better policing: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/if-we-want-better-policing-were-going-to-have-to-spend-more-not-less/2020/06/10/4205da14-ab5a-11ea-9063-e69bd6520940_story.html

I've commented several times on my experience working for my state's legislature in the mid-1970s when mandatory minimum sentences (MMS) became the right's solution to increasing crime. It also occurred at the same time as the movement to put more economics in legislation: thus, the requirement for economic impact statements attached to bills. Being the most recent hire, I was given the task of writing economic impact statements for our committee - I did have a bachelor's degree in economics. For the MMS bills, I determined the cost per day to the state for a prisoner, determined the average sentence for the particular crime, subtracted the average from the MMS, then multiplied the result by the prisoner cost per day. Howls of protest rose from the sponsors of the MMS bills, who stated that I didn't understand the economics, that the MMS would deter crime to such an extent that the total prison costs to the state would fall, and fall by a lot. The dilemma was resolved when the leadership decided to exempt MMS bills from the economic impact statement requirement. That resolved the political issue, but not the economic issue: prison costs to the state skyrocketed.

I notice that you did not calculate the cost of crime. Minneapolis had more than 550 women and girls raped last year. What is the financial cost of that?

It turns out that your opponents were right. New York jailed so many people, crime dropped and now they are closing prisons. Jailing people works. Letting them out does not.

The prisons are being closed because judges have ruled they are a violation of rights, so faced with hiking taxes to build compliant prisons, crimes and punishment are being slashed by administrative action and some legislation.

The closing of prisons is conservative cut taxes, cut spending, and basically conservative "defund x" solution adoption. Ie, so improve morality of girls and women, defend planned parenthood, because defunding.family planning will cut unplanned babies on welfare.

Define “works” though. If you kick my ass for standing on a street corner, it’s a violent crime statistic, if a cop does it, it’s Tuesday.

Likewise if someone shoplifts and I lock them up for years in my basement, I’ve committed a felony, and that’s bad, but if the state does it, it’s “justice” even though it greatly exceeds the offense.

Sure, locking someone up is fine if the only metric is whether this particular crime number goes down, but if you ascribe actual value to the harm (not to mention the costs of locking them up) then it definitely doesn’t “work.”

An economic impact statement that counts the costs but not the benefits. No doubt they were howling. I'm against MMS too, but there does need to be better sentencing. Too many of those complaining about police abuse have been arrested over 20 times. Like I mentioned above, the guy who killed the retired police captain in St Louis was sentenced to 7 yrs but never had to go to jail.

Our focus on prisons over police may be crazy but it is consistent with what Charles Murray, F. A. Hayek Chair in Cultural Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, advocates. A sample of what he has said on the subject in the past- “We didn’t solve the crime problem by learning how to get tough on the causes of crime nor by rehabilitating criminals. We just took them off the streets. As of 2005, more than 2 [million] Americans are incarcerated … it responds to the question ‘Does prison work?’”

Looks like a massive waste when my country got the same thing with a flat incarceration rate.

Enjoy reading all the American commenters pointing out why America is completely unable to handle any social problem. It does not matter what problem, the response that America is incapable to handle it is stunning in its wearying consistency.

Almost every social problem in the US is met with conservatives calling for defunding all social agencies, except police and prisons.

But for the private sector, conservatives want businesses to not employ those with contact with police, but then want more police to increase contact with police to deal with the increasing problems from unemployment, starting police records as teens, then 10 year olds, then 7 years olds, then 5 year olds.

Your country is Australia, correct?

Australia's incarceration rate more than doubled from 1982 to 2019, going from 90 per 100k up to 221 per 100k. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Punishment_in_Australia#:~:text=From%202012%20to%202017%20the,100%2C000%20adults%20more%20than%20doubled.

I haven't cherry-picked anything with those endpoints. It's been a steady increase with very few y-o-y decreases (all of which were small).

Thanks for pointing out my mistake. Looking it up I see the Australian prison population increased by 51% from 2000 to 2018. I made a mistake earlier and looked at the incarceration rate for non-indigenous Australians which was pretty flat. Indigenous Australians are currently 40% of the prison population while making up 3.2% of the general population. In 2000 they were 2.1%.

You are getting to be just like the U.S.

Nah... We eat, like, 30% less cheese than you do.

A few hundred less dead people from mass shootings over the past decade.

Which likely has nothing to do with that you have considerably than 30% of the firearms owned by Americans.

It's not just that we have a much lower gun ownership rate, it's that the ones we do have just aren't very cool. Even though it's still possible to cause a lot of harm with a 5 shot bolt action rifle, planning out a massacre in your head just isn't as much fun as when you imagine using guns like in the movies.

When Americans are polled on incarceration: Retribution more important than rehabilitation.
Retribution, “an expression of society’s moral outrage at particularly offensive conduct”, Justice Stewart wrote, is “essential in an ordered society that asks its citizens to rely on legal processes, rather than self-help, to vindicate their wrongs”. In other words, an abhorrent crime deserves an equally detestable penalty.

Seems reasonable. The punishment, to cite a cliche so old it is not really a cliche any more, should fit the crime.

But also rehabilitation is a myth. Maybe it should not work - we should not seek to interfere with a man's personality just because we think it will help him fit in better. But even if it could work, it doesn't. There is no rehabilitation program in the world that can take a random sample of criminals and make a difference.

All we can do is jail them until they are old - crime being a young man's game. The world needs longer sentences.

Funny how other countries manage to have much lower recidivism rates than America's GULAG system?

As their demographics come to resemble America's, so will their crime rates.

That's debatable, as the current European strategy seems to be to selectively pretend crimes don't occur.

Don't worry; as with so many other things, the leftists want the European system here. That's the point of defunding the police.

What's the evidence that their recidivism rates are better? Their overall crime levels are lower, a fact noticeably absent from every US-Europe criminal justice comparison (including this one), but that's not the same thing as saying they've figured out rehabilitation.

Despite ignorant people claiming that the US just locks people up without a thought to rehabilitation, the US has made many attempts at rehabilitation, and continues to do so. There just isn't much evidence that any of these programs work.

Sure and I always are going to, some day maybe, real soon, anytime now.

Maybe less costly to just give people and communities enough support (and decrimalize drugs) so they can live good crime-free lives. As stated above, other countries do not have the same rates of incarceration. Do you think there is something about the 'personality' of American's that is more criminal than people in other places? Or would you rather ignore the obviously better alternative?

Maybe it would be cheaper to give everyone a unicorn too? That will stop crime. America has given trillions in "support" over the years. All it has done has been to make the situation worse. It has destroyed the Black family in particular.

We can sit here and talk about magic solution involving pixie dust all you like. But none of these programs work. This round of rioting started in Minneapolis. A city that has not had a Republican mayor since the early 1970s. What special little program do you think you could run that they were not running already? How is that working out for them?

Einstein said what about the definition of insanity?

You're living in a dreamworld. These are 'feel good' policies that do little but mellow people out into practical non-productiveness. Of course, it all depends on what kind of world you want: I vote for high-productivity and high-innovation which likely relies on high-risk, high-drama, highly-driven individuals who are all the more likely to fall from grace, become emotionally damaged, and otherwise 'extremify' themselves whether they win-big or lose-big (maybe leading to crime). Worth it? That the $64k Q.

> As stated above, other countries do not have the same rates of incarceration

US incarceration rate of asian americans is about 100 per 100K. A little higher than Finland, a little lower than Netherlands. About 40% higher than Japan. But still, it's very, very low.

US incarceration rate of of black americans is 2300 per 100k.

What makes you think if you took south chicago and dropped it in Finland that the murders would stop? They would not. Finland puts people in jail for murder and violent crime just as the US does.

Our jails are filled with people that have committed crimes. Murders nets you 13 years on average, violent offenses net you two years, autotheft 11 months.

If you don't like all the people in jail, then understand the issue is the number of people committing crimes.

Nobody is sitting in jail for joint.

Wiki gives Asian rate as 210 per 100,000 in 2010 - https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Race_and_crime_in_the_United_States

0.21%. That's about Singapore and half White American. Even with quite a bit of selective migration making population less representative of the low end than in Asia.

Younger than the gen pop, so likely age adjusted difference is higher.

Here PPP data showing 115 per 100K for asian incarceration rate.

I think the overarching point is this: Japanese in the US are likely incarcerated at a rate lower than Japan. And Chinese in the US are likely incarcerated at a rate lower than China. And Swedes int he US are likely incarcerated at a rate lower than Sweden.

The million dollar question is what would happen to the population of south chicago if you put that area in Sweden? Would Sweden incarcerate them at the rate they are incarcerated in the US? Most definitely. Because committing a crime with a gun gets you serious jail time in all countries.


There may be some quirks of data there in how data's gathered for Asian groups, so I guess I won't stick to that too hard. Since wiki gives the same source but doesn't explain how it arrives at that, it could just be there's an error in transcription.

Still, I don't really see how that conjecture (each individual rate for every ethnicity is lower in the US than in separate countries of origin) is possible as compatible with a US rate for White non-Hispanics that's 2x the highest European country, let alone the average.

It's also the case that Latinx would be a bunch higher than comparable countries also (even Cuba). So it seems more likely that incarceration is higher for the same ethnic groups, etc. than that it is lower.

> each individual rate for every ethnicity is lower in the US than in separate countries of origin

This is Milton Friedman's observation on Swedish poverty.

I'd argue violent crime occurs from those at the bottom of the economic rung, and those at the bottom can't readily migrate. Thus, any Swede/Japanese/etc that comes to the US has means and is very unlikely to commit violent crime on average.

Plus, a japanese person living in the US is here because they like it, and they don't want to go back. Ergo, they are better behaved.

So, I'd assert:

1) There isn't any systemic racism in our sentencing.
2) You might argue our systemic racism is unique focused on black people. But again, I'd argue it's focused on those that commit the crimes. If you don't want to go to jail, don't commit the crime.
3) Our terms in jail are in line with the the rest of the world. We are at 11 months for auto theft, with just 10% of those folks being caught. Does anyone think think 11 months is unreasonable considering you were likely serving 11 months for 5 (on average) cars stolen before you were caught?

So are we talking about first generation Swedish migrants or Swedish descendants?

For the former it seems reasonably true and consistent with the apparently fairly low crime rates of first generation Latin migrants. (Something which is not the case for their kids, unfortunately).

For the latter, I route back around to White American incarceration rates seemingly being incarcerated at higher rates than any possible composition average of their ancestors countries of origin (no matter how you weight the US White population as comprised of European streams, there's no way you could get anything close to the US White incarceration rate). So either they commit more crime (in which case criminality is quite different for people of same ancestry in different environments), or they are being incarcerated at higher rates for the same crime (and US incarceration policy is higher, not that there's anything necessarily wrong with that).

You need to go back to the crimes:

The worst country in the EU for car thefts is Luxembourg (328) then Greece (269), then Italy (257). Finland is 10th with 123.

California alone is 400. So, based on car thefts alone you'd expect the CA to have an incarceration rate that is roughly 2X europe all else equal.

The US sentencing for major crimes (murder, violent assault) isn't that far out of line from the EU.

Is it possible that white people in the US are far more crime-prone than their EU counterparts? Seems very likely.

It is possible, since there are large difference in "crime proneness" between European countries (that probably have nothing much to do with heredity).

But that's not what is implied by your statement of "Swedes int he US are likely incarcerated at a rate lower than Sweden" (e.g. imprisonment and crime in the US is different from Europe purely due to heredity, and controlling for heredity the US has lower crime and imprisonment).

Though I do believe that significant rehabilitation, or even just 'revising' someone until they are 'good enough' is rare, costly, and difficult to assess; retribution seems to swing a bit too far the other way. "The punishment should fit the crime" sounds kind of too close to 'an eye for an eye'.
Maybe the bigger question is at what level of lifestyle (notice I didn't say income) is it more worthwhile to crime than not to crime. Unfortunately, I have seen to many 'Get Rich or Die Trying' t-shirts to think that they are all ironic.

The two most basic tenets of Christianity are forgiveness and redemption. Neither of these are evident in the Cromwellian Puritan ethos that survives in the US after over 400 years, where predestination is just as central to thinking as it was for Cotton Mather, even though faux democracy is current leading religion.

Liberals like to selectively and dishonestly quote the Bible. Because they know that some conservatives take is seriously. The problem is the people who take it seriously, take it seriously. So they can see Pelosi is full of crap when she quotes it.

Jesus said go and sin no more. He did not say prostitution is like totally cool and we are down with it. What do you do with people who refuse to stop sinning?

What does the Bible say about someone who sins for the third time?

Maybe people who don't like America should go to Russia. I have watched The Death of Stalin recently. The Russian regime is awful and Trump is its unwitting pawn. I think it is time to America say "enough is enough". For the first time in my whole life, I will vote Democrat. I can not forgive Trump's betrayal of our gallant allies, the Munich of our times. God bless you all.

Interesting thought: where can people go to if they just want to get away from American values/ circumstances for many years. Are there civilized countries where people can just stay with or without having to show evidence of self-support? I know Australia encourages its citizens, mostly youth, to see the world for an extended period.

You managed to grasp current regime quality by watching one satirical black-comedy movie about the episode that was almost a century ago? There are some logical leaps in this statement.

Actually, Stalin died in 1953. Also, theee is obvious continuity between the Russian regimes. The Soviet Union was famously called Tsarist Russia painted red. Putin was a KGB agent. Putin is trying to conquer Georgia and Ukraine just like Lenin and Trotsky did.

That's crazy. I wonder what it is about Britain, Australia, and Japan that makes them so different than the US where we need to spend so much money on incarceration.

Sane gun laws? Fewer guns for inhabitant?

Crime went down with more guns legally owned. Crazy think in the UK, if someone breaks into your house, YOU get charged if you hurt them. I see no sanity there. Also, ask about knives in London.

Who has the lower homicide rate? USA or UK? You know the answer.

"Crime went down with more guns legally owned"

I thought Obama and Bill Clinton had took everyone's guns by now. FOX News told me they would.

Here's a fun homework assignment: look up the homicide rate for Americans whose ancestors come from the UK compared to the entire population.

So that is why America is more violent than Djibouti, notoriously populated by British lords.

Hmmm, I wonder if those British lords do as good a job policing and keeping up with statistics as their cousins do back home.

On the other hand, Djibouti has a reputation for police brutality, so it seems the problem is that we aren't beating up suspects nearly enough. I'm personally 100% down with our police laying the batons on some perps, if it makes the US safer.

Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh and Grenada are just a few other examples of countries popultaed by British lords who are better at refrain from killing one another than Americans.

And the same argument applies to all of them as well. In fact, we live in such a draconian and crime-ridden police state, that people from all of them are clamoring to immigrate to the US. One wonders if that will continue once we have "autonomous zones" all over the country. But hey, the zones haven't reported one single crime so far!

So we area sycceeding by failing -- by murdering more of our citizena than any rich country and many poor countries.

Failing by succeeding—policing and reporting crime, throwing people in jail to maintain a civil society, for now at least. Of course the corollary to what I posted above is that you and others who complain don't seem to be in a hurry to move to safe and low-crime Djibouti.

The average number of guns per person in the US has increased but gun ownership -- as in the percentage of the population who own one or more guns -- has decreased. A lot of people seem to get this wrong.

This is a stat you shouldn't believe, gun owners do not trust the gov't and will lie to any survey in very large numbers.

Maybe when houses get searched for white collar crime they should keep track of how often guns turn up to get an idea of gun ownership rates are? Not a perfect proxy, but it's something, and I'm sure other people could think of better ways to check the numbers.

But when Britain had almost no gun laws the British still shot each other at a far lower rate than Americans did.

A simple hypothesis that explains much about the USA is that its citizens dislike each other at a higher rate than is common in broadly comparable countries.

this would explain a lot but is it plausible?

Have you ever been to American sites or America?

It is plausible that Americans dislike each other at higher rates than comparable countries.

It is less plausible that Brits like each other more than Americans like each other. Much less so! At least in the early 21st century... (Snobbery, of one form or another, the original or its inversions, thy name is Britain).

Charles Murray? Better policing?

Well, since you ask, I would list as significant contributions: a political process that rewards centrism (not enough, but way better than USA), better education and healthcare, cultural resistance to riches and corruption, a different definition of freedom, less billionaires and a working social safety net. I'm not saying we're perfect even in these respects (I apologise for Murdoch), but these are significant differences to me

Just an Australian:

How do crime rates in Australia compare to those of whites (non-Hispanic) and Asians in the U.S.?

I think you are missing the recent cultural and historical traditions that are just too difficult to discard: hyper-individualized protestant colonists with significant space, resources, and distance to conflict/ sharing in order to develop a world community sensitivity.

We have more prisoners because we have more crime.

We have more crime because we have more brown people.

Comparing to Europe or Asia is a waste of time.

Drug war is not significant factor in incarceration. Violent crime is.

I favor more police. There is no problem statistically significant problem with police behavior. Unions protect police from effette second guessing how they deal with belligerent underclass.

The most corrupt police departments are heavily brown and in liberal cities with brown politicians. Camden's old black PD that was replaced with a white suburban one is a good example.

Actually, we have a higher white citizen incarceration rate than that of sub-Sahara Africa - America at 272 per 100,000 compared to around 100 per 100,000. As for comparing the America white prisoner population with the Europe incarceration rate, well, you are right comparing Europe to America is a waste of time - the European rate in 2018 at 102.5 inmates per 100,000 inhabitants is comparable to the sub-Saharan rate, and both are considerably less than half the American rate for the exclusively white American incarceration rate.

America stands out, even after you subtract every prisoner who is not classified as white from the American totals. White prisoners in the U.S. at the end of 2017 according to Pew - 436,500, an imprisonment rate of 272 per 100,000.

Try harder next time - blaming skin color ignores how exceptional American whites are as a pernicious criminal class compared to Europeans or Asians.

The overall Australian incarceration rate is 221 per 100k, so not that much lower than the U.S.

Perhaps, if violent tendencies are to some degree heritable, a lot of the Europeans with violent tendencies got eliminated from the gene pool by getting themselves killed in combat during the two World Wars.

Link for this statistic - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Punishment_in_Australia#:~:text=From%202012%20to%202017%20the,100%2C000%20adults%20more%20than%20doubled.

Not that much lower for white American - odd that the U.S. and Australia seem to have so many criminals of a certain ethnicity, though maybe the genetics über alles types can explain it in a historical context. The actual incarceration rate in the U.S. is 655 per 100,000 according to wikipedia, or less than a third of Australia's.

When talking about incarceration in the US, a lot of people seem unaware that white Americans are jailed at a much higher rate then Europeans of all ethnicities.

Yes, I meant the Australia comparison to be for white (non-Hispanic) Americans.

My understanding is that European countries tend to have shorter sentences than the U.S. That could help to explain part of the difference with white Americans. It may not be white Americans going to prison at 2.7x the rate of Europeans. It's going to prison at a far closer rate but spending more time there in the U.S.

On that, incarceration rate of White non-Hispanics in US 0.45% - https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Race_and_crime_in_the_United_States

High end European and OECD countries are about 0.2%, low end around 0.06%, middle about 0.125%.
So the US has about the same "White incarceration" ratio to high end European states as they do to mid range European end states, and European states differ more from each other.

This of course doesn't totally represent currently includes some historic incarceration, and overall rates have declined for all ethnic subgroups since 2000. So present day rates will probably be a little different.

There's probably some age dynamics in this as well.

"Drug war is not significant factor in incarceration. Violent crime is." Yes... but I wonder how much of the violent crime is related to drug activity and how much that violent crime would go down given a change in drug laws. Maybe some, maybe a lot.

Note also that there were 1.6 million drug arrests in 2018; 86 percent were for possession. "The highest number of arrests were for drug abuse violations (estimated at 1,654,282 arrests), driving under the influence (estimated at 1,001,329), and larceny-theft (estimated at 887,622)." (https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2018/crime-in-the-u.s.-2018/topic-pages/persons-arrested).

Stats show that only about 15 percent of state prison population is incarcerated for drug related crimes (only 4 percent for possession). I wonder what the churn in that population is though. Violent crime is rarer but comes with longer sentences. So as suggested by the arrest stats above, even if the total prison population in any one year is not in prison for drug related crimes, it could be the case that the majority of people ever to have been in prison were in prison due to drug-related crimes. Any analysis on that issue would be appreciated.

good point about the churn rate - I also looked up and found a similar figure of 20% federally for drug related crime. If the sentences are relatively shorter then drug decriminalization will reduce incarceration by more than that figure.

I think you will find that very few of the drug related incarcerations are for personal use possession. It’s either for major dealing, or it’s what they could easily prove, or do as a plea deal, where the actual crime that attracted the police attention was more significant.

> It’s either for major dealing,

Usually it involves dealing, a gun and parole. Once you are on parole, having a gun on you when your are committing your next crime is a massive problem for sentencing.

Nobody is in jail for personal amounts of drugs. Nobody.

It’s not often that I read an opinion piece or post with which I 99% agree, but this is one of them. My only quibble is that I don’t think it should be lawful to sell untaxed cigarettes.

So ... you are fine with jailing more non-violent criminals of the African American persuasion?

Laws have consequences. One of those is that people will die enforcing those laws. Are you fine with this?

I think the public health case against cigarettes is very strong; and while there may well be areas where fewer regulations of personal conduct make sense, this doesn’t appear to be one of them.

There’s also a lot to be said for consistent lawmaking; if businesses are required to sell a product with a steep markup, why should individual merchants receive an exemption?

Finally, it’s easier to have light touch regulation if the large majority of people and organizations act in a responsible, socially conscientious manner. More to the point, there needs to be broad agreement on what being responsible and socially conscientious means. For good or ill, America doesn’t seem to have such a consensus.

So that is a yes, you are fine with more African Americans in prison and dying while trying to resist arrest.

I think that people ought to think very carefully before passing laws. As tobacco only kills people who choose to smoke it - passive smoking being a deliberate lie - it is probably best not to kill people over it.

But that is just me.

At some point, all taxes have to be enforced with criminal law.

There can be steps along the way - civil enforcement first - but that has to the ultimate backstop for people who simply won't pay.

Yes, it's violence in the end. One could make the case that the state's monopoly on violence has created a situation where mal hechors know that they're unlikely to be tracked down and mauled by their victims because the law has other fish to fry. That's why speeding and tailgating are endemic on the highway and bozos drive forty mph through parking lots. They know that anybody who dots their eye will be in more trouble than they are.

It may only harms the smokers (maybe), but I certainly pay for it in their old age or when they are poor (which is the majority of smokers: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/03/170324104933.htm). I'd be fine doing away with that as well, but if people want subsidized care, then they should expect to pay higher prices for behaviors that drive up healthcare usage.

Many questions provoked here: Looks like variation in European States is very large compared to intra European variation. Sweden and Netherlands are closer to the USA on that measure than Greece and Ireland. Does this indicate that Sweden needs to change relative spend to mirror Greece and Ireland?

What is spend per incarcerated person? Seems like US would not be too different from Europe on that measure, and perhaps you might even see reversal of fortune.

How do you actually practically reduce incarceration suddenly without a "miscarriage of justice" effect (people imprisoned last year for things now deemed ok?). What actually is the growth in new incarcerations per capita in the US, relative to crime rate per capita? Is it even high?

I think the more interesting questions is about the reduced negative externalities of getting these low to negative economic value people off the streets.

give people a UBI and then no-one has negative economic value. What is the value of simply being a free person? I think your narrow economic lens here is limited

It has been tried in many regions of varying sizes, complexities, and political flavours - including Scandinavian areas. Almost always fails or is somehow diminished or seems to not meet any economic goals after certain trial periods. There doesn't seem to be any consistent increase in individual's productivity, added value to the region's economy, or the ability of the individual to 'productively find themselves'. If the single goal we can, for the most part, agree upon society-wide is that we want more opportunity and wealth for everyone. Even feel-good and no-brainer programs such as social justice, work flexibility, and some kind of basic healthcare require an amount of circulating income to increase substantially – for these ideas are some of the most expensive and hard to administer. I have worked on and for many very Left-ish Non-profits and Co-ops who require repaired buildings, so have been around a very heavily-externally supported community. Even with the expected very low economic sustainability – there is never enough money to do basic repairs, as experienced volunteers and self-sufficiency is negligible – there is very little evidence that these communities and their people are fluorishing. Attendance and cooperation is low. Conflicts and mental illness is high. Without striving, struggling, having goals, appearing productive to others, and some kind of bettering routine, these people fall into addictions and conflict. A competitive and productivity-focussed world is the easiest way to foster internalized value. I hate to say the one is not on this earth to be happy; one is here to work and hopefully develop themselves so work makes them happy – I haven’t found compelling evidence against it.

Fewer laws, much fewer and strong enforcement of those laws.

What is surprising is that on a per-capita basis we employ 35% fewer police than the world average.

And what is deeply sad is that according to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_killings_by_law_enforcement_officers_by_country, the U.S. total number of police caused deaths at 1,536 (a rate of 46.6 per 10 million) is notably higher than countries like the Netherlands (4, 2.3 ), Portugal (1, 1 ), or Poland (2, .5) than 35%. There are two European countries with rates that are half that of the U.S., but in the case of Malta and Luxembourg, each with a single police caused fatality, the total per 10 million is more a statistical artifact.

The wiki information is raw and makes no distinction of justified and unjustified deaths, but considering recent publicity over a number of cases, American police kill more innocent people as a percentage per 10 million than the police in the Netherlands kill anyone.

Amazingly Mexico has a rate per 10 million two thirds of that in the U.S., even if that figure should be taken with a big grain of salt.

As we've learned recently, the police killed 28 unarmed individuals last year. That's out of the 1536 you mention and is a surprisingly low number. At least 4 of those were wrestling for the officer's gun. Sounds like we have a problem with our population.

"Sounds like we have a problem with our population."

"After the uprising of the 17th of June
The Secretary of the Writers' Union
Had leaflets distributed on the Stalinallee
Stating that the people
Had forfeited the confidence of the government
And could only win it back
By increased work quotas. Would it not in that case be simpler
for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?" - Brecht

That over one hundred innocent bystanders die as the result of high speed pursuits in the U.S., of which 91% percent of the pursuits involved non-violent crimes according to USA today in 2015.

In other words, the number of innocent deaths caused by high speed pursuits is higher than the number of people per 10 million killed by the Netherlands police. Who probably have some really cool high speed pursuit bicycles as compensation.

We'd also need to add the costs of not pursuing criminals and the cost in lives of that, which may be substantially higher. You may be right, but not likely.

What cost would realistically result from only doing high speed pursuits of violent crimes? The number of people who die in high speed pursuits per year in total is over three hundred. The hundred is purely of those completely innocent of even the slightest possibility they were engaged in any variety of wrong doing at all.

The idea that non-violent criminals would start killing innocent people if not pursued is far fetched, at best.

We're in agreement on the non-violent crimes, but police depts haven't been doing that. Just a blanket ban.

Yes, there probably should be fewer high-speed pursuits.

"Non-violent crimes" can be a really bad way to categorize high-speed pursuits, however.

DUI is a "non-violent crime". If a car has been weaving like crazy and tries to take off at 100 miles per hour on a highway when they see flashing lights, should the cops just let them go?

Similar questions arise for people who are being pulled over for speeding at a grossly excessive rate. (I'm talking the 30 mph over the limit types, not 10-15 over.)

If you seriously think that a drunk driver being pursued at 100mph for 20 minutes is better than that same drunk driver not being pursued as other police vehicles are alerted to watch for it as it goes down the road, you are not a realist. Yes, not applicable in every case, but still better than having a drunk barely able to control their vehicle barrelling down the road at 100mph for an extended period of time,

Many more intoxicated drivers speed&crash while not being chased
by police than speed&crash while being chased by police.

And the police are to blame. So a criminal gets in a car and the police just wave and say have a good day.

Of course not. But at some point, reducing the number of completely innocent people killed by high speed crashes would seem a worthy goal.

Even more interesting, the number of American police who die from being shot and from dying in vehicle accidents (not all high speed pursuits) in the line of duty is roughly the same. Blue lives matter too.

Truck driving and police work are dangerous because our streets are often dangerous. How many of those vehicle deaths for police occur during accident investigations?

So bad car chases are chases that end in an accident and good car chases are ones that don't. I prefer the Gary Becker model. Severe penalties for people who flee the place and create car chases.

Recently in Chicago, there was a terrible fatal car chase. The police were chasing a suspect in a homicide. Was it wrong because of the result.

Remember Camden that Alex is so fond of. They made it illegal to have a police car chases. Criminals would drive by and taunt the police. Do donuts in the street mocking the police? The police stopped caring about the job. The system broke down. Alex ignores that.

Dan raises a good point.

Thinking in terms of incentives, the right high-speed car chase policy for a police department is probably to have a fairly restrictive policy on who to chase but never to state publicly what that policy is.

If a policy is restrictive and its parameters are publicly known, it almost certainly encourages some subset of criminals to drive away at high speed knowing that they won't be chased, which is dangerous in and of itself.

There's also a possible signalling effect. The car that tries to run from a routine traffic stop for a moving violation is more likely to be someone with an outstanding serious warrant (or an illegal weapon, or a kidnapped person in the trunk, etc.) than the one that stops.


‘My Ward Is A S*** Show’: Here Are The 17 Most Explosive Quotes From Chicago Leaders’ Leaked Meltdown About Violence, Looting
Conference call, leaked, among the Chicago mayor and the council folks. However, they have an Overton Window problem and are not very helpful at all.

The debate is teachers unions vs police unions. We can afford one, not the other.

You can't afford two failing systems that encourage people to vote with their feet.

For states data, the data should control for percentage rural versus urban residents. Certain crime is associated with human interactivity.

I'd love to know how Alex's solution plays out in his mind.

"Dang, I was gonna blow away that lady walking her dog, but there was a cop standing across the road!"

"Wanna go a few streets over and find someone else? There can't be cops everywhere."

"It's no use. Let's just go home and work on our online GEDs."

The problem is not that Chicago needs a few more cops. The problem is that Chicago has PSYCHOPATHIC MURDERERS ROAMING FREE IN THE CITY SHOOTING RANDOM PEOPLE FOR NO REASON.

I guarantee you each of them has a history like this: Twelve arrests, eight for violence. Lots of probation and suspended sentences. Maybe one 14-month stint in jail for stabbing a guy into the ICU (released early on a 2-year sentence).

Sure -- a few more cops ought to fix this.

In 2002, there was a sniper shooting random people around DC. Got thirteen people over three weeks. The whole city was terrified. It was all anyone talked about, nationwide. How can this be happening? Who could be this incredibly deranged? What the hell are we going to do?

Now, 18 go down in ONE DAY in Chicago, and Alex says "hiring a few more cops should fix this. Next topic."

Put your violent psychos in jail and keep them there for life.

And fix society so that the psychos decide that the joining the army is the least worst way for them to be. That's where most of ours go

The empirical evidence is clear: more police on the street means less crime. In his posts he has linked to research on this. I also find it intuitively plausible that if aspiring criminals know the cops are nearby and known to arrest anybody that causes trouble, they'll be a lot more cautious. That you can't model it in your head just shows your limitations rather than Tabarrok's ideas.

Better policing and more policing, however, complement one another. Demilitarize the police, end the war drugs, regulate people less, restrain police unions and eliminate qualified immunity so that police brutality can be punished and the bad apples removed and the demand for police will soar.

I am not sure that better policing and more policing complement each other. If you spend more on the police you need to relax standards. If you want more minority policemen we know that they will be of lower quality and hence kill and abuse civilians more often.

I also doubt that removing qualified immunity goes with better policing either. The police can see their employers will dump all over them and betray them in a heart beat if there is any political flak about. That is why the US has tolerated qualified immunity for so long - the police do a difficult job that ordinary people just cannot begin to understand. They need sympathy and support, not hysterical newspapers whipping up a lynch mob. If you get rid of it, everyone will know it means that police can be betrayed even faster with even fewer consequences. Who in their right mind would become a police officer in those circumstances?

What does complement more policing is more jail. There is no reason why we can't embrace the healing power of "and". Arrest more *and* jail more. For longer. For life ideally.

Although I do like the sound of Policing For America - every Ivy League applicant should be required to do two years on the mean streets before going to Yale or wherever. That would give us quality officer!

Qualified immunity was "tolerated" only because its day-to-day effects fell very disproportionately on minority communities.

This point was, huh, the motivating argument of the protests. That's what BLM with respect to policing means: if you actually value black lives like you do your own, you would not permit the black community to bear negative effects of improper policing.

Qualified immunity didn't always exist. Police unions (and public sector unions more generally) didn't always exist. It's entirely possible to have an effective police force without those things, because we already had them in the past.

I would like to see evidence that America had effective policing without qualified immunity.

Qualified immunity was first introduced in 1967. America had a low crime rate roughly between the end of prohibition and the mid sixties.

We are certainly overprisoned, but the conclusion that we should instead spend more on police is questionable. Our police per capita ratio is about the same as in England. Maybe it should be higher, but spending more on police is not the only path. We need institutional reform.
We are the only industrialized country where police officers routinely retire in their 40s. Average retirement age of NYC police officers is 42 years, it’s ridiculous. And let nobody argue that it has anything to do with physical fitness. There are no fitness requirements now, many officers are so obese that they couldn’t run down one block.
Having older officers also adds wisdom and experience. The trigger-happy ones, or the ones who kneel on a suspect’s neck for 8 minutes, are hardly ever those with 20+ years of service.

Sounds like a Fox Butterfield analysis. Maybe we have less policing because we have more incarceration.

+10. Came here to say this.

I think he gets this. Its his whole point. He’d rather have more police and fewer prisons because he sees those as influencing one another and thinks more prisoners is a worse outcome.

ymmv, but here in IL we have less policing b/c of the massive pension costs we can't afford

the Camden example is instructive, we could probably field a lot more cops for the same money if we broke the union

of course the IL unions are way ahead of us and have already amended the IL Constitution to prevent this (wish I were kidding)

From the cyberpunk cannon 2 things -

Neural Dampener Punishment Constructs
Couched in our legacy 13th amendment penal labor policies driving the capitalist business model of our modern systems - the use of selective post-experiential neural dampeners on a prisoner's temporal events. It came out of one of the classic cyberpunk books (character has whiffs of memory of a mech and in a factory) and surfaced as a central theme in a movie I forget the name of 10 or so years ago (not Mr. Nobody, Cloud Atlas, or Inception) as a technique to forget a relationship. It is a real thing studied in our neuroscience labs and success in hypnosis. Not only do you do your time, you lose most memories of it and thus a chunk of your life as you have aged.

Selective Upstream Health System Onboarding
Bruce Sterling's post-cyberpunk "Heavy Weather" coughs up the idea of instant access to your criminal record through your ID. In an car accident? First responders scan your ID. If you have commited a felony they will not provide point-of-care services on the roadside there beside the ambulance let alone transport you to a facility. In Sterling's future, the solution to criminal and health problems is brilliant and simple. Should you be found guilty of a felony you lose all access to state services. Our health care exchange is really "the black market". HIPPA isn't going to help you here folks.

First, for more than 50 years, Chicago has had many horrendous days. More importantly, it seems that few politicians and scholars have cared about it. BTW, what did Obama do about it?

Second, despite ad hoc measures to contain it (see https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/25/us/us-mass-incarceration-rate.html ) incarceration has been growing for the past 30 years while crime has been declining. Maybe you should ask Joe Biden for an explanation.

Third, Becker was right. In your old post, you said that criminals should be treated like children rather than rational actors. At best, your idea is a complement to rehabilitation for people that have been accused and condemned since you cannot presume that some people are criminals. Given the many failures of public policies aimed at homelessness and rehabilitation, it's hard to argue for nudging to deter crime.

Why the comparison between US states vs EU countries? Ignoring the whole federal apparatus of law enforcement to make US spending on police look low is ridiculous. Most of northern Europe doesn't have an equivalent to the national guard either.

I agree with Alex. But, of course, this is a complicated issue that will take time and effort to deal wth, and it's never going to be perfect. If it turns out crime increases in some areas, hey, look, we can stop what we're doing and try something else. How about trying to slowly get better?


And this seems an obvious thing to try, at the margin. And with so many police departments and court systems, it should be possible for someone to give it a go.

I think we are going to see which local polities are most flexible, and most rational, across 2020.

Not feeling optimistic about my home county though.


I didn't click every link above, so I'm not sure if this is redundant, but a Twitter thread by a researcher on the same subject:


(That was really a lot of links Alex!)

Saving people from bad policy doesn’t always have to be our mission if that policy is only implemented at the local level.

Let them defund their police. It’s their community. They should be free to make their own choices.

Abolishing police wouldn’t be my policy priority and I think it’s a god awful policy overall. However, BLM wants that policy. Let them have it.....

Let "Them" have it?

You do realize that no city in America is all black right? By "letting them have it" you are basically saying, lets let everyone suffer because a few idiots want a bad policy.

So you want this to be on them basically? And when it turns out bad, you will join the white backlash against them. Am I right or am I right?

Your position is as racist as the cops that sumarily execute

If "them" is radical opposition to a police state, it might be more properly Seattle.

And as someone who lives 1000 miles away, I'm fine with them experimenting.

"Them" I would believe, also includes the whole local electoral pact that forms a local majority. Perhaps no city in the US is "all black" but those that are Black+Woke Whites enough to implement these policies can, and any resulting "refugees" who don't want to live with it can move to red America where they won't implement those policies (bring silicon valley plz)?

I didn't really read 'them' as meaning black folks, and I'd guess the 'them' that wants to defund the police are more white hyper liberals.

I have to admit, I did not expect to see the argument that it's racist not to oppose BLM.

Alex when he writes on crime and the police is awful.

What good are police when Alex wants to turn the courts into revolving doors? For example, he favored releasing criminals without bail requirements. Leads to increased returns for criminal behavior, disrespect for the law, and moral decline. Boosting rings have grown in audacity and volume. Fences are becoming wealthy. You have incentivized a criminal enterprise. On the plus side, I guess the black market for stolen goods has grown and become more efficient. But what happens when a large segment of a population accepts such commerce as acceptable? Is looting that far removed from organized boosting rings and widespread black markets? Perhaps if we didn't so incentivize criminal behavior we wouldn't need so many prisons.

You could try fines but Alex also is against that. Criminal fines are repressive and have a negative impact on the population. Of course, that is the reason the fines exist, to modify behavior. What is the impact of trivial fines on behavior?

So no prisons, no fines, what options does Alex offer? Well, we could act like good parents, as if criminals are just children. But Alex says we can't confine children to their room or cut their allowances. Children hate to see a stern look from their parents. So we can quickly, clearly, and consistently give them a stern look I suppose.

I wonder if the police figures Alex uses include all the costs Americans spend on private police or security. That is about $35 billion a year versus about $80 billion on prisons.

I'm not certain how Alex views the broken windows theory. He seems to favor many police enforcing the general order. But then he favors no punishment, jail or fines, for those who violate "minor" crimes. Does he think that robots standing on the corner saying play nice kids will ensure lawful conduct?

Alex ignores that gangs are violent criminal enterprises that are willing to risk death to advance their agenda but officer friendly can give them a stern look and stop all that stuff. Nevermind that gangs are so ingrained in the culture that newborns are dressed in gang colors as families celebrate the birth of a future gangbanger.

Could extra police reduce some of the low hanging fruit of criminal activity? Perhaps. Extrapolated that to assume that you can reduce the hardcore criminal element, come on now. Could it make a difference in communities where cooperating with the police could get you killed? Please try living in the real world.

Of course, the police are to blame. Especially police unions. One of the reasons police unions grew was to stop undue political influence. A desire to make the police more professional and less an arm of the political establishment. The cop on the street should be able to enforce the law without fear of political retribution or mob rule. BLM clearly wants to use the "new" police as an extension of their political aims and could care less about concepts like the rule of law or due process.

Alex things that a police force that isn't insulated from political pressures, to the degree that is possible, is a good idea. I suggest you look back in American history or to South America to see how that works out for you. Police who become an arm of their political masters do not assure liberty.

Removing qualified immunity, without tort reform, is a potential disaster. Cities already settle questionable lawsuits against police out of fear of what an out of control jury might award. Police would be subject to regular lawsuits that would cripple the system. The danger to the police and their families from a rogue jury would be nontrivial. No police officer could afford the cost to insure against such events. Police could quickly spend more time in court defending themselves than on the streets. Prison inmates could just routinely bring cases against those who arrested them. Why not? What do they have to lose? Like buying a lottery ticket, you might get lucky.

We already have due process in the courts against the police. In the most recent case, how has due process and the legal system failed?

It is strange that the Democrats who are the biggest defenders of public sector unions now see police unions as evil. Why because they assure police due process. When did due process become an evil in this society?

I don't want to live in Alexland.

Do you think Dan, that there might be a false dichotomy between "lower sentences" and "revolving doors?"

I believe in general the Europeans imprison people for shorter spans, but a murderer (for crime of passion?) getting out in 15 years is not really a revolving door.

Or take something that is fundamentally a failure of logic as well as morality, like bank robbery. Is 20 years really that much more useful than 10? I would think 10 gets the message across.

Of course it's possible to be data driven on all this, but I don't think we Americans have been.

No, the emotional argument about "revolving doors" has held sway.

The revolving door referred to his support of no bail. He doesn't support police enforcing quality of life laws nor does he support severe sentences for other crimes per Becker. Where does that leave you?

As I mention below, in my experience "the revolving door" has a much broader meaning than that.

I see it used pretty much whenever any ex-con commits any crime.

Alex has argued against eliminating cash bail.


In case it wasn't clear, I am suggesting we be more data driven unless emotional.

First offenders are often given lighter citizens. Habitual offenders get more severe sentences. What is wrong with that?

Kidnapping is a very difficult to prevent crime, so we impose severe penalties for that crime. What is wrong with that? Why is Becker wrong?

We make it more difficult to convict people, we assume innocence. But if convicted we impose penalties. Japan has a 99% conviction date. Israel 93%. England around 80%. In the United States, about 68% of felonies end in conviction. Why is Becker wrong?

The US has more long incarcerations because we have more homicides and other violent crimes. We charge and convict more rapists.

How about those stats

Those were not really comparative "stats," they were claims.

FWIW my personal belief is that murder, as we usually think of it (premeditated and a conscious choice) should get life without the possibility of parole. But I worry that such perceptions might cloud actual sentencing.

By the way, I'm confused by this page. Could the number be as low as 3%?


Which claim is false?

This one is undocumented:

"The US has more long incarcerations because we have more homicides and other violent crimes."

Which is why I went looking for a number and came up with 3%.

Do you know how to google?

"The contention is that while the US has more people in prison and jail than all other nations, including developed countries, it also has significantly more homicides, so higher levels of incarceration are justified. As data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development shows, the US homicide rate throughout the 2000s was more than three times the rate of Canada, four times that of the UK, and more than 10 times that of Germany.
As Keith Humphreys, a drug policy expert at Stanford University, suggested, this shows that the US will likely always need to keep a higher incarceration rate than other nations, due to the number of people who commit serious criminal offense"


More data is better, but I'd hardly call the issue of the revolving door to be emotional.
Dorn's murderer: "Stephan Cannon, 24, was sentenced to seven years for felony robbery but he got a break. Cannon got probation under what’s called a suspended execution of sentence (SES). Court records show Cannon then violated probation—twice—and got two more breaks. He never went to prison."

Freddie Gray had 18 arrests by age 25. His last one week after getting arrested for assault.
Just data........

Do you think 3 strikes laws were rationally calculated, or were they more an emotional reaction to the image of "a revolving door?"

3 strike laws suffered from the same type of thinking that leads to defunding the police, no bail, no fines, ending police unions, etc

3 strikes laws were an emotional reaction, to a real problem. Law made by legislature to reign in activist judges is often bad. There should be a better method to eliminate the activist judges.

Probablility of detection for property crime can be improved by technology. Technology can be a substitute for constant police presence.

Community relations and willingness to provide information go together, so you might need less police if there are good community relations, and more if there isn't.

If police perform functions that they are not good at, having more of them doesn't help, particularly if there are better police substitutes, such as mental health workers or family crisis intervenors.

When you are a hammer, and you get a bigger budget, everything looks like a nail.

> Probablility of detection for property crime can be improved by technology.

But police will be called more often to places with more property crime, increasing their presense. What you describe is pretty much how we end up today with bad parts of town having the most cops. They are there because someone called them.

Private security guards can hold persons for the police to arrive: “In most situations, security guards have the same ability as private citizens to detain someone for a crime they believe has been committed,”

You don't need taxpayer funded police at private malls.

If the crime was committed, the police will come whether you have security guards or not. That will result in an increased concentration of cops in high crime areas. Which means everything we have today....

Phinton, Having police walking a mall is different than calling them when needed. You know that. Municipalities or counties which have mall development have to expand the police force, for the benefit of businesses. Having a presence to deter doesn't mean a police officer, when it can mean a security officer. Also, cameras in the store deter as well, as well as tagged items.

> Also, cameras in the store deter as well, as well as tagged items.

You haven't watched much youtube, have you? This is what our modern police are up against.


The culture in police departments has to celebrate removing bad apples, otherwise the problem will persist. It is obvious that is not the current culture in police departments. Do the right thing, get ostracized or fired.

Removing bad apples is a good idea, but I’d say the experience with, for example, the legal, medical, accounting, and teaching populations says this is easier said than done. Violations usually have to be egregious and repeated before their peers will act.

Guilds protect their own.


That is like saying seal team 6 is undermanned. The police here do not need large numbers because they are literally walking assault teams with the full force of the justice system behind them to cover for any mistake...or umm.. "mistake" they may make. The judicial system has held up the malfeasance of cops actions several times, even when the malfeasance is purposeful or results from willful ignorance.

To suggest that we are underpoliced based on the numbers alone is exactly why Economists like Tyler and Alex are destroying the sacred art of economic reasoning. They pretend everything is something with an answer that needs to be opined on. They are never comfortable with just sitting inside of the problem, allowing knowledge and observation to guide their understanding from within. Instead, they try to impose their own biased and racist views onto the problem.

If you think America, especially the inner-city is underpoliced, you are racist. I do not care to explain the connection because you already know it. I am not going to explain the obvious just to satisfy your smug, willfull ignorance when it comes to race and power issues.

You spend a lot of time throwing around ad hominems about "racist" and "biased', but you never really address the core question.

Is your contention that inner-cities would have lower murder rates with less policing? What's the mechanism for that? How does it fit with observations such as Baltimore after Freddie Gray?

@Realist -- YOu need to sit with the problem some more, my friend.

My contention is not that inner cities will have lower crime with less police. It is unwise to even pretend the issue is as simple as solving for the equilibrium number of police to fix the crime problem. And you do know that, right? SO why ask me a basic ass question like that.... See, this is the willfull ignorance I am talking about!

Of course LESS police is not going to significantly reduce crime. Why? because systemic racism is the true cause of crime in the black community. more or less police does not eliminate the burden black people feel from living in white society. The state of policing in America is just one symptom of the overall system of systematic racism which is responsible for wealth being stolen, culture being appropriated, health disparities being exacerbated, opportunities being denied and squandered, investment being choked off, history being revised or erased. It is many many things that cause what you are seeing.

So no, adding more or less cops is not a mechanism to reduce or increase crime rates in a significant way. Instead, the QUALITY and FAIRNESS of policing is what matters - not the numbers. You know this already though.

An example of a failed education system. Personal responsibility doesn't matter. Minorities are mindless victims of the"system" who can only express themselves with violence. And other people have racists views?

What part of what I wrote implied ANYTHING that you just said???? You can only understand your own arguments to argue against so it is really not worth trying to expand your mind so that you can have an informed discussion. You are racist and I am not here to change that about you.

I will only say that black people certainly have personal responsibility. However, personal responsibility as a victim of oppression should never be confused with where the blame lies for creating and maintaining such a system. Can you keep both thoughts in your head at once or is it just too convenient for you to accept only one at a time so that you can to be racist?

Your views are clear. Minorities are savages who if they don't get what they want will commit violent acts. And I'm the racist? Get a dictionary son.

Where you said "Of course LESS police is not going to significantly reduce crime. Why? because systemic racism is the true cause of crime in the black community. more or less police does not eliminate the burden black people feel from living in white society. "

That is a specific and clear denial of Black agency. It rejects personal responsibility.

Those are not thoughts. They are puerile opinions from a hard Marxist background pretending to be interesting. They are not.

> My contention is not that inner cities will have lower crime with less police

We saw this with Baltimore. In 2014, policing was aggressive in dangerous areas. 200 people a year were killed by criminals. In 2015, someone died in police custody. Police reduced policing in dangerous areas in response, and annually we are now seeing 300 to 350 people dying at the hands of criminals.

Your theory is readily falsified.

Again, you must sit with the problem to understand it more in depth.

Are you really this numbskulled? My whole point is that the number of police is not associated with crime rate. It is about the quality of law enforcement and the relationship they have with the community. It is also about fairness and other factors outside of judicial matters.

In Bmore where crime went up, the relationship between the community and police was further broken down. It has nothing to do with numbers.

Listen. Don't argue. Just listen to someone who knows.

> My whole point is that the number of police is not associated with crime rate.

For a given quality of police force, if you double the police force you'll cut the response time in half. Easy, right? And if you cut it in half, you'll double the response time.

And if people see cops on every corner, they are less likely to commit a crime. If they never see a cop, they are more likely. Again, it's a straight line between those two. If you see 10% more cops, you'll be less likely to commit a crime.

> In Bmore where crime went up, the relationship between the community and police was further broken down

It manifested in cops not going into dangerous areas by choice. It was akin to taking cops off the street, but instead of actually taking them off the street, they just stopped caring at what they saw. But it was the same effect.

If you want to argue that if all cops were 6'5", ripped as hell, had masters degrees in sociology, were well like and respected by all in the community, and never had to use deadly force unless they had personally been shot at least twice, then I agree.

But these supercops you are dreaming about dont' exist. There's a reason cities are hiring the people they are hiring: They have no choice.

Alex's claim that the crime rate is causally related to the number of police is supported by things like "natural experiments" due to Homeland Security alerts, Camden getting a lower crime rate after abolishing their existing department for a larger one, New York driving down its crime rate with the highest ratio of officers to civilians of any U.S city to the point that incarceration also went down (even if they were also notorious for stop & frisk), the large increase in crime in Baltimore after Freddy Gray caused a drop in arrests (Roland Fryer has a paper on how reforms after such "viral" incidents increase the crime rate). Do you have any evidence that as systemic racism increases or decreases the crime rate moves accordingly? And if it's just a background constant which doesn't predict variation in crime, how useful is it for modelling crime?

In light of the recent looting and arson, it would appear that we do lack enough police.

The murder rate in Chicago in communities where police withdrew to defend the Loop seems to prove the opposite of your argument.

But they were probably racists shooting each other.

Hmm... was it lack of police or was it strategic withdrawal in order to undercut public support for the movement and begin a conversation about de-escalation within the movement itself??

If you were a police captain, you would literally be an idiot to not employ this effective strategy. Sacrifice a few police cars and a building here are there to quell the crowd and bring it under control.

The murder rate in Chicago is not a function of the number of police on the street. It is a function of the poverty, injustice, and stolen opportunities. Think bigger. Be better. Stop acting like black people are wild children who destroy, loot and kill if white people arent closely watching their every move. Look internally for the answers. What are YOU doing to cause those murders? I am sure your answer will be "nothing!" And that is why you are racist. Your mindset and ideology is exactly why the Chicago youth feel the pressure to shoot each other. Its systematic. Your opinions appear to be streamlined with that system. Have some damn compassion for yourself and for others. Be a better human. Be a better thinker.

This is just leftist cant (whether serious or not). Systemic racism, poverty, police brutality, etc. do not explain why black crime rates (whose victims, of course, are mainly black) were much lower under segregation when those problems were much worse than they are now.

This is childish, overwrought language. You are not to be taken seriously. This is not about "justice," because justice requires a level of abstraction that most thugs cannot grasp. At sub-90 IQ, you are largely a creature of instinct. And it's not about poverty; read Tolstoy to learn about historical norms for poverty.

Inner cities are dysfunctional and violent because they are populated with inordinate numbers of low-IQ sociopaths. There are solutions; they are not particularly easy or pretty and they would look something like what Paul Kagame does in Rwanda, but they would work.

If I think of which group has experienced the most historical injustice in America, it's obviously the native Americans. And they definitely have a lot of problems today (like alcoholism), but while their murder rate is a bit higher than the white or asian rate, the African American rate is multiples of theirs:

Amongst your many failures in logic is that the Mayor of Chicago ordered where the police were to deploy. So if you want to argue that the Mayor was letting communities of color be looted while Black citizens died so that the police would look needed. Well, I'm at a loss to explain why Mayor Lightfoot, a woman of color, would do such a thing. She must be a racist I guess. Dang the whole world is racist. And BTW no Black gangbanger has ever talked to me before they shot someone. I would have advised against it.

The most cost effective way to reduce crime and imprisonment would be to raise taxes on alcohol. But doing that would mean acknowledging that incarceration is driven by crimes, and not other things.

If we cannot even do that, I doubt more complicated reforms will be passed.

Can we reconcile this with Nobel Prize-winning economist Elinor Ostrom's work? See: https://twitter.com/a_vansi/status/1270406823158468614?s=20


Biden still wants to increase funding for police departments by $300 million to 'reinvigorate community policing'

At least he said it. Kamala is having problems saying it. Mayor Garcetti of L:A is flip flopping multiple times depending on the crowd. We are dealing with some hysterical politicians at the moment, most of whom are not thinking clearly.

Ultimately, Illinois cannot afford it, and California teachers will over rule it. Government is quite unstable at the moment.


Harris grapples with defund the police movement amid veep talk
Our affirmative actor is clueless, she hasn't gotten past talking points 101 into real thinking.

We need better policing so that we can all be comfortable with more policing.

Of course we do. Because diversity is not our strength, a minimum of 105 IQ as currently scaled is necessary to engaged self-rule and the US mean is currently 98, and the public spaces are increasingly hostile and chaotic.

Just say it, Alex: classical liberalism is dead. Done. Buried.

Every solution to the current madness, every single one, essentially calls for a massive, subsidized panopticon to manage interpersonal relations and transactions and personal conduct at the most granular levels. Liberalism--the great egalitarian, individualist ideal--is over. All these complicated schemes are just a mass cope for equality of inputs and universality of principle failing to yield equality of outcomes like the great liberal minds assured us they would. Therefore, we must enact vast transfer payments and regulatory schemes managed by armies of bureaucrats.

Alex and Tyler have given up on libertarianism, but what I'm reading from the few remaining libertarians is no better: vast, contractual regimes of credit-checks, AI and drone tech managed by private security corporations (who, inexplicably, won't just take over the levers of power themselves). The best that can be said of the libertarians right now is that they are more right than wrong. Where the statists propose bureaucrats and transfer payments, the libertarians propose complex market mechanisms to manage large cohorts of the population that liberals and libertarians alike agree are incapable of self-governance.

Either way, the egalitarian, individualist ideal of liberalism is absolutely done. The intellectuals know but won't say explicitly that large numbers of people will just have to be coddled and managed to keep the lid on conflict going forward. We'll see how long we can keep that up.

I will tell you something that you will never forget...

Libertarianism is the old front-movement for racist. Before that it was republican in general, Then it was the tea party. Now it is magism. Next it will be some sort of freedom party.

I don't forget. I applaud freedom of association for all peoples.

Lol are you sure that racists could handle a world with no land use regulation?

It’s pretty hard to build a racist world without A LOT of regulation. Say what you will about laissez faire but the levels of racism it can inflict are a pittance compared to the stare.

If anything regulation is the front movement for racism.

Libertarians say this to avoid the dreaded Racist taint. It's not particularly true. "Racism" doesn't require much at all, just people being left alone to interact or not interact, to buy, sell, bake or not bake that cake as they choose.

Diversity, by contrast, is expensive and highly regimented. You need at least one Title of the US Code, an army of bureaucrats, non-profit law firms, judges, entire shelves of regulations and case law to enforce this alleged default human state.

I dont think we are saying anything different. You are just taking the association up one level. The spark for the regulation must originate from a social or political circle first. I am calling that social circle the front. You are calling the regulations they produce the front. I agree with both. Regulations are certainly the mechanism. However, eliminating regulations will not eliminate the problem. Social norms and mores can be equally discriminating and impactful in the absence of regulation.

An easy example of this is "progressive" companies with very liberal leave policies (unlimited leave, extended parental leave, non expiring vacation time etc.). These organizations often enforce strict policies and guidance on the "liberal" leave policy through their corporate culture which is usually not regulated or codified in any way.


Hundreds of youths marched from Nubian Square in Roxbury to City Hall Plaza Wednesday, demanding that the city remove police officers from public schools and reallocate 10 percent of the police budget to community and educational needs.

The march offered a powerful display of the energy and purpose taking shape among young Black and brown activists in Boston following nearly two weeks of daily protests against police brutality and structural racism — and as the City Council debated major changes in the Police Department’s budget.

Wednesday’s event started coming together just days earlier, on a Friday evening conference call among about 20 organizers, some of whom didn’t know one another. All wanted to see a transformation in Boston’s approach to public safety, said Vikiana Petit-Homme, 18, an organizer.
Teachers unions vs police union, again.
During the teachers strike in LA, it was teachers union vs nurses union. Any good proposal will fall on deaf ears at the moment, and maybe forever.

California cannot do anything at all for fear of budget spiral and bankruptcy. Then, In California, the issue is decided by cash and carry, having nothing to do with rational thought. We fail to appreciate how unstable American governments are these days.

Teachers unions and BLM, now with the help pf Amazon and Bank of America, are building their own Hitler Youths. How long before they turn in their impure thinking parents.

And if you asked any of these kids about the numbers, they'd be clueless.

Umm, California under Governor Brown actually did a decent job of getting ready for tax shortfalls. There is a lot of debt, and adding more needs to be managed, but the current situation is not likely to strain state finances. California's property tax laws mean no reduction in taxes even as property values fall, unless a sale occurs.

How ignorant are you? California's property tax rates cap the increase as the property increase in value so the true value of the house doesn't much matter till a new owner comes in.

Yes! We have a community just like that scarcely a stone's throw from my own neighborhood: over (or adequately?) - policed, depending on your POV, and perhaps whether you own a $2 million house therein, and all the cool material goods it might contain - and I am not sure they have so much as a jail. Maybe a little lock-up like Mayberry.

It's one of those midcentury developments that managed to incorporate adjacent to the city, and is now - along with a second such incorporated area beyond it - wholly engulfed by it. So their taxes go to their own little municipalities. They're pretty sweet places to live, you're absolutely right.

I was just thinking about it because I just read a NextDoor post from one of its residents, a woman earnestly explaining the "defund the police" movement and the utopian promise of diverting funds to social workers, etc., who will do some of the police's many jobs better than they can.

I did not get the impression she was talking about the nine police officers who patrol her "city" of seven-tenths of a square mile.

Nor do I think Alex will be living in his ideal community. Just as Obama sent his kids to private schools while preventing choice in DC schools.

She may find the intrusion of reality into her world a shock. Kipling is often instructive, but probably not on her approved reading list.

Kipling’s “making mock of uniforms that guard you while you sleep” may have provided the basis for the often quoted “People sleep soundly in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”

It’s interesting that the area in Seattle ceded to the rioters and that has announced secession from the US is guarding their borders and has already adopted stop and frisk.

Stalin, Mao, BLM the pattern is the same

Oh my God people protesting police brutality are communists!!


"... probably not on her approved reading list."

Kipling would probably make her head explode. The deeply-provincial locals are busy discovering the book "White Fragility" and preparing to discuss whatever there is to discuss about it, on Zoom; anything Kipling would be more fun, and probably more productive of cathartic provocation; my own favorite being the story of the old Mugger-Ghaut. I should translate it into NextDoor-ese and post it under "My Crocodile is Missing."


Newsom: “If you’re calling for eliminating the police, no. If you’re talking about reimagining … the responsibility that we placed on law enforcement to be social workers and mental health workers and involved in disputes where a badge and a gun are unnecessary, I think absolutely this is an opportunity to look anew at all of the above.”
This is Newsom, unable to connect dots.
The teachers went on strike demanding that job. But the police are mobile.
The cost to retrain and reform is very high and costs to local towns unaffordable. Newsom is speaking without thinking, his usual routine.

California has gone backwards, these proposal way above out heads out here. We remain, cash and carry.

100,00 more police? Who wants to be a cop now?

The human brain has a powerful and well-evolved system for training to avoid certain behaviors. It's called pain. Bring back corporal punishment for offenses not so serious that we insist on years of imprisonment. A flogging for an unarmed burglary would allow the criminal to resume normal life relatively quickly, without experiencing the criminal networking and job killing consequences of prison.

Yes, it worked so well in the past.

Read "the Fatal Shore" about the English colonization of Australia, essentially as a penal colony without bars. It is a great read on Australian history, but riding on that is an indelible condemnation of British punishment systems, the assumptions of which remain strong in Anglo-descended countries to this day.

The cops are needed in the cities, where the crime is. Are suburban and rural voters eager to pay for more cops in cities? How about people in cities? Are they willing to stomach tax increases to pay for more police? Somehow I doubt that is on the agenda of the protestors and rioters.

I guess Cowen is the one always going on about public choice economics.

In Heinlein's Starship Troopers, the issue of crime is discussed.

There are no jails.

Those convicted of crimes go into three categoreis, depending on the crime: financial penalty, corporal punishment, or execution. No jails.

It might be better than what we have.

This is under-remarked. In a truly libertarian society all punishment would be corporal, capital or financial.

You say that like it is a positive, rather than a criticism.

Heinlein is a classic arrested development intellectual---stuck in his early teens in a world of black-and-white that can be made all good with the proper control. See Asimov, too. Or Mr. Thiel.

Are you really aspiring to adolescent level maturity?

Abolishing the penal system is actually a recognition of the lack of control.

I find the people equating BLM to socialism rather tiresome.
Many people support BLM in a general way in protest against police violence against black people. That does not indicate support for whatever it is the "official" (whatever that means) BLM website says. It's a generic statement of support for African Americans and against police brutality. Surely there is room on the political spectrum to sympathize with African American protests against their treatment by police without being branded a socialist. And it needn't have to involve pro-forma denunciations of whatever crazy shit someone decided to make a website about and call it "Black Live Matter".

This is akin to any people who've been walking around for the last 4 years chanting "Make America Great Again" and thought it was simply associated to a general sentiment about making America a nice place to live, and would be baffled that some might associate it with Trump's economic nationalism.

Such people are, well, just Not Very Bright At All.

I mean, it was a totally manufactured slogan, from the beginning, connected to a clear organisation with a clear political and economic agenda (which borrows a large amount of its ideology from earlier Black Identity Nationalist and Marxist groups). Anyone who didn't get that is... they may be nice but it seems like they are not really switched on.

"it was a totally manufactured slogan, from the beginning, connected to a clear organisation with a clear political and economic agenda "

Ahh, yes, the secret Black Marxist agenda and their manufactured riots. Did they orchestrate the murder of Trayvon Martin too?

The slogan comes from a particular group, who invented it, and popularised it, and used it as a platform for a voice for their movement.

This is not exactly a conspiracy theory, no matter how much you wish to equate it with one.

For one, they were absolutely open about this, from the start.


"In 2013, the movement began with the use of the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter on social media after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of African-American teen Trayvon Martin in February 2012. "

The non-spontaneous use, which was an organized campaign by specific people - per link - "The movement was co-founded by three black community organizers: Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi.[14][15] Garza, Cullors and Tometi met through "Black Organizing for Leadership & Dignity" (BOLD), a national organization that trains community organizers.".

Like, associated with a specific organization, and set of founders, from the beginning... This is not a conspiracy theory.

Non-spontaneous, how? By brainwashing people into sharing it?

No, in the sense that the political and economic program they use it to advance was thought out beforehand and was the purpose of the social media claim. Not an afterthought, or opportunistic addition.

Not that they had hypno-rays that allowed them to circumvent running a slick advertising campaign.

*social media campaign, not claim.

A bunch of black social justice activists were angry over the death of Trayvon Martin, so they came up with a catchy slogan and shared it on Twitter .... and it took off. How is this any less spontaneous than the Tea Party?

I don't really know how spontaneous the "Tea Party" was or wasn't.

I'm pretty sure that at no point did it coalesce into a organisation (whether "advocacy" or "party") directed and founded by a specific group of people with a clear slogan, which they invented, and a clear set of political influences and a political program. So they seem not the same.

Those founding people were, on the whole, probably Marxists, e.g. "Garza describes herself as a Marxist and a queer social justice activist.[1]".

So what? For every spontaneous political event, there's a person who came up with the idea first. In general that person is going to be some sort of politically active individual. The organization didn't exist before 2013.

I didn't say it was; I said it was a term founded by a specific set of people who planned to use it to found an organisation to further their political beliefs, and who were heavily influenced by Black Identity movements and Marxism. And that anyone who is not stupid would have been well aware whose politically useful slogan they are regurgitating before they did so.

That BLM was founded by exactly who I've said it was, is not a secret fake conspiracy akin to claiming the moon landings are fake. It's right there in their Wikipedia page. They're proud of it. It's public record.


No offense -- but you are obviously a white guy who is nervous around black people because you totally do not understand who or what black lives matter is.

Black lives matter is not like MAGA, nor is it like the Black panthers of yore or the New Black panthers of today. BLM started as a hashtag like Hazel Meade stated. Not an organization - a HASHTAG. Today, BLM is still largely a hashtag. Black folks organize under the philosophy or general idea of black lives matter but that means something different for each person and organization under the slogan. Yes, there is an organization called black lives matter but that organization does not represent the breadthe of what Black lives matter actually encompasses. Black lives matter is a call to action, not an organization for 99% of black folk. The media actually invinted the organization by crystalizing the people protesting trayvon's injustice as black lives matter activists. From then on, the hashtag and the organization became confused and mashed together in weird, racist ways. The truth is, the true BLM organization is a very soft organization -- meaning , they are very peaceful, docile and encompass a lot of other issues besides police brutality into their platform. THat is why I know you are a white person that is nevous around blacks because if you were a clear thinking person, you would know that BLM activists are on the bottom rung of dangerous black folk that you should be worried about. BLM activists are general young, gay, and not very politically astute, yet passionate about fighting injustices.

Just a little schooling for ya.

African-American identity is so broken and narcissistic that it is, ironically, itself incompatible with a cosmopolitan world.

Enough with these sarcastic posts Marc.

"Anyone who didn't get that is... they may be nice but it seems like they are not really switched on."

CONNECT THE DOTS! The Black Marxist Trilateral Commission was behind 9/11!

BLM makes that socialist claim so take it up with them. They have a whole list of radical social change that they desire. Democratic politicians have said they support the political and social goals of BLM. Tell the Mayor of Minneapolis or Seattle that you can support BLM against police brutality but disagree on other matters. And when did the MLK speech get changed to, I have a dream, that one day, we will declare, that your life matters, depending on the color of your skin?

And I agree that BLM is closer to Black Nationalist, Nation of Islam, Marxist Communist ( think Angela Davis), etc

No offense -- but you are obviously a white guy who is nervous around black people because you totally do not understand who or what black lives matter is.

Black lives matter is not like MAGA, nor is it like the Black panthers of yore or the New Black panthers of today. BLM started as a hashtag like Hazel Meade stated. Not an organization - a HASHTAG. Today, BLM is still largely a hashtag. Black folks organize under the philosophy or general idea of black lives matter but that means something different for each person and organization under the slogan. Yes, there is an organization called black lives matter but that organization does not represent the breadthe of what Black lives matter actually encompasses. Black lives matter is a call to action, not an organization for 99% of black folk. The media actually invinted the organization by crystalizing the people protesting trayvon's injustice as black lives matter activists. From then on, the hashtag and the organization became confused and mashed together in weird, racist ways. The truth is, the true BLM organization is a very soft organization -- meaning , they are very peaceful, docile and encompass a lot of other issues besides police brutality into their platform. THat is why I know you are a white person that is nevous around blacks because if you were a clear thinking person, you would know that BLM activists are on the bottom rung of dangerous black folk that you should be worried about. BLM activists are general young, gay, and not very politically astute, yet passionate about fighting injustices.

Just a little schooling for ya.

Too bad there are people out there claiming to represent BLM who are cashing checks from The Ford Foundation, Open Society Foundations (Soros), etc

According to NBC all these companies have sent checks to BLM.


You should tell these companies that BLM is really just a hashtag. That the people cashing checks are fakes who don't represent the real BLM people. A lot of people are being ripped off.

Or contact BLM and tell them they should really copyright that slogan. Sorry, they are just a hashtag and can't do that.

In the meantime why is the fake, cash checking, BLM having people claim that capitalism is racists? Explain the speeches in Minneapolis from people who claim to be BLM. Or that fake BLM organization in Seattle saying some crazy things.

"Another BLM group sent out a list of demands. One subsection of the agenda, “End the War on Black People,” takes on the criminal justice system. Another, “Reparations,” asks for specific remedies from corporate, government, and educational systems for harms related to slavery, and more recently, redlining in housing, education policy, mass incarceration and food insecurity."

A lot of it sounds like recycled Black Nationalist, Nation of Islam (skipping the homophobic stuff) and 60's folks like Angela Davis.

Too bad imposters disrupted a Bernie Sanders rally. (Marissa Johnson). Why did Hillary bar some people who claimed to be from BLM from a meeting with activists in the Democratic Party? How do you bar a hashtag?

And perhaps you can explain the following about these fakers. They are fooling people (maybe you) and cashing checks.

"Meanwhile, organizers around the country joined Garza, Khan-Cullors and Tometi to turn #BlackLivesMatter into more than a hashtag. They created the Black Lives Matter Network and the Movement for Black Lives, the latter a coalition that included the Network and over 50 other racial justice organizations.

In April 2016, shortly after the Republican and Democratic Conventions, the Movement for Black Lives unveiled a long-awaited policy platform that outlined its essential beliefs. It laid out six core demands and 40 corresponding policy recommendations, including a call to demilitarize law enforcement, end money bail and end the privatization of public grammar school education in the US. The platform was bold not just in its recommendations, but also in its process. Officially titled ‘A Vision for Black Lives: Policy Demands for Black Power, Freedom and Justice’, the platform was the result of a year’s work by the coalition. It was proof that there is a vast, coordinated movement in the US that is determined to fight for black freedom"

Black Lives Matter may have started as just a slogan or hashtag and I cannot disagree with that sentiment. However, Black Lives Matter Foundation, Inc. is now an organization with a 501(c)3 nonprofit designation from the IRS, a web site (blacklivesmatter.com), executives and employees, and a platform that can only be described as revolutionary ("We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and 'villages') and that has discussed building a militia around the Black Panther model (reported elsewhere and unconfirmed on the web site).

I mean, I am just arguing here that this was always the endgame of the people who invented the slogan and coordinated the social campaign, and they were in fact exactly the people you'd expect to have that endgame in mind...

Anyone who has for the last 7 years ignored this and is now surprised that this is the endgame and that this was obvious from the beginning just isn't very aware... of anything. And if any of those supporters who were apparently unaware have spent those 7 years advocating for markets at every opportunity and against "collectivism", er... well... Congratulations at shooting in the foot everything you admire politically, in the most profound way possible?

You missed HMeade's point.

BLM is an advocacy group, not a political party. People can support some of its positions and not others. Those parts of its advocacy may become policy---the parts that are not supported will not.

The people "not really switched on" are those that think screeching "oh my god communists!" means anything, and those that cannot separate out what is good and useful and what is not from anyone, let alone advocacy groups.

Dude, if you don't understand how PNAC orchestrated 9/11 as part of America's neocolonialist imperialist agenda, you're not really switched on.

Point being, conspiracy theories and other political wackjobs always think they are in on a bunch of secret information that uncovers the sinister motives of their political opponents.

Claiming that BLM was "manufactured" by radical black leftists is not significantly different than leftist claims that the Tea Party was "astroturfed" by the Koch Brothers.

Kaepernick did not start kneeling in 2016 because he was a socialist. This why he started kneeling, and I am sure you will be instantly familiar with both names.

"On September 16, 2016, Terence Crutcher, a 40-year-old motorist, was shot and killed by police officer Betty Jo Shelby in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He was unarmed during the encounter, in which he was standing near his vehicle in the middle of a street.

The shooting led to protests in Tulsa. On September 22, the Tulsa County District Attorney charged Shelby with first-degree manslaughter after the shooting was labeled a homicide. On May 17, 2017, a jury found her not guilty of first-degree manslaughter. "

"Keith Lamont Scott, a 43-year-old African-American man, was fatally shot on September 20, 2016, in Charlotte, North Carolina United States by Brentley Vinson, an African-American city police officer. Police officers had arrived at Scott's apartment complex to search for an unrelated man with an outstanding warrant. According to police, officers saw Scott exit a vehicle in the parking lot while carrying a handgun, and he refused to comply with their orders. Scott's wife was also present and disputed that account.

The shooting prompted investigations by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, and the U.S. Department of Justice. As is customary for the department, Vinson was placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation. The shooting sparked both peaceful protests and violent riots in Charlotte over two nights. One person was killed by a civilian, and multiple officers and civilians were injured in the unrest.

In November 2016, county prosecutors decided not to charge Vinson, concluding that the shooting was justified."

Look at all the changes since then - or the bodies, depending on your point of view, of course, especially in the familiar aftermath of the protests.

And don't forget - Martin Luther King Jr also borrowed a lot of his ideology from the wrong places too. Though you might be too young to remember that claim being taken seriously by the sort of people defending the police using attack dogs against peaceful protesters.

Thank you. Excellent.

It would be nice if the YIYBY crowd would also support zoning changes to allow homeowners to build 12–15 foot walls around the perimeters of their lots with concertina wire on top and steel gate barriers. Might not need so many police with fewer opportunities for home invasions. And the ambience these residential fencing codes obviously comes from white privilege.

Can we increase the number of police? Not today but in recent years large majorities of blacks, hispanics and whites support hiring more police. It is true that blacks are more skeptical than whites of police and have every reason to be. Some of the communities most in need of more police are also communities with some of the worst policing problems. Better policing and more policing, however, complement one another. Demilitarize the police, end the war drugs, regulate people less, restrain police unions and eliminate qualified immunity so that police brutality can be punished and the bad apples removed and the demand for police will soar.

Thanks, this might be your best paragraph ever.

our suburban PD was quite adamant they would have a presence at all retail outlets and maintain a posture of "serving" and "mutual respect"... their FB pages is full of people thanking them... every community should have this kind of PD relationship

interestingly in Chicago the looting fell strongly along ethnic lines... gangbangers looted unprotected black neighborhoods while others reportedly guarded businesses on 26th Street in Hispanic neighborhoods... of course both of these events suggest we need a LOT more police


Or we could just get rid of welfare and go back to the two-parent family.

The more bizarre thing is how focused we are on prisons. Remember that the reason why Becker said that we should focus on punishment is because punishment is cheap... if you use a fine. However, we don't actually use fines, we use inprisonment, which is extraordinarily expensive. I agree with your points overall, but I don't think becker would disagree as harshly if he incorporated a degree of uncertainty and optimism bias into his crime and punishment model. If you know that the probability of punishment is 0.5% +/- 5%... then some folks with optimism bias may say that its as good as 0%. Thus having a degree of certainty in policing (not a high probability of punishment, but rather a "tight probability range" of being punished would be highly effective at mitigating crime.

35%? I call BS. We're right in the mean of those same European countries listed when comparing population to police ratio. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_and_dependencies_by_number_of_police_officers

So, we're not under-policed when compared to other European nations, as you allude. Over incarcerated? You better believe it. There we look like a proverbial banana republic. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_incarceration_rate Here America is truly #1. 2.3+ million prisoners or 25% of world's prisoners while we're 4.25% of the world's population. That's a staggering statistic. You have to go down the list to the massive country of Estonia, #84 on the list, at 187 incarcerated per 100,000, to find someone, on your graph above, in Europe which comes closest to our 655/10,000. Most of Europe is running in the 50-100/100,000 range.

Small wonder expenses to house all those prisoners in the US are massive. You want to get a better ratio on the, not so useful, police to prison expense ratio? End the drug war. Limit police to traffic stops instead of escalating bogus stops into a search for crime. Bring back AND fund, community policing where the police and the people in the neighborhood know each other. Look to nations with low recidivism rates for ways to change. I'm sure the community here has many other good ideas.

From Prison Policy Initiative, about 20% only for drug offences, and of those vast majority drug supply (not possession).

Say you only decriminalised possession. Imprisonment would fall very little. Say you went well beyond the OECD and completely decriminalised supply. Incarceration rate difference with rest of world wouldn't change much. And you would of course get more drug use, probably at the hardcore end particularly so.

Like a lot of these proposals, there's just the "How much difference would that really make?" question. Decriminalise drugs or don't (like, if you rate the sort of arguments Sure makes about drugs as a cause of death and ill health outweighing harms of prison). But it should be based on a sober assessment of the harms and incentives and the case for freedom, not a knee jerk desire to try and "get the numbers down" (or this racial justice nonsense where disparate impact is seen as a sign of an inherently illegitimate policy).

Likewise you mention "search for crime"; are we really proposing that police not searching vehicles for unlicenced firearms and stolen goods during routine stops does *good* things for public safety? "Getting the numbers down" by changing practices to reduce prevention and detection of crime hardly seems like a good proposal...

Who will hire a person with a serious, but legal, drug addiction problem? Do you then give them a minimum income to prevent them from turning to crime? Free housing also? What do you do with the children of addicts? Just leave them in the home with increased social services? What happens to these children when they grow up? Will the level of drug addiction increase with legalization? How big a problem will it become?

Street gangs use drug sales to fund other criminal activities. As long as drugs remain illegal violence will be a part of the problem. Street prices of marijuana are below the legal taxed price why wouldn't that be true with other drugs. Profits decline but don't go away. So is cheap free drugs the answer? Really

Or just do away with all laws and call us Seattle. Wait they have a sytem without due process or constitutional protections. Is that better?

The usual argument is that the above increase in drug addiction, if it happens, is less of a downside than criminalized users, with the deadweight loss to "utility" through their imprisonment, etc. It seems plausible - it's not like it can be tested, so it seems kind of "suck it and see" to me.

I don't really have a strong opinion. Marijuana seems OK, fentanyl less so. There's a certain amount of tax evasion on marijuana no doubt, but it's not like there isn't on tobacco.

People with strong stances on the issue seem to me to be either very high Openness individuals on the one side, or very low Openness individuals with highly moralized stances on it.

People I talked to from Portugal say their experiment with legal drugs isn't working as well as fans of legalization claim

Simply amazing that no one (of the first N commits I read, at least) just disagreed with Alex and said why.

How did MR attract such a toxic universeof commentators

I am concerned that the "good parenting" model of policing is dangerously close to the "broken windows" theory of policing that got us where we are today, where police are so mistrusted. You mention demilitarizing the police, but I think de-arming many, if not most, is necessary. The Floyd case is an example of a minor crime--a fake $20--leading to a completely, morally objectionable use of force. I think one potential virtue of the "defund the police" argument is that is it says an armed officer is not the solution to many situations, and probably very few at all. The other reforms you mentioned--qualified immunity, taking away power from the police unions--would help a ton. But I do think it's worthwhile to consider that, rather trying to fix a bloated, broken bureaucracy by throwing more money at it, we instead rethink the usefulness of that bureaucracy and create new ones. I know people are loathe to think of creating more types of state services, but institutions like the police will work best when, I think, when it is clear what they are doing. If the crimes are small, why not have a different group than the police come over, a type of officer that citizens know will never have a gun. (Think of it like the non-emergency 911 lines like I have in my city.) It might cost more money, but it might work so much better and might save people like George Floyd. I suppose what you're saying is the police could do all these unarmed while still being called "police," but considering how bad the broken windows theory failed, I think reimagning what police exactly do is worthwhile. Also large public organizations police tend to standardized training requirements (in the case of police, the number of training hours required is usually really small). Instead we need people filling these new, unarmed jobs that are highly qualified in different fields.

"but considering how bad the broken windows theory failed"

Pretty sure that a heck of a lot of New Yorkers who have lived there going back to the 1980's think that it succeeded really well.

And in part it's because it wasn't just the violent crime. It was that the broken windows idea dealt directly with some of the petty stuff that bothered middle-class and higher-income people living in NYC day-to-day.

Tyler, thank you as always for providing empirical points of view, especially when the times are emotional. Is it possible that the police:prison spend is an indication that a large role of police in America is to imprison blacks. If we look purely at outcomes, the numbers seem to support that. If this is the case, does putting more police on the streets move us in the right direction?

Rehabilitation vs. Retribution?
A little of both. But even more so, sequestration. Rehab doesn't work well, and retrib may work, but with unknowable effectiveness, plus recidivism depends not only on what happened during incarceration but what opportunities are available after release. Sequestration however, works extremely well. (This is not an original idea, but seems relatively overlooked in preference to morality-driven objectives of rehab and retrib.)

Comments for this post are closed