RE: politically insane

From: Jonathan Davis (
Date: Wed 10 Sep 2003 - 12:22:24 GMT

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    Excellent comments Vincent. Thank you.

    I am generally in full agreement with you so I do not think I point by point restatement is needed, nor do I think this list's tolerance will stretch much further.

    I will just say one thing regarding " locking up over 2 million people isn't defeating crime it's displacing it". I have to disagree (prima facia) with this statement. If our objective is to reducing the number of crimes committed, then locking people up is not a displacement but an effective solution. This reduction may be achieved by keeping career criminals off the street for long periods or keeping them jailed until prisoner menopause, but it still lowers the crime rate, and that is victory.

    Perhaps what you are saying is that there are unintended consequences arising from all this incarceration which will make matters worse in the long run, but I have not seen any evidence that this is the case.



    -----Original Message----- From: Vincent Campbell [] Sent: 10 September 2003 12:58 To: '' Subject: RE: politically insane

    Very interesting discussion guys.

    Can't add much in the way of stats (although I do recall Barry Glasser's The Culture of Fear offering a lot of data showing the realities of crime in the US compared to US media representations, although I don't recall whether that data would support or refute either of you! I do think there's something in there about the ethnicity of civilians shot and killed by cops in Ney York over the last 20 years or so- I believe they were almost all african-american, including notoriously the guy who was shot multiple times by a group of cops for reaching for his wallet).

    Still some observations and opinions for what they're worth.

            <The recent peaceful blackout in New York is an excellent
    > example of how much things have improved. Simply contrast the riots in
    > 1977 with last months peaceful and relatively crime free blackout.>
            In the UK, the lack of violence in the blackout was related to the post-9/11 situation with people perceived as being initially not sure as to whether this was another attack or not and a combination of fear and stoic resiliance was the net result. Any "noo yorkers" out there to offer a comment?
            <That great society is defeating crime, we ought to imitating their
    > success.
    > [John 1] Interesting that during this time the number of people
    > incarcerated rose from 200,000 in the 1970's to 2.3 million people
    > today, with a further 1.8 million out on early release schemes and
    > parole. You surely cannot be arguing for fifteen fold increase in the

    > crime rates since 1970?
    > [Jonathan 2] No, I am not arguing about crime rates here - I don't
    > know the facts. I do know that US crime has dropped significantly and
    > part of the reason is attributed to higher incarceration rates.>
            I do think that these comments go together- locking up over 2 million people isn't defeating crime it's displacing it (CCTV does the same thing). Can we ever defeat crime, I dunno. Ever since reading Pinker's The Blank Slate this summer, I've become a much more stoical darwinian leftist (yes, can't get rid of the lefty in me that easily), and as such suspect that criminality will persist whatever efforts at social engineering we may try. Unlike my government (see below) I see no value in blindly, and blithly following whatever the Yanks do assuming they're doing it right.

            <[Jonathan 2] Whilst I accept that the security lobby (and that includes
    > the police) have an interest in exaggerating crime, I do not see how
    > the increase in crime rates can be attributed to privatisation of the
    > industry and a powerful lobby in politics getting tough on crime. Am I

    > right in thinking you are saying that "tough on crime" measures
    > aggravate crime rates?>
            There are two ways that tougher crime measures may aggravate crime rates. The first is by extending the range of things deemed criminal behaviour. For example, in the UK the government (inspired to an extent by the US in its approach to crime fighting- even hiring US cops to head schemes) is introducing anti-social behaviour crimes, and has also criminalised things like grooming over the internet. I'm not saying that these things are necessarily wrong policies, but part of becoming tough on crime means criminalising behaviours previously a matter of civic concern. This widens the remit of law enforcement and means more cases, more trials, moer prisoners.

            Second, comes the reciprocal spiralling of crime that occurs when crime fighting becoms tougher. Again to use the UK as an example, gun crime is rising in the UK, and whilst regular police are not armed, the armed response units that offer back up to unarmed cops are being used more and more frequently. So the debate is heating up about whether or not to arm our cops (most people and cops themselves aren't that eager to do this, and even those in favour aren't champing at the bit, and come across as rather disappointed that this may be the future). One argument against is that if determined criminals know that cops are going to be armed, they will tool up more frequently as well, and you'll get a cycle of escalation of the severity of crimes committed. Indeed, one of the arguments against armed police in the UK is the fear that we will descend into the kind gun culture of the USA with everyone shooting at everyone else (cops, criminals and civilians). Recently in the UK they've started using tasers and pepper sprays and still use rubber bullets (although no one calls them that anymore, after dozens of people have been killed over the years when they've been used in Northern Ireland). Incidentally has anyone else noticed the way that the producers of these devices and police users have changed their name from 'non-lethal weapons' to 'less lethal weapons' in a very overt acknowledgement that these things can and do kill people.

            There is another aspect to tirades about rising crime as well, and that is the new opportunities for new kinds of crime, obviously a whole range of new crimes made possible through the internet that didn't exist 15 to 20 years ago, or mobile phone thefts etc. etc. One thing in the press currently is the RIAA's ridiculous attempts to prosecute MP3 file-sharing for breach of copyright, a principle that has applied to music only for an astonishingly small part of its history (recall the days before pre-recorded music when musicians made a living by actually going around playing their music, and allowing others to play their music). I'm fed up of fucking pop millionaires complaing about losing money from file sharing (Kylie has been recruited with the slogan 'feel the music don't steal the music' for example) when they will still make millions from live shows, already have made millions from massively overpriced CDs, and routinely exploit the songwriters and backing musicians who actually do the work in the first place 9and who don't earn millions). As an academic whose creative output receives bugger all financial return and is supposed to be doing it for the benefit of all to see these talentless scum whinge from their tropical mansions about people who actually like their music and want to listen to it... well it makes me cross. I'm all for a UN sanctioned invasion of Celine Dion's record company where she (as a weapon of mass annoyance) will be captured, and then disposed of in a controlled explosion for the betterment of all humankind....

            Sorry rambling way off topic with that last bit.


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