Tuesday, 16 August 2011
No I can't prove it to level of statistical significance, but then again neither can anybody else who has put forward their various ideas on how to make our underclass behave themselves and stop helping themselves to free consumer goods. However at least my theory has some peer reviewed research behind it, which makes it stand out slightly.
The reason I post such a obviously shocking claim is due to the miles of column inches being given to Cameron's 'Supercop' Bill Bratton. Bratton is everywhere these days, and in a curious trans-Atlantic about face he is now about the most liberal commentator on the riots going.
Take last Sunday for example. Whilst the supposedly serious Daily Torygraph had "Police to Adopt Zero Tolerance" as its headline, the usually more rabidly right wing Daily Mail had an article by Bratton saying Zero Tolerance was a meaningless phrase coined by Jack Straw and that the solution to the riots is better race relations. It's a bizarre day when liberal England has to import US cops to teach us about the value of social cohesion.
But Bratton's claim to fame is not his take on structural racism, but his aggressive action on gangs and his adoption of the Broken Windows of crime prevention. Nothing worng with either if done properly, but how effective were they really?
Firstly we have to be clear we are looking at relative reduction in crime here. Even after having Bratton for years the chance of getting yourself topped in LA is still about four times the UK average, whilst the City still boast a good thirteen hundred or so street gangs.
However lets assume for the moment that with legal guns and massive inequality, Bratton wasn't going to achieve more than a relative drop in crime, and look at what he achieved: six straight years of crime going down and a 27% reduction in the murder rate over five years. Well done Mr Bratton.
But then crime went down over the USA as a whole during this period, having peaked in 1991. Why is that?
Now the problem you get with this sort of thing is that the amount of data you need to wade through is just phenomenal, so I'm not going to offer my own cod theories, but just quote the academics who have the skills to dot he job properly.
And the answer is that, whilst Reagan's attempt to put every black American in prison has had some impact, the main reasons for this are the legalisation of abortion in 1972, and the banning of lead in petrol from 1986/7.
The link with abortion is fairly dramatic. Those foetuses aborted in 1973 would be reaching 18, the peak age for committing crime, in 1992 - the year in which crime started to fall. What's more, the states that legalised abortion before Roe versus Wade saw crime peak earlier. Also, research carried out on women who were denied abortions in Sweden from 1939 to 1941 found the 'unwanted' child to be more likely to commit a crime (Forssman, Thuwe 1966).
The link with lead in petrol meanwhile is so clear, and so obvious, it need no explanation. Brain damage doesn't make for well behaved children.
So how should we deal with the recent unrest? Well, the evidence from those that know appears to indicate that progressive social and environmental policies are the way forward.
But then, as the Dunning-Kuger Effect shows, those who don't know tend to shout loudest.