Crime is not progressive, it’s reactionary
Thursday, March 31, 2011
Harry's Place » Crime is not progressive, it’s reactionary.
Since I spend much blogging time criticising the writings of those on the Left in Britain, I feel it's only fair to highlight the linked article, which is amazingly sensible. Those of us who grew up in working-class areas have never understood the Guardianistas' / Islington Labourites' apparent affection for the criminal classes. I have often argued that the Labour Party itself, with its absurd education pollcies, incentivisation of idleness and disincentivisation of thrift is the working man's worst enemy. Though I was once a criminal defence lawyer, I would strongly argue that the criminal class is a close second.
Criminals are lazy. Criminals are (thank goodness or they would never be caught) stupid. Criminals can rarely be arsed to venture far to commit their crimes. As the one disadvantage of their lifestyle is that they can rarely (at least not now sanity has returned to the mortgage market) borrow money to buy a house, they are usually to be found in public housing, blighting the lives of poor but decent people around them and offering terrible role models to local youth.
Criminals deter people from earning and consuming because their activities are an income tax (unofficial, but with the same economic effects). They also drive up insurance premiums, creating an effective wealth tax. You may be able to afford that nice watch or necklace now, but can you keep up the premiums on your household insurance for the rest of your life, expecially when you have retired? As the linked article notes, the homes of the rich are likely to be full of security measures - not only because householders feel the need but because their insurers insist. Again, that's an effective wealth tax. It makes it more expensive to live in a high crime society and is another pressure on the rich to move away and/or consume less.
The only people who benefit from crime are criminals, policemen, criminal lawyers (prosecutors, defence lawyers and judges), probation officers and other social workers, insurers and security firms. The poor are disproportionately likely to be victims of crime. The last time my home computer was stolen I was secretly quite pleased to have the chance to buy a new one on the insurance. A poor person, often uninsured or paying higher premiums because of his postcode, will not feel the same way.
I am delighted to encounter a so-called "progressive" advancing these points. New Labour's idea of "tough on crime" was to create many more crimes, rather than rigorously and vigorously to enforce the few that really matter. They set targets for higher conviction rates, when an occasional conviction is no deterrent unless sentencing is (to use one of my most hated words correctly for once) "appropriate".
One of the best features of the criminal justice system in Britain is TIC ("taking into consideration"). It offers a convicted crook the chance to offer up all his other crimes for punishment (at a sentencing discount) so as to ensure he cannot be charged with them again later. The double jeopardy doctrine then guarantees that when he leaves prison, he has a chance to start again with a clean slate. Other countries don't have this idea and criminals would never dream of confessing to undetected crimes. The detection rate in Britain would be far worse without it. One consequence is that you really don't have to catch the criminal every time he offends. Once in ten or twenty times is quite enough, if the punishment is appropriate and offers a sufficient deterrent. The rat does not need to find cheese (or in this case poison) in the maze every time to be on the alert for it and think carefully about his choices.
Let's take the heat of detection targets off the police, so as to reduce the well-documented distortions to which they have led. Let's scrap most crimes, to allow the police time to focus on the ones that really matter (in my view, mostly the ones that were known to Common Law before Parliament's legislative incontinence began). Then let's revise the sentences for those "real" crimes to ensure (when occasionally caught) that those who commit them spend their lives where they cannot blight the lives of those around them.
By the way, if this doesn't sound very "libertarian" to you, you haven't grasped the concept yet!