Friday, July 04, 2008

The cost of crime

Today a new report I've written titled The Cost of Crime (PDF) has been released. It uses Home Office studies of the national cost of crime, and their estimates of the average cost per incident, along with crime statistics provided by police forces in response to Freedom of Information requests (unfortunately...).

It follows on from a paper (PDF) released during the mayoral race with calculations for the London boroughs but expands coverage to the entire country. The results are shown on a map to the right (darker = worse, blue = no usable response). The clearest pattern is that urban areas suffer the worst cost of crime.

I think the link between various behaviours (likelihood of driving to work is another example) and population density is both obvious and underappreciated. Greens trying to get people out of cars would, if they looked at the numbers, quickly have to conclude that the obvious solution is to move everyone into cities. Yet, that isn't exactly a proposal you'll hear a lot of.

The cost of recorded crime, £275 per person, discovered by our study is high enough that the even the low crime areas, like Surrey at £194 should clearly be aiming to cut crime rates; particularly when you remember that recorded crime is thought to be just a fraction of total crime. Direct, democratic control of police forces needs to be put in place so that the police can spend their time fighting crime rather than trying to satisfy the bureaucracy. For more on the subject either read the report or see this video produced for Friction TV:

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

John Redwood, coal and co-operatives

I had a bit of a debate with Chris Dillow (a lot of my posts at the moment seem to involve responding to Chris, this might continue while Comment is Free is on an even weaker than usual streak) a while back about large firms, co-operatives and the divide between them. There are two points he made that I meant to respond to:

"It is true that big firms are typically publically quoted. But this is because they have huge capital requirements which can only be met by external shareholders. But these are only a minority of all firms."

Absolutely. My argument is that the questions of whether a firm should be owned by workers and whether they should be run by managers have more than one right answer. Big firms with senior managers are not inherently irrational and the products of egos and ideologies, as Chris has sometimes implied.


"And what Matthew hasn't done is successfully controvert the idea that public services - schools and hospitals - should become some type of co-operative organizations."

That's the last thing I'd want to do. Schools, in particular, seem fine candidates to be operated as co-operatives (with a relatively low capital requirement). I don't think I'm the only right-winger who is quite willing to endorse the co-operative model when it seems successful, here's John Redwood writing today on the coal industry:

"Some looked nostalgically back to the age of the nationalised industry, without any great belief that the present Labour government would want to revisit that approach. It is curious how nationalisation still has a grip on their hearts, when the nationalised industry under governments of both parties so let down the mining communities. The 1970s Labour government was in the business of closing mines and sacking miners, just as the subsequent Conservative government was. Each of those governments did so on the advice and at the command of the nationalised industry, which systematically failed to make mining economic enough to sustain a decent sized industry in the UK.

The miners of Tower Colliery proved the Coal Board wrong when they took over their mine and worked it profitably when the Coal Board management had wanted to close it on the grounds that it was uneconomic. Why would we want to go back to management like that? Isn’t the future a more mechanised, safer industry where those who mine the coal share in the profits?"

The question of how a firm should be organised, not to mention why they exist in the first place, is interesting and the answer varies with circumstances. Firms are organised in different ways in response to differing technologies, resource endowments, capital requirements, labour markets, consumer tastes and government regulations - among other things. The best instincts of an economic liberal scream at them to love the sheer variety of it all.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

James McGrath

I think Sunny Hundal and Chris Dillow have this wrong. Racists do tell people to go home, and they are being racist when they do so, but that does not mean that everyone who says "well, leave then" is being racist.

Chris argues that only certain groups (and the implication is, certain races) are ever told that they should leave:

"When Melanie Phillips bemoans Britain’s moral decay, no-one replies: “well go to Israel then”. And this would be a foul thing to say."

I can come up with another example: sensible lefties wouldn't tell Milton Friedman, in exasperated tones, to just move to Hong Kong.

Chris draws the implication that the divide is a racist one:

"In applying the meme so selectively, the impression is created that some people are less than full members of society - that their ties to the country are weak, and that they wouldn’t be missed if they left. This is certainly inegalitarian."

I don't think the divide is always based on race. Here are a couple of groups that I have definitely heard told "if you don't like it, just leave":

  1. The rich. I have definitely heard lefties say, when it is argued that businesses and the wealthy may move abroad in the face of higher taxes, that they should just leave. The Toynbee Tendency.
  2. Commies. Plenty of middle class, white Socialists were told "why don't you just move to Russia" by enthusiastic conservatives.
It isn't a divide based on race but whether the person's complaint is felt to be legitimate. While - as Chris Dillow says - a politician should want to appeal to all their constituents sometimes someone just seems a little too unreasonable. Now, applying that to entire races and writing them off as you have no interest in reconciling them with your country and beliefs could be described as racist but McGrath definitely isn't doing that. See the context:

"McGrath was far from politically correct, David-Cameron-new-cuddly-Conservative Party, when I pointed out to him a critical comment of Voice columnist Darcus Howe that the election of “Boris Johnson, a right-wing Conservative, might just trigger off a mass exodus of older Caribbean migrants back to our homelands”.

He retorted: “Well, let them go if they don’t like it here.” McGrath dismissed influential race commentator Howe as ‘shrill’."

He isn't writing off any actual ethnic group at all. The people he has no desire to appeal to aren't actual Carribean migrants but the hypothetical group summoned up by Darcus Howe who can no longer stand to live in London for no reason other than the election of a right-wing Conservative. It isn't him who has conjured up the idea that non-whites and right-wingers just can't get along but Howe.

McGrath isn't writing off ethnic minorities - he's simply exasperated by Darcus Howe's suggestion that ethnic minorities write off right-wingers. He isn't a racist, wasn't saying anything racist and shouldn't have been fired.

Monday, June 30, 2008

The conspiracy to coerce British Muslim women

This article (via DK), from the Telegraph, is based on warnings from the spokesman on forced marriages for the Association of Chief Police Officers and is absolutely horrifying. It sets out the range of ways in which unfortunate women, normally of Pakistani descent, are trapped by their families, communities and the public services that should protect them into relationships that at best they do not want and at worst are incredibly abusive.

Recently the Washington Post ran an incredible article about the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's attempts to prevent British citizens essentially being abducted into marriages in Pakistan. It alerted me to the scale of a problem that I had always assumed was far rarer:

"The Forced Marriage Unit operates out of an office on the edge of Trafalgar Square in London and rescues hundreds of women every year. Many of the 4,000 calls it receives each year involve cases in the United Kingdom, but the
unit has diplomats in embassies around the world on standby for overseas rescues.


The teenage girl sat in Salimi's office, wearing a black niqab that covered everything but her sad brown eyes.

"I don't want to hide; I want to be free, open," she said in a pronounced Scottish accent. She said she usually wears jeans.

Lowering her niqab enough to reveal her long, dark hair and pretty earrings, she said she is scared of her family. Her brothers, she said, had already beaten up one of her friends because of her, and she believed they would kill her for shaming the family.

"My father would shoot me before letting me go," she said. "My parents say things are screwed up in the U.K., so they want me to marry a guy from here, who doesn't drink and smoke."

"My boyfriend is even a Muslim and from Pakistan, but they don't accept him," she continued. "I am British, but I am Pakistani, too. But why shouldn't I get to decide whom I marry?"

She looked tired, and she bent over several times complaining of stomach cramps. The pressure of recent days had been too much.

"I have left everyone, everything," she said. "I have not been a bad person to anyone. I don't know why this happened to me."

4,000 (reported) cases a year from a relatively small population is a huge issue. The threat of violence and the huge social sanctions within their community attached to resisting and going to the police must make this incredibly difficult to police and mean that many (quite possibly most) cases are not reported at all. If we assume that the estimate that there are 1.6 million Muslims in the UK is accurate, that half of those are women and the problem is underreported by half (that is almost certainly a massive underestimate of the number of unreported cases) then there is 1 case for every 100 Muslim women every year; an astonishingly high rate.

What must make things so much harder, and is so disgraceful, is that some women are being placed in this situation by doctors who breach their confidence:

"Cmdr Allen, of the Metropolitan Police, said: "GPs will tell fathers their daughter has seen them and is on the pill. That can get a girl killed."

Then, when they brave shunning and a threat of violence from their families and communities to try and escape, they then have to fear the police returning them to their tormentors:

"Shahien Taj, director of the Cardiff-based women's group The Henna Foundation, said: "Recently I had a case in Birmingham of a woman who said she can't trust the police because nine times she had run away and nine times the police returned her to her family where she got abused. Fortunately ACPO are now addressing this kind of problem openly and trying to do something about it."

And, the Job Centre using their National Insurance number and other data to help family track them across the country:

"Cmdr Allen also told The Sunday Telegraph that Job Centre workers have accessed the National Insurance details of women who flee violent husbands, tracing where they collect benefits and passing the details on to their families so they can be found and forced back to their marital home."

As if we needed more reason to distrust the argument that "if you've done nothing wrong you've got nothing to hide" with respect to big government databases.

The final result is:

"Cmdr Allen said: "We have too many areas where people don't believe this is an issue for them. But we are seeing situations across the country where victims, who are at extreme risk, are being moved to another part of the country, away from their home towns, by their families. "We also are talking here about bounty hunters and professional killers being used to track down relatives and these people are going to be killed. This is about child protection, human rights and young people having their lives destroyed and all too often being murdered because they dared to love with their heart."

I'm sorry I haven't added much to these stories but they seemed worth sharing even if I didn't have much to contribute.