Tuesday, December 01, 2009

There is no society, just homicidal individuals   posted by Razib @ 12/01/2009 10:48:00 AM

There's a new book out, American Homicide, which has some interesting arguments:
He concluded that people's views about the legitimacy of government and how much they identify with their fellow citizens play a major role in how often they kill each other -- much more so than the usual theories revolving around guns, poverty, drugs, race, or a permissive justice system.

"The predisposition to murder is rooted in feelings and beliefs people have toward government and their fellow citizens," said Randolph Roth, author of the book and professor of history at Ohio State.


That includes theories held dear by both conservatives and liberals. If you look at the evidence over time, poverty and unemployment don't lead to higher murder rates, as many liberals argue, he said. But locking up criminals, using the death penalty, and adding more police don't hold the murder rate down either, as conservatives claim.


In his analysis, Roth found four factors that relate to the homicide rate in parts of the United States and western Europe throughout the past four centuries: the belief that one's government is stable and its justice and legal systems are unbiased and effective; a feeling of trust in government officials and a belief in their legitimacy; a sense of patriotism and solidarity with fellow citizens; and a belief that one's position is society is satisfactory and that one can command respect without resorting to violence.

When those feelings and beliefs are strong, homicide rates are generally low, regardless of the time or place, Roth said. But when people are unsure about their government leaders, don't feel connected to the rest of society, and feel they don't have opportunity to command respect in the community, homicide rates go up.

The main issue I have with the explanations for crime variance out there is that the 1960s spike and the 1990s abatement were synchronous internationally. So I'm skeptical of policy changes being the ultimate cause of these cycles.