Show me the data

You show me the empirical data that shows that the death penalty or imprisonment without the chance of parole makes the streets safer and/or prevents crime and I’ll consider it.

Otherwise it’s just vindictive justice based on retribution rather than public safety.



Filed under Culture, Hot Air, Media, Policy, Politics

9 responses to “Show me the data

  1. The evidence on the death penalty is pretty weak, mostly because it’s so infrequently used and only with such a long lag that it’s very empirically difficult to parse out the effects. Some very intelligent commentators say that it’s well neigh impossible to make out any trend from the data. If I had to bet, I’d say that an execution deters about 10 murders (having read most of the studies in the area), but I’d still be opposed to it because I’m not comfortable with giving the government the power to kill people.

    On imprisonment without parole, check the work of Joanna Shepherd in the Journal of Legal Studies, 2002. Long story short, California’s 3-strikes legislation did a lot to deter crime. It even deterred first offences. The biggest problem identified by others (Iyengar) has been that there’s some evidence of a severity shift on the third strike: if you’re going to be put away for life for any offence on the third strike, you might as well make it a good one. A policy here to just abolish parole, though, would maintain proportionality and consequently would maintain marginal deterrence.

    # Shepherd, Joanna. 2002. “Fear of the First Strike: The Full Deterrent Effect of California’s Two- and Three-Strikes Legislation”. Journal of Legal Studies XXXI (January), 159-201

    # Iyengar, Radha. 2008. “I’d rather be hanged for a sheep than a lamb: The unintended consequences of ‘three-strikes’ laws”. NBER Working Paper No. 13784.

  2. Eric, much appreciate for the feedback. I will always listen to those who actually know what they are talking about. This is a left wing hack’s poor attempt at a blog, but I’m having fun.

    I’m opposed to the death penalty as we become the same as the criminal, we choose who lives and dies, and often the innocent aren’t always the victims.

    Thanks so much.

    Did you read my post from Vancouver (sabbatical at UBC) on the death of an innocent man by police taser? It’s been by far the most popular post I’ve done to date.

  3. BTW, from Manitoba? Did you catch the Canadian election today? The Torries are back in with a strengthened majority (no surprise really).

    Boy do I love Vancouver, possibly the best city in the world if it didn’t have the infamous Lower Hastings Street problems.

  4. The bigger surprise was the extent to which the NDP massacred the Liberals. Whole swathes of northern Ontario that used to be painted red are now orange. Dion will lose his job, the Liberals will be terrified of another election during a leadership crisis and so won’t vote against the government on confidence. So, another few years of the same.

    Hadn’t seen post on taser but very familiar with general story. Pretty disgusting. First time over here, actually…you were one of the few making a lick of sense over at KiwiBlog on the politicization of the Superfund. Orwell had a word for the process by which one can think a policy is evil if it comes from Tweedledee but goodness and sunshine if it comes from Tweedledum…

  5. I was wondering about that. I’m guessing I’d be a classic NDP voter, but didn’t think Dion would take such a hammering. Some buddies in Dunbar, Vancouver (nice neighbourhood) were pulling their hair out over Dion and that was back at christmas time. We spent 7 months there for our third time, and I gotta say I love Canada and the politics not to mention economics of the place is fascinating.

    I’ve been following most of it on Global TV and the CBC web site, they have a great interactive map, and you’re right. Was northern Manitoba always NDP too?

    Alberta, what an incredible place. McDonalds closing because they can’t get the casual staff due to so many people in jobs, the oil sands. Will be interesting the Alberta govts plan to take so much of the oil sand revenues, is that still going to go ahead in this climate? I’m guessing the oil sands took a hit with the 47% drop in crude recently (don’t know too much about it).

    Do you know Newseum (News Museum in Washington)? They have a wonderful site where you can view the front pages of most of the major worlds newspapers. I spend 5 mins everyday going over the front pages of the Canadian papers and the last week has been interesting.

    Looks like voter turn out is at it’s lowest ever?

    Cheers re-Kiwiblog. every now and then I like to go over and have a stir (you should see my blog stats rise every time -giggle, need to get some google ads going eh). I was merely repeating what Oram and others were saying. I thought initially it seems a strange thing to do (but then I’m a pinko commie). Funny policy for the Nats.

    cheers for stopping by again.

  6. Am Cdn politics junkie.

    Northern Manitoba has been NDP territory for as long as I can remember. That whole swath of the province is either heavily-unionized mining towns or Indian Reservations. Both of those demographics sway heavily NDP. And, of course, Elijah Harper represented Churchill (provincially) when he held up his feather…. Harper was elected federally as a Liberal there, but only because he couldn’t get the NDP nomination. Churchill also went Liberal briefly 2006-8 when the sitting NDP MP was tossed and ran as an independent against the NDP candidate, letting the Liberal run up the middle.

    I have a lot less of a problem with a “pinko commie” who’d argue that the 40% requirement is a good thing despite lower returns because of some externality argument than with folks who claim to support markets who insist that it’ll have zero effect on returns. I’d argue against the “pinko commie” and give evidence about why it’s a bad idea, but it’s not an argument that gets ruled out of court on sheer economic idiocy. That there’s no effect on earnings is ridiculous.

  7. paul

    Reading CBC, it looks like the NDP had serious designs on rural BC but failed to make in roads. Looks like the greens were stung a little too.

    Interesting Provincial vs State thing going on over there eh. The BC premier’s come out saying they can work together despite differences over carbon tax credits.

    More classically I’m your typical champgane socialist. I listen to economists, after all it’s their job. Just like i listen to the mechanic, and don’t pretend to know their jobs. I belive that if the fundamentals are all right the economy can afford the social policies I hold ideologically.

    Nice charting. Good (?) time to be in your line of work eh!

    Ps CBC gas a great iPhone version of their site.

  8. How many bloody Paul’s do you have hanging ’round this place?

  9. Nice eh, the only way to keep my sick mind happy is create a world of Pauls.

    Actually the last one was me from my iPhone responding to Eric once again. I forgot to put my blog address in and wordpress didn’t recognise me as me, so it created another me.

    Fun eh. And they all agree with me (maniacal world domination laughter…)

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