The Streets of Japan Must Be Swimming with Thugs

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incarceration-rates.png

For an interesting discussion of what those figures might mean, check out this thread of comments at Crooked Timber.

Update: More charts and discussion here.

NEXT: Failed State Update

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  1. Wars don’t make me ashamed to be an American. Fast food doesn’t. Commercial culture doesn’t. Our view on the environment doesn’t. Our healthcare system doesn’t.

    THIS makes me feel ashamed.

  2. Japan, Norway, and Denmark all have low rates because they are wealthy, homogeneous countries with low rates of crime.

    India, on the other hand, is too poor and uncivilized to afford to lock people up… So, in the case of India, I’m pretty sure there are thugs just “swimming” the streets of Calcutta…

  3. No, it just means the Japan has a more orderly less anti-social society. If you read Reason one would think that the only people in jail are single moms who were caught with a joint in their car, if only that were true. Go down and spend a day watching criminal court proceedings at your local state court. You will find out that the U.S. just has a lot of really scary people who need to be in jail. There is a seemingly endless supply of theives, child molesters, rapists, and generally violent people in this country. I don’t know what the sollution is, but letting them out of jail certainly isn’t a solution.

    You guys talk about the number of folks being in jail as if the government just puts random people in jail. The problem is not jail. The problem is that the society seems to produce so many people who need to be there.

  4. As far as the US goes, these numbers don’t really bother me. We’re a wealthy enough country to afford to lock up our prisoners for a long time. Which is what we should do – people who commit crimes are just criminals and I’d rather pay to lock them up then allow them to wander the streets.

    I grew up in a thoroughly working class town (plumbers, electricians, that sort of thing). From about sixth grade on, it was completely obvious who was going to end up in prison. We called them the “hoods”. And 100% of them are now in prison, while 0% of the remainder of the class is in prison…

    So, from personal experience, the system seems to work perfectly fine. Decide to become a criminal and you’ll spend your life in and out of prison. Good.

  5. Sorry John, but you must be the anti-social one. I have spent time in criminal court in a rural county. The entire docket was drug and alcohol “abuse”; not one of these people were accused of any harm to any person other than themselves. No property crime, no assault, no battery. Nothing. The young black and hispanic ones were the ones given jail time, always because they couldn’t come up with the exhorbitant $1500 fines.

  6. Hey, don’t knock the incarceration rate. It keeps the unemployment rate low and gives us the confortable illusion that the economy is healthy. Reality is a downer.

  7. Gotta love the misleading graphs.

    First off, convention dictates that the statistic being considered (incarceration rate) should be on the vertical axis. Rotate it left 90 degrees and it doesn’t look nearly as compelling. Here, the designer has placed the countries on the vertical axis and added all sorts of similar countries so as to make the highest-ranking country look all the worse.

    Second, the “Selected Countries” are selected in a biased manner — where the hell is China, for instance?

    And third, if you look at the statistic itself, there isn’t really much absolute difference between the US and the UK, for instance. The US incarceration rate is 0.75%, compared to 0.2% for the UK.

  8. We’re #1, We’re #1!

    USA! USA! USA!

  9. Crimethink is right – if the graph showed the incareration rate on a scale of 0-100%, no one would be able to tell the difference between the US and the UK. In both countries, you have essentially a 0% chance of being in prison. So, what’s the big deal?

    I guess we could reduce these numbers if we increased the crimes eligible for the death penalty. I wouldn’t be averse to putting down rapists, child molesters, possessors of child pornography, kidnappers, etc. There are plenty of people whose biggest conribution to society would be as mulch.

  10. John,

    Here is the problem. Our jails make worse criminals out of the people we put in there. Generally our court system and our laws and law enforcement don’t cause a decrease in crime they make a buisness out of it.

    However on comparing us to Japan, I have read a number of places that they are not big on individual liberties.

  11. Japan, Norway, and Denmark all have low rates because they are wealthy, homogeneous countries with low rates of crime.

    The US is wealthy. Chile, Israel and Iran aren’t. Argentina, France, Germany and Canada are multi-racial and even multilingual countries. All seven have lower imprisonment rates (ie fewer people forcibly deprived of liberty) than the US.

    And surely US crime rates aren’t that much higher than Europe’s? I thought that our restrictive gun laws meant that all us defenceless Europeans were cowering in terror from armed criminal gangs. Now you’re saying that actually we’re much safer? Hmm.

  12. Following up on one of Lemur’s earlier points, the criminals are wandering the streets in places like Mexico, South Africa and Brazil as well.

    Also of interest is the fact that despite even more draconian laws on everything from vandalism to drug dealing, Singapore ranks below the United States.

  13. crimethink,
    I used photo edit to rotate the graph. The US still looks like a police state, and .75 is still three and a half times .2 If this is the result of thinking about crime, maybe you should think about math for a while.

    I found this in the comments at Crocked Timber
    Look, if false imprisonment is outlawed, only outlaws will be falsely imprisoned.
    Not sure if they are making any point necessarily, but it made me laugh

  14. From the article:
    I left China out of the figure above-its incarceration rate is 118, but this only includes 1.55 million sentenced prisoners, not trial detainees or those in “administrative detention.”
    Also, 0.75% is WAY bigger than 0.2%. It’s almost 4 times as big damn it!

    So, next time read an article before you criticize it.
    And please, take some math classes too.

  15. Some of the posters may also wish to consider graph 2. (They could also read the linked posts, which discuss some of the issues they’ve raised here, but that’s too much to ask.)

    Anon

  16. All I know is that gay marriage will make the problem worse. 😉

  17. Hmm. I’m somewhat skeptical that we really have a higher incarceration rate than Cuba, Belarus, Turkmenistan, especially since the figures come from the governments of those countries. Why are we supposed to trust Castro to tell us how many people he’s thrown in jail?

  18. Anon – if you’ll check out graph #3, you’ll see a fine explanation for graph #2…

  19. rtfa,

    I wrote:

    there isn’t really much absolute difference between the US and the UK

    I’ve taken enough math to know that the ratio .0075 / .002 = 3.75. Have you taken enough to know that the difference .0075 – .002 = .0055 is just a smidgen above zero?

  20. Anon,

    Good link. It further reinforces my opinion stated earlier that we make a buisness out of encarceration. And that is the cause. What is crazy is that no other country seems to.

    I mean sure, some countries have a much lower encarceration level because of their lack of civil liberties. But I doubt that all the European countries are that much worse of that we are on the civil liberty area.

  21. Warren,

    As I stated above, I was referring to the difference, not the ratio. Also, .0075 / .002 = 3.75, not 3.5, so you might want to think a little harder about math yourself.

  22. If there is anything that touches the libertarian fundamentalist in me, it is the notion that putting human beings in cages is no joke.

    Every cage built to end the hopes and potential of people who own the wrong plants is a travesty. Every cage built to protect us from “vice” is an embarrassment.

  23. Lemur;

    Anon – if you’ll check out graph #3, you’ll see a fine explanation for graph #2…

    Or maybe it is the other way around?

  24. I just wish all those people would quit breaking the law all the time.

    Russ: I know what you mean about drug and alchohol abuse being a huge percentage of rural crime. Unfortunately, in my experience, much of this kind of crime involves DUI. In, the rural county I’m most familiar with they didn’t even really bother with public intoxication cases until a number of incidents where people accidentally ran down drunk people passed out or wandering on country roads late at night. Both of these kinds activites aren’t exactly victimless.

  25. ajay,

    France and Germany do have multiple races living within their borders, but almost all the nonwhites are concentrated in ghettos, where law enforcement is pretty much absent. Maybe Jean Bart can expound further about the troubles of the banlieus…

  26. For the “Four Times As High!” enthusiasts out there, do recall that you are hundreds of times as likely to die per mile travelled by automobile as you are per mile travelled by airplane. Obviously, anyone travelling by car has a death wish, right?

  27. Lemur,
    If you use your logic regarding incarceration rate differences, your point about assault deaths is discredited. Beacause 0.00006 is a heck of a lot closer to 0.000005 and both are closer to 0 than .0075 and .002.

    And considering that 40% of the Franch population are decended from immigrants and thei crime and incarceration rates are less than 25% of the US’, the diversity excuse isn’t a good explanation.

  28. crimethink,
    Of course, if you look at likelihood to die per hour of traveling in a car vs. an airplane, the rates are very similar. It just happens that you’re in a car for far longer than you are in an airplane.

  29. As far as the “assault resulting in death” graph:
    Americans are pretty good at accomplishing what they set their mind to. No surprise there; our forebears escaped from all manner of hell-holes to get here. Plus we’ve got that old Jacksonian tradition of violence.

    Jason- for libertarian funamentalists:

    “It may be necessary to kill a man, but to incarcerate him destroys both his dignity and yours.” – Robert Heinlein

    from:
    http://harris.dvc.org.uk/jeff/jeff12_7.html

  30. “All I know is that gay marriage will make the problem worse.”

    Please explain how the slope slickens when gay marriage is allowed. My only hope is that you’re being facetious.

    And, at last check, over half of all federally incarcerated inmates are there on drug offenses. See what that does to the numbers if you remove them…

  31. Also of interest is the fact that despite even more draconian laws on everything from vandalism to drug dealing, Singapore ranks below the United States.

    Remember Singapore executes drug trafficers. Dead people aren’t included in jail pouplations.

  32. carrick,
    Not to mention they still use corporal punishment.

    I will say this, for minor, non-violent crimes I would rather we have a system of corporal punishment rather than encarceration. First of all, it’s a heck of a lot less cruel than the high probability of ass raping. Second, you can’t learn how to be a better criminal by taking lashes. Third, It acts as a hell of a deterrent. And finally, causing pain only affects the criminal, they can go back to work, so families aren’t shattered which lead to more crime (fatherless sons, etc.).

    I’m awaiting the appropriate smackdown.

  33. How many people does Singapore execute compared to how many people we execute?

    Generally I am much more in favor of executing a person that jailing them.

  34. Mo,

    I posted not having read your last post. I agree wholeheartedly. Though I think maybe corporal punishment is but one good alternative to jail. I think fines, and a system of jail where you actually do repay your debt to society would be better.

    Any crime committed within jail would be totally unacceptable though, and any criminal cavorting and gang activity also a no go.

  35. crimethink,
    What I lack in precision you lack in accuracy. Your point about airplane travel makes no sense at all. What are you saying, that we should fly planes to commute to work? It’s true that some people have an irrational fear of flying. Key word ‘irrational’. The reasons people choose automotive transport over aerial (convenience, cost, etc.) have nothing to do with safety.

    The proposition that all the incarceration rates are near zero, is like saying having a blood alcohol level of 0.008% is not much different than 0.030%

  36. crimethink:

    The whole point of the plot is NOT to show that the US has too much crime, and I don’t even know how one would measure this.
    The whole point of the graph is to show that the US has WAY more crime than the other “wealthy” nations.
    If you don’t see a problem here to be fixed, it’s your own opinion and it could have some merit.

    Trying to discredit the obvious FACT that there is more crime and more people are incarcerated in this country, that is a completely different issue.

  37. Although it was a brief stint, the time I spent as a teacher in a medium security prison convinced me of a few things about our system.

    1) we put too many people in jail for drug related crimes
    2) there are some people that NEED to be in jail (some very scary violent ones)
    3) rehab is both possible and worth spending the effort on…but it ain’t easy to pull off in a dysfunctional environment like prison (an argument to keep the non-violent criminals separated from the violent ones)
    4) when property crimes and drug crimes lead to longer prison sentences than rape and murder, we’ve got our priorities a bit mixed up.

  38. fun news for the progresssives out there:

    this same chart was posted on Cato @liberty on friday…you know that evil ultraconservative think tank that hates poor people.

    http://www.cato-at-liberty.org/2006/06/02/con-nation-illustrated/

    Is it wrong that i am still pissed at the kids at sadly no?

  39. Warren,

    Do I really need to explain this? I was showing that just because there is a huge ratio between two tiny numbers, does not mean they’re all that different in absolute terms.

    The real difference in safety of air travel over auto travel is so tiny that no one decides to fly because it’s safer than driving. However, the ratio of the death rates per mile is enormous.

  40. rtfa,

    The graph’s statistic is incarceration rate, not crime rate. They are not the same thing; as others have commented, incarceration rate varies depending on severity of jail sentences, preference for non-incarcerative punishments, and lax enforcement, as well as crime rate.

    I can’t help but notice that, for people so quick to insult my ability to read a graph and do arithmetic, you and Warren sure have trouble with those areas yourselves.

  41. crimethink,
    But planes aren’t supremely safer than automobiles, depending on how you measure it. Also, if people flew short distances, the way they drive, casualty rates would skyrocket since the most dangerous part of a flight is the takeoff and landing.

  42. Everybody seems to be assuming something here and I’m curious as to what people think the right answer is. What everybody’s assuming is what the “correct” number of real bad dudes (people who need to be incarcerated by libertarian standards) is. If you take a hundred thousand people someone is going to need to be incarcerated due to rape or murder or whatnot. No matter what the ethnic mix is or whether or not our laws are overly oppressive or trying to fix some social ill we don’t live in a perfect world. Someone is going to need to be locked up no matter what. Trying to determine if incarceration rates in America are high needs to flow from the baseline of average bad dudes in the population, not a comparison to other countries. A comparison to other countries only shows we lock up more than they do. It does not say anything about whether or not that’s wrong given America’s particularities.

    So what is the real bad dude ratio per 100,000? I’ve done some web fishing and I can’t find the answer because it depends on a number of factors. I’m going to be the idealist and say one hundred. One guy set fire to his cat as a kid, one has an unnatural little-girl bra fetish, 98 others burnt flags (jk). All are going in the cage. I also chose one hundred per 100,000 because I’m terrible at math. Luckily I have windows calculator and said calculator tells me one hundred out of one hundred thousand is .001 legitimate bad guys. Now that I have a baseline I can finally make a decision about whether or not something is wrong. Let’s say my .001 baseline is correct for the UK. The UK should put away 100 guys for every 100 hundred thousand. If my baseline is correct than the UK is putting twice as many (.002) people behind bars than it should. I’d say that’s a big deal!

    What is a good ball park baseline for the US? Personally, and probably completely irrationally, I’m panicking. The “only” .0075 seems like a huge number to me when extrapolated out to real persons. I feel (without any concrete social data, just my libertarian paranoia) that only around half of those people should be locked up. If we break down the 750 people I’d say they break down like this:

    300: real violent SOBs who broke the fraud or force criteria and should be in jail
    300: peaceful vice crimes perps (mostly drug related) who should not be put in a cage
    150: sentencing guidelines issues (a black guy who gets murder 1 instead of manslaughter for instance)

    What do you think Crimethink? I admit I just pulled those numbers out of my ass. How many of those 750 people per 100000 deserve to be in jail?

  43. The proposition that all the incarceration rates are near zero, is like saying having a blood alcohol level of 0.008% is not much different than 0.030%

    Again, in absolute terms, those BACs are not that different. There really isn’t much more alcohol in your bloodstream at .30% than at .08% (which are the percentages you mean). The difference is only significant because of the body’s extreme sensitivity to alcohol even in those small amounts.

    No one has demonstrated what, exactly, in our society is sensitive to a difference in incarceration rate of .55%.

  44. Russ: I know what you mean about drug and alchohol abuse being a huge percentage of rural crime. Unfortunately, in my experience, much of this kind of crime involves DUI. In, the rural county I’m most familiar with they didn’t even really bother with public intoxication cases until a number of incidents where people accidentally ran down drunk people passed out or wandering on country roads late at night. Both of these kinds activites aren’t exactly victimless.

    I live in an extermely rural township in a rural suburbian country. I have a relative that works for the township that gets the police blotter on a daily basis. The three biggest categories of arrests in the last month are, in order:

    Possession
    Underage drinking
    Assault

    The three biggest categories of the last three months are:

    Possession
    Assault
    Failure to appear

  45. An extra .55% is 1.65 million extra people. Is that a big enough number for you?

  46. crimethink:

    I’ve taken enough math to know that the ratio .0075 / .002 = 3.75. Have you taken enough to know that the difference .0075 – .002 = .0055 is just a smidgen above zero?

    Just by knowing the numbers 0.0055 and 0 tells you that 0.0055 is bigger than 0.
    Which number do you compare their difference against to say that it is a “smidgen”?
    And how do you qualify this number?

    Case in point, if you are willing to live in a society where there is a 5% chance you will get murdered, then yes, the difference is small.
    If you think that an acceptable rate would be 0.1%, then the difference is big.
    I am an agnostic in this case, willing to take higher risks is an acceptable position.

    In any case, you have to admit that 4 times as much crime makes a lot of difference to the people who actually care about crime.
    For example, an insurance company would have to budget for 4 times as many insurance claims, the state for 4 times as big a jail system, etc.

  47. Lincoln,

    I’m merely pointing out misuse of statistics here; I’ve made clear my distaste for drug laws, etc, many a time on this forum. I agree that people go to jail for stupid stuff, but I don’t agree that we’re that much worse than any nation in that regard. I have a hard time believing that the other nations on the graph (especially Iran, Japan, Saudi Arabia) have lower incarceration rates because they don’t lock up nonviolent offenders.

  48. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunbar's_number
    Using this as an estimate of a human group size, I think an important threshold is 1/200=0.5%.

    That is, for a number in this order of magnitude for the incarceration rate, you have a significant chance that at least one person in your circle of friends etc will be incarcerated, and I assume this is an unpleasant experience.

    So, my guess is that for most people a 0.55% difference in the crime rate is significant.
    To put it another way, having 4 of your friends in jail is worse than having 1, for most people.

    And yes, I understand these are only estimates, but I think they make my point.

  49. Dunbar’s number is 150, not 200, and it’s not the size of a circle of friends, more like the group of people you know. Other than that, excellent analysis.

  50. “If there is anything that touches the libertarian fundamentalist in me, it is the notion that putting human beings in cages is no joke.”

    I’m with Jason on this one, and certainly not as a libertarian fundamentalist.

    It never ceases to amaze me how many contortions so many H&R posters go into to try to make excuses for our embarrassing incarceration rate.

    We, as a nation, seem to share this great affinity with the Chinas, Irans, and Beloruses of the world. And we brag about it! Hey, as long as we’re not like the French, right?

  51. but I don’t agree that we’re that much worse than any nation in that regard.

    Ok, but the only way that works is if we have a lot more bad guys or the other countries are terrible at locking up the worst offenders. I don’t think it adds up. Let’s use the UK and US again. The UK locks up 200 per 100000 and the US 750. You think that we’re close in non violent offender arrests. Lets say 200 of the 100000 are nonviolent offenders. The UK locks 100 of em up and we are “only” slightly worse at 150. Being only slightly worse still leaves 600 (500 more than the UK) additional incarcerations! What’s the answer? Do you think the UK is not arresting 500 people!?!?? Or do you think the US has more people that need arresting? Let’s say both are true. The UK is lousy at crime enforcement and we have more bad guys for some reason. I still can’t believe the difference is this high. It doesn’t pass my BS meter in any way. 750 prisoners vs 200 is a difference of 500. I don’t know how you can think the UK is that bad at arresting violent offenders or that we produce that many more bad guys.

    The difference is directly linked to us putting away more non-violent offenders. Even a cursory google of UK vice crime legislation tells me that the UK gives the average vice crime perp a slap on the wrist (fines, community service) rather than locking them up. We do lock up more non-violent offenders than most. In fact we lock up more for vice crimes than anyone! Even the worst of the worst like Iran, North Korea and Saudi Arabia — and yes I understand this is directly attributable to much harsher sentencing (getting high isn’t worth dying over). But the point remains that amongst the countries that agreed with the intellectual revolution of 1550 we’re the worst and our attitudes toward drugs need to change.

  52. Further to Anon’s link, specifically the table showing deadly assault rates, this article:

    http://www.economist.com/displayStory.cfm?Story_ID=513031

    shows tables for violent crime as a whole, not just the deadly ones.

    Draw your own conclusion as to what this says, if anything, about US gun law and practice.

  53. Tom Paine,

    Assault was in your top three, which is not a victimless crime. I have a few friends who are criminal defense attorneys in a large city. They don’t do many drug cases and when they do it is always connected to something else like assault or murder. My theory is that there are two populations of drug users in this country; those who have criminal tendencies and those who do not.

    Those who do not have criminal tendencies don’t become addicted, don’t have run-ins with the police and if they do, stop using and complete probation. Those who do have criminal tendencies become addicted, engage in other criminal activities, have frequent run-ins with the police and when they do, do not quit using and don’t complete probation. If drugs were legalized, both groups would go on as usual one group in society, the other in jail.

    Theodore Dalrymple wrote a great piece in the WSJ a few weeks ago on what bunk the common perception of opiates being completely addictive is. His experience through years as a prison psychiatrist in England is that it is the criminality that causes the addiction, not the other way around. I am really starting to believe that the majority of people in prison for drug offenses would be there for something else even if drugs were legal. The realization has brought me around to the side of drug legalization. If drugs are not what is causing the criminality, why bother to make them illegal? The people who belong in jail will eventually give society a reason to put them there drug laws or no

  54. crimethink: Corrections fully accepted.

    To push the argument a bit further using the numbers from

  55. ^ 1/500=0.2%, 1/2000=0.05%

  56. John –

    How many cases does your defense attorney friend get for distribution or manufacture of drugs without a violent component? In rural or suburban areas where serious violent crime rates are low, those two seem (admittedly ancedotally) to account for a large proportion of offenses where the sentences include jail time.

  57. Let’s focus on whether the “quality of life” in the US is any better (than Japan, for example) for the extra money we spend on prisons.
    I’m thinking it isn’t.
    B. F. Skinner proved, I thought, that punishment doesn’t work, therefore prisons don’t work.

    There are a few per 100,000 that need killing, but the best way to handle them is to accept anarchy, or, at least, get government out of the justice business.

  58. John,
    I think another way to put what you’re pondering is: Which comes first? Criminals? Or defining criminality where there was none?–vice laws.

    Undocumented Mexicans seems to be another example of deciding to pull illegality out our asses.
    We’re masochists.

  59. Can’t we all just agree that both of the following are true?

    1. The US incarcerates far too many people for drug offenses.
    2. The US is a more violent society than many (not all) other societies.

  60. supermike,

    I’m sure there are DUI victims, but the percentages of DUI with no victims was 100% in my short analysis.

    Did I mention the county was dry? Which means if you want to drink you are required to drive. Being “dry” on moral grounds is strange, being dry on grounds of “safety” is just plain stupid.

  61. France and Germany do have multiple races living within their borders, but almost all the nonwhites are concentrated in ghettos, where law enforcement is pretty much absent.

    The last phrase applies to France only, not Germany. It specifically came about during the Paris riots – so it probably doesn’t even apply all over France. And of course everything but the last phrase (and in some places including the last phrase) applies equally to the United States.

  62. Rhywun,
    I think your motion has passed, but I think we’re trying to push a little further.

  63. “Can’t we all just agree that both of the following are true?

    1. The US incarcerates far too many people for drug offenses.
    2. The US is a more violent society than many (not all) other societies.”

    Here here! What Rhywun said. But then if we agree to those two points, that leaves no place for tedious academic hairsplitting.

  64. Tom Paine,

    Assault was in your top three, which is not a victimless crime.

    John, please continue to ignore the 800 pound gorilla in the room. Don’t even look at him. Put a lampshade on his head so that he blends in and others don’t notice him.

  65. Criminality and addiction

    To posit that it is the criminality that causes the addiction is just silly on its face. An addict can function well without criminal behavior (other than the use of the outlawed substance)… they are orthogonal concepts. Case study, my grandfather was a very severe alcoholic. Yet he was also very law abiding. During prohibition, he quit drinking despite his addiction because he would never break a law.

    The Venn diagrams of criminals and addicts will overlap significantly, but this does not imply causality on the level being put forward.

    Dalrymple’s experience is with people where the diagrams overlap. Probably leading to his view on the topic. He doesn’t interact with the non-criminal addicts.

  66. Mainstream,

    I think that perhaps there are not any non-criminal addicts. There are lots of people who use drugs recreationally and never get addicted. Despite claims to the contrary, not everyone who ever shot heroine turned into a junkie. Indeed, as Dalrymple points out, many service members used heroine in Vietnam and came back and stopped using without a problem. Moreover, even if the drugs are addictive, it is the criminal tendencies that cause the destructive behaviors associated with addiction. Everyone knows the “functional alcoholic”. Just because you use drugs, does not necessarily mean you will end up stealing from your parents and in the gutter. Perhaps the people who are the type of person who would steal from their parents and end up in the gutter anyway sometimes also use drugs. We blame the addiction when in fact we should blame the person.

    Tom Paine

    You are ignoring the gorilla. The gorilla is that we have a ton of people in this society who have criminal anti-social tendencies. The drug laws either being tight or loose are not going to change that.

    It is interesting how libertarians have this therapeutic view of addicts. It seems to me that if you really believe that drugs are not harmful and should be legal, you should reserve your worse scorn for people who use drugs as an excuse for their criminal behavior. It is no coincidence that the rise of draconian drug laws has corresponded to the rise of the therapeutic culture of the addict. No addict is ever responsible for their behavior because they have a disease. Well, if drugs cause the disease of addiction, is it any surprise that a large portion of society has concluded that drugs are evil and should be banned? Drug legalizers instead should take the view that drugs are a moderately risky form of recreation that responsible adults should be allowed to engage. Drugs do not inevitably lead to addiction. They only lead to addiction when used irresponsibly. Irresponsible use is the fault the user, not the drugs. Irresponsible users and addicts hurt all of us not only by their behavior but by their giving the drug warriors an excuse for criminalization. Therefore, addicts should get no sympathy from anyone, least of all libertarians. Get rid of the therapeutic culture of the addict and stop letting people blame their criminal behavior on drugs and you would get a lot further down the road toward legalization.

  67. Re Japan’s low incarceration rate:

    Perhaps it’s due to their lack of an African-American underclass.

  68. Everybody seems to be assuming something here and I’m curious as to what people think the right answer is. What everybody’s assuming is what the “correct” number of real bad dudes (people who need to be incarcerated by libertarian standards) is.

    I think a good place to start would be take the total number then subtract the number of non-violent drug offenders.

    Not magic but simply math

  69. “I think that perhaps there are not any non-criminal addicts. There are lots of people who use drugs recreationally and never get addicted….”

    These two sentences are not, really, related. I have no problem with the second one. But an addiction does not require criminal behavior. It is, as I said, an orthogonal issue.

    To deny that people can suffer from compulsive occupation surrounding getting high without being criminal is silly. Cigarettes, for instance, are not, usually, thought to contribute to crime, yet they are, usually, considered addictive.

    To get to Dalrymple’s causality you need to redefine addiction to be “uses drugs in the manner of a criminal.” I ain’t willing to go there. You may be, given what you say later in your post. But then we aren’t really arguing about the same phenomena.

    Addiction and crime are interrelated, but not direct causes of each other. The second half of your post seems to agree on that larger point, at least for drug addiction not causing crime. Why not allow for the opposite to entail?

  70. Mainstream,

    I don’t necessarily think that crime causes drug addiction. I think it is more that people who are not criminals to the extent that they get addicted do not commit crimes to support their addiction and still function in society.

  71. But then if we agree to those two points, that leaves no place for tedious academic hairsplitting.

    If all you’re looking for is agreement with those on this forum, you’ve got it already. However, if you ever plan on convincing anyone else of those points, you better make sure your I’s are crossed and your T’s dotted.

  72. OK, my eyes are crossed, my tea is dotted with sprigs of some plant. What I really want to know is, don’t you think perhaps we have too many friggen laws? I’d vote for anyone (actual judgement retained) who would just agree to get rid of a couple of laws each session.

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