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January 24, 2011


Strahler 70

Which philospher said every society has to be judged by its prisons? It's not only the death penalty, that excludes the US from modern, civilized nations, it's also the fact that the US has 10x as much people per capita imprisoned than other democracies, including an advanced prison industrial complex demanding and lobbying more and harsher laws.
Is it really a paradox the US has the highest crime rates in the world?

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John in Michigan, USA

@Strahler 70:

The US does NOT have the highest crime rates in the world, that is pure fantasy.

The most recent international data I could easily find is from this Dutch survey ending in 2003/4. You will see there has been steady improvement since 1988 and we are now just a tiny bit above average (see Fig. 3-4, pp. 44-45):


Since 2004 there has been continued improvement. This only covers N. America and Europe; if you compare globally, we are well below average (for murders at least):


Social policies put in place during the 60's, which treated crime as a (mostly) socio-economic problem instead of a (mostly) police problem, helped cause the historically low US crime rate to skyrocket. Starting in the late 80's, these failed policies were mostly abandoned, and crime levels have now returned to our moderate, historic norm, which is comparable to Europe (although slightly higher on average).

The hangover of these high rates and failed policies is a US prison system with far too many people in it. That problem will improve with time, since the young adults today will not be imprisoned at anything near the rate of their parents. We could improve it even more if we ended the absurd war on (some) drugs.

The death penalty will always be controversial, but it is actually quite rare in the US. It would be interesting to compare it to the rate of postpartum infant euthanasia in Europe (for example).

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