July 13, 2006

The welfare state causes crime

Over at the Devil's place the crime statistics that I found have caused an awful stir with people trying desperately to show that the massive increase in crime since the start of the Welfare State cannot possibly be anything to do with the Welfare State. There are many possible contributory factors, but most of the reasons givern can easily be ruled out as the primary reason.

Here are the possible other reasons:

Too much immigration - The beginnings of mass immigration to start at the same time as the graph begins it's climb upwards. However calling it 'mass' immigration is really a bit of a misnomer as the demographics of the population have only changed by 10%, not enough to affect such a massive change in criminality. That would be even if most of the immigrants had criminal intentions when practically all of them did not, preferring to get jobs and contribute to society.

The wrong sort of immigration - see above.

60's permissiveness - The swinging 60's where towards the end of that decade with the summer of love being in 1969. The trend starts before this. Both may share a cause, or the 60's could even have exacerbated the underlying problem, but the 60's cannot have caused the rise in criminality.

Female emancipation - This can be traced back to the mid 19th century, with major mile stones being the large number of extra women that went to work in factories during World War 1 (they have always been many women factory workers) leading to the the start of women's suffrage just after and then full electoral equality in 1928. With so many major events before the beginning of the Welfare State then you would expect that to have an effect on the crime graph before the beginning of hte Welfare State. Except the graph is low and flat at this point, so again that cannot be a primary cause.

Family breakdown & Single parent families - Possibly, but since family breakdown and single parents where caused by the perverse incentives of the Welfare State the root cause would still be the Welfare State acting through this as an intermediary.

Lack of discipline for children - Caused in part by family break down and single parent families, when a single mother is forced to do everything then something has to give. No matter how much better women are than men at juggling responsibilities they are still only human and still only have so much time. Family break up being caused by the perverse incentives of the welfare state.

Ineffective policing - Very possibly but there is not much data on this available on effectiveness. What we do know is the the rise in the number of police has been much slower than the rise in the number of criminals with there being 17 crimes per police officer in 1971 rising to 44 crimes per police officer in 2000. More police are known to cut crime, so why are aren't there more police? Perhaps because the money was needed to pay for something else.

Reduction in prison sentences - Maybe, maybe not. I have read somewhere that the increase in the use of probation and community sentences only really took off in the 1970's as a way of saving money, the prison system being unable to cope with the ever increasing numbers sent there. But I cannot source it at the moment.

Unemployment - If this was the primary cause then you would expect spikes during the great depression and 1970's. If you look carefully there are slight rises at these points, but they are dwarfed by the general trend. So it cannot be the primary cause.

Personal affluence - This has been generally growing for the entire century with the exception of the world wars and great depression. So you would expect some kind of upward trend in the crime graph other than at these points as well, when it is actually flat.

Thatcherism - Thatcherism started in the late 1970's early 1980's. The major upward trend starts in the 1950's, unless Margaret was in secret possession of a time machine we can safely rule this one out.

Globalism - Globalism was much further progressed in the 19th century than for most of the twentieth. Had this been a prinicpal cause then you would expect the graph to be high at the beginning, drop to a low point around the great depression when most countries tried to protect themselves with 'beggar they neighbour' policies then go back up. The graph is nothing like this.

Population growth - the graph is per capita therefore corrected for the direct effects of population growth in producing more criminals even if the general level of criminality stayed the same. Also the population has been growing continuously so there should have been a similar rise before the introduction of the welfare state as after it, when there isn't.

Better reporting - Compare the trends, as they are different measures and so cannot be compared exactly, of the British Crime Survey that attempts to estimate actual crime with the graph of criminality and you will find that they are very similar. Other have a peak in 1995 and both then reduce to the levels of the early 1980's. From this we can see that actual crime does seem to track reported crime for the available data. It is therefore probably that actual crime also followed the same trend of the reported crime graph before that. So it was not simply that more crime is being reported, while the levels of crime committed remain constant.

Lack of welfare - when there is no welfare state there is low and stead levels of crime. When there is a welfare state there are high and increasing levels of crime. The lack of a welfare state can easily be ruled out as a primary cause.

This leaves only the Welfare State as the thing pervasive enough and at the correct time to be the primary cause of the sudden rise in levels of criminality after the second world war compared to the low and fairly static levels before. It is probably not the sole reason, but it is the major one.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Could it be that it isn't the welfare state that causes crime per se, but that it is the free time that comes with being given money by the state in exchange for doing nothing that is the cause?

Pre Welfare State, if you were out of regular employment, you had to do just about anything you could just to survive; nobody would pay you for doing nothing. Even governmental schemes always involved work of some sort.

Teenagers are another new phenomenon; in times past as soon as a child grew big enough to work, it got given a job and was made to stick to it. Teenage angst hardly existed in times past since teenagers were simply too busy to have the time for existential doubt; similarly teen culture didn't exist because they didn't have the time of money for it.

We cannot solve all our ills by removing the Welfare State, but we can certainly help a lot by replacing much dole payment with state employment of some sort.

It wouldn't solve all problems, but it'd reduce available free time.

1:42 pm  
Blogger Chris Palmer said...

Nice post, well done.

5:21 pm  
Blogger Neil Harding said...

Two questions;

Why was the murder rate 25 times higher in Victorian times?

Why did crime double under Thatcher but has been falling while Labour has been in power?

It is obvious that recorded crime is just that - recorded. It is not a reliable way to look at how real crime has changed because the recording methods have such a massive impact. The crime survey is more reliable but has only been going for a few decades, in fact recorded crime and the crime survey can be very different. Recorded crime has sometimes risen while crime survey statistics have been falling.

The murder rate however is directly comparable, and this suggests that the welfare state has reduced crime.

Also it is undeniable that reducing inequality reduces crime. The most equal societies have less crime. The welfare state reduces inequality, so therefore must also have an impact in reducing crime.

3:01 pm  
Blogger chris said...

Thatcher did very little about the Welfare State. Other than making more people reliant on it when what she did do, de-nationalising various industries, made them redundant.

I've found statistics for the murder rate for the last century, and the trends are similar to that of recorded crime. That is two distinct phases before and after the end of World War Two with the second phase being a massive increase.

4:58 pm  

Post a Comment

<< Home