crime and deterrence

Anton Sherwood (
Mon, 16 Mar 1998 22:15:36 -0700

> Charlie Stross <> wrote:
> >Firstly, deterrence. This is pretty much disproven as an approach to
> >preventing crime; punishment doesn't deter criminals because criminals
> >don't expect to be caught and punished.

Robin Hanson wrote:
> Whoa. Let me get this straight. So you believe that if we eliminated
> all punishments (i.e., costs imposed) on all law-breaking, including theft,
> rape, assault, etc., (including costs like having to take time to defend
> yourself in court) and we prevented private attempts to impose compensating
> costs (such as via shunning, vigilantism, or better locks), that we would
> NOT see an increase in crime rates? ...

I think Charlie means (and I agree) that increasing the severity of
punishments, as our posturing politicians like to do, is pointless so
long as the robber is confident that punishment is unlikely. (And
remember that crooks tend to underestimate the likelihood of getting
caught, anyway). Rather than jacking up the (nominal) length of
sentences and building more prisons for the minority who get caught,
we'd be better off devoting those resources to catching more of the

"How'd ya like to climb this high without no mountain?" --Porky Pine
Anton Sherwood   *\\*   +1 415 267 0685
!! visiting New Mexico, end of March !!