Saturday, May 31, 2008

NYC Crime Unique Among Big Cities

Mark Kleiman and Heather MacDonald discuss crime policy, and though I thought this whole debate was very informative, I disagreed with the following point by Kleiman: .

Kleiman's argument is as follows: more police lowers crime irrespective of the criminal system behind it. He notes that unlike other majors cities, NYC has been lowering its crime rate while lowering its prison population. Thus, the payoff seems to be in police on the streets, not judges or prison cells.

But I think he neglects the major demographic change in New York City over the past 10 years, where basically it's too expensive for criminals to live there. Manhattan is one of the highest-income places in the United States with a population greater than 1 million. I don't see how an area, where the downtown boasts an incredible density of $200k/year households, its somehow relevant for Los Angeles, which is large, but much less dense or wealthy. In this case, NYC is the exception, not the rule. Look at the cities of Philadelphia, Cleveland, Dallas, etc., but to highlight New York, the largest collection of wealthy people in North America, is simply like using Lance Armstrong as the case study for cancer patients.

I'm not saying poor people are morally worse than rich people, merely, they commit more violent and property crime, which is what we mainly look at. Indeed, true cowardice is at least as common among the wealthy as the poor, and their ethics a bit like post-modern science: whatever is good for them, rationalized very articulately. Thus, those that use their education and intelligence to defend the indefensible, the immoral, the cruel, are more pathetic than your average whore or crack dealer, because their intellect gives them power to do more harm to more people (think of Noam Chomsky defending Pol Pot in the 1970's). But, given the issues of day-to-day mischief, noise, and violence, I'd rather live next to a hedge fund lawyer than a crack dealer even though they probably have equal chances of reaching heaven.

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