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August 20, 2011


Jim Miller

Thanks for pointing out that Christopher Hitchens piece; it is an almost perfect bad example. (And I generally like his work.)


Because it has no numbers.

I could construct a parallel argument for the United States, with the same kind of examples that Hitchens uses, or I could just look at the murder rates over time.

In 1900, the murder rate in the US was 1.2 per 100,000; in 2008, it was 5.4 per 100,000, despite significant advances in emergency treatment that saves many lives. (In some areas, parts of Washington DC, for example, paraplegics and quadraplegics are surprisingly common. In 1900, few of them would have survived their injuries, usually gunshot wounds.)

Therefore, the US has a worse murder problem now than we did a century ago. And a Hitchens-style argument to the contrary, which, I repeat, would be easy to make, would be false.

(At that, the US has made significant progress in reducing murder rates; there was a peak close to 10 per 100,000 in the early 1930s and many years in the 1970s and 1980s approached that number.

Crime statistics in the US are lousy (as they are in most countries, I suspect), but criminologists here agree that the murder rates are less lousy than most other statistics.)


Easy to see the author no longer lives in the UK.


Jim, it depends on when you begin and end your statistics. At this site ...


... the murder rate was 5.1 in 1960, rose dramatically over the years, then dropped just as dramatically, so that in 2009 it was again 5.0. It shows every sign of dropping further.

In any case, no one really believes that the current riots in the UK, or the "flash mobs" in the US, are anything more than temporary blips. Peter Hitchens' point, if I understand him correctly, is that these blips, not long-standing changes in the murder rate, are due to leftist policies, including the welfare state, that prevent the market place from allocating resources properly -- eg, in the US, an educational system that doesn't teach anything.

Jim Miller

Dom - If you read my comment again -- carefully -- you'll see that I used 2008 as my end point (because it was handy in my 2010 Almanac) and gave the correct rate, 5.4. I used 1900 as my beginning point because it was handy in my copy of "The First Measured Century".

And it is simply a fact that, going by official statistics, the murder rate in the United States is now about 4 times as high as it was in 1900, 1.2 per 100,000 versus 5.0 per 100,000.

(As I understand it, British crime statistics also show a sharp rise in crime rates since 1900.)

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