The upside of hate speech laws


Gun deaths by cause

If prison does not deter, why do low security prisoners fear maximum security?

About 15 to 20% of New Zealand prisoners are in maximum security. The rest of these prisoners are in medium to low security prisons where it is much easier to escape.

Most New Zealand prisoners have about 40 to 50 previous convictions, with serious and violent assaults (21%), sexual offences (20%), home invasions and burglary (14%), aggravated robbery and robbery (9%), and homicide (7%) which together add to 71%. Drug traffickers make up another 12%.

My point is most New Zealand prisoners are serious offenders but most of them can be trusted not to escape even when in low security and prison farms. The threat of returning to maximum security upon recapture is incentive enough to keep them on the straight and narrow.

There is quite a serious literature on how variations in prison conditions, prison overcrowding and deaths of prisoners acts as a deterrent. You do not have to watch all that many American TV shows to notice they plea-bargain with promises of a prison near their family, in a warmer climate and lower security rating. Maximum-security, far away and surrounded by gang members is more than enough to keep most prisoners in line.

The strongest argument that prison deters crime is made by opponents of 3 strikes legislation. They claim that without the prospect of parole, prisoners are be more difficult to manage in prison. That is an incentive argument, that the dim prospect that parole perhaps decades hence has powerful incentive effects. QED

Is travelling in Papua New Guinea that dangerous?

The Manus Island debates led me to notice I have travelled in far more dangerous places such as the Philippines. Also, if you are thinking are going to Bali, read its travel advisory.

When travelling to the Philippines, we make sure we are already outside of Manila because of the stray bullets on New Year’s Eve. There are guns everywhere. A M-16 looks a lot smaller in the flesh than on the telly.

Philippine banks have 3 security guards at the front with guns pointing horizontally ready to go at bank robbers. The Manila airport chief was assassinated a few years ago because she crackdown on corruption. The assassination was by a sniper.

Everything from airports to discos in the Philippines have gun deposit booths so that you and your bodyguards can deposit your guns at the door and collected them on the way out.

In Leyte, where we holiday at Christmas with family, it is common for politicians to have private armies of several dozen. When I was in the Philippines for a presidential election, there is a murder every day often of a rival candidate

My point is that the PNG is not the only dangerous country in Asia. If the asylum seekers from Afghanistan, and some are, the travel advisory is you are not safe even if you bring your own bodyguards.

About 200 of the residents of that camp have been denied asylums because their claims were not deemed to have merit. I do not see why Australia has any responsibility for them now. They are free to travel anywhere in PNG and anywhere else that will give them a visa.

Does addiction and mental illness dull responses to incentives

I found the chapter in Tullock and McKenzie’s book on token economies in mental hospitals to be most enlightening in regard to addictions and mental illness clouding judgement.

The tokens in a token economy were spending money at the hospital canteen and trips to town and other privileges. They were earned by keeping you and your area clean and helping out with chores at the mental asylum.

The first token economies were for chronic, treatment-resistant psychotic inpatients. In 1977, a major study, still considered a landmark, successfully showed the superiority of a token economy compared to the standard treatments of these type of psychotic inpatients.

Experiments which would now be unethical showed that the occupational choices and labour supply of certified lunatics responded to incentives in the normal, predictable way. For example, tokens were withdrawn for helping clean halls and common areas. The changes in occupational choice and reductions in labour supply was immediate and as predicted by standard economics.

Some patients would steal the tokens for other patients, so the tokens were individually marked. The thefts almost stopped. Crime must pay even for criminally insane inpatients. Kagel reported that:

The results have not varied with any identifiable trait or characteristic of the subjects of the token economy – age, IQ, educational level, length of hospitalization, or type of diagnosis.

Most people age out of addiction to drugs or to alcohol.  By age 35, half of patients with active alcoholism or addiction diagnoses during their teens and 20s no longer take drugs or drink:

The average cocaine addiction lasts four years, the average marijuana addiction lasts six years, and the average alcohol addiction is resolved within 15 years. Heroin addictions tend to last as long as alcoholism, but prescription opioid problems, on average, last five years. In these large samples, which are drawn from the general population, only a quarter of people who recover have ever sought assistance in doing so (including via 12-step programs). This actually makes addictions the psychiatric disorder with the highest odds of recovery.

Studies of demand elasticity normally find that consumption of hard drugs is quite sensitive to price. Addicts respond to incentives, in particular, to price rises by cutting back on their drug taking.

At the beginning of this century, the Dutch government controlled the opium market in the Dutch East Indies–nowadays Indonesia–for several decades. This state monopoly was called the opiumregie. Using information gathered during the opiumregie, this paper estimates price elasticities of opium consumption. It appears that short-term price elasticities of opium use are about -0.7. Long-term price elasticities are about -1.0.

Speaking of @RusselNorman’s & @Greeenpeacenz’s greater good defence

Activists have ample opportunities seek redress for their grievances through normal democratic means. This is especially so when the activist mounting the greater good defence are recently resigned members of Parliament or the immediate past leader of political parties.

Source: The Case for Disallowing the Necessity Defense in Climate Change Cases –

The necessity defence (or the defence for cannibalism on a lifeboat defence) exists only if

  1. if the harm that would have resulted from compliance with the law would have significantly exceeded the harm actually resulting from the defendant’s breach of the law.
  2. there is no legal alternative to breaking the law,
  3. the harm to be prevented is imminent, and
  4. there is a direct, causal connection between breaking the law and preventing the harm.

Left-wing activists will be happy to know that the defence is unavailable to anti-abortion protesters because there is no harm to be avoided if the practice under protest is specifically condoned by law. Mining and offshore drilling are also specifically authorised by law.

Most of all, the greater good defence will make no difference to what Greenpeace are protesting against. A one-day publicity stunt does not change the world, much less reduce the harm from climate change. Their protesting will never prevent a imminent harm.

The purpose of lawful, peaceful protest is to implore the majority to think again and perhaps change their mind. It is not the purpose of a lawful, peaceful protest to prevent another from going about their lawful occasions. Protests should never be a means of coercing or frightening others in a democracy into conforming to your wishes.

The great virtue of a democracy is it readily enables the people, over time, to be persuaded that what they took for granted is not so and change the law accordingly. Noisy protesters from across the political spectrum stage publicity stunts to catch the public’s eye in the hope of doing this.