Of murder rates and death penalties…

2008/9: 648 – “20 year low
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/murder-rate-hits-20year-low-1748627.html

2009/10: 619 – “lowest for 12 years” (Huh?)
http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/jan/20/murder-rate-lowest-12-years

Stats for 2010/11 do not seem to be out at the moment.

Analysing claims that “the murder rate has doubled since the end of the death penalty”
http://fullfact.org/blog/murder_rate_doubled_death_penalty_abolished-2924

Short version: the stats aren’t available for like-to-like comparison, maybe it’s risen but one can’t really be sure given how murder used to be recorded. Also you can clearly spot Harold Shipman in the 2002 figures, as explained:

Whereas before 1998 multiple murders were considered as a single incident, afterwards each death was considered seperately. In 2002, the figures included the 173 murders committed by Harold Shipman, whereas if these had been committed in 1964, they would have only counted as one incident for the purposes of the Home Office statistics.

How many times would one hang Shipman to make up for that?

Would it make everyone feel better?

Sorry Guido, no dice.

Why you might like to read Foreign Affairs magazine this month…

tl;dr – read this link, all of it.

I used to read The Economist – until I economised. I’d subscribed on the personal recommendation of ESR who said it was some of the best writing I’d find in a news journal; and then later – as a consultant – I kept it up because as a news source it was more compact and a faster read than an entire month’s worth of The FT and I had to stay abreast of what my customers[1] were up to.

Then I stopped being a consultant, and then the texture of the writing changed for me to the point that sometimes I knew more than the authors did. So I canned it.

Then I changed jobs and bought a Kindle, and there was a gap in my reading, so on a whim I subscribed to Foreign Affairs.

Foreign Affairs is not a contact magazine for the globetrotting security consultant – it’s essentially the house rag of the geopolitics community – who invaded whom, who whom should invade … it’s like X-Factor meets Bella for diplomats and Kissinger-wannabees; people whose table talk was once about Mackinder’s Heartland Theory – the summary of which is known to every Princess Bride fan – and now argue whether technology makes it irrelevant (answer: not really).

If you’re an aging geek with a burgeoning interest in politics you might want to read some of the links above, especially to find out what happened when Haushofer and Hitler got ahold of Mackinder’s ideas and then how the US Government chose to spin the whole thing.

Anyway – so yesterday I fired up the Kindle and the February 1st 2012 issue of FA downloaded, and I’ve been reading it ever since; because it’s their 90th birthday this year they have culled a selection not of the best or most famous but perhaps the most interesting articles from its history.

In fact – better than buy it you can go read the relevant section online; top to bottom it’s not chronological but it makes most sense; you get contemporary reviews of Lenin, Stalin, Mussolini, how fascism ‘worked’… this one paragraph from 1931 which was all that the author felt Hitler’s National Socialists were worth in terms of coverage:

The National Socialist Party offers the advantage that one may indulge in cheap socialism, or rather in a socialism of envy, without having at the same time to forego class-consciousness or a sense of superiority over the proletariat. Both the membership and the political aims of the party show extraordinary variations. Some of its members condemn the present Republic on account of its ruthlessness in breaking loose from the old traditions of the German people. Others blame it for being lukewarm about the necessity for a new social order. That is why nobody knows exactly what their “third empire” would be like. They call themselves socialists, and probably really mean to be. But they use the word “Marxists” as a term of opprobrium and reserve it for their adversaries. Their “socialism” is hatred of capitalism; their “Marxism” is hatred of social democracy. Whether this party will ever make up its mind to take the leap and try an assault upon the Republic is extremely doubtful. And after all, it comprises at present not more than one-fifth of the population. Moreover, it is animated by a club or fraternity spirit more than by the sort of will which resorts to revolutionary measures. But no matter whether its deeds remain undone or whether it succeeds in temporarily usurping power or a slice of power, the main danger in the long run will be that it has no goal to attain. It therefore is bound to lead the hosts of its disappointed adherents not to a victory of reason but to some sort of embittered union of forces with left-wing radicalism.

…and then the context builds and builds, and you see the surprisingly early seeds of the European Union, the causes of World War 2, the rise of Communism, the Cold War… it reads like a drama, almost like a police procedural where you know what happens next but you want to shout at the eventual victims not to be so stupid.

Laski’s key article – from 1932 – could almost have been written last year except that it speaks in the black and white of Capitalism and Communism and not in terms the free-market liberty for almost anyone to work their socks off and become adequately middle-class – but the OWS folk would happily quote it even now.

That’s kinda what gives me hope; that particular article is 80 years old, so much of it sounds the same, but so much of the rest is different.

Even if you disagree with huge chunks of it, it’s fascinating reading.


[1] You know – investment bankers. Such fish as they. The folk that everyone has a hate-on towards, nowadays. Really, they’re painted with an overbroad and rather inaccurate brush…
[2] It’s so hard to type article instead of posting nowadays. Tempus fudgit.