Culture Wars/Current Controversies

Does prison reduce crime? Yes, obviously

But the first question is how is “crime” going to be defined in the first place?

By Ed West

I’m giving my first important TedTalk to a crowd of international executives and global ‘thinkfluencers’. I’m promoting a new airport psychology book, which is filled with curious and quirky counter-intuitive stories about human behaviour — all the good stuff you can repeat over dinner and drinks to sound intelligent and plugged in.

Beginning with a historical anecdote to prove my point, I recall how in 2006 the Italian government released one-third of all its prisoners en masse – and a curious thing happened to its crime rate…

I take a pause, press for a new slide. The audience is curious. I wonder what happened, they ask themselves? Counter-intuitively, maybe crime went down. Perhaps there was no change because offending rates are all down to age cohort or employment and maybe they fixed it with this one neat trick.

Well, I say, what happened is that crime massively went up. Of course it did. Obviously letting loads of criminals out of jail is going to lead to loads more crime, something anyone could tell you. Well, almost anyone.

In my first ever Substack post I wrote about how clever counter-intuitive thinking characterised the early Covid debate about masks; although mask-wearing was widespread in east Asia, actually we were told, they are counter-intuitively not helpful in preventing infection. This was bandied about by experts — even by the United States surgeon general — despite being obviously untrue. A complete idiot could have told you that.


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