A tale of two capitalisms

New research from Northumbria University claims that homicide rates are closely linked to the form of political economy that runs a nation.

Senior Lecturers, Dr Steve Hall and Dr Craig McLean, state in the latest Theoretical Criminology that homicide rates are significantly higher in nations with neo-liberal policies and where free market forces are dominant, such as the USA, but are significantly lower in nations governed by social-democratic policies which still characterize most Western European nations.

Yes, it's science data mapped to a socialist agenda topology - except even in the USA the government controls 50% of the wealth so it can hardly be considered a capitalist free-for-all.

Historically, says Hall, homicide rates are at their lowest when social-democratic policies govern nations. He says the US homicide rate was halved in the decades following the Depression, when the social democratic policies of the New Deal replaced free-market policies - ignoring the fact that millions of young people were also at war.

The nation experienced an initial rise in the mid-60s, when the nation’s second generation social democratic project, The Great Society, came into being which created a welfare component of society and then gave way sharp increases during the ‘crime explosion’ of the mid-80s and early 90s which followed Reagan’s abrupt introduction of more free-market economic policies with a more liberal approach to criminals and rehabilitation.

Rates were eventually brought down in the late 90s. Some credit imprisoning large numbers of violent offenders while others say liberal abortion policies led to fewer single mothers, who were implicated as more likely to raise criminal children.

In Britain, hall says the homicide rate has almost tripled since its historical low point in 1956, despite strict gun control for law-abiding people. These figures are even worse in areas blighted by job losses in the 1980s which have stayed in permanent recession. Hall claims that some of these areas have become breeding grounds for alternative forms of criminal ‘employment’– prostitution, loan-sharking, drug-dealing and distributing stolen goods.

Those results do not show up on either the Police nor British Crime Survey statistics, Hall concedes, but chooses to include such 'soft' statistics as part of the conclusions.

In some of the former industrial areas and inner cities - the authors blame Margaret Thatcher along with Reagan, of course - homicide rates are six times higher than the national average. They contrast this with Western European cities where the homicide rate is much closer to their national averages.

In the current recession, they say property crime is already on the increase and the authors predict there will be a rise in career criminality, particularly as the UK has the highest number of young people not in work, education or training in Europe.

Hall lays most of the responsibility for higher crime rates at the door of 'neo-liberals' who claim competitive individualism and greed can be stimulated and harnessed to create wealth, in contrast to full-on Marxism or socialism. That might be true, he argues, but it also corrodes our ability to empathize with others.

Hall said, "Britain and the US have the worst violent crime rates of the industrialised west – far worse than Western continental Europe – because we have the most competitive, individualist culture and the least developed sense of solidarity and common fate. In addition, consumer culture instils in so many individuals from an early age that their identities are incomplete without the status symbols carried by consumer goods, which of course makes crimes an attractive option for those who simply cannot afford to buy these goods."

His statistics are skewed by his politics. England, Wales and Scotland are 1,2 and 3 in violent crime among all western nations and gun control opponents argue it is because law-abiding people are no longer allowed to protect themselves from criminals, not a result of Margaret Thatcher's economics.

Hall and McLean have conducted their research as part of a long-term study of the criminal community in the North East of England.