mercoledì 27 luglio 2016

What Was Gary Becker Biggest Mistake

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What Was Gary Becker039s Biggest Mistake - Marginal REVOLUTION
Citation (APA): (2016). What Was Gary Becker039s Biggest Mistake - Marginal REVOLUTION [Kindle Android version]. Retrieved from

Parte introduttiva
Evidenzia (giallo) - Posizione 2
What Was Gary Becker's Biggest Mistake?
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The econometrician Henri
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at a dinner with Becker, I remarked that extreme punishment could lead to so much poverty and hatred that it could create blowback. Becker was having none of it. For every example that I raised of blowback, he responded with a demand for yet more punishment.
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he argues that an optimal punishment system would combine a low probability of being punished with a high level of punishment if caught:
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an increased probability of conviction obviously absorbs public and private resources in the form of more policemen, judges,
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We have now tried that experiment and it didn’t work. Beginning in the 1980s we dramatically increased the punishment for crime in the United States but we did so more by increasing sentence length than by increasing the probability of being punished. In theory, this should have reduced crime, reduced the costs of crime control and led to fewer people in prison. In practice, crime rose and then fell mostly for reasons other
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Why did the experiment fail? Longer sentences didn’t reduce crime as much as expected because criminals aren’t good at thinking about the future;
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they have difficulty regulating their emotions and controlling their impulses.
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Thus, rather than deterring (much) crime, longer sentences simply filled the prisons.
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As if that weren’t bad enough, by exposing more people to criminal peers and by making it increasingly difficult for felons to reintegrate into civil society, longer sentences increased recidivism.
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consider the “Becker approach” to parenting. Punishing children is costly so to reduce that cost, ignore a child’s bad behavior most of the time but when it’s most convenient give the kid a really good spanking or put them in time out for a very long time.
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Of course, this approach leads to disaster– indeed, it’s precisely this approach that leads to criminality in later life.
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So what is the recommended parenting approach?
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quick, clear, and consistent.
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Quick responses help not just because children have “high discount rates”
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but even more importantly because a quick response helps children to understand the relationship between behavior and consequence.
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Animals can learn via conditioning but people can do much better. If you punish the child who steals cookies you get less cookie stealing but what about donuts or cake? The child who understands the why of punishment can forecast consequences in novel circumstances. Thus, consequences can also be made clear with explanation and reasoning.
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Here’s a simple test for whether crime is in a person’s rational interest. In the economic theory if you give people more time to think carefully about their actions you will on average get no change in crime (sometimes careful thinking will cause people to do less crime but sometimes it will cause them to do more). In the criminal as poorly-socialized-child theory, in contrast, crime is often not in a person’s interest but instead is a spur of the moment mistake.
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20 percent of our residents are criminals, they just need to be locked up. But the other 80 percent, I always tell them– if I could give them back just ten minutes of their lives, most of them wouldn’t be here.
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Cognitive behavioral therapy teaches people how to act in those 10 minutes– CBT
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Randomized controlled trials and meta-studies demonstrate that CBT can dramatically reduce crime.
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I favor more police on the street to make punishment more quick, clear, and consistent. I would be much happier with more police on the street, however, if that policy was combined with an end to the “war on drugs”, shorter sentences, and an end to brutal post-prison policies that exclude millions of citizens from voting, housing, and jobs.
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Let’s give Becker and the rational choice theory its due. When Becker first wrote many criminologists were flat out denying that punishment deterred. As late as 1994, for example, the noted criminologist David Bayley could write: The police do not prevent crime. This is one of the best kept secrets of modern life. Experts know it, the police know it, but the public does not know it.
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It’s a far cry, however, from police deter to twenty years in prison deters twice as much as ten years in prison.
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The rational choice theory was pushed beyond its limits and in so doing not only was punishment pushed too far we also lost sight of alternative policies that could reduce crime without the social disruption and injustice caused by mass incarceration.
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