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Criminal Dilemmas: Understanding and Preventing Crime (Studies in Economic Theory) [Hardcover]

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Item description for Criminal Dilemmas: Understanding and Preventing Crime (Studies in Economic Theory) by Katri K. Sieberg...

Fighting crime breeds emotional responses which often lead to counter-productive government policy. To allow a rational analysis of these important concerns, this book employs the thinking of economics, political science, and game theory to develop new perspectives on crime and its causes. A basic assumption is that the criminal is a rational actor who makes decisions based on his or her personal expected gains and costs. By using this assumption, predictions about behaviour as well as emotional concerns such as prostitution and gun control are given a theoretical perspective. By understanding the strategic variables which cause, for example, gang wars and drug sales, we are better equipped to design effective public policy.In the new edition, a chapter on police corruption has been added. The Gangs chapter has been updated and focuses more on evaluating competing hypotheses about gang organization and activity.

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Item Specifications...


Pages   197
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 0.75" Width: 6" Height: 9"
Weight:   1.1 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Jul 21, 2005
Publisher   Springer
ISBN  3540240098  
ISBN13  9783540240099  


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2Books > Special Features > New & Used Textbooks > Business & Finance > Economics > History & Theory
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5Books > Subjects > Business & Investing > Economics > Theory
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7Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Crime & Criminals > Criminology
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9Books > Subjects > Professional & Technical > Law > Criminal Law > General



Reviews - What do customers think about Criminal Dilemmas: Understanding and Preventing Crime (Studies in Economic Theory)?

Towards a More Cooperative Society  Jan 10, 2002
I highly recommend this book and ask you to help me bring it to the attention of our law makers and legal authorities. This is an important book for our times, in my humble opinion, about the ironic reality that some of our laws create rational motives to commit crime in spite of any well meaning intention to the contrary. In essence, Sieberg contributes to the development of a field of social research which shows the way towards a more cooperative society, which is exactly what one Princeton University philosopher, Peter Singer, recently called for in his book, _A Darwinian Left: Politics, Evolution, and Cooperation_ (see pg. 47).

Sieberg is full of surprises. She ignores the emotional and moral aspects of a few select current issues, and goes straight to the rational self interested calculations of the hypothetical individual who is considering whether to be content to earn the going legal wage (perhaps slave wages), or to commit a potentially much more profitable crime. That list of current issues includes mandatory prison sentencing, the three strikes and you're out laws, the privatization of prisons, prostitution, drugs, gangs, and gun control. On the basis of this analysis she makes a few suggestions as to what may be better and more rational legal policy; for example, regarding prison sentencing and alternative means of punishing criminals, she concludes with the following:

"This analysis indicates that a hybrid policy of imprisoning violent criminals and imposing alternative sentences on nonviolent criminals would be superior in terms of fulfilling society's goals. The maintenance of the prisons for violent offenders would provide protection of the public, both by incapacitation of those who are violent and by deterring others from the use of violence. Alternative sentencing [such as community service and repaying the victim with the earnings] could yield an improvement over the current system in terms of retribution, rehabilitation, and deterrence - but only if done seriously and carefully. Importantly, this more positive form of sentencing [as opposed to imprisonment], involving some form of repayment, reduces the individual and social cost of crime."
--page 33.

This book appears to be an expansion of work the author began as a student of Donald Saari, who is currently perhaps the world's leading mathematician in the field of social choice theory. My personal interest in this book stems from reading Saari's latest book, _Decisions and Elections_ (Cambridge University Press, 2001), where he briefly describes the nature of some of Sieberg's results, and explains how those results are related to the unintended loss of crucial but available information or action, and how that screws up decision making processes and public policies.

Using the tools of theoretical economics and decision theory with some basic algebra and calculus, Sieberg helps us look at the decision making process of those who consider whether to commit this crime or that, or no crime at all. We see the world through the eyes of the rational criminal, or potential criminal, and are surprised to see how some laws actually create incentives for increased crime. Beginning with the famous "Prisoner's Dilemma," an important abstract model of decision making, Sieberg formalizes the rational strategic thinking of criminals and potential criminals, and shows how they may calculate the probable costs and benefits of their various legal and illegal options.

Consider the case of marijuana sales or prostitution, where Sieberg notes that both the buyer and seller are committing a crime. What happens if one of them is ripped off by the other? They don't have legal recourse, of course, given that they prefer to avoid imprisonment, public humiliation or a fine. Sieberg shows how this sort of situation arises throughout the underground economic world, and this creates a force which tends to create and grow criminal gangs, pimps, etc., to which they may turn for justice. It is widely recognized that the mafia in the US is largely a child of the underground economy which was created by the prohibition of alcohol. We were soon forced to recognize our mistake in that case, but we apparently haven't fully learned our lesson yet. According to Sieberg's analysis, the current prohibition of drugs and prostitution fosters a similar crime laden underground economy.

There is room for criticism, of course. The author takes issue after issue, and argues that a consequence of prohibiting that product or activity will likely be to foster a black market. This may be true, it seems to me, but aren't there cases where there is no better alternative to prohibiting it? How about the case of human slavery, or the sale of the flesh of chimpanzees and other nonhuman great apes in gourmet restaurants? What is the difference between slavery and alcohol, which makes one (apparently) immune to the black market argument, but not the other? Isn't there a similar argument that the prohibition of slavery or chimpanzee dinners creates a black market incentive? I suppose that the difference is that there are some extenuating circumstances that need to taken into account, whatever they may be, which clearly tip the scale in favor of the prohibition of slavery or chimpanzee steaks, but not alcohol. I suspect that the relevant differences lie in the "victimless crime nature of prostitution, drugs and alcohol, on the one hand, and in the overridingly strong interest of vulnerable individuals, on the other hand, against being legally categorized and treated as mere property. That is, I suppose the essential difference is in the relative strength of the interests of the victim and the offender, which relates back to Saari's book and his analysis of (1998 Nobel Laureate) Amartya Sen's important theorem that individual and societal rights are incompatible.

 
Towards a More Cooperative Society  Jan 8, 2002
I highly recommend this book and ask you to help me bring it to the attention of our law makers and legal authorities. This is an important book for our times, in my humble opinion. It is about the ironic reality that some of our laws create rational motives to commit crime, in spite of any well meaning intention to reduce crime. In essence, Sieberg contributes to the development of a field of social research which shows the way towards a more cooperative society, which is exactly what one Princeton University philosopher, Peter Singer, recently called for in his book, _A Darwinian Left: Politics, Evolution, and Cooperation_ (see pg. 47).

Sieberg is full of surprises. She ignores the emotional and moral aspects of a few select c urrent issues, and goes straight to the rational self interested calculations of the hypothetical individual who is considering whether to be content to earn the going legal wage (perhaps slave wages), or to commit a potentially much more profitable crime. That list of current issues includes mandatory prison sentencing, the three strikes and you're out laws, the privatization of prisons, prostitution, drugs, gangs, and gun control. On the basis of this analysis she makes a few suggestions as to what may be better and more rational legal policy; for example, regarding prison sentencing and alternative means of punishing criminals, she concludes with the following:

This analysis indicates that a hybrid policy of imprisoning violent criminals and imposing alternative sentences on nonviolent criminals would be superior in terms of fulfilling society's goals. The maintenance of the prisons for violent offenders would provide protection of the public, both by incapacitation of those who are violent and by deterring others from the use of violence. Alternative sentencing such as community service and repaying the victim with the earnings could yield an improvement over the current system in terms of retribution, rehabilitation, and deterrence - but only if done seriously and carefully. Importantly, this more positive form of sentencing [as opposed to imprisonment], involving some form of repayment, reduces the individual and social cost of crime.--page 33.

This book appears to be an expansion of work the author began as a student of Donald Saari, who is currently perhaps the world's leading mathematician in the field of social choice theory. My personal interest in this book stems from reading Saari's latest book, _Decisions and Elections_ (Cambridge University Press, 2001), where he briefly describes the nature of some of Sieberg's results, and explains how those results are related to the unintended loss of crucial but available information or action, and how that screws up decision making processes and public policies - the main theme of Saari's book.

Using the tools of theoretical economics and decision theory, Sieberg helps us look at the decision making process of those who consider whether to commit this crime or that, or no crime at all. We see the world through the eyes of the rational criminal, or potential criminal, and are surprised to see how some laws actually create incentives for increased crime. Beginning with the famous Prisoner's Dilemma, an important abstract model of decision making, Sieberg formalizes the rational strategic thinking of criminals and potential criminals, and shows how they may calculate the probable costs and benefits of their various legal and illegal options.

Consider the case of marijuana sales or prostitution, where both the buyer and seller are committing a crime. What happens if one of them is ripped off by the other? They don't have legal recourse, of course, given that they prefer to avoid imprisonment, public humiliation or a fine. This sort of situation arises throughout the underground economic world, and this creates a force which tends to create and grow criminal gangs, pimps, etc., to which they may turn for justice. It is widely recognized that the mafia in the US is largely a child of the underground economy which was created by the prohibition of alcohol. We were soon forced to recognize our mistake in that case, but we haven't fully learned our lesson yet. The current prohibition of drugs and prostitution fosters a similar crime laden underground economy, but those bad policies remain with us to this day.

There is room for criticism, of course. The author takes issue after issue, and argues that a consequence of prohibiting that product or activity will likely be to foster a black market. This may be true, it seems to me, but aren't there cases where there is no better alternative to prohibiting it? How about the case of human slavery, or the sale of the flesh of chimpanzees and other nonhuman great apes in gourmet restaurants? What is the difference between slavery and alcohol, which makes one (apparently) immune to the black market argument, but not the other? Isn't there a similar argument that the prohibition of slavery or chimpanzee dinners creates a black market incentive? I suppose that the difference is that there are some extenuating circumstances that need to taken into account, whatever they may be, which clearly tip the scale in favor of the prohibition of slavery or chimpanzee steaks, but not alcohol. I suspect that the relevant differences lie in the "victimless crime nature of prostitution, drugs and alcohol, on the one hand, and in the overridingly strong interest of vulnerable individuals, on the other hand, against being legally categorized and treated as mere property. That is, I suppose the essential difference is in the relative strength of the interests of the victim and the offender, which relates back to Saari's book and his analysis of Amartya Sen's Theorem regarding the conflict between individual and societal rights.

 

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