perjantaina, lokakuuta 07, 2011

Yhteiskunnan heterogeenisuus ja rikollisuus

Karl Pearson, eugeenikko ja tilastotieteen isä, totesi sata vuotta sitten että kansojen ja valtioiden välisissä konflikteissa se valtio, jossa on laaja köyhälistö, häviää sille valtiolle jonka väestö on tasa-arvoisempi. Yhteiskunnan korkean heterogeenisuuden ja suurten tuloerojen on viime aikaisissa tutkimuksissaskin väitetty alentavan ihmisten välistä luottamusta ja yleistä hyvinvointia. Julkishyödykkeiden tuotto onnistuu heikommin, kun yhteiskunta on heterogeeninen. (Ostrom, Putnam)

Ryhmävalinnan näkökulmasta näen heterogeenisuuden heikentävän yhteisön kelpoisuutta mutta myös yhteisön jäsenten yksilötason kelpoisuutta.

Luin liberaalista amerikkalaisesta Slate-verkkolehdestä brittiläisen tiedetoimittajan John Whitfieldin arvostelua Cornell-yliopiston professorin Robert H. Frankin kirjasta The Darwin Economy: Liberty, Competition, and the Common Good. Kirja lähestyy taloutta ilmeisesti pitkälti ryhmävalinnan näkökulmasta. Arvostelussa oli mielenkiintoinen linkkaus sveitsiläiseen tutkimukseen väestön heterogeenisuuden ja rikollisuuden suhteesta.

How much is enough [for a consumer] depends on what others have got. Most people, for example, would rather live in a 4,000-square-foot house that was bigger than their neighbor's than a 6,000-square-foot house that was the smallest on the street. Economists call these positional goods, and contrast them with things that aren't so relative, such as safety at work, where most people think it's better to be safe in absolute terms than the safest worker in a hazardous factory.

Positional goods lead to waste, says Frank, because people end up living in bigger houses than they need to, throwing lavish parties, and spending money on pool cleaners. This pressures other people to do the same, and so takes money from the better uses that might be predicted by Smith's rational model.


Frank's economics are implicitly group-selectionist. He wants to maximize the good of society as a whole by reforming the tax system so as to deter what he sees as antler-like arms races. To reduce positional spending, for example, he wants to replace income taxes with consumption taxes, calculated on the difference between what people make and what they save. This is not bad economics: Government is an exercise in trying to make group selection work, doing the best for everyone within the borders while competing with other nations. The best way to do this, though, is not just to work out what's best for everyone, but to align the public interest with individual self-interest. The more divided a society is, the harder this is to achieve.

A recent comparison of the 26 cantons of Switzerland, for example, found that those with the highest proportion of foreigners among their population had the highest relative crime rates. Cultural polarization and economic inequality likewise split people into competing groups with differing interests. I'm looking at you, America, but the same goes for just about any country governed by globalization and neoliberalism, including my riotous homeland of the United Kingdom

Sveitsiläinen tutkimus on pitkälti linjassa kansankokonaisuuden sanoman kanssa: In social groups where relatedness among interacting individuals is low, cooperation can often only be maintained through mechanisms that repress competition among group members. Repression-of-competition mechanisms, such as policing and punishment, seem to be of particular importance in human societies, where cooperative interactions often occur among unrelated individuals. In line with this view, economic games have shown that the ability to punish defectors enforces cooperation among humans. Here, I examine a real-world example of a repression-of-competition system, the police institutions common to modern human societies. Specifically, I test evolutionary policing theory by comparing data on policing effort, per capita crime rate, and similarity (used as a proxy for genetic relatedness) among citizens across the 26 cantons of Switzerland. This comparison revealed full support for all three predictions of evolutionary policing theory.

First, when controlling for policing efforts, crime rate correlated negatively with the similarity among citizens. This is in line with the prediction that high similarity results in higher levels of cooperative self-restraint (i.e. lower crime rates) because it aligns the interests of individuals.

Second, policing effort correlated negatively with the similarity among citizens, supporting the prediction that more policing is required to enforce cooperation in low-similarity societies, where individuals' interests diverge most.

Third, increased policing efforts were associated with reductions in crime rates, indicating that policing indeed enforces cooperation. These analyses strongly indicate that humans respond to cues of their social environment and adjust cheating and policing behaviour as predicted by evolutionary policing theory.

Ei kommentteja: