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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Kitchen Knives And Cargo Cults

Whenever I see another mention of the recommendations by various British groups to ban kitchen knives in order to control the growth of violence, I think of cargo cults.

The connection is that cargo cults usually involve some sort of sympathetic behavior. The adherents want the goods, so they build airstrips and fake air control towers, as an example. It's a confusion between cause and effect.

The kitchen knife ban theory is based on the reality that a lot of recent murders have been committed with them. Of course, since the banning of other types of knives, these are the most available:
A team from West Middlesex University Hospital said violent crime is on the increase - and kitchen knives are used in as many as half of all stabbings.
...
The use of knives is particularly worrying amongst adolescents, say the researchers, reporting that 24% of 16-year-olds have been shown to carry weapons, primarily knives.

The study found links between easy access to domestic knives and violent assault are long established.
First the murderous guns were banned, then murderous hunting knives and so forth. Next up, bans on murderous cricket bats and sharpened sticks? It's pretty easy to make a knife.

Cargo cults have lasted a surprisingly long time, so there's no knowing when the Brits will wake up and figure this one out.

A close relative to cargo cults and criminal kitchen knives seem to be those confused realtors still wailing for a return to loose lending standards. The realtors claim that since all was well when those standards were in effect, the way to stop foreclosures, boost home values and generate sales is to return to no-doc, 100 percent mortgage loans.

Comments:
Next up, bans on murderous cricket bats and sharpened sticks?

Lawn Darts

While the tip may not be sharp enough to be obviously dangerous, when misused, these darts can cause skull punctures and other serious injuries.
 
It is interesting to note that DORA (Defense of the Realm Act)marked the end of an armed British populace and corresponded with the end of the Empire.TPTB were made very uneasy by the calls for change that came about after the first World War and responded with the "Official Secrets Act" and DORA.The results have been so bad that that efforts to make these policies more stringent have been unceasing.See "US War on Drugs" for further examples of this tendency.
 
Next up, bans on murderous cricket bats and sharpened sticks?

I had my sunscreen taken away at the airport. Dangerous stuff, that.
 
"Next up, bans on murderous cricket bats and sharpened sticks? It's pretty easy to make a knife."

There is talk of licensing workshops and machine tools.
 
Joy,

I was at a Game Developer's Conference in California about a decade ago. One company (Microsoft if memory serves) handed out plastic ping pong ball guns at the event.

A coworker had one in his carry on bag for the return flight. The security person saw it. It was in its original packaging and since it was a clear plastic gun you could see the inner workings.

She removed it from the packaging. She fired the ping pong ball at the nearby wall. She told him he'd have to check it anyway.

We were very thankful her suspicions were not confirmed. Had she been right, we'd all be dead in the explosion and/or a deadly viral agent would have been released on impact. Fortunately, the ball merely bounced off the wall though.
 
Hmmmm Brits have stupid laws, but few murders.

US has enlightened laws and lots of murders.

Tell me one more time about that cause and effect thingee.
 
"Hmmmm Brits have stupid laws, but few murders.

US has enlightened laws and lots of murders.

Tell me one more time about that cause and effect thingee."

****

OK, how about these:

1. Most UK crime rates are far higher than the US. Overall crime victimization, included. Wonder if it's because US criminals are concerned about the likelihood of running into a gun-owning citizen?

2. Despite (or maybe because of) recent liberalization in right-to-carry laws in the US, the US murder rate has been falling while the UK gun murder rate has been climbing. I haven't looked to see where the crossover of the trends might seem to be, but your argument may have a shelf life.
 
Vader - we should all pause to recognize that demographics do have an influence on crime rates that's separate from policy. Statistics show that the ratio of young males to the rest of the population has a lot to do with crime.

However, your basic contention is deeply contradicted by the facts as explained by BBC last year:
The EU crime and safety survey names the UK as a "high crime country" and says the risk of becoming a victim of the 10 most common crimes is, with the exception of Ireland, the highest across the European Union.

London also emerges as the "crime capital of Europe" with the likelihood of becoming a victim - mostly of a range of petty crimes - said to be higher than all other EU capitals and even higher than cities such as Istanbul and New York.

 
Anon - the US War on Drugs does seem to be a cultish phenomenon. Support is unrelated to results.
 
Whoops, the article I linked to above is from the Guardian, not the BBC.

Here is a very recent article about the police launching a "chilling" drive to control youth crime in London:
A bulky police CCTV van trundled into its monitoring position on the pavement while pairs of officers wearing fluorescent jackets patrolled the high street, spread out at 200-yard intervals. "We're here to chill the area," a police sergeant said.

The target of the Metropolitan police's deterrence operation was not late night revellers or football hooligans, but schoolchildren returning home by tube or bus through the north London suburb of Wood Green.


It's worth noting that Boris Johnson's recent mayoral victory may have had a lot to do with crime:
Officers will also exploit controversial powers contained in section 60 of the Public Order Act that allow searches to be conducted without the usual requirement that there are reasonable grounds of suspicion that an individual is carrying a weapon. It was originally designed to cope with football hooliganism.
...
Last year, up to 50 youths from two rival gangs – wearing Bob the Builder or Thomas the Tank Engine caps and badges to denote their loyalties - clashed in the high street. Many were in school uniform. Four were taken to hospital with stab wounds.

Five weeks ago, fighting erupted in a Boots store in the shopping centre after youths, reportedly wielding baseball bats, cornered two youngsters. A chase along the high street ended with an axe embedded in a police car's windscreen.


Axe bans coming up!!!
 
A chase along the high street ended with an axe embedded in a police car's windscreen.

Axe bans coming up!!!

******

Or windscreen bans. After all:

1. the windscreen was asking for it, being in a known area of youth crime

2. the windscreen was a part of the power structure victimizing the innocent youths

3. the windscreen was a "root cause" and the axe was just a symptom of the violence the root cause perpetrated.

Yes! Officer Krupke, you're really a slob.
This boy don't need a doctor, just a good honest job.
Society's played him a terrible trick,
And sociologic'ly he's sick!
 
The general principle here seems to be assigning moral agency to *things* rather than to people.

An interesting and pathological example could be seen right after 9/11 when the idea of arming airline crews was first mooted. Many people had the instinctive reaction "gun=bad" and were unable to grasp that a gun in the hands of a flight crew member, under circumstances of an attempted hijacking, could be a very good thing indeed. See my post from 2002: Arming Airline Pilots--The Deeper Issues.
 
David - I agreed with you then and I think the same thing may be happening now.

Joy - I laugh at the airline security measures too. Especially the shoes - I can hardly prevent myself from bursting into laughter as I think of Maxwell Smart-type gags. But really, it is necessary, and it is also a false analogy to pose in answer to the British suggestion.

There is a huge difference from high security at high-risk points (think of searching people entering stadiums) versus banning normal tools of living because you fear them being converted to general violence among the general populace.

An appropriate analogy would be if the US banned liquid soaps and detergents in plastic containers because some gangs had begun using these to construct bombs. Before we reach that point, I suspect a lot more money would be expended in policing those gangs, and sooner or later, the Brits are going to have to crack down on their youth crime problem by sanctioning criminals in meaningful ways.
 
Cargo cults have lasted a surprisingly long time, so there's no knowing when the Brits will wake up and figure this one out. -- MoM

When they're bowing to Mecca five times a day in the Islamic Republic of Anglostan. With scimitars at their throats to ensure devotion.

The general principle here seems to be assigning moral agency to *things* rather than to people. -- David

Because if the gun/knife/*thing* is responsible, I'M NOT! NEVER BE RESPONSIBLE FOR ANYTHING! IT'S A SIX-YEAR-OLD'S DREAM! PLAY! PLAY! PLAY! PLAY! PLAY! PLAY! PLAY! PLAY! PLAY!

I laugh at the airline security measures too. Especially the shoes - I can hardly prevent myself from bursting into laughter as I think of Maxwell Smart-type gags. -- MoM

Imagine if instead of a "shoe bomber", he'd been a "suppository bomber" with a six-inch stick of SEMTEX up his ass...

An appropriate analogy would be if the US banned liquid soaps and detergents in plastic containers because some gangs had begun using these to construct bombs. -- MoM

After the Oklahoma City bombing, some Congresscritters were screaming to ban Ammonium Nitrate, i.e. THE number-one chemical fertilizer used in American agriculture.
 
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