The End of Auto Theft

Technology is changing life so rapidly, that it’s hard to keep up with all the changes. In particular, I was not aware that technology had all but eliminated auto theft as the major societal problem that it had long been. Josh Barro, the son of the prominent Harvard economist Robert Barro, reports on this development in a piece from 2014.

Auto theft isn’t much of a problem anymore in New York City. In 1990, the city had 147,000 reported auto thefts, one for every 50 residents; last year, there were just 7,400, or one per 1,100. That’s a 96 percent drop in the rate of car theft.

That’s an amazing change. Those of us of a certain age can remember when auto theft was a big deal. Growing up in Massachusetts, the huge parking lot of a nearby shopping mall was notorious for car thefts. Everybody knew somebody who had a car stolen out of that lot. In 1971, my dad had his 1965 Chevy Impala stolen right out of his driveway. Auto theft was such a problem, that police departments across the country created special ‘task forces’ devoted solely to auto theft. But now, it seems that auto theft has all but disappeared. How did it happen?

The most important factor is a technological advance: engine immobilizer systems, adopted by manufacturers in the late 1990s and early 2000s. These make it essentially impossible to start a car without the ignition key, which contains a microchip uniquely programmed by the dealer to match the car.

Due to the inability to start the car without the keys, remaining car thefts are now increasingly confined to carjackings, stolen keys, or not returning rental cars.

I had a look at the FBI crime stats, and the national figures do not match the incredible 96 percent decline reported for New York City. The national decline, however, is still impressive. The rate of auto theft seems to have fallen nationally by about two-thirds from its peak in 1991. In particular, the theft rate started to fall rapidly about a decade ago, presumably due to the increasing prevalence of the ‘engine immobilizer’ technology. In just three years from 2006-2009, auto theft fell by one-third. Technology in some ways makes life better, in other ways, worse. Reducing auto theft is definitely one way that technology has made life better.

Anyway, if thieves really can’t start my car, I’m wondering if there’s any point to even locking it. So long as there are no valuables or a fancy stereo inside, is there any point to locking a car?

Government Failing to Protect Citizens: Canada Edition

Last month I noted that governments, in Europe at least, are failing in their primary responsibility, which is to insure the safety of citizens. That evidence was just anecdotal, but anecdotal evidence is still evidence.

Now here’s some additional anecdotal evidence, this time from Canada. Remember the gruesome Canadian bus beheading from 2008? I do.

According to witnesses, McLean was sleeping with his headphones on when the man sitting next to him suddenly produced a large knife and began stabbing McLean in the neck and chest. The bus driver pulled to the side of the road so that he and all the other passengers could exit the vehicle. The attacker then decapitated McLean and displayed his severed head to other passengers standing outside. The driver and two other men had attempted to rescue McLean but were chased away by Li, who slashed at them from behind the locked bus doors. Li then went back to McLean’s body and began severing other parts and consuming some of his victim’s flesh.

Will it surprise you to find out that the Canadian government has allowed the psychopathic killer to walk free? No, really. Free as a bird.

Psychiatrists said Li was suffering from schizophrenic delusions and, in a March 2009 verdict that shocked Canadians, Judge John Scurfield ruled that Li was “not criminally responsible” for McLean’s death.

Last year, he was permitted to move into independent living, but he had to abide by certain rules, which included taking medications and attending counselling appointments.

Sure hope he doesn’t ever forget to take those medications.

According to a 1999 ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada, a review board must order an absolute discharge if a person doesn’t pose a significant threat to public safety.
The review board said it heard testimony from mental health professionals before concluding that the “weight of evidence” showed Baker [Li] is not a risk to the public. . . .

Well, now that this killer is free, he’s going to need someplace to live, and I’m sure a lot of narrow minded people are going to discriminate against him and try to exclude him from their neighborhood. So here’s an idea, maybe the judge and the psychiatrists who determined that he is no threat could put him up in their homes. In fact, the more I think about it, they should be required to do so.

Memo to self: Don’t take a bus trip in Canada.

Europe Failing to Protect Citizens

Notwithstanding what some might believe, the primary function of government is not to pay for your medical care. No, government’s Job One is the so-called Protective Function–defending the lives, liberties, and property of citizens from what John Locke called the “invasions of others.” Reading the news this morning offered some evidence, albeit anecdotal, that government is not performing the Protective Function as well as it should, at least in Europe.

Consider the following two stories, which nearly caused me to spit out my coffee this morning. The first comes from the British press.

Most of the outrage in the Daily Mail article is focused on asking how this guy could have been allowed to enter Britain from the Netherlands. But more remarkable to me is the fact that this guy apparently sawed off a woman’s head and then was released from prison after only six years. How can a guy who commits such a crime ever be allowed back into society?

I know there is a Rousseau-like strain of libertarian thought that believes everybody is basically good, and so punishments meted out by government are the problem and not the solution. But if government were to retreat from it’s protective function, society would have no choice but to mete out vigilante justice. That vigilante world would not exactly conform to the libertarian’s idealistic standards of justice and non-violence.

I’m not saying we should go back to the draconian punishments of Georgian England, in which a theft of more than 12 pence could bring the death penalty. But six years for beheading is absurd.

Now here’s the second coffee-spitting story from this morning: Suspended sentence for firebombing a synagogue.

A German regional court in the city of Wuppertal affirmed a lower court decision last Friday stating that a violent attempt to burn the city’s synagogue by three men in 2014 was a justified expression of criticism of Israel’s policies.

Johannes Pinnel, a spokesman for the regional court in Wuppertal, outlined the court’s decision in a statement.
Three German Palestinians sought to torch the Wuppertal synagogue with Molotov cocktails in July, 2014. The local Wuppertal court panel said in its 2015 decision that the three men wanted to draw “attention to the Gaza conflict” with Israel. The court deemed the attack not to be motivated by antisemitism…

The court sentenced the three men – the 31-year-old Mohamad E., the 26 year-old Ismail A. and the 20-year-old Mohammad A.—to suspended sentences. The men tossed self-made Molotov cocktails at the synagogue. German courts frequently decline to release the last names of criminals to protect privacy.

So the German government seems more concerned with protecting the privacy of convicted firebombers than with protecting the lives and property of innocent citizens.

Particularly perverse is the court’s conclusion that a political motive is somehow exculpatory. If anything the political motive makes the crime more insidious than if it were merely a random act of drunkenness. Political violence is something that civil society cannot tolerate and still remain civil.

In Europe, what does one have to do nowadays to receive a stiff prison sentence, post something ‘hateful’ on Facebook?

This will not end well.

Thomas Sowell Remembers

Sad news, as Thomas Sowell, at the age of 86, is retiring from his syndicated column.

Thomas Sowell

Sowell is an economist and one of the most astute social observers of his generation. In his farewell column, Sowell reflects on the changes he has seen during his long life in America.

In material things, there has been almost unbelievable progress. Most Americans did not have refrigerators back in 1930, when I was born. Television was little more than an experiment, and such things as air-conditioning or air travel were only for the very rich.

My own family did not have electricity or hot running water, in my early childhood, which was not unusual for blacks in the South in those days.

My dad was born the year after Sowell, and growing up in a northeastern city, he also did not have hot running water.

It is hard to convey to today’s generation the fear that the paralyzing disease of polio inspired, until vaccines put an abrupt end to its long reign of terror in the 1950s.

Most people living in officially defined poverty in the 21st century have things like cable television, microwave ovens and air-conditioning. Most Americans did not have such things, as late as the 1980s. People whom the intelligentsia continue to call the “have-nots” today have things that the “haves” did not have, just a generation ago.

The word ‘poverty’ has indeed been redefined ever upward. Several years ago, the mom of one of my students was outraged when I said that, in America, we don’t really have poverty anymore. She later sent me an article from Newsweek magazine claiming that poverty in America still existed, but I didn’t find the argument very convincing. The fact is that it has long been the case that the ‘poor’ no longer lack the basic necessities of life.

But while the material life of the people has made tremendous progress, in other ways, life has gotten worse.

With all the advances of blacks over the years, nothing so brought home to me the social degeneration in black ghettoes like a visit to a Harlem high school some years ago.

When I looked out the window at the park across the street, I mentioned that, as a child, I used to walk my dog in that park. Looks of horror came over the students’ faces, at the thought of a kid going into the hell hole which that park had become in their time.

When I have mentioned sleeping out on a fire escape in Harlem during hot summer nights, before most people could afford air-conditioning, young people have looked at me like I was a man from Mars. But blacks and whites alike had been sleeping out on fire escapes in New York since the 19th century. They did not have to contend with gunshots flying around during the night.

The crime rate in 1940 was indeed much lower than today. And at that time, the incarceration rate was barely one-fourth has high as today. To get the incarceration rate down to the 1940 level would require releasing something like 70 percent of today’s prisoners. We could start with the non-violent offenders, of course, but releasing that many criminals would no doubt require releasing many dangerous predators. I frankly shudder to think how high today’s crime rate would reach if we returned to the incarceration rates of the past.

So the long-term trend is material progress, but social regress. Exit question: Are the two phenomena related? Does material progress tend to erode social mores and restraints?

Krugman is Always Wrong, An Endless Series

Paul Krugman, Nobel prizewinner, and Hero of the Republic, July 23, 2016.


The Guardian, September 26, 2016.


Murders in the US rose 10.8% last year, the biggest single-year percentage jump since 1971, according to data released Monday by the FBI.

The rising violence was driven by an increase in the murders of black men, and by an increase in the number of gun murders. At least 900 more black men were killed in 2015 than in 2014, according to FBI data.

There were roughly 1,500 additional firearm murders in 2015.

“chart ends in 2013, but no significant change since”

Krugman on Crime: Nothing to See Here!

Paul Krugman is a Nobel prizewinner and pet economist to America’s ruling Establishment. Here’s what Krugman tweeted two days ago.


Does one have to be a Nobel prizewinner to believe that looking at just one category of crime in just one city can accurately summarize the level of crime for the whole of America?

Even if we stick with just homicide, here’s what we find when we expand the analysis from just NYC to America’s 50 largest cities. From the Washington Post’s Wonkblog:


The number of homicides in the country’s 50 largest cities rose nearly 17 percent last year, the greatest increase in lethal violence in a quarter century.

A Wonkblog analysis of preliminary crime data found that about 770 more people were killed in major cities last year than the year before, the worst annual change since 1990.

Those data refer to the increase in homicides between 2014 and 2015. Today, just two days after Krugman’s tweet, data were released suggesting that the trend of increasing homicides has continued into 2016.

Today, the Major Cities Police Chiefs Association released data for the first half of 2016. It confirms this trend: homicide rates are rising. If this increase in homicide rates holds, this year will see the largest jump in murders since 1960 with the exception of last year — which saw the largest increase in decades.

Krugman should not be surprised that Americans are concerned about crime. What people care about, understandably, is the crime rate in their particular neighborhood or city–not the nation as a whole. And the fact is that in many places, violent crime in recent years has soared. The trend in crime looks a lot different to someone living in Baltimore or Cleveland than in New York City. Furthermore, violent crime in recent years has exploded in many small cities, like Williamsport, PA, where violent crime had never previously been much of a problem.


The primary reason crime is much lower now than back in the 1980s is that so many criminals are behind bars. The incarceration rate, in fact, is now about three times as high as in 1980.


The vast majority of these prisoners are NOT non-violent drug users or white collar criminals. In fact, the vast majority are hardened, dangerous criminals. For the incarceration rate to fall back to historical levels would mean releasing many thousands of violent criminals onto the streets. In that case, the crime rate might easily surge back to the elevated levels of the 1980s.

There is right now a significant movement in Congress, backed by the president, to decrease incarceration. Freeing dangerous criminals is an issue that ordinary people, if not the elites like Paul Krugman, should be very concerned about.

In any event, one would expect that a column by-lined by a Nobel laureate in economics would offer less partisan hackery and more in the way of objective analysis, but here we are.

The Minimum Wage Increases Crime

The minimum wage has a lot of real effects apart from its stated purpose of alleviating poverty. The list of real effects includes decreasing opportunities for young people, decreasing worker benefits, increasing automation and increasing unemployment. The minimum wage also facilitates racial discrimination in labor markets and increases the price of stuff low-income people purchase, like fast food. A new academic study now adds to that lengthy list one more real effect.

jhrtfhdfg The minimum wage is amazing–what can’t it do?

Oh yeah, alleviate poverty.

Obama Okays Rapists at College

The political left keeps telling us that rape is endemic on college campuses, even though FBI statistics indicate that rape incidence is actually lower on campuses than in the rest of America. But that fact hasn’t stopped the left from pursuing various policies, including suppressing fraternities and setting up kangaroo courts, to deal with the alleged problem of ‘rape culture.’

Fen’s Law, however, states that the left does not really believe any of the things they lecture the rest of us about. And so, consistent with Fen’s Law, the Obama Administration is now telling colleges they have to accept convicted criminals, presumably including convicted rapists. The Administration has even introduced a new Orwellian euphemism for students with criminal records: “justice-involved students.” As if they’re majoring in criminal justice or something.

The Obama administration has ordered the nation’s colleges and universities to stop asking applicants about criminal and school disciplinary history because it discriminates against minorities… Colleges and universities are to take it a step further by offering students with criminal histories special support services. This is to include targeted academic and career guidance as well as counseling, legal aid services, mentoring and coaching. “Institutions should recruit and train peer mentors with previous justice involvement to work with justice-involved students to ensure a smooth transition to postsecondary education and provide support and resources throughout their time at the college or university,” the new directive states. “These peer mentors could begin their work by acting as navigators who help acclimate justice-involved students to the educational institutions.” Perhaps colleges and universities should also start sending recruiters to jails across the country.

Now, if the left really cared about campus rape, why would they act to make it easier for rapists and other criminals to gain admission to college? Also, if they really care about getting tough with campus rapists, why do they adjudicate rape cases in campus tribunals rather than, you know, calling the police, and letting the justice system handle it? Rape tribunals, incidentally, would never fly in the corporate world. If corporate America starting adjudicating rape cases with internal committees, the left would howl with rage. So why is the same policy OK in academia?

One day, some coed will be raped or murdered by some ‘justice-involved’ student, and hardly anybody will remember that Obama and his minions made it possible.

Fen’s Law turns out to be remarkably accurate. And the reason for its accuracy is that leftists, regardless of what they claim, always act solely in the interest of enhancing their own status and power.

A Crime a Day

As we’ve noted before on this site, no single list exists of all the thousands of federal criminal statutes, and nobody even knows exactly how many there are. This outrageous situation is actually a form of tyranny, because the average citizen can never feel secure that he’s kept himself on the right side of the law. How many Americans, for instance, can feel confident that they’re in full compliance with each and every provision of the IRS code? Indeed, according to the title of a book about federal law, the average American unwittingly commits Three Felonies a Day. There’s always some law, therefore, that the state can use to go after its political enemies. As the ancient Romans used to say, the more laws, the less justice.

On the bright side, the multiplicity of absurd federal statutes has at least given rise to an entertaining Twitter feed called A Crime a Day. Here are a few recent highlights.

crime1This indeed refers to the atoll where occurred the famous 1942 Battle of Midway, a turning point in the Pacific War. But as far as we know, the atoll is uninhabited, and in fact nothing more than a wildlife refuge. Moreover, the location is extremely remote, in the middle of the Pacific. Who could possibly ever be selling sex there?

crime2Given that some 35 percent of Americans now live in households receiving some form of welfare, this statute surely is being widely ignored.

crime3Even a sketch of only the building’s exterior?

crime4Does this statute have implications for the First Amendment? Would it be unlawful to name a boat after DC’s football team? What is the legal test for determining a slur?

Get the FBI on the case…

bar_babycrime5The constitutionality of this one seems dubious. How can the U.S. government punish someone for a law that was not enacted under the U.S. Constitution?

crime7We suspect the government might have its reasons for this one, but wouldn’t a departmental policy directive suffice, rather than an actual criminal statute?

crime8 Grubs? Gross.

crime9Gotta admit we never saw that one coming.

crime11/sound of siren wailing

/Hamster dealer gets pulled over by cop.

Police officer: Did you know that hamster’s cage was tilted? Do you have a good reason for doing that?

crime10No, wait, are the drug companies really complying with this one by continually writing “referred to as gas” in their product ads?

Lo and behold…

maaloxThis Twitter feed is putting out some great stuff. And there’s no need to worry that they’ll run out of material anytime soon.

crime6800 years! That’s even a longer run than Soul Train.

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Breaking: Los Angeles Has NO CRIME

There simply can’t be any criminals left in Los Angeles, because the LAPD has resources to stage elaborate sting operations against legitimate businesses that have near 100% customer satisfaction.

Three drivers with Uber are speaking out after they were arrested by the Los Angeles Police Department in an undercover sting operation.

“A lady vigorously waved me down,” Freeman said.

Chadwick interjected, “I almost thought she maybe needed help or something.”

“She said, ‘Uber?!’ according to Lomeli. “I said, ‘Yeah, Uber.’”

Lomeli said, “Then the girl opened my back door. She said, ‘Come on, I really need to go to this place. I really need to go, please.’”

Freeman said, “She said, ‘I have a friend across the street, let me wave her over.’”

“My door was open and, next thing I know, the cops are behind with the sirens on,” Chadwick said.

Police arrested all three drivers and impounded their vehicles.

A Los Angeles Department of Transportation spokesperson confirms the agency participates in these types of operations, along with the LAPD. He says Uber drivers, and many others — such as limo drivers for example — are subject to arrest if a ride isn’t pre-arranged.

“It’s not safe and it’s bad for business,” according to CBS2 legal analyst Steve Meister, who says even Uber drivers are considered bandit cabs if they stop for a passenger off the books. “There’s no accountability for the passenger. There’s no accountability for the driver. And so there has to be regulation in this business.”

We can’t really improve on what Wallythedog had to say about this story.

UberLaThe issue really is a double outrage, because besides the harassment of Uber, the diversion of police resources does mean that some crimes may well have occurred that could have been prevented. Police are diverted from real policing, but the spokesperson for the state has the audacity to mention safety.

Professors and other left-liberals are always telling us that once they’re in charge of government they’ll stamp out ‘privilege’ and bring about ‘social justice.’

But in Los Angeles and in California liberals have total control, and here is government using its police powers to arrest hard-working citizens in order to protect the privileges of entrenched economic interests.

Stories like this one should serve as a lesson. No matter what liberals say, government is not about justice and equality; it’s all about injustice and privilege.

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