Heavy Lifting - thoughts and web finds by an economist
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Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Cost of carjacking increases, less carjacking?

So says the economic theory pioneered by Nobel winner Gary Becker in 1968. Becker posited that criminals were rational economic agents in their illegal activity, weighing the benefits of crime against the expected costs of crime. His theory worried many non-economists at first, but his theory has been empirically proven to hold in various areas of "criminal" activity.

Specifically, if the odds of being caught and convicted, and/or the punishment imposed when caught and convicted, increases, economic theory would predict that less crime should occur.

This idea has expanded to the justification of private carry permits for handguns in the United States, to the shock and dismay of many anti-gun activists. A private individual with a firearm can not only defend herself if attacked, but the credible threat that the concealed gun exists may be enough to dissuade an attack in the first place.

Enter the country of South Africa, where it is now possible to outfit your car with a FLAME THROWER (at least according to this CNN story) to ward off carjackers. Evidently carjacking is a big problem in South Africa and the flame thrower is anticipated to reduce the prevelance of the crime - ostensibly by raising the costs of attempting the crime in the first place.

In many ways this story sounds like a hoax, but the video makes it look like it is at least working, and how, in the prototype stage. I sincerely hope that the button labeled "FLAME THROWER" is not near the window switch or the trunk release.

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