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I have a home in both Texas and Rio de Janeiro, and I do admit the threat of random violence is greater in Rio than in Texas. But I much prefer life in Rio because I feel that the total threat to my life, liberty and happiness is much greater in Texas. The reasons are many. One is that Texas runs a police state, compared with Rio. Here there are cops all around, sniffing for drugs, sex in the wrong position without a license, underage drinking, lack of insurance, broken tail-lights and so on, something that I have never experienced in the State of Rio.

Simply said, I feel much freer in Brazil than I do in the USSA. In Rio, I can enjoy sex, gambling, booze and drugs 24/7 without having to deal with the f’ing Moral Fascist Majority. In Rio, I can pay $3 to see an uncut Amerikan movie that adults in Amerika aren’t allowed to see, and I can freely carry in a can of beer or a bottle of wine. Rio is comparatively civilized!

Here in Texas, you can drive for half a day with no chance to enjoy a beer or glass of wine in a restaurant. The cops continually hassle hookers and (only recently) their johns. The state runs gambling but hassles anyone who bets in non-government-approved venues. In faux-Bavarian Helen, GA, they have the nerve to celebrate a weekly “Oktoberfest” where it is impossible to have a beer on a Sunday!

Amerikans, probably need to get out a hell of a lot more. And they need to gain fluency in a foreign language. I don’t know Posner and Becker, but the Amerikans I do know who voice those crime complaints are those who never traveled in their youth and, more importantly, never managed to gain fluency in a foreign language. I am reluctant to complain, as I appreciate the fact that absence of language skills combined with the rampant fear of the unknown is what keeps South America virtually free of Amerikans and thus a wonderland of travel for sophisticates like me, the many Germans and the ubiquitous Dutch.


your bolg is so excellent,i like it very much^^


Where does Mexico get the cash to pay for the higher salaries?


I think that most of Becker's assumptions can't stand the evidence of Chile.
Chile is a Latin American country. Abortion is and has been ilegal for years (since +-1986 all types and procedures of abortions are forbiden and penalized). Inequality is very high. Considering these facts you should expect extreme rates of criminality... but even though Chile is not as safe as first world countries, it is one of the safest (if not the safest) of all Latin American countries... without abortions, with high inequality.
Even though police officers are paid very little (one of the worst paid legal jobs available), just trying to pay a brive can send you to jail (police officers are known for their honesty). So, Mr. Becker... What happened in Chile?


"Statistics reported by the police indicate that robberies and other felonies"

And how many of those felonies are for non-violent lifestyle crimes(marijuana), crimes of sharing information(filesharing) or hacking?

Jim Leitzel

The comment by jimbino does point to what would seem like a sensible step towards reducing corruption and increasing the risks imposed upon predatory criminals: legalize and regulate the currently illegal drugs (and perhaps other vices).


It's too long for me to read the entire text. Sorry. Anyway, one thing I'd like to say is that the case of Mexoco city can not be generalized for other developing countries. Furthermore, the downtown streets in U.S appear not to be that safe even compared with some major cities of developing countries. I have been in U.S for 6 years living and traveling most of major cities of U.S. and currently live in Seoul, Korea. In some sense, the crime thing does not depend on the economic thing but the cultural thing.


I agree some of your solutions but on the point that need to raise police officers payment-actually suggested by Ruldolph Juliani-is not practical and invisible . First, like someone ready mentioned how will get money to pay them. Second, the underlying of epidemic of crim in Maxico is not the corruption of police. Even though you stated that it's one of the reason. Still, to solve out the problem that Maxico faces now, have to chage the form of the economy. Maxico and other Latin-American countries depend on incomes which come from people work in other countries. Too much depending on them made people in Maxico lose thier goal and desire to work. Promoting them to work not getting money from their working father in other country or by robbing others. Once again current issue in Maxico can be solved on the level of economy not by punishing them harsh or not.

John Konop

Economists Are Destroying America

Economists, politicians, and executives from both parties have promised American families that “free” trade policies like NAFTA, CAFTA, and WTO/CHINA would accomplish three things:

• Increase wages
• Create trade surpluses (for the US)
• Reduce illegal immigration

Well, their trade policies have been in effect for about 15 years. Let’s review the results:

• Declining real wages for 80% of working Americans (while healthcare, education, and childcare costs skyrocket)
• A record-high 46 million Americans who don’t have health insurance (due in part to declining wages and benefits)
• Illegal immigration out of control
• Soaring trade deficits, much with countries that use slave and child labor
• Personal and national debt both out-of-control
• Global environments threatened by lax trade deal enforcement

Economists Keep Advocating Policies That Aren’t Working

Upon seeing incontrovertible evidence of these negative trade agreement results, economists continue with Pollyannish blather. Some say, “Cheer up! GDP is up and the stock market’s doing fine.” Others say, “Be patient. Stay the course. Free trade will raise all ships.”

Even those economists who acknowledge problems with trade agreements offer us only half-measures—adjusting exchange rates, improving safety nets, and providing better job retraining. None of these will close the wage gap in America—and economists know it.

Why Aren’t American Economists Shouting From Street Corners?

America needs trade deals that support American families and businesses in terms of wage, environmental, and intellectual property abuses. Why aren’t economists demanding renegotiation of our trade deals? There are three primary reasons:

• Economists are too beholden to corporations and special interests that provide them with research grants.
• Economists believe—but refuse to admit—that sacrificing the American middle class is necessary and appropriate to generate gains in third world economies.
• Economists refuse to admit they make mistakes.

Economic Ambulance Chasers

Now more than ever, Americans need their economists to speak truth and stand up to their big business clients. Instead, economists sound like lawyers caught chasing ambulances: they claim they’re “doing it for our benefit”.

Joel Pinheiro

I'm a resident of S√£o Paulo, Brazil's largest city. Not as violent as Rio but with high crime rates nonetheless.

It seems to me that Mr. Becker has presented somewhat simplistic propositions on how to reduce this serious problem. I have in mind especially the Police Review Boards.

The police is corrupt, no-one doubts that. In fact, corruption is spread throughout all sectors of government. To suppose that the members of the Police Review Boards would be more honest than the average politician is a questionable premiss. As with every other review board, they will most likely develop corrupt schemes of their own, so that policemen are allowed to carry on with their bad service and board members get something in return.
The more boards and commissions we have the messier politics get. In each and every one of them many guilty people are caught (few are penalized in any way, however), and yet public corruption and inefficiency seems to remain constant.

Seeing as public workers cannot be fired, it is also doubtful whether higher salaries will, on the long run, improve the quality of police service. Why make the effort to be a good policeman if the paycheck will come anyway? A terrible way of thinking, but sadly it seems many guide themselves by it.

And any raise in salary means an increase in public spending (only in dreams would the Brazilian government actually diminish its spending in some area so as to focus on another priority); increases in public spending means that, ultimately, more money will be taken by means of coercion from the people to finance government activity.

And isn't one of the goals of the fight against crime exactly to diminish the extent to which people have their property rights violated? What matters if it's a robber, local drug lord or the State, to the individual who is "relieved" of his hard-earned income?
Would an increase in police spending reduce crime to such a level that the extra spending is fully compensated? It is hard to know.

Well, just some thoughts from a Brazilian economics student who is rather sceptical of the government's ability to actually help society through its ever-increasing interference.

I believe that only radical reforms towards a freer market (also in defense of life and property, though I wouldn't propose the end of public police) will allow people to experience the true consequences and costs of their actions, and thus, by slowly giving incentives to personal responsibility, help create a more moral and honest society.

And this on a purely political level. I believe there are many other factors involved in determining crime rates (religion, personal morality, societal conventions and norms of behaviour) which cannot be properly controlled by anyone, even though they play a fundamental role.


Having lived in the last 6 years for meaningful periods of time in Lima, Peru; Hyde Park, Chicago; Mexico City, Sao Paulo, Brazil, and Bonn, Germany maybe I can add something. Notice that I was born in Latin America, Spanish is my mother-tongue, and I definitely don’t look “gringo” (American).

Except for very few countries (Uruguay, Costa Rica, Chile), most of Latin American countries are either dangerous or very dangerous. Even for someone born in Latin America, the fear is the same whether you're in Caracas, Bogotá, Mexico, Lima, or Sao Paulo. The advice is the same everywhere: don't run any "unnecessary" risks (such as walking on the streets with your lap-top’s case, or sport a nice wrist watch), and don't trust the police.

During my two years at the business school in Chicago, I learned that INCENTIVES play a big role in almost every human activity. I can only think that there lies the answer for why the obvious solution is so hard to implement in this region. Corruption is deeply rooted, not only in the police but also in the government. Being this the situation, who's going to carry the reforms? who's going to implement them? Crime is without a doubt a lucrative activity for those involved in it, so the incentives are aligned rather against solving the problem.

As Becker points out, fighting crime is good politics, so in theory it should have a great political payback (= it must be a powerful incentive for politicians). However, the fact that nothing is done should be taken as evidence that the payback of being involved in crime and not fighting it is greater.

I agree that police in places like USA and Germany aren't corrupt because it doesn't make economic sense for them. The puzzle of why the Mexican police are not well paid even though the government has the resources is not as simple as it looks. LAT countries would need to raise salaries across the board to all public servants (teachers, judges, etc) to avoid political conflict. I guess the bill would be too high, and it’d subsequently create economic chaos.

Countries –like Chile- that succeeded (for LAT standards) at solving this problem have managed to create sustainable economic development and making sure an ever greater percentage of its population has attractive opportunities to be employed. Another example that apparently supports this point –as surprising as it might seem, is Colombia. Apparently it’s rapidly becoming a safer country (it’s now definitively safer than 10 and 5 years ago), and it has already ceded its position as “capital of kidnapping in Latin America” to Mexico City (I understand that Sao Paulo is now the second). It seems that this dramatic change has been driven by strong political determination, and an improved economic situation. In other words, realignment of incentives.


My brother and his wife had a similar experience at one of the resort towns.Yhe guide told his wife,"Senora,it is the United States inside thye perimetr.Outsside ,it is Mexico.
Sci Fi writer Larry Nivcen carries the gated community to its ultimate in "Todos Santos"
An ex gf,to whom I'm still cclose lives in San Mateo,and she feels they're trending that way.

Frode Hallingbye

I love Your blog! It's so greate to see real seniors use the new technologies that are available. By the way - The content is of course splendid ;)

I will for sure use You guys as an example in my lectures for seniors here in Norway.

Thank You!

Steve Sailer

I just wanted to point out that Dr. Steven Levitt's abortion-cut-crime theory, which Dr. Becker cites in passing, while hugely popular among those who haven't studied the question in depth, has not stood up well to detailed analysis.

For details, see http://www.isteve.com/Freakonomics_Fiasco.htm


Steve Sailer
We get it. You've posted that link on every blog there is. We all get it. We know. Stop it.


Haris, does that mean you agree with Steve Sailer? He makes a lot of sense and I think it's great that he keeps on the case of these people that make a living spouting unsupported, but flashy ideas. If you don't agree with Sailer, why not?

Nancy Jane Moore

I know that crime is up in Mexico, but I wonder if the situation was actually as bad as your hosts suggested. I live in Washington, D.C., and I have noticed that many people -- particularly upper middle class people -- have exaggerated ideas about the real risk of getting mugged. I expect you see this in Chicago as well. Of course, tourists and other visitors are at a bigger risk, since they don't know the neighborhood. And in all large cities, you need to pay attention.
Given the police problems you mention, it may be difficult to get a good read on the actual crime rate in Mexico City. But I wouldn't be surprised to find that the fear factor among the wealthier people has led to overstatement of the problem.


I don't disagree with Sailer on this particular thing. I'm just tired of seeing him bring up the same issue over and over on every blog I read. Anyway, remember that absence of evidence is not the same as evidence of absence. So all we learn is that we don't know whether or not abortion had a significant impact on crime in later decades. We certainly don't know that didn't.

samy Yoshima

Some questions:
Is a drug legalization policy a necessary part of the measures to reduce crime rates in developing countries facing many social and economic inequalities? If so, at least in the short-term, is it fair to assume that crimes rates might increase from some shift in the criminal workforce in the drug business to other illegal activities?
What would be an appropriate mechanism to reduce police corruption? Does any cultural factor demand more powerful monetary incentives? Why not offer monetary incentives for public school teachers if their students do not go to jail or like? Should imprisioned/convicted men work to pay for their crimes?


In 1969, there was Boys Town in Nuevo Laredo and also celebration of Washington's birthday with bullfights. You could travel on the train to Mexico city and watch the folklorico. You could be told that you would be protected to make mescaline. More recently we had an editor of Texas Monthly nearly murdered; he made the mistake of taking a 3rd class taxi in Mex. city. We have pretty young women abducted off the streets in a Mexican Border town, used as sex objects and murdered, warring drug gangs humiliating the police. It seems Mexico was approachable at its previous level of dissonance, even attractive, but ever less so. Is it the profit from serving the U.S. drug trade that has bent the culture of the country to this point?


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