Cost of Murder
October 11, 2010 11:53 AM   Subscribe

A team of researchers at Iowa State University has found that a murder costs more than $17.25 Million to society. [via]
posted by AceRock (64 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
What a bargain.
posted by 2N2222 at 11:58 AM on October 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Is this viral marketing? Are we going to find out that there's a sale on pancuronium bromide?
posted by Sys Rq at 11:59 AM on October 11, 2010


Hey, society! I'll abstain from killing anyone for half that! Once-in-a-lifetime deal!
posted by griphus at 11:59 AM on October 11, 2010 [11 favorites]


For only $7 million, I will not murder anybody. That's a savings of over $10 million!
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:00 PM on October 11, 2010


::makes note to murder griphus::
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:00 PM on October 11, 2010 [24 favorites]


$7 million? You guys are so expensive! Look at these profiteers suckling at the taxpayer teat! I can guarantee a no-murder lifetime for the low low price of only $5,000,000. Call me!
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:01 PM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hmmm, I haven't killed anyone in over fifty years, what's that worth?
posted by tommasz at 12:04 PM on October 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


"I think that the left and the right are both right and wrong on crime... conservatives are absolutely correct in noting how bad some offenders are... And here's where liberals generally aren't as strong in admitting how bad these offenders are. They really are [bad], and when you can bring out costs that show this, you can really see it."

Sure, if I had known how much the victim's lost productivity was going to cost society, I wouldn't have said that the person who murdered them was probably just having a bad day.

Christ, what an asshole.
posted by Joe Beese at 12:04 PM on October 11, 2010 [5 favorites]


On the flip side, how much money does a suicide save society?
posted by hincandenza at 12:05 PM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


I will now draft the Road Rage Economic Stimulus and Traffic Congestion Reduction Act of 2010 and submit it to my congressman.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 12:07 PM on October 11, 2010


I think it's finally time to ban murder, once and for all.
posted by philip-random at 12:08 PM on October 11, 2010 [15 favorites]


Surely, free market capitalism will find the optimal solution for a lack of health care to treat severe mental issues, easily acquired guns, and multiple murder crimes.

After all, why should you pay for other people's issues?
posted by yeloson at 12:08 PM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


About time somebody talked about the bad side of murder.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:09 PM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hmm...y'all are joking but it does raise a point. We use a 'stick' approach pretty much exclusively: commit a crime, get punished. But what about a carrot: don't commit crimes, get a reward. For example, we could pay people a basic income, contingent on not committing crimes. As an alternative to prison for first-time offenders (especially non-violent ones), we could reduce or eliminate their basic income for a period of time.

This would function much like a fine, but the problem with a regular fine is that a lot of criminals are too poor to pay them. This would give everyone 'something to lose' other than their freedom, alongside all the other benefits of a basic income guarantee.
posted by jedicus at 12:11 PM on October 11, 2010 [24 favorites]


I can guarantee a no-murder lifetime

Hey, don't be so hasty.
posted by adamdschneider at 12:12 PM on October 11, 2010


When studies report lost productivity that's where I get lost. I would guess that's where the bulk of the numbers come from, but at what point does this info become useless? When using money to justify morality? Like there's a monetary threshold at which liberals have to admit offenders are "bad?" And do lost productivity calcs include the potential loss of future children and grandchildren? It seems senseless from the start, lost productivity.
posted by l2p at 12:13 PM on October 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


But what about a carrot: don't commit crimes, get a reward.

You already do get a reward for not committing any crimes: you get to live in a society that has freedom and security (which are both government-funded).
posted by John Cohen at 12:13 PM on October 11, 2010 [5 favorites]


See Clarence, I TOLD you I'm worth more dead than alive...
posted by hermitosis at 12:15 PM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


And, of course, many people do get payments from government: there's welfare, unemployment, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, etc. I assume you have to stay out of prison to get these.
posted by John Cohen at 12:17 PM on October 11, 2010


I am right now imagining an actuary table which would be necessary to determine how likely you would be to kill someone over the rest of your life, and therefore, the portion of the payout you would be due currently.

What would suck, is when that payment suddenly and rapidly decreased it'd be an immediate sign that you were mow a greater risk to the public at large...
posted by Nanukthedog at 12:18 PM on October 11, 2010


The cost would go way down if we didn't prosecute murders.
posted by smackfu at 12:20 PM on October 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


wow, Flint must really be in debt.
50 murders (to date)...$825,000,000 million

(round up to $17.5 mil to compensate the unreported murders)

and for a few million we could have half of our police force back....hmm
posted by clavdivs at 12:22 PM on October 11, 2010


we could pay people a basic income, contingent on not committing crimes.

Ah, Danegeld!

One of Blackstone's first observations is that we try to view virtue as its own reward and therefore do not pay people for doing the right thing. Sends the wrong message. Might encourage marauding Danes.

The cost would go way down if we didn't prosecute murders.

Frequently we don't.
posted by IndigoJones at 12:22 PM on October 11, 2010


You already do get a reward for not committing any crimes: you get to live in a society that has freedom and security (which are both government-funded).

As I pointed out, the primary punishment for crime is removing that reward. A basic income offers another layer, and perhaps one that people won't be as quick to take for granted.

And, of course, many people do get payments from government: there's welfare, unemployment, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, etc. I assume you have to stay out of prison to get these.

Some of those fulfill different functions than a basic income, and all of them operate differently.
posted by jedicus at 12:23 PM on October 11, 2010


I've worked for prison reform lobbyists so it's not news to me effective reform has been played well enough with examples like the Missouri Model but:

In Mississippi, about twice as many African-American men are in prison as in four-year colleges and universities.

But what this statistic has to do with the rest of this blog entry is beyond me. The vast majority of those in prison are for non-lethal drug related incidents, not killing. (by an order of at least 10 to 1 (pdf)) weak case for an important cause.
posted by victors at 12:27 PM on October 11, 2010


Ah, Danegeld!

One of Blackstone's first observations is that we try to view virtue as its own reward and therefore do not pay people for doing the right thing. Sends the wrong message. Might encourage marauding Danes.


A basic income is not Danegeld. The Danegeld was a protection racket. A criminal is not going to be able to say to society "pay me more money or I'll kill again." Repeat offenders will just be jailed, not offered more money in the hope that it will finally be enough.

Further, Blackstone did not have the benefit of centuries of development in economics, psychology, and sociology. We know now, for example, that a lot of crimes are committed because the criminals heavily discount the future, so a small short-term benefit (the proceeds of the crime) compares favorably to a large long-term cost (prison). A basic income would greatly change the calculus in favor of not committing a crime.

A basic income has lots of other benefits apart from that: it helps alleviate income inequality and it functions as a social safety net. Because of its design, it avoids the 'benefits trap' that other programs like welfare and unemployment create.
posted by jedicus at 12:33 PM on October 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


$7 million? You guys are so expensive! Look at these profiteers suckling at the taxpayer teat! I can guarantee a no-murder lifetime for the low low price of only $5,000,000. Call me!

Sit, I'll do it for fity bucks, a case of beer and a bucket of wings.
posted by jonmc at 12:34 PM on October 11, 2010


and the condoms, TWO cases
posted by clavdivs at 12:38 PM on October 11, 2010


You guys are KILLING me!


Here's the bill.
posted by Ron Thanagar at 12:39 PM on October 11, 2010


The thing is Jedicus, if you work out the cost of the average murder and divide it by the murder rate, you don't quite get $750 per year. I'm kind of thinking that, on average, murderers aren't exactly the thrifty plan-ahead types who are likely to stay out of trouble for $15 a week.

Besides, I'm pretty certain the notion that you could win an election by promising to dismantle all these worthless crime prevention programs that are just throwing the taxpayer's money away and then win another election eight years later by promising to be hard on crime has already been thought of.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 12:39 PM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


don't commit crimes, get a reward.

You mean like being able to vote, work at any job for which you are qualified, own weapons, live and move freely without having to register your presence, and receive financial aid for education?
posted by AkzidenzGrotesk at 12:52 PM on October 11, 2010


its so crazy to see that killing people is more expensive than keeping them alive...hmmm have they ever thought of that?
posted by tatiana7 at 12:55 PM on October 11, 2010


philip-random:I think it's finally time to ban murder, once and for all.


I guess you haven't heard of HR 187? Let your congressman know your stance on murder today!
posted by dr_dank at 12:58 PM on October 11, 2010


I once sat on an amtrak train from New York to Boston next to a Jehovah's Witness. I did not murder that person.

That's gotta be worth a couple mil....
posted by lumpenprole at 1:04 PM on October 11, 2010


They really are [bad], and when you can bring out costs that show this, you can really see it."

There is something really gross about deciding that what will *really* make people see how awful murder is by showing them how much money is lost.
posted by rtha at 1:08 PM on October 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


See, this is why we need to privatize murder and take it out of the hands of the federal government.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:10 PM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh sure. Nothing makes me more competitive than to give a hobby a score.

Damn it, now I wonder who's winning; me or the creepy guy down the road with the clown costume and the ice-cream van.
posted by quin at 1:18 PM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


"I think that the left and the right are both right and wrong on crime... conservatives are absolutely correct in noting how bad some offenders are... And here's where liberals generally aren't as strong in admitting how bad these offenders are. They really are [bad], and when you can bring out costs that show this, you can really see it."

Sure, if I had known how much the victim's lost productivity was going to cost society, I wouldn't have said that the person who murdered them was probably just having a bad day.

Christ, what an asshole.



I'd bet money he's just trying to make sure he doesn't get hammered on Fox News. Liberals do not believe these criminals aren't bad, we just think that it makes more sense to handle this matter on the supply side, that's all.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:29 PM on October 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


The $17.25 million doesn't vanish into thin air; it's spent somewhere, and you know what economics books say about the liquidity of the money supply. In fact, you're probably inviting the Onion to pen an article proclaiming it to be the key to economic recovery.
posted by crapmatic at 1:31 PM on October 11, 2010


These are the murders you get caught for, right?
posted by cjorgensen at 1:44 PM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


"The thing is Jedicus, if you work out the cost of the average murder and divide it by the murder rate, you don't quite get $750 per year. I'm kind of thinking that, on average, murderers aren't exactly the thrifty plan-ahead types who are likely to stay out of trouble for $15 a week."

A basic income would be a lot more than $750/year, but you make a good point that the program would not be self-funding even if it eliminated all murders, which of course it wouldn't.
posted by jedicus at 1:57 PM on October 11, 2010


In a world where de facto unemployment is above 15% (ie, the unemployment rate plus those who have given up looking for work), lost productivity is a stupid, stupid thing to measure. The productivity lost by the victim will be replaced by whomever gets the victim's job.
posted by taliaferro at 2:02 PM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Did the study take out social security / medicare payouts to the victim?

I'd bet money he's just trying to make sure he doesn't get hammered on Fox News. Liberals do not believe these criminals aren't bad, we just think that it makes more sense to handle this matter on the supply side, that's all.

The sad thing is that people expressing moderate political views in this country have to use so much weasel language to avoid offending the extremists on either side that they need a truly sympathetic journalist to make them look good.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:08 PM on October 11, 2010


in terms of the victim costs, criminal justice system costs, lost productivity estimates for both the victim and the criminal, and estimates on the public's resulting willingness to pay to prevent future violence

Can we get this itemized, please? That last one has "fudge factor" written all over it...

For the offender who murdered nine victims [at $17,252,656 per], the total murder-specific costs were $155,457,083!

Yes, clearly if you murder nine people, you cost society nine times your own lost productivity. Your trial and jail time are also nine times as expensive. Slightly more than nine times, in fact. Maybe the guy wounded the researchers' calculator during his crime spree?
posted by ook at 2:15 PM on October 11, 2010


they calculated the costs of five crimes -- murder, rape, armed robbery, aggravated assault and burglary -- in terms of the victim costs, criminal justice system costs, lost productivity estimates for both the victim and the criminal

Clearly, the bulk of that 17 million comes from the lost productivity estimates. Let's be super conservative and reach a nice, round number of 5 million in lost productivity per life. With a victim and a murderer, that gives us a ten million dollar expense for each murder because of the productivity estimates.

So each person is worth 5 million dollars? I have an idea. Why not allow about 100,000 illegals across the border? At a value of 5,000,000 dollars per person, it would be a quick sure-fire method to pump 5,000,000,000,000 dollars into our economy!*

* Unless the idea of calculating lost productivity estimates is complete and utter bullshit.
posted by flarbuse at 2:23 PM on October 11, 2010


10 Gs and a pack of smokes. Snitches and child rapos for free.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:24 PM on October 11, 2010


Oh, wait, wait, I completely misunderstood the premise of the FPP. Kidding, just kidding! Forget about it, cool? Cool.

except the part about the snitches, you don't want to forget that bit, oh no sir
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:26 PM on October 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


In fact, in strictly economic terms, isn't "the public's resulting willingness to pay to prevent future violence" a benefit to society? Providing employment to all those police and lawyers and prison guards and the manufacturers of alarm systems and tasers and etc?

Not that I'm working for the Murder For A Better America lobby or anything, I'm just really not understanding how these numbers they're throwing around are at all meaningful.
posted by ook at 2:28 PM on October 11, 2010


I haven't killed anybody since 1984.
posted by kirkaracha at 2:30 PM on October 11, 2010


On the flip side, how much money does a suicide save society?

I'll admit that was my first thought as well. Depressing.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:55 PM on October 11, 2010


Back of the envelope ... $3 trillion / over 100,000 civilian deaths = $30 million per! Maybe we should privatize the Iraq War after all.
posted by Skwirl at 3:21 PM on October 11, 2010


If I kill everyone on Earth I'll happily sign the cheque.

But who do I make it out to?
posted by CynicalKnight at 3:23 PM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Over what time period? OVER WHAT TIME PERIOD?!

Oh. Per murder? Really?
posted by limeonaire at 3:38 PM on October 11, 2010


Also, that guy's smile makes me feel murderous.
posted by limeonaire at 3:39 PM on October 11, 2010


The Parson Malthus School of Deficit Reduction.
posted by clavdivs at 3:45 PM on October 11, 2010


In fact, in strictly economic terms, isn't "the public's resulting willingness to pay to prevent future violence" a benefit to society? Providing employment to all those police and lawyers and prison guards and the manufacturers of alarm systems and tasers and etc?


I don't really want to get into the merit of the numbers themselves, or lack thereof, but I do want to address this notion:

Short answer? Not really.

Basically, the problem here is that the resources used to make the tasers would've been used for something else, the cops could've had other jobs. Criminal activity pushes resources toward those things instead of things we might all appreciate more. It's not stimulative, it's a reallocation thing.

Plus there's a dead person, whose labor output and other possible contributions to the world are simply lost. Net loss to society.
posted by mordax at 4:12 PM on October 11, 2010


I presume there's some sort of bulk discount deal going on in Afghanistan, right?
posted by pompomtom at 5:12 PM on October 11, 2010


These are the murders you get caught for, right?

Yes, that's one big flaw with these numbers right off the bat . . . they assume the murderer is caught and convicted and incarcerated. This is a very faulty assumption.

I wonder, too, how the lost value of the victim was calculated.

And did this study look at whether monetary penalties, including restitution and fines, were imposed on offenders, or paid?

Finally, were the costs of incarceration counted on a per head basis? Because that isn't how it works. Each new prison costs a bomb, but the cost per each additional prisoner is only marginal.

Maybe there's some sound methodology that I'm not seeing here, but as reported these study numbers look pretty worthless. Which leads me, too, to wonder why the gentleman is so smiley faced.
posted by bearwife at 5:18 PM on October 11, 2010


Basically, the problem here is that the resources used to make the tasers would've been used for something else, the cops could've had other jobs.

They're claiming to quantify the dollar cost of a murder, not calculate the relative social benefits of how those dollars might otherwise have been spent. (I mean, yes, philosophically I agree with you. Murder bad. Prison-industrial complex bad. Totally with youthere. But the glazier still gets paid. The money doesn't evaporate just because it could've been spent on better things.)

Plus there's a dead person, whose labor output and other possible contributions to the world are simply lost.

Agreed, but that is not the line item I was talking about. That's not the "public's resulting willingness to pay to prevent future violence". That's the "lost productivity estimate."
posted by ook at 5:22 PM on October 11, 2010


I've long thought that if I go all year without killing anybody, I should get like a thousand bucks for my birthday.

And so should you.

If.

You know, you don't kill anybody.

All year.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 7:06 PM on October 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


A basic income is not Danegeld....

Hey, you're the one who linked paying off would be criminals to achieve less crime. I stand by my (intentionally comedic) comparison.

Blackstone did not have the benefit of centuries of development in economics, psychology, and sociology. We know now, for example, that a lot of crimes are committed because the criminals heavily discount the future, so a small short-term benefit (the proceeds of the crime) compares favorably to a large long-term cost (prison). A basic income would greatly change the calculus in favor of not committing a crime.

Lucky Blackstone.

Ok, again I'm letting wisecrackery get the better of me. But I tend to get a little - nonplussed - by the modern assumptions that we are intellectually so much more advanced than our forebears. Can't prove it without hitting the stacks, but I don't think that Blackstone would would find the notion that criminals heavily discount the future as jaw droppingly novel.

Your point assumes that economics figures into the committing of most murders, never mind rapes. I have my doubts. And if they lose the basic income by committing a crime to supplement that basic income, well, we're back to square one.

I've seen proposed a negative income tax as a more efficient way of dealing with welfare. Arguably more efficient way of money distribution than welfare, but at what cost? And what's the incentive to get off the dole and get to work? Would the roles increase? Could be an expensive experiment.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:59 AM on October 12, 2010


You know what irks me the most about this?

It's almost kind of* like it's trying to convince people that Murder Is Bad, M'kay using loss of revenue as its central argument. I really sincerely hope I don't ever meet the sort of cash-obsessed sociopath who would only be convinced on that basis. (There's also the small matter of loss of human life...)

*Almost kind of, but not actually. Sometimes stats crunching is just stats crunching. I get that, really. But boy, am I irked!
posted by Sys Rq at 8:47 AM on October 12, 2010


In addition to the per murder cost ($17,252, 656), the researchers calculated that the most violent offenders singly produced costs greater than $150 million.

Either I can't afford to murder, or I can't afford not to.
posted by StickyCarpet at 1:22 PM on October 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


::makes note to murder griphus::
posted by Faint of Butt at 3:00 PM on October 11 [24 favorites +] [!]


:(
posted by griphus at 1:37 PM on October 12, 2010


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