Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Do you 'respect' your neighbours?

The UK government is discussing its new 'Respect' program. It builds upon the foundations of anti-social control orders, which can be used now by UK police to move people on, stop them hanging around in shopping centre car parks, or spitting on the footpath. This latest extension includes the ability to evict people who excessively disturb their neighbours.

The underlying policy goal as I see it is to alter the culture which allows anti-social behaviour to flourish. I am all for this type of policy, however am unsure whether the law is the appropriate instrument for achieving it. These kinds of laws are generally fairly blunt, open to discretionary application and probably do not substantially alter the behaviour. The flip side is further antagonisation of a group of people who are already antagonised.

So, if we start from the position that this kind of behaviour should be reduced as much as possible, is the law the best means of achieving the goal? Are on the spot fines for pushing a trolley around a car park the best way to stop the behaviour? Should people caught spitting be forced to clean up city streets? Or should people be educated better on why anti-social behaviour is unacceptable? Should more options be available for youth: more classes, sporting facilities, other activities to keep them occupied? Or are they the kind of people for whom these incentives would not be attractive?

I wanted to float a few ideas departing from the standard assumption that to change behaviour, harsher laws do the trick.


Blogger Dash Brannigan said...

Your right about targeting the root causes of anti-social behaviour ideally as better way to go. However have you thought of the costs? For one new skate park you can bust a whole heap of kids from tagging for the same price. More votes in that too.

However, if we really want to address the causes of anti-social behaviour lets extrapolate from Steven Levitt’s work and encourage abortion for low income earners.. All though that’s about as popular as cursed frozen yogurt… which I call frogurt!

9:10 pm  

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