smoking gun barrel

Which city is the murder capital of the country? And more important, what to do about this scourge?
By Walter E. Block - February 02, 2023

There is some debate as to which US metropolis gets the gold medal in this regard.

According to one calculation (annual number of murders per 100,000 population) this is the lineup:

  1. St. Louis, MO (69.4)
  2. Baltimore, MD (51.1)
  3. New Orleans, LA (40.6)
  4. Detroit, MI (39.7)
  5. Cleveland, OH (33.7)
  6. Las Vegas, NV (31.4)
  7. Kansas City, MO (31.2)
  8. Memphis, TN (27.1)
  9. Newark, NJ (25.6)
  10. Chicago, IL (24)
  11. Cincinnati, OH (23.8)
  12. Philadelphia, PA (20.2)
  13. Milwaukee, WI (20.0)
  14. Tulsa, OK (18.6)
  15. Pittsburgh, PA (18.4)
  16. Indianapolis, IN (17.7)
  17. Louisville, KY (17.5)
  18. Oakland, CA (17.1)
  19. Washington D.C. (17.0)
  20. Atlanta, GA (16.7)

According to another study, New Orleans is now number 1. However you calculate it, there is no debate that the murder rate is high and rising.

More important than who is winning this particular sweepstakes is the question of what to do about it?

One easy solution is to stop voting for Democratic mayors, who rule in virtually all of the top cities in this regard.

Why? What are they doing wrong? They are defunding their police departments, supporting Attorneys General who have a “turn ‘em loose” philosophy, in other ways demoralizing the men in blue, and making it difficult to obtain guns for defensive purposes.

What else can be done? Here is a suggestion that will be guaranteed to be even more controversial: have public executions – at least for those found guilty of murder beyond a shadow of a doubt.

Those tend to focus the minds of would be vicious and depraved criminals who take the lives of innocent victims. The problem with present capital punishments is that so few people ever witness them, rarely potential future murderers.

What is the argument against such a policy? One is that statistics show no decrease in murder rates when comparing death penalty states with non-death penalty states. True enough. But one must tread carefully here. There are a significant number of states that have the death penalty on their books, but never, ever, execute anyone. When this fact is incorporated into the analysis, there is a statistically significant different between those that execute and those that do not.

But isn’t it cruel and inhumane to impose capital punishment on criminals, even murders? Yes, perhaps, maybe, that is an entirely different issue. However, we are now discussing reducing the murder rate, let us not be beguiled into changing the subject.

Another solution is to legalize all drugs; all of them, with no exceptions. Why? All too many bullets are being thrown around, impacting innocent people, even children, which emanate from drug gangs shooting at each other over turf. A similar phenomenon occurred during the prohibition of alcohol. Since that consumer product has been legalized, the number of people shot to death over disputes concerning booze turf has fallen to zero. Yes, zero. But are not some drugs very dangerous? Of course they are. But when legalized they do less harm than at present, not more. In any case, please let us stop changing the subject. Do we want to reduce the present horrendous murder rate, or do we not?

Then, too, the minimum wage law should be stricken from the books. Not just not raised. Not just left as is, or even lowered. Rather, eliminated entirely, and salt sown where once it stood. This legislation is not akin to a rising floor, which boosts all wages. Rather, it functions as a barrier over which a young unskilled person has to jump with his productivity level in order to be employed in the first place.

What do you think will be the employment possibilities for someone who can produce at the rate of $4 per hour, if the employer must pay $5, and thus lose a buck per hour on this hire? Zilch. So these young people are bored out of their skulls. How can they survive? They can pick up a gun and do you know what with it, all too often. We ought to have a recall for the phd degrees of Card and Krueger who have done more harm with their fallacious “study” supporting this pernicious legislation than perhaps any other publication of the same size.

Last but by no means least, we should end our welfare system, entirely. It has played a malevolent role in keeping the father away from his family. But young boys need both a male and a female parent. Without either, particularly the former, a young lad is more likely to enter into a life of crime than otherwise. This is precisely where we do not want him if, that is, we are serious about reducing the murder rate. But what about the poor? Before the evil advent of LBJ’s “Great Society” governmental welfare was far more modest, and private charity more prevalent. Less murder then too.

Let us put blinkers on our eyes, so that we can focus, solely, on reducing the carnage in our streets. Let us not be distracted by irrelevancies.

Walter E. Block is Harold E. Wirth Endowed Chair and Professor of Economics, College of Business, Loyola University New Orleans, and senior fellow at the Mises Institute.

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