No, it is not. Of course. But.
Take a look at Dennis vanEngelsdorp’s TED lecture:
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And here is my strange thought:
The extent of parasitic behavior (and predatory behavior is an example of such) is a very good measure of a population’s health. A prosperous population has many parasites. As a population’s health deteriorates, the predators and parasites are the first to disappear.
Can you use this benchmark for human populations? If so, it would probably mean that the more prosperous a human society becomes, the greater will be the amount of a-social behavior it can tolerate. So, can crime be a measure for cultural success?
Let us begin by doing quick and dirty statistics. I used NationMaster for crime statistics. I use the gapminder for life expectancy. I used life expectancy rather than, say, GDP per capita, to eliminate (at least to some extent) mortality by violence. I crunched in the numbers, and got a positive correlation of 0.32, which is a mild correlation. Positive, let me remind you. So, I have successfully shown that countries with higher life expectancy have higher crime rates, right?
Not at all.
A glance at NationMaster’s statistics will show something, which might seem a bit weird. On top of the “crime infested” list of countries stands Dominica (a banana republic, right?). Close second and third, however, come New Zeeland and Finland. Those three report over 100 crimes per person! Yemen is at the bottom of the list with less than a crime per 100 residents. This is a difference of 4 orders of magnitude. And it makes little sense, until one recollects that New Zeeland is renowned for having a very strict legal system, while India – to take a good example from the bottom of the crime list – is third on manslaughter and second in corruption indices. In fact, western democratic states states are all at the top of the list. Clearly, what we are seeing here is a combination of at least to other factors:
- A very strong difference in law-enforcement per-se,
- The fact that different cultures define crimes differently.
So, how do I untangle these factors? How do I check if my thesis has merit? Any Ideas?