Homicide cap and trade

It’s becoming clear that the Chicago Police Department’s blanket ban on gang-related homicides is no longer workable. Clearly we need to try a new approach: legalize and regulate, in the interest of harm reduction.

The first step is to provide training to registered gang members in the proper use of firearms. Too many people have died because of a lack of adequate training among gang enforcers, leading to innocents “catching strays.” The city should look to partner with the NRA and private philanthropists to build and staff a shooting range to improve the aim of at-risk youth.

Secondly, once we are assured that only gang members will be killed, we need some way to keep such homicides within tolerable levels. Here I think we need to take a hint from environmental policy: homicide cap and trade. Each registered gang would be given the opportunity to bid on permits that would constitute an annual allowance of homicides. If they do not use all their murders, they can sell the remainders to other participants in the system (which presumably would include the police department itself). Murders in excess of the particular gang’s “cap” would be prosecuted like traditional murders, and other gangs would be incentivized to cooperate with the police investigation in order to maintain their ability to legally murder people — a stark reversal of the current culture of non-cooperation that our short-sighted total murder ban has helped to produce.

In addition, gangs could earn murder-offset credits by funding after-school programs and engaging in other philanthropic activities likely to lower the murder rate in their communities.

I believe this plan would be a private-public partnership in the best sense, using market forces to regulate a behavior that traditional “Big Government” law enforcement has failed to adequately address. I urge Mayor Emanuel and the City Council to take up this proposal at their earliest convenience.

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9 Responses to “Homicide cap and trade”

  1. gerrycanavan Says:

    This suffers from the same problem as carbon cap and trade — the credits are only being given to current murderers. (As Vandana Shiva put it, to be counted as clean, you must first be dirty.) You’ve got to award the murder credits across the population, honoring both current non-murder practices but also perhaps through some kind of lottery.

  2. gerrycanavan Says:

    On the plus side, the proposal offers exciting opportunities for a derivates market in murder futures. We just need to find the right hedge and we can’t lose.

  3. Adam Kotsko Says:

    I view this as more of a test run — if a cap and trade system proves to be viable with the wholesale homicide users, it could easily be extended to retail homicides.

  4. FNL « Gerry Canavan Says:

    [...] * Towards a market solution to homicides. [...]

  5. bzfgt Says:

    Thanks for not calling this a “modest proposal.”

  6. Adam Kotsko Says:

    Why would I? It’s actually pretty ambitious.

  7. mattintoledo Says:

    This would also serve as a potential boon for gang recruitment. They could murder somebody and then frame an innocent who they have identified as an intriguing gang prospect. When they approach this person with either joining the gang or being charged for murder, what do you think he’s going to choose?

  8. Adam Kotsko Says:

    Surely the market would self-regulate to prevent those types of abuses.

  9. mattintoledo Says:

    You call them abuses. I call them the kind of creative recruitment any industry would employ to encourage further growth.


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