Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Let's investigate the real causes of violence

Melbourne and The Age continues to have a more in-depth discussion about alcohol than does Sydney. Today's article goes through the usual retinue of anti-alcohol regulators who want to quadruple the price of alcohol, raise the drinking age, make bar staff responsible for others' actions and close pubs etc. But only Melbourne has dared talk about the fact that most of the the bad guys come from certain suburbs, indicating deep-rooted cultural causes behind most violence, whether 'booze-fuelled' or not. The corollary of this is that the rest of us -- by far the majority -- do not bash people and would be unfairly penalised by draconian measures.

Says The Age:
Ross Homel, a professor of criminology at Griffith University who has investigated the link between alcohol, bar aggression and violence for nearly 20 years, believes subtle changes could make a difference. He says that while alcohol seems to have a role in creating violence, many other factors - dozens in fact - come into play. [snip]
''At a time when there is an increasing demand in many countries for the authorities to 'do something' about the malign effects of the night-time economy on public health and safety, experts are not in a position to offer any firm advice, at least not advice that is firmly grounded in robust evidence,'' Homel and his co-researchers wrote in their initial findings. ''We actually know very little about how to systematically stop violence and aggression.''
So you have to wonder about the zealots who are so sure about the solutions they propose. In stirring up a moral panic about the problems they also ignore that most of the alcohol-related violence occurs among the same minority of thugs and thus has less effect on the rest of us -- so there is even less reason to punish the majority for the misdeeds of a small minority.

I would be very interested in seeing research into people who have been convicted of serious violence to see what common factors exist in their personalities and backgrounds. Addressing these factors might produce better results than further over-regulating the rest of us, and demonstrate that alcohol is only a contributing factor, not a first cause of the problems.

Nor, of course is the possibility explored that prohibition of more benign drugs might aggravate the alcohol situation. That's taboo among the panic merchants.

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