Self-Execution, Capital Punishment, and the Economics of Murder: Analysis of UK Statistics Suggests That Suicide by Murder Suspects Is Not Influenced by the Probability of Execution

By Cameron, Samuel | The American Journal of Economics and Sociology, October 2001 | Go to article overview

Self-Execution, Capital Punishment, and the Economics of Murder: Analysis of UK Statistics Suggests That Suicide by Murder Suspects Is Not Influenced by the Probability of Execution


Cameron, Samuel, The American Journal of Economics and Sociology


SAMUEL CAMERON (*)

ABSTRACT. During the period when capital punishment was regularly used in England and Wales, the risk of self-execution from suicide, when suspected of murder, greatly dominated the risk of death at the hands of the state. Over the period 1900-1949, even with four years' data missing, there were 1,540 suicides by those suspected of murder. Using econometric analysis it is found that there is no significant relationship between self-execution and state execution.

I

Introduction

THIS PAPER IS CONCERNED WITH a staggering oversight in the literature on capital punishment, found in England and Wales, during the period when it was regularly used: viz. that the risk of self-execution from suicide, when suspected of murder, greatly dominates the risk of death at the hands of the state. Over the period 1900-1949, even with four years' data missing, there were 1,540 suicides by those suspected of murder. Using a simple econometric model, I fail to find any relationship between self-execution and state execution. Self-execution follows suicides in general in showing a positive response to unemployment.

II

Murder and Suicide as Rational Choices

ECONOMISTS HAVE A TRADITION OF modelling both murder and suicide as rational choices. Becker (1968), in his classic article, was the first since Bentham to open up the field of crime to a rational choice approach. He did this with entirely conventional micro-economics as is common in the Chicagoan invasion of hitherto unexplored areas. He derived a supply of crime function from a conventional subjective expected utility approach to decision making under uncertainty. Crime is the outcome of rational utility maximizing behavior. Hence there are no "criminals" as such. A criminal is simply someone whose portfolio choice contains some activities that society has chosen to designate as illegal. As Chicagoan economists assume similarity in tastes, everyone is equally likely to commit crime if faced with the same constraints. The volume of crime therefore responds to the movements of underlying relative price variables. The relative price variables fall into two categories: those that are directly manipulated by governments in response to crime and those that are outside the control of the criminal justice agencies. The former are generally regarded as deterrents to crime and include the severity of punishment and the likelihood of being caught and punished, which is conditional on the amount of resources devoted to catching and trying criminals. The latter group of variables generally derives from the labor market. Labor market variables such as income and unemployment are taken to measure the opportunity cost of undertaking criminal activity. For example, if expected income in legitimate work is higher then we expect substitution away from risky illegitimate work to be reinforced by the greater loss of income experienced whilst in prison. The labor market will also tend to generate the expected pecuniary return from criminal acts. The more buoyant is the labor market, the greater will be the value of objects in the possession of potential victims of crime.

It is a straightforward matter to extend this approach to capital punishment as first proposed by Ehrlich (1975) in the following equation:

EU = (1-PCON) U(Co) + PCON(1-PE) U(C) + PCON.PE U(C) (1)

where EU = expected utility, PCON = probability of a murder conviction, PE = conditional probability of execution given a murder conviction, U(Co) = utility if not convicted of murder, U(C) = utility if convicted and not executed, U(C) = utility if executed.

There is an extensive literature on the impact of state execution on individual murder supply (see Cameron 1994), little of it using U.K. data with the exception of Wolpin (1977, 1978) and Deadman and Pyle (1993). Ehrlich and subsequent researchers of a Chicagoan disposition have produced results that, they claim, strongly support the underlying theory of deterrence. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Self-Execution, Capital Punishment, and the Economics of Murder: Analysis of UK Statistics Suggests That Suicide by Murder Suspects Is Not Influenced by the Probability of Execution
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.