Avoiding a mugging

Avoiding a Mugging:

A philosophy major, who has also had the honor of being a victim of mugging multiple times, chimes in.

So . . . I was walking back from the home of Megan McArdle and Peter Suderman and instead of doing the normal thing and taking Q Street west to 5th and then walking south, I wanted to take a shortcut by walking south on North Capitol to then cut southwest on New York. But then lo and behold right by Catania Bakery a couple of dudes ran up from behind, punched me in the head, then kicked me a couple of times before running off. Once, years ago, in Amsterdam a guy threatened me with a knife and took my money. These guys took nothing, and just inflicted a bit of pain. All things considered the threaten/rob model of crime seems a lot more beneficial to both parties than the punch-and-run model. But I guess it takes all kinds.

To offer a policy observation, higher density helps reduce street crime in an urban environment in two ways. One is that in a higher density city, any given street is less likely to be empty of passersby at any given time. The other is that if a given patch of land has more citizens, that means it can also support a larger base of police officers. And for policing efficacy both the ratio of cops to citzens and of cops to land matters. Therefore, all else being equal a denser city will be a better policed city.
Speaking as a fellow student of philosophy, allow me to suggest that police are probably not the answer. Even in the best-policed city, police will not be on every corner at every moment. I've traveled in Manila, Zamboanga, Shanghai, D.C., Iraq and Kuwait, and no one ever thought to try to mug me. I would suggest that the best defense is a clear and unmistakable potential for a good offense. There are several ways of providing yourself with that, if nature has not done so; but one way or the other, it's what you really want.

Now, as a philosophical argument -- an empirical one -- that ends up harmonizing unpleasantly with the argument that rape victims might have protected themselves by dressing more conservatively. It is worth noticing where these arguments align and where they diverge. It is true, for example, both that women should be able to dress as they like without being raped; and also that a defenseless man ought to be able to walk where he likes without being mugged.

Mr. Yglesias' argument is explicitly about countermeasures, though, not the rights of victims. However it should be, in fact rape and assault are dangers; and given the dangers (indeed, given both dangers), it is best to be able to defend yourself than to rely upon others. The best defense is personal, and clearly stated to observers: that gives you both the capacity to defend yourself, and a reduced probability of having to do so.

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