Open Letter to Justicar of The Rationalists

A quick response to Justicar of The Rationalists.

I’m a little concerned by your depictions of Australia. Some of these are complex and interpretive so I’ll set those aside and deal only with data.

In this recent video, you cited sources which suggest Australia’s homicide rate ‘is exactly the same’ today as it was in the early 90s. In doing so, you have perpetuated a categorical error resulting from different methods of analysis, that once confused myself as well. Both methods use the same datasets, but present their results differently.

The Australian Institute of Criminology terms ‘homicide’ as I think you and I would: murder and manslaughter.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics uses a broader category of ‘homicide and related offences‘ which includes the above, but also ‘attempted murder’ – ie. not dead people. I can only speculate as to why this is done. Perhaps the bureaucrats decided likeness was as important as outcome when grouping crimes.

Homicide and Related Offences

ABS Glossary: Homicide and Related Offences

Using consistent definitions there has been marked improvement in Australia’s homicide rate: it has effectively halved in the last 2 decades. You mentioned 93, which is also the earliest ABS report in the ‘recorded crime’ category so I’ll start there, and contrary to your claim 2014 data is publically available. (Parts of the official site have not yet been updated – it’s a government organisation – some of their introductory pages still cite data from the 90s!)

AIC method: 1.9 to 1.1 (~42% reduction)

ABS method*: 3.9* to 1.8 (~53% reduction)

Your own sources should be sufficient for you to verify this error.

* EDIT: It appears the ABS have occasionally used both definitions in different reports on different sections of their website, such as this one by an AIC author who retained AIC methods. This both explains and exacerbates the confusion, but does not negate the error of fact. Consistent evaluation of the crime has shown considerable progress. As a result, I’m happy to concede the following paragraph was unnecessarily harsh.

I can’t say for certain that this is not merely an error, it may well be lax examination of the data due to confirmation bias. But what I will say that for someone of your intellect, who considers himself a rationalist and an empiricist, and who voices constant objections to people speaking about things about which they have no knowledge, that you should have understood this matter before broadcasting misinformation (conveniently in your favour) to thousands of ignorant people.

I look forward to your response, and hope it is a correction.

* The figure of 3.9 is the total ‘homicide’ of 4.5 less 0.6 in ‘driving causing death’ which was also included in the ‘homicide and related offences’ category at that time (1993).

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