Saturday, 27 May 2017

One Way To Reduce Terrorism In The UK Would Be To Pay Young Muslims Not To Become Terrorists

Ok, yes, that was a deliberately provocative title to grab your attention - but bear with me. Some of you may remember a film called Ransom, released in 1996, and starring Mel Gibson as a father of a kidnapped son, who after a first failed attempt to pay the kidnappers the $2,000,000 ransom money they demanded, gets a sense that they have no intention of retuning his son alive.

As a response he decides to appear on television to offer the ransom as a bounty on the kidnappers' heads, with the bounty being withdrawn if the kidnappers return his son alive. The kidnappers' inner circle is now far less stable as each gang member is now unsure whether they can fully trust the other members not to betray them and pick up the bounty. Later on the bounty goes up $4,000,000, and things get even more tense within the gang's inner circle until (spoiler alert!!) the gang implodes and their plan is thwarted.  

This kind of observation is nothing new. Plato talked about similar dictatorship insecurities in his Republic, and everyone knows that when a group becomes less tight, be it a criminal gang, a political group or whatever, the most prominent members with the most to lose become the most vulnerable.

Now when I suggested paying young Muslims to help stop terrorism, what I mean is this. Suppose the authorities offered to pay would-be radicals, say, £2000 if they shop someone they know to be planning a terrorist attack. Maybe pay them more, I don't know what the market value would be to grass up a fellow Muslim in your neighbourhood who is playing around with explosives and detonators, but sums of money like this would be chicken feed compared with the overall counter terrorism budget (the UK government currently spends over £15 billion a year on counter terrorism).

Perhaps it would only yield one or two positive outcomes, but even that is better than nothing if it leads to the arrest and conviction of prospective attackers. Let's face it, this kind of set-up already goes on with police informants in areas like drugs and gun crime, and we see every day how market incentives regulate all kinds of human behaviour, so why can't it work in exposing terrorism?

Not only would offering financial incentives help police catch would-be terrorists and other dangerous extremists before they went on to commit an atrocity, it would also create instability among gang networks. If a prospective Islamist is planning a bomb attack in London and the people in his inner circle, or even people outside it, know they can receive a few thousand pounds if they shop him in to the police, the would-be terrorist has got to watch who he trusts very closely, which is bound to make his inner circle far less tight.

You may object that the kind of radical suicide bombers that want to blow up infidels in order to ride up to heaven on a winged horse where they'll be met by 72 virgins might not be the sort of people who are very likely to be motivated by money, and you are probably right. But equally the kind of person who is likely to inform on a dangerous radical for a few thousand pounds is very unlikely to be the sort of Muslim who is on the verge of being a suicide bomber. It cuts both ways.

Once you add up the £15 billion a year spent by the authorities, and all the costs that occur when we do have a terrorist incident, it doesn't seem unreasonable to me to offer generous financial rewards to anyone who can help thwart an attack and send a group of radical Islamists to jail to keep our streets safer.

Providing market invectives to shop would-be terrorists means it would increase the cost of being a would-be terrorist, which not only makes someone a potentially less effective terrorist, it increases their risk factors too, and makes Islamist coteries less tight and more unstable, increasing their chances of imploding, and at the same time making it easier for the police to infiltrate their organisations.