Monday, 18 September 2017

Ask The Philosophical Muser: On Attacking Burglars and Good Gift Buying

Here's my latest Q&A column - if you have any questions for me, you can message me on Facebook, or email them here

Q) What is the economics consideration regarding whether society is better off if house owners can attack burglars that enter their property?

A) Well firstly, I wholeheartedly support a victim's right to defend themselves if a burglar illegally enters their property. I support this on grounds that I think people should be entitled to defend themselves and their family when in danger, and when someone forces their way into your home their incentive not to get caught and arrested is enough to make them a viable threat.

As for the economics, burglary has an immense social cost for the victims (not just having your valuables stolen, but also the sense of being intruded upon), but a relatively low cost for the perpetrators because conviction rates are low, and for many burglars addicted to drugs, life in prison won't be much worse than their current life situation. Therefore, a law that increases the costs for victims and decreases the costs for burglars is a highly questionable one.

The other thing to consider is that the law probably wouldn't do much good anyway. The kind of people that feel sufficiently threatened to the extent that they would use physical force against a burglar are unlikely to be the kind of people that would refrain from doing so because of a law that forbids them from doing so.

Q) What’s good wisdom for mastering the art of great gift buying?

A) The best gift people buy are the gifts I didn’t even know I needed, but was chuffed to bits when I received them. That’s the epitome of a good gift. The other bit of wisdom I’ve distilled is that gifts are well chosen when they are gifts the receiver wants but wouldn’t necessarily buy for themselves.

Good gifts do other things too – they make the giver and receiver emotionally closer, and they help create memories (either experiences or objects) that stay with the receiver long after the gift is given. Great gift-buying exhibits a signal that you understand the tastes, wants and needs of the person for whom you’re buying – making the gift as much about the thought behind it as the thing or experience in itself. If you can perfect all that, you’ll be a) a great gift buyer, and b) mastering something I haven’t yet mastered.