As national and local elected officials anxiously seek ways to improve the economy and raise desperately needed tax revenues, one economic strategy that policymakers should consider is the benefits that reducing violence can bring. A recent study released by the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Economics and Peace indicates that reducing violence in Hawaii by as much as 25 percent would create $349.6 million in additional economic activity, a phenomena known as the "DPD Effect," or dynamic peace dividend. And just to show you how much violence hurts Hawaii and holds back our potential, the same study indicates that if it were theoretically possible to eliminate all violence from Hawaii, we would see nearly $1.4 trillion in DPDs.
Frédéric Bastiat famously wrote, "Violence has disastrous consequences." Most people understand that violence increases the cost of law enforcement and incarceration, but few realize how violence goes a step further to destroy productivity and slow the development of a country as a whole. So significant is the impact of violence in our communities that even the World Bank has identified reduction of urban violence as a top priority in achieving its millennium development goals. The bank’s Social Development Department noted in its recent "Violence in the City" report that "violence is inherently disempowering for communities. Violence destroys social networks and human capital and degrades the built environment."
Reducing violence by just 25 percent or more in Hawaii is a goal that is easily within our reach. While police can arrest people for committing violence, it’s important to understand that all violence has social drivers, one of which comes from abusive homes. If you stop domestic abuse, you will pull the root of the problem out. We urgently need to make domestic abuse awareness and prevention a top priority in Hawaii. Extensive research shows that both males and females who grow up under domestic abuse are at greater risk to engage in homicides, aggravated assault, rape and robbery later on in life. Violence is learned and violence is perpetuated on others; what happens in the home affects the entire city.
We also need to explore ways to educate the community on how to deal with frustration, lack of trust, anger and emotional trauma without resorting to abuse or violence. Several things that show strong promise are after-school programs/mentoring programs for children, youth employment opportunities, coordinated anti-violence programs between existing community organizations and better data collection to identify and troubleshoot violence hotspots.
There is absolutely no reason why the Aloha State, with its rich traditions of family and community cannot embrace peace and reject violence in our homes and in our cities. The initiation of violence begins with a flawed belief that hurting people fixes things when in fact it only destroys our economy and hinders our future. We believe that love overcomes all things and produces successful and happy nations. It’s time to heal our homes and start building a future that’s worth living in.