Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Poverty and Crime

About 16, 17 years ago I was a manager at a fast-food joint. Now I had very little say in what my employees would make as that was decided by the owner of the place, and all new employees, except management candidates, started at minimum wage. That wasn't so bad for the high school kids who handled the afternoon and early evening, but after 10 PM they had to 18 or older. Minimum wage gave me three kinds of young adults for closers: college students who needed just a little money for incidental expenses, the desperate, and petty criminals and I had all three. One young man who was about 22 or 23 stands out in my memory. He had been fired a couple weeks before from a factory job and because of the nature of his dismisal, he did not qualify for unemployment. We gave him a job and he lasted less than three hours. He was one of a handful of people that I actually fired (and firing someone is a very hard thing to do and I never enjoyed doing it.) He found out he was making minimum wage and that was a little less than half of what he had been making. His attitude quickly become insufferable and he started throwing things yelling he refused to work for minimum wage and started demanding more or he would really make trouble. I took him into the office and fired him. About a month later one my of my employees came in and tossed a newspaper to me. The man I had fired had been arrested for driving a stolen car.

He did not steal that car because I fired him. I fired him and he had been fired from his previous (better paying job) for the same reason he stole that car. He believed he was entitled and I, as well as his previous employer and the world at large had denied him what he believed he was entitled to. So he simply took it.

People say that poverty is the root-cause of crime and that may be somewhat true on many occasions, but I do not believe that it is the entire picture. If it was, then all crimes would be commited by poor people and the wealthy, affluent and comfortable would never commit a crime. We all know that it doesn't work that way. Also there is the question of many poor or struggling people who would never - ever commit a crime (and they are probably the majority of poor and struggling people.) This too does not fit the paradigm.

I do not believe that poverty alone explains crime or explains why lower economic rungs tend to be more obviously criminal than the working or middle class. I believe that the crime and entrenched poverty have a common origin; that is the belief that someone owes you a living. I see it every day even at work. Usually the ones who complain the worst about their pay are the worst workers, (though we do have one exception -- a hard worker is forever complaining.) but they believe that they are entitled to good pay simply by having a factory job.

Many people in poverty have been on welfare for many generations and have grown up believing they had a right to it. They have never been responsible for their own income and many of them probably would not know what to do if they had to take full responsibility for themselves. (An example of this is Hurricane Katrina. Most of the younger victims were very poor and had been taken care of by the government all their lives. When the hurricane happened and no one was there to tell them what to do and make it happen for them, they died.)

Anyway they grow up believing that they are entitled to a livelihood and if it doesn't meet their expectations, they are entitled to take it. The world owes them and they have the right to it. In their twisted worldview, they are only taking what the world owes them.

This also explains the crimes of richer people. Many of them believe that their income entitles them to better things, and to a degree it does. If current condititions do not meet what they believe they are entitled to, they will resort to illegal, or at least immoral means.

Crime does not happen only for economic reasons. If it did then welfare would have eliminated or at least seriously reduced it. It is born of believing you are owed and in some twisted sense, you have the right to what you are trying to take. I believe that it is the sense of entitlement, and not mere poverty that causes crime.

6 Comments:

Blogger ABFreedom said...

roger that ... kind of sums it up nicely.

10:52 PM  
Blogger The Conservative UAW Guy said...

Yes, a nice summation.
I've had this discussion before with some of my union bros.

Poverty causes crime, and it's the govt's job (of course) to make jobs.
I then ask them, were you ever layed off or poor at one time?

Answer: Yes.

Did you steal and rob?

Answer: No.

Me: Same here.
Hmmmmmm.

5:45 AM  
Blogger Seaspook said...

I agree. Poverty does not contribute to crime except in some cases where a parent is desperate to provide.

It's more related to a conditioning of a sense of entitlement and stupidity.

I also think some are hardwired genetically to anti-social and criminal behavior.

8:17 AM  
Blogger Patrick Joubert Conlon said...

"...poverty is the root-cause of crime..." is one of the biggest commie lies.

3:49 PM  
Blogger jgf said...

Well said.

9:45 PM  
Blogger shoprat said...

abf and jgf Thanks

pjc Yes but it is a lie that is often close enough to the truth that people don't differentiate enough

seaspook I hope you're wrong about it being hard-wired. That could cause some real problems if it's true.

cug I think they hear it so often that they believe it without thinking about it.

9:55 PM  

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