01 Jun 2010

Economics and Crime

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Times are hard and crime is down. How can that be? Liberals have always understood that crime is produced by economic hardship and deprivation. More government assistance, more redistribution, liberals have consistently argued, are essential. Otherwise, the victims of structural injustice will probably revolt. Yet the most dramatic economic downturn since the Great Depression, though producing plenty of hardship, unemployment, and misery, has failed to produce the crime wave liberal social theory inevitably ought to expect.

Richard Cohen, at the Washington Post, reflects on the situation.

For liberals, this is bad news. …

From 2008 to 2009, violent crime was down 5.5 percent overall and almost 7 percent in big cities. Some of those cities are as linked with crime as gin is with tonic or as John McCain is with political opportunism. In Detroit, for instance, with the auto industry shedding workers, violent crime was down 2.4 percent. In Washington, D.C., murder was down 23.1 percent, rape 19.4 percent and property crime 6 percent. …

[I]t now seems fairly clear that something akin to culture and not economics is the root cause of crime. By and large everyday people do not go into a life of crime because they have been laid off or their home is worth less than their mortgage. They do something else, but whatever it is, it does not generally entail packing heat. Once this becomes an accepted truth, criminals will lose what status they still retain as victims.

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