Did you know that during the economic and social depths of the Great Depression, the crime rate in the United States was actually very low? I want you to let that fact sink in. I want you to wrap your mind around the consequences or implications of that fact.
Please understand that this is a fact, not speculation. This actually happened as corroborated by historical records. This is not some sort of interpretation.
The reason why I want to start out the article with this very jarring fact is because we’ve been told for decades now that the root cause of crime in the United States is poverty.
Well, let’s put that assertion to test. The poverty rate in the United States since the 1960s has remained fairly constant at 14%. However, ever since the late 60s, the crime rate has crashed tremendously.
Did you know that in New York City, in the mid-70s, thousands of people were getting gunned down, stabbed, raped, and killed every single year? Then something happened in the mid-90s when crime rates, especially violent crime, just went off a cliff.
Now, of course, there have been a lot of hokey and dubious theories offered to explain this statistical surprise. A lot of people were saying that it was abortion that caused the decline in American’s crime rates.
Since the women who are more likely to seek out an abortion are in distressed relationships and are more likely to raise a child alone, the fact that they had aborted their pregnancy means that their would-be children won’t be able to commit crimes.
Statistics also show that male children born in single-mother homes are many times more likely to go to jail, commit violence, get addicted to drugs, go crazy, develop drug addictions, and a whole host of social pathologies.
Well, what if you wipe out a significant portion of this population through abortion? That’s one of the main theories being championed as to explain why there was a big drop in America’s crime rate starting in the 90s.
But one thing that sociologists need to pay attention to is the fact that this decline in crime rate since the 1990s pretty much debunks the idea that poverty causes crime. Let’s put it this way, if poverty causes crime, then the crime rates of the 1960s and the 1970s should still hold. They should still be the same.
Why? The poverty rate in the United States is at the same level. It’s still at around 14%. It never gets past 20%.
So why did the crime rate go down? Do you see the disconnect?
Unfortunately, when it comes to hard facts, many academics are the least likely to own up to their mistakes. They will come up with all sorts of justifications. Now, a new justification is coming out that is somewhat similar to the whole “poverty causes crime” explanation. They say that it’s the perceived inequality that gets people to act out.
In other words, when you look at the Gini coefficient score of the United States measuring the distance between the haves and have-nots, this is enough to trigger people.
If that was the case, then why are many countries in the world that have large divides between the rich and the poor not violent? You can go to places in Scandinavia and Western Europe. Why is the crime rate fairly low there compared to the United States?
The truth is, the whole idea that poverty causes crime is really championed to serve an agenda. There’s a political reason behind that. Because when you say that poverty fuels crime, you’re basically asking the government to put more money into anti-poverty and welfare programs that funds bureaucrats, state agencies, and other government personnel infrastructure.
A large chunk of that money definitely goes into the hands of public sector employee unions. But lost in the shuffle are the people that it’s supposed to benefit.
There are people who live in violent crime-prone areas in the United States. What about them?
The explanation of poverty fueling crime and the funding that it triggers obviously doesn’t benefit them. The better approach would be to break this linkage and focus more on outcomes. By tapping the private sector instead of throwing good money after bad in terms of yet another “public investment in social safety.”
This requires a massive sea change in how Americans look at the proper relationship between them and the state. This is not easy nor quick.
Please remember that when Obamacare was first rolled out, there were howls of protests all over the United States. It turns out that since ‘preexisting conditions’ are no longer a legal hurdle to affordable healthcare, more and more Americans have come around. All of a sudden, Obamacare, far from a government led bureaucratic monstrosity is now seen as a constant… even a necessity.
What accounts for the seemingly radical change in point of view? Well, you could ask the same about the dozens of government interventions that rolled out in the 1930s New Deal and the 1960s Great Society programs. When a new government program is unveiled people hem and haw. However, once they taste that good old devil rum of government subsidies, hand outs, freebies, and other forms of ‘assistance,’ people get quiet.
You might think that liberals would shut up once a program goes mainstream but I’m talking mostly about conservatives. They talk a big game about keeping government small. But when it comes down to it and when people get a taste for government assistance, they sing a different tune. All of a sudden, they can now ‘live with’ something was previously seen as a major intrusion in American private life.
This plays out across the board and impacts a very wide range of government programs and initiatives. Some people would see this as an unreasonable expansion of government power. Others would view it as a necessary expansion of government’s responsibility.