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Discovering the premise was wrong won’t stop us from continuing to try to fix the problem by throwing money at it

“Poverty breeds crime” is one of those simple formulations that seems to be pretty much taken for granted.  Everyone knows it’s true, and it is one of the “givens” that we use, either directly or indirectly as a rationale for a variety of social programs.  Having spent 30 years working in corrections, one would think that I would be a true believer.

One would be wrong.  The longer I’m in corrections the more convinced I become that people are people and criminals are criminals and that one’s financial situation has very little to do with one’s criminality.  It does, on the other hand, have quite a bit to do with one’s criminal opportunities.  Poor people don’t have access to the situations that make embezzlement or bank fraud or securities fraud possible.  They have access to situations that make burglaries and theft and drug sales possible.  Burglaries and thefts and drug sales are by far easier to detect and prosecute, hence the preponderance of burglars and thieves and drug dealers in the corrections system.  The complexities of corporate law make it unclear in many instances whether a crime has even been committed, let alone who is responsible and who should be prosecuted.

I mention this only as background to talk about another leftist’s nightmare taking place around us.  If poverty breeds crime, with the economy tanking and 7 million jobs lost in the last 2 years, we should be seeing a spike in the crime rate.

Oops. Maybe wealth redistribution isn’t the answer.

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