“Poverty Creates Crime” … an Immensely Stupid Idea

From: L. Michael Hall
2021 Neurons #63
September 24, 2021
How Self-Actualization
Can Save Politics #14

An Idea of Immense Stupidity

In an attempt to fight crime, some have taken to the mistaken idea that the cause of crime is poverty. They justify this conclusion by looking at the people who rob, steal, and kill and they conclude that it occurs more often by poor people than those who are not poor. So presto! It must be that poverty causes crime.

But wait, that’s a very hasty conclusion on the scantiest of evidence. In fact, to draw that conclusion is immensely stupid. Why? Because to believe that, you have to believe that poor people have fewer and weaker moral values than people with money. So does “money increase morality?” You have to conclude that it is money that saves the wealthier person from considering doing something wrong. You have to believe that the circumstance of poverty (however that is defined) is what causes, forces, and makes a person release his moral values and put getting what he wants, when he wants it, and from whoever he can get it over his moral values. Not only is that a stretch, it completely under-estimates the moral drive within human beings.

Further, to draw that conclusion, you have to focus on some particular kind of crimes and ignore other kinds of crimes. In this, blue-collar crimes differ from white-collar crimes. People with more money, more connections, and perhaps more education often create just as much, if not more, chaos, crimes, death, and destruction as those who go to a corner grocery store and pull out a gun. How much human misery have those who run various potsy schemes created over the years? How much did the whole housing crisis of 2006-7 create that led to the world-wide economic downturn, destroying the financial security of millions, the loss of jobs, etc.?

Actually the stupidity of that conclusion can also be seen by looking at all of the poor people who do not rob, steal, and kill. What stops them from going on and getting what they need or want if “poverty creates crime?” Why would the great majority of people who are poor, or who have incomes below the poverty line, live upright, decent, and moral lives? Why would they work hard and work long hours when they could spend their energies plotting some scheme to get money from the wealthy?

The answer is character. They have developed an upright moral character. The great majority never even consider robbing, stealing, or killing because they have a religious faith that forbid the mistreatment of other human beings. They may live by the Ten Commandments. Or they may have developed a conscience that values and respects other people. They may believe in love, compassion, and kindness and so just never think about engaging in crime.

That brings us to a more accurate idea. Crime is not caused by poverty as it is by low moral values. Crime is caused by a narcissistic emphasis on self at the expense of others. It is caused by immediate gratification thinking that ignores long-term consequences and consideration for others. Like most everything else in human life, crime is an inside-out phenomenon. It comes from a mind and heart that thinks in criminal ways. That’s what creates crime. If we want to stop crime, if we want to reduce the probability of crime – let there be more Churches, Synagogues, and Mosques. Let there be more ethical training in homes and schools. It is the lack of moral education that’s contributing to crime, not poverty.

In 2020 in the United States, we saw a rampage of crime— looting, stealing, destroying, harming, violating, etc. On the left we saw the Black-Lives-Matter people loot and destroy, we saw Antifa engaged in violent acts. On the right, there were white racists also engaged in violent acts. All of these are crimes against humanity— against human rights. What all of them seem to forget is that you can’t protest for human rights while violating the human rights of others. These crimes aren’t created by poverty, but by poor ideology!

The truth is that “as a person thinks in his heart, so that person is.” Poverty is an external condition; criminal mentality is an internal state of mind. The first only offers an opportunity at best, the second is actually the inner hidden cause of crime. Finally, the popular notion that “poverty creates crime” completely misdirects our attention if we want to reduce crime.