How Capitalism Causes Crime

In the comments, Aakash writes:

RL: “You get a lot of good with capitalism – I would admit that. You also get a lot of bad, and one of the bad things is crime.”
Indeed. Excessive capitalism has the potential to breed excessive yearning, competitiveness, envy, resentment and passion among people across class barriers. Combine that with a proclivity to obtain gratification via short cuts (which is all too common nowadays) and it is no surprise that crime pretty much rises with a rise in capitalism.
Even the libertarians and gun owners agree to that. Why the hell would they even need more guns otherwise? It is obvious that they expect crime to rise with increasing deregulation (which is the same as increasing capitalism).

This fact has really hit the capitalist fanboys on this blog hard. There’s a real problem with people who love capitalism – they will never admit that there’s anything wrong with their precious system.
What’s wrong with saying that there are a lot of good or even great things about capitalism, but there is also a serious downside, one aspect of which is crime? You want all the goodies that comes along with capitalism? Fine, a lot of us do. But then you’re going to have to accept all the crime that goes along with it.
Leavening capitalism with doses and layers of various forms of socialism tends to reduce the crime that capitalism generates. Socialism preaches solidarity and equality, and a society run on those lines often does not have a lot of crime. Making society more equal reduces feels of envy, frustration and rage and fewer people feel like losers and failures. A more equal society has less crime. A more unequal society has more crime.
Deep down inside, people believe in fairness. They don’t think a few folks should be stinking filthy rich while tens of millions of others wear rags and live in shacks. People are going to redistribute wealth one way or another! You can either have the state do it or if not, people will just take matters into their own hands and redistribute it themselves via crime.
Capitalism preaches competitiveness, and anything for a buck, but don’t break the law, wink wink. Yet people do break the law under capitalism, and the motivation is typically the desire to make a buck, or a lot of bucks, or to strike it rich. A society run on the basis of self-interest and unrestrained greed will cause tons of crime, especially theft.
Blacks do seem to have a tendency to violence and crime if we look at the group as a whole and not individuals. But socialist societies have attenuated that tendency. In Mozambique under Samora Machel’s Marxist regime, you could walk from one end of Maputo to the other in the middle of the night and no one would bother you. Try that now.
It would seem that Blacks don’t do well in societies that are highly capitalist. Due to a variety of factors, they tend to fall behind other groups in the race for the bucks and the success. This leads to society labeling them as losers and them seeing themselves as losers. They get frustrated with falling behind and try to get, by hook or by crook, the cash and success that America preaches anyone can get one get.
I quit watching TV. One commercial after another tells me I’m a loser because I’m not rich. “Why aren’t you rich?! Why aren’t you rich!? Loser! Loser!” That’s what those endless commercials tell me. I have a lot of self-control, but others don’t.
Obviously capitalism causes tons of property crime, but what about violent crime? This is much less clear, but a lot of violent crime is also related to theft or money in some way or other.
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33 thoughts on “How Capitalism Causes Crime”

  1. Aakash makes some fair points but crime is a function of numerous variables other than the prevailing economic system. We haven’t accounted for discrimination and immigration. Crime is essentially a failure to adjust and adapt, from a cultural anthropology perspective, and hence immigrants tend to bring with them a higher crime rate. In America it was the Italians and their mafia (attempting to preserve Italian values as they saw it) alongside African Americans (who suffered from a lack of opportunities due to discrimination). In some of the socialist countries of northern Europe, Arab Muslim immigrants commit a disproportionate amount of crime (namely rape). Capitalism might lead to class war, but the carnage that errupts as a result of it should not be labeled as crime. The co-relation between an economic system and crime rate seems rather weak.

    1. While crime is obviously a function of different parameters, other factors being constant, how does increased, almost unregulated capitalism (this extreme is what the fiscal libertarians want) affect crime statistics? There is no way to perform experiments and we have to rely solely on existing data and their interpretations.
      Example: Hurricane Katrina. New Orleans. People were stealing all they could find (and not just necessities like food). Why the heck would they steal nice TVs? It is because they covet these high end goods (high end for them sure) or know that they can sell it to somebody who covets them. The question to be asked is would they have behaved similarly in a socialist place?
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3RVHDlPqZWE
      Also, what about white collar crime? Increased capitalism definitely increases corruption (lobbying as they put it in the US).
      Imperialist crime? Capitalism needed the British empire then and the American empire now. They are state organized crimes. America needs oil (or needs to secure it) for maintaining its capitalist consumerism and illegally invaded another country to achieve that.
      Anyway, an extreme dose of unregulated capitalism or socialism would be disastrous to the common man.
      “Capitalism might lead to class war, but the carnage that errupts as a result of it should not be labeled as crime”
      In that case, capitalism itself would be the crime. Poor people dying in India when the economy was booming for a while: capitalism is the criminal even if they revolt and spread havoc. Adivasis getting fucked: capitalism is the crime. Not their retaliation.

      1. With regards to Katerina we don’t know how people would react under similar circumstances in a socialist country but I see no reason to think they would behave any differently. Will socialism suddenly make them more ethical? Purge their desires? Humans will always covet and base human nature does not change.
        “”Also, what about white collar crime? Increased capitalism definitely increases corruption (lobbying as they put it in the US). “”
        I’ll give you that, however, socialist countries can be just as corrupt where corruption occurs at state and government levels since the state centralizes wealth before distributing it. The Liberal party of Canada has been caught with its hand in the cookie jar on many occasions.
        “Imperialist crime? Capitalism needed the British empire then and the American empire now. They are state organized crimes.”
        You’re committing the fallacy of equivocation by shifting the meaning of the term crime. For the purposes of this debate we are concerned with the old school definition of crime, ie unlawful acts committed by private persons that disrupt the functioning of society. While your statement is technically true, it is irrelevant. However, since the point is raised, lets discuss it. Imperialism has existed long before the emergence of capitalism. The Romans, the Arabs, the Persians, were all empires founded upon economic exploitation.
        “Anyway, an extreme dose of unregulated capitalism or socialism would be disastrous to the common man.”
        True enough.
        “In that case, capitalism itself would be the crime. ”
        I could also argue that if Capitalism causes class conflict, socialism/communism can cause ideological conflicts as private and public sectors struggle to mark and control their respective domains. As I had already mentioned in another thread, Singapore’s PAP has been known to deny public housing to political dissidents. My point is that if Capitalism can lend itself to abuse, then so can socialism. A state that centralizes capital (for distribution) can easily use this power to suppress the freedoms and rights of the society it is supposed to serve.

        1. “Will socialism suddenly make them more ethical?”
          First, capitalism is a one way street. Like a drug. Unless a Mao comes along and blows away the field, people will keep playing the lottery game of capitalism. Everybody wants more. However, what if the people were more socialist from the beginning? I definitely could see them behaving much more decently. I’ll give this to capitalism: the goods produced are phenomenal. But this causes more desire coupled with inequality (not everybody can afford the goods and many people will be as poor as ever too) that definitely leads to crime.
          ” socialist countries can be just as corrupt where corruption occurs at state and government levels since the state centralizes wealth before distributing it.”
          Yes but corruption in socialism has a ceiling and can be caught easily if the majority of the officials are honest (well if not any system is fucked anyway) such as in Canada. What about capitalist corruption? The sky is the limit. And increasing capitalism means decreasing regulation. Why do you think wall street wants that? So that they can play their pissing, trickle down games with little chance of “interference” i.e. little risk of their corrupt asses getting indicted.
          “Imperialism has existed long before the emergence of capitalism. The Romans, the Arabs, the Persians, were all empires founded upon economic exploitation.”
          That may be so. But its undeniable that increasing capitalism has increased US imperialism. What if the US was more socialist? Would the invasion take place? No. Most of the people that opposed going to Iraq were democrats and they are right of center anyway on fiscal matters. Only one republican senator (Lincoln Chafee) opposed going to Iraq. What if the US senate were all left wingers like Bernie Sanders? Theres no way it would have happened.
          “Singapore’s PAP has been known to deny public housing to political dissidents. My point is that if Capitalism can lend itself to abuse, then so can socialism”
          The bottomline is that the degree of fiscal regulation and social freedom should be dependent on the country’s existing socio-economic conditions. My tax burden last year was about 30% overall and I don’t mind it being higher. I could take 40-45% as I live quite conservatively anyway (except when taking chicks out). However, in a country like India, there is an immediate need for a total upheaval and until basic necessities are provided for everyone, tax burden should be closer to 80%. Thats assuming government corruption can be curtailed. If not, well show the movie V for Vendetta to every Indian and see if they learn anything.

        2. “”But this causes more desire coupled with inequality (not everybody can afford the goods and many people will be as poor as ever too) that definitely leads to crime.””
          The problem with this debate is that you guys are using a very narrow definition of crime. If your statement above is true, then socialism would reduce a certain type of crime. It won’t do much for rape/sex crimes, child and spouse abuse ect… Dubai is pretty socialist as far as the Emiratis are concerned and yet these same Emiratis commit a disproportionate number of rapes and other violent crimes. Culture and values play a huge role too and the GCC Arabs are as uncivilized as the peasant castes of India. OTOH, Philanthropy in capitalist America is still alive and kicking.
          “”Yes but corruption in socialism has a ceiling and can be caught easily if the majority of the officials are honest (well if not any system is fucked anyway) such as in Canada.””
          Not exactly. Just like in a capitalist country, corruption would be a function of total national wealth (assuming this is extreme socialism). Violent crime in Venezuela is extremely high last I checked. And let us not naively assume that there isn’t any class struggle in Socialist countries. The middle class can become very resentful when they must bear the burden of taxation for social programs that would benefit the underclasses. This is actually a big issue in Venezuela where Chavez is popular among the poor, but is resented by the middle class. I’d read about this a while ago, so I’m not sure if this is the case today.
          “”That may be so. But its undeniable that increasing capitalism has increased US imperialism. What if the US was more socialist? Would the invasion take place? No. ”
          US democrats are not socialists as you yourself pointed out a couple of lines later. They may have opposed the war for other reasons such as costs in terms of resources/human lives ect… But to directly answer your question, its likely that they might have. Socialist programs cost money and even western Europe never gave up their imperial designs after ww2, contrary to popular myth. The socialist powers of Britain and France were instrumental in disposing of Nasser of Egypt in 1956. Nasser was a bonafide socialist himself. Suez canal = $$ > ideology. European powers are engaged in regime change in Syria today, as Robert L himself had pointed out sometime ago. Egalitarian empires can be just as prone to imperialism make no mistake.

        3. I just want to throw into the discussion that when there was a national crisis in Japan at the time of the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami, which wreaked havoc and devastation, there was a conspicuous lack of looting. Looting simply does not take place in Japan! People were even considerate enough to not buy more than they needed from the shops, to allow other people to stock up too.
          I submit this is strongly for cultural reasons. Discipline, conformity, putting the group before the individual, a deep sense of social responsibility, concern about ones reputation.
          Discuss.

          1. Hi, Steve. You make a great point about Japanese culture.
            While it’s true that there wasn’t widespread looting in Japan after the tsunami, it wouldn’t be accurate to say that there was no looting, or that looting simply doesn’t happen in Japan. A quick Google search turns up some media reports of what are called isolated instances of looting in Japan after the tsunami.

        4. okay AU, I stand corrected (some media outlets did report no looting!). Is it fair to say that there was significantly less looting that in other recent disasters in other countries? Or maybe ‘no widespread looting’.
          As an interesting aside, I read that the Yakuza, basically the Japanese Mafia, were patrolling to maintain order in some places. Patriotic in a time of disaster or maybe they have a lot of stake in keeping order in society and keeping it as it was before.

          1. I think it’s fair to say that there was significantly less looting than in other recent disasters elsewhere, yes. I read the same thing about the Yakuza, BTW.

        5. “Organized crime. Police aren’t the only ones on patrol since the earthquake hit. Members of the Yakuza, Japan’s organized crime syndicate, have also been enforcing order. All three major crime groups—the Yamaguchi-gumi, the Sumiyoshi-kai, and the Inagawa-kai—have “compiled squads to patrol the streets of their turf and keep an eye out to make sure looting and robbery doesn’t occur,” writes Jake Adelstein, author of Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan, in an e-mail message. “The Sumiyoshi-kai claims to have shipped over 40 tons of [humanitarian aid] supplies nationwide and I believe that’s a conservative estimate.” One group has even opened its Tokyo offices to displaced Japanese and foreigners who were stranded after the first tremors disabled public transportation. “As one Sumiyoshi-kai boss put it to me over the phone,” says Adelstein, ” ‘In times of crisis, there are not Yakuza and civilians or foreigners. There are only human beings and we should help each other.’ ” Even during times of peace, the Yakuza enforce order, says Adelstein. They make their money off extortion, prostitution, and drug trafficking. But they consider theft grounds for expulsion.”
          From: http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/crime/2011/03/stop_thief_thank_you.html
          Note: the part about circularity of cultural explanations is obviously stupid but some interesting stuff otherwise….

    2. Okay this was honestly just racist, so I am not going to waist my time explaining how everything about this is wrong.

  2. Robert
    “Deep down inside, people believe in fairness. They don’t think a few folks should be stinking filthy rich while tens of millions of others wear rags and live in shacks. People are going to redistribute wealth one way or another!”
    As long as we have the mainstream media to keep people distracted, the feeling of fairness will be hidden under layers of desire. It is almost like this materialism generated by the media vaporizes any semblance of egalitarian belief in people. This right out leads to apathy and lowering of standards to justify the poor living in shacks. Worse, nowadays people helping others are themselves seen as losers and ganged up against.
    “It would seem that Blacks don’t do well in societies that are highly capitalist. Due to a variety of factors, they tend to fall behind other groups in the race for the bucks and the success. This leads to society labeling them as losers and them seeing themselves as losers. They get frustrated with falling behind and try to get, by hook or by crook, the cash and success that America preaches anyone can get one get”
    As I mentioned above, Katrina looting proves that. I’d blame capitalism more than blacks. Why? Because I’ve seen that blacks can be as productive as whites under fair circumstances. But they can not when it is a screw fest to reach the top as in capitalist societies. The county that I live in metro Atlanta is majority black (alas, lots of lesbians too) and I see a good share of them perform well.
    “I quit watching TV. One commercial after another tells me I’m a loser because I’m not rich. “Why aren’t you rich?! Why aren’t you rich!? Loser! Loser!” That’s what those endless commercials tell me. I have a lot of self-control, but others don’t.”
    Two words: Apple Fanboys. These douchebags that sleep on the street are a direct result of capitalism. Here, I know so many (men and women) that I want to shove some iCrap in their mouths.

  3. @ Dota
    While I agree with your assertion that adaptation and cultural factors do play into crime rates of immigrants, there is always an socio-economic basis to dicrimination and the kind of immigrant crimes you mentioned. Take the Balkan conflict of 90s for example. The Serbs and Bosniaks, people from the same ethno-genetic stock lived side by side in the socialist republic of Yugoslavia. Both groups had secure jobs, decent livelihood and were in general, contented with their lot. Hence, there was no ‘othering’ of the Serbs among Bosniaks and vice versa. Things changed after the collapse of the socialist republic and everyone’s comfortable existence was thrown out of whack. The Serbs started othering the Bosniaks and heaped the blame for their economic troubles on them. It rose to a boil in the Srebrenica Massacre.

    1. ‘While I agree with your assertion that adaptation and cultural factors do play into crime rates of immigrants, there is always an socio-economic basis to dicrimination and the kind of immigrant crimes you mentioned.’
      What is the socio-economic basis to rape crimes by Muslim immigrants in Europe? Its a problem of adaptation and values. They are used to woman being covered up and under control in their own country and then they see western woman dressing more provocatively and showing legs and celveage and can’t control themselves. Plus, they feel western woman are slutty and less deserving of the respect they accord to their own Muslim sisters who behave like respectable woman should.
      I don’t know if Dota would agree with this analysis.
      And obviously, those rapists are a minority and most of the Muslim men i’ve met seemed like gentlemen….etc

    2. AI
      I don’t know enough about Yugoslavia to comment on it. However values play a huge role. We’re talking regular crime here, not racial conflicts/wars/imperialism ect (while these things are very much a consequence of capitalism). Crime is a rather broad domain and apart from some looting, I see no evidence of socialism reducing crime rates. Crime is a function of numerous variables and the inverse relationship between the latter and socialism would be weak to the point of being insignificant.
      Steve
      This problem is primarily an Arab one and I’m not too sure about the reasons. Based on what I understand however (and I could be very wrong) it seems that Arabs rape on impulse as opposed to the calculating serial rapist of the west. Arab males, young ones especially, also seem to be the most testosterone loaded people on the planet. This is hard to explain to somebody who has never visited the region. I’m talking about Gulf Arabs here specifically. They form gangs and beat up random people, rape, commit vandalism ect… Combine that with a culture that is too backward and primitive to provide a creative/productive outlet for all this testosterone and you’ve got an infantile population that is difficult to control, save through government handouts.

      1. Dota,
        it sounds like something from Clockwork orange. But I thought there was not much crime in K.S.A….??

        1. These crimes aren’t reported. Only crimes committed by expats are generally reported. The Saudis are particularly savage

  4. @ Dota
    You are right, it’s the underlying society and its demographics that are more important than any economic policy.

    1. You had mentioned Sweden in a prior post and I couldn’t agree with you more. Lets take Iran as another example. They spend around 20% of their national budget on a variety of social programs. The state controls several enterprises. In my book, this makes Iran a socialist country of sorts. Yet unlike the Arabs, Iranians are civilized and industrious whereas the Arabs are backward and slothful.

      1. Exactly.
        Much of the accomplishments during Islam’s Abbasid “golden age” are often attributed to the Arabs, and yet it was the Iranians who really spearheaded that dynasty, and were responsible for many (if not most) of its intellectual and scientific achievements.
        Re: Sweden
        You implement U.S. style capitalist policies in Sweden, and Sweden would be a successful, civilized, and prosperous country.
        You implement socialist policies in Sweden (which it’s done), and Sweden is a a successful, civilized, and prosperous country.
        Sweden is great because it is Swedish.
        It won’t be so great if they continue to allow its Arab and Somali populations to grow. No amount of socialism will save it then.

        1. The Arabs did contribute (Rushd, Kindi, Haytham, Razi, Sina ect) but ultimately as we have both stated, its the underlying values of a society thats important. To rephrase a phrase of yours: Islam didn’t make Persia great, Persia made Islam great.

  5. One final word on this thread from me would be this:
    We all know that there are multiple parameters involved in crime (any kind of crime) such as race, ethnicity, culture, history, economic state, social state, mental state etc. However, keeping as many parameters constant as possible (obviously the parameters for crime causation themselves are interdependent so there is no simple linear relationship for this), how does excessively increasing capitalism affect crime? For me, an increase in capitalism corresponds to decrease in corporate taxes (and personal taxes to a large extent too). My contention is this (based on keeping race/ethnicity, culture, history constant).
    Sweden: Suppose all the Arab Muslims were trashed and Sweden was 100% Scandinavian. Then they turned into excessive capitalists. Either of these two things will happen: a) Swedes, being Swedes will vote to bring back socialism in which case this discussion is void or b) They keep getting more capitalist. In this case, the country would be flooded with goods. Income inequality would rise and the rich would want to get richer. So rather than distributing surplus money back to society, they would start playing pissing games in the stock market to outdo other rich people. The “trickling down” would be enough to sustain the poor but that is about it. In this case, I can guarantee that crime (certain types like theft, looting of high end gadgets etc.) WILL rise. Even murders could rise too. People would want to get back to a socialist state but will face persecution from law enforcement. That would lead to more crime and peace would be established ONLY when there is a return to socialism.
    USA: Lets analyze capitalism + ethnic possibilities:
    Increasing capitalism + Black USA: This is a no brainer. Guns and ammunition everywhere. I’d need flak jackets to even go out and dispose my garbage if I was staying at such a place. I totally believe that crime would be much much lower in a more socialist , black USA than a capitalist one.
    Increasing capitalism + Latino USA: No difference from above.
    Increasing capitalism + Asian Indian USA: Would be comparable to shithole India currently. Petty thefts galore. Corruption everywhere. Shit companies like infosys, TCS, wipro that basically grease government palms would provide decent jobs for a few. Rest would be crapping on the street BECAUSE the government got bukkakked by the IT cum panies. The more the capitalism, the more thefts and corruption. Guaranteed. And because we’re talking Indians, nothing can be done to redeem that. But Capitalism STILL would cause more crime.
    Increasing capitalism + Chinaman dominated USA: I can’t say yet but it definitely would be worse off than socialist chinaman USA.
    Increasing capitalism + White USA: Similar to Sweden. Either get back to social protection net or watch crime soar. There will be walled complexes with gun owners watching and going Zimmerman on whoever tries to cross the wall to get in. They would be called libertarians. They would still need roads and other necessities built but can pay peanuts to workers to get that done (contract basis, no benefits, shit rates etc).

  6. Reblogged this on Random Thoughts and commented:
    Leavening capitalism with doses and layers of various forms of socialism tends to reduce the crime that capitalism generates. Socialism preaches solidarity and equality, and a society run on those lines often does not have a lot of crime. Making society more equal reduces feels of envy, frustration and rage and fewer people feel like losers and failures. A more equal society has less crime. A more unequal society has more crime.

      1. actually, it’s not a comment.. i am merely citing a paragraph from your article because I find it great that I need it to share to others for their enlightenment.. we’re all in this together, comrade! Down with Capitalism and Imperialism! Viva El Socialismo!

        1. Communism is pretty much gone anymore. I am a pretty lousy Commie. I do not believe in a classless society. For instance, in a socialist society, I think that the attorneys, dentists, physicians, etc. should make maybe 8-10 times the average wage of the worker. So if the average worker made $16,000/yr, I have no problem with these high knowledge workers making much more than that. In a socialist society, you ought to be rewarded for going through all that schooling. I am not comfortable paying a physician the same as a guy who digs ditches.
          I also think that a self-employed sector (workers selling their labor time on the open market to whoever) and a small business sector are essential. I am very happy with what the Cubans are doing these days.
          If you look around at all of the Communist countries, they are all trying to work a market into their societies in one way or another. Pure Communism seems to be dead.

  7. Hi All,
    What books / journals / articles do you suggest in regards to capitalism and corporate crime? Your help is greatly appreciated guys!!
    Thanks,
    Dorita Cassar.

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