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How does capitalism affect crime?

  1. Jun 26, 2008 #1
    I was discussing capitalism with friends and none of us could agree about the affect capitalism has on crime. Many of us believe that crime is worse under the capitalist system but could not really come up with solutions for this trend.
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  3. Jun 27, 2008 #2
    I would argue that crime is not worse under the capitalist system. Crime is usually highest in the most poverty-stricken areas. Capitalism eliminates poverty. I could only imagine a purely socialist system having lower rates of crime if the penalty for stealing is so severe that people just don't do it; but even then, that doesn't stop massive levels of corruption (as occurred in the Soviet system).
  4. Jun 28, 2008 #3
    1966 article on crime rates in the Soviet Union.

    Crime is driven primarily by lack of resources (or poverty) and social pressures. Both issues can exist in any system that is poorly managed or uncontroled. Whether it's capitalism, communism, or anything in between doesn't really matter as far as I can tell.
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2008
  5. Jun 30, 2008 #4


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    I don't know what you mean by "capitalism". Chances are you don't, either.

    Might it be that "droits de seigneurs" should be regarded as crimes even though the seigneurs would disagree about that?

    In that case, crimes were far more prevalent in feudalist societies, for example.
  6. Jun 30, 2008 #5
  7. Jun 30, 2008 #6
    I am no expert, but I agree with TheStatutoryApe here. Most communist governments (to use a common example), enforce total control through relatively large police forces. Furthermore, their punishments are generally much more harsh than what you'd find in a democratic, capitalist society which I'd also take as a much greater deterrent to crime.

    (sorry for not substantiating, but it's late and I'm tired :redface:)
  8. Jul 1, 2008 #7
    Expansion of economic activity must include protection of property rights; therefore a legal system must decide whether a breach in contract, destruction of property, negligence of operatore etc has occured and if these acts constitute a crime and how they should be reprimanded. As the economy expands the legal system expands making the number of cases heard increase which will undoubtedly cause an increase in crime.

    Crime cannot occur in a society which makes no rules nor law. In an anarchy like Somalia, there is no crime. In a highly developed state like Texas, there is lots of crime.
  9. Jul 1, 2008 #8
    Boy some of you are naive!
  10. Jul 2, 2008 #9
    Then enlighten us, if you can...I never have any problems with learning more about a topic or subject, but your comment lacks maturity and serves no purpose other than to insult. If you truly are so knowledgeable about this particular subject, then expand on it through useful contribution, otherwise exercise some self-control and refrain from these useless outbursts.
  11. Jul 2, 2008 #10
    While eliminating traditional hierarchy in society, capitalism induces a type of hierarchy based on wealth (in support of competition). But crime is not unique to capitalism; so long as people disagree with a system and are under some sort of social pressure (as TheStatutoryApe stated), it will exist. No system thus far has been as ideal as intended; not to mention society is always dynamic (whereas so is government).

    Crime is considered a threat to order in society, but society is created by man. Once people realize the dynamics of morals and understand there is no standing order to them, they will do what they want. So, the factors in crime also vary from region to region depending on how the society is developed.
  12. Jul 4, 2008 #11


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    Please, tell us why he is wrong, not resorting to using an ad hominem argument. I'd like to hear it.

    Perhaps it is freedom and lack of resources. A well run dictatorship with little free thought, and pervasive government control will have little crime.
  13. Jul 4, 2008 #12
    I laughed at the comment. It's wrong.
    Poverty exists and has not been eliminated, besides, It makes capitalism sound like some sort of Super system with super powers. Probably dressed in red white and blue.
  14. Jul 4, 2008 #13
    There are still criminals in dictatorships. With heavy policing and severe punishments there may be less crime but there will likely especially still be theft and blackmarkets in plenty. Repressive governments also seem to tend to increase social stressors that may result in citizens lashing out violently. This could be drunken bar fights, rape, or simple domestic abuse. It could also be dissent, civil disobedience, or outright rebellion. And of course the primary criminal activity you are likely to find in a dictatorship is corruption. The untouchables can get away with whatever they please most of the time.
    Again this all depends on resources/wealth distribution and how well managed the system is. Theoreticly a benevolent dictatorship could get along quite well with little crime.
  15. Jul 4, 2008 #14


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    I would submit that, even if capitalism increases crime (and I'm not sying it does), it should be weighed as one factor among many. If one's overall quality of life is increased dramatically, one could consider a higher crime rate as a price worth paying.

    I propose a question: how do the least successful members in a capitalist economy fare (better off or worse) compare to the least privileged (or even moderately better off) members of an alternate economy?
  16. Jul 6, 2008 #15


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    I disagree. Western capitalism has certainly eliminated real poverty (as opposed to relative poverty) over the course of the 20th century. When is the last time you heard of people in the western world dying of starvation? The main health-care crisis facing today's "poor" in the US is not starvation, but obesity.

    I'm sorry, but your position is founded on political sound bites and bumper stickers, not evidence. It is also founded on a relative definition of poverty rather than an absolute definition of poverty.
  17. Jul 6, 2008 #16


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    It is not free trade and the free circulation of capital AS SUCH that has eliminated poverty in the West.

    Rather, it is the countless technological INNOVATIONS that have revolutionized produce extraction&distribution which must be regarded as the direct causes within poverty elimination.

    The primary beneficial role of our economic system in this, is the swiftness by which the market forces distribute these innovations throughout society. This, of course, should not be forgotten, and illustrative comparisons are plenty:
    1. In the medieaval age, monasteries and the manorial systems were often "experiment labs", where new techniques of agriculture, for example, were implemented.
    But these important techniques were impeded for swift distribution by the closed, "cellular" economy of those times. Ideals were those of self-sufficiency and suspicion towards "strangers", and trade were looked down upon.
    Thus, important innovations took a very long time to distribute themselves.'

    2. In the Soviet Union, scientific expertise was at least as prevalent than in the West (the maths&physics education were, in general, superior to that in many Western coun tries), but the planned economy ideas failed to distribute growth in any rational manner, so that economic development was extremely patchy and inconsistent.

    However, we shouldn't assume that capitalism and "fierce" competition PER SE stimulates technological growth, on occasion it does, but not as a general principle:

    Most innovators and scientists have rarely been inspired by the idea of making a monetary profit, and this constraint may not really be conducive to the growth of KNOWLEDGE.
    To learn, and develop ideas that MIGHT be useful, involves much trial and error and conditions of growth seem rather to be to let scientists be luxuriously "independent" of profit considerations and have the time to mature their ideas.

    The most important parts in scientific, AND technological progress has happened within UNIVERSITIES, rather than in run-of-the-mill companies involved in the daily struggle for existence and profit margins. (The main exceptions are huge, almost monopolic companies like GM which can AFFORD a large staff of scientists ambling about, mostly in the same manner as if they had been tenured professors)

    For run-of-the-mill companies,providing sufficient "research space" is an uncertain, risky and COSTLY investment; a more realistic approach for such companies is mere applied science were ready-made technologies is put into use, or only altered in minor ways.
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2008
  18. Jul 6, 2008 #17
    Hmmmm - are you telling me what MY position is founded on? Or just politely asking?
    You're sorry, I'm sorry. But we aren't the ones crying ourselves to sleep wondering how to get through tomorrow. We, are not the subjects of the topic.
    I just won't agree the eliminated ( real or relative ) poverty is attributable to capitalism.
    People, ( real people, not just relative people ) still make decisions of will it be food or medicine because it won't be both. I have known more than a couple of people in the situation. They're poor. Poverty exists in their world.
    Is that real or just relative?
    and therefore the entire planet should follow the lead of Western capitalism and consume in the same amounts as us and create waste in the same amounts. Lead on Western Capitalism.
    Is it not possible for any other group of people to form a system other than capitalism that can also eliminate poverty?

    Capitalism is based on continued growth. It is not sustainable in a closed system.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 6, 2008
  19. Jul 6, 2008 #18


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    Dale's point is that you have to constantly manipulate the definition of "poverty" in order to label such people poor. 50 years ago, people in that state would not have been considered poor, and never would have been considered poor based on the absolute standard of having their basic needs (food, clothing, shelter) met. That's why it is relative poverty. People who are poor today are measured relative to the wealth of others in their country as having less. We certainly can't measure the rest of the world by the west's standards: we'd be forced to label probably more than 90% of the non-western world as poor.
    No one really knows if it is possible, as no other has yet been successful.
    If by that you mean the amount of available wealth is fixed, that is a common belief that is quite wrong. That's easy enough to see by looking back a few decades at the yearly GDP or stock market figures.
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2008
  20. Jul 6, 2008 #19


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    Definitely relative. They're still doing way way better than a large protion of the 3rd world. They don't have to worry about dysentery do they? For a good indicaton of how well they're doing, look at their life expectancy.

    Maybe, maybe not, but that is not the point of this discussion. That is the fallacy known as wishful thinking.
    Also not the point. Nobody says capitalism is perfect.
  21. Jul 6, 2008 #20
    Do you think that capitalism may speed the implementation and dispersal of new innovations and technologies?
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