Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Now THAT is a stump speech

"Two Bicycles". From Doug Kern at TechCentralStation - actual problems and actual solutions, not made-up ones.

Thanks to the Instantman. (Please help and click; he needs my traffic.)


At 12:44 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting read.

I don't think anyone would disagree with the author's assessment of the disproportionate affect of crime on the poor, nor of his assertion that the legal system is incredibly overworked; however, I'm not entirely convinced by his solution.

Certainly increasing the legal infrastructure (investigators, prosecutors, defenders, judges, etc.) would be beneficial. But, I'm not sure why the author seems to argue for this at the expense of "the benevolent welfare state", a nebulous term that he never defines. Which aspects of "living off other people's dime" would he eliminate to pay for the increased legal infrastructure? Reduced tax breaks for poor families? Kill unemployment insurance? Eliminate community services? He never says.

As he, himself, admits, increasing the number of arrests is a short-term solution at best. Crime and poverty are linked in much more complicated ways than he presents, and there is no data to support the idea that putting more people in jail results in less crime. In fact, it is very clear that jail-time, especially for juveniles, does not divert them from future crime, but rather further entrenches them in a criminal lifestyle.

While the author makes the convincing case that crime contributes to poverty, he ignores that poverty contributes to crime. The only way to reduce both, is to address both. By fighting crime we can remove barriers preventing people from helping themselves out of poverty, and by fighting poverty we can remove one of the root causes of crime. We need to work on both sides of the equation by increasing the legal infrastructure IN ADDITION to improving Social Services, etc., NOT at their expense.

The last point, is that it seems almost as bad to expect the State to subsidize economic security for the "imaginary right of poor citizens to live on someone else's dime", as it does to expect the State to subsidize the saftey of people who don't make an effort to improve their own safety or the safety of their surroundings.

The author asserts that "Poverty can be resolved through individual effort; crime cannot" and "No amount of hard work or personal initiative will stop a mugger from waving a knife in your face." This is an incredibly shortsighted perspective that absolves individuals from fighting and preventing crime.

Far from absolving individuals, families, and communities from this responsibility, we must encourage and help them to be active participants in fighting and preventing crime, and we must supply them with the tools to do so. Otherwise we will simply subsititue one type of "welfare state" for another.



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